Cathy Reisenwitz announced last week that she was quitting full-time libertarian commentary to pursue a career in sales. She wrote in her blog post announcing this move that, “I want to learn to connect better. And getting successful at sales will require humility and constant feedback, and self-improvement is so incredibly important to building a happy life.” I don’t think I am making a presumptive statement when I say that we here at C4SS wish Reisenwitz the best in her new career path, and that she continues to have a place here, should she choose to take it.
While she was briefly a colleague of mine, what I know about Reisenwitz I mostly know from her writing. By and large, I found her work enjoyable and relevant, thought-provoking, and often, much more eloquently said than anything I’ve ever published. That is not to say that I have agreed with everything she has written or said in the public space, but she was one commentator I was glad to have on our side.
If only we were here simply to wish her good luck.
This week, Robert Wenzel of the dubiously-titled Economic Policy Journal wrote a blog on all of the reasons Cathy Reisenwitz is, in fact, a big dumb meanie who almost destroyed his ickle wibewtawian movement.
He writes, “The woman, who single-handedly attempted to destroy libertarianism as a principled philosophy based on the non-aggression principle at its foundation, is leaving the movement to sell software directories. Yes, software directories.”
Of course, maybe we just haven’t been pushing the right buttons. Wenzel continues:
The lady called just about everyone in the movement who was a serious thinker a racist etc. She attempted to introduce politically correct thought, from feminism to gay advocacy, as a requirement of libertarianism.
Remember when I was talking about how I didn’t always agree with Reisenwitz on things she said and wrote? The time she called a bunch of folks racist was one of those times. She did apologize following the gaffe, though. And it isn’t like Libertarianism is free from racists, either; remember when C4SS got shut down for a few days because we exposed some in a chapter of our student organization? Yeah, that was fun.
But mostly I find it hilarious that it’s Reisenwitz’s libertarian feminism and her support of teh gayz that seems to add the most fuel to the fire of Wenzel’s outsized hatred for her. Because she’s the only libertarian feminist in existence, clearly.
Well, actually, maybe the Economic Policy Journal really believes that. They’ve seemingly obsessively covered her career and various perceived faux pas moves over the last couple of years; we’ve even been graced by a shocking revelation or three from Wenzel himself, such as this gem, picked randomly from an article from March:
I’m not sure how much time Reisenwitz has spent studying Austrian methodology before deciding to turn it on its head, but, note well, in this clip she does make clear she is taking time to study how to fashion op-ed pieces and reach out to producers. Could this explain her “humanitarian” libertarian views?
(Wenzel must live in a world where you are only able to do one thing at a time; in this case, he believes, one is able to choose only between studying journalism and commentary or Austrian economics. That this is a false dichotomy apparently escapes him.)
There was one term Wenzel uses in his “scathing” sayonara to Reisenwitz that I had genuinely never seen before: libwap. It’s a fun word to say, but what does it mean? According to the EPJ’s “research room,” a libwap is a libertarian with appendages. Raise your hand if you also have appendages.
This term was apparently recently created (by Wenzel? Doesn’t say) as a kneejerk response to something Jeffery Tucker wrote, I guess, who actually knows what these people are shrieking about anymore? Its full definition is, “a group of libertarians who believe that libertarianism should go beyond the non-aggression principle.”
So, all of them?
I have never met a libertarian who didn’t have ideas about a libertarian society that went past the NAP. C4SS has written extensively on thick vs. thin libertarianism – all of which I’m assuming Wenzel would probably just handwave into oblivion, because this quote from Great Leader:
Liberty is about liberty, nothing else.
My god, the circles. They’re all around me, trying to make sense.
Anyway, back to this decidedly uneconomic “screw you” to Reisenwitz. Wenzel concludes that her departure from “the movement,” such as it is, is a clear sign that the ideas she apparently created and held up completely by herself with no outside help (that whole “single-handedly destroyed the movement” thing) is dying.
That’s right, any form of libertarianism that includes syntheses from other ideologies is going the way of the dinosaur because our Queen has left the building.
Never again will a libertarian use ideas from libertarian feminism, or bring ideas from GLBTQIA anarchists into their own synthesis. (Of course, this also means that we can’t play in covenant communities anymore either. How sad for the race realists.) Never again will we fight for the right of sex workers, black men, or people with disabilities to not be harassed by police, by government agencies supposedly set up to help them, employers or anyone else. It’s all white bro, all the time from now on. Don’t you forget it, lest another whinging tear be shed; there will be hell to pay if anyone attempts to disrupt our perfect, homogenized little bubble again.
My, my. How collectivist Les libertaires infantiles have become.
If Reisenwitz “almost single-handedly destroyed libertarianism probably,” then maybe it needs to be completely canned. Maybe a movement based on ideals so paper-thin that they were almost dismantled by a single woman who dared have an opinion on something she clearly cared about needs to pack its things and start over, without all of the boring trash it’s picked up over the decades. Because this kind of attitude doesn’t inspire me to be a libertarian.
Cathy Reisenwitz was a good writer. She was a professional. The one or two conversations I’ve had with her have been warm and entertaining. Her work, while occasionally controversial, never warranted the ubiquitous negativity and vitriolic hatred it got. In the space of only a couple of years, she has become the libertarian commentary analog of Anita Sarkeesian, receiving a level of negative reaction worthy only of a truly nasty figure, like General Zod (h/t Jim Sterling). I don’t throw out that comparison lightly; Sarkeesian was driven from her home by angry fedorabeards this week because she dared to continue to publish another video in her long-running Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series.
And this behavior – this wailing and gnashing of teeth from men, and it is primarily men who are doing this, any time a woman has the audacity to have an opinion on something men like – has gone beyond the realm of debate and critique. These are witch hunts. Against Reisenwitz, against Sarkeesian, against Zoe Quinn. Against women who write opinion columns and women who write straight news. In no world is a death threat or a rape threat or a posting of an address of a woman commentator or content creator simply a critique of their work. In no world does someone receive such a sustained level of hatred and negativity and it can still be called “reasonable disagreement.” People are being driven into hiding and out of areas where, under the crust of hate, there were those who did truly enjoy their work.
It must have been painful for Reisenwitz to open up her email box, see thousands of hateful comments and articles like Wenzel’s responding to everything she wrote – not to mention probably the occasional death threat or 10 – and continue to act like she was interested in the world of libertarian commentary for as long as she did.
Hopefully, Cathy, you find the new environment in which you work to be more inviting, and less destructive, than the one you just left.
Hopefully, for the rest of us, we can get our act together before something happens that leaves us shocked and horrified at ourselves that we can’t take back.