Libertarianism or Tribalism: Reply to Critics Concerning Rick Stanley
by Ari Armstrong, June 25, 2002
This morning, Rick Stanley said I'm a traitor. The subject line for an e-mail Stanley sent to his "Stanley Scoop" read, "John Gurley weighs in on ARI the Traitor." In the message, Stanley wrote, referring to me, "The western slope knows a traitor when they see one!"
Previously, Stanley has called Senator Wayne Allard a "traitor," too, because Allard violated his oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. Further, Stanley said Allard should be "hung" for treason.
So what I have I done to be called a "traitor" by Stanley? I wrote an article criticizing him! That article is at www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/stanleyrosen.html. Does Stanley believe people become traitors merely by exercising their First Amendment rights?
But perhaps Stanley intends a different meaning of the term "traitor" as it supposedly applies to me. (This view is supported in an e-mail from Stanley below.) One definition of a "traitor," as given by my Random House, is "a person who betrays another, a cause, or any trust."
It is indeed telling that Stanley conflates rational criticism with traitorous activity and betrayal. Apparently, Stanley believes his followers must march lock-step behind him, do exactly what he says, and never question his orders. There is no room for reasoned debate.
Interestingly, by Stanley's own standards, he is a traitor because he has criticized countless Libertarians in Colorado. In addition, on at least two issues Stanley has contradicted the platform of the national Libertarian Party. He has advocated a Constitutional amendment to allow the criminalization of flag burning, and he has called for closed borders. Is this not a "betrayal" of libertarian positions? Of course, Stanley isn't really a "traitor" because of his actions -- he is merely irresponsible.
By Stanley's standards, his own treasurer, David Bryant, is a traitor. Why? Because Bryant loudly criticized the LP's previous presidential candidate, Harry Browne. Bryant said Browne committed fraud. Of course, Bryant is not really a traitor -- he did what he thought best -- and neither is Stanley, and neither am I. By Stanley's standards, the overwhelming majority of active Libertarians are "traitors," because they have criticized some LP candidate or another. But obviously Stanley is full of hot air on this point.
Is the Libertarian Party a party of ideas, or is it just another political tribe? If it is a party that takes principles seriously, then its members should embrace reasoned debate. Do the ends justify the means? Are any campaign strategies acceptable, so long as they are adopted by "Libertarian" candidates? Must LP members follow LP candidates without questioning them, their positions, or their strategies?
My article reviewing Stanley's performance on Rosen's show offered substantive criticisms of a number of Stanley's positions. Most significantly, I argued against Stanley's suggestion that Allard should be "hung" for treason. I have also written several articles praising other elements of Stanley's campaign. For example, I recently reviewed Stanley's trial at www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/stanleygun.html, an article linked from KeepAndBearArms.com.
Apparently, Stanley believes calling me a "traitor" is somehow a substitute for engaging in rational, substantive discussion. Stanley seems to think the Libertarian Party just another tribe, to be run by him. Anyone who disagrees with Stanley or challenges him is therefore a "traitor."
But the purpose of the Libertarian Party is to advance libertarianism. It is a party of ideals, not personalities. It is a political philosophy, not a tribe. Not only is it okay to rationally question libertarian candidates about their positions and strategies, it is morally virtuous to do so.
Libertarian Party members must decide if they want to champion rational discourse or tribalism. If they choose the later, they will no longer be the advocates of libertarianism.
In addition to Stanley, several other people have blasted me for daring to write an article critical of Stanley. Here, I respond to James Vance, John Lappart, Janet Zeravica, and John Gurley, whose e-mails were sent out through the "Stanley Scoop." In addition, Kent McNaughton wrote a more substantive reply to my article that he sent out to his own e-mail list. (Also, David Bryant called my on the phone to tell me he thinks I'm "despicable," but he didn't offer any substantive comments, so I feel no need to reply to his accusations.)
I do not believe the views represented by those listed in the preceding paragraph are representative of most Libertarians. I do think it's important to respond to their charges, not only to clarify the significance of the Rosen article, but to reaffirm the value of rational discussion among libertarians.
On Friday, June 21, 12:51 pm, James Vance sent an e-mail to Stanley blasting me. (Previously, Stanley had sent out an e-mail claiming I'm a "sellout." That e-mail is available at www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/stanleyreply.html.) Stanley distributed the e-mail a few hours later via his "Stanley Scoop." Vance said he hadn't meant his e-mail for public distribution, and he didn't want me to reproduce it again. But I told him that his e-mail is now a public document via the "Stanley Scoop" and so I would need to quote from it. Vance is of course welcome to issue additional comments.
Vance writes, "Ari has gone a bit off the deep end since he left the Liberty IMHO. He's taking pot shots at Rick left and right..."
Let's review. Stanley has said Senator Allard should be killed. He has said the government may have played an active role in reducing men's sperm counts and planting the recent pipe-bombs. Yet somehow I'm the one who's "off the deep end?" On the contrary. I am making reasonable arguments against a number of Stanley's strategies and positions. I am not "taking pot shots," even though Stanley has taken numerous pot shots at me. And I am also spending a lot of time defending Stanley. For instance, I wrote a comprehensive article about his trial (linked above), and I wrote a letter to the Denver Post defending his act of civil disobedience.
I wrote an article critical of Vance at www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/consistency.html. Vance said to Stanley, "He's decided to take a wasted shot at me (considering we've answered all his arguments he's just drudging up stupid arguments showing how much he doesn't like me on a personal level) that is unworthy of a response because it is so lame - especially since he's heard all our responses that negate every point he made - ESPECIALLY the tired 'free education' rant."
Anyone who reads my article can tell I make substantive arguments. There is nothing personal about the article; I think Vance is an okay guy and I like him fairly well (despite his off-the-wall comments about me). Vance has never responded to the arguments I make in my article. He is welcome to do so at any time.
Vance continues, "He's just coming out from every direction attacking everyone that isn't his brand of libertarian now that he's free of the LPCO's 'chains' that was the Liberty."
I have not "attacked" anyone. I have substantively criticized a number of people; namely, James Vance, Rick Stanley, and Steve Gresh. I never considered Colorado Liberty to be a "chain;" it was a lot of fun. It is true that my role has now changed somewhat, in a manner consistent with running an independent libertarian web page.
Vance concludes, "Rick - this should be evidence that solidifies our arguments we made before the convention that Ari was working actively against us in the Liberty - he just couldn't do it as blatently as he is doing now."
Vance's comment is false. Stanley appeared on the cover of Colorado Liberty more than any other candidate while I edited it. I actively sought material from the Vance campaign on numerous occasions. Now I am not "working against" either Stanley or Vance. A rational person benefits from intelligent criticism, which is what I've been producing.
In a June 21 e-mail from 11:17 am, John Lappart wrote about my Rosen article, "Nice bit of criticism!!!!! I have a different take on it, as you should expect." Lappart had grown more critical by that evening:
From TheStanleyScoopfirstname.lastname@example.org Fri Jun 21 21:27:58 2002
Lappart claims I am a "neo-conservitive" and I am "[a]ttempting to stand with one foot on the libertatian side and one on the conservitive side." (I have not attempted to correct Lappart's spelling.) He claims I suffer from "self dillusion" and my position is "bull shit." Yet what argument does Lappart offer that even a single thing I wrote in my review of the Rosen show is incorrect? What evidence does he offer that my views are conservative rather than libertarian? He offers no such argument or evidence.
Apparently, Lappart believes I am a conservative simply because I argued Stanley did a poor job on Rosen's radio program. Rosen is a Republican and a self-described conservative. But if simply agreeing with any Republican on any issue is enough to make a person a "conservative," then every libertarian is one. Stanley has renounced the LP's platform on immigration. His position on immigration is similar to that of Republican Tom Tancredo. By Stanley's own standard, that makes him a "Republican Mole." By Lappart's standard, it makes him a conservative. (Stanley's position on immigration is decidedly conservative, but many of his other positions are libertarian rather than conservative.)
I challenge Lappart -- and Stanley -- to list even one issue where I am conservative rather than libertarian. I also challenge Lappart and Stanley to list even one error I made in my article reviewing Rosen's show. Until they do so, their claims are only personal attacks, not arguments.
McNaughton distributed the following e-mail.
I appreciate McNaughton's basic support for the substance of my article. However, he claims we need the "Eleventh commandment as well as a well crafted, thought-through and disciplined argument strategy." But how are Libertarians supposed to develop good strategy if we don't DEBATE strategy?
McNaughton writes, "Ari violated the eleventh commmandment-as described by Ronald Reagan: I'll paraphrase this as 'thou shalt not speak badly of a fellow (Libertarian).'"
It's not obvious to me why Libertarians should adopt a Republican "commandment." (I suppose we could joke that McNaughton is a neo-conservative Republican Mole.) By the way, no Republican, including Reagan, has lived up to that "commandment."
Would Kent have us support every "Libertarian" candidate, regardless of the candidate's positions and strategies? Previously, a "Libertarian" candidate said we should maintain drug prohibition. Must we refrain from criticizing such candidates? If we travel down the road McNaughton advises, we would soon find that we were no longer advocating libertarianism, but merely our own political tribe.
Libertarians must welcome rational criticism. Not only do Libertarian candidates stand to benefit and improve as the result of such criticism, but other Libertarians present and future stand to gain. If Stanley weren't so arrogant and immature, he would thank me for writing the critical article, rather than call me a "traitor" for it.
I do not personally know Janet Zeravica. And she does not know me. The following e-mail contains her recent statements.
From TheStanleyScoopemail@example.com Sun Jun 23 19:00:36 2002
Zeravica's comments are notable only for their complete lack of substance. Has Zeravica even read my article about Rosen's show? I wonder if she can argue against even a single point I raise in that article.
Zeravica is clearly ignorant about all I've done for the Libertarian Party of Colorado, and all I continue to do. And by criticizing Stanley when he needs it, I continue to help the party. Perhaps Zeravica can outline what specifically she has done to advance the LP.
In her short paragraph, Zeravica commits several logical fallacies. She attempts to discredit me by illegitimately linking me to the "socialist welfare state." Obviously, I do not support the welfare state. Then, she guesses my age, as if a person's age had anything to do with the cogency of his or her arguments. Then, she suggests a person's arguments are to be weighed according to how long the person's family has lived in the United States.
It is, as Stanley notes, "[a]mazing when you sit back and think about it like Janet has." When you think about it like Janet has, logic, evidence, and reason fly out the window.
Again we find in Gurley's message a complete failure to address the arguments in my article. We find only personal attacks.
I think my father and step-mother are registered as Republicans, but so what? Does Gurley think he can dismiss my arguments simply because of who my parents are? That is tribalism in its most crass form.
I have not previously "insulted" Gurley. Gurley's statement is simply false. I have not "trashed" any candidates. I have written substantive, critical comments about several candidates (Stanley, Vance, and Gresh). I have also praised each of these candidates (and many others) when appropriate. Gurley, however, has unjustly "trashed" me, my father, and my step-mother. The kind of mean-spirited personal attacks Gurley displays would be a very poor quality in a sheriff indeed.
I have written extensively about Sheriff Bill Masters, another Libertarian candidate. I reviewed Masters' positive achievements. I have also written positively about dozens of other Libertarian candidates. Why is there a difference in my coverage of Rick Stanley as opposed to Sheriff Bill Masters? The answer has everything to do with Stanley and Masters, and little to do with me. The simple truth is that Stanley deserves criticism because of his irresponsible statements and his counter-productive strategies. Sometimes he deserves praise, and I have offered that, too.
I am proud of the articles I've written for the Colorado Freedom Report. The only cause Stanley has to fear critical reports of his campaign is that some of his actions don't stand up very well to the light of reasoned criticism.