Robby Soave, Reason Magazine, White Privilege, and PCU

November 10, 2015 4 comments

“Yeah, that’s what you say. But it’s how you carry yourself.” –Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson

In 1994 an underrated movie called “PCU” was released. PCU is an acronym for both Port Chester University and Politically Correct University. The movie stars (gag reflex trigger warning) pre-he-magically-grew-new-hair-before-Entourage Jeremy Piven. Easily his best role outside of Guy Ritchie’s 2009 masterpiece film “RocknRolla”. I suppose even Guy Ritchie can polish a turd.

But PCU also has some now-classic comedy heavies like Jon Favreau, David Spade, Jessica Walter (aka Lucile Bluth), and Jake Busey (aka crazy Gary Busey’s kid). Shit, it even co-stars Alex Désert from the band Hepcat (he also co-starred alongside Vince Vaughn and Favreau in Fav’s classic “Swingers”). There’s even a cameo from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic (if you don’t know what that is, than I’m not sorry to say you’re a chump, so audit yourself!).

If you haven’t seen PCU, spoiler alert without going into too much detail (a very stoned Favs appears before the very real real Senate Judiciary Committee), the most offensive crew on campus wins over the entire student body in the end by appealing to solidarity for students against the administrators, rather than being pitted against each other. If you’re interested, here’s an amazing trailer/featurette:

It seems even more relevant now, especially with this thus-far-unreal season of South Park. And if you’re not up to speed with PC Principal, you better ask somebody!

But the point is this, offensive speech and even acts – violent and non – have been happening, and will continue to happen on college campuses. The questions, of course, are how to deal with this. The answers are even more elusive. Problems abound. Longstanding, systemic, institutional problems. Which brings us to Reason and Robby Soave.

And let’s be generous for a moment, Robby’s not 100% at fault here. The so-called “libertarian” nonprofit foundation and publication Reason didn’t have to hire him from The Daily Tucker Callerson (which is, at best, a home for conservatarianism). We know from the comments that it’s a total haven for pissed off, xenophobic, thinly veiled imperialists that want low taxes. Then again, so is Reason. Perhaps not the imperialist part, but white people that primarily call themselves libertarians because they want lower taxes. And lower taxes. Still, curious.

Now, of course, the Reasonbots and conservatarian apologists will argue their “Free Minds, Free Markets” slogan. No doubt.

However, the overwhelming majority of the content they publish is either making vulgar arguments (like cheering on the Keystone pipeline) based on an oxymoron they call “free market capitalism,” uninformed arguments due to think tank libertarians generally saying everything yet knowing nothing due to lacking any real world experience (like their coverage of the George Zimmerman trial and criminal justice policy in general), giving good play to The Conservatarian Manifesto and the likes of jokers named Rand Paul, John Stossel, Greg Gutfeld, Instapundit, Ted Cruz, and others, or employing the Robby Soave’s of the world to make vulgar arguments in “favor” of social justice. In other words, they’re an extension of right wing politics masquerading as classical liberalism.

And people wonder why libertarians are despised amongst the general body politic. I avoid using the word libertarian at all costs in public. The term has too much stink on it. I’m not sure if this gets through to everybody inside the bubble in DC or the online libertarian bubble, but liberty is now synonymous with Republican in the eyes of everyone but themselves. That’s a big problem.

I feel it’s also important to note that there are exceptions to the Reason norm, both past (Radley Balko) and present (Elizabeth Nolan Brown). And I’m sure there will be in the future. But that’s largely due to Balko and Brown picking their respective, critically important beats and covering them to the point of mastery (you know, actual research and expert sources) and difference making. They also just happen to be libertarianish types.

But Robby, with his “platform” at Reason (let’s be real, institutional libertarianism is generally a self congratulatory echo chamber) from which to help spread the ideas of freedom and liberty chooses to cover the beat he covers, which is quite irrelevant considering the state-sanctioned atrocities committed daily. Although I’m sure he’ll claim it has something to do with free speech and rights on college campuses or something of the sort, he spends most of his time speaking with the tone and attitude of a hegemonic white male – much like David Spade’s character in PCU, Rand McPherson. Shit, there’s even a resemblance.

rand mcphersonrobertsoave-1630136872
In the film, McPherson leads the stereotypical upper crusty privileged white boy frat. One of his classic quotes from the movie is:

This school used to be a bastion of rich, white elitism. And now, they let homosexuals on the football team, whining minorities run the student government, and you can’t even coerce a woman into having sex without being brought up on charges. What is this world coming to, really?!?

That is, in essence, the perceived disposition of Robby Soave. Not personally. I know neither him nor what he truly thinks about political philosophy, just the fact that he comes from actual bastions of rich white elitism: University of Michigan, The Daily Tucker, and now Reason. Soave actually has this to say in his latest walk-back apology piece, which typically follows the predictable, initial rabble-rabble-let–the-white-man-talk post:

I was not suggesting that racial slurs are a trivial matter—they are incredibly evil, hateful, and sometimes genuinely traumatizing for persons of color. Nor was I suggesting that black people need to “just get over it.” They have every right to publicize their emotional turmoil and demand action. I wish we lived in a world where no one aspired to demean them.

But I suspect the people who shout despicable things at black people on the street have much in common with schoolyard bullies: they are looking for a reaction. And one way to deprive bullies of their power to inflict pain—not just on people of color, but on everyone—is to ignore them.

Another way, I suppose, is to identify the bullies and run them out of town with pitchforks. But when we live in fear of bad words, we give agency to the people who use them.  That’s something for everyone to keep in mind, especially now that Mizzou cops have announced their intention to literally police speech on campus.

My post began with a Snoop quote from HBO’s The Wire. In response to Soave’s tired, excerpted quote, here it is again. “Yeah, that’s what you say. But it’s how you carry yourself.” Point being, if Soave approached the same subject matter and drew the same conclusions in a much more charitable manner, as opposed to being Rand McPherson, the pushback against his bullshit probably wouldn’t be so strong and the stench of libertarianism may subside some.

The only way I can properly relate to Soave in this manner is by proxy. Libertarians are supposed to exercise humility when outside their discipline because of that whole knowledge problem thing they supposedly love and hold so dear. How often they seem to forget. As for myself, being in the performing and recording arts and not exactly an expert at much else, I must summon philosopher Roderick Long’s four-year-old BHL post entitled The Libertarian Three-Step Program.

In short, it’s for libertarians who don’t know how to make a non-vulgar, off-putting argument to the everyday voter (specifically it was about Ron Paul answering a health care question from Wolf Blitzer in “depressingly predictable order,” according to Long, at a CNN GOP debate back in September 2011). And your everyday voter is not even close to being in the GOP or even being GOP-sympathetic. There are more independents and registered Democrats, respectively, than registered Republicans. I think even Reason’s own polling shows that trend.

The parallel here for Soave to Long’s three steps is: demonize the victim, identify potential voluntary solutions, and then finally address the systemic, structural problems. As Long himself notes in his piece, “When you lead with stage one, that’s what people will remember; adding stage three as an afterthought will leave far less trace in people’s thoughts,” and that Paul’s answer “was a highly visible instance of a widespread libertarian problem.” It’s something to seriously consider.

Unfortunately this problem has not been improved upon. It is by and large indicative of the general arrogance that emanates from Reason’s content-Keynesianism (a content-Keynesian is more interested in publishing high quantity than high quality content for the simple, cynical purpose of generating attention and web traffic). Which is to say, the approach that Long opines against of ‘I’m a libertarian so I know it all even though I’m supposed to be operating under a dispersed knowledge problem which implies that I don’t know it all’ being the pervasive attitude.

Pick a discipline in life and become an expert. You’ll end up doing more for liberty than the entire swarm of epistemically closed off libertarian dilettantes and navel gazers, especially since nobody outside of that tiny bubble of insignificance cares. Then again, if your intention truly is to create a pseudo reality designed to self soothe and pull the wool over your own eyes to the extent that you think you’re actually making a dent in the world or being a “very objective, non-nonsense, just-the-facts kind of guy/writer” by posting confirmation bias seeking drivel on the internet… let’s just say ignorance is bliss. And I’m not just talking to Robby Soave & Reason here.

It also sounds dangerously close to one of those safe spaces Soave spends so much time railing against. Irony’s a bitch.

Maybe you become like my younger brother and literally fight the state every day in court, depose and cross examine crooked cops, and get unjustly shackled arms and legs of falsely accused indigent brown and black faces freed from their statist coils. Much respect to the knuckleheads at Popehat for the same reasons.

But whatever is going on within institutionalized libertarianism doesn’t even come close to fighting the state. It’s actually more of an exercise in frivilous vanity and self validation. In fact, those who work at such institutions unknowingly, or perhaps knowingly in some instances, act as agents for the political right. I’d call that aiding and abetting the state, but hey.

Perhaps Kevin Carson said it best in, potentially his greatest, C4SS piece The End of Libertarians:

Frankly, I’m sick of libertarian outreach being sabotaged by the need to apologize for people like this. I’m sick of trying to challenge the perception of libertarianism as the movement of entitled 20-something middle-class white males who think “big business is the last oppressed minority,” and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because of women and racial minorities — and then going to, Lew Rockwell, Cato and Reason and seeing a bottomless cesspool of people saying that very thing.

The Drone Papers at The Intercept

Drone DrainThe Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.

You should at least read the first piece in the series, The Assassination Complex. Here’s a taste:

From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed — through secretive processes, without indictment or trial — worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.

“Criminal Justice” in Oil Pastels

Flashback Friday: Craig in 2008

We need a new post up in this space to usher in a new month… or it’s just a good enough excuse for a vain stroll down memory lane. Yeah, something like that. These photos were taken in 2008 by Fred Morledge of Photo FM in Las Vegas, NV. The man’s a pro!

Three are from The Tone Factory recording studios (two of those shots show my good friend Mike Marsh doing his producer thing) and one a live shot from The House of Blues. In true, classic me fashion I’m toting a different piece of gear in each photo. Figures. Enjoy!

me n mike 04-09-08 2 me n mike 04-09-08 7 Me 10-09-08 6 craig loves his ampeg


Toning it Down: Guitar Amps are not like Markets

September 14, 2015 10 comments

“Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element!” –Walter Sobchak

I’m having difficulty with Jason Brennan’s attempt to make guitar amps analogous with markets. This is what happens when academics step outside of their expertise. They sound ignorant and alarmingly hypocritical:

We think markets are a bit like guitar amplifiers. Guitar amps have various knobs that can be put on different settings, and, as a result, make the amplifier sound good or bad. Similarly, markets might have a range of variables that can be put to different settings. Changing the settings might change the market from good or bad, or bad too good. Just as some guitar amps sound good only on very specific settings, some markets might be good only on very specific settings. Or, just as other guitar amps sound good no matter what the settings, so other markets might be good not matter what the settings.

What sort of classical liberal philosopher wants to give anybody the power to tinker with the alleged settings of a market? Brennan sounds exactly like the central planning technocratic he’s apt to critique. Or the “man of system” Adam Smith cautioned against in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Or the imaginings and machinations of economists F.A. Hayek warned about in The Fatal Conceit.

The quality of sonic output from an amplified instrument primarily comes from the player and the instrument itself. Not to mention one person typically uses one or more amps at a time, but not the other way around. As opposed to markets, which are organic makeups of millions of people scattered about and simultaneously acting on their own rational self interests based on the incomplete knowledge they possess at any given time in order to exchange goods and services.

In my experience as a musician, there’s never been an asymmetric situation involving an amplifier. It’s just a bullhorn for an instrument that can’t be played or heard well acoustically. Consider that there are only twelve notes on the sonic spectrum. So a D chord is a D chord, regardless of it’s timbre, who’s playing it, or which amplifier you happen to be using. All possible combinations of notes and chords are already known. There is no knowledge gap. An amplifier is not communicating information that would otherwise be unknown to certain people at certain times. The player controlling his/her instrument predetermines all of the inputs and outputs, which is far from being analogous to a market.

The advantage of a sensitive and true legendary tube amp like a Hiwatt is that it’s much more right hand responsive, meaning you can control the tone just by your attack. Start with bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones, and just look at how eclectic this list of artists gets (which doesn’t even account for artists who use Hiwatts on recordings but aren’t endorsed).

Take producer John Shanks, for example. He has fifteen Hiwatts in his studio. They’re all over hits he’s produced for artists like Van Halen, Sheryl Crow, Bon Jovi, Kelly Clarkson, and Goo Goo Dolls. That’s a pretty broad range of styles and sounds. Point being: “dialing in” an amp is an afterthought and largely a marketing ploy.

However, the ability to control or adjust tonality is for equalization purposes and typically more about which frequencies to roll off than on. Again, this does nothing to fundamentally alter what’s being played or heard. The inputs and outputs are both fixed and finite because the amp needs an external controller. Turning those knobs up to 11 won’t change the fact that a D chord is still a D chord. The notes are the notes. The chords are the chords. The analogy is false. So don’t touch that dial.

bassist meme

Matt Zwolinski on Poverty for LearnLiberty

University of San Diego philosopher, Bleeding Heart Libertarians founder, and friend of this space Matt Zwolinski has a series on poverty up at LearnLiberty that’s well worth checking out.

Classic Punk Rock for Classical Liberals: “Don’t Call Me White” by NoFX

Here’s a gem from NoFX’s classic 1994 studio album Punk In Drublic:

Don’t call me white, Don’t call me white

The connotations wearing my nerves thin
Could it be semantics generating the mess we’re in?
I understand that language breeds stereotype
But what’s the explanation for the malice, for the spite?

Don’t call me white, Don’t call me white

I wasn’t brought here, I was born
Circumsized, categorized, allegiance sworn,
Does this mean I have to take such shit
For being fairskinned? No!
I ain’t a part of no conspiracy,
I’m just you’re average Joe.

Don’t call me white, Don’t call me white

Represents everything I hate,
The soap shoved in your mouth to cleanse the mind
The vast majority of sheep
A buttoned collar, starched and bleached
Constricting veins, the blood flow to the brain slows
They’re so fuckin’ ordinary white

Don’t call me white, Don’t call me white

We’re better off this way
Say what you’re gonna say
So go ahead and label me
An asshole cause I can
Accept responsibility, for what I’ve done
But not for who I am

Don’t call me white, Don’t call me white

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