Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Interview: Ben Garrison says Gary Johnson "made a fool of himself", explains why "the 'alt right' was never a cohesive movement"

Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 25, 2017.

Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

Newspapers constitute a dying industry these days.

Even more notable ones, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, dwell in the shadows of network and cable news, not to mention various blogs, along with whatever gets thrown around on social media -- those last two bearing paramount significance for Millennials. Talk radio should not be overlooked insofar as their parents are concerned.   

So, one might expect that an editorial cartoonist hardly enjoys much significance these days. Aside from a diminishing pool of middle-aged, middle-to-upper income adults and those older than them, who really cares about what gets printed? The only exception is if a story gets picked up by television personalities, shock jocks, or somehow gains traction on Facebook and the like.

Despite daunting odds, Ben Garrison has become a formidable presence in political commentary. His cartoons, representing a libertarian perspective with great respect for the nation-state, have developed a life of their own. 

In a certain context, this works in Garrison's favor -- a cartoon, for instance, depicting Britain's departure from the European Union's sinking ship (in the process of being hijacked by Islamists) was received with widespread acclaim. Not only was Garrison's work entertaining, but it described a contentious, complicated situation with simple clarity. 

His high profile does come with costs, however. About seven years ago, neo-Hitlerites took issue with Garrison after he found a Nazified version of one of his cartoons and requested it be taken down. While Garrison's wish was granted, a cadre of keyboard warriors proceeded to publish doctored cartoons which twist a limited government message into one Der Fuhrer would support. 

As Garrison's signature remained on each altered cartoon, an untold number of folks came to believe he was an advocate for Nazi ideology.

"Garrison is .... the victim of one the most extraordinary and longest-running smear campaigns on the internet," Breitbart explained last year, later mentioning that he "has more to worry about than just remixed comics. The trolls are more dedicated to their craft than that. They have spent years spreading the myth of Ben Garrison the white supremacist" which includes a "painstakingly crafted fake profile of Garrison".

Through it all, even as his business suffered, Garrison remained steadfast in his commitment to personal liberty.

"We are trying to do our part by means of artwork to help raise awareness of the drift toward tyranny," his cartoon-related website, GrrGraphics, says. "We as private citizens need to reclaim and fight for our rights as enumerated in our Constitution. It's time to speak out and express our outrage at the growing tyranny of Big Government."

Garrison spoke with me about several issues in a conversation spanning three articles, the first of which you are now reading.


Joseph Ford Cotto: A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, protectionism has surged in both major parties. Now, in the age of Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory. Would you say that right-libertarian politics have any serious potential under Trump?

Ben Garrison: Unfortunately, we right-leaning libertarians were saddled with an untenable, left-leaning Libertarian candidate who made a fool of himself. Gary Johnson was a disaster and had a deleterious effect on the party. Johnson is the reason many of us supported Trump--even though we definitely were not in alignment with everything Trump said.

Cotto: More than anything else, why did libertarianism fail to fundamentally transform the American conservative movement?

Garrison: It’s too early to say it has failed. To be sure, it hasn't gained traction, but there’s still hope. Also, I wouldn't consider conservatives to be part of a ‘movement.’ A conservative mindset has always existed. We want to conserve and preserve what we have. That is, the Constitution and our liberties. We want to preserve American culture and the Republic. It’s the progressives who are a ‘movement.'

Cotto: A band of disparate rightists banded together in support of Donald Trump's candidacy. These individuals, opposed to contemporary American conservative orthodoxy, came to be known as the 'alt-right'. Since Donald Trump's election, 'alt-rightism' has splintered prolifically. Beyond anything else, why is this?

Garrison: How did they become to be known as the ‘alt right?’ Just a year or two ago few of us had even heard of this expression. Hillary began using it and many liberals parroted it. Why? Perhaps because it sounds vaguely like “Third Reich.” Semantics are often used to smear and demonize opponents and Hillary did not hesitate to do that. She even used a cartoon frog as evidence that Trump was a ‘Nazi.’ That’s how absurd the attacks became and many people saw through her vile tactics, despite the fact they were repeated up by her corporate media.

Richard Spencer claims to have invented the term ‘alt right’ about six years ago. He toiled mostly in obscurity until the 2016 election. Then the left helped bring him to fame when they claimed he and Trump shared ideologies. They also tried to ‘meme’ Trump and David Duke together. They failed at that, too. If anything, the mainstream media shot themselves in their collectivist feet and showed the American public that the media watchdogs became status quo collectivist lapdogs. They were shown to be liars. Trump drove the snakes out of their holes.

Your word ‘splintering’ implies the alt right was more unified, but again…the 'alt right' was never a cohesive movement. For example, Mike Cernovich and Breitbart were never on the same page as Richard Spencer. The only commonality is we all supported Trump because he at the very least put the country first and many of us prefer nationalism to globalism. Even Andrew Anglin, the trolling Nazi, expressed his support for Trump.

That doesn’t mean the rest of us support Anglin. I despise him. Racism and anti-Semitism never stuck to Donald Trump. Some on the far right wanted him to be racist and anti-Semitic and too many on left insisted that he already was. They were all wrong and they failed to persuade voters no matter how loudly they shouted such nonsense.