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L. Neil Smith's
Number 783, August 10, 2014

Obedience is an attribute of slaves

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Introducing Libertarianism to the Mainstream
by Sean Gangol

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Not too long ago J. Neil Schulman wrote an article about how the libertarian movement should concentrate on projects that appeal more to the mainstream as opposed to putting so much effort into academic work. I have to say that I couldn't agree more with Schulman's analysis. I think one of the biggest mistakes ever made by those in our movement was trying to put their full effort in trying to reach those in academia instead of trying to win over those in the mainstream. What people seem to forget is that there are people in academia who are snobby elitists who like having a monopoly on knowledge and care very little about educating the masses.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that we shouldn't focus any of our time on academia because left-wing statists do seem to have a virtual monopoly in that area. They also write the history books, which are full of distortions that they use to further their agendas. While making a splash in academia is somewhat important, I think when it comes to reaching the most people, academia is not the way to go.

For one thing, if you ever had to endure academic writing like I had while earning my history degree at UHD, then you would know that the writing is incredibly dry and boring. When I first started reading the atrocious writing that I was assigned in college, it became quite clear why so many people find history boring. It's not that I am expecting every historical writer to have dramatic flair, but the least they can do is make it relevant and straight forward. Alternative History writer Harry Turtledove said it best that historians are some of the worst writers.

I can't say that historic writing is the only writing that suffers from being dry and uninteresting. It seems to be a common problem with all forms of nonfiction. I remember downloading some obscure libertarian books on my Nook, only to find out why these God awful works were so obscure. They were just as dry as the academic literature that I had to read in college. There was one book that was about retooling The Libertarian Party, which would sound like a good idea for a book, but the author managed to ruin it by filling the pages full of charts and graphs. For anyone planning to write libertarian nonfiction, try to keep charts and graphs out of it as much as possible. Nothing will make a layman shut a book faster than charts and graphs.

It's not to say that we haven't had any good libertarian nonfiction. We have had plenty. There have also been good economists such as Tom Woods and Thomas Sowell, who also happen to be decent writers. However, you probably won't see too many people lining up to buy books on economics. So I think the best way to reach people is through fiction. While we do have plenty of great libertarian novels, we have yet to make any big contributions to the big screen. Sadly, fewer people are reading books like they used to, so movies are going to be our best bet in getting our message across.

I know that there are people who would say that this is easier said than done. I am not going to lie to you, it won't be easy. Making movies without the backing of any major studio is never easy. You don't have the same special effects or the production values that you would see in a Michael Bay movie. Though we do know that it is possible to have a successful independent movie. It's just that you never really know what will be the next Clerks, The Blair Witch Project or My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Unless we decide to take that risk we never really know whether it's possible to create a libertarian movie that becomes a break out hit or a movie that graces the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.

There are a few things to consider before pursuing something as ambitious as a libertarian themed movie. First, all aspiring film makers should know their limitations. Since they are going to be working on a limited budget, they probably aren't going to want to attempt to create a movie on the same scale as Ben Hur or Braveheart. There are plenty of other genres that we can explore, such as action, drama, and even comedy. I have actually been working on a comedic libertarian script for the last five years. Then of course we have Science Fiction which goes together with libertarianism like pork and beans. Science Fictions is certainly doable, just as long as it doesn't require the budget of a James Cameron movie.

Aspiring libertarian filmmakers should also make sure that their work doesn't come off too preachy. It's not to say that the message isn't important, but the main reason why mainstream audiences go to movies in the first place is to be entertained. So the two most important aspects to any movie should always be plot and character development. Audiences are not going to want to be preached to by ideologues. The failures of Matt Damon's anti-fracking movie and Robert Redford's sympathetic portrayal of The Weather Underground are all prime examples of people not wanting to pay money to have ideology shoved down their throats. There are more suttle ways to get a pro-liberty message across. A good example of this is Captain America: The Winter Soldier (I strongly recommend seeing this one).

I want to conclude this article by pointing out that I am not belittling the efforts of our libertarian brethren who struggle to get their ideas across in academia. Nor am I belittling the brilliant novelists in our movement who have produced some great and highly underrated literature. I just happened to believe that the best way to get our message across to the most people is through pop culture. The best way to go about this is through the movie screen. We can't expect to win the culture wars without firing a shot.

Editor's Note: See also "You Can't Fight a Culture War If You Ain't Got Any Culture" by L. Neil Smith [Link]

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