We ran across this meme on Facebook critical of Rand Paul. To a regular progressive person this might seem innocuous and typical enough, but then if you read through it you’ll find one glaringly important error committed by just one word. The sentence “I’m a libertarian, but…” then goes into how he has stated he believes the Civil Rights Act goes too far. The exact quote came from an exchange between him and someone else on television.
But that’s not what’s germaine here. The problem is that the meme uses the contrasting word “but” in the first statement that he is a Libertarian and then goes on to summarize his position on civil rights.
The meme does not inform, it misleads. Libertarians have stated over and over again in public, in their writings, on Facebook, on blogs and even in person, that they do not support any regulation by the “state”. That includes any efforts to equalize systemic oppression. The reasons for this are varied, but in a nutshell, Libertarians base an individual’s success or failure entirely on that individual’s agency to act. Libertarians believe we all have equal agency to act on our behalf. They do not recognize privilege, whether class, race, gender, tribal association or whatever else required to obtain power in a hierarchical social system.
They believe in a meritorious system they proclaim, wherein all people succeed by the sweat of their own brow — that is their merit. That’s all well and good, we can all get behind that. But there isn’t a social system on earth today that doesn’t have a structural system based on privilege. Whether adopted upon birth, obtained by service, by gender, by racial affiliation or group affiliation, certain people get a lot of the resources and certain people get none. That’s a fact and its got a lot more to do with complexities of social and economic power than it has to do with the simple rationalization that poor people don’t work hard enough.
Thus the meme effectively makes a wrong turn down the road and fails to connect Rand Paul’s extremist views with Libertarianism, within which Rand Paul, just like daddy-Paul, is fully entrenched. Also, all the listed antis of Rand Paul’s positions reflect his anti-government, libertarian philosophies and those of his father. While the Paul’s have no problem with restricting a woman’s right to liberty over her body and they both have had no problem living off the government dole (pretending to be civil servants) themselves, everything else about them both is pretty consistent with Libertarianism.
Messaging is everything and unless the maker of this meme can’t proof read well, one could infer that the intention of this meme was not to call into question Rand Paul and Libertarianism, but instead to alienate Rand Paul from Libertarianism and simultaneously white-wash Libertarianism. Sometimes messages and propaganda appear like this; to provide information to a specific audience about something which they agree on, but buried within the message, usually only due to a turn of phrase or as in this case, one word, context changes and thus the message changes as well.