This essay is part of a trilogy regarding Kremlin influence over the alternative libertarian media in the west.
Part 1: Putin’s Libertarians
WHEN YOUR FORMER LIBERTARIAN HERO CALLS YOU A NAZI
One of the biggest WTF moments of the Ukraine crisis was this demonstration by New York City’s lesbian gay trans bisexual & queer community in support of the “separatists” (who are mostly Russian-hired mercenaries, led by Russian GRU agents). The “separatists” are violently anti-gay.
At various times, Russia’s ever-changing propaganda centered on “protecting” Ukraine from European homosexuality. Sergei Aksyonov, the de facto leader of Russian-annexed Crimea has said “We do not need such people [homosexuals]. . . . Our police and self-defense forces will react immediately and in three minutes will explain to them what kind of sexual orientation they should stick to.”
So why would a LGBTQ community demonstrate on their behalf?
It seems increasingly clear that much of the alternative media is heavily influenced, whether consciously or unconsciously, by the Kremlin. This includes prominent libertarians who have faithfully echoed both the timing and content of Moscow’s evolving propaganda:
Ukraine’s protesters are Nazis (nevermind the open letter of Ukraine’s Jewish community), Ukraine’s protests are orchestrated by the west, Ukraine isn’t a real country, Ukraine has always been a part of Russia, CIA snipers shot protesters, 96% of Crimeans voted to secede in a fair, transparent election, Ukraine’s new leadership outlawed the Russian language, “local separatists” revolted in Eastern Ukraine where the majority supports them, Ukrainians targeted peaceful Russians in Odessa, Blackwater mercenaries fight on behalf of Ukraine, Russia was not equipping the “separatists,” Russian soldiers were not in Ukraine (contrary to statements made by the actual “separatist” leaders and fairly obvious evidence from the earliest seizures of Ukrainian government buildings: “I’m a colonel of the Russian Army”), Russia wasn’t firing artillery over the Ukrainian border in support of their soldiers, Russian military formations were not fighting in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian military was “ethnically cleansing” Russian speakers.
The latter claim made repeatedly by Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity is especially egregious and hypocritical. Since annexing parts of Ukraine, the Russians have engaged in brutal repression of ethnic and religious minorities. See my blog post, Dear Daniel McAdams, Who is ethnic cleansing? for specific examples. There is no analogous violence toward Russians.
That’s because Ukraine’s recent revolution was not anti-Russian but anti-corruption and anti-tyranny (Russians demonstrated on Maidan alongside Ukrainians), and thus terrifying to the corrupt, tyrannical regime in Moscow which has done everything from lie about baby crucifixions to stage massacres to make Ukraine seem savagely anti-Russian.
Included in the online instruction manual of “separatist” leader Pavel Gubarev is the instruction: “don’t pass up any opportunity to engage in some atrocity that can be blamed on the junta’s fighters.” He can rest assured, news of these massacres will continue to be broadcast through faithful parts of the libertarian media.
When I wrote Putin’s Libertarians in April, I assumed this subset of libertarians was mostly mistaken, and refuted their claims with overwhelming evidence. I’ve since learned that the Kremlin and its proxies, whether conscious or unconscious, produce bullshit at a pace far exceeding my ability to shovel it away.
STRIKING THE ROOT
Does it seem to anyone else that some libertarians only promote liberty where it intersects with weakness, anti-Americanism and demoralization? Demoralization was the first step of the Soviet Union’s propaganda strategy.
In the famous “Deception Was My Job” interview of ex-Soviet propaganda agent Yuri Bezmenov, he estimates that 85% of the KGB’s effort and resources went not to espionage, but to ideological subversion (also called “active measures”), the first step of which was demoralization.
. . . to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves . . . It’s a great brain washing process which goes very slow . . .
He describes departments of the KGB whose job it was to compile enormous lists of opinion makers in rival societies, including journalists, editors, and dissidents.
In the “Active Measures” interviews of former Soviet agents and experts, the opinion making is described as drops of water wearing down a stone. Former KGB Major Stanislav Levchenko discusses reliance upon local journalists and inserting rumors into a society’s dialogue.
In this context it is easier to understand how an LGBTQ organization might come out in support of the explicitly anti-gay Russian forces, or why fake libertarian Putin quotes circulate on social media.
Also, consider these old KGB tactics and networks in the context of recent comments by Lieutenant General Ion Pacepa, the highest ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer ever to defect:
The very idea that the Soviet Union was defeated is disinformation in itself. The Soviet Union changed its name and dropped its facade of Marxism, but it remained the same samoderzhaviye, the historical Russian form of autocracy in which a tsar is running the country with the help of his political police.
During the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within the state. Now the KGB is the state. Over 6,000 former KGB officers are running Russia’s federal and local governments. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. In 2004, Russia had one FSB officer for every 297 citizens. . . .
Russia today is the first intelligence dictatorship in history. It is a brand new form of totalitarianism, which we are not yet familiar with. Now the KGB, rechristened FSB, is openly running Russia.
Various reports suggest Russian intelligence is more active than ever, and no longer drunk and cynical as they were in the twilight of Soviet times.
Here is a story about a member of Hungary’s dissenting, far-right Jobbick party caught in the KGB “Honey Trap.” His wife turned out to be an FSB agent simultaneously married to other influential people.
Here is a broader study of the Kremlin’s deep ties to Europe’s dissenting right.
Here is an article about strangely named British Helsinki Human Rights Group (no affiliation to the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights). The generally libertarian organization was also an apologist for Belarus’s dictatorship, and reported on fairly transparent false flag Nazi demonstrations to discredit a Ukrainian presidential candidate whom the Kremlin opposed. Three people associated with the organization are now at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, including the RPIPP’s executive director Daniel McAdams.
Libertarianism, it seems, is biased toward anti-Americanism, weakness and demoralization.
You will never hear Putin’s libertarians discuss the world’s most sweeping free market reforms since Deng Xiaoping liberalized China’s economy. That’s because they happened in Georgia right before Russia’s 2008 invasion. Georgia fired all of its bureaucrats. Can you imagine? Their police stations, formerly hubs of corruption, were all torn down and rebuilt with glass walls, symbolizing transparency. Russia’s invasion and the loss of two provinces did not stop the small country from skyrocketing up the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.
Libertarians can learn a lot from Georgia’s experience. They can learn a lot from Ukraine’s recent revolution too, except they’re not being told the truth.
ROMAN SKASKIW IS A NAZI AND SCOTT HORTON HAS THE PICTURE TO PROVE IT
I have two noble reasons for closing with what some may consider a distasteful airing of dirty laundry, a personal squabble. The first is to rescue libertarianism from what is at best, the lunatic fringe, and at worst, malignant, choreographed propaganda. The second reason is to restore accuracy and integrity to the narrative being spun about Ukraine — the place I call home.
Scott Horton tweeted this:
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) September 1, 2014
Notice the phrase: “local militia fighters.” Beyond that, it’s obviously not me in the picture. It’s a Ukrainian politician who recevied 1.4% of the vote in the May Presidential election. The other nationalist candidate running for President received less than 1%. (Strangely, Russian-controlled news media reported that he actually won. It’s difficult to imagine why they’d report such easily refuted lies. Perhaps they’re attacking the very notion of truth, as discussed below.)
It wasn’t the first time Scott had send me this picture either.
Back in January when I assumed Putin’s libertarians were well intentioned truth seekers, I wrote to Scott on Facebook to correct his “Nazi” characterization of the protests. I respectfully explained to him and other libertarians how the Kremlin has a long history of accusing all of Russia’s neighbors (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine) of Nazism, or, in the case of Georgia, fascism. See my article Putin’s Libertarians for a history of this propaganda which includes the staging of Nazi events when no Nazis were to be found.
Scott respond with that picture — no words, no thanks, no discussion, no curiosity for the perspective of a libertarian living in Ukraine, just the picture of a marginally relevant Ukrainian politician, as if it alone condemned the sacrifice of so many Ukrainians against a brutal, hideously corrupt regime.
Nevermind the fact that three Jews were killed among the protesters, the open letter from Ukraine’s Jewish community opposing the Nazi narrative, the testimony of Kyiv’s head rabbi, the explicit swastikas and Bellamy salutes among Russia’s mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine who Scott has been cheerleading, the terrifying, explicitly fascist parades in Moscow and St Petersburg which celebrated this year’s May 1st holiday. None of that matters. One photo of a politicians whose party repeatedly failed to prove its relevance to the protests condemned Ukraine and justified Russia’s aggression.
What the hell is going on with libertarians?
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 1, 2014
.@Roman_Skaskiw My wife is a Ukrainian Jew and she hates you and the Svoboda and Right Sector Nazis you serve.
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) September 1, 2014
(FYI: I never met Scott’s wife, or him.)
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 2, 2014
(Answer: Because they’re mercenaries from Chechnya.)
Scott, @scotthortonshow Do you really believe Ukraine is characterized by Nazism right now? And that Moscow’s explicit fascism is benign?
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 4, 2014
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) September 4, 2014
Really taken aback by @scotthortonshow‘s vitriol, dishonesty. Hard to believe I once considered him a libertarian hero.
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 4, 2014
.@Roman_Skaskiw Tell me, Right Sector, are you serving on the front lines killing in the east or let other Nazis do your fighting for you?
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) September 4, 2014
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 9, 2014
— Roman Skaskiw (@Roman_Skaskiw) September 13, 2014
.@Roman_Skaskiw Go kill yourself, Nazi.
— Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) September 13, 2014
THE NATURE OF THEIR PROPAGANDA
The Kremlin lies which get propagated through libertarian media are not designed to stand the test of time. Like the strange Russian media’s report of completely fictitious results in Ukraine’s presidential election, the lies are easily refuted. Someone just has to do the work of shoveling bullshit.
The lies are designed to affect people’s first impressions, which we know to be very very sticky, even when faced with strong contrary evidence in the future. The false or at least unclear first impression creates cognitive dissonance and hesitation. The triumph of the Maidan protests against all odds cannot be celebrated when so many voices insist they are western-sponsored Nazis. The invasion of Crimea cannot be condemned when Daniel McAdams insists it is not happening. The massive deliveries of Russian military hardware to eastern Ukraine cannot be immediately addressed while Daniel McAdams appears on the Scott Horton Show and literally snickers that old T-64 tanks were no indication of Russian military support. He has said nothing about the T-72B tanks which are unique to the Russian military.
Lastly, the Kremlin’s lies attack the very notion of truth and deny observers a language for even discussing Russia’s aggression. This idea was articulated by Nobel Prize winning authors Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Swedish poet and psychologist Tomas Transtromer.
HOW TO ARGUE NON-INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE WITHOUT DECEPTION
When libertarians (the honest, truth-seeking ones) portray Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as defensive and just, they’re engaging in justification, ie. deception.
If you want to make the case against American intervention (really, ^continued non-intervention as the help Ukrainians have been pleading for has been minimal) then make it without deception. It should have everything to do with the cost of such a conflict and the need for Ukrainian self-reliance. I make the latter point myself here.
The case should have nothing to do with lies about protecting Russian speakers, or exaggerations about aggressive NATO expansion. It is not aggressive expansion when the people from Finland to Estonia to Poland to Georgia, mindful of the hell on Earth Moscow created in their societies, desperately WANT protection.
As I pointed out during my lecture at the 2011 Property and Freedom Society conference, there is a libertarian case for war in places where people want protection. If my neighbor was being raped, I would not maintain a policy of non-intervention. Liberty and property rights have a cost. Who will bear that cost?
Libertarian ideology is grossly misguided where it assumes non-aggression is sufficient. A commons of acceptable behavior exists. Social and legal norms exist and must be defended as one would defend property — ie. with violence.
My friend Curt Doolittle distinguishes aggression from harm from cost.
1 – I have no agreement with you, and therefore no constraint.
2 – I will not aggress against you.
3 – I will not cause you harm.
4 – I will not cause you to bear a cost.
5 – I will bear costs of reciprocal insurance.
He writes, “Non-aggression alone leaves open unethical, immoral, and conspiratorial action. Harm leaves open the problem of relative costs — ie the costs of prohibiting criminal, unethical, immoral, and conspiratorial action of all kinds.”
I think the jury is still out on the question of scale. Should you bear the cost of reciprocal insurance for your neighbor, but not for your neighbor’s neighbor, or should the scope be universal? It’s a question of strategy, I suppose.
So here’s the question for libertarians: Is property the natural state of man which can be returned to once we explain its obvious benefits to enough people? Or is it something only desired by a minority of people and achievable only when people are willing to fight for it?
I’m in the latter camp and I want to see libertarianism returned to it warrior-aristocratic roots. Your family guards that wall, my family guards this wall, inside will we have a market with property rights. If people attempt to breech our walls, we will kill them. If people are ready to help defend our norms, we will welcome them.
Originally published here: http://dailyanarchist.com/2014/10/10/when-your-former-libertarian-hero-calls-you-a-nazi/