Pity for Derek Newhall

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By Thomas R. Eddlem

You can’t help but feel just a little bit of pity for Derek Newhall and the #DeathSpiral7 this weekend. It was only on Monday the former LAMA State Committee member Derek Newhall laid out in a blog post his exceptionally weak evidence that the Massachusetts “Mises Caucus was racist on Twitter.”

Then, on Tuesday, fellow former LAMA State Committee member Cris Crawford followed it up with a blog post saying that “while there are undoubtedly some neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” this should not be dispositive from the US supporting the Ukrainians.

And on Thursday, former State Committee member Tara DeSisto engaged in objectively de-humanizing Nazi terminology in a Facebook discussion, saying that “That is exactly what the state party did. They got rid of a disease.” Dehumanization is the fourth of the ten stages of any genocide, as I know from teaching about the Holocaust.

And finally on Friday, #DeathSpiral7 die-hard Jeremy Thompson (who goes by “Jeremy Francisco Chandler” on Facebook) deployed a well-known slur against African-Americans in a Facebook discussion (later uploaded to Twitter): “If you want the freedom to be a coon just say that.”

It’s almost as if the rest of the #DeathSpiral7 were deliberately trying to sabotage Newhall’s blogpost. Keep in mind that these are the questionable posts from just the five days since Newhall posted his allegations against people he doesn’t know on the LAMA blog.

The snarky part of me wants to quip “they are projecting,” and then verbally inveigh with a kind of hushed tone that these three outbursts in favor of working with neo-Nazis, employing genocidal language and racial slurs against people of color constitute some kind of insight into their genuine mentality, only that it was a tone moderated by self-censorship to hide an even darker heart of racism.

The problem is, I don’t really believe that narrative, even though I could make it credible to most people with a little literary flourish.

Which brings me back to Derek Newhall’s claim about the Mises Caucus. Front-and-center in his case was a nearly year-old tweet by a Mises Caucus volunteer organizer who subsequently moved out of state and was not among the #Mass47 which the #DeathSpiral7 voted to expel from the party (He may still be a member in good-standing, for all I know):

“Were the lives of the slaves materially different after their freedom?”

The above was a response to a discussion of the American civil war where the Massachusetts Mises Caucus member saw in the discussion an implication that the Union was blameless in slavery and ignored the failure of early reconstruction with the imposition of the “Black Codes” across the former confederacy, re-enslaving many black people through vagrancy and apprenticeship laws. Thousands of freedmen were being killed by new terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, White Knights and Red Shirts. Let’s face it; Twitter is not properly designed to debate the finer points of the failure to bring justice to freedmen in the 1860s. The comment was not a defense of the confederacy (the person is an anarchist who opposes all government) nor of slavery, as he made clear in his subsequent tweet:

“Let us clarify that we in no way want to enslave anybody. Especially not the rootless cosmopolitans in LP Massachusetts.”

So Newhall pounced upon use of the phrase “rootless cosmopolitans” as deliberate employment of a nefarious anti-Semitic trope:

“The Massachusetts Mises Caucus Twitter account then responded to our simple statement of principle by using a blatant racial slur to describe the entire state committee…. That phrase, “rootless cosmopolitans”, for those who may be unfamiliar, is an anti-Jewish slur originating in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s final reign of terror was explicitly “anti-cosmopolitan” and specifically targeted Jews.”

I thought it silly to imply a millennial would be familiar with the minutiae of Stalin sloganeering in the early Cold War-era. That former Mises volunteer coincidentally he wrote an email message to me this week, and I asked him about his use of the phrase “rootless cosmopolitans.” His response:

“I came up with the term because I thought the two words accurately described them! Didn’t know about the 1950s Soviet context in the original Russian.”

In other words, there was another explanation other than the Mises Caucus caucus was employing a Stalinistic attack on Jews, and it was a totally innocent explanation.

Likewise, I think the goofy-missteps by the #DeathSpiral7 this week can be explained mostly by frustration: Cris Crawford’s post was not explicitly about supporting the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine, but in opposition to aggressive war. Tara DeSisto’s bumble was a result of unprofessional rage in the heat of a testy Facebook discussion. And while there’s no excuse for Jeremy Thompson’s employment of the term “coon” to describe another person, it was clearly written in a moment of millennial Twitter/Facebook rage and doesn’t reveal any deep-seated racism against black people. (He is black himself, after all.)

The above illustrates why a leadership change was necessary, however. The truth is that the #DeathSpiral7 didn’t know either the former Mises Caucus organizer who posted those tweets and as a result expelled 47 who didn’t write it in reaction to their own misunderstanding. They engaged in reckless and false charges of racism at the very same week they made more credibly racist blunders. They decimated the ranks of the already moribund Libertarian Association of Massachusetts over a chimerical problem of racism within the membership.

And Derek Newhall mentions one of the reasons I agreed to help the petition process for a special state convention, after a protracted state committee discussion over kicking more people out of the party:

“There were a few open state committee meetings where everyone gave their input, and after much deliberation, a vastly gutted code of conduct was passed instead of the original proposal.”

I thought at the time (the December 2021 meeting), this is the third month in a row the state committee meeting was consumed by kicking members out without any discussion of bringing new members in. This is is not an organization positioning itself to grow and make a difference in the struggle for liberty.

Of course, Newhall didn’t mention the fact that every single member who spoke on the code of conduct spoke in opposition to it. Nor did he mention that this same state committee voted down a code of conduct that would have given the state committee the power to mass expel members – just one month before they voted to mass-expel 47 members in a single vote and with no cause given (other than signing a petition for a special state convention). There’s no provision in either the LAMA constitution or by-laws that empowers the state committee to mass expel members. But the #DeathSpiral7 have subsequently asserted that LAMA is not so much a political party but is instead a sort of private yacht club owned by a majority of state committee members to whom the rules don’t apply.

Thus, it’s not surprising Newhall didn’t bother to cite any provision of the LAMA constitution or by-laws in the failed suppression of the special state convention, which require the state committee to organize a special state convention for any petition made by members. Moreover, the LAMA constitution explicitly prohibits the state committee from making any changes to the petitioned agenda.

The former state committee officers of LAMA unsuccessfully tried to enclose a circle with a quarter of the membership on the outside. The new state committee, elected at that special state convention February 26 draws a circle big enough to draw in everyone, and welcomes even those former state committee members who would have excluded us.

We have chosen inclusion over exclusion. The era of expulsions is over.

Thomas R. Eddlem is communications director and a member of the state committee of the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts.

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