his bushy mountain-man beard, and his crankish little
Bradford is the virtual embodiment of what Murray
Rothbard used to call the "modal libertarian"
the Randian neo-hippie who gets most of his information
from science fiction novels and could care less about
real-world issues, being far too obsessed with Ayn Rand's
compelling tautologies "A is A" indeed!
to bother with such trivialities as, say, our murderous
tired of publishing the reminiscences of every one of
Ayn Rand's friends, Bradford in recent years has been
yammering about the glories of "consequentialist" libertarianism,
a pallid and sickly doctrine apparently bereft of any
moral content or fire. He once took a poll which purported
to show that the trend in the libertarian movement was
away from "moralist" ideologues like Rand and especially
Murray N. Rothbard: his article breathlessly reporting
the results was replete with elaborate charts and graphical
devices to give the whole presentation a scrupulously
"scientific" air. Naturally, it was a poll of his few
thousand readers, a self-selected group of "libertarians"
if ever there was one. But would even the worst libertarian
geekazoid go to the barricades (or even lift a finger)
waving the banner of a "cost-benefit analysis"?
HE'S A CHEAPSKATE, TOO
is a question Bradford has never been much interested
in answering. Indeed, the editor of Liberty has
never seemed all that interested in building any kind
of serious libertarian movement, or, indeed, in reaching
too far outside the little circles of libertarian Randroids,
sci-fi fans, and aging counterculturalists who make up
the bulk of his readers. He has criticized the Libertarian
Party at length, over the years, without, of course, donating
so much as a dime, or a minute of his time. Bill is notoriously
cheap: far too cheap to pay his writers. Naturally, he
gets mostly junk: no self-respecting professional will
write for him, and so he is reduced to filling the pages
of his libertarian fanzine with the profound utterances
of his high school buddies, and such leavings as he can
garner from movement "celebrities." Now that Liberty
has gone monthly, he's reduced to writing a lot of his
own material, so much so that he has to employ at least
one nom-de-plume that we know of: "Chester Alan Arthur."
FISH, SMALL PUDDLE
pathetic, when you really think about it. Who can blame
Bradford if he wants out of it? Big Bill Bradford is a
big fish in a very small pond a puddle, really
and, being a seeker after the main chance, he is
looking for a route to respectability. Apparently he's
decided it's time to sell out. This is not an ideological
turnabout so much as a career move. All I can say is:
lots of luck, Bill. The War Party has plenty of
talented publicists, who can spin a far more convincing
apologia than you. Earth to Bill Bradford: don't quit
your day job.
THE RADIO ON
Bradford's performance is an embarrassment of appalling
proportions, a disaster of an audition that starts
and stays off-key. "On April 1," he avers, "a US
airplane trying to listen to Chinese radio transmissions
was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets some 60 miles
off the coast of China." But why just "radio transmissions"?
Surely there was a lot of equipment on board that spy
plane so top-secret that not even Bill Bradford knows
about its capabilities. Yet he writes as if those guys
were up there just listening to the radio.
they were tuning in to Rush Limbaugh, or checking out
the Chinese hit parade: and then along came the pestiferous
Wang-wei to spoil their little party. You know, they have
some pretty loooong winters up there in Port Townsend,
Washington the site of Liberty's office
and perhaps that goes far in explaining the Bradfordian
mindset. But how, then, do we account for his curiously
one-dimensional vision, which only sees one side of the
story? Brain damage?
BY DIM SUM
we are to believe Bradford, what happened that April Fools
Day over the South China Sea was that an American plane
flew into a complete vacuum. After the Chinese plane went
much larger U.S. plane was badly damaged. Its pilot transmitted
a 'mayday' and landed at the nearest airport, which happened
to be on Hainan, a large Chinese island. China held the
Americans captive and demanded an apology."
Chinese seem strangely absent from the scene: after Wang-wei
goes down, they hardly come into it at all. Were they
sitting there twiddling their thumbs? No mention of how
the Chinese pilots requested a shootdown and were vetoed.
To top it off, we are told that the pilots were held "captive"
yeah, in a five-star hotel! No doubt they were
tortured by being forced to consume large quantities of
aside from all that, how does he know that the
story told by the surviving Chinese pilot isn't true:
that it was the American plane that bumped Wang-wei and
dumped him into the sea? Because the government told him
so, that's how. Oh, how the great Randian Bradford
is also the publisher of the Journal
of Ayn Rand Studies suddenly changes his
tune and begins to take certain things on faith,
(provided they come from the US government).
"libertarian"! But it gets worse and truly weird
when Bradford suddenly acquires a bit of a British
accent, and goes into his Lord of the Manor routine:
own reaction was to hope the US would react similarly
to the way in which Britain is said to have reacted to
a comparable indignity in 19th century Bolivia. During
one of that country's perennial revolutions, a mob attacked
Britain's embassy and dragged her ambassador through the
streets of La Paz. Britain reacted by announcing that
it would no longer include Bolivia on maps of South America."
have news for Lord Bradford: leaving Bolivia off the map
would create a hole no larger than a somewhat shrunken
dime. But leaving out China would gouge out a gigantic
crater that not even the most myopic libertarian could
miss. Besides obliterating a good chunk of the world's
population, such an omission epitomizes the imperious
arrogance that Bradford, in his dotage, finds charming,
and that any halfway decent libertarian never mind
halfway decent human being could only find nauseating.
Rockwell's marvelously provocative "China is Right" piece,
Bradford claims that "the collision actually occurred
60 miles off the coast of China, in an area open to ships
and aircraft of all nations. That this is 'international
airspace' is accepted by nearly all countries. It's sort
of true that this space 'is normally used to facilitate
commerce, not hostile military activities,' if, by that,
one means that the majority of planes and ships that pass
through this area, like almost all the other airspace
and surface of the ocean, are commercial, rather than
governmental. But so what?" "Sort of true" is a phrase
with a certain Clintonian ring to it: it depends, you
see, on what you mean by "military."
to Bradford, it would be wrong to think of the US intruder
as the representative of a State, the vanguard of an invading
army. In justifying the US spy mission, he writes: "Organizations
and enterprises often try to get information on competitors,
and, unless they use force or fraud, their doing so is
perfectly moral." Is a self-proclaimed libertarian telling
us that the US government is just another organization:
you know, like the Kiwanis Club or the Libertarian Party?
While it is true that the State is indeed organized, one
would have to agree that it is an organization of a certain
type, a very special organization that one might even
describe as sui generis. And if we are talking
about the US government, especially in its foreign policy
persona as the Global Hegemon, then certainly this is
no ordinary "enterprise." Standing behind this "enterprise"
is the armed might of a nation that spends more on the
military than the combined total of the top ten big spenders
and has been none too shy lately when it comes
to using it. Is this the "enterprise" that Bill Bradford
has thrown his lot in with?
IN NEVER-NEVER LAND
then goes off into some flakey libertarian riff about
how "information" is free and nobody can really own it
and therefore we can fly as many spy planes as close to
the Chinese coastline as we damn well please. It is so
typical of libertarians to drift into some never-never
land of abstractions and drop the real-world context of
an event such as the Hainan incident all-too-typical,
and too convenient. Suddenly, we are not talking about
a government armed to the teeth and up to no good,
but just a bunch of guys (and a coupla gals) who just
happened to be "gathering information" near China's
highly sensitive military base at Hainan. In this Bradfordian
universe of floating abstractions, war and the threat
of war with the most populous nation on earth does not
even come into the picture. How do you argue with someone
so removed from reality?
this faux-"journalist" believes so strongly in the virtues
of doing "research," how come he didn't do any for this
article? If he had, he would have discovered that the
US government claims for itself a security zone
200 miles deep. Any aircraft entering what is called the
Air Defense Interception Zone (ADIZ) from outside the
country had better have radioed its flight plan to the
proper authorities within 15 minutes, or else they'll
find themselves "intercepted," perhaps fatally. Go
here for a nice little map of the "consolidated" ADIZs,
for the admission of a US official who states during
a routine briefing that "we have an Air Defense Identification
Zone that ranges out 200 miles from our coastline." In
his "Recollections of the 961st Airborne Early Warning
& 961st Airborne Early Warning & Control Squadron
(October 1962 October 1965)", Art
551st Wing mission was to maintain 'continuous random'
airborne coverage of at least one 'station' off the US
east coast. There were four stations located about 150
miles or so off shore, in or just outside of the ADIZ,
the Air Defense Identification Zone, where aircraft were
required to have ADC clearance to operate. Unknowns in
or near the ADIZ were scrambled on by ADC F-101 or F-102
interceptors, a number of which were kept on five minute
alert at numerous bases up and down the coast."
TRY THIS AT HOME
seems that the ADIZ, like the American Empire itself,
has been ballooning ever-outward. Conversely, the defense
perimeters of other countries have been shrinking. A mere
60 miles away from China's most sensitive military base,
on Hainan island, is considered "international waters"
but the equivalent distance from, say, Port Townsend,
is well within our ADIZ. Yet such minor disparities don't
bother Bradford. Let US spy planes buzz beachside cabanas
on the shore of the South China Sea, for all Bradford
cares but, kids, please don't try this at
home. You'll get smacked upside the head by a US jet fighter.
LUCK, I GUESS
the way, the US military doesn't make subtle distinctions
between commercial and military aircraft. If you enter
our ADIZ at an unscheduled point and fail to respond to
repeated inquiries, you're out of there
or you're history. It's as simple as that. If the Chinese
had followed US strategic military doctrine in responding
to the incursion, the US spy plane and its crew would,
by now, be a dissipated vapor trail evanescing somewhere
in the stratosphere. Luckily for the families and loved
ones of the crew, the Chinese Pentagon operates by a different
set of rules.
Rockwell to task for bringing up not only the death of
the Chinese pilot, but also the three Chinese journalists
killed in the bombing of their Belgrade embassy, Bradford
let's it all hang out, as they say: "Let's see," he writes.
"Over a three year period, the United States accidentally
kills four Chinese, out of a total of 1,125,000,000. It's
not the 'carnage' that is mounting up here; it's the florid
rhetoric." In other words, there's so many of those damn
chinks to begin with who's going to notice or care
if four go missing? I'm not sure if there's a racial angle
to any of this, but certainly one can see where "consequentilist"
libertarianism is leading Bradford and his tiny band of
nutballs. One can only speculate as to how many casualties
it takes before it registers in Bradford's brain that
the "enterprise" he so admires is a criminal one.
large amount of personal vitriol spewed at Lew Rockwell
Bradford contends that Lew wrote the article just
to be "provocative" and "get attention" is so obviously
motivated by a hatred of unhealthy proportions that the
author makes himself look absolutely clownish. Poor Bradford,
unhinged by malice, goes off on a weird tangent, telling
a story about how Murray Rothbard once told him about
Rockwell's ability to get media attention. (This, we are
supposed to believe, is a bad thing, for some reason).
It is a story that, told from Bradford's perspective,
exudes jealousy. This is an emotion that people used to
try to cover up, but Bradford wears it like a badge of
honor, complaining that
was plain to me that what got Rockwell on network television
was his willingness to articulate an opinion widely regarded
as outrageous. And it was plain to Rockwell, too. Rockwell's
Internet column on the Chinese incident followed the same
modus operandi: get attention by stating an outrageous
opinion as colorfully as possible. In this case, facts
got in the way, so he replaced them with nonfacts and
Bill, if only a droning self-important bore like yourself
could get half the attention Rockwell gets: if only they
would take you seriously! Then you could correct all those
nasty "nonfacts" and "misdirections" why, you'd
be just the one to set them straight. Too bad it will
never happen. Bradford's orgy of envy continues:
how did libertarians react to Rockwell's column? So far
as I can determine, those that saw it thought it was great.
A half-dozen copies were forwarded to me, most with notes
attached singing its praises: 'Fearlessly, point by point,'
one especially gushing note said, 'Lew refutes the US
government's version of the event.' Not one person attached
any comment on its fabrications or illogic."
but what do those crazy libertarians know, anyway? I,
Bill Bradford Lord Bradford to you
uphold the highest standards of "journalism" here at my
little adventure in vanity publishing, why I'm just ever
so careful not to let any of "my own beliefs color my
perception of facts. As an editor, I always worry that
our writers will be as fallacious and careless about the
facts as are so many pundits, including Rockwell." Let
the sensationalists appear on Crossfire and The
McLaughlin Group, Bradford piously intones, but libertarians
must "resist fallacy, mendacity, and sloppy thinking"
all symptoms of what happens when you begin to
question your government. For "it's high time libertarians
remember that every action taken by our government is
not criminal. Almost two centuries ago, Stephen Decatur
famously toasted his fellow naval officers, 'Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always
be in the right, but our country, right or wrong.'"
would be hard to come up with a more cravenly statist
slogan and think how many others there are to choose
from. The very grammar of Decatur's odious declaration
betrays its totalitarian character; by personifying "Our
Country," giving "her" gender and some sort of mythic
identity, the cold monster of the State is transformed
into a charming lady and Bradford's vaunted concern
for the "facts" is eclipsed by a blatant call for blind
loyalty. Oh yes, by all means let us examine the "facts,"
but let's remember that the Chinese can never be right,
and that America, by definition, is (nearly) always right.
In an important sense, Bradford's pitiful screed is a
"Dear John" letter to his fellow libertarians," for in
it he abandons all but the pretense of upholding the uniquely
libertarian distinction between the private sector and
the public, the people versus the State. For here Bradford
freely conflates the "country" with the government: in
his view, there is no difference.
when you think it couldn't get worse, it turns out that
Bradford has reserved the worst for last. In his final
sally against Rockwell and other principled libertarians,
Bradford's sinister purpose is all too obvious: clearly
he is hoping to make a dark enough smear with this mudball,
slimy and muddy enough to permanently mark Rockwell as
some kind of subversive: "For too long," he writes, "too
many libertarians have acted as if they should make another
toast. 'Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations
may she always be in the wrong, but against our country,
wrong or right.'"
an age when America's enemies abroad are characterized
as a "terrorist" conspiracy, to finger somebody in this
way is not an act to be taken lightly. For what Bradford
is saying is that Rockwell is a fifth columnist, an unregistered
agent of anti-Americans everywhere: i.e. he is a traitor
to his country, and we all know what the penalty for treason
is or ought to be. The sheer evil of Bradford's accusation
is breathtaking: he has now appointed himself a one-man
Loyalty Board for the libertarian movement. Naturally
what is needed is a thorough investigation, of which this
odious article is just the beginning. Sure, Bradford doesn't
come right out and say that, in so many words,
but certainly if an EP-3 spy plane flew over Auburn, Alabama
home of Lew and the Ludwig von Mises Institute
then, in Bradford's view, it's just "gathering
information." Now what could be wrong with that?
It's all perfectly "legal."
TO NO GOOD
"facts" of the matter all boil down to one essential
fact, and that is our overwhelming military presence in
Asia. Bradford claims that he is second to none in his
devotion to a noninterventionist foreign policy, but then
questions the patriotism of those, like Rockwell, who
ask the question: what are we doing in the South China
Sea to begin with? This is the only "fact" worth considering,
when you come right down to it. Yes, the American spy
plane was "up to no good" because the US government, once
it goes abroad, is by definition up to no good.
This makes sense from a libertarian perspective, of course,
since, whether you are for limited government or no government,
the idea is to stop the expansion of the government's
domain and power, in this case its extension overseas.
But from the Bradfordian perspective that is, from
the perspective of an envy-eaten, malicious sellout, for
sale to the highest bidder it is nothing less than
a sign of traitorous intent. Well, he ought to
know. . . .
years, I've been predicting that the libertarian movement
was ripe for takeover by the neocons,
and the evolution of Reason magazine should give
us a lesson in the unfortunate effect of too much money
from certain sources. (But not even Virginia Postrel,
"libertarian" lickspittle that she is, has dared to openly
break with libertarian orthodoxy on the foreign policy
question.) Perhaps Bradford, in his aspect as the supreme
greed-head, is hoping a few foundation grants will come
his way. Ayn Rand, Bradford's idol and the subject of
innumerable articles in his magazine, founded a movement
whose symbol may be the key to Bradford's unconscionable
behavior: at her funeral, mourners mingled in the shadow
of a giant dollar sign. In Bradford's case, that is just
so appropriate, although not, I think, in the way
Rand intended it. If ever there was a case of a libertarian
selling out, then this is it although, just between
you and me, I seriously doubt whether anyone's buying.