Illiberal Reformers Attempt to Take Liberty Down the Wrong Path
The International Students for Liberty Conference, where liberty-minded individuals from across the world gather for a weekend of talks, panels, and networking, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. The hope is to draw people from all sides of the liberty movement, discuss the issues of the age, and educate on the philosophy of libertarianism/classical liberalism. The organization brought in well-known speakers including Dr. Jonathan Haidt, Steve Forbes, Jeffrey Tucker, Grover Norquist, and Jeremy McLellan who all have unique ideas and hoped to spread them to those who would listen.
A very small minority of conference attendees, however, made it their mission to undermine the conference in crude fashion. Upon hearing that Senator Rand Paul was not attending the opening ceremonies, rumors spread claiming falsely that Students for Liberty cancelled on Rand Paul because he was “too statist” for the event.
Not only did these sordid saboteurs intentionally try to defame the Students for Liberty brand by falsely portraying the organization as anti-free speech, but they went to social media to attack emcee Jeremy McLellan (a comedian) for poking fun at Sen. Paul during his opening remarks. McLellan decided to mock Paul for supporting Trump’s executive order banning immigration from certain countries, which ironically kept another speaker, Amir Nasr, from attending the event.
“Very disappointed that Rand Paul could not fully be here tonight with us, both physically and ideologically.” McLellan said poking fun at Rand Paul. The event continued uninterrupted, but the saboteurs, in true fashion, took to social media – blasting a comedian for making a joke.
While the majority of the attendees seemed to have fun at the opening night, regardless of the cancellation of Rand Paul, there was plotting in the corners. On the second day of the conference, a “caucus” of self-described libertarians found a name for themselves: The Hoppe Caucus*. This caucus, made up of disgruntled libertarians – who have an affinity for state violence, agitation, lying, and white supremacy – decided to further their disruption of ISFLC. Rumors swirled about them trying to bring in Augustus Invictus to have an ad-hoc breakout session at the conference. Upon being unable to bring Invictus in, the caucus then decided that fascist and white supremacist Richard Spencer would suffice in the place of the former. Needless to say, with the exception of these trolls, attendees were not happy to see Spencer at a libertarian conference.
Liberty hero and bow tie lover Jeffrey Tucker confronted the neo-nazi as Spencer sat perched in a booth surrounded by Make America Great Again hats. “You stand for fascism!” Tucker admonished, “Students for Liberty opposes everything that you stand for.” Upon being energized by a man of liberty speaking out against fascism, the onlookers began denouncing Spencer and the caucus themselves. Students for Liberty has since issued a statement regarding Spencer’s arrival.
The International Students for Liberty Conference is a powerful conference, and it reflects the political reality of the liberty movement and the broader United States. Unfortunately, the liberty movement – like the rest of U.S. politics – is divided. With the rise of nationalism and ethnocentrism following the campaign and election of Donald Trump, some disgruntled and mislead libertarians, have succumbed to these collectivist tropes, and tried to meld their “new” ideas with libertarianism. As this divide grows and so-called Hoppe caucus types bastardize what libertarianism is, we will see less civil discourse within the liberty movement, and more instances of disruption rather than engagement. The Hoppe Caucus, by inviting Richard Spencer and making lies and rumors to disrupt ISFLC, emulates the direction that civil discourse is heading. We must all make a concerted effort to remain true to the ideas of liberalism (understood properly), and steadfastly – for the sake of liberty – remember civil discourse is worth more than online (or in-person) trolling.
*editor’s note, the self-entitled Hoppe Caucus has no direct known relation to the man Hans Hermann Hoppe