Intolerant Of The Intolerant

There is a tendency for bloggers, when covering emotional subjects, to make overly-emotional statements that don't stand up to closer scrutiny. It is the responsibility of other bloggers, of course, to correct them. The ever-eloquent Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek made that mistake today:

Regardless of your opinion of George Bush, of free trade, or of the war in Iraq, it's impossible to sympathize with people who parade under Che Guevara banners. Guevara was a murderous, hateful creep.

If his many fans are ignorant of this fact, there's every reason to suppose that these protestors are equally ignorant of the positions they espouse.

While I fully agree with his judgement of Guevera (as we've covered), I think his judgement of the protestors goes too far. "Impossible to sympathize" is an awfully strong statement. As a thought experiment, let us imagine a libertarian parade of protestors, marching under the banner of Augusto Pinochet. Protestors in a country where he is considered a folk hero because of his free-market economic policies, but where his human-rights record was swept under the rug. A country with fewer libraries, fewer internet connections, and less access to uncensored information about popular figures.

We might decry the ignorance of these protestors and the culture that spawns it. We might conclude that they have either little interest in (or access to) balanced information. But to utterly reject their complaints on the basis of this single error seems to be going a bit far. A more reasonable viewpoint, it seems to me, would be something like: "Their ignorance makes it less likely that they have carefully thought out positions, and it lessens my sympathy for their cause".

Such moderate statements may not be as good internal press, but they also avoid bad external press. Like any flow of information between ideologies, that from libertarianism to the world is filtered both for eloquence and for extremism, because both make for a good read. Boudreaux is wonderful at the former, but I wish he'd try a little harder to avoid the trap of the latter.

(and of course, y'all should call me out anytime I make the same mistake :razz:)

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But what if the marchers

But what if the marchers approve of Guevera precisely because he was a murderous, hateful creep?

Then they are evil human

Then they are evil human scum I guess.

Unfortunatley, I think most

Unfortunatley, I think most of them do know about some of the bad things that he did, but as that old yarn goes, "the ends justify the means."

Funny enough, Don Boudreaux links to the Independent Institute article by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, which does try to understand the protestors:

Consider some of the people who have recently brandished or invoked Guevara’s likeness as a beacon of justice and rebellion against the abuse of power. In Lebanon, demonstrators protesting against Syria at the grave of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri carried Che’s image. Thierry Henry, a French soccer player who plays for Arsenal, in England, showed up at a major gala organized by FIFA, the world’s soccer body, wearing a red and black Che T-shirt. In a recent review in The New York Times of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, Manohla Dargis noted that “the greatest shock here may be the transformation of a black zombie into a righteous revolutionary leader,” and added, “I guess Che really does live, after all.” The soccer hero Maradona showed off the emblematic Che tattoo on his right arm during a trip where he met Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. In Stavropol, in southern Russia, protesters denouncing cash payments of welfare concessions took to the central square with Che flags. In San Francisco, City Lights Books, the legendary home of beat literature, treats visitors to a section devoted to Latin America in which half the shelves are taken up by Che books. José Luis Montoya, a Mexican police officer who battles drug crime in Mexicali, wears a Che sweatband because it makes him feel stronger. At the Dheisheh refugee camp on the West Bank, Che posters adorn a wall that pays tribute to the Intifada. A Sunday magazine devoted to social life in Sydney, Australia, lists the three dream guests at a dinner party: Alvar Aalto, Richard Branson, and Che Guevara. Leung Kwok-hung, the rebel elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, defies Beijing by wearing a Che T-shirt. In Brazil, Frei Betto, President Lula da Silva’s adviser in charge of the high-profile “Zero Hunger” program, says that “we should have paid less attention to Trotsky and much more to Che Guevara.” And most famously, at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas performed the theme song from The Motorcycle Diaries, and Santana showed up wearing a Che T-shirt and a crucifix. The manifestations of the new cult of Che are everywhere. Once again the myth is firing up people whose causes for the most part represent the exact opposite of what Guevara was.

As you can see, the cult of Che has outgrown what he was. (sigh)
If only people would start protests in the name of Cincinnatus or George Washington as the internaitonal symbol for the devolvement of power, but I guess neither could get that extra cool look that you get when you are the cold killing machine of an idealogy.

>As a thought experiment,

>As a thought experiment, let us imagine a libertarian parade of
>protestors, marching under the banner of Augusto Pinochet. Protestors
>in a country where he is considered a folk hero because of his free-
>market economic policies, but where his human-rights record was swept
>under the rug. A country with fewer libraries, fewer internet
>connections, and less access to uncensored information about popular

That is very hard to imagine, Patri, and a very bad example, in my opinion. The ones who still consider Pinochet a hero in Chile (very, very few people, mostly ex-soldiers) do it not because of his economic policies, but precisely because of his records wiping out communists. On the other side, the parties which used to support him (the Chilean 'Right') are not libertarian, but pro-welfare, anti-market as you can see in Lavin's website (

This kind of issue is

This kind of issue is exactly a big problem we have with our policies around the world.

Anyone against Che was our friend. Anyone against Iran was our friend (like Saddam), but then anyone against Saddam became our friend. Anyone against Hitler (like Russia) was our friend, but then anyone against Russia was our friend (like the Taliban).

Our moral compass is a reactionary one.

Pinochet would be good for a

Pinochet would be good for a parade of crony capitalists, not libertarians.

I would certainly level the

I would certainly level the same comments as Boudreaux at anyone holding a banner of Pinochet. At best, extreme ignorance. At worst, support for their crimes.

I would shun any libertarian who raised that banner, and would not consider them to be my intellectual ally at all. If left-wing type people did the same and said "you idiot! Che was a brutal thug -- he has nothing to do with our ideals about peace and freedom" then I would respect them more.

Note how often this happens. It is more important (and will win you more allies) to police the stupidities of "your" side than it is to attack the stupidities of your opponents, as fun as that may be.

I dunno, I suspect that the

I dunno, I suspect that the gist of this argument Boudreaux (and you, to a lesser extent) are making is to obfiscate the dynamics at play to a certain extent. When leftists rally under the Che banner, I seriously doubt that they are rallying not so much for brutal tactics, but rather for standing up for oppressed people. Anytime we make a person a symbol of a broader ideal we have to compromise something - and leftists are not alone in this. It's more informative to understanding leftists to perceive the emotions at play in their support of Che, rather than trying to make hypocrites out of them for the sake of petty point scoring.

There's really IS a difference between being right and being perceptive.