Pop Culture – The Libertarian Standard http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Pop Culture – The Libertarian Standard clean Pop Culture – The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (Pop Culture – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Pop Culture – The Libertarian Standard http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/pop-culture/ TV-G Was Robin Hood a Marxist? http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/06/16/was-robin-hood-a-marxist/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/06/16/was-robin-hood-a-marxist/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:37:33 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13499 FreemanRobinHood300

Simon Schama could use a dose of classical-liberal theory. Most of us can be forgiven for knowing Marxist theory better than the liberal tradition — it’s hard not to drink Marxism in with our schooling and culture — but popular historical narrative really does suffer by the omission of the "bourgeois historians" whom Marx himself credits as the precursors of his class theory.

In the BBC TV series A History of Britain, Schama asks about the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, "Was this a class war, then?" (A term, he explains parenthetically that "we’re not supposed to use since the official burial of Marxism.") A pause, while the camera angle changes to closeup. "Yes," he says plainly. "It was."

"Not surprisingly," writes Schama in the print version of A History of Britain, "it was in the second half of the fourteenth century that the legends of Robin Hood … first became genuinely popular."

But as I write in "Class War in the Time of Robin Hood" in today’s Freeman, Schama is appealing to the wrong class theory if he wants to explain the mindset of the commoners marching on London in the 14th century.

I’m far from the first to offer a libertarian revision of Robin Hood’s politics, but where I focus on the ideology of his earliest historical audience, most other treatments focus on the particulars of the legend.

Some examples:

On the other hand, Ayn Rand seems to have been happy to leave Robin Hood to the socialists:

"It is said," Rand has Ragnar Danneskjöld concede in Atlas Shrugged, that Robin Hood "fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived.

What do you think: is Robin Hood worth claiming for our tradition?

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When Evil Institutions Do Good Things: The FCC’s PTAR Law http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/06/12/when-evil-institutions-do-good-things-the-fccs-ptar-law/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/06/12/when-evil-institutions-do-good-things-the-fccs-ptar-law/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 17:55:55 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13490 StreetTV

In my Freeman article "TV’s Third Golden Age," the summary subtitle that the magazine chose was "Programming quality is inversely proportional to regulatory meddling." I couldn’t have said it better. But does that mean that everything the FCC does makes television worse?

All laws and regulations have unforeseen consequences. That usually means unintended damage, but there’s no law of history that says every unplanned outcome is pernicious.

If you’re an advocate of a free society — one in which all arrangements are voluntary and there is the least coercive interference from governments or other thugs — history will present you with an unending series of conundrums. Whom do you side with in the Protestant Reformation, for example? The Catholic Church banned books and tortured scholars, and their official structure is one of hierarchy and authority. Easy enemy, right? Clear-cut bad guy. But the Church had kept the State in check for centuries — and vice versa, permitting seeds of freedom to root and flourish in the gaps between power centers. Whereas the Protestant states tended to be more authoritarian than the Catholic ones, with Luther and Calvin (not to mention the Anglicans) advocating orthodoxy through force. There’s a reason all those Northern princes embraced the Reformation: they wanted a cozier partnership of church and state.

This is certainly not the history I was taught in my Protestant private schools.

Similarly, most of us were schooled to side with the Union in the Civil War, to see Lincoln as a savior and the Confederacy as pure evil. But as much as the war may have resulted, however accidentally, in emancipating slaves, it also obliterated civil liberties, centralized power, strengthened central banking and fiat currencies and — to borrow from Jeffrey Rogers Hummel’s great book title — enslaved free men.

"Father Abraham," as the pietists called him after his assassination, was a tyrant whose primary goal was always what he actually achieved: central power over an involuntary union. Recasting this guy as an abolitionist hero is one of the many perverse legacies of America’s official history. But it’s a mistake to simply reverse the Establishment’s verdict and claim that the Confederacy was heroic. Plenty of Johnny Rebs were fighting a righteous battle against what they rightly deemed to be foreign invaders, but even if you ignore the little problem of the South’s "peculiar institution," the Confederate government was no more liberal than its Northern rival. "While the Civil War saw the triumph in the North of Republican neo-mercantilism,” writes Hummel, “it saw the emergence in the South of full-blown State socialism.”

Reading history without taking sides may fit some scholarly ideal (actually, it seems to be a journalistic ideal created by the Progressive Movement to masquerade their views as the only unbiased ones), but it is not a realistic option. We cannot do value-free history. If we try, we instead hide or repress our biases, which makes them a greater threat to intellectual integrity.

Neither can we say, "a plague on both their houses," and retreat to the realm of pure theory, libertarian or otherwise. We have to live in the real world, and even if we are not activists or revolutionaries, the same intellectual integrity that must reject "neutrality" also requires that we occasionally explore the question of second-best or least-evil options.

I remember several years ago, when my very libertarian boss surprised me by speaking in favor of increased regulation of banking. His point was that the banks were not free-market institutions; they were government-created cartels enjoying a political privilege that protected them from the consequences of the market while they surreptitiously depleted our property and spoiled the price system that drives all progress in the material world. Ideally, he’d want the government out of banking altogether, but in the meantime having them do less damage was better than letting them do more.

It may seem anticlimactic to follow the Reformation, Civil War, and fractional-reserve banking with a little-known FCC rule about TV programming from almost half a century ago, but I’ve been reading television history for a while now (1, 2, 3, 4) as illustrative of larger patterns in political history.

The Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR) was a law instituted in 1970 to limit the amount of network programming allowed during TV’s most-watched evening hours.

According to industry analyst Les Brown, the PTAR was adopted

to break the network monopoly over prime time, to open a new market for independent producers who complained of being at the mercy of three customers, to stimulate the creation of new program forms, and to give the stations the opportunity to do their most significant local programming in the choicest viewing hours. (Les Brown’s Encyclopedia of Television)

If you still accept the official myth that the airwaves are "That most public of possessions given into the trust of the networks," as Harlan Ellison describes them in The Glass Teat, and that the federal government’s job is to manage the radio spectrum in the best interests of that public, then I’m sure you don’t see any problem with PTAR. (You can read my paper "Radio Free Rothbard" [HTML, PDF] for a debunking of this official piety.)

But a libertarian could easily jerk his or her knee in the opposite direction. How dare the central government tell private station owners what they can and can’t air on their own stations, right?

The problem with such an ahistorical take on the issue is that broadcast television was a creature of the state from the beginning. Radio may have had a nascent free-market stage in its development, but television was a state-managed cartel from the word go.

So am I saying that PTAR was a good thing? Is it like the possibly beneficial banking regulations imposed on a cartelized banking system? Should we view CBS versus FCC as the same sort of balance-of-power game that Church and State played before the early modern period of European history?

Maybe, but that’s not why I find PTAR an interesting case for the liberty-minded historian. As is so often the case with laws and regulations, PTAR’s main legacy is in its unintended consequences.

"Despite the best of intentions," writes historian Gary Edgerton in The Columbia History of American Television, "the PTAR failed in almost every respect when it was implemented in the fall of 1971."

[P]ractically no local productions or any programming innovations whatsoever were inspired by the PTAR. In addition, any increase in independently produced programming was mainly restricted to the reworking of previously canceled network series, such as Edward Gaylord’s Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk’s The Lawrence Welk Show.… Rather than locally produced programming, these kinds of first-run syndicated shows dominated the 7 to 8 P.M. time slot.

This renaissance of recently purged rural programming was certainly not the FCC’s goal, but the creation of the first-run-syndication model is one of the great unsung events in media history.

A quick note on terminology: to the extent that I knew the word "syndication" at all when I was growing up, I took it to be a fancy way of saying "reruns." For example, Paramount, the studio that bought the rights to Star Trek after the series was cancelled, sold the right to rerun the program directly to individual TV stations. When a local TV station buys a program directly from the studio instead of through the network system, that’s called syndication. But syndication isn’t limited to reruns. Studios created first-run TV programs for direct sale to local stations as far back as the 1950s, but they were the exception. The dominant syndication model was and is reruns. But two events created a surge of first-run syndication: (1) PTAR, and (2) the rural purge I obliquely alluded to above.

I write about the rural purge here, but I’ll summarize: as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, television network executives did an about-face on their entire approach to programming. In the 1960s, each network tried to win the largest possible viewership by avoiding controversy and appealing to the lowest common denominator in public tastes. This meant ignoring the rift between races, between generations, and between urban and rural sensibilities — what we now call red-state and blue-state values — in the ongoing culture wars. This approach was dubbed LOP (Least Objectionable Program) theory.

Basically, this theory posits that viewers watch TV no matter what, usually choosing the least objectionable show available to them. Furthermore, it assumes a limited number of programming choices for audiences to pick from and implies that networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors care little about quality when producing and distributing shows. (Gary Edgerton, The Columbia History of American Television)

By the end of the decade, however, NBC vice president Paul Klein (who had christened LOP theory just as its tenure was coming to an end), convinced advertisers that they should stop caring so much about total viewership and focus instead on demographics, specifically the Baby Boomers — young, politically radicalized, and increasingly urban TV viewers — who were most likely to spend the most money on the most products. CBS was winning the battle for ratings, but Klein pointed out that their audience was made up of old folks and hicks, whereas NBC was capturing the viewership of the up-and-comers.

Klein may have worked for NBC, but it was CBS who took his message to heart, quite dramatically. In 1970, the network rocked the TV world by cancelling its most reliably popular shows: Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Hee Haw, Lassie, and The Lawrence Welk Show.

In Television’s Second Gold Age, communications professor Robert J. Thompson writes,

CBS, in an effort to appeal to a younger audience made socially conscious by the turbulent 1960s, had dumped its hit rural comedies in the first years of the 1970s while their aging audiences were still placing them in Nielsen’s top twenty-five. Critics, who for the most part had loathed the likes of Petticoat Junction and Gomer Pyle, loved some of what replaced them.

I loved what replaced them, too: Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, and the like. "Several members of Congress," Wikipedia informs us, "expressed displeasure at some of the replacement shows, many of which … were not particularly family-friendly." But that was the point: the networks were no longer aiming to please the whole family: just the most reliable consumers.

But despite capitalism’s cartoonish reputation for catering only to the bloated hump of the bell curve, that’s not how the market really works. It is how a cartel works, and the broadcast networks behaved accordingly, both before and after the rural purge. In the 1950s and ’60s, they aimed for the largest possible viewership and to hell with minorities of any sort. The demographic revolution changed the target, but not the tactic: aim for the big soft mass. That’s certainly how the big players would behave in a free market, too, but the telltale sign of freedom in the economy is that the big players aren’t the only players. Fortunes are made in niche markets, too, so long as there aren’t barriers to entering those niches. As I’ve said, TV is descended from radio, and Hoover and his corporatist cronies had arranged it so that there could only be a few big players.

That’s where we come back to the FCC’s Prime Time Access Rule of 1970. PTAR created a hole at the fringe of the prime-time schedule, just as the rural purge was creating a hole in the market. All those fans of Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk didn’t just go away, and they didn’t stop spending their money on advertised products, either. Before PTAR, the multitude of fans of "rural" programming would have had to settle for mid-afternoon reruns of their favorite shows (the way Star Trek fans haunted its late-night reruns around this same time). But the rural fans didn’t have to settle for reruns, and they didn’t have to settle for mid afternoons or late nights. They could watch new episodes of Hee Haw or Lawrence Welk at 7 PM. In fact, those two shows continued to produce new episodes and the local stations, which were no longer allowed to buy from the networks for the early evening hours, bought first-run syndicated shows instead. The Lawrence Welk Show, which had started in the early 1950s, continued for another decade, until Welk retired in the early ’80s. And the repeats continue to run on PBS today. Hee Haw, believe it or not, continued to produce original shows for syndication until 1992.

I loved Mary Tyler Moore, and I didn’t care so much for Lawrence Welk, but what I really love is peaceful diversity, which cannot exist in a winner-takes-all competition. The rise of first-run syndication was a profound crack in the winner-takes-all edifice of network programming.

The strategy CBS, NBC, and ABC had gravitated toward for short-term success — namely, targeting specific demographics with their programming — also sowed the seeds of change where the TV industry as a whole would eventually move well beyond its mass market model. Over the next decade, a whole host of technological, industrial, and programming innovations would usher in an era predicated on an entirely new niche-market philosophy that essentially turned the vast majority of broadcasters into narrowcasters. (Gary Edgerton, The Columbia History of American Television)

This idea of "narrowcasting" is the basis of quality in entertainment (and freedom in political economy, but that’s another story).

I’m not out to sing the praises of the FCC for increasing economic competition and cultural diversity — these consequences were entirely unintended — but we do have to recognize PTAR as a pebble in Goliath’s sandle, distracting him for a moment from David’s sling.

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Libertarian Fiction Authors Association and Short Story Contest http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/07/libertarian-fiction-authors-association-and-short-story-contest/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/07/libertarian-fiction-authors-association-and-short-story-contest/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 17:55:11 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12879 Libertarian Fiction Authors Association

It’s been a long time since I blogged on The Libertarian Standard. I’ve been busy with other projects, one of which is the subject of this post. I recently launched, in November 2013, the Libertarian Fiction Authors Association.

If you’re like me, you enjoy reading fiction but have a difficult time finding stories that truly reflect your values and interests. This discovery problem affects everyone, but is particularly acute for niche markets like ours. There are individuals and organizations (including Amazon) attempting to solve the problem for authors and readers in general, but no one was really catering to libertarians specifically.

How many libertarians out there have published fiction? How many more are aspiring authors, who are either writing their first novel or are thinking about it but need some encouragement and guidance? I had no idea, but I was sure there were far more than I knew about personally.

As an activist, I also think that dramatizing our values through fiction is an important way to spread the message of liberty.

As an aspiring fiction author myself, I wanted to form a group made up of fellow libertarian writers who could learn from, encourage, and push each other to accomplish their goals and continually reach for new heights — and, eventually, to get my stories into the hands of new readers.

So I started first an email list, then a full-blown association complete with a professional website, in order to provide

  1. a writing group and mastermind that will both nurture new talent and hone the skills of more seasoned pros,
  2. a platform for libertarian fiction authors to promote their work, and
  3. a central location for readers to find fiction written by libertarian authors.

And already, thanks to the association, in a mere few months, I have discovered many more libertarian authors than I had heard of before.

Basic membership in the association is and always will be free. At a minimum, members get a public member directory listing; their books listed and displayed on the site; a link and image-rich profile page; free promotion; and access to a private email list and social network groups.

As our first major promotional endeavor, the association has teamed up with Students for Liberty to hold a libertarian short story contest. The contest is open to everyone, except the judges and SFL staff, and the deadline to submit a story is March 4, 2014. Entrants stand to win up to $300, supporting membership in the association free for a year, and publication. Check out our announcement and the official contest page for more information.

If you’re an avid reader, check out our work and follow us to be updated about new releases and special promotions. If you’re a writer too, join us and enter the short story contest.

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Batman vs James Bond http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/01/28/batman-vs-james-bond/ Tue, 28 Jan 2014 12:20:42 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12867 BatmanVsJamesBondIn recent months, my wife and I have been catching up on the Daniel Craig trilogy of 007 movies, and I’ve been watching Batman cartoons with my seven-year-old son. So my thoughts have been full of action heroes — particularly the Dark Knight and Her Majesty’s secret servant.

I remember my father complaining about both characters and contrasting them to the lone-hero tradition of hardboiled detectives and their fictional forebears, the cowboys.

G.I. vs Private Eye

In fact, my father’s point to my preteen self was a continuation of a point he made to me when I was about my son’s age. I’d just gotten a set of “Undercover Agent” accessories for my GI Joe doll (we didn’t call them action figures back then). Gone were the camouflage fatigues and assault rifle; now Joe sported a dark trench coat and a walkie-talkie.

GIJoeUndercoverAgentI said, “Look dad: It’s GI Private Eye!”

My father explained to me that my rhyming name for my new hero was self-contradictory. A GI was an American soldier, an official agent of the US government, whereas a “private eye” was a private individual, a lone hero in the fictional tradition. If dad had been more of a libertarian, he would have said that the military agent is paid by coercively extracted taxes and operates by state privilege, whereas the private detective is an agent of the market, authorized only by private contracts, and liable to the same restrictions as any individual citizen. My father doesn’t talk that way, even now, but he would acknowledge that description as making the same point.

So after GI Private Eye, I grew up with an awareness of the distinction between heroes like James Bond, who was funded and sanctioned by the government, and heroes like Philip Marlowe, who was funded by private clients and sanctioned only by his personal code of conduct.

Astin-Martin vs the Batmobile

Now, a few years later, my father was making a different but related point about James Bond, this time inspired by my love of another toy: my Corgi Astin-Martin DB5, James Bond’s super spy car from the movie Goldfinger. “Look dad, isn’t this car cool?”

1964_Corgi_Aston_Martin_DB5Ever philosophical, my father saw the car as symbolic, not only of that state-agent/private-individual divide he’d addressed a few years earlier with my GI Joe, but also of a divide in heroic literature. James Bond worked for the queen, he explained, in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was a knight for the monarch, and this tricked out vehicle from MI6’s Q Branch was the 1960s adventure-fantasy equivalent of the nobleman’s armor and mount.

I believe he felt the same about the Batmobile, but there are several important distinctions, some that put the historical emphasis on the “knight” in the Dark Knight, and some that put the “World’s Greatest Detective” more in league with the private eyes of American detective fiction.

For one thing, the medieval knight was a soldier for the king because he could afford to pay for armor, weapons, and a battle horse. He could afford to head off into battle instead of plowing the fields — and he could afford the time required for training between wars. The king didn’t pay him to be a knight. He paid the king for that honor. As far as we can tell, James Bond isn’t paying out of pocket for all those vodka martinis, and he certainly didn’t commission Q Branch for any of his gadgets. 007’s license to kill makes him a hired gun, even if he does restrict his paid murders to those sanctioned by his government.

Batman, on the other hand, pays his own way.

The Dark Knight of Liberty

Like most of the medieval knights, his wealth originally came from privilege more than trade. The Waynes are old money. Even “stately Wayne Manor” suggests aristocracy, and where Superman’s Metropolis is shiningly new and forward looking, gothic Gotham is old, with deep roots in Europe. Frames of Batman on the rooftops harken back to Quasimodo atop Notre Dame.

But while WayneCorp may well have risen on government contracts, Batman is not on the payroll. Bruce Wayne is spending his own money to fund his war on crime. This may put him in the ranks of the feudal warriors, but it sets him apart from agent 007.

Finally, who are the bad guys?

For Bond, they are the enemies of the state — meaning that they are whoever Her Majesty says they are. In both the books and films, they are invariably evil, so James Bond will look like the good guy when he finally defeats them, but ultimately the double-O agents are weapons: the government aims them at its enemies and pulls the trigger. We know full well from history who ends up in the crosshairs.

Even my favorite fictional private eyes, however independent and heroic they may prove to be, don’t go looking for trouble until a client hires them to do so.

But for Batman, the enemy is crime — not mere violators of legislation and statute law, not people who manufacture without regulation, trade without license, or copy digital patterns in violation of copyright. A true comic-book fanboy could probably dig through back issues and show us the exception, but I can’t recall Batman ever even picking on drug users.

For Batman, as for libertarians, a crime isn’t a crime without a victim. And it is the victims Batman is fighting for; they are proxies for the parents he was too young and scared to rescue from the back-alley gunman. In the versions of the backstory that I prefer, Batman can never avenge his parents’ deaths, so even the target of his vengeance is a proxy: not a human criminal but crime itself. And by “crime,” I mean rights violations, violence against person and property.

The Dark Knight may be on a perpetual quest, but it is not for a king; it is for the people.


Watching Illegal TV in Turkey http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/10/14/watching-illegal-tv-in-turkey/ Mon, 14 Oct 2013 11:25:56 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12698 RightwingTV Last month, I wrote in the Libertarian Standard about Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and the end of the Golden Age of Television and about Serling’s preference for government interference over that of the advertisers.

Last week the Freeman published my article "TV’s Third Golden Age," about our present era in which quality dramas are moving from cable TV to the Internet, where they finally enjoy less interference from both advertisers and government regulation. The Internet is freer than television ever was.

In that article, I also give a little more background on JFK’s assault against the TV industry and how the deregulation trend of the 1970s and ’80s produced TV’s second "golden age." (Can you guess what brought it to an end?)

Paul Cantor, The Invisible Hand in Popular CultureBecause I mention the University of Virginia’s Paul Cantor in the Freeman article (as I did in "The Golden Age at Twilight" and "Price Theory a la Rupert Murdoch" here at TLS, as well as in "Did Capitalism Give Us the Laugh Track?" in the Freeman), I emailed Professor Cantor a link to the article.

Having just returned from the annual meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey, Cantor wrote this wonderful reply (which I quote with his permission):

This is a terrific article and thanks for sending it to me (and mentioning me in it). I’m glad to see that Thompson seems to be on board with us on these issues. I own his book but haven’t read it yet. It’s nearing the top of my "to read" pile, and you’ve pushed it up a few places. It’s good that we’re not alone on these issues.

As I recall what you wrote about radio, all this could have happened back in the 1920s if a subscriber model had been adopted for radio instead of the broadcasting model. Essentially, we’re finally getting where we should have been in the first place — real consumers for TV. I notice that young people now have no interest in seeing TV as broadcasted. They want direct access and know how to get it. When I was at Hans-Hermann Hoppe‘s recent conference in Turkey, I was amazed at how current the young people from central and eastern Europe were with American TV — maybe one episode behind on BREAKING BAD. When I asked: "Is BREAKING BAD broadcast in your country?" they stared at me as if I were saying: "Do dinosaurs still roam the plains of Poland?" They were getting the show — well, frankly, I don’t know how they were getting the show, but it was definitely online and quite possibly illegal.


Maybe It’s Not Paranoia If We’re All Paranoid: A Review of Jesse Walker’s New Book http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/09/10/maybe-its-not-paranoia-if-were-all-paranoia-a-review-of-jesse-walkers-new-book/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/09/10/maybe-its-not-paranoia-if-were-all-paranoia-a-review-of-jesse-walkers-new-book/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 01:54:01 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12674 9780062135551_custom-b59aef367c02e28f5b19c4597390912eb7cbf621-s6-c30The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, by Jesse Walker, HarperCollins, 448 pages, $25.99

Circa 2009, in a fit of 1990s nostalgia that should make BuzzFeed proud — and motivated in part by a clunky Department of Homeland Security paper — some of the left decided that incidents like the murder of abortion provider George Tiller, the shooting death of a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and the lingering rumor that Obama was a Muslim from Kenya meant that the right couldn’t handle a black, Democrat president without losing their Goddamned racist, fascist, conspiratorial minds. It wasn’t true, but it made great headlines and cable news concern-trolling. In a while the left cooled off a bit. (They didn’t even blame any right-wing pundits for the schooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school!) But the notion of a paranoid (loosely-defined) right remains (and will forever, if the Southern Poverty Law Center has anything to say about it).

Talking about paranoia or conspiracies is not as simple as Birthers, Truthers, or even the fair-is-fair point that the left has big fears, too. (Or that paranoia about the paranoid may count as paranoia!) There are a lot more baseless or exaggerated fears dwelling deep in a lot more humans than any partisan could ever admit. And, writes Reason magazine books editor Jesse Walker in his new book, that fear has been with us since before America was the United States.

To make our long history of hiding and screaming in terror easier to filter, Walker divides his types of conspiracy theories into five groups: the Enemy Outside (say, rogue Indians and scheming Catholics), the Enemy Within (Commies, Satanists, anyone quietly scheming), the Enemy Below (slave rebellions, populist uprisings), the Enemy Above (the state! And corporations, and Illuminati, and Bilderbergs, anyone powerful who secretly runs everything and may even be inciting the faceless mobs in their own supposedly organic outrages), and the Benevolent Conspiracy (angels, friendly aliens, and benevolent puppetmasters and societies). And there are scads of examples of each, surprising numbers for a book that isn’t about any of those one things. Indeed, there is so much of interest in United States of Paranoia that its biggest problem might just be a reader’s desire to stop a minute and talk even more about this or that specific thing. Any chapter could have made a whole, adsorbing book in itself.

Because while strolling through American history, Walker manages to mention almost every seemingly random, fascinating bit of human endeavor possible, including, but not limited to: the myth of the superchief Indian, the meaning of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the multilayered interpretations of Rambo, aliens, Satan´s influence on Your Children and Women, plenty of communists, fears of commie and gay conspiracies, real conspiracies like COINTELPRO, and a bracing defense of (most) militias. Indeed, one of Walker’s most fascinating chapters is the one where he explores the New World Order/Illuminati fears that bridged ´90s militia and black nationalist movements.

The simplest, most convenient libertarian takeaway in these pages is that a lot more people are paranoid than your average loony — say, the cheap caricature of a libertarian writing anti-government manifestos, then piloting a plane into an IRS building (or something). We´re not alone, fellow residents of government watch lists! That´s the thing about United States of Paranoia, anyone, libertarian or not, could read it in two ways: optimism that the oft-cackled critique of ¨you’re paranoid!¨ can be directed at at least every other human; pessimism, or actual alarm, that this many people over this many years have let their fears turn into sometimes-real monsters that kill or at least ruin lives.

But instead of worrying about that, maybe just follow Walker´s lead, and enjoy the journey — the often-creative myth-making and the psychology of paranoid tales and what they say about us. Walker´s a big fan of the late Robert Anton Wilson, and another of his best chapters discusses Wilson and the Discordians and other folks who got into conspiracy theories for their weirdness, not for any Grand Explanation of All Things. (Paranoia as art! Finally an understanding of my inability to be be outraged over Alex Jones, not matter how horrible he is for libertarianism!)

Walker´s writing style is brainy, but off-kilter and  quietly funny, like the man himself. Any creeping libertarian propaganda is in short, subtle supply. There’s nothing much here to turn off the readers who might disagree with Walker’s politics. The story he tells is captivating, human, bizarre, and endlessly surprising, in short, accessible to all but  the most ardent Southern Poverty Law Center employee or sincere user of the word “sheeple.”

The entire book filled me with a strange fondness for America, simply because of the strange creativity of many of these myths. Yes, paranoia run amok can cause real casualties (ask Giles Cory, or parents in Kern County, California). But seeing patterns, conspiracies, and cabals is normal; as is building up our enemies, be they small, or entirely imaginary, into something vast and all-powerful and terrifying. This is who we are, we humans. And Walker’s exploration of the normalcy of this fear should make us all a little less paranoid.

But it won’t.

http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/09/10/maybe-its-not-paranoia-if-were-all-paranoia-a-review-of-jesse-walkers-new-book/feed/ 1
The Golden Age at Twilight http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/09/09/the-golden-age-at-twilight/ Mon, 09 Sep 2013 13:12:12 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12657 Rod SerlingWhen I was in 5th grade, the teacher, Mr. Kelly, asked the class if anyone could tell him the definition of the word twilight. I raised my hand, excited to know the answer for once: “A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind — a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination…”

“You idiot!” interrupted Mr. Kelly. (Does the setting of New York City in the 1970s explain at all why the teacher talked to his pupils that way?) “That’s the Twilight Zone! — Twilight is the period between sunset and darkness…”

Oh, I thought. So that’s why the show is called the Twilight Zone. It’s an in-between thing.

I wonder if there are kids today who will some day tell a similar story — probably with a less ill-mannered teacher — where they answer the vocabulary question by stating that “twilight” is when high-school vampires are in love with teenage mortals.

When I was a kid, The Twilight Zone was the smartest television show I watched. And I watched a lot of TV. It had already been off the air for a decade, but so had most of my shows. I grew up in the 1970s watching the TV of the 1950s and ’60s on a portable black-and-white television set with antennas made of coat hangers and tinfoil.

I loved the plot twists, and I didn’t mind all the moralizing. Most of the television I watched was preachy — and kids are used to being preached at from all directions, not just their TV viewing — but unlike all the other shows I watched, The Twilight Zone dealt with mind-bending ideas, and its plots weren’t predictable, at least not to me. Each episode ended with a revelation, and I enjoyed trying to guess what it would be, though I seldom guessed right.

The critics had loved it from the beginning — well before the show became popular with viewers — and later critics ranked it as a high point in television history:

In 1997, the episodes “To Serve Man” and “It’s a Good Life” were respectively ranked at 11 and 31 on TV Guide‘s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.…

In 2002, The Twilight Zone was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide‘s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the third best written TV series ever. (Wikipedia)

The show’s creator, executive producer, and head writer, Rod Serling was one of the star television writers from the first “Golden Age of Television.”

His successful teleplays included Patterns (for Kraft Television Theater) and Requiem for a Heavyweight (for Playhouse 90), but constant changes and edits made by the networks and sponsors frustrated Serling. In Requiem for a Heavyweight, the line “Got a match?” had to be struck because the sponsor sold lighters; other programs had similar striking of words that might remind viewers of competitors to the sponsor, including one case in which the sponsor, Ford Motor Company, had the Chrysler Building removed from a picture of the New York City skyline. (Wikipedia, “The Twilight Zone”)

In the Golden Age of Television, sponsors not only attached their names to the TV shows they sponsored — Kraft Television Theater, Philco TV Playhouse, Goodyear TV Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, The Voice of Firestone, The US Steel Hour — they developed shows, produced them, and paid the networks to put them on the air.

Television's Second Golden AgeRobert J. Thompson, a communications professor at Syracuse University, writes,

This arrangement led to some legendary stories of sponsor interference. Alcoa, manufacturers of aluminum, for example, would not let Reginald Rose set a tragic event in his episode of The Alcoa Hour in a trailer park, where most of the homes are made of aluminum. The Mars company, which sponsored Circus Boy, made it known to those making the show that they didn’t appreciate references in the program to ice cream, cookies, or other treats that competed with Mars’s candy products for the sweet tooth of America’s youth.

And for those of you who’ve read my earlier post “Who destroyed the first golden age of television?” take note of this one:

In “Judgment at Nuremberg,” an episode of Playhouse 90, about the trials of Nazi war criminals, a reference to “gas chambers” was deleted by the sponsor, the American Gas Association. (Television’s Second Gold Age)

Two years before Serling created The Twilight Zone, he wrote a long introduction to a paperback release of his historic teleplay Patterns. (“Many of the scripts for these [1950s TV] plays were collected and sold in book form,” writes Professor Thompson, “a distinction prime-time programs would not enjoy again for many years.”)

In his introduction, Serling reviews the history of television drama and his career in the medium, gives advice to young writers, and voices his regret about the medium’s dependence on commercial interruptions and busybody sponsors.

RodSerlingPatternsFor good or for bad, the television play must ride piggy-back on the commercial product. It serves primarily as the sugar to sweeten the usually unpalatable sales pitch. It’s the excuse to wangle and hold an audience.

Serling is clearly trying for a measured tone in that introduction. In Submitted for Your Approval, a documentary about his career released 20 years after his death, we get a more candid opinion:

How can you put out a meaningful drama when every fifteen minutes proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper?

Still, Serling understood that his career depended on the dancing rabbits:

A sponsor invests heavily in television as an organ of dissemination. That organ would wither away without his capital and without his support. In many ways he hinders its development and its refinement, but by his presence he guarantees its survival. (Patterns, introduction)

In addition to specific cuts and changes, the TV sponsors of the 1950s had informal rules limiting content. While Serling was already known as a writer of television drama, The Twilight Zone made him famous ever after for fantasy and science fiction. In his 1957 introduction to Patterns, you can already see him being pushed in that direction as a reaction to the sponsors’ fiats:

One of the edicts that comes down from the Mount Sinai of Advertisers Row is that at no time in a political drama must a speech or character be equated with an existing political party or current political problems.

Serling’s 1956 teleplay about the US Senate was gutted. Several million television viewers tuned in to his political drama “The Arena,” Serling writes, and

were treated to an incredible display on the floor of the United States Senate of groups of Senators shouting, gesticulating and talking in hieroglyphics about make-believe issues, using invented terminology, in a kind of prolonged, unbelievable double-talk.

“In retrospect,” Serling mused,

I probably would have had a much more adult play had I made it science fiction, put it in the year 2057, and peopled the Senate with robots. This would probably have been more reasonable and no less dramatically incisive.

Serling insists that he did not make trouble: “I’m considered to be a cooperative writer — even now. I don’t get my back up at requests for rewrites.” But he was known in the industry as the “angry young man of Hollywood,” and when he died of a heart attack at age 50, many newspapers “mentioned that he had been a heavy smoker for years and was angry and stressed most of his life” (Wikipedia).

But while he fought television executives and sponsors over what he unfortunately called “censorship” (see my post “censorship schmensorship” on why this label is misleading, at best), he fell short, in the 1950s at least, of proposing government intervention — or any other specific solution:

I don’t really believe there exists a “good” form of commercial. There are some that are less distasteful than others, but at best they’re intrusive.… I make reference to this by way of pointing out a basic weakness of the medium. I do not presume to suggest any antidotes or alternatives. At the moment none seems possible. (Patterns, introduction)

Sadly, by the ’60s, he was willing to call on the state. According to a 1964 article about Rod Serling and “TV censorship,” we learn that Serling

proposed that the Federal Communications Commission “pass muster” in some fashion on the quality of advertising in television. The FCC has never been a “strong arm of the government” because it was afraid of being accused of censorship, he said. (“Serling Rips TV Censorship,” Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, May 1, 1964)

Note the irony of his fighting the “censorship” of private editorial policies within the networks, then dismissing concerns about the real-deal coercive variety from the central government.

There’s another irony to Serling’s shift. You need to note the dates and know a little television history to catch it.

The television industry in which Rod Serling had established his name was dominated by sponsors — this was precisely Serling’s problem with it:

No dramatic art form should be dictated and controlled by men whose training and instincts are cut of an entirely different cloth. The fact remains that these gentlemen sell consumer goods, not an art form. (Submitted for Your Approval)

And yet the era of Serling’s ascendancy is now considered the Golden Age of Television and the TV drama of the era is recognized as an art form at its peak (until the present new golden age of television drama came to surpass it). According to television producer Sherwood Schwartz, the success of that earlier era resulted directly from its domination by the sponsors:

[T]he networks were conduits and they had no control of programming. Sponsors had more power, and the creative people who created the shows had more authority.

Professor Thompson indicates other benefits of the 1950s arrangement:

Television's Greatest Year: 1954[S]ingle sponsorship also had advantages. R.D. Heldenfels, TV critic and author of Television’s Greatest Year: 1954, points out that “Unlike the current system, where a terribly low-rated show is pulled after one or two telecasts, a single sponsor willing to wait for good numbers — or to settle for lower numbers because the show increased the sponsor’s prestige — could keep a show going.” Since networks made money as long as the show remained sponsored, the only reason for them to cancel a sponsored series was if the ratings were so low that they threatened to reduce the size of the potential audience for the next show on the schedule. Indeed, many companies were more concerned with prestige than they were with numbers. If not for prestige, why would a company like US Steel have sponsored an anthology? There were no raw US Steel products that a mass audience could buy over the counter and most viewers had no idea where the steel in their automobiles came from. It was even possible that a show would continue to be sponsored based on the tastes of a single executive or company owner. The classical music on The Voice of Firestone played for five years on NBC and another five on ABC to comparatively small audiences because the Firestone family was more concerned with attaching their name to a cultural show than they were with ratings.

Yet here was Serling in 1964, calling for a stronger hand from the FCC and pooh-poohing the idea that such intervention would constitute censorship — this just after the three-year reign of FCC chair and “culture czar” Newton Minow, who

gave networks authority and placed the power of programming in the hands of three network heads, who, for a long time, controlled everything coming into your living room. They eventually became the de facto producers of all prime-time programs by having creative control over writing, casting, and directing. (quoted by Russell Johnson, aka the “Professor,” Here on Gilligan’s Island)

In the famous “vast wasteland” speech before the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961, Minow told the television industry, “You must provide a wider range of choices, more diversity, more alternatives.”

“Yet,” according to University of Virginia professor Paul Cantor,

Minow’s speech resulted in centralizing power in the television industry and thus actually reducing the range of choices in programs.… [H]is words contained clear threats that if the television industry did not voluntarily do what he wanted, the FCC would make sure that it did. (Paul A. Cantor, “The Road to Cultural Serfdom: America’s First Television Czar” in Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism, edited by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.)

Rod Serling, the angry young man of Hollywood, clearly preferred the rule of the FCC to the rule of the American sponsors, and in 1964 — after three years under Newton Minow had radically changed the television landscape, and JFK-appointed FCC chair E. William Henry was still “fully committed to Minow’s agenda” (Thompson) — Serling all but advocated an even stronger hand from the federal government to limit commercial interruptions.

Is it possible that the sponsors were requiring ever more commercials in response to their dwindling power in the production end? After all, you don’t have to push Kraft-brand cheese slices as ardently when the anthology showing Rod Serling’s famous “Patterns” is called The Kraft Television Theater.

If that’s right, then Rod Serling is yet another example of the intervention spiral that Ludwig von Mises described: first you call for government intervention, then you fail to see that the intervention created the new problems you dislike, so you call for further intervention, and the cycle repeats.

So why wasn’t Serling afraid of implicit censorship from the FCC?

One unfortunate possibility is that Rod Serling was less vigilant about the FCC because Newton Minow’s agenda was better aligned with Serling’s own politics. Serling’s teleplays were antiwar well before antiwar sentiment took over a later generation. His stories also focused on questions of racial prejudice and sexual equality at a time when the sponsors considered the topics divisive and controversial. Recall that one of the edicts from “Advertisers Row” was that “at no time in a political drama must a speech or character be equated with an existing political party or current political problems.”

But in the early 1960s, the edict from Washington DC reversed the mandate.

Newton Minow was an appointee of the Kennedy administration. “His chief ‘qualification’ for the FCC job,” according to Paul Cantor, “was the fact that he was a personal friend of the president’s brother Robert Kennedy.”

Lacking any grasp of aesthetic criteria, Minow had to employ political criteria in his evaluation of television, and the industry responded accordingly.… [T]he changes in television content in the 1960s chiefly followed a political agenda — greater representation of minorities on shows, especially African-Americans; more dramas devoted to controversial political issues, displaying a deepened social conscience; in particular a number of shows dealing with the issue of civil rights, which not coincidentally was being promoted at the same time by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.… [T]elevision in the 1960s increasingly fell in line with the program of the Democratic Party. This is exactly what one might have predicted under the leadership of an activist FCC chairman appointed by a Democratic president. (Cantor)

If Rod Serling wanted to push the Democrats’ agenda, then pressure from the federal government for television networks to do exactly that may have felt less like oppression and more like freedom.

Serling may have welcomed the new era of the American culture czar. Minow certainly recognized Serling as a comrade in the crusade. In his speech to broadcasters, Minow had called television a “vast wasteland,” but he listed a handful of exceptions by name. Serling’s Twilight Zone was one of them.

The preachy tone I now hear in the show was a sign of the times. It felt familiar to me because I had grown up on 1960s television. I believe in tolerance and diversity largely because TV taught me to believe in tolerance and diversity. But over time, I came to believe that the tolerance of left-liberalism was a shallow tolerance, a tolerance only for certain forms of diversity — those that aren’t in conflict with the rest of the left-liberal agenda. That agenda was about more than cosmopolitan open-mindedness and acceptance of ethnic and cultural differences; it was about greater centralization of power, the need for coercive intervention, trust in certain elites, and a distrust of local values and local authority.

Serling may have seen a greater number of heroic, middle-class blacks and strong, smart women on television and believed that it was evidence that the medium was advancing. But did he also notice that the stories took fewer and fewer risks? Did he notice that the chorus of social consciousness could sing only one note?

He bridled against the sponsors’ mandate not to offend anyone and bemoaned the television writers’ practice of “pre-censoring,” by which he meant anticipating sponsor reaction and thereby avoiding any risks. And he was right that creativity requires risk-taking. In recent decades we’ve seen the cable-TV drama raised to the level of art precisely because commercial-free cable networks can afford to take chances that commercially supported broadcast networks just can’t.

But the strong arm of Kennedy liberalism, in the form of an activist FCC, drove risk-taking off the air and replaced it with homogeneity and blandness under the guidance of a fearful cartel of network heads who were willing to sing the administration’s preferred lyrics so that they could continue to sell soap. Rod Serling may have played a starring role in the golden age of television drama, but his agenda brought that age to an end.

Hedy Lamarr Bet on the Wrong Horse http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/08/01/hedy-lamarr-bet-on-the-wrong-horse/ Thu, 01 Aug 2013 13:06:13 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12603 NakedHedwig

“Hedy stands naked in a field. She looks off-camera in dismay as her horse gallops away with the clothes she had draped over its back to take a dip in a woodland pond.”

That’s the opening line of my article “Putting Hedy Lamarr on Hold,” featured today in the Freeman.

I shared a draft with a writer friend of mine over the weekend. She is far more educated and literary than I am. She saw a parallel between the opening scene and the larger story that I confess I was not conscious of. I thought I’d just been going for sex appeal.

Here’s more of the opening:

She is not called Lamarr yet. That name will come later, in Hollywood. For now she is still Hedwig Kiesler, a Viennese teenager in Prague, playing her first starring role in a feature film, Ekstase (“Ecstasy,” 1933). The controversial Czechoslovakian film will become famous for Hedy’s nude scenes (which are not sexual) and its sex scenes (which show only her face, in close-up, in the throes of passion).

The film will give Hedy her first taste of fame. She will be known as the Ecstasy girl. An Austrian director will tell the press, “Hedy Kiesler is the most beautiful girl in the world.” Later, MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer will repeat the claim, using the name he insisted she change to: Hedy Lamarr.

But while the world of her time will remember her for her photogenic beauty, history will remember her as the inventor of frequency hopping, the foundational technology of today’s mobile phones and wireless Internet. [FULL ARTICLE]

FreemanHedyThe piece goes on to explain how Hedy invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum during World War II and why it took so long for that invention to usher in the wireless Internet age. Short answer: the government kept the technology secret for decades. Not only did Hedy Lamarr not see a cent from her invention; she didn’t even get credit for it until the end of the century.

So here’s what my writer friend said:

The more I think about it, the movie image you start with — Hedy looking at her runaway horse and thinking, ok now what? is exactly what you describe in your title: Hedy Lamarr on hold. She’s on hold in the movie (for a moment, I guess — given the movie title, I imagine that she’s not alone for long) and then her invention is on hold for a much longer time. … A Hollywood starlet and inventive genius who made millions in the market surrendered her most innovative idea to Leviathan, who stifled it. And she did so, ironically, because of a lack of imagination on her part — a naive faith that the state would protect and serve its citizens.

(By the way, I’m especially pleased that FEE decided not only to feature my article but also to use the image I put together for it!)

Didn’t The Terrorists Win A While Back? http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/19/didnt-the-terrorists-win-a-while-back/ Sat, 20 Apr 2013 03:49:22 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12434 I posted the paragraph below on my Facebook page and a long, sometimes contentious, debate broke out. We even had a resident of Boston and a policeman–two different people, by the way–chime in to attack my point of view. Given that it generated so much discussion in that venue, I figured I’d share it here as well.

Armored police vehicles. Tactical teams. Everyone under house arrest. Soldiers and/or other armed enforcers roaming the streets. House-to-house searches. We call it, “Terror in Boston!” In any one of the several places the U.S. has invaded and/or is currently deploying drones, they’d call it, “Tuesday.” Perspective. Stated differently, maybe the “terrorists” won a while back?

Even looking at it now, it strikes me as obvious and uncontroversial. Maybe I’ve spent too much time sniffing the glue of philosophical free thought?

…cross-posted at LRCBlog.

Peace art and peace music http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/02/09/peace-art-and-peace-music/ Sat, 09 Feb 2013 18:49:35 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12343 I just came across this wonderful music from Ron Paul fan Tatiana Moroz (iTunes albums).

I’ve blogged previously on peace/liberty-related art: see Justin Gaffrey Peace Art:

DSC_0643I’ve said it before (Peace Art): I love Justin Gaffrey’s paintings, and in particular his peace sign paintings.



See also related posts below:

My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 19, 2008 11:09 PM

ShawnJohnsonPeaceSymbolAfter winning the gold in the balance beam, Shawn Johnson, the impressive and mature 16-year old from Iowa, was interviewed by Bob Costas. She proudly wore a pair of simple, white “peace” earrings. Good for her! I bet they’ll be for sale soon on her store….

Updates: The interview starts about 8:34 into this video (thanks to Daniel Uffleman). “Proud Iowan” notes here that not only did she wear the peace earrings during the Bob Costas interview, “she flashed a peace sign at the camera after her routine”.

Another LRC’er writes: “She didn’t get all weepy when the national anthem played during the medals ceremony, either. She’s a tough little chica. The whole women’s team was pretty impressive this year, actually.”And one more:

“I was actually going to bug Lew to post something about Johnson’s earrings. As somebody who works with teens her age, there was something that caused me to root for her above others. After seeing those earrings I’m glad I chose her. I might buy my cousin a pair for her 15th birthday although it would probably tick my neocon aunt.

“I confess had it not been for my coworkers constantly bringing them up, I would probably refuse to watch the games believing them to be a tool by elites to promote nationalism. However after watching them, I have a new found respect for the athletes who compete in them regardless of nationality. The games are not bad, but like so many other things, the politicians ruin what should be an amazing spectacle.”

Re: My Favorite Earrings

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on August 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Lew, re Shawn Johnson, her peace earrings, and the Olympics–yes, I quite agree. Everyone is whining about a few special effects that the Chinese used. So what. It’s a good show.

Someone told me that these “peace” earrings are popular among young girls nowadays, with no significance other than a fashion fad to them. Could be. But several things lead me to think Shawn wore them consciously. First, she is no bubblehead: she’s mature and intelligent. Second: she flashed the peace sign after her routine. Third: given the disgraceful censorship of the athletes regarding criticism of things Chinese and political–by both the Chinese and the Americans (”Shawn won’t be able to blog until after the Olympics are over due to the United States Olympic Committee’s rule not allowing athletes to post blogs”)–this may have been her way of protesting–Chinese political crackdowns; Bush-Iraq; Russia-Georgia, etc. Finally, she hawks a large number of necklaces and pendants on her store (and I say GOOD for her–boo to anyone criticizing her for doing this; I say, buy from Shawn!) and could have advertised any one of them by wearing it, but she chose not to display one she is selling, but instead a simple, elegant, visible, crisp-white unadorned peace sign, after she won the gold medal and was being put on international TV. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt for being pro-peace.

Put Your Hands Up In The Air For Peace!
Posted by Stephan Kinsella on April 3, 2009 01:59 AM

Apropos my entry Peace Art, it occurs to me this site’s slogan is “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market”–which can be boiled down to: “pro-peace.” And I have to recommend this wonderful video and song, “Peace,” by the Luminaries, which premiered at the Elevate Film Festival 2008 (see The Peace Project).

Mike S writes:

Mr. Kinsella,

I stumbled on your blog post and while I was listening to the song you recommended, I remembered one of my favorite songs from P.O.D. called “Tell Me Why.” It’s a true anti-war/peace song and I believe you might be interested.


Another reader emailed me:

Mr. Kinsella,

I wanted to thank you for your LRC blog post with the “Peace” music video, as well as suggest another artist who I feel has been extraordinarily dedicated to the message of peace. Michael Franti has actually travelled to Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East and created a documentary called I Know I’m Not Alone on his trip, where he basically travelled all over Iraq, staying with families, playing music on street corners (and even at bars filled with U.S. soldiers, singing a song that goes “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace”), and just talking to people about the human cost of war. He also runs an annual Bay Area music festival called Power to the Peaceful. He has many great songs, but one of my favorites (and apparently his most popular music video on Youtube) is called It’s Time To Go Home [see below]. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Keep fighting the good fight,
Casey Worthington