Friday, April 17, 2009

Peace and Glasnost

My editorial, in the April 2009 issue of California Freedom:

When Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet dictator in 1985, he announced a policy of glasnost, which has been translated as "openness." He meant that Soviet media should freely promote a diversity of opinions, rather than parrot the party line. Party decision-making should be transparent. Criticism of party leaders should be welcome. Citizens' opinions should be heard, however "negative."

I've been told that I shouldn't discuss America's foreign interventions. I should only print material that "all libertarians agree on," otherwise I'm being "divisive." I shouldn't cover LNC meetings, or disagreements and embarrassments, or debate and discussion. I should only print "positive" stories. Doing otherwise violates CF's Mission Statement.

Yes, CF has a MS. Here it is:

"CF is the official publication of the LPC. Its purpose is to promote and enhance the political success of the party. To accomplish this it provides an informative and entertaining blend of political news, analysis, features and advertising for its members. Its content focuses on: 1. California events, rather than national; 2, Externally oriented politics, not internal debate; 3. Our successes, rather than our disappointments; 4 Libertarian analysis of political positions enjoying support from the mainstream of California voters; 5. Practical guidance on winning elections and changing public policy."

At the 2007 LPC convention, I asked Elizabeth Brierly about the MS's origins. She told me that Bruce Cohen had asked her to draft a MS to guide future editors. Elizabeth prepared a first draft, which went round robin between herself, Bruce, and Aaron Starr, with the two gentlemen offering changes until the MS met their specifications.

ExCom approved the MS on August 20, 2005.

Like a Constitution, a MS must be interpreted. To say that CF's content "focuses on" X rather than Y can mean either that X articles/LTEs should predominate over Y articles/LTEs (the free speech-oriented interpretation); or that X should exclude Y (the restrictive interpretation).

It's been suggested that my coverage of LNC activities violates the rule against "internal debate." Why? Perhaps because it's an "internal" (party business) rather than "external" (election campaign) matter.

But if we interpret "focus" so restrictively, CF could not promote or cover party conventions. Conventions are "internal." Yet I assume that, even post-MS, CF always covered libertarian conventions, state and national.

Clearly, there is no absolutist ban on covering "internal" matters.

Perhaps the problem is with "debate"? I may cover "internal" matters, but not debate about internal matters. Actions by party leaders may be reported, but not questioned.

No, I can't believe that's what the 2005 ExCom intended, despite some party leaders distaste for glasnost. (One reason the LNC persecuted Angela Keaton was for her live blogging the September 2008 LNC meeting to the membership.)

I interpret the MS's phrase "focuses on" to mean that X material should predominate over Y (comprising a majority of CF's content), but not exclude Y. Certainly, antiwar is a position "enjoying support from the mainstream of California voters."

I would like to print more about county LP events and election campaigns, but I'm getting few submissions. I assume we're in a post-election year doldrum. If you want to read about "California events," then write it. I can't publish what I don't get.

Finally, I was told that CF should not print discussion or debate about contentious party issues, because those are properly left to the conventions. The problem is, many members aren't aware of internal controversies unless they're reported. If they don't know, they may not attend the convention. This creates the risk that party business will be ceded to well-organized minority factions.

I have changed the tone of CF from two years ago. I hope I've brought glasnost to it. Transparency about party matters, and openness to debate, may bring "divisiveness" and "negativity." But it would be ironic if a libertarian publication had less glasnost than the late Soviet Union.

* We're All Demopublicans Now

On March 9, Donny Ferguson, LNC Director of Communications, sent out a mass email, writing: "the most important principle is winning" and "There is nothing more noble and principled than winning an election" and "winning elections is the most important libertarian principle there is." These sentences were boldfaced and underlined to emphasize his theme.

Winning is also the Demopublicans' most cherished principle; all other principles are negotiable. Seems the LNC has just equated Demopublicans with Libertarians.

Susan Hogarth reprints Ferguson's article, with her reply.

* Libertarian Muslims

In every war, The Other is demonized. I've never confused Russians with Communists, or Germans with Nazis, yet always, some self-styled patriots will conflate the actions of some with an entire race, religion, or ethnicity.

It needs repeating: most Arabs and Muslims are not terrorists. Some are libertarians. Their website:

* Independent Political Report

A critic accuses me of insisting on the last word. He's miffed that I replied to one of his articles.

He's also wrong. Many of my editorials are sprinkled with urls. Rather than have the last word, I often give you "heads up" on key issues, then send you off to research further.

I often refer you to Independent Political Report.

This is the current "hot spot" for discussions (and flame wars) about the LP. Party leaders post here. LNC meetings are posted -- while in progress. The site is uncensored, unmoderated, and easy to post to. Anonymously, if you wish.

Glasnost indeed!

* Rob Power Resigns

Rob Power resigned from ExCom at the conclusion of their March meeting. He writes that he "went to Long Beach with every intention of resigning" and he "merely signed" his resignation letter at the meeting's conclusion. He adds, "I'm going to be writing a detailed explanation of why I decided to resign."

Power's term was to expire in 2010. Now there'll be an additional At-Large seat to fill at the Visalia convention.

* Late March Issue

The March CF went out late. I finished it in February, but I have no say when issues are printed or go online. Even so, I'm sorry the Riverside LP meeting notice ran late. I advise future LP event notices to be submitted way in advance.

* Libertarian Peacenik

If you can't get enough of my long, rambling, "antiwar obsessive" editorials, visit me at: Libertarian Peacenik.

Peace. Glasnost.

1 comment:

James said...

Hi Thomas. I just got to see the April-July 2009 issues of California Freedom. Is there some embargo policy that prevents posting them to the LPCA website more frequently? Up until a few days ago, the most recent issue posted was March 2009. I thought perhaps the newspaper had been discontinued, or you had been fired. I am glad to see that neither bad thing has happened (yet).

Anyway, I wanted to express my support for your policy of "Glasnost," as well as to express my concern that the LPCA is turning into some kind of GOP-lite. I have invested a goodly amount of personal time and effort to interest people in joining or at least supporting the LP over the years. Here in Santa Cruz, that means that many of my "prospects" begin as "progressives" or progressive-leaning voters. It undercuts my efforts to convince them that the LP is beyond the "left-right, Demo/GOP" spectrum, when the State party seems to go to great lengths to court GOP voters. I feel especially betrayed, after explaining to people how libertarianism includes a bias against war, to see apologists for the Afghan and Iraq campaigns identify themselves as high-ranking members of the LP.

I want to be clear: I love my country and am no coward. If it is necessary to defend this country, I will gladly do it. But war-mongers need to make a much better case than they have in the last 50 years or so, to convince me that defense is necessary. And there is NO case I can accept, for aggressively "spreading democracy" to foreign lands. Non-interventionism + fierce defense of our own territory is the way. Someone who argues otherwise has a major burden to bear to convince me not only that his way is better, but that he is a libertarian at all.