Update: For dispute over the accuracy of some of the details of the following story, see this post, though the essential outline seems to be true to some extent (weasel words pending further info!).
In the following letter, Jim Davidson explains why hes boycotting Freedom Fest. Evidently event organizer Mark Skousen favours abolishing reasoned debate in favour of trial by combat which seems a little odd in a movement supposedly dedicated to upholding persuasion over force, but then after all Skousen is a
thug asshole upwardly mobile Klingon maverick thinker:
So, Mark Skousen has again invited me to speak at FreedomFest.com
The last time he invited me was in November 2004, and that was for his event in July 2005. I had initially agreed to speak, but was very concerned by something he arranged in New Orleans at the Blanchard show.Doug Casey had spoken out against the war in Iraq. In particular, he had said that while it was wrong to demonise the soldiers returning from Vietnam, it was also wrong to deify the soldiers in Iraq. Some Vietnam era veteran took offense, for some reason. Probably because the vet was a thug and thought Doug should be beaten up for being an atheist and an anarchist.
Skousen and Doug were both on the dais for the Saturday night banquet. First, Skousen came out with a jesters cap, called it a dunce cap, and put it on Dougs head. Doug took the time to correct him. Then Skousen called the Vietnam vet Bill forward and introduced him to the audience. He then insisted that Doug go off the dais and wrestle Bill. Doug did so, in spite of recent injuries from being thrown by a horse, and actually won the wrestling match.
After the event, I asked Skousen why he arranged for a physical confrontation between a speaker and a member of the audience. Skousen said that because what Doug said had offended the vet, Skousen felt that there should be a physical contest to resolve the matter of honor.
Naturally, I then asked Skousen if I were to say anything in Las Vegas at his event in July 2005 which someone felt was offensive, or pretended to be offended by, would he arrange for a grudge match. He said that he would, and that he believed it was a principle that any time someone is offended by what someone else says, they should be able to beat that person up.
So, I withdrew my consent to be a speaker.
This year, desperate for someone to talk about science fiction, Skousen has again invited me. I have again inquired about the matter of the wrestling match. Here is his latest thought on the matter.
The vet was expressing outrage by Doug in his insensitive comments about veterans, and thats all. If you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Clearly, Skousen is a moron who thinks that speakers should be afraid of the audience. He wants to intimidate speakers into speaking a mainstream point of view. He does not want speakers to say anything radical, interesting, or offensive. And if you do encounter someone who is offended by you, Skousen wants to arrange for that person to beat you up.
It is all very tedious. So, I suggest that people avoid his nasty event.
What I want to know is: if Im offended by Skousens view that you have the right to beat up anyone who offends you, does that mean that I do get to beat him up or that I dont get to?
“the essential outline seems to be true”
I respectfully disagree. Skousen denies the material allegations.
I thought what Skousen admitted to was milder than, but broadly similar to, what Davidson alleged. Though at this point I’m not inclined to regard either one as especially reliable.
Has Doug Casey given any account of the incident from his point of view? It would certainly be helpful if he did.
Re Casey: Not to my knowledge. I’ve written him.
Mark says the “wrestling match” was a playful arm wrestle. I think that is significantly different from Davidson’s story. Mark also denies holding or saying he holds the views that Davidson attributes to him about physical confrontation in response to offense.
Yes, as I said, Skousen’s version is milder. Still, trying to get speakers to arm wrestle their critics is obnoxious. And I doubt that what seems playful to Skousen would seem playful to others.
By the way, Jim’s original version of the account agrees with Skousen’s account that it was Indian wrestling and that it was a draw. I think that actually helps Jim’s case somewhat, suggesting that the later description was bad memory and not distortion.
But it would really help if Doug Casey were to speak out — since both Jim and Skousen are in effect invoking him as their witness.
But did you have grounds to believe that he would take the unlibertarian position attributed to him? I have not known him to take an unlibertarian position at the basic level.
Right now I’m inclined to believe only what Skousen himself actually admitted to–the part about playful arm-wrestling. All the stuff about his subsequent conversations with Davidson, including his alleged assertions that anyone offended by a remark is entitled to beat up the target of his ire, I’m strongly inclined to dismiss as the product of Davidson’s (ahem) fertile imagination.
His “impression” of Sheldon’s biased comment editing policy, based on absolutely no concrete evidence, his bizarre insinuations about Sheldon’s financial incentive to favor Skousen over him, and his bizarre insinuations about the CIA money backing Skousen, all incline me to doubt a claim by Davidson that the sun would rise in the east tomorrow.
I think we’re dealing with another Lloyd Miller or Tony Hollick here.
I witnessed none of this. But I believe Mark and Doug go way back. Mark is fond of stunts. I can picture him suggesting in public that the vet and Doug arm wrestle. Doug, being of good humor, may have agreed. It doesn’t mean Mark would have pulled this with any other speaker.
To leave out the word “arm” when describing wrestling is to deceive, in my view.
I agree that it’s misleading. Jim’s original description of it as Indian wrestling is less misleading, although Indian wrestling can be either arm or leg. Indian arm wrestling involves a bit more than what’s usually called arm wrestling, though (since Indian arm wrestling involves attempting to knock the other person onto the floor), and it’s not clear to me whether what Skousen arranged was genuine knock-your-opponent-over Indian arm wrestling or plain old seated-at-a-table paleface arm wrestling.
Speaking of Skousen’s “stunts,” Gary North recounts in Read Rothbard and deSoto an incident where Skousen, North, and Friedman were at dinner; to illustrate his point that current paper currency had no gold promise, he asked Friedman to produce a $20 bill, whereupon Skousen tore it up. This angered Friedman, and he was not easily mollified even when Skousen tried to make nice by offering to replace it with a $20 gold piece. Seems like an awfully jerkish thing to do.
In that piece North seems to think Friedman’s annoyance was based solely on his attachment to the system of fiat money. But I, having no such attachment, would also have been annoyed. The fact that I would have consented to the exchange if asked doesn’t entitle someone to just go ahead and perform the trade without asking me.
I read the same story in one of the Milton Friedman obits (I think maybe in Liberty). But my understanding is that Skousen wasn’t offering Friedman the gold coin to “make nice” after Friedman had been offended; the whole thing was an orchestrated stunt to present Friedman with the gold coin as a gift. (The “making nice” part was when Skousen also gave him a $20 bill out of his own wallet as a replacement for the torn bill.)
Pretty stupid stunt, if you ask me; the man seems to have a knack for that.
Regarding relative credibility, if for no other reason, Davidson’s conduct — and baseless statements about me — tilt the scale in Skousen’s favor. Davidson’s harping defensiveness don’t create an aura of credibility.
I googled both of those names (Lloyed Miller and Tony Hollick) and didn’t come up with anything.