Saturday, January 16, 2021

Getting Real About Libertarian Strategy and Tactics

It is clear libertarians need to take some time to study tactics and strategy.

In the post, Messing With a Mask Nazi on the Streets of San Francisco, The Contractor writes:

Nearly all but the truly enlightened exist in a constructed reality (disclaimer: I am not enlightened). It is the psyche's interpretation of reality, which is more comforting than actual reality. The stronger the psyche's control, the more well constructed will be this false reality. When challenged, the tendency is to reinforce the walls with more thoughts. The psyche shores up its constructed reality with more construction.

What this means is that very few masked individuals will respond psychologically in a way towards liberty by having their constructed reality challenged. This man is very likely to simply reinforce his walls of thought with more thoughts, such as how annoying it is that this isn't a real law so hopefully mayor supreme ruler will fix that so that you can be put in your rightful place (jail) next time.

I don't know the secret to shaking people out of their jackboot licking stupor. But it doesn't appear that there is any psychological benefit to confronting them. I know that sounds defeatist.

I think we are going to need a new approach. We need a movement that focuses on psychological wellness, to help people understand that worry and fear are their true enemies. To help them overcome their worries and fears, and in doing so, maybe that can help them overcome the constant barrage of negativity and panic mongering that enables the State to control them.

It's not going to be easy. But to those who want easy answers, I encourage them to go play for the government's team. They're full of easy answers. Real human progress is difficult and it should be. That which is worth having in life is always difficult. If it wasn't, everyone would have it.

 RW response:

First off, I never said anything about converting the guy, who approached me, to an anti-mask perspective. As I noted in my podcast, Dread Risk Fear And Its Role in the Current COVID-19 Fear, according to Gerd Gigerenzer it is near impossible to logically change someone when they are suffering from dread risk fear.

But that doesn't mean there aren't other reasons to interact with such a person. By pushing back at such a clown, he is going to learn that he isn't going to be able to pop off his nonsense without occasionally getting some resistance. This is a minor skirmish but it may cause him to stop and think twice about doing it again, especially if you embarrass him or laugh at him because of his lack of knowledge.

The more of this that is done by us the better.

Further, resistance allows us to take measure of our opponents. Although I have never been impressed by the intellectual depth of the Left, the shallowness of the understanding by the mass masked crowd is truly stunning. They are running around with fear and a few empty slogans in their heads. When the time is right, maybe it is possible we will be able to stick in their heads liberty slogans. 

But the time has to be right and the strategy and tactics must be sound.

This is the time libertarians need to get sound about strategy and tactics. Freedom is under heavy assault. How to counter this is extremely important.

Finally, tangling with such clowns can teach us how to deal with them in the future when the stakes might be much higher. For example, I have learned that in retail stores, if a clerk tells me to put my mask over my nose, I can very easily get Asians and Latinos to back away almost immediately by just saying "I have a medical exemption." White guys between the ages of 25 to 35 give me the most trouble. How I will use this observation in the future, I don't know but I have stored it away.

The more interactions in general I have, the more I learn what works and what doesn't to get my way against these midget-Maos.

Brian Erickson writes:

 “If reason conflicts with a strong emotion, don’t try to argue. Enlist a conflicting and stronger emotion.” RW is aware of this and disagrees. He continues to try to educate when possible. I'm not sure what "strong emotion" could shake the public from its unwarranted fear of covid-19 but this seems a risky tactic. Another option is suggested by Zachary Yost in an essay at titled Politics Won't Fix The American Decline. Its a tactic I use and have often recommended. Stay focused on yourself and those you love and care for. Take care of the health, psychological and physical of yourself and those closest to you. Yost even suggests getting involved in local organizations like town hall meetings, school boards, homeowner associations, local church, etc. But I have found even local organizations can be crowded with unreasonable people. Again, its not easy. But the long term trend toward centralization, hysteria, and tyranny will not change until there are more reasonable people. This can only be accomplished one person at a time.

 RW response:

Again, I never said anything about converting the guy to an anti-mask perspective. In fact, the title of the post was "Messing with a Mask Nazi." I was messing with him, not trying to convert him.

"Stay focused on yourself and those you love and care for" is almost always very sound advice especially during a period when there is little to fear in terms of serious attacks on liberty. But the assault on liberty is now intense. Just focusing on yourself may be the option that causes you to lose your freedom. We are not in a period when there are many options in terms of places to go to and start over.  This is not like the period when our grandparents and great, great grandparents had the opportunity to come to the then great and wide open United States. Our alternative country options are few if any.

The idea that liberty "can only be accomplished one person at a time" is a more pessimistic view than it sounds. There are over 330 million people in the US and probably a million that are ardent supporters of liberty and a small subset of those that can convert anyone. If doing it one at a time is required, we should be good in about 30 million years.

The fact is that small groups can move the masses when proper strategies and tactics are used. This is our only hope. And so I come back to claim that it is now that libertarians need to get sound about strategy and tactics.

Here are books that need to be read and absorbed, not for their political philosophies, but for their deep commentary on strategy and tactics:

None of the books are libertarian-leaning but they are very good on strategy and tactics.

From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp--This is the guidebook the CIA uses to launch revolutions in foreign countries. Sharp is the strategist who developed the idea of color revolutions.

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul Alinsky-This book is the current bible of the radical left. Of course, the strategy and tactics outlined in this book can also be applied by freedom lovers.

Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman-Hoffman was a serious lefty strategist and tactician. Many are not aware but Hoffman studied under the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Most know Angela Davis as a student of Marcuse but not that Hoffman also was. The book has very valuable strategy and tactical advice. However, the book was first published in 1971 so there are some outdated tactics, just ignore that (and the commie stuff) and absorb what is usable for a libertarian today. 



  1. I'd add the book Tactics by Gregory Koukl to your list. His strategy is a lot like one you described a few weeks back (I'm sorry I don't recall the title you used). Ask thought provoking questions in hopes of getting the person thinking. He uses the analogy of leaving a pebble in the persons shoe.

    I believe the strategy works. Dr. Ron Paul did it to me. I was a mindless Republican voting machine defending the war in Iraq, etc. I happened to catch Dr. Paul on Fox a once or twice and he got my mind turning. I ended up buying his book, finding and the rest is history. Doesn't mean it'll work with everyone of course, but...

    What's the alternative? Give up? May as well mess with a mask wearer or attempt to put a pebble in their shoe in hopes of bettering the world.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful response, RW. I agree with most of your commentary. However, let's say we can fill their empty heads with a few liberty slogans, what gain is this without having done more to help people understand the root cause of their dilemna? They will still be prey to the next clever opportunist. If we really want to change the world for the better, we need to help ourselves and each other. We need more rocks, not more empty shells.

    CCLS, I was opened to liberty much the same way, by a LP supporter that kept pestering me with hard questions I could not answer. In fact, I laughed out loud the first time I read the LP platform.

    That being said, I was a very inquisitive person and very interested in politics at the time. I wanted to know things deeply. This tactic does not work very well with shallow thinkers (in my limited experience).

    Anyway, it's a good discussion.

    I will also be checking out the book recommendations.

    Warm regards,
    David B.

  3. If you want to change how people think the first step is to understand the world as it exists in their mind, convince them that you understand it and do so without using the opportunity to give them shit for it. Most libertarians lack the social skills to do all three.

  4. If one is attempting to change the mind of someone in even the smallest way (as opposed to "messing" with them) then indeed the only way is to get them to think, even if just a little distance from where they are currently.

    This is much harder to do with those who long ago stopped thinking at all critically. I have for years referred to "______'s Law: No one over the age of 30 ever changes their mind", where I named the law after myself, something never done in polite society so I omit my name here.

    But in graduate school, when I became a libertarian and set out to convert others, I had the most success with those under 30 when I put questions to them that caused them to think. The question might have been of the sort, "Well, if your way of thinking is true, then how do you explain X?". It might have been "Have you looked at this alternative school of thought on X?". It might have been any one of the many variations on "Well, who is going to keep those who impose their possibly erroneous or corrupt decisions on us honest?". For a while I used the "three foot rule": anyone who came within three feet was fair game for engaging in conversation aimed at changing their thinking in some way. I only had any degree of success with young folk, though. A number of them told me later that I put them on a path that changed their thinking entirely.

    There is much more to libertarian strategy than one-on-one encounters, but for those who have the gumption I would suggest engaging younger, influential people: office holders, leaders of organizations, anyone who others might look up to. Always acknowledge their concerns, they are usually valid; agree that they are right to be concerned, then introduce a fact they may not know, a different school of thought, someone they might be open to, such as Ron Paul, former 9-term (or whatever it was) congressman (a bit of an appeal to authority), just something that pushes them off their current thinking but does not lead them to reject you out of hand. It does take work to be able to pull up this information on the fly, but it can pay off.

    1. I'm your proof by existence than mind can be changed after 30... I've been a member of Communist Youth Union (Komsomol). Then I moved to US and became kinda Republican. Then I encountered David D. Friedman and Murray Rothbard (and, eventually, Ron Paul).

      I think by now I moved beyond Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, because I feel it doesn't go far enough recognizing dual nature of humans as both individual minds and carriers of memetic complexes (i.e. belief systems) and so neglects the mental hygiene aspect of dealing with collectivist cults. Frankly, I think the Rothbard's argumentation about animals not having rights because they are incapable of recognizing or respecting rights of others is fully applicable to socialists.

      Note that socialists do understand that aspect (see Lenin's famous dictum about ideas capturing the masses [of people] becoming material force) and exploit their understanding ruthlessly - by rewriting history, aiming to poison minds of children, and by outright censorship. We shouldn't hesitate to recognize the memetic warfare for what it is, and should not wait for the last stage of it - physical extermination of hold-out carriers of ides of liberty which would justify self-defense by Rothbardian standards.

      Instead, we should stop treating these people as if they have any rights, for they sure don't recognize ours. You can't win by playing by the rules if your opponent cheats at every opportunity.

  5. Or we could simply read Lenin (the later writings are just a rehash of his theory of revoluitons). The Collapse of the Second International seems to be a good starting place.

    Warning: this stuff is not for the faint hearted. Lenin was a raging psychopath.

  6. OK, I get it: you are "messing with the mask nazi" not "trying to convert him." But when I said "one person at a time" I didn't mean single file nor did I mean 330 million people. I don't know how many people must be convinced and I don't know how long it will take. But Saul Alinsky's tactics are political moves and politics have been unable to protect liberty.