L. Neil Smith's
Number 186, August 12, 2002


by John Taylor

Exclusive to TLE

OK, there's this guy, see, and he's got this web site, see, and all over his site he has a whole bunch of stuff that he claims is libertarian. (I'd give you the URL and the guy's name, but this is one of those rare cases where the schmuck doesn't deserve the recognition, even though avid TLE'ers would descend on him like a pack of ravenous, slavering hounds, and that would make me very, very happy.

One of the things he has on his site is the text of a message he claims to have sent to El Neil, one which he claims El Neil never answered. Well, if he did send it, and if Himself saw it and read it, I'd say it shows patience far exceeding that of Job for him not to have responded with a stupefyingly withering rejoinder. I guess Neil was feeling charitable toward this poor schlemiel.

I'm not.

In his screed, "BirdShit" (I've chosen, for reasons of my own, to call him "BirdShit", hereafter just "BS") is straining mightily (sort of Elvis-like) to produce a smoking turd from Neil's words. And while he does manage to generate some wet, runny prose, it's his own anal leakage, not someone else's.

In particular, BS seeks to discredit Neil through the Non-Aggression Principle. It seems BS thinks that the NAP is "just plain stupid". Why? Well, BS says:

"The most obvious case of stupidity is where you discover that someone is planning to use force against you, but hasn't quite done it yet. A case in point is Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union: It has now been established beyond a reasonable doubt that Stalin was planning to invade the Reich, and Hitler's attack was preemptive."

Presumably, BS' point is that if someone is going to use force against you, you are right to use force against them preemptively, and anything else is "just plain stupid". So, the contemporary application of that thinking is that Dubyito Busholini is right to mastermind the invasion of Iraq, because Saddam Hussein is "planning to" attack the U.S.

The problem with BS' thesis is that there's a big difference between the old quotation "To ensure peace, prepare for war" and BS' version, "To ensure peace, start a war". It would be absurd to give credit to either Stalin or Hitler for clear thinking; why couldn't one argue that Hitler invaded Russia because he knew that Stalin was planning to invade Germany, because Stalin knew that Hitler was planning to break the treaty himself? You just can't say with certainty that something is going to happen until it does happen. (Which is not to say that you cannot prepare to defend yourself if you think you're about to be attacked!)

As if realizing the muck that is his foundation, BS proceeds to argue that "'force' is a weasel word that slips and slides around like a greased pig in a mud puddle." But BS has to argue that, lacking any logical rebuttal to either Smith or the NAP. When in doubt, deflect the issue from content to semantic nit=picking.

BS then proceeds to torture the meaning of Joan Baez's lyric "Some people rob you with a gun, some with a fountain pen", claiming that the point of the phrase is

"... that robbery, deceit, and other tools in the bag of tricks of the modern-day hucksters, quacksalver artists and other con-men and ought-to-be con-victs constitute wrong acts which may need to be righted by -- gasp! -- FORCE."

Well ... no. The point of the lyric, as it relates to the use of force, is that there is more than one way to aggress against someone.

BS continues,

"So whether you call these tricks 'force' or something else, they constitute aggression in a real and significant sense, and if you have been the victim of some of these tricks, then it may just start to make sense to you that a very good remedy for such stuff -- and in fact the ONLY remedy in most cases is -- gasp! again! -- FORCE."

And this is his argument against the NAP?

And this is his argument against the NAP!

Now BS is not the only person in this world whose vocabulary, while perusing the NAP, suddenly fails to ercognize the word "initiate". Time and again, I see people reading past that word in the NAP, then blithely dismissing the principle because "sometimes force is necessary".

OK, one more time (in all capitals for those who are "reading comprehension challenged"):


And anyone who knew anything about L. Neil Smith's decades of activism, millions of words written, or scores of speeches and interviews given, would know that Smith is probably not a man on whom you want to test out your initiation of force.

OK, I believe I know what you might be thinking right about now. "Why is Taylor, mild-mannered [sic] editor for a great libertarian newsletter, so exercised about this BS guy and his indefensible logic?"

All right, you got me. BS couldn't possibly be so stupid, so irretrievably obtuse, so moronically illogical as to actually believe what he's written about Smith and the NAP. He writes well, knows how to turn a phrase -- my personal favorite:

"It reminded me a little of Hitler's famous 'Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer!', and even more of what I think of those randy Randians, who apparently think of themselves as God-pure libertarians who have substituted Rand for Jesus, and who yell in their echolailic ecstatic mouth-frothing frenzy, 'Ein Volk, ein Right, Ayn Rand!'")

but he has chosen to use his powers for evil rather than good. For, you see, BS has an ugly side, which I must reluctantly reveal to you.

"... a glance at his website, lneilsmith.org, shows him to be locked in a two-man daisy chain with Aaron Zelman, the founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership; so it is possible that my comments on the Foreskinners may have caused him to believe that I was affected with a touch of bigotraceousness. And of course when you are a Big Man Libertarian who is put down by a Small Man Libertarian, particularly when the latter appears to be affected by a touch of bigotraceousness and the put-down is well-done, that easily ranks as a Chef's Special Combo that provides at least two and a half reasons not to answer."

Well, BS may be right. Perhaps the paragraph above does reveal, albeit unintentionally, the best reason not to answer. It seems that BS has a bit of an "agenda", and that is one reason I choose not to give his name, or the URL to his web site.

In his message, BS also

  • ridicules Smith because he doesn't use his first name (I wonder how BS feels about G. Gordon Liddy?),

  • implies that Smith is a Randian,

  • attempts to somehow tar Smith because the LP once promoted the NAP (BS doesn't like the LPUS -- so even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then, I guess!), and

  • decries LNS for using inflammatory language ("fightin' words") toward those who do not accept the NAP (a serious case of "pot-kettle-itis")

That last bullet broadside can best be explained by noting that it appears that BS read LNS' words ...

"There is, of course, a sizable number of individuals who crave the protective coloration that calling oneself a libertarian can sometimes afford, but who also wish to reserve some right they imagine they have to initiate force -- or perhaps more accurately, have forced initiated for them -- against others should it serve their purpose. [...]

"Disagree with the above -- with any of the above -- and you're not a libertarian, nor are you an individualist. You're just another piece of collectivist trash, attempting to whitewash taking it on yourself to mete out group-punishment to folks as a whole who never did you any harm."

... actually understood them, and didn't particularly like the person he saw described therein.

But then, it appears that there are many people -- whole classes, in fact -- that BS doesn't particularly like. So maybe being in that same category is an honor he doesn't deserve.


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