Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Real Dissent by Thomas E. Woods

As I sat down to write this review, I started thinking about how exactly I came across Tom Woods. I can't recall. It's like he just showed up in my inbox and podcast app out of nowhere. I guess I heard him on another podcast and subscribed to his newsletter. I've been listening to his podcast since day 1.

Real Dissent is subtitled "A Libertarian Sets Fire To The Index Card Of Allowable Opinion". Woods' premise is that the gatekeepers in the media have what must be a 3x5 index card with a list of all the opinions you're allowed to have. If you deviate from that card, you're called all kinds of names. Racist. Sexist. Extremist. Even the "mainstream" libertarians participate in this limitation of allowable opinion. It's either Romney or Obama. There is no other option, unless you're an EXTREMIST! OOOOOOOOOOOOH! You don't want to be an EXTREMIST! do you?

Woods obviously doesn't mean there is a literal 3x5 index card, but there might as well be. I read a few "manoshere" blogs, like Vox Day, Matt Forney, Roosh, Roisy, etc. They're embroiled in something they call "#gamergate" in which they've run afoul of Social Justice Warriors (SWJs), basically internet millennial feminists, beta white knights, and other assorted emotional hypochondriacs (a term I got from Tom Woods) and control freaks.

Rather than a freshly written book, Real Dissent is a collection of articles, essays, interviews, and book forwards Tom Woods has written in the last 15 or so years. Normally I don't like this format. Most other authors do a horrible job of editing and tying it all together, (i.e. Aaron Cleary's "Top Shelf") but Woods excels at this. He groups his chapters by subjects that build upon each other.

The book is broken down into the following sections:

War and Propaganda
Capitalism and Anti-capitalism
Libertarianism Attacked, and My Replies
Ron Paul and Forbidden Truths
End The Fed
History and Liberty
When Libertarians Go Wrong
Books You May Have Missed
Talking Liberty: Selected Tom Woods Show Interviews
Back To Basics

Though Woods is an academic, he writes in an accessible style that's easy to read. The book is designed to show some of the common misconceptions of and attacks on libertarianism, and how to refute them. As an example, if you take a position off the Index Card of Allowable Opinion, such as, Lincoln wasn't as great as he's made out to be, the media will start screaming "You support slavery!"

Woods points out how fallacious this is, as well as how much courage it actually took to oppose slavery in Civil War times. Only a small percentage of the population were outright abolitionists. Most were attacked and humiliated, some were even murdered. It takes absolutely zero courage or effort to oppose slavery now, but that wasn't the case 160 years ago. Woods doubts that anybody who lives and dies by the status quo today would have gone against it at any other point in history. I concur.

The only complaint I had about the book is the selection of interview transcripts didn't seem to match the theme very well. They were interesting; no doubt. I think Tom should have included his interview with Christopher Cantwell, although that happened recently and he may not have had time to transcribe it.

Also, his earlier articles, pre-2007, didn't read as well as his later articles from 2013.

Real Dissent is Tom Woods' first self-published book. He's written and collaborated on several others, but those were conventionally published.

Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion
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