Why Do Some Libertarians Hate Chris Rufo?
It's a really weird strain
A phenomenon familiar to a regular reader of the avowedly secular libertarian publication Reason is that they will not infrequently choose people who they will absolutely hate for reasons that are unclear, despite their close affiliation with the libertarian ideology they claim to espouse. The most prominent example of this is the Tea Party, where the fiscally conservative politicians affiliated with the populist movement became targets for Reason criticism despite being closely aligned on many issues. Reason’s inability to accept the political success of the Paul family movement and their animosity toward the Libertarian Party’s takeover by Mises Caucus acolytes are lesser examples, but still in the same orbit. But their recent decision to smear Chris Rufo, one of the leading critics of Critical Race Theory and its application through government schools, is one of the more bizarre flights of fancy for a publication that fancies many an odd thing.
Let’s just look at this claim, advanced by the Cato Institute’s Paul Matzko in what purports to be a review but is in reality a grievance piece against Rufo (emphasis mine):
It is a testament to Rufo's marketing talent that his complaints feel entirely mundane at this point in the culture war. Prior to Rufo, critical race theory, or CRT, had been an obscure school of legal thought relegated to a few radical law school departments. The proposition that CRT would become a lynchpin of American political discourse in the early 2020s would once have been laughable, but it became deadly serious when Rufo went on Tucker Carlson's cable news show in the summer of 2020.
There, Rufo blamed critical race theory for the post–George Floyd eruption of civil rights protests. That caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who promptly penned an executive order prohibiting CRT from being used in the federal government's training seminars and materials. Rufo has since been appointed by Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of trustees at New College of Florida, where Rufo has spearheaded a purge of left-wing professors.
To say that this narrative is inaccurate is putting it mildly. With due respect to Rufo’s efforts, his appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show was in no way the spark that lit the fire of parents advocating against the CRT influence on their children’s curriculum — the episode in question had fewer than 4 million viewers, and Rufo’s YouTube clip of his appearance has 146k views.
These are not viral numbers, to say the least. The fact that then President Trump took notice of it and had his staff draw up an executive order afterwards is beside the point — that sort of feedback loop happened all the time in the Trump Administration, when people would regularly take their arguments to cable news to try and influence the president. Instead, the story of CRT’s place within the parent-driven education-focused lexicon is one of the strength of organic collaboration — something you think Reason would be all about — that highlighted an issue of political concern that would ultimately have a huge impact in 2021 and beyond.
What makes little sense here is why Reason libertarians hate Chris Rufo so much. If you drill down to the summation of his effort, it is to empower local parent groups to change curriculum in public schools according to their priorities — knowing that these priorities will more often than not lead to an improvement in the curricula and a move away from leftist CRT frames for history — frames that Reason itself, through publication of Philip Magness, has criticized.
What is their problem with that? It’s not a speech code or an anti-hate crime law as Ron DeSantis critics have falsely claimed — it’s saying you can’t engage in this via taxpayer funded speech or schools. Surely the taxpayer has a right to have their opinions heard on such matters. To claim otherwise is to accept the administrative state’s top men as the experts they claim to be, to the diminution of the voter, the taxpayer, and the electorate. Short of eliminating government schools, surely it’s a worthy goal to demand they teach things other than a Marxist racist debunked inaccurate frame of history?
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