Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A response to Tom Woods

Tom Woods of The Tom Woods Show responded to an old meme of mine that has been making the rounds again.
You can read his post about the meme here:

And here is my reply:

"I think he actually believes he’s refuted our whole outlook."

Well, I don't.
I made an admittedly flippant joke based on a funny conversation that happened between me and my daughter. Like any of my jokes, it's meant to be a jumping off point for dialogue. I don't think quite so highly about my jokes. This is the problem with the tone of most of the current crop of critiques of this meme, assuming I'm some smug asshole and then continuing to assume the worst about me in the light of that, as I'll get to in a minute. The truth is I'm very interested in politics, have friends all over the spectrum and often engage in spirited debate with libertarian friends, we of course have many beliefs in common also.

"I’ll be a sport about this and disregard the creep factor – threatening his four-year-old with violent death, and then telling us with morbid satisfaction that she hasn’t spoken about her freedom since.

No wonder this guy loves the state. His scare tactics are pretty much the same as what the Bush Administration pulled after 9/11."

Only, you weren't a sport, and you didn't ignore it, you implied I abused my kid.

Again, this relies on you having already assumed I'm a terrible person. I talk about a lot about my relationship with my daughter in my comedy, and she is a bright, strong, awesome kid. At no point in this conversation did she think that daddy would hurt her or put her in danger. A four year old, in case you haven't known many of them, is quite capable of play and pretend and being silly. Most four year olds, certainly this one, know their father's general behavior and disposition and are used to flights of fancy. I also sometimes tell her I'm going to eat her nose. This too is a heinous threat, yes? She runs away giggling and gets a lie ready, so that she can make her nose grow back, Pinochio style. She usually goes with "I don't like cookies." In case I'm not clear, she doesn't really think I'm going to eat her nose, nor does she think lying really makes noses grow, nor did she for one moment think her extremely safety conscious and loving father would drive recklessly and endanger her life.

This meme has been around for quite some time and only this week has anyone ever saw it as my actually threatening her. As I've said already, I think you really have to decide that, because I make a flippant joke about my disagreement with your philosophy, I'm a real prick and then view it through that lens to arrives at such a ridiculous point. Unfortunately I have now had libertarians on Twitter threaten me with bodily harm, one even posting a picture of me with a spray of poorly photoshopped streams of blood in place of my head. The picture was one of me and my daughter and when I repeatedly asked that it be removed and her left out of our fight, I was told that what I did to her was worse. Now, I do know that "Two wrongs make a right" is not part of libertarian philosophy. A shame it was employed repeatedly. The irony is, Libertarians threatening me with violence really strengthens my gratitude for the protections the state provides. Two libertarians friends were very quick to tell me that this behavior is not in line with libertarianism and the non-agression principle, and this is true of course, but to my thinking it was too easy for those who threatened me to excuse it as retaliatory or justified by painting themselves as protecting my daughter from her horrible abusive father.

And where do I say we haven't spoken about freedom since? We speak about it regularly.  You are projecting something on here I didn't say. "She hasn't yelled at me" doesn't mean we've stopped speaking. Yelling and speaking are two different things, a point many on both sides of this debate need to learn.

NOTE: Tom Woods did edit his post to remove the part about me being a child abuser. Sadly, he didn't apologize or note the edit on the actual post. He posted this to Twitter:

I won't try to quote the next part as there are many examples of how Libertarians do adhere by agreed upon rules. I know this, of course. My meme was actually about a public rule on a public road, not a private rule on a private road. Sincere question; do you, in an ideal society, see public roads existing?
What's funny is maybe a quarter of the responses I get from Libertarians tell me they do in fact disagree with traffic laws, and they often include links to articles about small towns, particularly one in Germany, where traffic signs have been completely done away with.

"On top of this, he thinks it’s valid to argue like this: my four-year-old wants to do something she shouldn’t, so therefore the government should treat all of us like four-year-olds, forever."

Yeah. Unfortunately too many of us do indeed behave like four-year-olds. Exhibit A, the people who came to threaten me with physical harm on Twitter last night. I believe their posts are still up if you'd like to go to my account and look under "Tweets and replies" to verify my claims. I think this gets at the heart of our differences. I don't have the faith in the bulk of humanity that you have, and I question what in history justifies your faith. I do also see the history of violence on the part of the state, but much like the harm done by combustion engines, I think it's unrealistic to think we'd go backwards. I look at the Scandinavian model, and I see a way forward. I see countries with a high quality of living and real liberty that isn't tread upon by the oppression of nature, starvation, predation, and other things that had our life expectancy so low before we organized into what became states.

For the record, I don't think I just successfully refuted libertarianism here anymore than I did when I made that joke. I do think I shared some of my thoughts with you, and some of you will politely share your own thoughts and we'll have a conversation, the kind of conversation that has actually changed minds, mine included. I arrived at my current beliefs through reading and having discussions, and its quite a ways from the beliefs I grew up with.
I'm not a bad guy or a smug asshole, and I won't even bother to defend the joke. I make a lot of jokes, and this isn't even one that ever made it onto one of my albums or specials. Some people like it, the meme keeps going around, some people demonize me as a child abusing know it all, it goes around some more. There is no need and no point in demonizing me.

I welcome anyone who wishes to reply here. After the harassment last night and the very disturbing use of a picture of me and my daughter, I will not engage on this matter in a forum where I don't have some controls to protect against such behavior. Threats, name calling and other ad hominem attacks will be deleted. Thanks.

More on my views regarding libertarianism can be found here: Why I'm Not a Libertarian

Here's another old meme:


KLJ said...

In the comments Tom says, referring to my Twitter feed:
"He is extremely hostile toward us. So this alleged humor is actually not humor. He hates us, and really thinks he's nailing us.

Also, people are posting this on Facebook not because they think it's funny (because who can deny that it isn't), but because they really think the argument works."

I'd like to see examples of any of this, of my being hostile, hateful, or thinking I'm "nailing" you.

That you can't believe anyone else thinks something is funny if you don't seems myopic and narcissistic to me.

Anonymous said...

To Tom Woods: As a Ron Paul Libertarian, I love your podcasts, Tom, but you jumped the shark on this one. Creepy? I guess you've never jokingly threatened any of your children with extreme bodily harm. You're not a real dad if not. Also, lots of assumptions. What a shame to you, Keith, for all the hate you're getting. Trust me, that's antithetical to libertarianism. Everyone needs to lighten up and let the sanity return.

KLJ said...

Thank you.
Max has libertarian uncles, I have libertarian buddies. I realize asshole like the ones threatening me exist across the political spectrum.

Adrien said...

I am not a Libertarian (I am French, there is no such thing as a libertarian movement in France, or at least, nothing significant), but seriously ... guys ... humour !
Isn't exageration an essential part of comedy ? Shouldn't the basic assumptions be that 1/ people are decent and don't try to hurt their children, and 2/ a lot of comedy routines are invented, composite of stories, or widely exagerated, and therefore shouldn't be taken litterally ?

Keith, you seem to be a great person and an awesome dad. Keep doing what you're doing !

Brett said...

Adrien, I don't believe the people posting the meme are posting it as a joke, even if Keith meant it as one. Many honestly believe this refutes libertarian policy, which it doesn't. The best way to state libertarian policy when it comes to this manner is that you are free to do as you please as long as it doesn't endanger the life or property of someone else and disobeying traffic laws endangers the life of others and therefore falls under that part of you need to obey them, but some traffic laws aren't really needed and are just going overboard. (Although as Tom points out, roundabouts do work a crap ton better than stop signs do :P)

And again, I don't believe Keith was trying to actually refute libertarianism, but the people posting the meme are trying to refute it with the meme. And Keith, you shouldn't facebook, and especially twitter comments literally as being true libertarians, but instead trolls and more likely right wing nuts who think they are libertarians.

KLJ said...

Thank you.

KLJ said...

And the actual libertarians, like Tom Woods, calling me a child abuser?

KLJ said...

And the actual libertarians, like Tom Woods, calling me a child abuser?

Adrien said...

Brett, I get that. But when one posts a meme, I assume one knows who the person on the meme is. When the person is a comedian, the fist assumption should be (in my opinion) that it is not to be taken literally because comedy relies a lot on exaggeration, invention, combination of different stories into one, etc. So any person with a half decent brain should (again, in my opinion), when listening/reading a comedian, assume that the story isn't literally true.

I don't know much about libertarianism (and the little I know doesn't work well with my view of the world). But that's not the point of my comment. The point is : what kind of idiot thinks that what comedians say in their routine is literally true ?

The famous (in France) comedian Coluche always had a notepad with him, and wrote every single thing he heard in his life that he thought could be used in his comedy (when he died, they found dozens of boxes filled with notepads). When writing, he would browse through lots of notepads, looking at one story from here, one story from there, exaggerating a third story, and make it into a single sketch. Most of his comedy was based on real events, but almost none of his stories were actually real, they were all composites, exaggerations, happened to different people, etc.

So again, one really needs to not understand the basics of comedy (and I absolutely don't pretend to be an expert) to assume that any story told by a comedian can be read literally.

(And roundabouts might "work" better than stop signs, but they are also much, much, much more expensive. Don't Libertarians often complain about government spendings ? There is no such thins as an absolute "better", it is always better in some way, and worse in some other. Roundabouts are better for traffic, stop signs are better in cost. On roads with low traffic, where the roundabout efficiency is not required, stop signs are much better because they get you roughly the same result for much cheaper)

(and regarding "twitter comments literally as being true libertarians, but instead trolls and more likely right wing nuts who think they are libertarians", that's a No True Scotsman Fallacy ...)

Adrien said...

Just in case what I mean wasn't clear (English isn't my first language), here is an example...

There is an episode in Louis C.K.'s tv series where one parent at his daughter's school just leaves her kid with him. The boy has ridiculous dietary requirement (nothing made of carbon), shits in his bathtub, throws his carpet out of the window, etc. Is this story true ?

Maybe one day, a parent at his daughter's school left her child with him, or maybe he knows someone it happened to.
Maybe a friend of his daughters came to his place once and had strange dietary requirements, but probably nothing as ridiculous as "nothing with carbon".
Maybe a friend of his daughters came to his place once and threw stuff out of the window, but probably not the carpet.
Probably one of his daughters, some day, had a "poop accident" while taking a bath, I would be surprised if any parent could say it never happened to them.

Each element might have happened, in some shape or form, but is it likely that happened all the same day, with the same child, and that it was that extreme ? No, that's highly unlikely. And I certainly wouldn't assume it did happen this way, not until it he confirms it in a non-comedic context.

Likewise, I wouldn't assume any piece of comedy routine is literally true, and wouldn't ever think of accusing a comedian of abuse based solely on his comedy routine.

Brooklyn Red Leg said...

I only know about this meme, and Keith Lowell Jensen (sorry, I truly had never heard of you and haven't been on Twitter in the last couple of days eventhough I follow Tom Woods), because someone on Facebook DID try posting it as a refutation of libertarianism and how they finally "grew up". So yes, at least anecdotally, it is being used as a rhetorical bludgeon against people like me. Granted, this is the internet and you can believe me or not, but its pretty much par for the course for people to use reductio ad absurdum. Its right up there with "Muh Roadz!" type arguments or "Move to Somalia" as retorts to the point of becoming akin to Godwin's Law for internet debates.