A bit behind the times, I recently watched the 1998 film Pleasantville: a more esoteric bit of cinema I may have never seen. Many I’ve spoken with about it seem to have been blissfully oblivious of its meaning. But the potency as much as the subject matter of its propaganda is what prompts this humble critique of mine now. It’s about a boy who, growing up under all the liberal degradation of our age, is, along with his sister, magically transported into his favorite old black-and-white television show about an idyllic 1950s era Mayberry/Father Knows Best sort of town where all the old Christian virtues still abide: a pre-integration era community of devout and intact patriarchal Anglo-Saxon Protestant families, totally free of crime and dissipation. The old vision of millennial victory.
But subservient to the prerogative of cultural Marxism, this halcyon vision of old America, if invoked at all, must be repudiated in substance and sentiment. Any nostalgia for the Christian Whitopia is to be portrayed as rooted in the psychosis termed the authoritarian personality. Or as Christian Answers appraised it,
Pleasantville advocates a self-contradictory, therefore false, moral relativism that attacks traditional morality while at the same time setting up its own permissive morality that the audience is supposed to support,” Dr. Baehr said. “It also accepts the neo-Marxist view of psychological, sexual and social ‘repression’ developed by the Frankfurt School, the neo-Marxist think tank that influenced those confused 60s radicals. American public schools and colleges, using taxpayers’ money, have force-fed this insidious new morality to our nation’s youth for the last 50 years. It has also infected the secular mass media, including film critics and many nationally-known journalists.
Pleasantville proceeded to receive the laudable accolade of “Worst Frankfurt School Antinomian Revisionist Propaganda.”
Yes, these emigres from our fallen realm quickly come to regard Pleasantville’s paradisaical innocence deeply offensive and introduce to that world a libertarian epistemology and ethics; and in so doing, bring sin to Eden.
Recapitulating not only the Fall but also the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the rebellion begins with women and children (Eve was Adam’s junior): beguiled by carnal knowledge against the Patriarchy in their homes and streets, and the values undergirding it all. As with Adam, the Patriarchy falls as the town fathers succumb to uxorious pressures. The result is rampant infidelity, perversion, blasphemy, and the fall of the color line. All of which are cast as nothing less than sacraments of the new faith replacing the old.
As no small coincidence, the man to longest resist temptation — the mayor of Pleasantville — is both the great villain of the story and the Christ figure. His defense of and plan to restore his fallen Eden and its people is portrayed as the ultimate evil, for the rebels have declared God’s order to be indefensible authoritarianism. So in this Passion play, the Christ figure finally succumbs to carnality and rebellion, and is himself redeemed by concession to sin and its overthrow of the cosmos. This narrative of liberal enlightenment is nothing less than Satan’s gospel.
But it is also what has alternately come to be called libertarianism. This is so by way of the fact that libertarianism starts from the premises of personal autonomy and self-ownership, antithetical to theonomy and Christ’s Lordship.
No matter how much neo-theonomists attempt to baptize it, the libertarian conception of liberty is inherently inimical to the Christian worldview. As the standard histories tell it,
[U]se of the word libertarian to describe a new set of political positions has been traced to the French cognate, libertaire, coined in a scathing letter French libertarian communist Joseph Déjacque wrote to mutualist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1857, castigating him for his sexist political views.
But this socio-politic was based upon metaphysics called prior by the same terminology:
The term libertarian was first used by late-Enlightenment freethinkers to refer to the metaphysical belief in free will, as opposed to determinism. The first recorded use was in 1789, when William Belsham wrote about libertarianism in opposition to ‘necessitarian’, i.e. determinist, views.
Yes, those who first self-identified as libertarians understood their view to be a rejection of determinism. This correspondence between free-will as a theory of agency and its expression in a laissez faire society is not incidental or unnecessary, but essential. This is seen even in the cognate term which immediately preceded libertarianism: “The word ‘Libertine’ was originally coined by John Calvin to negatively describe opponents of his policies in Geneva, Switzerland.”
Which is to say that the nativity of libertarianism as a fight against determinism was essentially the same fight of the libertines who objected to Calvin’s doctrine two centuries prior. Because libertarians conceived of determinism, i.e., God’s superintendence and dominion, as the zenith and ultimate source of authoritarianism. As Van Til said, “God’s revelation is always authoritarian.”1
Little wonder, then, that the etymological connection to this idea stretches back further still, as St. Augustine dealt with much the same ideas a millennium earlier:
Liber is the god whom they have put in command of liquid seeds — not only of liquours derived from fruits, among which wine holds, one may say, the primacy, but also the seeds of animals. The depth of obscenity reached in his ceremonies would take so long to tell that one would be reluctant to embark on the task.2
Again, the connection is not only etymological but conceptual: that obscene mingling of liquid seeds is front and center in the narrative of Pleasantville, which hinges upon fornication, adultery, and the commingling of Whites and “Coloreds”– those who had been colorized by their fall into sin.
However, and in spite of the metaphysical implications of the philosophy, libertarians in mid- to late-twentieth-century America tended to be Christians predominantly. It’s easy to understand why under the circumstances, as they had been persuaded to this position in polarization away from the centralized god-state. Granted, that persuasion came largely from the mouths of Jews rather than Christians – Barry Goldwater, Milton Friedman, and the converted Catholics Murray Rothbard and Ludwig Von Mises, et al. – but they did offer at the time what seemed the antithesis of the centralized humanist state. So in the backdrop of the Cold War and the burgeoning NWO it was easy for many to lay aside the fact that the libertarians argued for liberation from the state collective based upon the same philosophical predication that led their opponents to affirm the mega-state — the autonomy of man.
In the context of the times, fighting the Deep State, there was much good to be gleaned from certain libertarian authors. Some have written definitive critiques of the New Deal, the Great Society, Lincolnism, government schools, the Federal Reserve, fiat currencies, Marxism, Keynesianism, and statism in general. Their anti-authoritarian undercurrent has generated fantastic critiques of arbitrary authority in the state and bank. And those whose libertarianism was mitigated by Christianity — such as Friedrich Hayek and Lew Rockwell — did not allow that anti-authoritarian principle to devour the legitimate authorities of family, church, and state under God.
But even if many proved to be quite good in some ways, they were good in spite of their libertarianism, not because of it.
As Christianity has waned in society, libertarianism finds itself increasingly returning to the environs of the antinomian spirit from which it ultimately sprang, and is becoming therefore more consistent with its own founding presuppositions. The result is a contemporary libertarian party and movement that are a thoroughly liberal-left phenomenon. Who can forget when Jamie Kelso tried to talk peoplehood with the young libertarians during Ron Paul’s presidential campaign? All those post-Christians were by that time resolved to the intentional annihilation of the White race. These young Rothbardians would have denounced Rothbard himself as a Nazi. I mean, Gary “SJW” Johnson for president? Really, people.
Albeit there is a Christian conception of liberty under God’s law — deror and eleutheria — but it is a liberty to, rather than from. Because the Christian is, under God’s Law, set at liberty to fulfill his vocations under God, and hindered therefrom neither by the arbitrary usurpations of men nor the artifice of any positivism or statecraft. In this sense, true liberty is inherently tied up with the telos of man under Christ. Man is free to pursue and fulfill his God-ordained purpose only under divine law, which provides the only framework for genuine freedom.
But this is exactly the opposite of the libertarian concept. The libertarian view is liberation from the telos of man under God, from all communal identities of nation, clan, race, church, and all other intermediate communities and allegiances, and disencumbrance from all that defines the family itself and, therefore, man himself. This is why and how they embrace sodomy as a “personal choice,” and so-called gay marriage* as a licit “private contract” rather than a crime. It’s how they dismiss our national borders as “an imaginary line” rather than the lawful bounds of our national jurisdiction. It sanctions adultery, prostitution, incest, miscegenation, and, if consistent, even pedophilia. Even their approximation of the Golden Rule, the NAP, doesn’t hedge against conjugal relations with children so long as they are consensual, because libertarianism confesses no age-specific demarcation of free agency. To hear them tell it, the age of consent and the presumption of parental authority over the chastity of children is just authoritarianism and collectivism, man. Both of which are, from the libertarian perspective, as well as Adorno’s F-Scale, cardinal sins.
The laws of Moses and Mises are not the same and cannot be reconciled. Where Moses commands us to love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves, Mises says, in effect, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” Which is also known as the Law of Thelema, the ethic of satanism.
Even if Ayn Rand clashed with classical libertarianism at points, the Cato institute, among others, has identified Randian Objectivism as a certified wing of libertarianism because the underlying presuppositions of Objectivism are the same as in libertarianism generally. Further, it was these precise doctrines of self-ownership and personal autonomy that prompted Anton LaVey to disclose that his satanism is “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.”
But this satanic thread ultimately runs back much further than the Church of Satan, the Cultural Revolution, the Enlightenment, the counter-Reformation, or the pantheons of Rome and Greece: even the old mystery cults of Babylon regarded Eden as an authoritarian prison from which our first parents were liberated by the light-bearer, Lucifer. So irrespective of its celluloid modernity, the narrative of Pleasantville is ancient. It is the same story in essence told by the oracles of Sumer and the seers of Akkad, preached in the shade of Babel’s tower, and likely amongst the antedeluvian Cainites. It is the same false vision of liberty whispered by serpent tongue in that primordial garden, and as Pleasantville demonstrates, that lie persists little altered from its first telling, no doubt on account of its potency.
But it is the Christian’s job to call out this lie of autonomy in all its iterations, subtle though it may sometimes be. If we hope to drive back this present darkness which encircles us, and restore Pleasantville, we are bound to repudiate not just Hollywood’s mystery cult narrative, but also the ideologies which mirror it on the Right in the likes of libertarianism, Objectivism, laissez faire capitalism, pluralism (the modern reinterpretation of freedom of religion), and so called civic nationalism. These can be overcome only by the power of Christ. All other means, by presumption of personal and noetic autonomy, cede the argument to the enemy from the outset.