Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 593, October 31, 2010

"These times aren't exiting, they are downright exhilarating!"

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My Tea Party
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

So we Tea Partiers cling bitterly to our guns and religion, do we, Barry? Well, everybody seems to cling to something. Liberals cling to their envy and resentment. Republicans cling to their golf clubs.
—L. Neil Smith

The proverbial Chinese wish, "May you live in interesting times" isn't always a curse, although it has seemed like that for most of our lives.

Billy Joel did an amazing job summing up the dark side of the last half of the 20th century in his 1989 song, "We Didn't Start the Fire", attempting, it says here, to demonstrate that All the Trouble in the World, as P.J. O'Rourke put it, is not the fault of us Baby Boomers. Most news is bad news, as Lord Acton might have observed if he'd ever seen CNN. There's always plenty of trouble and plenty of blame to go around.

Bad news is easier. As a novelist, I can assure you that writing post-apocalyptic distopias is a piece of cake. Making movies out of them is like falling off a log. Nobody likes being cold. Nobody likes being hungry. Nobody likes being afraid all the time. Tattered clothing, rusting machinery, ruined cities all look pretty much the same, no matter the specific nature of the events that made them that way.

Futures in which people are happy, however, where they enjoy peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity, are harder because each of us has a different answer to the classic question "What is the good?" And letting people know what makes you happy is a risk. It might make you look ridiculous. I confess that I like liver and onions, BB Bats, bluegrass, Maria Muldaur, and Joanne Kelly. And there's a Captain Bringdown somewhere with the dubious talent—and the sneer-power—to make every one of those purely personal joys appear absurd or even contemptible.

So what? There's something else that's been making me very happy lately, and frankly I don't give a chipmunk's cheeks who knows or what they may think about it. After years, decades, what even seems like centuries of unremittingly putrescent political news, we are suddenly all witnesses to the spectacular emergence of the so-called Tea Party movement.

The Tea Parties are just one of a number of historically pivotal developments (including the Internet, conservative talk radio, and perhaps even on-demand publishing) that became necessary to get over, under, around, and through the Great Wall of the Northeastern Liberal Establishment and its numberless, faceless hordes of duly appointed gatekeepers.

In that sense, the Tea Parties are exactly what the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left always aspired to be and never really were.

Just like each of those other developments, the Tea Parties are essentially a medium of communications. So far, they are leaderless and centerless (and at all costs, must remain that way). They have no founders, and no headquarters. They have no constitution, no by-laws, and no platform to argue over endlessly. More conventionally-minded politicrats might view all of these qualities as weaknesses, but they would be mistaken. As presently (un)constituted, Tea Parties can't be taken over by high school student government types or mercenaries from the major political parties, who have nothing better to do with their lives.

I would point out, especially in the light of the recent Bob Barr embarrassment, that this arrangement is inexpressibly better suited to libertarians and to libertarianism than any formal, hierarchical structure copied from the other political parties (and I have been doing exactly that for almost thirty years) but that would be a digression.

Wouldn't it?

Your Tea Party may look a little different from mine. That's inevitable, and it's a good thing. The Tea Parties have become the last free marketplace for ideas left in America. You can't truthfully say, "Tea Partiers oppose abortion". Some of them do, certainly. Maybe the overwhelming majority. But not all of them, not by any means. I don't.

I suppose it's possible that some Tea Partiers aren't particularly interested in the individual right to own and carry weapons, or don't like guns at all, although it isn't very likely. Equally, I'm sure, if you looked hard enough, you could find some racists among their number.

And some of them might be white.

In my political experience, however, the most bigoted individuals and organizations are liberal individuals and liberal organizations: those who assume that, because you're black, you need a hand-up from superior white folks like them; those who assume, cynically, if not nihilistically, that if you actually believe in anything—and admit it—you're a naive idiot; those who assume that, because you own firearms, advocate self-defense, and adhere to the Bill of Rights, you're some kind of "wingnut" Nazi redneck; those who've forgotten (if they ever new) that Hitler and the Nazis were socialists, just like them.

Just like them.

There are things I don't like about what seems to be a majority of the Tea Party movement, just as I expect that there are things they wouldn't like about me. I am utterly opposed to all current wars, both foreign and domestic. I find it particularly difficult to rely on or even take seriously the intellectual processes of any individual who denies the scientifically established truth of evolution by natural selection.

These are things I plan to keep an eye on in the future and fight over if they make it necessary, but we have bigger problems now. Much bigger. And no Tea Partier I know of wants to take half of my money away. Or my guns. Or my house and land. No Tea Partier wants to round me and my family up and herd us into hundred-story tenements to clear the land and return it to nature—and, of course, to the politically elite nomenklatura who will be allowed to build their personal dachas there and maintain a staff of pretty and compliant peasant slaves.

No Tea Partier that I know of believes that what the Earth needs is another Great Plague. Or that we must be forced to stop using incandescent light bulbs, driving automobiles and eating meat. Or that reducing the human population ninety percent is a goal worth striving for. No Tea Partier wants to march us all down some country road somewhere until we collapse and they can beat our heads in with rifle butts.

And shovels.

But, and this is vitally important, nearly everybody on the other side—the liberal side, the "progressive" side, the Democratic side, the socialist side, the Marxist side, the communist side, the Harry Reid side, the Nancy Pelosi side, the Barack and Michelle Obama side, the Hillary and Waco Willy Clinton side—nearly everybody on that other side believes in and ardently advocates some or all of those things.

The United Nations calls the worst of it "Agenda 21".

Look it up. They're proud of it.

So, until we finally fling the mass-murdering cannibals who currently rule us onto the reeking, oozing garbage-heap of history where they belong, and are free to deal with other, less-pressing matters, I will stand by, and I will stand for, and I will stand in the Tea Party movement, or at least my little libertarian corner of it.

I will surrender nothing of my principles, nothing of my personal integrity (not that anybody seems to be demanding it) but I will do my best to share my understanding of history and human nature, all of the things that led me to become a libertarian 48 years ago and have kept me a libertarian since then, until I convince my fellow travelers I'm right, or at least convince myself that it's safe for us to agree to disagree.

Which is what America was supposed to be all about.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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