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30 July 2014

Reason magazine still hasn't figured out how to deal with libertarianism's sordid past.

Yesterday I wrote a piece for Little Green Footballs that ended up being part 2 in a three-part series on something nasty in the publication history of Reason magazine. Namely, a "special edition" from February 1976 on historical revisionism... that ended up including some really odious Holocaust denial and reads like a Who's Who of deniers and friends-of-deniers. When called out by PandoDaily, Reason editor Nick Gillespie issued a really weak-tea response: I went back and looked into each alleged denialist contributor to the special edition, and yeah, it shouldn't have been hard for 1976!Reason to say no to these cranks, and even less hard for 2014!Reason to condemn its past self and move on.

I won't retread that specific ground here; if you're interested, read the LGF posts here[1], here[2], and here[3]. Instead, let's look more at the meta-level callout by Mark Ames at PandoDaily and response by Nick Gillespie at Reason. In my mind this encapsulates a lot of what's wrong with libertarian politics, and Internet arguments in general.

Let's start with the original piece at PandoDaily[4]. Mark Ames discovered an old edition of Reason magazine (apparently they don't have their own searchable digital archive) that featured not only contributors who were known or future Holocaust deniers, but some actual Holocaust-denial content itself.

Unfortunately, and apparently this is a pattern in his blog posts, Ames has a hate-on for the libertarian movement, and keeps making nefarious references to the Koch brothers:

Now, David Koch did found the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason, and the Kochs are generally affiliated with the magazine and the libertarian movement at large. They also have some questionable policy goals, and do a lot of lobbying. All fair game to oppose politically. But I think it actually weakens Ames' case and makes the blog post seem more distracted, when the damage would be very much done if he just reported on what's in the February 1976 issue.
Perhaps the reason Reason’s current editor is hesitant to distance his magazine from past contributors is that some of them are still around, still running the Reason show, and otherwise remain major names in the Koch brothers’ libertarian network. Robert Poole and Manny Klausner, listed on the masthead of the Holocaust-denier issue as co-editors, also co-founded with David Koch the nonprofit Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason magazine to this day. The Reason Foundation still lists Poole, Klausner and Koch as trustees; Poole is also listed as a Reason Foundation “Officer,” alongside Reason editors Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. The Koch brothers have donated millions to Reason, which, besides publishing the magazine, also advises state and local governments on mass privatizations of public assets and services.
It's sort of too much at once. The main story is this: Reason magazine published an issue featuring not only Holocaust deniers in persons, but actual Holocaust denial in substance, together with more general racism. And they haven't repudiated it.

Now let's look at what Reason editor Nick Gillespie actually said[5] regarding the PandoDaily piece:
If you want a preview of just how lame ideological mud-slinging is going to get over the next few years—or decades, possibly—take a look at this pair of articles penned by Mark Ames at Pando.com, a Bay Area-based website that, among other things, aspires “to bring more civility into the blogosophere.” The pieces charge Reason with being not a libertarian defender of “Free Minds and Free Markets” but a hotbed for pro-apartheid Holocaust deniers who slavishly do the bidding of David and Charles Koch (cue the monster-movie music, maestro).

Yeah, seriously. A publication that just celebrated “Marijuana on Main Street: The long, hard road to safe, legal pot,” covers the police brutality beat like nobody’s business, and criticized George W. Bush’s “disaster socialism” and his stupid wars for the entire eight awful years he was in the White House, is really a stalking horse for reactionary politics right out of The Turner Diaries.

However ridiculous such attacks may be, they are a sign that broadly libertarian ideas about fiscal responsibility and social tolerance are gaining ground in all areas of politics and culture. Indeed, as Ames frets, libertarianism is even making “major inroads into the disaffected left.”

As the conservative right and progressive left feel threatened by libertarianism, such attacks will multiply in number and intensify in venom. The main purpose is not to actually engage libertarian ideas—including once pie-in-the-sky beliefs that governments should be financially sustainable, gay people should be allowed to marry one another, and that more immigration is better than less immigration—but precisely to avoid discussing their merits.
Yes, four paragraphs variously dismissing Mark Ames as a "lame ideological mud-sling[er]" and crowing about how obviously this means libertarian ideals are going mainstream. The actual repudiation of the content boils down to "of course Holocaust denial is dumb, but it wasn't even the focus of the issue!" which strikes me as distinctly weird. And yet, how much Holocaust denial is an acceptable amount? I think the answer is, as the mathematicians say, epsilon-small.

In particular, when Gary North, open theocrat and advocate for stoning disobedient children to death (though to be fair, Reason did call him out for that[6]), called the Holocaust "the Establishment's favorite horror story" and praised the work of the author of The Myth of the Six Million (as Holocaust-denying as it seems)... that would be Holocaust denial in the pages of Reason magazine.

Reason also printed in that February 1976 issue an advertisement for the "Veritas Book Club" ("A New Book Club For Intelligent Libertarians"), which offers the following very, ah, informative volumes:
DARWIN RETIRED by Norman Macbeth. An extremely intelligent, well-written dissection of the Darwinian theory of Evolution, which is all but demolished by a keen legal mind. Bypassed by the scientific community who, up to now, have had nothing to say by way of refutation[...]

SPANISH REHEARSAL by Arnold Lunn. The only pro-Franco account of Spain's Civil War 1936-1939. Shows how the Communists took over the Republicans in a war that may soon be repeated[...]

THE DISPOSSESSED MAJORITY by Wilmot Robertson. The traditional American is being challenged and dismissed by a new breed of writers who hold that Wasp [White Anglo Saxon Protestant] culture is backward, "racist" and on its way out. The author, naming names defends his background and cites certain minorities that he considers unassimilable. Highly controversial.

THE RESCUE OF THE ROMANOVS by Guy Richards. New evidence to indicate that the Czar and his family were all saved, not executed[...]

ZAMBESI SALIENT by Al J. Venter. The race war in southern Africa, planned and supplied by Communist nations. White Africa is distinctly on the defensive[...]
This advertisement's a crank science and fringe politics gem all on its own, but note in particular "The Dispossessed Majority", the 1998 edition of which is available in full at The Internet Archive[7]. From pages 190 and 191:
It was educated city Jews, not hillbillies, who fueled the fires of world communism[...]

It was educated city Jews, not hillbillies who were largely responsible for foisting on the American population affirmative action, forced busing, integration of the work and learning place.

It was educated Jews, not hillbillies who composed, financed, and distributed the tasteless and soulless television sitcoms, and ran the business affairs and divided the rich take of the stoned Stone Age Negro rappers.

It was educated city Jews, not hillbillies, who persuaded the U.S. to contribute at least $50 billion to the Zionist conquest and occupation of Palestine[...]
Smell that bitter tang of anti-Semitism!

From page 234:
The worst having been done, the more dynamic Negroes are demanding redress, somewhat as undisciplined children who have lost their innocence might seek redress from parents who abandoned them. To these demands whites have a choice of four responses: oppression, which is immoral;41 integration without intermarriage, which is impossible; integration with intermarriage, which is inconceivable; and separation, which is impractical.
It's worth noting that, per footnote #41, Robertson's idea of "immoral" is a bit... odd:
It is much too late for the tactics Tacitus puts in the mouth of a Roman general endeavoring to suppress a revolt of the Gauls. [...] "Now they are our enemies because the burden of servitude is light; when we have despoiled and stripped them they will be our friends."
... I think that counts as advertisement for racism in the pages of Reason magazine. And lest anyone think that's too many degrees of separation, go back and read the description in the Veritas Book Club ad; it isn't exactly subtle. ("A New Book Club For Intelligent Libertarians"!)

References:

1. "Awful: Reason Magazine’s 1976 Holocaust Denial “Special Issue”" at Little Green Footballs.

2. "Reason Magazine Addresses That 1976 “Holocaust Denial Edition”" at Little Green Footballs.

3. "One More Problem With That 1976 Holocaust Denial Edition of Reason" at Little Green Footballs. 27 July 2014.

4. "As Reason’s editor defends its racist history, here’s a copy of its holocaust denial “special issue”" at PandoDaily. 24 July 2014.

5. "Did Reason Really Publish a "Holocaust Denial 'Special Issue'" in 1976? Of Course Not." at Reason. 26 July 2014.

6. "Reasonable Doubts: Invitation to a Stoning" at Reason. 01 November 1998.

7. "The dispossessed majority," pp. 160, 190, 191, 234 at The Internet Archive.