Sharing a platform with right-wingers
Radical writer Glenn Greenwald spoke at colleges about the attack on civil liberties alongside two conservatives.thinks that was a mistake.
SALON.COM COLUMNIST and civil liberties expert Glenn Greenwald took part in a college speaking tour sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) and Young Americans for Liberty (a mouthpiece for Republican presidential contender Ron Paul) in early February.
The topic of the four-stop tour was "The War on Terrorism, the Constitution and Civil Liberties," and the two other panelists alongside Greenwald were Jacob Hornberger, the founder and president of FFF, and Bruce Fein, a legal adviser and author.
At the tour stop at Ohio State University in Columbus, the speakers talked at length about the infamous federal law called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the evils of the state having the power to detain citizens (and non-citizens) without the due process.
The idea behind the coming together of a libertarian (Hornberger), a conservative (Fein) and a liberal (Greenwald) was for this diverse set of speakers to speak out against the NDAA, a law signed by Obama at the end of 2011, which allows the government to detain anyone suspected of terrorism without recourse to ordinary legal channels. This represents a serious breach of civil liberties and impedes on the freedom of citizens.
All three panelists shared the belief that there are certain core principles which citizens should fight for irrespective of their professed political and ideological beliefs. While this attempt to set aside political differences and come together on need to defend civil liberties might seem commendable, there are certainly issues which emerged out of the talks that socialists should be concerned about.
The libertarian analysis put forth by Hornberger posits that the problem with breaching civil liberties and the core problem of the NDAA is ultimately that this represents big government. Government is treated as though it is completely separate from the economy and society, and as though it has an internal expansionary logic, which will inevitably lead to liberty and freedom being curbed, no matter who controls it. By this logic, the government isn't bad because of what it does or who controls it, but simply because it is government.
Additionally, while words like "empire" and "imperialism" were thrown around to describe the U.S., there was no connection made between U.S. imperialism and the economics of capitalism.
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WHILE GREENWALD'S critique of Barack Obama for undermining civil liberties was correct, his decision to choose a platform provided by right-wing libertarians should be a matter of concern to people on the left.
At the forum, he never raised any points of political difference that he might have with the libertarians, giving the impression that civil liberties issues trump all other political and social questions. In fact, he went so far as to say that the only person challenging the narrow political spectrum of the two-party system currently is Ron Paul, effectively showing support for him before the Republican primaries.
Why is that problematic? Let's go over nine things that Ron Paul stands for and ask whether those views merit supporting him:
-- Ron Paul is opposed to taxes on principle. He is in favor of the Bush tax cuts and thinks that federal employees deserve a pay cut, because according to his assessment they are overpaid.
-- He is racist, as this link to 10 racist quotes from Ron Paul makes clear.
-- He is homophobic. He says there shouldn't be any federal law regulating marriage, but his personal opinion is that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
He does not seem to have a very high opinion of gay men. Consider the following quote from one of Ron Paul's newsletters: "First, these [gay] men don't really see a reason to live past their fifties. They are not married, they have no children, and their lives are centered on new sexual partners. These conditions do not make one's older years the happiest. Second, because sex is the center of their lives, they want it to be as pleasurable as possible, which means unprotected sex. Third, they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick. Put it all together, and you've to another wave of AIDS infections, that you, dear taxpayer, will be asked to pay for."
-- He is unapologetically anti-choice. He voted yes on the Stupak amendment, which was intended to block health insurance companies from covering abortion in their policies.
-- He does not believe that climate change is a major concern facing humanity. He is against environmental regulations and opposed to finding alternative energy sources.
-- He believes that it is within the rights of employers to create any sort of workplace atmosphere they like. He is against laws holding an employer accountable for violations of civil rights or sexual harassment because the employee/victim is free to quit their job (and starve to death).
-- He is anti-union and has voted for legislation that legalizes union-busting.
-- He believes that evolution is a scientific theory, not a fact.
-- He was opposed to spending to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, arguing that people who have made a choice to live near the coast should also bear the consequences.
For someone like Greenwald to speak on a platform provided by a right-wing libertarian organization connected to Ron Paul--and to speak highly of Paul without even hinting at political differences--while solely concentrating on the question of civil liberties does not reflect the political perspicacity that followers of his blog at Salon.com might expect.