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Disruption games: why are libertarians lining up with autocrats to undermine democracy?

November 24, 2017

By Julian Borger : theguardian – excerpt

In the era of digital politics, an odd alliance has sprung up: anti-state campaigners and Moscow-backed nationalists are combining to disrupt liberal institutions…

Not sure that we agree with this author, but, we like to investigate all sides of the issues and invite our readers to do the same.

At a time when strange alliances are disrupting previously stable democracies, the Catalan independence referendum was a perfect reflection of a weird age. Along with the flag-waving and calls for “freedom” from Madrid, the furore that followed the vote unleashed some of the darker elements that have haunted recent turbulent episodes in Europe and America: fake news, Russian mischief and, marching oddly in step, libertarian activism.

From his residence of more than five years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange tweeted 80 times in support of Catalan secession, and his views were amplified by the state-run Russian news agency, Sputnik, making him the most quoted English-language voice on Twitter, according to independent research and the Sydney Morning Herald.

In second place was Edward Snowden, another champion of transparency, who like Assange had little by way of a track record on Spanish politics. Together, Snowden and Assange accounted for a third of all Twitter traffic under the #Catalonia hashtag…

 

The same patterns were apparent in the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s shock victory, the surge of the Front National in France and the dramatic ascent of the Five Star Movement in Italy, from the pet project of a comedian, Beppe Grillo, to the second most powerful force in Italy.

In all cases, libertarians viscerally opposed to centralised power made common cause with a brutally autocratic state apparatus in Moscow, an American plutocrat with a deeply murky financial record, and the instinctively authoritarian far right. All in the name of disruption of government and liberal norms in western democracies..

“The radical libertarians and the autocrats are allied by virtue of sharing an enemy which is the mainstream, soft, establishment, liberal politics,” said Jamie Bartlett, the director of the centre for the analysis of social media at the Demos thinktank.

“Most early, hardline cryptographers who were part of this movement in the 1990s considered that democracy and liberty were not really compatible. Like most radical libertarians – as Assange was – the principal enemy was the soft democrats who were imposing the will of the majority on the minority and who didn’t really believe in genuine, absolute freedom.”…

That meant some odd bedfellows could become useful allies. “They have been able to forge a very convenient marriage with other enemies of liberal democracy,” said Bartlett, “who are in every other sense imaginable completely at odds with each other, but they do share that common hatred of establishment, western, soft, democratic politics as they see it.”

Edward Snowden’s worldview also had libertarian roots. He was a supporter of the rightwing maverick US presidential candidate, Ron Paul, and vigorously opposed the Obama administration’s endorsement of gun control and affirmative action…(more)

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