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Making an Opportunity

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Making an Opportunity

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Internet is abuzz about the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, in which a Wisconsin man and his family’s experiences with the criminal justice system are chronicled from his arrest, conviction, and exoneration for a 1985 rape case to his trial for a 2005 murder of a freelance photographer.

While not completely one-sided, the viewers’ reactions seem to be strongly in favor of Steven Avery’s defense, as well as that of his nephew Brendan Dassey, eliciting both WhiteHouse.Gov and Change.Org petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures aimed at garnering his release.

making a murdererI watched the series in three to four nights, quickly moving through the 10 episodes. As a libertarian, the series drew me in with its focus on alleged misconduct on the part of government prosecutors and law enforcement and the possible miscarriage of justice for both the defendants and victims.

Once the “water cooler discussions” commenced and writers returned from time off over the holidays, the enormity of the opportunity that Making A Murderer became apparent to me with article after article populating my social media newsfeeds and my “must read” websites and news sources with perspectives, refutations, and commentary on the series.

The opportunity that libertarians can, and should, seize is one where we can discuss important aspects of libertarian thought by pointing to the alleged corruption of these government officials, the inability for them to follow their own rules, and how the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise fades with each passing day that the pop culture phenomenon features. While many libertarians know their rights and “flex” them frequently, the series uncovers that many who aren’t well-versed in such discussions will easily acquiesce to requests made by perceived authority figures to their detriment.

One key to persuasion is to find openings and moments that can be an opportunity to reveal someone’s “inner libertarian” as you find common ground. Often, we talk about the importance of building rapport with those who do not yet identify as libertarians, yet hold many libertarian beliefs without knowing it. As with our World’s Smallest Political Quiz and the opportunity to “break the ice” that it presents, pop culture phenomena like Making a Murderer can be the opening you need to start building that rapport for those aren’t ready to call themselves libertarians… yet.

If you are not interested in the true crime documentary series, don’t fret. Libertarianism continues to permeate popular culture as we find ourselves more in the mainstream of everyday life than ever before.

16 Liberty Action Items for ’16

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

16 Liberty Action Items for ’16

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

“What can I do to help?”

This is LITERALLY my favorite question to be asked, because I can always share SOMETHING that can be done. There’s certainly something for everyone.

Here, I’ve compiled a list of 16 action-oriented items for you to share with your liberty-minded friends:

  1. Liberty in 2016Seek out a group of like-minded people in your area. America’s Future Foundation, The Bastiat Society, and Liberty on the Rocks are all easy ways to network with liberty-minded people, though any civic organization will be helpful.
  2. Seek out a group with whom you frequently disagree. I’m not suggesting that you crash their events, rather I suggest you go to listen to a different perspective.
  3. Identify a candidate for office that you wholeheartedly support, and campaign for him/her.
  4. Run for an elected office where you could serve with passion. A passion for liberty and a passion for the duties of the office will make your service fulfilling.
  5. Affiliate with a local group of organized, engaged, civics-minded citizens.
  6. Pick one issue to speak, write, or advocate for effectively.
  7. Write a monthly letter to the editor about the libertarian perspective on the topic du jour.
  8. Embrace a “disruptive” technology or innovation. 3-D printing, Uber, Bitcoin, AirBNB all come to mind.
  9. Adopt a new “favorite” columnist. In the age of the Internet, it should be easy to find a new writer that you enjoy reading.
  10. When discussing libertarian thought and philosophy, focus on what Liberty offers, rather than focusing on your desire for it. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”
  11. Pick a charity to support with your time, talent, or treasure.
  12. Donate to candidates and organizations that you support.
  13. Choose an issue to wave signs, go to a rally, or volunteer to spread the word about.
  14. Find one thing that you can do that will make a positive, lasting difference in the life of one person. It’s easier than you think.
  15. Be nice to everyone, no matter how they treat you.
  16. Do all of the above, and be a shining example of libertarians everywhere.

I look forward to seeing the change you create in 2016!

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

There is no shortage of “libertarian books,” whether you mean fiction works like Orwell’s 1984Huxley’s Brave New World, and any of Heinlein’s sci-fi, or more academic non-fiction texts like Hazlitt’s Economics in One LessonMises’ Human Action, or Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

How many of you became libertarians because someone handed you a book to read?

I didn’t. I don’t remember when a “libertarian switch” turned on, but I do remember when former talk-radio host Neal Boortz shared that my political philosophy had a name… libertarian.

Libertarians recognize that every individual is different. To me, that means that what opens one person’s mind to libertarianism may not work with another. Each individual’s path to libertarianism is different, and I think that many can be reached by the “normalization” of libertarianism and libertarians in popular culture.

As with any change to the status quo, a political change happens behind the wave of change in popular opinion. Popular culture plays a large role in that, and we are on track to have libertarian thought remain a part of that conversation.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss EverdeenThere is a wave of anti-authoritarian messaging in many popular teen novels that became blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent series with strong female leads like Katniss and Tris exercising independent will and standing up to tyrannical central authorities. We see similar messaging in animated films like The LEGO Movie (which I LOVE) and The Nut Job for younger audiences.

Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson was a libertarian hero for many, and Community’s Jeff Winger and Californication’s Hank Moody both self-identified as libertarians. One of the longest running and most consistent libertarian television shows began my senior year of high school, South Park. On a recent flight, I even read this book about the libertarian lessons the show contains, which begins its 19th season next month.

The stand-up comedy world also features Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan, while actors like Vince Vaughn, Dax Shepard, and Glenn Jacobs recently “came out” as libertarian thinkers. Recently, musicians Big Boi (from the hip hop group, OutKast), country music singer Kacey Musgraves, and Aimee Allen released songs with strong libertarian messages. Former MTV VJs Kennedy and Kurt Loder mix pop culture and political leanings for Reason and Fox Business, respectively.

We’ve collected quite a few libertarian celebrities here, and we plan to update that list shortly with many new additions this fall.

It’s a start, and we have a long way to go, but there’s hope still with all of the non-political avenues noted above that we can reach and recruit new libertarians. Let’s make sure we support the artists and commentators that share our views to keep them in the public eye.

Will you commit to that with me?