Oh, what I didn’t know in 2009

[Ed. update: I guess I never realized how much Stefan Molyneux’s exposure in 2008 must have bothered him. I began to notice a huge “facelift operation” going on at FreeDomain Radio, but I didn’t dream it would ultimately lead to today’s complete makeover of Molyneux as “libertarian gadfly, interviewer to the stars.” The following article, which I wrote as the makeover began, asked some serious questions about the True Believers who had followed Molyneux before he created the “kinder, gentler FDR.”

I’m still asking those same questions today.]

FDR has been through interesting changes over the years…

the 2006 version when it was an egalitarian community and Molyneux actually wrote the cogent essays he later recorded as podcasts (instead of simply recording barely-focused ramblings off the top of his head and releasing them un-edited as he does today)…

the 2007 blow-up as Molyneux became bigger-than-FDR, a number of his free-er thinking members departed, his site became his livelihood, and he began granting “Philosopher King” titles at $500 a pop…

the media attention in 2008 from The Guardian and other journalists that ended the bold and transparent role Molyneux played in separating his followers from their parents (it didn’t end the role necessarily, just the bold and transparent part)…

..and now the 2009+ refined FDR in which Molyneux refuses to acknowledge (but never repudiate) the foundational philosophy of FDR.

I hate to bring up Scientology (because it sounds like I’m going to use the “c”ult word), but doesn’t it kind of remind you of the way L. Ron Hubbard’s craziest notions are now carefully hidden from normal people’s view until they become deeply integrated into that “community”?

So instead of Scientology, I’ll use a Godfather II analogy. Doesn’t it seem like FDR has suddenly moved to Vegas and is trying to be legit? I’ve already noted that many of the more embarrassing “psychology” documents and podcasts (along with evidence of any involvement of his wife Christina) are being rapidly purged from the site. And now Molyneux has his web radio show where he interviews libertarians and academics of more significance than himself (and who don’t really have a clue who he is) in an attempt to lend their credibility to his.

But his original followers? They’re quickly becoming a minority and maybe an embarrassing one at that. A greater percentage of newer donating FDR members appear to have bought into the myth (for now) that Molyneux advocates defooing only in the most extreme situations, greatly outnumbering the original True Believers—the ones who learned in Molyneux’s early essays that defooing is an essential step for every virtuous ancap.

You know, the ones who actually built his “community.”

In my view, if you are going to have a philosophy—no matter how crazy—you should live it. And you certainly shouldn’t be afraid to say it out loud. If not, then admit you were wrong. Molyneux has never actually rescinded his absolutist views on the psychology/philosophy connection (I don’t think he can, actually). No, those ideas have simply become the crazy uncle in the attic that no one talks about. (Oops, forgot! This is supposed to be a Godfather II analogy…) They’re the bodies Molyneux left floating in the East River before FDR put on its silk suit and skipped town.

At the risk of appearing to care more about Molyneux’s members than he does…If I’m right and Molyneux is changing the face of FDR to something that appears less crazy, then what of those defooed members—the poor folks on whose backs he built FDR? They’re scattered out there, mostly friendless and unable to socialize with the people around them, believing themselves to be victims of parental abuse, ekeing out some kind of minimum wage and sending in their donations. Will he one day call “All-y all-y in free!” and send them back to their friends and families? Or will he absolve himself of them, wash his hands, and move on?

I wonder what Michael Corleone would do?

[Ed. note #2: Funny thing, just as I had finished writing the above, FDR unveiled its brand new home page. Unfortunately, they did it before I could publish the post above, so no one will ever really know that for just a few minutes in my life, I was actually awesome. Anyway, that’s when I wrote the follow-up below.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.]

I’m probably some kind of genius or something. Several weeks have elapsed between the time I wrote the note directly above this one and now. During that time, FDR completely changed its home page and made everything I wrote above sound almost…prescient. (Of course, I’m the only one who knows that since I’m publishing them both at the same time, but trust me!)

The “Corleones-move-to-Las-Vegas” maneuver is nearly complete. Molyneux continues to take on the air of legitimacy, advertising the Blog Talk Radio interviews he now does with freedom luminaries. They honestly believe he is promoting them and not using them to promote himself, poor dears.

I wonder if he mentions to his interviewees that if their parents believe(d) in government or religion they are victims of child abuse? Or that if they believe in either of those then they are/will be abusers? I’m going to take a stab and guess “no.” I didn’t hear his interview with Dr. Stuart Shankar, Prof. of Philosophy and Psychology at York University, but I wonder if he mentioned to him that he thinks academic philosophers have turned ethics into “a subjective and murky swamp”? Again, probably not.

The new home page tells us that FDR is “The largest and most popular philosophical conversation in the world.” This will probably come as a shock to the freedom-focused folks at Mises.org, Anti-State, Free Talk Live, and elsewhere. Especially because FDR has 7,000 members and they have, well, more.

Maybe Molyneux is counting the number of people who download his podcasts or listen to Blog Talk Radio (but aren’t interested enough in what he’s saying to actually join the “conversation”)?

Maybe he is referring strictly to sites that bill themselves as Philosophy forums. That’s it.

But wait. I just picked a couple sites at random and it turns out that The Philosophy Forums has nearly 27,000 members and the Online Philosophy Club has nearly 36,000. I’m crazy like this but isn’t that also more than FDR’s 7,000? I’m confused now. They promised me there would be no math in blogging.

I’m reluctant to suggest again that FDR’s proud 7,000 are mostly spam accounts but, as I mentioned in last month’s Quickies!, a few thousand of those folks seem to have e-mail addresses like putajackhammerinyourpants@sexpills.ca so I’m just not sure.