Katie Couric is taking heat for a misleadingly edited scene in her new gun control documentary called Under the Gun, which is currently airing on the cable channel EPIX. In the scene, Couric asks a group of gun rights supporters how we can prevent “felons or terrorists” from purchasing guns if we fail to perform background checks.
In response, her interviewees are seemingly stumped by the question, relegated to awkward silence. For nine seconds, they twitch and shift and flutter their eyes. One looks off into the distance, searching for an answer.
It is laughable to anyone who has not reduced gun rights supporters to caricatures.
To be sure, the question is a confusingly worded one. What is the set of circumstances in which someone walking around free, buying guns, would be revealed by background check as a “felon” or “terrorist?” If Couric meant convicted felons and terrorists, then presumably they are in prison, not out buying guns. If she meant convicted felons and terrorists who have served their time and been permitted back into society, then there is a legitimate question as to whether their Constitutional rights should be restored. In any event, we already have laws precluding convicted felons from owning guns and requiring background checks to ensure they do not.
However the question is meant to be interpreted, it is not exactly groundbreaking. This is not new terrain. This is not something gun rights advocates have never considered. The vast majority of gun rights supporters have already extensively considered this issue and come to a reasoned opinion.
Thus, to anyone in the gun rights community, Couric’s footage is an easily identifiable fraud. Unsurprisingly, audio footage obtained by the Washington Free Beacon has confirmed it to be precisely that. What actually occurred, as would be expected, was that the interviewees gave immediate, polite responses to the question.
In fact, with varying degrees of clarity and eloquence, they tried to articulate the points I raised above. Their responses may not have been the best way to cover those points in the film. If the director had wanted to play Couric asking the question and then explore responsive concepts in some other manner, I doubt anyone would have faulted the creative decision. But manufacturing nine seconds of awkward, twitchy silence suggests the director had another goal in mind.
Called out on the manipulative editing, director Stephanie Soechtig explained that her intention was to “provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question” and that she “never intended to make anyone look bad.” Shortly thereafter, Couric said she supported Soechtig’s statement and was “very proud of the film.”
There are a couple different ways to interpret all of this.
One is that Soechtig and/or Couric are being dishonest about their motivation for altering the footage. The real reason was to perpetuate a narrative in which gun rights supporters are portrayed as reckless and ignorant, red state dullards without the most basic concerns for public safety. Showing the interviewees answering the question—or cutting away without playing the nine manufactured seconds of silence—would detract from that narrative and leave an unfortunate impression that gun rights supporters actually have reasons for their positions.
Alternatively, Soechtig/Couric are telling the truth. It is not gun supporters they perceive as simple, but rather their own audience. The viewers needed those nine extra seconds of silence to confront such a groundbreaking question, to wrap their neophyte minds around its unprecedented implications.
Or perhaps there is simply a strange sort of narcissism at play. In this interpretation, it is Soechtig/Couric who are the simpletons. In their minds, no one had ever confronted this mind-blowing question until Katie Couric so amazingly thought of it. Playing the actual footage would have interfered with viewers’ appreciation of Couric’s prowess in asking this life-altering question. So instead the filmmakers faked some footage to leave a more suitable impression.
It is certainly possible to be both a journalist and an activist. While I do not always agree with his positions, I acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald does both so well that each component is made more powerful by the other. It works because he is honest and transparent about the activism, while approaching the journalism part ethically and with humility.
In contrast, altering footage to show something that flat out did not happen is neither journalism nor a particularly competent form of activism. It is storytelling for naïve audiences. It is fundamentally dishonest and narcissistic. And it will not promote dialogue about gun safety.
With the almost inevitable nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to lead their respective parties, there is a heavy push for an option for the Presidency that gives voters a more palatable option. This kind of push is hardly unprecedented – it seems to come up every election cycle, and started in earnest in 2012 when the “Anyone But (Mitt) Romney” movement failed – but with this year’s nominees being disliked on an unprecedented level, the push is stronger than ever. Partly due to their standing as the stronger of the alternative parties, and due to Trump’s toxicity and statist policies in general, the Libertarian Party (“big L”) stands to make the greatest gains, with many predicting the party could break the 5% threshold that legitimizes a party and gets it ballot and debate access, bringing the libertarian message – “small l” – to the general population.
That would be great, if the Libertarian Party itself could be taken seriously. Nothing I’ve seen, in my time following politics or in this election in general – indicates a real change. Part of that is due to the nature of third party pushes, but a lot of that has to do with the party itself.
First, the nature of Presidential elections, and most importantly their coverage, shows that everyone’s focus will narrow as November looms. This is ubiquitous; media coverage will focus on polls and potential “November Surprises”. Non-partisan voters will realize they have to make a choice ASAP, and historically that’s been a binary choice. Party insiders on both sides will swing their weight around – it’s already happening, particularly on the Republican side as they stamp out #NeverTrump, but the Democrats are doing their level best to stamp out Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” as well – and voters who were upset with their preferred primary candidate losing will inevitably fall in line. Much as in life, when it comes to elections, people stop playing around the closer reality gets; in life, we focus less on a flighty partner who inspires us creatively but is riskier to our future, and settle down with a safe, stable mate. Most people will not seriously consider a third party candidate of any stripe, especially in swing states that will be barraged by advertising and appearances.
It’s hard to remember even just four years later, but much of the vitriol people are throwing Clinton’s and Trump’s way is similar to that thrown Mitt Romney’s way then. “We’ll never vote for him!”, said so-called “true” conservatives. “We’ll go third party!” “Mitt is evil!” Today, he’d be called a “cuckservative” and Jesus Christ I can’t believe I had to type that out. Much the same happened after Barack Obama upset Hillary in 2008; Hillary’s partisans – mostly activist women – swore they would go third party. The two liberal alternatives for voters – independent Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party – combined for less than a million votes, .74% of the total vote. They didn’t even get 1% *combined*.
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party did do better in 2012, amidst all that Romney hate… getting all the way to just over 1.2m votes, around 1% of the total vote, which is the second highest percentage the Libertarian Party has ever had1. This, despite all the “could Johnson make an impact on the race!?” think piecesof the day. It’s sad, because he had some good libertarian credentials, and had a successful record as the Republican governor or New Mex– wait, did I say Republican? That’s right, he was Republican. As was both parts of the 2008 Libertarian ticket.
This leads to my main issue with the big-L party: They’re not really libertarian. They’re almost all just failed Republicans.
I’m 36 years old, and the 2000 election was my first that I could participate in. Here is a run-down of every candidate for President in my adult life:
2000: Harry Browne, ran his second straight campaign. Ran a principled campaign, but it would go downhill from here.
2004: Michael Badnarik, member of the Free State Project and 9/11 Truther.
2008: Bob Barr, a former Republican who came into Congress in the 1994 Gingrich revolution, and who had an authoritarian voting record while there. Voted for the Patriot Act. His running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, is an Obama “birther” who our colleague Doug Mataconis rightly called out for being a scam. Both Barr and Root have since left the LP and gone back to the Republicans.
2012: Gary Johnson, who in this same election ran for President as a Republican but had a moment of clarity when his candidacy crashed and burned. His running mate, Jim Gray, was also a Republican that decided to join the LP after losing a Republican candidacy.
In 2016, the Libertarian Party has no fewer than 18 people listed as Presidential candidates, though only three are considered legitimate:
* The favourite, Gary Johnson, who since losing in 2012, has taken over as the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a medical marijuana company. This has led to many viewing him as a one-issue candidate regarding marijuana legalization.
* Austin Petersen, a 35 year old whose main claims to fame are his campaign of “I’m not those guys!” despite emulating much of Trump’s tactics, and his somewhat less than libertarian positions. Internally, his focus has been on Johnson being a “drug dealer”.
* John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates and antivirus pioneer who is batshit fucking crazy.
When the best shot you have is the guy that got around 1% the last time he ran, a mid-level internet troll, and whatever John McAfee is, you can’t be taken seriously in any election.
In the end, furthering your ideals only gets you so far; you have to win elections to make real progress. Even with a system fundamentally set up to discourage third party candidacies, one would think they’d have at least a few small victories under their belt, but nationally, they’ve completely failed: Libertarian Party candidates have never once won a national or statewide race. In fact, they’ve never been close; the only times they’ve gotten a decent share of the vote in a national or state election was when they were running in races without a contender from one of the two major parties, usually a Democrat. Congratulations, Joel Balam, for winning 32% of the vote against a Republican for the US House, but there is no participation medal here.
This is before I get into the legitimate kooks, dingbats and wingnuts that associate themselves with the Libertarian Party for want of attention, if nothing else. Truthers, birthers, and alt-right personalities who couldn’t even find a home in the Republican party have a home in a party that is desperate for numbers.
In the end, the Libertarian Party is little more than the AAA farm club of the Republicans. If someone can’t play in the big leagues, they can simply go down to the minors, work on their swing-state pitch, and eventually be promoted back up to the real show. Even Ron Paul, the patron saint of libertarian thought to many, had to become a Republican in order to actually accomplish something. Not only does this hurt the legitimacy of the party, it turns off people like me, former Democrats who care about social rights and liberties every bit as much as conservatives care about economic freedom and who can see common ground on the overlap. When Stephen points out the issues with the Party taking on refugees, this is the main concern brought up. He indicated his confidence that libertarians would expose the frauds, but again: a Patriot Act supporter and a Birther were the Libertarian Party nominees in 2008.
Until the big-L Libertarian Party fixes these issues – an admittedly tall goal, even in this election – they will forever remain a fringe party, the land of the 1%, little more than an impotent protest vote.
1 – Ed Clark and David Koch did slightly better in 1980, but that’s more or less a rounding error
This is the tl;dr version of my contribution to the TLP Round Table on Donald Trump’s rise to the status of presumptive Republican nominee.
Various motivations for Trump’s popularity have been posited over the course of the election cycle. Tribalism and xenophobia. Social order authoritarianism. Anger at the establishment. Anti-PC backlash. A yen for creative destruction.
I even have some sympathy for that last one. What is the point of preserving a GOP that has failed so resoundingly to deliver on the promise of limited government? Why not blow on the tiny orange flame of a Trump-match and see if it catches fire? Some wildfires make the ecosystem stronger.
We advocates of free markets too often fail to explain, cogently, why free trade and voluntary exchanges deliver the best outcomes for the most people. We fail to explain why it is not just big corporations, businesses and entrepreneurs that get hurt by government interventions into the free market—but also the workers. And when those workers complain about the various ways in which they struggle to make ends meet, we too often dismiss it as a deficiency of effort, rather than a legitimate complaint against the system.
This makes no sense. We know better. We know that over-regulation, barriers to entry, excessive government spending, crony capitalism, and welfare for the rich are all bad for the economy and particularly bad for workers. We know these policies cause work to be less remunerative and hit poor people the hardest.
Why then, when they complain, do so many of us respond by dismissing them as lazy, unmotivated, unproductive and entitled? We should be capitalizing on their complaints. They are incontrovertibly legitimate.
It is simply not possible to sell people on the wealth potential of a free market while castigating them for failing to succeed in a system that requires hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get the mandatory license for a job washing hair.
In that regard, the Democrats have a point (incomplete and poorly made, to be sure) when they say, “you didn’t build that” or, “you’ve also been lucky.” Would-be business owners pay their extorted dues to the government-backed bureaucracy. In return, they are protected from competition by various barriers to entry, government-enforced monopolies, tax-payer funded subsidies, and other massive transfers of wealth from taxpayers to the favored recipients of government largesse. It makes a certain twisted sense to demand more compensation in proportion to their success.
One of these men understands how money and economies function. He led a grassroots movement that motivated millions of young voters. In response, the GOP changed its rules to keep him from gaining traction. The other one is the new face of the Republican Party.
Don’t like it? Great. I don’t either. Let’s repeal the barriers to entry, the legal monopolies, the government grants and below-market loans. Let’s get rid of the regulations and the occupational licensing, the mandated dues and the bureaucratic red tape and all the other bullshit.
This is, in fact, what we put Republicans in the House and Senate to do.
Yet over and over and over again, with a few principled exceptions (e.g., Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and, yes, Ted Cruz), Republicans have broken their word, expanded government, and asked us to be patient while they focus on getting reelected.
I will not deny a certain satisfying schadenfreude at that turn of events. And there is value in knowing such a cancer festers on the right. But there is equal value in understanding that Trump would not be succeeding on their support alone. He is also propelled by a significant faction of working-class voters desperate for better jobs, a stronger economy, and higher purchasing power.
Sanders supporters may be an untapped area of future liberty votes.
In that regard, Trump’s message resonates with voters on the right for some of the same reasons Bernie Sanders’ message resonates on the left. If big government, high taxes, and crony capitalism are inevitable – because neither of the viable parties intends to do much about them – why not use one’s vote to fight for a bigger piece of the stunted pie? Trump at least pays lip service to the struggle. He promises jobs and protectionism, a reprieve from debt and stagnation.
The point is, if a liberty-movement aims to rise from the ashes of the Trump-fire, it must speak to the struggles motivating voter support for these two surprise candidates. It must explain why no amount of further tinkering will alleviate the real pain that government intrusions into the economy cause to real people, why the only solution is to unwind those intrusions in the first instance.
Trump makes me sad, so instead, I’m posting a kitty. Kitty-witty!
We’ve spilled a lot of pixels in this space talking about Donald Trump’s horrific policies, even more horrific character, and how his views are antiethical to America or how we are as a country. Much of that is correct, but what many people – here and in other places, both on the left and the right – focus on his impact on domestic policy. It makes sense when you consider that the whole point of populist policies centres around “more for me, less for them”.
But as much damage as a Donald Trump presidency would cause us internally, it would be just as bad abroad as well. Much to the consternation of the isolationists on both sides, that’s important; we are so intertwined with the rest of the world, for better or worse, that a large-scale shift away from America and our interests would have a devastating impact on our short and long term effectiveness as a country.
Here, I will point out the ways that President Donald Trump would obliterate our standing worldwide, centring around three things: economics, military, and trust.
Economic Policy: A Businessman Who Seemingly Doesn’t Get Business
Much has been made about Donald Trump’s four bankruptcies, but it is truly educative of how he views debt, not as an obligation but as a leveraging tool of its own. Simply put, when Donald Trump deals with debt, his answer is to walk away, and “negotiate” a settlement with the aggrieved party that is tolerable.
It’s an interesting way of doing business: Trump basically has a history of telling debtors “you’re gonna pay to make me go away, not vice versa”. Frankly, it’s worked because people get tired of the litigation and the headaches that brings.
But as President, Trump wouldn’t be working with some small-time official or his lawyers. You can’t get away with “we’ll negotiate” with Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin.
Another of Trump’s recent statements – and let me tell you, writing about Trump is hard because he says something dumb every other hour – is that he could get around the debt by simply printing more money. It’s hard to know what he’s trying to do here; this statement would get laughed out of a ninth grade Western Civ class. Is it a cynical ploy to bring over some of the dumber Bernie Sanders supporters? An attempt to crash the stock market? What is his end game with something so blatantly wrong? Does he have an ongoing bet with Lewandowski to see what he can get away with? And how does one address such a dumb statement, other than pointing out the obvious fact that printing money the likes of what Trump is talking about would seriously devalue our currency, possibly to the point where it would no longer be the world’s base currency?
Speaking of the Bernie Bros and those like them on the right, unarguably, one of the things that draw people to Trump the most are his protectionist take on trade and labour. Notwithstanding the well-established fact that his clothing line is manufactured with cheap Asian labour, this is something he’s been consistent in with his internal dealings: he wants the government to protect his best interests, much like he did when he tried to evict Vera Coking. Unsurprisingly, Trump was a huge fan of the horrific ruling in Kelo v. New London that gave full rights to local governments to seize private property for the benefit of private developers, a stance so noxious that even a Breitbart hack called him out on it.
Trump is also in favour of heavy tariffs on trade exports, particularly those with China and Mexico because… uh, honestly, I can’t think of a rational reason why those two countries have to be singled out. Like everything else, this is a bad idea, mainly because of the threat of a trade war with China that would make goods more expensive. The irony that the people supporting Trump the hardest – poor white people in rural areas – would be hit the hardest by the resulting rise in prices across the board on consumer goods is not lost on this writer.
So let’s see: he wants to severely dis-incentivize free trade, annoying a bordered neighbour and the largest competiting economy in the world in the process, print US currency to the point where it would devalue and possibly crash the dollar, and do the exact opposite of what he says he’ll do. What’s sad is that I probably missed something.
They say when goods cross borders, soldiers don’t. Speaking of that…
Military Policy: With Friends Like This…
Trump’s policy on the military is mostly vague; he was moderately in favour of the Iraq War before he was against it, for one. But if there’s one thing he’s got a fetish for, it’s negotiation, and its impact on people. I already talked about how this would likely impact our economic situation, but militarily, it’s the same thing: we would “negotiate” better deals to keep military bases in countries, most notably South Korea and Japan. It amounts to a simple equation: we protect you, so pay up.
“Nice country you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it”. Only the most hardcore Ron Paul drone would think that a good idea.
First, the only thing it would do is sow discontent in areas we’re already not popular. This is something I can actually speak on with some authority: in places where we have bases, we are HATED by the locals. All-caps-and-italics HATED. My memories of Souda Bay in 2002 involve not being allowed to leave the base because of constant protests at our presence. Ever see 5,000 frustrated squids on a tiny base meant for like 1/10 of that? The same goes for our bases in Japan, which I sadly have not had the chance to visit, but local disgust with our presence – not the least because of misbehaving servicepeople – is legendary. To add a shakedown on top of that would give many local politicians in countries affected by highly unpopular bases the leverage they need to remove them, negatively impacting their own local economies and hurting our military reach. This is a dangerous proposition in the modern world. Those who would argue for total isolation ignore the diplomatic – and yes, the resulting economic – damage this would do. Careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
Add in Trump’s stated respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Notwithstanding the horrors Putin has wrought on his own country, from both a humanitarian and an economic standpoint, a softer tone towards Russia threatens NATO as a whole, and could cause a worsening humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and whereever else Putin decides to annex. What would he do differently to prevent the recent spate of Russian jet fighters buzzing American ships? He’s on record as saying he’d tell Putin not to do that. I’m sure that will get through to the man who gave the order to poison Alexander Litvinenko in London.
There is an argument to be made that Trump’s stated positions on war, and his history, are more positive than Hillary Clinton’s. Single issue voters that care about that could be seen as voting for Trump on those grounds. But here’s the question: are his stated positions worth the oxygen used to broadcast them?
Trust: Trump Is A Serial Liar
Just in the scope of this one piece, it’s been demonstrated that Donald Trump has no respect for any kind of established precedent or deal, and will walk away at any time if it suits him. There are countless other examples of his untrustworthiness *just in the past week*, including his backtracking on key issues such as the Muslim lockdowns. I don’t expect this to calm his hardcore supporters, who are basically GamerGate morphed into a political movement. They’re cool so long as they feel they have license to hate whatever group of people they hate today. But it’s not going to impress other countries, who are already (rightly) sceptical on America and our word.
The hardcore isolationist sees this as a feature and not a bug. After all, if no one wants to deal with us, we can remove all of our bases across the globe, start developing more American products, and stop using drones to bomb brown people. Win/win!
Not so. In fact, there’s a strong line of thought that American isolationism from the 20s and 30s helped cause World War II. Further, there has been a rise of right-wing populist government – particularly in Turkey, a NATO ally – that can prove extremely dangerous if allowed to spread. We saw the costs of this in World War II, when we were attacked by a Japanese governemnt that had gone fully over to right-wing, nationalist policies that have currently taken hold in Poland, Turkey, and which threaten America. These policies led to genocide, from the Holocaust to the Rape of Nanking.
Donald Trump’s constant insistence on both negotiation and being unpredictable is, in the most charitable view, a feint intended to sow just enough doubt to cause people to vote for him over a known (and heavily disliked) commodity in Hillary Clinton; it did work on other known quantities like Jeb Bush. It can be assumed that his belief in negotiation stems from a notion that America is so stong, so powerful, that people will deal with us regardless just to avoid our wrath. That is the mindset that led to the fall of the Roman Empire. When you start to believe that you have a God given right to rule, God has a habit of proving otherwise.
In the modern world, we have to play nice with everyone in our sandbox; we can’t just take the proverbial pail and sit in the corner. The damage of a Trump presidency on our foreign relations would not just hurt us in the eyes of the world; it would bear a devastating human and economic cost as well, both home and abroad.
With the primary phase of the 2016 campaign coming to an end, there’s little doubt that many rank and file Republicans and Democrats are not very pleased with their party’s presumptive nominee. For Republicans who actually care about principle, Donald Trump is a non-starter. Many if not most will ultimately decide to vote for him anyway because of the idea that Donald Trump is the lesser evil when compared to Hillary Clinton. Other primary voters who were serious when they said #NeverTrump meant it before May 3rd and mean it now after May 3rd. They have reached the conclusion that Hillary is actually the lesser evil when compared to Trump or at best see them as equally evil.
What are the anti-Trump Republicans to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?
Die hard supporters of Bernie Sanders find themselves in a similar situation. While I haven’t followed the Democrat race for the White House as closely, there does seem to be some angst about Hillary Clinton. Will they decide that from their point-of-view that Hillary is the lesser evil compared to Trump? I’m thinking most will but at least a fraction of the Bernie Sanders voters will make a different choice.
What are pro-Sanders, anti-Hillary Democrats to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?
Here in the Libertarian Party, we are friends of refugees…those fleeing war torn countries, those fleeing desperate poverty, and also those fleeing despotic candidates such as Mr. Trump and Sec. Clinton.
We welcome former Republicans and Democrats who value “liberty and justice for all” to find a new home in the Libertarian Party.
Libertarianism is the idea that you should be free to make your own decisions in all aspects of your life as long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others.
I find the idea of a flood of political asylum seekers coming to the LP both exciting and terrifying.
If the LP were a nation, it would be a small nation of immigrants. Sure, there are indigenous Libertarians but they are surely the minority. Most Americans grew up in Republican and Democrat households – to the extent Americans are politically active at all. Most Libertarians came to either the party or the philosophy over time and after realizing the party they thought represented them didn’t. I too am a political refugee. The leading candidate for the LP presidential nomination and 2012 nominee, Gary Johnson was a refugee and he’s hardly the first.
The real question is, what do these refugees want?
If they simply want a temporary visa and support the LP nominee for president, even if simply as a “protest vote” most native Libertarians would welcome and encourage that. For those who want citizenship, more would be expected.
What specifically am I talking about? Allow me to address any would-be asylum seekers:
Some of these groups don’t even like each other. Its also quite possible that some of my fellow Liberty Papers contributors might object to listing some of these groups and/or failing to mention another. The point is there is a great deal of philosophical diversity within the broader libertarian movement and, therefore; cannot be pigeonholed into the caricature of libertarians Salon wants you to believe. One thing libertarians of all stripes believe (whether its called the Non Aggression Principle or something else is a debate in and of itself) are the individual rights of life, liberty, and property. Explained another way: Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.
As Tom Petty likes to say, you don’t have to live like a refugee.
Refugees who actually value the individual rights as described above – having them join the LP would be a great help. For those who want to come in yet hold on to the customs of the party they just left, they need to find asylum elsewhere.
Pivoting back to the original question, should libertarians worry about a bunch of posers coming in and transforming the LP into another Republican Party?*
I believe this would only be a problem if the LP actually started achieving significant electoral success. The reason the LP has been able to stay true (for the most part) to its founding principles since 1971 is because LP candidates haven’t been elected and, therefore; haven’t had to govern. For 45 years, voting/running for the LP has meant never having to say you’re sorry. “Don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian!” Once Libertarians are elected, then we find out how principled they really are.
Until that time comes, I’m very confident that libertarians will expose the frauds. In the LP and/or the greater liberty movement there’s no such thing as “The 11th Commandment.” If you have called yourself a libertarian and another person who calls himself/herself libertarian hasn’t questioned your street cred, you haven’t been a libertarian very long. The intramural battles between Team Cruz and Team Trump or Team Sanders and Team Hillary are mere child’s play by comparison.
In the final analysis, its my belief that the LP will continue to be the LP as we know it only larger. The refugees who want to bring Sharia Law** to the party platform will lose patience dealing with people who actually have principles and self deport.