Where’s Libertarian Gavin?

The latest company to be shaken up by revelations about corporate culture is Vice Media, maker of edgy documentaries, and a booming 4+ billion dollar organization. It turns out the company is run by assholes. This thread is full of enraging stories from insiders. It was so bad that the founders had to openly admit to it and apologize.

Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. That includes a detrimental ‘boys’ club’ culture that fostered inappropriate behaviour that permeated throughout the company.

From the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.

Whoa. It must be awful if the company doesn’t even try denial or making a dodgy not-pology.

Only there’s one thing missing here: I read through the articles in the New York Times and the Guardian, and they mention two of the three founders of Vice, Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi, but they never mention Gavin McInnes. I know McInnes was rather thoroughly excised from the company years ago, but you know he had to have played a part in establishing Vice’s culture. You know, racist, sexist, dumbass McInnes.

McInnes wasn’t a silent, passive cog in the VICE machine, either. While Shane Smith may have become its public face, McInnes is its soul. In the early years, he almost single-handedly wrote entire issues of the magazine, using multiple pseudonyms to make it feel like a fully-fledged publication rather than the amateurish, DIY operation that it was in reality. Smith and Alvi sold ad space and handled logistics. But that snide, facetious tone that VICE is so renowned for today is McInnes’s creation, as is the legendary DOs & DON’Ts column and just about everything else that made it worth reading. Without him, there would probably be no VICE as we know it today.

What I found most interesting about that article on McInnes, though, is the sharp and accurate deconstruction of Libertarianism, a toxic ideology that thoroughly saturates many of the worst people in politics, the media, and social media.

While the Christian right wants to moralize and snoop on people in their bedrooms to prevent them from having anything but very vanilla, Jesus-celebrating sex purely for the purposes of procreation, libertarians rarely tell other people how to live. But this shouldn’t be mistaken for tolerance: while liberals believe in maximizing collective freedom for everybody in society through laws and government policy, even if that means sacrificing a degree of personal freedom, libertarians want to selfishly maximize their individual freedom by eroding the state.

There’s a reason why most prominent libertarians are straight, well-off white men: because they don’t need government to intervene on their behalf. They occupy a default position of privileged dominance that has historically infringed upon women, the poor and minorities.

They like to paint government as an oppressive force, because it has taken away some of their privilege – although they prefer to call it “freedom” for propaganda purposes, in the same way that former slave-owning states objected to the Civil Rights Act on the basis of “state rights,” rather than “white supremacy” – and redistributed it across society. Although its adherents would argue otherwise, American libertarianism is pretty much just run-of-the-mill conservatism only without such actively fascistic tendencies. That’s not to say that those tendencies aren’t there, they’re just not so overt.

Libertarians don’t want to actively discriminate against any particular group, at least not officially, but they do want to dismantle government-imposed safeguards that protect those vulnerable to discrimination and make society fairer – a clear sign that people who drift towards libertarianism do so because they have likely never felt oppressed, marginalized or exploited.

There is no element of Gavin’s libertarianism that contradicts the drugs, the sex, the gay people, or anything else that defined VICE during his time at the publication. In fact, all throughout his 14-year tenure, he was known for making politically outrageous remarks that regularly drew accusations of racism, homophobia and every other sort of indictment that right-wingers contend with on a regular basis.

The articles also don’t discuss Smith’s or Alvi’s politics, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they lean libertarian, too. It’s exactly the kind of ideology that allows offenses to run rampant, just as we’re seeing now.


  1. nogginscratcher says

    “Whoa. It must be awful if the company doesn’t even try denial or making a dodgy not-pology.”

    While they do sound awful, if we want non-pologies to go away then we should probably avoid drawing further negative inferences from them making a better attempt at a real apology.

  2. komarov says

    Re: nogginscratcher (#2):

    I’m half-way through Kanner’s tweets and must conclude that vice wouldn’t give a shit if people drew even worse conclusions, fair or otherwise, from their stance. They have money, they even seem to have money to throw away, everything else appears to be irrelevant.
    Hm, sounds like the core essence of libertarianism.

  3. Allison says

    The hypocrisy in Libertarianism is that it’s the State that protects their privilege, their “property,” and, indeed, their safety.

    One has to only look at Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries where the State has collapsed to see the results: it’s constant warfare between the most brutal and thuggish, and the weaker ones suffer and die in the crossfire or get trampled.

    I suspect that in a world with no State most, if not all Libertarians would end up as slaves, at best.

  4. microraptor says

    Allison @5: Yeah, Libertarianism is really about getting all the privileges of living in a functioning state without having to actually pay for any of it.

  5. hemidactylus says

    To their credit libertarians tend to take civil or social liberties more seriously in principle than some if not most Democrats. Some may even be ACLU types. Their downfall would be praxis. How are such liberties guaranteed without coercive force of government and requisite bureaucracies? The anarchos are absolutely against government. The minarchists believe in a purely policing state. And this is because their zeal for economic liberty translates into taxation = theft. The concept of “liberty” is a useful fiction that doesn’t exist in the state of nature, but is a conventional artifice granted by and requiring protection of government. We cede a bit of it to ensure such protection. That is the contract. Without that we get mafiosos, warlords, or private security firms. We lose food, financial, and environmental regulation.

    Libertarianism in practice is the true road to serfdom.

  6. zibble says

    Relevant tweet:

    I remember when Peter Thiel was a libertarian. Now I think he’s part of the “dark enlightenment” – if you can switch that easily from a “liberty-based ideology” to supporting the end of democracy and the rebirth of monarchies, you never gave a fuck about liberty in the first place.

    Libertarianism has never been anything more than a rebranding of fascism; power to the corporations, weakening and enslavement of the underclasses, and special privileges for rich white heterosexual men. It’s never been supporting by anyone except the sort of self-absorbed white twits for whom glib responses to complex political issues appeals, whose superficiality paired with delusions of supremacy makes them the prime audience for fascism as well.

  7. zibble says

    @9 hemidactylus

    To their credit libertarians tend to take civil or social liberties more seriously in principle than some if not most Democrats.

    I’ve never met a single libertarian who even pretends to give a fuck that Ron Paul is an anti-abortion wingnut. So I’m gonna have to disagree with your statement there.

  8. hemidactylus says

    With members of the LP who cast support for Ron Paul that may have been a Faustian bargain because his political prominence and perceived electability.

  9. Efrem Zecarias says

    If you are interested Jesse Brown is a nationally known Canadian media critic who runs a very popular podcast called Canadaland. He did an interview with Gavin McInnes in 2014 (back when Gavin was on speaking terms with Jesse) and he brought up the early history of Vice.

    Unknown to Gavin, Jesse was a former employee of Vice and brings up Vice’s unethical treatment of it’s journalists (and Gavin’s antisemitism). Canadaland would go on to write many stories on Gavin’s connections to the Alt-right.

    http://www.podcasts.com/canadaland/episode/ep.18-vice-an-oral-history – Interview podcast.
    http://www.canadalandshow.com/tag/gavin-mcinnes/ – Collection of Canadaland stories on Gavin

  10. Peter Bollwerk says

    Very disappointing. VICE News on HBO is outstanding investigative journalism, which there is already too little of. I hope they get their shit together and keep doing good journalism. Note, however, that I’m not making any comment on the rest of the stuff they do, like those crazy shows on VICELAND or their print articles.

  11. hemidactylus says

    The Libertarian platform on abortion is kinda vague:


    “1.5 Abortion

    Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”

    But this is an interesting article about Gary Johnson where he contrasts himself with Ron Paul:


    “And I think it’s important to point out differences between myself and Ron Paul. I don’t support building a fence across the border, I do support gay marriage equality, I do believe in a strong national defense. I do believe in our alliance with Israel, for example. And I think military alliances are key to reducing military spending by 43 percent and still provide for a strong national defense. And I believe in a woman’s right to choose.”

    Not sure of his pro-choice bona fides.

  12. gijoel says

    I find libertarians similar to communists in that there’s a kernel of truth to what they believe (capitalists exploit the masses, individual freedom is important) but they then try to apply it to everything.

    Except objectivists, they’re just arseholes

  13. JP says

    I find libertarians similar to communists in that there’s a kernel of truth to what they believe (capitalists exploit the masses, individual freedom is important) but they then try to apply it to everything.

    Why not both? As an anarcho-communist, I oppose all oppressive hierarchies, including the oppression of workers by capitalists and bosses. (I call myself a libertarian socialist when I want to sound less scary.) I recommend The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin to anyone who is seriously interested in anti-capitalism. (I prefer him to Marx; Marx has a lot to offer, but I disagree with, for example, his opinions on the “lumpenproletariat” and vanguardism.)

    And now that I’ve finished disseminating propaganda, I’m off to a Christmas Eve party at my aunt and uncle’s. I bought presents for the kids (Legos and stuffed animals) with my meager earnings/benefits, and I made paper crane Christmas ornaments for the adults.

    Good Yule!

  14. says

    Since Donald won the electoral college, it’s been interesting how many self-described libertarians have been exposing themselves as racists if not out-right fascists.

  15. gijoel says

    @17 my main beef with both groups is that they try to apply a dogma created for one issue to every problem they find. Which results in digging tunnels everywhere to solve mass transit, and denouncing feminism as a bourgeoisie plot.

  16. JP says

    and denouncing feminism as a bourgeoisie plot.

    Goodness, I’ve never encountered that attitude. Every leftist I know irl and online is a hardcore feminist and general “SJW.”

    And thanks, it was a very nice Christmas Eve. :-) (That’s when we celebrate, maybe it’s a Norwegian thing.) I got a lovely red knitted “infinity” scarf (a Mobius strip), an incredible handmade necklace with a polished stone, some cranberry jalapeno jam, two six packs of Homebrew, and a gift card to my favorite coffee shop.

    And a very nice card from my sister-in-law that said that I’m everything and more that she could ask for on a sister-in-law, and that she lucked out three times over (including my mom.) :-)

  17. Vivec says

    I don’t have the citation on me, but I do distinctly recall reading an essay by a socialist of color about how historically a lot of leftist spaces thought that women’s movements were “movement cannibalism” or muddying the waters by turning women against men within the same class, and compared it to how early race movements felt the same about women’s movements (ie “it’s turning the black woman against the black man rather than focusing on how bad the white man is”)

  18. JP says

    Oh, I’ve *heard* of the phenomenon as a historical thing; what I said is I’ve never *encountered* it. I’m non-binary (AFAB), queer, disabled (SMI), and I’ve never gotten anything but acceptance and sensitivity from leftists. I know a lot of leftists of color (irl and online) as well. Any shit I’ve gotten has been from people further to the right, including liberals. (I’ve also been called a “Russian bot” by liberals for daring to criticize HRC and/or the Democrats, which is dehumanizing as hell. And a somewhat prominent Black socialist on Twitter was told to “shut up, boy” by a #StillWithHer.)

  19. JP says

    Oh, I also meant to say: check out Emma Goldman and Lucy Parsons. They were rad, in all senses of the word.

  20. Ed Seedhouse says

    richardelguru@1:”The way things are going, soon the only companies that make the headlines will be those that are not run by arseholes.”

    Well, given the nature of “modern” capitalism, that would be vanishingly few and approaching zero as a limit.

  21. DLC says

    Libertarianism , like it’s close cousin Neo-Conservatism, is a morally bankrupt philosophy, in which the Devil can take the hindmost and whatever you do to win is just fine. The only authorities in Libertarianism are the courts and the dollar. But then, you people were no doubt already aware of these facts. The world is slowly and inevitably coming to a position where misogyny, racism and religious intolerance are not acceptable. Good riddance to bad rubbish.