By David Henderson
I don’t believe in intellectual cooties.
Reason: This year there has been a lot of discussion about whether there’s a pipeline between libertarians and the alt-right.
Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark has been drawing some bright lines.
It’s a really bad idea. It’s a really bad idea. Why would I tell anyone to leave my party? How can I turn you if I can’t talk to you? Come, even white nationalists, come. If I can turn you, I’ll turn you. My hero is that guy Daryl Davis. You know that guy? He’s one of my brothers who was out there trying to get KKK members to turn. And he keeps their hoods as a trophy. He’s turned like 44 of them in 30 years. That’s my hero.
The vast majority of those guys are not Nazis. They’re guys who are lost. There’s a couple guys who are Nazis; there’s always a couple of ringleaders. Those guys are never going to change, no matter what you do. But the big chunk of people who just think this is the right answer now? Turn them. That may take a month. That may take a year. It might take a hundred years. I don’t care.
You want to stop racism? Let people be racist. You want to stop sexism? Let them be sexist. Let it out in the sunlight. Let people see it. Let them understand it and get it. You can turn them. I want them all to come to me, every one of them. The biggest Nazi? Come on in, I’m happy to talk to you. I will never stop that conversation, ever.
When 10 come, eight leave, two stay. I want those two. I’ll take those two, because those two would have been Nazis. They’re not. They’re now Libertarians. Because you’re free to be who you want to be in our party; just don’t force it on others. You renounce the use of force.
This is from Matt Welch, “Selling Freedom,” Reason, February 2018.
It’s Matt’s interview with Larry Sharpe, who almost won the vice-presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party in 2016. It’s a fascinating interview.
I highlighted the section above because it expresses my view.
Back in the early 1990s, after having spent many weeks in a group with an amazing local man named Fred Jealous and then “graduating” to taking a course in Reevaluation Counseling, I worked with Fred and about 6 to 8 other people to start a local chapter of the National Coalition Building Institute. We had a 2- or 3-day long “training for trainers” put one by Cherie Brown, who founded the NCBI. One of the principles that I remember being emphasized was that we should welcome prejudice. Prejudice needed to be expressed if we were ever to get anywhere in reducing it.
I loved Sharpe’s statement about Daryl Davis. I’ve kept on my DVR a program that my wife and I both enjoyed in which he talks to members of the Ku Klux Klan and, person by person, turns many of them away from KKK views.
I realized some years ago how differently I thought about this from many libertarians around me whom I respect. About 10 years ago, I was talking to my friend Steve Chapman and sensing that we thought differently about this. So I gave him the following thought experiment.
You are about to get on a coast-to-coast flight and you find out at the last minute that you are upgraded to first class. You get on the flight and sit beside a pleasant looking man. Before the door is even closed, he introduces himself as the head of the American Nazi Party. He seems to want to talk. What do you do?
Steve answered the way I think many libertarians would answer: I would speak to the flight attendant and ask to be moved.
Here’s what I said: I wouldn’t. My reaction would be that I was given a gift. I would get a chance to talk for up to 5 hours with someone so that maybe I could find out what makes him tick. I have no idea how someone would come to those views. Was it old hurts? Was it bad information? What was it? I would be careful how I asked, but I would try to ask questions rather than make assertions or tell him my views, unless he asked my views.
Sometimes I think that many people, including many libertarians, think that in talking to someone with views they detest, they can get “intellectual cooties.” I don’t think that.