7 Signs You are being Emotionally Manipulated for Political and Financial Gain

You are a puppet being used by the 1% for power and fortune.

Before I prove it — no matter which side of the political aisle you’re on — I want to share where I’m coming from so you know I mean no malice.

You see, my profession is copywriting. A copywriter — particularly a direct response copywriter- has one job: To make the client money (sales) via written messaging.

To do that, a copywriter must:

  1. Research the market to find the persona who needs to be targeted.
  2. Get in the head of that persona — what is his or her experience? What does he think? What are his political beliefs? What are his presuppositions? How much money will he spend on this? Which emotional triggers will make him buy?
  3. Write words which pull at those strings as lightly as if that spider strand were in his or her own head. (And to do that, we must understand persuasion, manipulation, and emotional triggers well enough that we can use them so smoothly in our copy that no one notices.)

For a copywriter to do any of this well, he or she has to frequently climb outside the box of his or her own beliefs. For example, I regularly write for clients who views do not necessarily align with my own. But my job isn’t to agree with them. My job is to write in their voice to their audience and make them money. Period. The best copywriters write in voices and perspectives completely dissonant from their own. And we learn to enjoy seeing all sides of an issue.

Of course, this constant examination of the what-where-when-why-how of people’s brains, means copywriters tend to be a very unique bunch of people. Generally, they were already on the fringes anyway. The best ones in the field of direct response copywriting are otherwise completely unemployable. They loathe being cogs in a machine and would rather starve than pursue a 9–5.

Find one who’s been in the trenches, and you’ll hear a spew of ideas on politics, diet, mindset, and money which don’t quite align with anyone you’ll have ever heard before. (Think someone like Scott Adams, for example.)

And this outside-the-box thinking, combined with our deep dive into manipulation, lets us see what you cannot.

And what I’m seeing, as someone who doesn’t identify with any of the political parties, is that you are being manipulated like a puppet.

To prove it, I’ll give you 7 signs that you’re being manipulated. Remember folks, politics is marketing. The sooner you figure this out, the better equipped you’ll be to disengage from this process and resist those who want to do our country harm. (Whatever that actually means…)

Sign №1: Your opinions align with others of your ideological alignment more often than not.

The first sign that your political ideologies come from targeted political indoctrination rather than your own critical thinking is that your opinions perfectly align with everyone else in your party.

I remember back in 2008 when Barack Obama was first elected. At the time I was a college student and watched the election fervor sweep the campus. I was truly terrified, but not for reasons you’d think. You see, he didn’t seem unreasonable to me. What seemed unreasonable was the mass obsession with Obama and the hypnotic trance of every pro-Obama supporter. They’d parrot the same messages, have the same arguments, believe the same things, have the same enemy. They responded en masse as if they were indoctrinated.

And if it clucks like a chicken, maybe it’s a chicken.

We see this same thing now. If I were to go up to a liberal friend of mine, I’d hear one thing. If I were to go up to progressives, another. My conservative friends would hold another view and my Libertarian friends yet another. And they’d all be chirping the same message shared by the rest of their “group”… almost verbatim.

How does this happen?

Factor 1: Humans are lazy thinkers.

Think about the human brain as a machine which quickly sorts information into buckets: pleasure, pain, friend, foe, sexual conquest, etc. Sure, at the top layers of our brain we add “reasoning” to our gut decisions: “Too expensive” or “salesy” or “not my type” or “this makes sense”. But deep down, we’re making lizard-brain level decisions very, very rapidly. Human brains do not want to spend more time dissecting a piece of data than necessary. So the seeking of “new” information to invalidate an opinion just doesn’t happen. So people seek out information which reinforces their opinion because, frankly, it’s easier. Remember, this is a lizard-brain level decision, not conscious. I’m sure you’re a rational, open-minded individual. Your lizard brain is not.

Factor 2: Human brains don’t want to be wrong.

It helps to think of your brain as a piece of software with very set programming. If your brain believes something to be “true” — that you’re unlucky, for example- you will see reinforcement of that belief everywhere. It’s as if your brain applies a filter to your experiences and spits out conclusions which result from that filter.

Factor 3: Copious Consumption of Supporting Materials

Especially in cases of threats to survival, humans want to be sure that they’re right. It makes you feel safer to know that you’re on the “right” side. So what do you do? You look for information to “prove” it. Which ends up reinforcing your current belief anyway (see factor #2). The consumption of materials aligned with your ideology acts as a sort of indoctrination. Every headline says the same thing — “Bannon wants fascism” or “Clinton is incompetent!” — and repeats the wording and arguments over, and over, and over again. This is a form of manipulation which works well. So by the time you’ve ended your day, you’re indoctrinated into a very specific belief system. And you defend it fiercely because you believe you’ve come to it naturally. “It’s so obvious,” you’ll say, “I just don’t understand why the other side can’t see it.” Well, because they’re being indoctrinated in another view.

Think 1984, people. There’s financial gain to having fiercely opposing sides.

Sign №2: You react to headlines predictably.

Let’s suppose that the indoctrination (being “pre-sold” or hypnotized) is true.

If it’s true, then you now have emotional hot buttons which can be triggered by someone mentioning a specific name (e.g., Trump, Clinton, Obama), a specific situation code word (e.g., Benghazi), or another code word (alt-right, liberal, nazi). The test of your indoctrination is in how you respond. If you respond predictably and consistently to this anchor, and your response matches those in your group, then congratulations!

This is proof that you have puppet strings.

Here’s the truth about marketing in a nutshell. There are three stages:

  1. Attract an ideal “buyer”.

This ideal buyer is a segment of a population who has the “problem” you’re trying to solve. For example, let’s say that you want more voters

This is done by using emotionally charged headlines.

Here’s one, from TeaParty.org: “ Judge Appointed by GEORGE BUSH Halts Trump Immigration Ban; HE’S A BLACK LIVES MATTER SUPPORTER!”

Do you notice the emotionally-charged verbs (halts)? Do you see an anchor or two which would trigger response (black lives matter)?

Here’s another one, this time from HRC: “Virginia House of Delegates Passes Dangerous Anti-LGBTQ ‘License to Discriminate’ Legislation”

Do you see the emotionally-charged words here (dangerous)? And the anchors which would trigger response (anti-LGBT, discriminate)?

Now, these headlines work best on those already indoctrinated. But they’ll work on someone who has emotional hot buttons already… think fear, loss aversion, etc.

Note too that the right side tends to use more emotionally-charged wording than the left. Not always, but more often than not. And that’s because the right side is a hell of a lot better at marketing than the left (barring Obama, of course).

2. Indoctrinate the ideal “buyer” so that they’re pre-sold on your message.

Again, the goal is to take that slice of your population and install anchors which can be pressed at a later time when it comes to selling. So, you want to “pour salt in the wound” as copywriter Ben Settle calls it. You want them to start feeling and visualizing about their problem… and about your solution. You don’t want to give it to them yet.. you just want to warm them up so that when you’re ready to sell, you can get maximum, predictable response.

3. Sell to the pre-sold.

When you sell to the pre-sold, no message can be too hyped up. They’ll drool and beg to let them buy. They will buy gladly and pay whatever price.

In politics, you’ll begin to see indoctrinated individuals asking for the same thing — “Oh, I wish they’d do this!” and “Oh man, I just said that the other day too…” Yeah, it’s not a coincidence.

And when you respond predictably to headlines, you prove that you’ve been indoctrinated (er, “pre-sold”) on an ideology which gets the sale (votes, protests, etc). And you guys wonder why all the media says the same thing… there’s a reason for it and it goes beyond liberal and conservative.

Sign №3: You have the same “enemies” as your group.

This sign follows no 1 and no 2. Your indoctrinators will have installed scapegoats. Oh man, humans love scapegoats. Humans crave scapegoats. It’s in our wiring. So your indoctrinators will conveniently give you a scapegoat to blame. And you will all blame the same scapegoat.

The fact that you hate who everyone else in your group hates, no more and no less, is a sign that your puppet strings are fully intact.

Sign №4: In arguments, you resort to ad hominem attacks more frequently than you notice.

This one is a very, very good sign that you’ve been indoctrinated. This means that the installed ideas have transformed into beliefs. And beliefs are powerful. The human brain doesn’t want to go against its own beliefs. It’s a painful, grating experience.

So when someone attacks your “political opinions” (really, deep-seated installed beliefs and triggers), you attack with ad-hominem arguments. “You’re just a stupid liberal” or “You’re a homophobe” or whatever.

Why? Well, your beliefs aren’t based on logical fact, but on an emotional trigger. As such, you really don’t know how you came to your opinions. But they came and they’re installed nice and deep. So at some point, you do what any emotionally-driven human (like a five year-old) would do: you name call. Perhaps you only do it behind their back, in private messages. But you do it nonetheless.

If an idea cannot be defended by uninhibited, facts-based discussion, then something is wrong.

Sign №5: You feel personally wounded when a member of your group deviates in thought and respect the individual less as a result

You know the joke about the goths/punks/emos/etc who want to be so “different” that they all look the same? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Again, humans want to be a part of a group. It’s in our wiring to fit in.

So combine that with a scape goat tendency and you get what happens when a friend expresses a dissenting opinion.

When was the last time you responded with “shock” that someone you thought was a [fill-in-the-blank] expressed views which didn’t align with the party? The shocked response is so predictable to be laughable. And then, people might even express disrespect. As if having critical thinking skills were something to be shamed.

If you’ve ever criticized someone for not following the party line, then it’s a sure sign that you are being pulled by the puppet strings of indoctrination.

Sign №6: You seek to silence dissenting speech and openly advocate for action (anywhere from shaming and assaults on Twitter to physical violence).

Remember how I mentioned earlier that humans don’t want to go against their own software programming (e.g., their beliefs/ideas/filters)? For some, the need to only hear opinions which match causes them to advocate violence of some sort (name calling, shaming, violent attacks, etc).

And those pulling your puppet strings love it. They’ll even tell you how to “fight back”, too… so en masse you respond in the same way. (Protests? Boycotts? Trolling? Yep.)

Sign №7: You share this post with friends of similar political ideology, perfectly sure that none of these apply to “your side”.

Bonus points if you didn’t read it all the way through before sharing.

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This article was originally published on Medium.

Is Fiction Still Relevant?

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I haven’t posted on my book review site Genre Book Reviews lately, and one very large reason has been politics. It should be obvious by my involvement with Chris Spangle, Joe Ruiz, Ryan Ripley, Miah Akston, Gina, and others that I am a very political person. It is a major hobby of mine that I wish were a career, frankly. I am passionately interested in politics in general. I often say that I enjoy discussing all the topics that ruin a tasteful dinner party: politics, religion, and sex. My other hobby is reading and writing fiction as well as the mechanics of writing in general. I enjoy the written word and love immersing myself in it.

Unfortunately, our world –the real world- is undeniably going to crap in a hurry. There is perpetual conflict in the Middle East, conflict with Syria and Russia, and the ever-looming threat of another economic collapse. The American government spies on the world via back door agreements, brute force, and a myriad of other methods to do it. Not to mention Indiana’s fight against HJR-6 .   An argument could be made that the climate is becoming too endangering to liberty for anyone to ignore politics. There is too much going on to claim dislike for political discussions as a reason to back out of the game.

But what part does fiction play in politically troubled times? Truly relevant fiction will address the social and political fears of the day. Humans crave a good story. Humans also crave the ability to change their troubled world even if it is impossible. This is perhaps one reason for the popularity of Marvel/DC movies and science fiction and fantasy media.

Read: “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction” from the NYT (Debate)

I wonder at what point individuals will stop reading fiction that doesn’t move them or at least speak to their fears in a changing political climate. The debates in the NYT link I posted discusses’ young adults craving for truth. I wonder if the move toward libertarianism by the young generation isn’t also part of this desire for truth. Truth that reflects what is really going on in the world. I am curious to see what kind of fiction continues to become popular as time goes on.

Read: “In Defense of Fiction” (Life as a Human)

Overall, I say that fiction is still relevant. If as a culture we need to vent some of our subconscious worries about the world which implodes around us, we’ll find the book to do it. And historically, popular books and movies have done it. Think of the movie “Aliens” and its commentary on Vietnam and the military-industrial complex. Or you can see a whole list of books which have politics as a plot element (from Wikipedia). I believe  one of two things will happen in fiction. Either we’ll see a lot more dystopian and realistic fiction, or the opposite will happen and fantastic elements will continue to reign.

Only time, and maybe a war, will tell.

Screwed: Why Young People Are Turning to Libertarianism

joe_whylibertarian

This week, both Learn Liberty and We Are Libertarians posed the question,  “Why are you a libertarian?” We used the hashtag #wearelibertarians on Twitter, whereas Learn Liberty used Tumblr. The other difference is that they specifically asked the younger generation, whereas we asked everyone.

It really isn’t a hard question to answer. The simplest response is that we are, for the most part, screwed.

My generation faces a very large lack of jobs. If we can find one at all, it isn’t likely to pay the large student loan debt. Debt which, I might add, was not necessary for previous generations. We are of course told that we must accept this lot and that it’s our fault. Just like it’s our fault that we are dumber than previous generations  despite the school reforms made by previous generations. Oh, and we are apparently really entitled and selfish. Because we were the ones who decided to load up on credit card debt and constantly air of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Right.

See: 4 Crushing Statistics that Prove Millennials are Screwed, and 1 Statistic that Still Gives us Hope

We also aged right into the post-9/11 conflicts. Many in our generation were sent over hoping to fight for good, and yet ended up being a bit of the bad guy. Many have been scarred by PTSD, military rape, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The veterans in my generation have a hard time finding jobs and paying for all their bills. We dn’t want yet anther war, and our representatives on both sides keep dragging us into it. We thought Obama would be different; we were wrong. Some of us who are now liberty-loving are so not because we didn’t value liberty before, but that we were disillusioned that our representatives actually believed it, too. And with what seems to be an inevitable war with yet another foreign country on the rise, we’re sure of the fact that our representatives don’t represent us now more than ever.

We grew up with the sense that yes, we could do anything. We also grew up with entertainment via cartoons, movies, and television that inspired us to change. We have less respect for authority than previous generations, in part because of the internet and the equalizing power it gives. We have access to more information than ever before, and we’re not waiting for someone to hand it to us.

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Of course, other things that previous generation subjected us to made us better Americans. Our “liberal” media and education system taught us to value diversity and multiculturalism. We learned that it was OK to be different. We learned to value ourselves and the people around us. So in that respect, the more tolerant to LGBT generation was created by the less-than-tolerant parents. We are as a generation more passionate about social issues than our parents. Life is more important than stuff, and we see it every day.

See: Anti-War Liberals Can Vote Libertarian

We are also an activist generation. The world saw it with the occupy movement, even if t turned to chaos. And the world mocked the movement, as if protesting against the corporate takeover of our government was a waste of time. As if all our problems could be solved through hard work and gumption and less entitlement. We engage in Facebook politics and are probably more involved that we are expected to be. We believe we can change the world and we make it happen, especially through citizen journalism and social media.

The left and the libertarians are growing, whereas the right is shrinking. The left is growing out of the sense of compassion for everyone. This is something libertarians can tap into if we stop talking like Republicans. The right is losing out because people want consistency. We don’t want war or intrusion into private morality. We want government out of small business but we don’t want corporate destruction to buy our politicians, either.We want freedom, minimal government that is also representational, and policy that makes sense and is based on sound economic research…not on a holy book or a good intention.

So yeah. It’s no wonder we’re swinging libertarian. We want solutions, not bumper sticker politics. And libertarianism offers it.

See: Why Young Liberals, Like Me, Will Vote Ron Paul

Whatever You Do, Don’t Use This Logo!

Apparently, there is a whole group of nerds somewhere that really don’t have a sense of humor. They must be humorless INTPs or something who take themselves waaaaaayyy too seriously.

Who are they? Well, I’m glad you asked. They are the lovely men and women [I presume women – come on, there are female cytologists and hackers out there working for the government, amiright?] who work for the NSA, better known as the National Security Agency. This agency has come under scrutiny lately for spying on Americans illegally protecting America a little too vigorously.

The NSA Cares About You.

Awwww. The NSA Cares About You.

 

I say they just don’t have a sense of humor, because they obviously don’t understand the art of parody. I mean they’re not being very good sports. What happened was that a company by the name of Liberty Maniacs made some tee shirts parodying the NSA. They used a company called Zazzle, which allows you to design photo gifts as well as use your own designs to make some money. It’s not a lot of money, but if you’re good you can buy a cappuccino or a slice of cheesecake or something else highly caloric.

Anyway, the guy runs a shop called Liberty Maniacs. They were using Zazzle to host most of their designs; they are still doing that now, actually. But the [again, humorless] people at the NSA decided that Dan McCall was violating copyright laws. So, they asked Zazzle to take it down, and Zazzle cooperated.

See: NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech? (Benn Swan)

Or watch this video below:

See: The Satire/Parody Distinction in Copyright and Trademark Law—Can Satire Ever Be a Fair Use? (ABA)

Fortunately for us, Cafe Press decided to allow the shirt. You can buy it here: http://www.cafepress.com/libertymaniacs/10128143

I actually like this one. Will someone buy it for me in a Medium? I promise to post a picture for whoever will get it for me. Promise!!

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The NSA Jr. Football T-Shirt – $20.99

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Also in ZINGA! blue

 

Now, the funny part about all of this is that a program within the NSA, “Prism,” is guilty of copyright infringement itself. According to Techdirt, the photo was actually taken by Adam Hart-Davis, which you can see in his gallery.

Uh….whoops. But the rules don’t apply to the United States Government, right? Of course not. We’ll gladly drop chemical weapons on other people. We’re ‘MURCA. But if anyone else does it, then holy H-E-Double Hockey Sticks people!

Ugh.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Cryptography professor Matthew Green, who teaches at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, wrote a post about the NSA and their decryption methods. You can see the original post here: http://blog.cryptographyengineering.com/2013/09/on-nsa.html

In the post, he wrote:

The TL;DR is that the NSA has been doing some very bad things. At a combined cost of $250 million per year, they include:

  1. Tampering with national standards (NIST is specifically mentioned) to promote weak, or otherwise vulnerable cryptography.
  2. Influencing standards committees to weaken protocols.
  3. Working with hardware and software vendors to weaken encryption and random number generators.
  4. Attacking the encryption used by ‘the next generation of 4G phones‘.
  5. Obtaining cleartext access to ‘a major internet peer-to-peer voice and text communications system’ (Skype?)
  6. Identifying and cracking vulnerable keys.
  7. Establishing a Human Intelligence division to infiltrate the global telecommunications industry.
  8. And worst of all (to me): somehow decrypting SSL connections.

All of these programs go by different code names, but the NSA’s decryption program goes by the name ‘Bullrun’ so that’s what I’ll use here.

And then he went on to discuss these methods in a way that only a security expert and professor could. It’s a useful post that I highly recommend. So he wrote the post on his blog at Blogger. But his blog also had a mirror on a John Hopkins server. He was asked to delete both, but he did not comply and only removed the mirror that is hosted by the University. (Quick! Someone give that man a bitcoin tip!)

 

See: Revealed: How US and UK Spy Agencies Defeat Internet Privacy and Security (The Guardian) and Secret Documents Reveal N.S.A. Campaign Against Encryption (NYT)

According to ARSTechnica, the reason was that his original post contained the NSA logo. The university insists that the government didn’t tell them to take it down.

The point is this: If political activists and educated citizens cannot criticize the government, then we should all be worried. The point of these tactics is to cause fear in the everyday person. Because the everyday person is not an activist. He is not someone who is willing to go to the end for what is right. And all governments know this. So they will do what they can to discourage dissent, even if the dissent is still legal. This is not without precedence, of course. It has happened in many countries and at many times. Of course, our government is powerful enough that it doesn’t need to wave a gun. Nope. They’re already spying on us, so they know where we are and what we’re saying. They know our dirty little secrets. The trouble won’t come in SS uniforms. It will come with quiet police raids, media mocking, and seemingly unrelated criminal offenses. All they have to do is put up some bogus charge like they did with Dr. Stephen Kurtz.  

The fact is, tactics like this will cause everyday people to think twice. And that is the point, fearful people are silent people.

The Nazis learned that, remember? Even when the victims of the regime had the means and capability to fight back, they usually didn’t. They complied and they died.

Don’t be afraid — be prepared.

Are Libertarians Selfish Jerks?

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As a Libertarian who frequents right-leaning, left-leaning, and independent news sources on a daily basis, I sometimes get to hear what people think of libertarians. The left is particularly angry with libertarians and tends to throw out this insult:

“Libertarians are selfish.” *

The aforementioned qualifier is a common descriptor of libertarianism. Of course, it is also assumed that all libertarians are conservative and that we all love people like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. If you’re here because you think this, then stop and remember: broad generalizations do not work. Got it? Good. Some libertarians are indeed egocentric people. It happens to every party, even yours. It also happens that many libertarians are so keen to talk about what they don’t want government to do that they neglect to talk about what we as private citizens could do instead.

I was reminded of this thought when I heard [Republican] Thomas Kersting talk about children and school lunches:

 


Now I do not deny that there exist libertarians (“conservatarians”) who’d probably agree with this guy. I don’t. At least, not the spirit of it. First, the children who go without already live a life of teachable moments. When I was a kid, there was a time when we had no money, at least not for my lunch. So I took an apple to school. Someone stole my apple so I had nothing to eat. I felt humiliated but did not tell anyone. Finally a teacher came and purchased a lunch for me. I remember that moment. If shame is supposed to be a motivator, then I get why someone should say this (yikes). But in my book that’s not the type of new generation I want to create as a parent and American. The only shame should be the man who boasts about childhood hunger as if it’s an honorable thing to cut kids off.

Stop it.

Now, as far as the problem of childhood hunger. It exists whether we fund poverty programs or not. It always has. What we as libertarians should do is advocate for community-based solutions. What part of the school’s budget can help? Can  local organizations help? What about a faith-based organizations? The local community is best able to identify and overcome these issues. Shaming children (and their parents) doesn’t do anything.

Thing is, being a libertarian is more than getting government out. It’s getting good people in so that “we-the-people” can effect change in the world (as communities) in a way that our government never will. That is libertarianism.

Instead of talking about shaming kids, Mr. Kersting, how about we talk real solutions? Or even the causes of poverty? Or the ineffectiveness of reduced lunch programs? The solution should never be the equivalent of a dunce cap or “poor people deserve it” Solutions can be had if we want them badly enough.

*Some sources:

Bill Maher Rips Ayn Rand, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan 

Libertarians Aren’t All Selfish Jerks

American Libertarianism: Stupid, Selfish, and Mean

Are Libertarians Unusually Selfish?

Does Silence Garner Success in the Digital Age?

braceyourself

I have this acquaintance. She is a year younger than me and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women I know; her significant other is equally attractive. Both own their own businesses and generally do very well for themselves by what I can see. Her business is based on her dog, and she’s damn successful at marketing. What I don’t see, however, is anything about her personal views. She doesn’t post about politics or religion. She doesn’t say anything that could ever really offend anyone, except perhaps people who dislike canines. She is, seemingly, perfect. And of course a lot more hire-able than I will ever be.

I see it elsewhere among my peers. Those who would prefer to fit in rather than speak up, particularly on social media. In an age where employers Google you before hiring, it seems like a necessity. It seems like professionalism and political involvement are mutually exclusive items. As if the best type of person is the quiet person. I tend to see this more often with those who are trying to market something, like the “friend” above. When you are your own brand, saying anything controversial can equate to cutting out a whole section of your customer base. And so the question becomes, among those who are very active in social networks, do you make a living or do you make a difference? In other words, at some point for some entrepreneurs, silence equals success.

See: Is it a Good Idea to Share Your Political Opinions Online?

Social media is not going away anytime soon. The internet is how we find people, locate and apply to jobs, communicate with others, and make a living. And alongside that is a big push for less anonymity online. Google punishes anonymous content. Facebook is the epitome of social media as real people; so is LinkedIn. What is a millennial or young entrepreneur to do if they want to be successful? Apparently, they must shut up.

I especially see it among fiction writers. My work with Genre Book Reviews leads me to network with authors and publishers. I enjoy watching the trends that take place within the field. It is very common for authors to write only about fiction, writing, or their books. There are authors on Twitter who, quite literally, tweet about nothing other than their novels. Which I completely understand as a marketing tactic. But at some point we are all citizens and we all need to step up. And yes, you do have the right to do as you please and not get involved. It’s a poor decision, but one you are free to make.

See: Student Activism Proves Springboard into Politics (The Guardian)

Here at WAL we sometimes talk about our significant others in relation to this “hobby” that is We Are Libertarians. It seems we are all married to someone who isn’t political. My husband, for example, told me the other day that he didn’t have “the luxury” to involve himself in politics like I do. This confused me. He stated that he didn’t have the time to devote to it, therefore he didn’t do it. This is the same man who plays Eve online for a hobby, so I was baffled. Political involvement is not and should not be equated to knitting or MMORPGs. Political involvement affects not only my life, but the life of future generations. My four children have to live in the world that I help shape…that we all help shape. I am of the opinion that we all should learn more about history, political theory, and economics than we know. I say this because only then can we consume media in a way that will empower us to make a difference. Only then can we truly combat the media and the corporate elite. They expect us to be ignorant.

See: The Activist’s Handbook

I wonder about what kind of commitment do people think they need to make. It doesn’t help that “Facebook activism” is discouraged. YES we need to rally. YES we need to donate to causes. But I’ll take what I can get, frankly. Because at some point, politics in the United States will become unavoidable. But when that time comes it will be too late.

Syria: A Woman’s Perspective

John Kerry

Where were you when 9/11 happened?

Personally, I was a freshman in high school when 9/11 happened. I remember the fear that I experienced very vividly. I remember being afraid of nuclear weapons. What I can’t remember is a time when we weren’t involved in some kind of war. I can’t remember a time when our government put more money into its own country than it did into other countries.

I do not come from a specifically pacifist family; I have generations of war veterans in my lineage starting from my great-grandfather on both sides and my grandfather, father, and brother on my dad’s side. I was even born at Walter Reed Army Medical Center back when it was top-notch.

I was raised with the belief that going into the military was honorable and that United States was just, and that some wars needed to be fought. The problem is: The truly “just” wars are the ones the United States seems to always step into way too late. We will let genocide happen when it happens in barren deserts. But if there is oil to control we’ll be there in a heartbeat.

I like to think that I’m an average millennial. I have four children that are young. I have more student loan debt than I will ever pay. I don’t own a house and I only own a car because of family help. I can barely pay my rent and I have already given up hope that the American Dream will ever apply to me.

I am also certain that my government does not represent me. I am even more certain of this when it comes to wars. When I was in high school recruiters were signing everyone up for the war with promises of bonuses. Now in 2013 the sequester has hit the military but the wars haven’t stopped. Our troops are asked to accept less pay for the same work.  We are the aggressor and have generally only incited more violence than we ever curbed.

Why are we saying no to this war?

1. Because we are war weary. Millennials are tired of giving money to other countries and outside causes while at the same time being told that there isn’t enough for the U.S. citizenry.

2. Because we are beginning to see that what we are told and what really goes on are two very different things.

3. Because we don’t want another middle eastern conflict. We are not wanted there and we are not doing much long-term good (in fact, we cause a lot of harm).

4. Because we don’t want more war. We didn’t want the last war. We don’t want the next war. We don’t want this war.

Because this is a proxy war that just enrages tension between Russia and the US.

nowarwithsyria

I know, I know. The government isn’t even calling it “war.” It’s just intervention. It’s supposed to be a limited engagement. But what will happen is that we will act, and then they’ll retaliate, and then we’ll be “justified” in going to war…and we’ll be stuck.

The thing is, nobody wants this.

The People* Don’t Want This

The citizens of the United States don’t want this. Don’t believe me? Here are some numbers from the Pew Research Center:

airstrikesleadtobacklash

 

Several Members of Congress have remarked that nearly 100% of ppl who have contacted them about #Syria are opposed to U.S. military strikes. — Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) September 1, 2013

And it’s not just Amash that’s sharing:

 

I know that nearly everyone I’ve talked to personally is against this war. I don’t think I can name one person who is for it. Here is one quote from a Facebook friend:

 

I am not, for a variety of reasons. I think after the fiasco of “WMD” ages ago, I have a high distrust of the political spectrum. in short, I ask “Who benefits” from anything they push my way?

 

Our Military Community Doesn’t Want This A quick click on #VetsOnSyria and #IDidn’tJoin show that those who have more information about what it takes to actually conduct a war do not want to be in this war.

The men and women who sign up to serve their country are a serious bunch. For the most part they seem to take their job and their role very seriously. So when they say, en mass, that they don’t want this anymore, perhaps the Commander-in-Chief should take notice. How effective can troops be when they hate their job? Or when they are questioning the ethics of their actions? Of course, our military service members don’t have much of a choice. If they follow orders then they are doing a legally correct action (albeit an immoral one). If they don’t follow orders then they are following their conscience but risking legal repercussions in a military court. It’s a gray area that I don’t envy.

 


The U.N. Doesn’t Want This, at Least Not Right Now:

 

“I take note of the argument for action to prevent a future use of chemical weapons,” the U.N. chief added. “At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate the political resolution of the conflict.” — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Syria Attack Illegal Without Security Council Approval, UN Warns

U.N. Chief Says only Security Council Can Order Airstrikes on Syria

 

 

But….. the POTUS Does Want a War with Syria

syrianskillsyrians

 

Our President seems set on going to war with Syria whether anyone wants it or not:

 

 

The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.

As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people.  I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria.  This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.

We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.

Of course, notice that he says, “The future of Syria must be determined by its people…” but ignores his own citizens back home, who clamor to have their representatives take care of THEM. Or at the very least, stop passing laws that make their lives worse.

 

 

…. So do parts of Congress

See this post by Joe Ruiz on finding out how your representative feels about Syria.

Syria Crisis: Obama ‘has the right’ to strike regardless of vote says Kerry


BS33XoZIQAAPPBG.jpg large

 

What I’m Afraid Of

I am afraid of a domestic collapse. I am afraid of the eventual storm that will come to us when our enemies turn on us, especially since we are essentially fighting a proxy war. At what point will we have no allies at all?

I am also afraid of the Fukushima disaster and what it will mean for me and my children down the road.

I’m afraid that I will never be able to own a home, buy a car, or get out of debt. Like, ever.  I’m angry about the entire NSA issue; enraged about the treatment of Manning and Snowden.

And I’m disappointed – disappointed that my country is not what my public education taught me it was. It’s kind of like learning that Santa Claus isn’t real, only with more dire consequences.

 

The Bigger Picture

On the one hand, no one who is against the war is saying that what is going on isn’t horrific, because it is horrific. There have been human rights violations long before the gas was used. But are our actions going to do any good? And what type of country are we creating for our children? After a war or two you can blame it on this party or a bad President. After we’ve done the same thing so many times I must conclude that the country I belong to is corrupt.

There are over two million Syrian refugees right now. Those refugees put strain on already strained countries. Although I’m not sure bombing Syria is going to ease that particular burden anytime soon, nor will it do much to improve relations with the Middle East. One thing  (however) I am sure of: peace is not on the horizon for any of us, anytime soon.

 

Additional Reading:

Just War Theory

The American People Really Don’t Want to Bomb Syria

Syria’s Civil War: No Good Options and So Many ‘Known Unknowns’

Public Opinion Runs Against Air Syrian Airstrikes: Few See U.S. Military Action Discouraging Chemical Weapons Use

U.S. Looked The Other Way on Pakistan Rights Abuses

Raytheon Stock Hits All-time High on Talk of Syrian Invasion

Air Force Not Prepared for Syrian Attack

Not All Interventions Are the Same

U.S. Senate Drafts Military Resolution for Military Strike Against Syria

Chemical Weapons: What You Need to Know

Finding Parallels Between Syria and Iraq

Surgical Strikes an Orwellian Dream (AntiWar)

Mounting Evidence Raises Questions About Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

Stories from Syrian Refugees

 

*By people, I mean the constituents who are represented by individual congress members. You know, the citizens about whom the government is supposed to give a damn.

Military Member Image Source: https://www.facebook.com/ArmedForcesTeaParty

A Dear John Letter to Government

letters_muffet

 

A Dear John Letter to my government. No more wars!

Dear John,

You promised all sorts of great things when we first met. Ideas such as liberty, justice, opportunity, and fair representation were all that you could talk about. And really, I was enthralled. I was head over heels in love with what you stood for.

But over the years you’ve changed. You’ve let old friends sway you. I could no longer hold your ear, and even though you’ve paid me lip service. I no longer have your heart. You’ve made decisions to involve us both in conflicts under the guise that I approved. That I knew the facts and fully supported what was done in my name.

The truth is anything but. The truth is that I’ve never had all the facts. You’ve lied to me about what was really going on; about who was really buzzing in your ear.

You took on mistresses without even bothering to take off your ring. And now that I see it, it’s too late. I’ve allowed your actions to go on for far too long. I’ve believed that maybe things were okay –  denial, I think they call it. Right now, dearest John, I am angry.

Now that I see that you aren’t going to change; that you aren’t going to be what you claimed to be; that you have no desire to become what you were in the beginning, I will no longer hide your secret. I will no longer hide your dirty, laundry and your lies and your greed. I will no longer lend my name to your fights.

Dear John,

This is the end for you and I.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

 

Look Out Limbaugh, Chicks on the Right Hate Women More Than You Do…

cotr_meme

By: Lynn Swayze Wilson

Like any self-respecting woman, I read the much talked about debut post by Chicks on the Right on the Indianapolis Star’s website. Being the only major, local paper (the Indy Star), one does not have many options. The post was a good introduction to the kind of writing that the Indiana-based Chicks on The Right do. Which is to say, vitriolic. I mean, they really give Ann Coulter a run for her money! But where Ann is just one woman, Chicks on the Right (aka COTR) are two blonde “libtard” bashers. Smexy.

The Original

So they begin their oped, “Here’s What Real Feminism Looks Like” with this:

 The word “feminist” has been hijacked by liberals, and we’re taking it back.

I mean, even their lede is full of drama!  Their premise is that feminism was originally a conservative idea that was then “hijacked” by “liberals”, which requires rescuing like a long-locked damsel in distress. I mean, what’s wrong with a premise like that, other than every single part of it? The history of feminism is long and has nothing to do with conservatives, unless you count the women who lead the fight for prohibition as conservative (which I wouldn’t since they literally stood up to their husbands to be political activists). What about other historical “feminists?” Kitty Marion, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Madame Wei Tao-Ming were NOT women that fit the conservative mold. Some were allegedly even lesbians. These were women that did anything but protect tradition. Conservatism is by definition an ideology that favors tradition (“the disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change.” source).

Conservatism is, at its core, a lack of conscience, and it is anything but what the libertarian woman stands for. As a libertarian woman, I don’t feel the need to (so hatefully) bash other women in the process of advancing liberty. My liberty is not advanced by trampling on people. My inherent worldview is that women, even women like COTR, have a right to be hateful. If women do not wish for an abortion, I will not push them to have one. If they do not wish to teach their children that all humans have inherent worth, who am I to force them? I can discuss rationally with them, and I can empower my own children with the kind of peaceful discourse I want to see in the world. What Chicks on the Right and women like them don’t have a right to do is go along without any sort of rebuttal. They don’t have a right to spew hatred unchallenged. Nor will they or the Indianapolis Star receive financial support by way of donations or subscriptions from this chick.

The rest of the article is more of the same conservative drama that repels endears millions of women to the party each year. They spend the rest of the article calling liberal women, “harpies” who want “guilt-free abortions” and who “defin[e] themselves entirely by their ‘lady parts.’ ”

yayvaginas

The fact that these women have decided to “take back” feminism shows that feminism has succeeded.

Feminism has long sought to empower women and give them a voice. To help women stand up for their rights, beliefs, and interests. And if even conservative women feel the need to embrace the ideology, then feminism is not dead.

On the other hand it seems that they really took to heart the brand of feminism that really hates women. I’m not sure who is worse when it comes to woman-bashing: Chicks on the Right, or Rush Limbaugh. At least with Rush we can just call him a schmuck and keep on moving. What’s your excuse, ladies? Laziness? It’s easy to only take cheap shots a la Rush, Ann Coulter, and others. It’s like kicking a guy in the groin and claiming victory. Sure you win, but did you play fair? Where’s the real discussion? And how does simply bashing other women, particularly women who don’t subscribe to your version of politics, really advance feminism? So we all sound like “screeching harpies.” Great. That works for feminism. Why don’t we just throw tampons at each other while we’re at it?

If real feminism is anything, it is embracing the idea that women really are a versatile lot. It means that my brand of womanhood won’t match someone else’s. My brand of womanhood is different than Gena’s, Miah’s, or my mother’s. If there is any brand of feminism I can get behind, it’s that one.

Around the Web

The Indianapolis Star took on a guest columnist who wrote a follow-up to the original article, “Why The Chicks on the Right are wrong”.

And they also posted a few letters to the editor:

“What do Chicks on the Right think about abortion, birth control?”

“Chicks on the Right showed arrogance”

“Planned Parenthood CEO: Chicks on the Right Wrong about Feminism”

Of course, so did XO Jane, “‘Chicks on the Right’ Think Liberal Feminists Are Doing it Wrong”. And Jezebel, “Conservative ‘Chicks’ Finally Explain, Like, The Rules of Feminism“.

And Punchnel’s : “An Open Letter to Chicks on the Right”

And Total Frat Move: “Chicks on the Right Explain why Liberal ‘Feminists’ Have Tarnished the Word”

And Nerdy Feminist: “Chicks on the Right…You’re So Wrong”

Thankfully for all those who just can’t get enough of Ann Coulter-wannabes, Chicks on the Right also wrote a follow-up piece: Settle In, Folks. It’s Our Official Response To Our Indy Star Column Detractors.

Swayze: Progressive Libertarianism

empathy

Note: Read Greg’s post, “Libertarians Restoring Morality Through Choice”, which partly influenced this post.

I have struggled to really understand my problems with the Libertarian Party. Much of it had to do with the fact that I come from a left-leaning background and not a right-leaning background like some of the other contributors here on WAL. I have called myself a “Liberal Libertarian” for some time now. Only recently did I find out that my viewpoint actually has a name: Progressive Libertarianism. You can read the platform here.

Here are some of the questions that led me to where I am now, and why I don’t really care about labels.

What If….

What if Libertarian candidates were never elected? What if the Libertarian Party never grows? What if people do not, in the end, become Libertarians?  (With a capital L?)

Is the cause still worthwhile?

I would say yes. I believe that libertarianism (small L) has a purpose in society that is more important than elections. At least right now, anyway. I believe that our purpose as libertarians in this moment in American history is to educate so that change can happen. We may be the only ones who will say, “both sides are bad”. (Except for maybe the Conservatarians. Yes. I’m looking at you.) We as libertarians have a passion for Truth. We have a passion for liberty, justice, and equality. Many of us really do want to see America achieve good things. We want to succeed and see others succeed.

Is only pushing for Libertarian Party growth enough?

No. I completely agree with those who say that we must be involved in the legislative process. Absolutely. But that is not enough. It can’t be. In the end, our goal should be to change how people think about their government regardless of their party affiliation. Or abolish the party line of thinking altogether. Practically, I am not sure it is possible to convince the entire population to swing as far as we’d like. But in the end, I don’t really care. I’d just like it to swing. And frankly, I don’t want something worse than what we have to come about because of revolution.

Think about it. What is your “end goal?” It differs between us libertarian-minded individuals, but in general we can all probably agree on smaller government that stays within its budget, a government that isn’t run by corporations, a government that has the good of the people in mind, and a government that is truly representative. What if those means are eventually met without the Libertarian Party? Is such a thing possible? And if so, is it good?

Why Do We Need a Cultural Shift?

The problem liberty-minded individuals have right now, in my opinion, is that the public is 1) uneducated about politics and the truth of things, and 2) unwilling to see even when presented with facts. Facts are not going to change those who refuse to see them. I’m not sure what will, but it’s a fundamental problem that we have to address. What if taking the party out and replacing it with just the concepts is what is needed to make the end goals possible? People do not want to believe that their government is run by corporations and large donors/lobbyists that will take away personal liberties without qualms in order to achieve power/wealth/special favors. People see it all the time yet refuse to believe that it’s happening. Why? Because acceptance may require action. Acceptance may require embracing “the other side” (either liberal or conservative or both). Acceptance equals a loss of comfort. It’s comfortable to ignore the reports that speak of politicians being bought, the government spying and targeting normal civilians, and other atrocities. It’s comfortable to ignore the lack of justice. It’s comfortable to ignore real media and to instead only swallow what aligns with our views. It’s much more distressing to accept that we are not the constituents being represented (the lobbyists are) and that we are viewed as the enemy. It’s harder to accept that we may be purposefully dumbed down, and that we can change this.

In the end, we shouldn’t really care about party. At least I don’t. Party divisions, including the LP, are not in themselves a better solution. The fact that our movement is co-opted by large lobbyists in the form of the Koch brothers ignores that this is the problem with American government. We don’t have a meritocracy of representatives who have experience in their fields who also want to reason out the best answer. We don’t even have representatives that talk to each other. I care about results. I care about creating a nation that won’t give me nightmares. A nation that I’m not afraid to send my children into. I would like to see Americans as educated and enlightened as our European counterparts. I want to see a mainstream media that isn’t afraid to perform real journalism. (More on that later.) I would like to see the military complex turned down a few notches. I would like there to be more justice and equality in our country. (I mean really – why are we one of the last countries to allow same-sex marriage?) I would like to see the billions of dollars that are pumped into government thrown into other things, like eliminating poverty, creating jobs, and reducing educational costs for citizens (which, in turn, would help with poverty levels and other things).

The problem with our cause is that we are essentially fighting ourselves. American culture is an individualistic one that has a hard time accepting that some things are in the interest of the whole country. We’d rather tow some ideology than say, “this is good for us as a society.” Is allowing gay couples to marry a good thing? Yes. Is reducing the number of people incarcerated a good thing? Yes. Is making it so that everyone can get a low-cost secondary education a good thing? Yes! I hear so many say “Well, I don’t want to pay for other people.” Well guess what? You already are. You pay for high education costs in everything, especially in your medical bills and legal fees. You pay for the high cost of education when more people have to go on food stamps. You pay for it in its ripple effects on our economy. So go ahead, keep sounding like a jerk. I’m certainly not going to listen.

I believe that we libertarians sometimes confuse the real issue. We are so “anti-government” that we forget to be “for” anything. Corporations are not citizens and should not ask the government for favors and then promote injustice. People are citizens. We need to be for the people. If anything I am anti-corporatist more than I am anti-government. I am not an anarchist only because I don’t think it’s possible as a goal. Unlike conservative-leaning libertarians, I could give a rats behind about the good of Wal-Mart and its “right” to pay people as little as it likes or its “right” to discriminate against the LGBT community.

Okay, so let’s run with that. Instead of arguing that the government shouldn’t mandate wages or discrimination laws (maybe it shouldn’t), why not advocate what the solution is? And that solution is changing our culture. Why do we have a culture that accepts gratuitous violence, misogyny, racism, homophobia, uneducated media, and excessive litigation? Why? Would we be better off if as a people were we able to say, “this is wrong!” and then to have our representatives actually agree? If anything, liberals have it right. We need to challenge culture so that people don’t shop at Wal-Mart at all.  Or that at least people throw a stink about the Walton’s riches coming at the expense of the workers. We should at least pretend to care. People are not free if they are in poverty. People cannot rationally question their government as concerned citizens if they are in poverty. At least not without revolts. We need to care. And that is why I am a Progressive Libertarian and not a Conservatarian.

Why Change That Both “Sides” Can Accept?

In the end, I think our role as libertarians needs to be to that of a change culture. Because changing how American citizens think about issues will result in our end goals being met, at least somewhat. And somewhat is better than never in my opinion. I for one would love to at least see the pendulum swing in the right direction. We can worry about foreskins and other nonsense at another time, when laws are actually just and aren’t written by lobbyists with agendas that have nothing to do with the American people.

When the American people can say, “We do not want career politicians,” and do something about it, then we will have succeeded.

When the American people say, “We do not want media that is owned entirely by one group,” and do something about it, then we will have succeeded.

When the American people say, “this politician must go because they have special interests,” and do something about it, then we will have succeeded.

People are not taking to the streets because they are not yet enlightened. It is our job to enlighten them. Greg Lenz has good ideas about brainstorming solutions. In the end the people just need to stop swallowing the damn blue pill and wake up to reality before we can really implement any of the solutions we talk about. We are here to help. And in many ways I think we are helping, even if we aren’t seeing people convert to libertarianism. I, for one, am perfectly okay with that.

Progressive Libertarianism, for me, is the best mix of liberty and empathy. If we are not for justice, then who will be? Poverty is not just, especially when the system is rigged in favor of the rich by a bloated government. That favoritism is worse, in my opinion, than “stealing money” to give to the poor (through welfare systems). Anyone who argues more strongly against welfare systems than against tax loopholes and laws that favor the uber-rich do not see how truly unjust their rhetoric is. I agree with Greg that we need to encourage individual morality. Although if we could do it without sounding like jerks that’d be nice, too.