A Response to Simons: In Defense of Dave Smith and Murray Rothbard

On October 26, 2020, Seth Simons posted an article on his blog/newsletter entitled, “Who Goes Nazi?”. This article concerns Stand-up Comedian and Libertarian activist Dave Smith, who hosts the podcast, “Part of the Problem”. He has been a voice for change and reform within the Libertarian Party for several years, and is an influential member of the “Mises Caucus” within the Libertarian Party. On June 8, 2021, this article was “tweeted” by former Libertarian Party chair Nicholas Sarwark, a long-time critic of Dave Smith. This has led to renewed discussion and debate on Twitter over Smith, who is considered by some to be a controversial figure with the broader “Liberty Movement”.

Simons has certainly done his research, and his lengthy article highlights many of the issues that some within the Libertarian Party have had Smith in the past. Even though the author does not appear to be a Libertarian himself, his arguments concerning Smith are generally not arguments against his Libertarian views. Given the length of Simon’s article, I will not address every point that Simons raises against Smith, but rather, focus solely on his main argument.

The first point of contention from Simon concerning Dave Smith is Smith’s guest hosting of The Gavin Mcinnes Show in early 2017. (For reference, this was episode 303 of the original “The Gavin Mcinnes Show”, not the more recent show from Gavin Mcinnes, “Get Off My Lawn!”) During the show, Smith conducted interviews with alt-right figures Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell. Simons quotes several parts of these interviews to argue that Smith has had very favorable views towards the alt-right and related ideas in that intellectual orbit.

First, Simons quotes Smith’s interview with Spencer, specifically at the beginning of their conversation where Smith states: “When Gavin asked me to guest host, you were the first person I wanted to talk to”. While this may appear to be a very conspicuous quote from Smith, Simon is not quoting him fairly. He has cut off most of the quote. By quoting only part of Smith’s opening, he leaves out the rationale that Smith gives for wanting to have spoken with Spencer. The full quote is:

“How are you doing? Very nice to talk to you. Thanks for coming on. When Gavin asked me to guest host, you were the first person I wanted to talk to, because I’m a Libertarian and you just had…I don’t know what to call it…a video that’s going viral with you at this Libertarian thing in Washington DC.”

By leaving out the second part of the quote, Smith’s motivation for wanting to speak with Spencer is unmentioned and left vague. It is clear from the full quote that Smith’s enthusiasm for speaking with Spencer is because of a recent interaction Spencer had with a group of Libertarians. This is a perfectly valid reason for wishing to speak with Spencer, given that Smith himself is a Libertarian. Simon’s quoting of Smith implies that the reason that Smith wanted to interview Spencer is because of some admiration he has for him, when the actual reason is quite different.

The next part of the article should be quoted in full:

[Starting with a quote from Spencer] “I want to have a country where the population is European people,’ he said. ‘We want to be in control of the state. We want to use it for the flourishing of our people.’

Smith took little issue with this vision, and even pushed back against its critics. ‘I don’t think it’s really fair to say every other group is allowed to have an in-group preference, but you’re the worst person in the world for having an in-group preference if you happen to be white,” he said. “Especially with all the blatant anti-white stuff that the left has become more and more transparent with over the last decade.”

First, the quoting from Simons is again, misrepresenting the conversation at hand. These two quotes do not even occur in the order presented here. The discussion about the validity of “in-group preferences” occurs just after the 40-minute mark, while the quotes from Spencer come from just before the 54-minute mark. These two statements were not made in relation to each other at all, and they were made in discussions over different issues. The presentation of these quotes from Simons gives the reader the impression that Smith is almost agreeing with Spencer’s comments, when that is simply not the case.

Secondly, Simons presents the “in-group preference” quote from Smith as being a concession to the alt-right. In reality, Smith is just taking the common-sense position that if it is permissible for other races and ethnicities have an in-group preference for people of their own race, than it should be permissible for white people to feel the same way. Now, one could condemn the entire idea of “in-group preferences” altogether, but this is a separate argument. Smith is just stating that it is an instance of hypocrisy to look down upon “in-group preferences” that exist in white populations and excuse the same behavior in others.

When Simons states that, “Smith took little issue with this vision, and even pushed back against its critics…”, the implication that Simons is making is that Smith had little disagreement with what Spencer had said. He repeats this same language when referring later to Smith’s interview with Christopher Cantwell. However, Simon’s conclusion here is unfounded. One can see in other interviews done by Smith, especially with left-wing figures, such as Ben Burgis and Jimmy Dore, Smith generally has a non-confrontational style of interviewing. Rather than only speak about issues that he and the guest disagree on, he tends to favor discussion on issues which they agree or can find common ground on. This can be seen clearly in the interview with Spencer. From roughly the 38-minute mark to the 43-minute mark, the discussion is centered around both of their anti-war positions and their contempt foe the “military-industrial complex”.

Therefore, his silence when confronted with ideas that he disagrees with should not at all be taken as approval. If this were so, then we would have to conclude that Smith holds many contradictory positions at once, given his interviews from individuals all over the political spectrum! Simons’ implication that just because Smith did not push back on statements from Spencer that he must agree with those statements does not pass the smell test.

Finally, Simons takes issue with Smith’s closing statements regarding his Spencer interview, quoting him as saying: “I understand if you don’t like it, but I really do say, if you sit there and compare it to what the people who are so against him advocate, I actually think it’s not as brutal.”

While not a misquote, I do believe that having the full quote of Smith does help give a bit more context to this statement on Spencer (starting around 1:02:40):

“So feel free to tweet me and tell me what you thought of the Richard Spencer interview. I thought he was an interesting guy. I do tend to disagree with him on the identatrian stuff, and I don’t…it’s not that everything he advocates for isn’t…something that, I don’t know, could be perceived as…You know, I understand if you don’t like it, I really do say, if you sit there and compare it to what the people who are so against him advocate, I actually think it’s’ not as brutal. Maybe, maybe I’m crazy.”

Given his distaste for big-government policies, Smith would certainly not have much sympathy for left-wing critics of Spencer who lobbied for his de-platforming. Spencer at multiple times in the interview expressed support for a more restricted government in certain areas, such as the aforementioned strong anti-war policy. Smith is vague with this statement, and it has the feeling of an off-the-cuff remark to close out an interview, so I am not convinced that much meaning can be read into it at all, but I will leave the reader to make of it what they will.

Next up is Simon’s comments on Smith’s interview with Christopher Cantwell. He again implies that Smith’s silence is tantamount to agreement, which I have already addressed above. He quotes Smith in response to Cantwell’s comment about “demographics that breed for Democrats” as saying: “Even when we had all the demographics that we love… they’re the ones who gave you the income tax, all these welfare programs, all these wars, the Federal Reserve, all the stuff we hate.”

Even though Simons is trying to present this as Smith agreeing with Cantwell in some way, it is fairly obvious that Smith is trying to make a point to Cantwell and pose a problem to his view on race. By pointing out that even when the country was white by a vast majority, as opposed to the slimer majority that whites occupy today, that large welfare programs and big government policies were still being enacting. Smith is offering a direct challenge to Cantwell that a decrease in the white majority is not to blame for America’s problems. From Smith’s point of view, these problems are much deeper and go much farther back than contemporary changes in the racial make-up of the country.

Simons next quotes Smith concerning welfare policy, saying: “There’s a reason why before the government got involved in some of these programs, the Black community was doing better than they are now, in terms of legitimacy and things like that.”

One could debate the merits of this argument, but this is not a fringe idea that the expansion of the social safety net helped lead to an increase in illegitimacy rates in the Black community. Both Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, along with other conservatives, have argued as such. This argument has nothing to do with race or some inherent tendency in Blacks to have a higher illegitimacy rate, but rather, is rooted in an understanding of basic economics. If you incentivize an action, you will expect more of that action to take place. Applied to social welfare, if you incentivize people to have more children out of wedlock, then you should expect people to have more children out of wedlock. Given the rise in illegitimacy rates in Blac communities after the mid-1960s, one can see how this argument can have merit.

Simons ends this section by stating: “Despite their disagreements, Smith ended the interview on a positive note. “I do enjoy your work,” he told Cantwell. “You’re a very talented guy.”

Smith had referenced his enjoyment of Cantwell’s work earlier on in the show, but it should be noted that this was in reference to his writings and their quality. He has said as much about the writings of other individuals he has interviewed before, such as his praise for Ben Burgis’ new book in an interview several months ago when Burgis was on “Part of the Problem”. Smith has praised the work of those he does not always agree with often, citing left-wing intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky on various episodes of “Part of the Problem”. Clearly, a compliment should never be taken as an absolute endorsement of that individuals body of work.

Simons then transitions to a quick biography of Smith, where he describes him as a Libertarian and Anarcho-Capitalist. However, he quickly transitions to Murray Rothbard, noting his influence on Smith’s intellectual development. Simons then proceeds to attack Rothbard on several points. These are “support for David Duke”, “wanting to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964”, and “ardently believed in race science”. In the next paragraph, he attacks Rothbard for being a historical revisionist and claims that Rothbard “argued that France and Russia were the real aggressors in World War II, and that Nazi Germany acted defensively rather than in pursuit of world conquest.”

We will address each of these arguments in turn. First, Rothbard’s alleged support for David Duke. The article from Rothbard that Simons is referencing can be found here. The context for the writing of this article is needed before we will discuss the article itself. During the 1990s, former KKK grand wizard David Duke was undergoing a re-branding campaign. He had claimed was a born-again Christian, and renounced his past of racism and hatred. Given the fact that Duke later returned to many of these racist ideas he claimed to have left in his past, the sincerity of his conversion in the first place is quite suspect. It was during this re-branding process that Duke began to get involved in politics. He served a short term in the Louisiana House of Representatives and would later mount a competitive gubernatorial campaign in 1991. His campaign was on a decidedly populist platform, appealing to American ideas of small government and personal liberty. Even though he managed to receive 32% of the vote, he ultimately lost the race to Edwin W. Edwards.

In was just after the conclusion of this race that Rothbard wrote this essay, which Simons claims to be in support of David Duke. Rothbard does not at all come out in support of Duke in this essay, but rather, endorses the broader strategy of right-wing populism that Duke employed in his campaign. The success that Duke found with this strategy appears to Rothbard as proof that it is a viable path towards achieving a more Libertarian future. Nowhere in the article does he support Duke’s past views. The point of this article from Rothbard is to show that the strategy that happened to be used by Duke worked and Libertarians would be wise to utilize it in the future. It has nothing to do with Duke himself or any admiration that Rothbard had for him.

Secondly, Rothbard’s support for repealing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For Libertarian audiences, this is a much less contentious point, as a repeal of the CRA is not nearly as controversial in Libertarian circles as would be outside of them. However, an explanation of the Libertarian position of this issue would be appropriate here. Libertarians believe in the unrestricted right of private property. If I own a car, I should be able to use that car in any way that I wish, provided I am not being violent with that car towards anyone else. This is not a radical extension of property rights, but rather, a principled view of them. Ownership is the legal authority over the usage of something. To claim that my usage of my property should be restricted in any way is tantamount to saying that I should not truly own it.

As an extension of this view on private property, Libertarians believe that one has the right to withhold the exchange of one’s property from anyone else. If I do not wish to sell you my car, no one else has the legitimate moral authority to coercive me into selling it to you. Regardless of my motivations for abstaining from selling my car to you, I retain the legal right to not engage in an exchange. This applies even if the reason that I have for refusing an exchange has to do with the race or ethnicity of the individual offering the exchange. Regardless of any racist intent I may have, Libertarians believe that my right to private property remains absolute. Even if my motivation for not selling you my car is based on racist reasons, I still retain the right to refuse an exchange.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that discrimination on the basis of race is illegal. In other words, if my rationale for not selling you my car is because of your race, that my refusal is illegal and I effectively lose a part of my property right. Again, to claim that I cannot use my property in any way I desire, provided I am not violent towards anyone, is equivalent to diminishing my own property rights. Even if the motivations behind the way I choose to use my property are morally reprehensive, such as having racist intent, to deny that those uses are still legally legitime is to deny my rightful full ownership of that property. It is because of this loss of the right to refuse the exchange of property for any reason, including racist reasons, that Libertarians support the repeal of the Civil Rights Act.

It should be emphasized that Libertarian’s support the right of the racist to refuse sale to a particular race is not in any way an endorsement of his views. Just because the Libertarian states that someone has the legal right to do something is not equal to saying that it is good or should be done. It is doubtful that are few individuals that would support the outlaw of act of lying. Libertarians do not support this position either. However, is holding this position tantamount to a support of lying? Legality is a part of morality, but one supersedes the other. Al laws must be moral, but not all morals must be enforced through law.

Next, Simons states that Rothbard ardently believed in race science. As far as the present author was able to find, there is only one instance of Rothbard ever specifically bringing up any topics relating to race realism, so to suggest that Rothbard was an “ardent believer” is stretching the facts. An examination of the arguments for and against the idea of the relevance of genetic differences through race is far beyond the scope of this article. Instead, I will argue that Simon’s point is of little relevance. Just because an individual believes that intelligence varies according to race, whether as a result of heredity or environmental factors, this does not in any way imply any sort of legal conclusions. While there are many race realists who may try to derive substantial conclusions from the ideas of race science, Rothbard certainly cannot be one of them. For Rothbard, all human beings stand equally before the law regardless of race. The foundational principle of Libertarianism, the Non-Aggression Principle, applies to all. So even if, hypothetically speaking, Rothbard were to draw the conclusion that certain races were genetically superior and others genetically inferior, it would have no effect whatsoever on his views on law and Libertarianism. As such, it is more or less moot for his philosophical views.

Simons goes on to argue that Rothbard also “argued that France and Russia were the real aggressors in World War II, and that Nazi Germany acted defensively rather than in pursuit of world conquest.” Rothbard’s views on the origins of the Second World War are nothing of the sort. His views, an example of which can be found here, argues that the Versailles Treaty was much too harsh on Germany, which then later laid the seeds for Hitler’s later conquests. He in no way insinuates that Nazi Germany were simply finding their own business when they suddenly found war thrust upon them. There may be some other source that Simons is relying on for this claim, but he does not provide any reference for his claims about Rothbard. As far as the present author was able to find, Rothbard never endorsed any views that Simons associates with him.

Simons goes on to connect Rothbard’s supposed apologetic views on Nazi Germany with Smith’s views on Nazi war crimes. He states:

“His influence is detectable in Smith’s belief that Nazi Germany’s crimes are somehow minimized by the Soviet Union’s. “Whatever it is that you think Hitler did wrong — and you could certainly just argue that he didn’t win the war, or didn’t have enough time to do more damage, maybe thats a plausible argument — but he killed like 11 million or 12 million people, they estimate, through genocide,” he said in a 2017 episode of Part of the Problem. “It’s bad. But it’s nothing compared to what the communists have pulled off… When you look into what Lenin and Stalin did, the numbers they did, it dwarves what Hitler did. And that’s not even throwing in Mao.”

The point of Smith’s comments here is that in the popular collective consciousness of society, we think of Nazi Germany as being the “bad guys” of the 20th century. The problem with this view is that there were a lot of “bad guys”, some of which committed atrocities on levels the Nazi regime was not even able to commit. RJ Rummel, author of the famous book, Death by Government, places the total number killed by the Nazi regime at just over 16 million. He places the total number killed by Communist regimes at 148 million. One can argue with those numbers, but the fact remains that there is plenty of evil to go around in the 20th century and our collective understandings of genocides should reflect that fact. This is the main thrust of Smith’s comment, that we should not place undue attention on solely the Nazi atrocities and exclude those by other governments.

Simons goes on to comment about Smith’s views on demographic shifts in the United States, saying:

“Smith’s sympathies extend to the contemporary far-right. He’s deeply concerned about anti-white racism, and believes ‘demographic changes’ in America — the ‘profound shift that white people will soon be a minority,’ as he described them to Richard Spencer in 2017 — are worthy of serious discussion.”

As Smith himself has pointed out in previous episodes of “Part of the Problem”, it is quite interesting that when an establishment journalist speaks on this topic, there isn’t any issue, but whenever someone else wants to discuss it, the issue suddenly becomes problematic. Mainstream institutions, such as the Brookings Institute have written on this topic, but there is no outrage to be found concerning their research.

Simon’s tone here indicates that he believes that this entire issue is radioactive and should be avoided, but Smith is not saying anything controversial in this quote. Demographics do tend to vote in certain directions, so if demographics change, then we would expect the outcome of elections to shift accordingly. Part of this shift is that whites are becoming a shrinking majority because of both immigration and relatively lower white birth rates. If this demographic change could foment a radical shift in American politics, wouldn’t that be an issue worthy of discussion?

Simons quotes Smith from the interview he conducted with Richard Spencer on a 2017 episode of Part of the Problem. He states that Smith has never identified himself with the alt right, but has sympathies with them, indicated by Smith saying:

“Where I am sympathetic to the alt-right is the blatant racism of the left, the anti-white racism, just outrageous and disgusting,” he told Spencer. “And it’s cartoonish. I can’t even believe they’re so open with it, that they wouldn’t keep it in their pocket. I mean, say whatever you will about the right bigotry, the right wing bigotry is always in your hip pocket a little bit.”

This issue with concluding Smith’s support for the alt-right with this quote is that he has said made similarly sympathetic comments to far-left individuals that he has spoken with. Smith is very sympathetic towards the far-left on issues such as the “War on Drugs” and anti-war sentiments, both in interviews and on Twitter. If his stating that he is sympathetic in any way to an ideology is equal to supporting the whole of that ideology, then we would have to conclude that Smith is somehow an alt-right far-leftist!

Simons then frames Smith as being a subscriber to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories concerning the media and university systems. He states:

“Smith’s embrace of the far right is rooted in his fervent anti-Communism. He believes the left, historically speaking, is responsible for more death and destruction than the right, and that few learn about these crimes because communists still run America’s major institutions. This is not hyperbole. Smith explicitly believes “cultural Marxists” and Jews run the mainstream media, universities, the banks, Hollywood, and much of the federal government. In a 2015 conversation with Gavin McInnes, he said most liberals have no idea ‘there are cultural Marxists at the top trying to engineer society’ according to their “Stalinist agenda.”

This begins an entire section of Simon’s article where he presents Smith as being an anti-Semite. Shockingly, he never once in this entire article mentions the fact the Dave Smith himself is Jewish, as well as being the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. The fact that one can argue for several paragraphs that Smith is anti-Semitic without mentioning this detail at all is almost unbelievable. Whether this omission was a mistake from Simons or the product of more nefarious intentions I will leave to the reader.

Regardless of this oversight, Smith has never claimed that Jews run the media, universities, banks, and Hollywood. As for “cultural Marxists”, Smith’s view on this issue has become more refined over time, to the point that he would not express his views in the same way he did in this quote here. Smith’s views on “cultural Marxism” as they stand today are that the entire phenomenon of identity politics and “wokeness”, which are generally associated with the ideology of “cultural Marxism”, are that these ideologies are methods for those with power to be able to remain in power without arousing the suspicions of those they lord over. Goldman Sachs will receive a government bailout, but as long as they send their executives to “diversity training”, everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about. Don’t mind the massive fortunes being built up through cronyism and taxpayer dollars. As long as you say the right things and repeat lines from the “woke” script, you can keep your hoard of wealth.

In support of his argument that Smith, who Simons neglects to inform you is himself Jewish, is anti-Semitic, several paragraphs are quoted from a discussion on anti-Semitism from an episode of “Part of the Problem”. They will be repeated here:

“If you’re gonna say that when a society is dying, people start blaming the Jews — well, okay, but what’s the next obvious question? Why are they blaming the Jews? Why is the society dying? Do Jews have anything to do with the society dying? Are they maybe disproportionately representing the forces that are killing the society? I mean, how are you going to bring up this topic and avoid that central question, right?”

“So what I would say — and I’ve said before, when we’ve talked about this question — is I go, well, look. I mean, Jewish people are very overrepresented in many fields. The idea of just saying, “Oh, there’s a Jewish conspiracy,” it’s like, well, no, I don’t think there is blatantly a Jewish conspiracy — although, by the way, Jews, much like other groups, have an in-group preference, and lots of Jews like to do business with other Jews, and treat Jews differently than they treat people who are not Jews. That’s something that most Jews are at least aware of. But I think the same could be said for Chinese people, or Japanese people, or Black people, or lots of others.”

“It’s just, Jews happen to be very powerful and control large areas of different industries. Jews are vastly overrepresented in the warfare state and the people who push the warfare state. The country of Israel has a little bit of something to do with our foreign policy. They seem to be way onboard with every one of these disastrous wars that we’re fighting. And when it comes to banking and the mainstream media, let’s just say there’s a few of ’em out there. There’s a few floating around.”

“So if you’re somewhere where you’re overrepresented by like 3000 percent, to just dismiss it as a conspiracy theory — listen, I’ve always tried to go from the tack where I’d be like, “Well, look, I get what you’re saying, there are a lot of Jews in this area, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with Barry the dentist from down the street. And Barry the dentist — like, Jews are way overrepresented in dentistry also, and they’re doing a pretty good job, right? Your teeth are being fixed. Jews are overrepresented in physics, that’s helped our lives a lot.”

“So you try to point out that it’s like, “look, I understand where you could go down this path, but really your problem is more with the policy than it is with the Jewish people. And you really don’t want to just be hurting innocent people or hating innocent people, ’cause that’s kind of wrong and a waste of time.” I just think that’s a more effective way to fight anti-Semitism, to actually speak to those people, and say “Look, I get what your concern is.”

Rather than being statements in support of a “Jewish Influence” conspiracy theory, Smith’s views here are the exact opposite. Instead of appealing to pictures of Jews all gathering together in some dimly-lit room to plot the downfall of the world, Smith tries to construct an argument as to how to appeal to people who might believe in these conspiracy theories. The method of doing this is to actually engage in a dialogue and provide effective rationale as to why there might be a very large Jewish representation in the media and entertainment industries relative to their population size. This is no conspiracy at all, but a reasoned argument. Smith’s point is that if you don’t address people’s beliefs head-on and simply dismiss them, those beliefs don’t just dissipate. They still remain in that individual, and because you did not provide any rebuttal to them when challenged, they are likely to fester and incorporate themselves more into that person’s worldview. The best way to fight Anti-Semitism is with reason, not with censorship.

Simons turns to Smith’s 2017 interview with Christopher Cantwell on “Part of the Problem” as further evidence of his alleged anti-Semitism. Simons states:

“In 2017, days after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Cantwell told Smith not to worry about Nazis taking power: with Jews banned from prominent government positions, he said, more libertarian outcomes would result. Smith, who considers himself a logical man willing to adopt any position backed by a good argument, took the idea seriously. ‘I don’t care about any law that says anyone can’t serve in a government that should never exist to begin with,’ he said. ‘I was just saying this about trannies and the military, I don’t give a shit about that… I don’t care about your right to discriminate, ban me from whatever you want to ban me from, I could give two shits about any of that.’ His problem was that if you ban Jews, you lose the good Jews: not only the Federal Reserve chairman, but also ‘the guys who taught Ron Paul economics.”

The reason for Smith’s support of a ban on Jews being elected to Congress is not because of anti-Semitism, but his own views on the nature of the state. He even says as much in the quote. Restricting who can serve in the state apparatus, which Smith does not view as being a legitimate force in society, helps to weaken and deteriorate the state. If only certain people can serve within it, people are more likely to view it is being illegitimate and overthrow it, which is precisely the outcome that Smith desires. Therefore, his theoretical support for such a policy has nothing to do with the ethnicity being excluded. If it were any other race, ethnicity, or occupation being excluded, his position would be identical. Also, his support for such a policy would indicate that he himself, given that he is Jewish, would not be able to run for office!

Simons then suggests that Smith has no qualms with the establishment of a white ethno-state, as long as government force is not introduced. He quotes Smith from the “Lions of Liberty Podcast” as saying:

I’ve never in any sense promoted white nationalism. I think it is frankly a retarded idea that is irrelevant and never going to happen and evil — at least, evil if it’s relying on government force.

Simons leaps on the “at least, evil if it’s relying on government force” as being the indicator that he supports such a white-exclusive society. However, he evidently thinks nothing of the rest of the quote where Smith says, “I’ve never in any sense promoted white nationalism”, and “I think it is frankly a retarded idea that is irrelevant and never going to happen”. Smith’s views on a white ethno-state appear very clear. Simons says that “Smith’s biggest disagreements with neo-Nazis are tactical: he’s onboard with the white ethno- part, less so the state.” If you simply read the first part of the quote, it is abundantly clear that Smith does not support neo-Nazi ideology at all. Simon’s insistence to the contrary is totally unfounded.

Simons argues on the basis of Smith’s comedy special, “Libertas”, as well as a segment from a 2017 “Part of the Problem” interview that Smith holds deeply misogynistic views. He quotes Smith as allegedly saying in 2017 that drunken sex cannot be rape:

“You can discuss the nuance of the morality of somebody being like, of you going out and getting a girl fucking hammered who you know wouldn’t have sex with you normally, then getting her hammered and having sex with her when she’s 12 shots in,” he said. “But I don’t know, man. If you’re 12 shots in and you’re stumbling home and you’re like, ‘Come here, fuck me,’ cry me a fucking river. You didn’t get raped. You didn’t get raped, I’m sorry.”

Smith is merely insisting in this hypothetical scenario that having regret over having sex with someone does not constitute the grounds to state that person raped you. Simons is presumably reading into this statement that the person saying, “Come here, fuck me”, is not the person who regrets it the next morning. However, the phraseology used is clear that the they are both the same person, as evidenced by the usage of you’re like in addition to “Come here, fuck me”, and using you when in reference to “You didn’t get raped”. Smith is clearly stating here that regret over sex is not equivalent to rape. As long as both parties consented at the time of the act, rape did not occur.

Simons closes his article with his concluding remarks on the person of Dave Smith:

“Dave Smith is a podcaster with a large audience of mostly young, white men (as he told Richard Spencer.) He built that audience consorting with avowed white supremacists and neo-Nazis; there can be no question that he shares followers with the likes of Richard Spencer and Gavin McInnes. He presented their ideologies credibly alongside his own, which includes anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism, transphobia, and xenophobia. He’s also a political commentator who used to appear regularly on Fox News and an active voice in the Libertarian movement. His politics are no mere thought experiment. He’s trying to build the world he envisions, and people are listening to him.”

In his effort to try and conflate Dave Smith and his ideas with the those of the alt-right, Simons completely fails. Smith has spoken to alt-right figures in the past, but he has spoken to members of all political stripes. Simons has failed to bring forward any proof to suggest that Smith is in any way an alt-right figure.

This leaves us with the question of why would Smith interact with these figures if he did not agree with them on the majority of their ideas? Smith has already given us the answer in his views on how to respond to anti-Semitism. In order to change minds, one must engage in discussion. Suppression and censorship of certain viewpoints has the unfortunate habit of increasing the popularity of those viewpoints, or at the least, allowing them to fester in the dark. In 2016 and 2017, the alt-right were growing in popularity, although still being a small and niche group without much influence. As such, their ideas were prime candidates for engagement, which is exactly what Smith did.

If Smith were truly an alt-right figure, then a problem for Simon’s narrative is the absence of any engagement with the alt-right in recent years. His interviews with figures within that movement are all around the 2016–2017 period. This is because after this period, the alt-right rapidly decline in popularity and many of its adherents went elsewhere, largely as a result of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally. Furthermore, if Smith held the views that Simons purports him to hold, why would he be interested in interviewing and conversing with Left-wing figures? The answer is exactly the same for why he interacted with alt-right figures: to engage ideas with other ideas. The alt-right is no longer relevant, but the far-left certainly is. As such, Smith has continued to conduct interviews with left-wing figures after he stopped his interviews with alt-right figures.

Thus, the picture that Simons and others have attempted to paint of Smith, as well as Rothbard, is completely inaccurate. They are not politically fringe figures that hold racist or borderline racist views, but rather, principled Libertarians. Smith’s association with the alt-right was clearly in the spirit of the communication of ideas, the same purpose he holds for communicating with left-wing figures today. If those within the broader “Liberty Movement” who view Smith as problematic wish to maintain their views, more evidence must be presented to cogently argue their case. If they are unable to do so, the natural conclusion is that their claims are unsubstantiated and can safely be dismissed.

Alleviating uneasiness one end at a time. I write about economics, political philosophy, history, and anything that interests me.