Keith Preston (about whose work I’ve blogged here and here) has long been controversial in left-libertarian circles; he’s attracted praise for his economic analysis (see, e.g. his excellent essay “Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy”), but criticism for a) his big-tent strategy of making common cause with all opponents of the central state, including ethnic separatists, racists, bigots, and the like; b) his favouring of ethnic and otherwise insular enclaves as the “natural” outcome of anarchy; and c) his increasingly insulting (e.g., homophobic and transphobic) language.
Well, tonight I return from (perhaps appropriately) San Francisco to find that Keith’s (b) and (c) have just dynamited his (a) – confirming my thick-libertarian suspicions about how attractive and repulsive forces operate in the Space of Reasons. Keith has penned an angry, whiny, bigoted, abusive, bridge-burning screed (you’ve gotta read it to believe it) calling for anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-patriarchal, pro-immigrant, and pro-counterculture folks to be purged from the anarchist movement.
This is the kind of thing the paleolibertarians used to say (back before most of them retreated from this suicidal strategy), but at least the paleolibertarians weren’t trying to build a big-tent movement, so their position made some kind of sense. But Keith, as Kevin Carson notes, has “‘evolved,’ if you can call it that, from a willingness to share a tent with racists and homophobes for the sake of defeating Empire as the primary enemy, to promoting an active purge of anti-racists and gays from the anti-Empire movement … in order to appease the right wing of [his] coalition.”
In 1773, Benjamin Franklin penned a piece ironically titled “Rules By Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One.” Maybe Keith read it and didn’t catch the irony – because in the name of defending his big-tent strategy, he’s been taking an axe to the tentpole, prompting a flurry of hasta la vistas from the left-libertarian blogosphere (see Kevin Carson, Royce Christian, Mike Gogulski, Charles Johnson, Brad Spangler, Darian Worden, the ALL Forums, and now me with a belated ditto – go read ’em, at least they’ve all saved me the trouble of making this post much longer).
Keith’s critics have long charged that his willingness to make common cause with racists, sexists, and homophobes was a sign of his own racism, sexism, and homophobia; Keith’s defenders have insisted that it was all just part of the big-tent strategy against the Real Enemy. Well, Keith has now clearly decided that he prefers a coalition with racists, sexists, and homophobes to a coalition with anti-racists, anti-sexists, and anti-homophobes; make what you will of that. Make likewise what you will of Keith’s references to “psychologically damaged personalities … pissed-off, man-hating dykes with an excess of body hair … self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered ‘gender identity’,” which some of us politically-correct types might be hyper-sensitive enough to interpret as indicative of some sort of prejudice on Keith’s part, despite his assurances that, ooh, he’s personally known gays he didn’t hate and nonwhite women he was broad-minded enough to fuck. (It’s also strange how our lack of enthusiasm for Keith’s intolerant right-wing buddies is diagnosed by him as intolerance on our part, but their lack of enthusiasm for us cultural-lefty types is not similarly diagnosed.)
In any case, Keith’s big-tent ambitions, whatever life they ever had, are evidently dead – and at their master’s hands, to boot. Keith concludes:
I suggest that those of us who want to have a non-leftoidal anarchist movement simply go about building one, and ignore the personal attacks that will continue to be thrown our way.
Mutatis mutandis, amen. Keith is marching off in his creepy coalition and we’re dancing away in our cool one. May the best coalition win!