Sunday, August 5, 2012

Resisting America's Torture State

I have a new article up at the Center for a Stateless Society, discussing how America's mass use of solitary confinement amounts to institutionalized torture.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Post at the Center for a Stateless Society

I now write at the Center for a Stateless Society, an anarchist think tank and media center.  My first op-ed, "ALEC is an Enemy of Liberty", was published yesterday.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Memory of Presidents' Victims

On facebook, there is a liberal page titled "We survived Bush.  You will survive Obama."   This appears to define the people who matter as relatively privileged liberals and conservatives.  Privileged American liberals survived Bush.  Privileged American conservatives will survive Obama.  But what about those who don't survive the policies of presidents?  In American political discourse, we so often forget the victims of state violence.  We so often forget those who are killed as a result of presidents and their abusive policies.  This post is dedicated to those victims.

There were many who died as a result of George W. Bush's policies.  Iraq Body Count has documented between 107,055 and 116,979 civilian deaths from the Iraq War.  The Wikileaks Iraq War Logs reveal an estimated 15,000 additional civilian deaths.  A 2006 study estimated that around 600,000 Iraqis had been killed by the Iraq War.  Whatever the numbers, it is clear that a huge number of Iraqis did not survive Bush.  Further, Margaret Griffis uses the US military's own data to show that 4,486 American troops have died in the Iraq War.  Those soldiers did not survive Bush either.

While the Bush administration's greatest killing spree was in Iraq, people from other countries also died as a result of his policies.  Before the Iraq War, the Bush administration began a war in Afghanistan, a war that still rages today.  As a result, many Afghans did not survive Bush.  And the deaths that can be attributed to Bush policies did not simply occur in war zones.  While the Bush administration's torture program at Guantanamo was often discussed, it was rarely mentioned that at least 100 detainees died from US torture techniques.  These detainees did not survive Bush.

And just like many people throughout the world did not survive Bush, many others have not survived or will not survive Barack Obama.  It is known that President Obama has a secretive kill list.  Those on this list will not survive Obama.  The drone program directed by Obama shows virtually no concern for civilian casualties.  Obama's drones bomb funerals and rescuers.  Thus, many funeral goers and rescuers will not survive Obama.  In Yemen, the administration used cluster bombs, which many countries have agreed never to use, in a strike that killed 35 women and children.  Those women and children did not survive Obama.  The Obama administration has also redefined the word "militant", such that any adult male killed by a US bomb is assumed to be a "militant."  These supposed "militants" will not survive Obama.  Obama has presided over bombings in six countries: Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  The victims of those bombings will not survive Obama.  Furthermore, Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan, resulting in increased US casualties.  Many Americans and Afghans will not survive Obama.

Obama's policies, like Bush's, kill through more than simply war.  For example, while the 2010 Haitian earthquake led to a moratorium on deportations to Haiti, the Obama administration resumed deporting Haitians in August of 2011.   At this point, the earthquake-ravaged country faced a cholera epidemic.  The situation was even worse in the crowded prisons and camps where deportees were sent.  Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote at the time that "as the U.S. government knows, deportations to Haiti amount to a death sentence for deportees." It appears some Haitians may not survive Obama.

Obama administration policies may soon also cost lives by decreasing access to medicine in the developing world.  It was recently revealed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement currently being negotiated by the Obama administration, would substantially expand the power of pharmaceutical patent monopolies.  This would create artificial scarcity, driving up medical costs, particularly in the developing world.   Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen wrote that with these provisions "the Obama administration has again increased demands on developing countries to trade away access to medicines."  Judit Rius Sanjuan of Doctors Without Borders' Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines explained that  "Policies that restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments."  Fundamentally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to deny people in the developing world access to lifesaving medication.  If it passes with the current intellectual property provisions, sick people will probably die for a policy that inflates pharmaceutical industry profits.  These patients will not survive Obama.

While this post has focused on the Obama and Bush administrations, it should be understood that deadly policies are by no means unique to these two presidents.  Under Andrew Jackson, thousands of Native Americans died on the Trail of Tears.  Under Bill Clinton, UNICEF estimates that sanctions on Iraq killed around 500,000 children.  LBJ, Kennedy, and Nixon waged an unjustifiable war in Vietnam.  Reagan financed the murderous Contras in Nicaragua.  Woodrow Wilson sent the country into the bloody conflict of World War I, and jailed those who opposed that war.  Throughout US history, presidents and their policies have left gruesome trails of bodies.  When will we demand an end to these deaths?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Stefan Molyneux and Other Anti-Feminists

Stefan Molyneux’s recent video, a defense of his statement that “feminism is socialism with panties” (from which he takes his title) is not so much an enlightening philosophical speech as an ill-informed rant. The title of the video is intellectually dishonest, dismissing generations of women and men struggling for equality as panty-wearing socialists. The title panders to vulgar misogynists and is insulting to all women, feminists or not, and to anyone else who believes in equality between the sexes. The ideas expressed in this video and other videos of his that discuss feminism in a negative way are not only inaccurate but also dangerous, negatively influencing society’s perception of what feminism really is.

Because Molyneux’s anti-feminist views are unfortunately shared by many libertarian men and some libertarian women, we think it is important to take a stand and point out what is wrong and misguided about these views. Each one of the individuals signing this document has seen libertarian and conservative men attacking feminism without knowing what it means; men who have read nothing more than a few newspapers articles or anti-feminist rants by others and have no idea of feminism’s rich and varied history. Their views, founded on little more than opinion, are merely knee-jerk “politically incorrect” responses that lack critical thinking and thoughtful analysis.

Anti-feminist libertarian and conservative comments abound on Facebook and other social media. These include the usual clichés such as “man-hater,” and “feminazis” as well as such claims as, for example, “feminists are so trapped in their victimhood thinking that they see potential male oppressors everywhere and blame everything that is wrong with their lives on ‘sexism’ and ‘patriarchy.’” Men who are supportive of feminist concerns are attacked as “little wussy boys” and “worse” than the feminists themselves. One man even called the Association of Libertarian Feminists an “oxymoron.” These childish and uninformed remarks by anti-feminist men not only show how little they know about feminism, but how little regard they have for women and women’s rights.

Some anti-feminists even call feminism “collectivist” because it is a movement. This is a strange misuse of the term. They confuse “collective action” with “collectivism.” The former simply means individuals working together for a common purpose, as for example, libertarianism or abolitionism. The philosophy of “collectivism” says that group goals are more important than individual goals. But the raison d'etre of feminism is to achieve equal individual rights for every woman; to allow individual women to pursue their lives as they see fit rather than submit to cultural stereotypes.

Feminism is, by common definition, “the belief that women and men are equal and should be equally valued as human beings and have equal rights.” From a libertarian point of view, this stance should not be in the least controversial since libertarians also believe in equal rights for all. Indeed, given this definition of feminism, all libertarians, if they are consistent, should also be feminists. This definition is the essence of feminism to which every stripe of feminist from Marxist to libertarian, from radical to liberal, will agree. What feminists differ upon is how to achieve this goal of equality and equal rights. But the anti-feminist libertarians, knowing little about the wide range of views within feminism, selectively choose those feminist views they find abhorrent and attack those views as if they represented all of feminism. Yet when liberals do the same to libertarians, misrepresenting a few of the most uncompassionate as representative of the whole, these same anti-feminist libertarians howl. This is an inconsistent, hypocritical, and unfair treatment of both of these rich and vibrant intellectual traditions.

Molyneux is only the latest in a long line of these uncritical anti-feminists. We use his videos as a starting point for analysis only because he is currently one of the most visible anti-feminist libertarians. Like other anti-feminists, he fails to actually define feminism before he attacks. He simply implies that the ones he selectively chooses to talk about constitute feminism. Though Molyneux admits it isn’t accurate to say that all feminists are socialists, he still defends his statement that “feminism is socialism with panties” and continues to talk as if all feminists are indeed socialists. This is more than an offensive accusation unsupported by sound reasoning; it represents the kind of sexist thinking feminism tries to combat. By using this sleight-of-hand, he continues to encourage his listeners to systematically categorize all "feminist" concerns as pitiful socialist garbage to be derided and dismissed.

In representing feminism as a primarily socialist-dominated movement, Molyneux ignores feminists of any other political ideology, including a long history of individualist feminists. His definition of socialism is as unclear as his definition of feminism; he uses the term interchangeably with “Marxism” without qualifying exactly what kind of socialists he is accusing feminists of being. What is clear is his belief that socialists of any kind are unappealing and deserving of ridicule.

Molyneux also uses the term “gender” incorrectly. He talks about the “two genders” but “gender” is not interchangeable with “sex.” Social scientists generally define “gender” in terms of psychological factors, i.e., societal views of gender, one’s self-perception, etc.  In fact there is a whole range of non-binary gender perceptions; including “transgender” people  who do not fit into the standard “male” and “female” categories. Even the term “sex,” which refers to anatomical distinctions, is more complex than simply “male” and “female” because some people are “intersex” with physiological elements of both female and male reproductive characteristics.  These people may call themselves “male” or “female” for convenience but many do not feel comfortable doing so.

There is a belief among such anti-feminists that feminism is inherently sexist because it emphasizes women. This is like saying that those who oppose discrimination against people of color are racists. Such anti-feminist thinking then assumes that women must desire preferential treatment. This is a typical claim made by anti-feminist men in articles and posts in social media, couched under the misdirecting plea, “but we’re all individuals.” It is similar to the claim that LGBTQ folks want preferential treatment simply because they want the same marriage rights as anyone else. Yet it is important to note that it is not women who have created the gender rights gap; it is a culture and society that has long seen women as secondary to men. Both culture and the government have been the biggest challenges feminists have faced in seeking equality. Government, reflecting the historical cultural prejudices against women, has enforced laws (opinions backed with guns, as Molyneux muses) against women since the beginning of the United States. Feminists, in working for equality, are therefore not working to support the state but rather desire to change it in order to eliminate the need for feminism. However, if libertarians categorically reject every attempt to challenge the presence of privilege in our culture, we should not be too shocked when feminists believe that the force of law is required to create a more humane and bearable space in which to exist.

Contrary to what the anti-feminists such as Molyneux claim, feminists have in fact played a major role in some of the most significant triumphs for individual liberty against state and private aggression in the last two centuries. In the 19th century, they were in the forefront of major movements for individual freedom, including abolitionism, suffrage for women, individual conscience in regard to religion and sexual activity, and the protection of minority rights. Every woman today who has a college education, owns property, or votes can thank these feminists. In the 20th century, feminists were in the forefront of not only the vote for women and the civil rights movement, but also in the fight against discriminatory laws that kept women from having credit in their own name, police policies that treat victims of rape and domestic abuse as responsible for their own victimization, actions and laws that harm people whose identities, sexual preferences, and orientations do not match the mainstream, and let us not forget reproductive freedom!

The radical feminist activists that Molyneux and other anti-feminists so unthinkingly sneer at have almost always been primarily concerned with challenging and resisting patriarchal laws—abortion laws, rather famously—and with building non-state grassroots institutions (e.g., consciousness raising groups, battered women's shelters, rape crisis centers, underground abortion networks, women's self-help clinics, and an array of critical “awareness”/anti-sexist cultural campaigns and groups), a number of which, especially the medically-focused efforts, were in fact constantly targeted by the regulatory state for criminalization and destruction.

In his “feminists are socialists in panties” video, Molyneux states that feminists are state-serving “creatures” and “Frankensteins,” whose primary agenda is receiving preferential treatment from the government and society, an erroneous and insulting view. He commits the error that Frédéric Bastiat defines as the core error of socialists, by “confusing the distinction between government and society.” He misrepresents the feminist stance as categorically anti-family and requiring state intervention to fulfill. No matter that many feminists have actually long discussed how to apply their feminist views to marriage and family, with the intent to raise children in a non-stereotypical way that affords them the richest opportunities as adults. Their aim is not to raise children through the state as Plato asserted, but typically to raise them healthfully in an individual family with two parents. Only a handful of feminists have actually seriously talked about dismantling the family, primarily during the Second Wave, contrary to what anti-feminists like Molyneux claim.

Molyneux portrays feminists as ruthless women, quick to cut each other down and unwilling to support successful women who deviate from the underlying socialist ideology of feminism. He claims that this is why feminists never discuss Ayn Rand or Margaret Thatcher, who he sees as “neo-conservatives” that are “anti-government” and therefore can be dismissed. In actuality, Rand, is not a neo-conservative; her importance for women has even led to a scholarly book, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, published by a prestigious and well-known university press. In his rant against “ruthless” feminists, Molyneux even implies that because they did not rally to the cause of Bachmann’s candidacy that this is further proof of their cutthroat ideology. He thus implies that women should unconditionally support and praise each other despite differences in political views, even when the women themselves hold anti-feminist positions. The fact that Molyneux himself does nothing of the sort—he frequently attacks Ron Paul, a man, for example—is apparently beside the point. But unbeknownst to Molyneux, many feminists did in fact defend Bachmann, Clinton, and Palin from charges that veered from political disagreement to overt sexist dismissal.

In his video “The Life and Death of Radical Feminism,” Molyneux propounds the belligerently conservative argument that women taking on paid jobs won’t spend enough time with their children and thus will harm their development. This argument is fallacious on several grounds. First, it mysteriously leaves out one parent from the equation—the father. In fact, social science research shows that fathers have considerable impact on their children and that more interaction with their children is desirable. Second, there is a copious social science literature showing that children are not harmed when the mother works outside the home. A more important factor is whether the mother is satisfied with her situation, whether working outside the home or within. Third, it denies individual autonomy to women, chastising them for wanting to have a life or career outside the home and asserting that they should sacrifice their aspirations in order to allegedly achieve anti-authoritarian kids. Once again, this bears no resemblance to actual psychological research findings. The factors that have the most impact on authoritarian or anti-authoritarian views in children are warmth and non-punitive childrearing methods that teach empathy, not whether or not the mother stays at home. To blame moms for everything bad that happens to the children is yet another example of not only sexism but outright misogyny.

Molyneux, like many conservatives, seems to think that the 1950s was a golden age for families. The idea that the 1950s nuclear family was a model for liberated childhood or somehow ushered in the social movements of the 1960s is simply bizarre. Spanking, the abusive disciplinary action that Molyneux abhors, was far more prevalent in the 50s than it is now. In the 1950s, the spanking rate was 99%; the rate has been going down ever since. Isn’t this a curiously contradictory view? Furthermore, in the books and research about the student movements of the 60s, the main correlation between activism and parenting was having a parent who was also a political or social activist, not having a traditional nuclear family.

Anti-feminists have no idea what feminists really want. Feminists are not women who want to be treated as men. Feminists are people who want to be treated as people, people who should not be discriminated against. Feminism isn’t socialism. Feminism is actually more about individualism and the desire to be evaluated based on one’s merit’s and not on one’s sex or gender.

Yes, there are feminists who are socialists. There are also feminists who are anarchists and feminists who are libertarians and feminists who really have no political ideology but know that they deserve to be treated equally to men. There are feminists who wear panties and feminists who wear boxers because not all feminists have an underwear preference and not all feminists are women.

The majority of Molyneux’s arguments against feminism as well as his accusation that “feminism is socialism with panties” are grounded in flawed and misogynistic rhetoric as are the arguments of other anti-feminists. In reality, feminism attracts a diverse group of people just as any other idea or philosophy does. To attempt to diminish the impact of feminism and redefine it as an objectionable philosophy is repugnant. The statement itself is inherently sexist and is the kind of thinking that feminism—true feminism—works to change.

This is a collective rejoinder written and agreed upon by the following signers

Ankur Chawla
Amanda Davis
Christine-Marie L. Dixon
Nathan Goodman
Charles H. Johnson
Ross Kenyon
Matt Mortellaro
Nicholas O’Connell
James Peron
Sharon Presley

Also joining us:
Brad Spangler
Andrei Pemberton
Jeffrey Young
Thomas J. Webb
Kyle Bush
George H. Smith
Thomas L. Knapp
Keith Taylor
John L Robinson
Michael Scandirito
James Tuttle
Neil Ball
Megan Arnold
Adam Reed
Tom Ender
Alisa Clanin
Andrew Taranto
Erin Miller
Mike J. Gogulski
Robert Steel
Dan Bier
Nick Ford
Grant Babcock
Jason Lee Bynas
Lindsey A. Jacobs
Leah Farrow
Alex Strekal
Benjamin Nichols
Kaitlyn Emerick
Roman Pearah
Rocco Fama
Art Smith
Judy Purrington
Jim Davidson
Jason Bessey
Neha Sinha
Luke Clayborn Hopper
Vincent Patsy
Luca Gattoni-Celli
Natasha Shebeko
Julia Riber Pitt
D. Frank Robinson
Jad Davis
Moriah N. Costa
Nick Saorsa
Matt Zwolinski
Don Pomeroy
Halina Reed
Isa Rizal Bufano
Lucy Betageek Hanouille
Josh Latimer
Jason Phillips Love
Teresa Warmke
Currer Bell
Jon Anselmo
Joan Mitchell
Alejandro Oquendo
Kevin Carson
Corey Moore
Edgar Aroutiounian
Tyler Johnson
Alexander Habighorst
Stewart Thorpe
Alice Raizel
Ruth Gilburt
Thomas Gramstad
Nate West
Joseph Rasch
Sorcha NiBhuaigh
Steve Horwitz
Mike Moceri
Carol B. Low
Irena Schneider
Harold Gray
Carl Agoric Codling
Zachary Caceres
John Sabin Adkins
Janet Neilson
Bob Wammy
Shawn P. Wilbur
Jordan Jetson
Scott LeGear
H. Raymond Solberger
Jim Minardi
Juan Garibay
Jack Artagan Mackenna
Lee Avedon
Jackie Bradbury
Adam Marketanarchopacifist Berkowicz
Adam Cicco
Tim Starr
Rob Tarzwell
David McGraw
Jake Smith
Victor A. Reyes
Punk Johnny Cash
Vicki Moore
Ben Arzate
Fred Curtis Moulton, Jr.
Matthew Brenycz
Lex Alexander
Chris Bradshaw
Nancy Quinn Dale
Katherine Gallagher
Pedro Eidt
Zak Slayback