I’m never one to shy away from controversy, especially when it serves some greater purpose in the pursuit of truth and justice. A couple months ago, I drew flak for addressing the liberty movement’s scumbag problem and calling on libertarians to disassociate themselves with lowlifes. While the response was overwhelmingly positive, there were enough criticisms along the lines of “You’re destroying the movement!” that I feel I should elaborate on exactly why it’s important to be selective in who we, as libertarians, call our friends.
I call this selective association philosophy “weakest link theory”: A group is as vulnerable to criticism as its worst member. This means that, no matter how competent, kind, and wonderful most people in the liberty movement may be, all it takes is a couple lazy, sexist, racist, fraudulent, or hypocritical members to allow freedom’s enemies to throw the whole group into the scumbag category. It’s not fair, it’s not reasonable, and it certainly isn’t logical, but no amount of denying that the bad apple isn’t representative of the tree will matter as long as that apple is still attached. I’m sorry, but guilt by association really works.
Take the cautionary tale of liberty activists in Keene, New Hampshire. The Keeniacs, as they are affectionately (or otherwise) known, were some of the pioneers of the local liberty movement, in particular gaining national (international?) headlines for their spirited resistance to parking enforcers. I will speak no ill of them here, because although I’ve had my disagreements with them, I respect their contributions to the cause. However, it’s unavoidable to mention that they have been ostracized by large chunks of the Free State movement, much of it in connection with their acceptance of a certain individual known as Cantwell, or the Anarchist Atheist Asshole (his words, not mine).