Last week, we reported on the suspension of Lauren Southern, a critic of authoritarian feminism, as a candidate of the Libertarian Party of Canada.
Despite the fact that her viral protest against a “Slutwalk” in Vancouver attracted positive press from around the world, a small group of feminists in the party leadership were able to pressure party leader Tim Moen into removing her as a candidate.
Following our story, the backlash against Southern’s suspension intensified. Over ten candidates resigned or threatened to resign, and the party was slammed in The Libertarian Republic and EveryJoe. I am even told that a columnist at Reason magazine — the Bible of libertarianism — was preparing to criticise the party’s decision.
But disaster has been averted. Party leader Tim Moen has done the smart thing, reinstating Lauren Southern with a guarantee that her freedom of speech will be protected.
In a statement released yesterday, the party leader affirmed his “commitment to Lauren [Southern’s] freedom of speech,” and pledged to improve communication with his candidates. Lauren Southern released her own statement, assuring her supporters that Moen fully supports her right to express her views.
Press For Truth, the libertarian news outlet that published the statements, called it a “good day for liberty in Canada.”
Anger turned to joy on social media, where rank-and-file members of the party had previously been bombarding the leadership with criticism over Southern’s suspension. Since her reinstatement, the party’s social media feeds have been flooded with support.
But not everyone was happy. Mark Burnison, the former VP of Political Action who pushed the hardest for Southern’s expulsion from the party, immediately resigned. In a rage-fueled Facebook post, Burnison said he no longer wanted to be associated with “anti-feminists,” adding that “Lauren Southern can go blank herself.”
For Burnison, and a few other libertarian SJWs, Southern’s reinstatement was a betrayal — the Night of the Long Microaggressions. But initial feedback from party members suggests he won’t be missed.
Burnison initially justified the suspension of Southern by presenting pragmatic arguments about the electoral need for political correctness. But his resignation statement indicates a different motivation — not wanting to “chain his reputation to anti-feminists.”
The statement further inflamed opinion against him. “Good, he should resign,” said one party member. “There’s a certain irony in people who support a party based on tolerance becoming intolerant,” said another. There were few messages of support.
For the leader of a national party, debates about video games and safe spaces on campus likely seem trivial. But Tim Moen has received a tough lesson as to why these debates do matter, and why “social justice warrior” has become an Internet byword for divisiveness and toxicity. Having calmed fears of an assault on free speech, Moen will be hoping to return to his headline issues — fighting Canada’s new surveillance bill, cutting taxes, and championing drug reform.
As for Lauren Southern, her reinstatement as a candidate is a significant personal victory. It’s not every 19-year old who can generate positive media coverage for her activism at a global level, nor maneuver her way out of an attempted political purge. And it’s clear from her statement that she plans on taking a robust stance against similar purges in the future.
“Diversity of thought — protecting each individual’s opinions, values, and expressions — is central to libertarianism,” writes Southern. “In a time of growing cultural and political intolerance, I look forward to promoting a libertarian party that stands up for this kind of diversity”.
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.