Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freedom Shenanigan #16

Go After The Advertisers

The Bottom of the Birdcage
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Sometimes, when I think about how long I've been involved in politics, one way or another, I am utterly astonished. Nobody really ever expects to get old. And sometimes, during those gray, bleak moments around two o'clock in the morning, I wonder if I haven't wasted my life, considering the amount of progress that I—not to mention countless others in the general freedom movement—haven't made.

My first time on the line was in 1961, when most of the student body of my alma mater, Choctawhatchee High School (yes, that's what I said—rhymes with "booby-hatchie"), traveled all the way from Fort Walton Beach, the biggest little city in Okaloosa County, Florida, to the quaint little county seat in Crestview, to spend their Saturday in what was then a reasonably novel and unprecedented attempt to picket the damn school board into giving our school some badly needed repair money.

Yeah, I know, not very libertarian. But I was 15, only getting started philosophically, and there were several cute girls involved, a splendiferous number of them named "Gail". Not to mention a chance to play a borrowed Stella 12-string all day, just like the one on which Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter famously composed "Good Night Irene". The Stella was, shall we say "inexpensive", and boy did my fingers hurt afterward.

As I recall, we did manage to get some newspaper reporters to come up and talk to us, and I believe at least one TV channel from nearby Pensacola. But it was then that I first suffered an extremely strange and very frustrating experience. If you've ever been associated with anything that got the attention of the media, I'm sure that you'll recognize it immediately. It was exactly as if the reporters and TV personalities had attended some gathering other than the one all of us had.

The simple truth is that, in all the forty-six years since, during which I've been pretty politically aware and active, there hasn't been a single issue, event, or phenomenon—not one—that the mainstream media haven't lied about, blatantly misrepresented or distorted, or overlooked, ignored, or suppressed, by accident or design. Even when they try, the fools never get it right. I have never been involved in anything I would have recognized afterward from their description of it.

Thomas Jefferson believed that a free press would be the salvation of this country's libertarian values and traditions, but sadly he was wrong. The mass media are uniformly populated by cowards, bullies, and toadies who will unfailingly suck up to whomever they perceive to have power—and immediately fall upon and rip out the throats of whoever they believe to be losing it. They know nothing of history, economics, or the law. They give not a fig about freedom or the future. I have sometimes observed that if the American people ever became fully aware of just how badly they're being served by the media (of course most of them don't want to know), there wouldn't be a single newspaper or radio or TV station left standing above its own ashes anywhere in the country.

All through those 46-six years (so far) I have tilted at windmills and bashed my head against walls, losing ground with every decade to the enemies of liberty—often thanks to "allies" who were more of a hindrance than a help—yet somehow never managing to give up. I have often wondered why I couldn't make myself just let it go, be content to live out the rest of my life in relative peace and comfort, and let those who will come after me deal with the mess, or be dealt with by it.

Part of it, I think, is that I've always believed that there's a lever out there, somewhere. Not a trick or a shortcut, but a tool to multiply our effort and make up for the fact that those who value liberty are as badly outnumbered as Colonels Travis and Bowie at the Alamo.

Over the decades, I've experimented with several different ideas, including (somewhat to my chagrin) a sort of religious organization based on institutions Robert A. Heinlein wrote about in The Day After Tomorrow or that Robert Silverberg described in To Open the Sky, or that Anthony F.C. Wallace examined in his remarkable work on cultural revival, Religion: An Anthropological View. I've also written many articles and speeches, run for office, and when I discovered that I couldn't count on most other folks to remain consistent with principle or simply stay the course for more than a few weeks, I started writing the freedom-oriented science fiction novels most of my readers know me for.

And still things have grown steadily worse.

I have plunged us all into this gloom and doom (as I often do at the beginnings of my novels) for a reason: enlightening contrast. I think I know of a way to change things—with relative rapidity. The coming national election in 2008 could represent a good test. But the method will have to be applied with considerable enthusiasm and much energy, and I'm not sure that, as a movement, we have that in us any more.

The idea comes in two parts. Click for MORE