The following is a guest post by Mark Splinter, a British immigrant to Lithuania and creator of the Confused Pro-Putin Libertarians group. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of all contributors to this blog.
Since the start of my campaign against libertarians who are inadvertently or deliberately supporting Vladimir Putin, Ron Paul has become my most prominent example. LewRockwell.com has put out some crazy stuff too, but Paul should know better. He has more theoretical respectability to lose as a presidential candidate and lawmaker.
We expect him to be able to understand basic things about liberty and geopolitics. We expect him to realise that the Russian government is not a friend to any country except Belarus, North Korea, and some other places you can’t pronounce. He isn’t an alarmist talk-show host or a blogger; he ran for the highest office in the land, and he ought to know these things.
He should know that Putin is opposed by Russia’s libertarians–and vice versa. They oppose Putin for a simple reason: Putin wants the opposite of what libertarians want in the world. He embodies exactly what libertarians say causes war, oppression, and misery. Putin is, to put it mildly, a committed statist.
Approaching Putin’s Russia with open eyes, any libertarian will notice the un–free and failing economy, the brain drain, the AIDS statistics, the suicide rate, the corruption of public services and private businesses, the lack of press freedom, the gangsters pulling stuff out of the ground and using it to buy huge houses in London, without any regard for other Russians, who they despise, and they will say, “LOOK! Russia is messed up because Putin is a total statist! He bans books! He legislates against gays! He kills journalists! He puts rock bands in jail! He runs a huge propaganda machine including TV channels with zero journalistic integrity!”
The libosphere should be going nuts against Putin and having a freaking field day. Putin’s Russia is the perfect example of the failure of centralised economies, cronyism, huge bureaucracies, police states, egoistic personality-cult permanent presidencies, TV channels that report total lies but half the audience can’t even check the truth, because they don’t have the internet.
Why would a freedom campaigner go on an autocrat’s state TV channel and spout exactly the message the autocrat wants to put out? The answer, in Ron Paul’s case, is that he seems to be desperate for airtime. So we find ourselves in a situation where an American who claims to fight for liberty is spouting Kremlin propaganda on a Kremlin TV channel, maybe without even being paid for it.
Ron Paul is stuck. His schtick, his for-the-home-audience marketing, doesn’t seem to work very well at home. It would be okay if it ended there. Unfortunately, his musings leak out into the world outside America, via his Ron Paul Institute and Russia Today’s enormous YouTube presence. Nutcases of all shapes and colours are warning their friends about the evil West by reposting Ron Paul videos. For a supposed non-interventionist, Ron Paul is very often influencing thousands of opinions outside his borders, including inside Russia’s borders, and around her “traditional lands” to the south and west.
In those “traditional lands”, for example Lithuania, where I live, there exist libertarians. You can imagine that after living through the Soviet Union, liberty is quite a popular concept in Lithuania, and it is raw in people’s minds. The Soviet Union produced Putin, and Putin dreams of reconstituting the Russian empire. There is zero chance that you will find a Lithuanian libertarian making excuses for Vladimir Putin on Vladimir Putin’s TV channel.
Imagine the surprise in Lithuanian liberty circles when organizations from the Mises Institute to the Libertarian Party started coming out against the “fascist coup” in Ukraine, which deposed a “democratically elected president”, without mentioning that the fascists are in a tiny minority or that this “democratic” president was looting the country and shooting demonstrators in the streets. American libertarians, safely across the Atlantic Ocean and defended by a nuclear deterrent, have been only too willing to support any authoritarian regime that hates the US government as much as they do.
Recently, a bunch of obviously exported thugs start calling themselves “prime ministers” of chunks of sovereign Ukrainian territory, and the “non-interventionist” principle was interpreted by a huge portion of the American libertarian movement as meaning: “Tell everyone how good Putin is and how the brave separatists are fighting for freedom against fascism and American imperialism!” Except that Ukraine is not fascist, and (conspiracy theorist claims notwithstanding) the US had nothing to do with the Maidan Revolution.
But when the separatist goons got hold of a weapon too big for them to handle, and bungled horribly, the mood changed. This was now a worldwide tragedy, and a moment of clarity would surely resolve the debate and make even the most dedicated propagandist stop and think for a while. But not Paul. He’s still going.
There isn’t enough space here to analyse all the weird ways people have tried to explain what happened to that plane and all those who were inside, so let’s just look at the latest from the Ron Paul’s Institute: “Ron Paul is sick of the neocons using the crash of the Malaysian plane in Ukraine to push for war with Russia. Why can’t Ukraine just split if it wants to without outsider meddling?”
Ron Paul is sick of the neocons…
As if they are the only bad guys in this universe, like Decepticons!
… using the crash of the Malaysian plane in Ukraine…
Crash? Well yes I suppose the fragments of the civilian plane and its passengers did “crash” after it was shattered by a surface-to-air missile near the Russian border.
… to push for war with Russia.
This is a constant theme of the RPI’s posts on Ukraine. They claim the only alternative to supporting Russian aggression is war with Russia, and they seem to think there’s a conspiracy of diplomats and NATO Illuminati “pushing” for WWIII.
Why can’t Ukraine just split…
Because of its Constitution and the basic duty to protect owed by its government to its citizens.
… if it wants to…
It doesn’t. The majority don’t want it, that’s why Putin has to pump alarmist propaganda into the place and relies on the population’s not having access to alternative sources of information. Quite interesting is this survey before the Maidan protests which shows unemployment, not secession, was the main concern.
… without outsider meddling?
Like, for example, the nuclear superpower next-door sending thugs to occupy town halls and fire anti-aircraft missiles at whatever’s in the sky? Like for example an American conspiracy theorist recruiting useful idiots making ridiculous predictions to be a mouthpiece for the enemies of liberty on an authoritarian’s state TV channel?
The saddest part is that Ron Paul’s followers probably genuinely want to love liberty, and probably think it would be really great if the population organised itself against outside threats, and equipped itself and supplied itself with private funds and volunteers instead of relying on the state.