My Continuing Identity Crisis

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Last week, I was part of “the right”, “doubling down” to defend Sarah Palin in the wake of the Tucson shootings. This week I’m a partisan, “leftist libertarian” who “hates the right and dislikes tea partiers.”

The way I shift personalities, it’s a wonder no one has yet taken the precaution of having me involuntarily committed.

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49 Responses to “My Continuing Identity Crisis”

  1. #1 |  CyniCAl | 

    I wouldn’t worry too much. Based on the reactions you provoke, you are more than living up to your name.

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    “The way I shift personalities, it’s a wonder no one has yet taken the precaution of having me involuntarily committed?” Don’t give law enforcement ideas.

    Don’t forget also you are in the pay of the Koch Brothers and probably also George Soros.

  3. #3 |  gonzostl | 

    I suppose this means your doing it right. Keep it up you ambidextrous agitator.

  4. #4 |  Warren | 

    And Bill Polian

  5. #5 |  Big A | 

    Great comment from the “leftist libertarian” (whatever that means) site:

    Juice says:
    January 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Yeah, Balko is so crazy partisan it’s not funny. If there’s one partisan blogger out there, it’s definitely Balko. I’m getting about sick of his blatant and routine partisanship that I’m about to write a letter to the party he is constantly supporting by his ridiculous, over-the-top partisanship. Damn, what party was that again?

    No shit. Calling Balko partisan is about as partisan a behavior one can make. Keep up the good fight, Radley.

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    Whatever party Radley is a partisan for, please let me know, coz I want to join it.

  7. #7 |  LibertarianBlue | 

    Yes Conservatives, we Libertarians DO hate you because you enjoy growing the state just like the left only at a slower pace. I always find it funny when cons go off on Libertarians because they attempt (although poorly) to be original in their attacks. With Liberals you can guess pretty accurately on what they’re going to criticize you on.

  8. #8 |  Irving Washington | 

    Whoa! And Jack Shafer is part of the Right, too? Won’t he be surprised.

  9. #9 |  Johnny Yuma | 

    Conservatives want to grow the state more slowly than liberals? News to me.

  10. #10 |  Ken | 

    Think of it this way: you bring the asses on the Right and the asses in the Left into harmonious agreement.

    Yes, it’s in being pissed off at you, but still.

  11. #11 |  buzz | 

    “Conservatives want to grow the state more slowly than liberals? News to me.”
    Real ones, yes. Wish there were some.

  12. #12 |  freebob | 

    If you follow the link where Balko is a “leftist libertarian,” in the comments section the author claims he never called Balko a partisan, then once he/she/it realizes he did call Balko a partisan he makes a very pathetic attempt to prove Balko is partisan.
    Now that’s some quality blogging.

  13. #13 |  Episiarch | 

    Partisans cannot understand someone not being a partisan, so their response to being called a partisan themselves is to just say “no, you are!”. Not only is it the equivalent of a grade school response (“you’re a towel!”), it shows how they think: well, I may be a partisan, but so are you, so it’s ok.

  14. #14 |  Gerald A | 

    Equal opportunity Agitator.

  15. #15 |  SJE | 

    Conservative: “down with government, down with taxes, down with regulation”
    Libertarian: “OK, lets repeal drug laws and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan”
    Con: “You liberal! You must hate America”

    Liberal: “government must help people instead of spending money on the military”
    Libertarian: “OK, lets repeal drug laws and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan”
    Liberal: “Your antigovernment conservative rhetoric ignores the harm you will cause to the drug addicts, and the young girls in Iraq and Afghanistan. You must hate people”

    See, you can’t win.

  16. #16 |  the innominate one | 

    Episiarch: no, you’re a towel!

  17. #17 |  Episiarch | 

    tio: well, you’re a beaner towel!

  18. #18 |  roy | 

    Next week you’ll be a radical moderate.

  19. #19 |  Chris C. | 

    The problem with so many people, whether they have a “side” or are just confused, is that they aren’t comfortable dealing with people as individuals, only as memebers of some arbitrary group. Some of that is habit, but a lot is intellectual laziness, in my experience. Many that I have talked to cannot seem to muster the energy to examine a person beyond what he/she has said most recently.

    Yes, we are wired (to a certain extent) to see patterns, to lump others into groups (“us” and “them” being the most basic). But we all get housebroken as we grow up, so one could hope that other childish patterns could be put behind us as well.

  20. #20 |  Gordon | 

    Heh. Radley Balko: Statist Detector. Hmmm…a TV series?

  21. #21 |  EH | 

    Some people just can’t imagine acting outside of their chosen team. Someone once said that fascism is the desire to be led, and the more partisan someone is, the more you can be sure their opinions are not their own. Of course I just used a “some people do X…” division, but y’know…forest for the trees.

  22. #22 |  PogueMahone | 

    “veeshir” is a funny guy…

    Wherein PogueMahone has witnessed people talking about themselves in the third person, PogueMahone cannot recall anyone writing about themselves in the third person.

  23. #23 |  Aresen | 

    …it’s a wonder no one has yet taken the precaution of having me involuntarily committed.

    Don’t give them any ideas Radley.


  24. #24 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Here’s my favorite part of the second article to which you linked… When somebody calls out the blogger for suggesting your partisan, he offers the following justification: “He actually responds to Balloon Juice instead of making fun of those poo-flinging monkeys.” Yes, your response to Balloon Juice, which clearly does not make fun of the website, is conclusive proof of your partisanship.

  25. #25 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Ugh… Make that “suggesting YOU’RE partisan.” All of my English teachers, and my parents, and myself, are all deeply embarrassed.

  26. #26 |  Joe | 

    Sullivan is a liar who forewhatever reason is a gay man obsessed with Sarah Palin’s reproductive organs. Chucky Johnson is just completely bat shit nuts–his shifts on politics are just symptoms of far deeper problems. Doubleplusundead is not a blogger I think I have ever visited before, but putting your name and Johnson’s in the same sentance is just wrong.

    There is nothing wrong with being partisan. What matters is being honest. You are honest. I do not agree with every thing you promote, but there is no subterfuge at the Agitator. It is what it is.

  27. #27 |  Leah | 

    #25 – Your wife, too. ;-)

  28. #28 |  karl | 


    You must be kidding. No liberal I know (myself included) thinks the drug war is justified and no liberal I know thinks that anti-war opinions are anti-government (including the very few who want to “finish the job” over there). There’s enough to reasonably criticize on the left without making up strawmen. When I read comments like yours I have to assume that you don’t know what our arguments really are.

    My challenge: link me to a leftist who has written that being against the drug war, Iraq war and Afghanistan war is anti-people in any way.

  29. #29 |  Stephen | 

    Hey, I see an add for Ann Coulter on this page! You MUST be a right wing-nut. :)

  30. #30 |  Joe | 

    Anyone disliked by Patterico has to have some good.

  31. #31 |  Ben | 

    karl – that’s funny, I can’t recall hearing a single nationally prominent democrat seriously advocate for the end of the drug war.

    sidenote: saying that they don’t have a problem with decriminalizing marijuana is NOT the same as saying they want to end the drug war.

  32. #32 |  lunchstealer | 

    “it’s a wonder no one has yet taken the precaution of having me involuntarily committed.”

    It’s because as a pinko liberal, you’ve put in place all sorts of bleeding-heart ‘rights’ for crazy people who should be locked up. As a heartless conservative, you’ve cut funding for mental health services you so desperately need.

  33. #33 |  Marc | 

    From the comments section:

    “Veeshir says:
    January 17, 2011 at 9:30 am
    Ummmmm, where did I call him “partisan”? I called him a leftist libertarian, look up the word “partisan”, and then go screw.”

    The VERY NEXT post:

    “Veeshir says:
    January 17, 2011 at 9:38 am
    I forgot about the last part, I did call him “partisan”.”

    Mind you, no real apology or “my bad,” just briefly acknowledging reality before going back to ignoring it. Holy freaking hell is that dude a moron!

  34. #34 |  karl | 

    @#31 – Ben

    Sad but true, which is why I wrote “no liberal I know.” I meant real-life liberals (the few that can be found in Phoenix, at least) rather than politicians but didn’t make it clear, sorry. The differences on that particular issue between liberals (as opposed to Democrats) and their elected *leaders* are substantial — as are the differences on other issues; likewise, many conservatives (not to be confused with the current crop of Republicans) aren’t always happy with their representatives, either.

    Reasonable people on both sides willingly (sometimes happily) vote for sycophants and sociopaths because we regard the alternatives even worse. I know I do.

  35. #35 |  JOR | 


    You must not know very many liberals.

    Disclaimer: There are differences between Grown-Up technocratic center-leftists (e.g. Obama) and what might be called leftist or egalitarian liberals. Both come in more or less radical, more or less thoughtful, and more or less authoritarian forms but the former tend to be far more philosophically authoritarian. The former also tend to be far more thoughtless, far more clueless, and far more prone to the idiotic and essentially conservative error of believing that their ideology isn’t really an ideology (that lack of self-awareness and that thoughtless cluelessness is part of the reason why they can push for restrictions and regulations and taxes and new law after new law every damned year, each one to be enforced ultimately with armed raids, confiscations, imprisonment, and possibly lethal force – and then complain about spineless hyperbole like “Second Ammendment solutions”).

  36. #36 |  Dan | 

    How about “pacifist libertarian?”

  37. #37 |  Nicolas Eyle | 

    Some years ago I was a pundit on a local public TV show modeled after the McLaughlin Report. The host never knew where to seat me, to his right or his left. It seems libertarians don’t easily fit into mainstream political categories.

  38. #38 |  Rob in CT | 

    Being ripped by partisans of both teams is probably a good sign. ;)

    I may not agree with you on a given issue, but I check in to read your take on it, because I know you’re not going to bullshit me.

  39. #39 |  Warren Bonesteel | 

    If you’re getting flak from both sides, you’re probably doing it* right.

    If you’re not getting flak from both sides, you’re absolutely doing it* wrong.

    *Freedom and liberty.

  40. #40 |  Mykeru | 

    You are obviously a right-wing liberal commie fascist and, as this trend continues, you will soon be like a ball that is equally all red and all green, all over, at the same time.

    And then, yes, heads: They will asplode.

  41. #41 |  Mykeru | 

    @Warren Bonesteel

    “If you’re getting flak from both sides, you’re probably doing it* right.”

    Counterexample: Ralph Nader.

  42. #42 |  albatross | 


    I think you’re engaging in the No True Scotsman fallacy.

  43. #43 |  albatross | 


    I think it’s more fundamental than what you’re imagining. We’re tribal critters, thanks to millions of years of evolution in which we mostly lived in either smallish tribes or smallish farming villages, and in which there was usually not a hell of a lot of practical law or justice outside your own tribe. So people in almost any kind of conflict become tribal–they find a team and join/support it. (Think about sports teams–plenty of people get absolutely rabid supporting them, despite the fact that they’re completely artifical, commercial creations.)

    In politics, the teams are either the big parties, or more broadly, the liberal and conservative political movements. Those broad groups’ political positions have very little to do with rational thought or intellectual coherence, and a great deal to do with coalition building and historical accidents. (This is how the pro-war team turns out to also be the evangelical Christian team, along with the anti-social-safety-net team.)

    So, if you think through issues on your own, or tap into some line of thought other than the ones common in the contemporary US, you will have ideas that don’t fit a team at all. (Look at Catholic social teaching as an example of this–it really isn’t a fit for either big US team.) And for people who are looking at the world through a team filter, you will be confusing as hell. It’s like the old joke about the Jew being confronted by thugs in Northern Ireland–yeah, but are you a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?

  44. #44 |  karl | 

    JOR #35

    It’s true that here in Phoenix there aren’t too many liberals, but there are few scattered here and there in the other states.

    albatross #42

    The Scotsman fallacy is getting thrown around a lot lately on the blogs; it used to apply more to true-believing communists and free-marketeers who claimed that their ideal systems were never put into practice. True, but so what? We live in a real world where politics is about where to draw the lines — which is why I make the distinction between those who are always political in their thinking and actions and those who aren’t. Its a practical difference: the former build the (electoral) roads that the latter drive on once every two years.

  45. #45 |  supercat | 

    Much of the confusion regarding conservative/leftist identity stems from the fact that neither party’s politicians actually stand for the stuff they claim to support. In many cases, a freedom-loving voter’s party affiliation will be determined not by their own principles, but rather by how they view the /real/ positions of politicians.

    My personal belief is that when conservatives fail to stand up for freedom, it is because they are indifferent to it; when leftists do so, it is because they are openly hostile to it. Perhaps I am overly cynical with regard to the left, or insufficiently cynical with regard to the right, but I’ve observed a lot more leftists claiming to be conservative than the reverse; I thus regard many anti-freedom actions by so-called conservatives as being a function of their closet leftism rather than their conservatism.

    One thing that people need to understand politics need to recognize is that “unintended consequences” often aren’t. Many so-called “unintended consequences” of government policies are entirely predictable long before the policies are put into place. While it’s possible that some such policies are put into place by well-meaning people who are blind to the consequences, most such policies are put into place by people whose real agendas are promoted by the so-called “unintended consequences”.

    Radley probably believes that Democrats care about civil liberties. I believe they do not. I believe that Democrats want to let criminals out of prison so they can increase crime rates, and then use those increased crime rates to justify further attacks on the liberties of law-abiding citizens. While I find Republicans’ failure to curtail the behavior of robbers-with-badges disturbing, I don’t believe that they actually want government to be infested with crooks; instead, I think they want to believe it isn’t.

    If Radley views the Democrats less negatively than I do, and the Republicans more positively, it would make sense he’d be less inclined to support Republicans. Our differences, I suspect, lie not with philosophy but rather our judgments of politicians.

  46. #46 |  JOR | 


    Well if you define statism as necessarily “leftist” then I guess it’s possible to see statist conservatives as closet-leftists. But it’d be just as easy to play the opposite game and say that the Democrats are really conservatives, and not leftists. In fact if you use “conservative” to mean what it used to mean before the Culture Wars got stupid – that is, people who reject “ideology” in favor of loyalty to personality cults or institutions or evolutionary social processes (e.g. Burke, Oakeshotte, Kirk) rather than religious authoritarians or market authoritarians – then the Democrats and the center-left technocratic progressives are the closest thing America has to true conservatives. They share the thoughtless, clueless utter lack of self-awareness that comes with imagining that you are free from ideology and free from theory that has always marked low-end conservative thought, and sometimes venture into the postmodern relativism that has always characterized high-end conservative thought.

  47. #47 |  Mike T | 

    All of the analysis of rhetoric and yet no one has picked up on his obsession with Nietzsche. Probably because the average reporter doesn’t even know how to pronounce his name and thus thinks he’s too obscure to count.

  48. #48 |  Ed Brayton on left and right | And Cabbages, and Kings | 

    […] columnist Radley Balko – best-known as a leading activist for criminal justice reform – is amused by being described as part of “the right” one week, and as a “leftist […]

  49. #49 |  links for 2011-02-07 « Michael B. Duff | 

    […] My Continuing Identity Crisis | The Agitator QOTD: Last week, I was part of “the right”, “doubling down” to defend Sarah Palin in the wake of the Tucson shootings. This week I’m a partisan, “leftist libertarian” who “hates the right and dislikes tea partiers.” The way I shift personalities, it’s a wonder no one has yet taken the precaution of having me involuntarily committed. (tags: qotd humor libertarian politics) […]