‘Not much’, you are probably thinking. AlterNet likes to portray itself an underground haven for people who ‘really’ know what’s going on. In reality it serves as an echo-chamber for everything that is annoying about modern leftism. Recently, I happened upon an article on AlterNet and spent some time looking at ‘Today’s Top Stories’’ headlines on the sidebar, and it was not uplifting reading for those that cling to the utopian dream of principled, anti-establishment journalism. I thought it would be revealing to quickly analyse the assumptions and fallacies they are working with.

First article:
How the Government Bribes Police to Arrest People For Smoking Pot

This sounds like an intriguing article, that I will read, but this is one of those issues where the Left is selectively libertarian. The modern left is chronically interventionist save for two issues as far as I can tell: abortion and pot*. With abortion, the most common line you’ll here from the ‘pro-choice’ crowd is “I am against the government deciding what a woman should do with her own body”, which I find simply amazing. Even if we’re taking for granted the notion that a phoetus is just a parasite and does not have rights, this is such a rich argument coming from the left. Please don’t claim you are ‘pro-choice’ if you are against the right to choose to buy large soda drinks, work for less than minimum wage, to buy a weapon, not to join a union or not to serve to individuals whose’ lifestyles one disagrees with.

Considering their track record on libertarian issues, it is strange that they are so pro-pot. They seem to agree with the general principle that the state should have the right to regulate the personal habits of individuals, but this is as far as it goes. Why do they find the non-aggression principle valid all of a sudden? Do they have a compelling reason why pot-usage in particular should be free from state intervention? No, not really. There is no non-arbitrary way to differentiate the pros and cons of pot consumption with soda consumption and to argue for the abandonment of a principle in the process. So what’s the big deal?

Well, they’re potheads, obviously. They have to justify their personal habits somehow. There is no other explanation.

Second article:
New Ayn Rand Nutjob Goes to Washington? The Scary Economic Thinking of Dave Brat

A key Republican figure is ousted, so the lefties should be celebrating, no? Well it turns out that the new kid on the block, Dave Brat, is a fan of Ayn Rand. And to AlterNet and other lefty websites in its ilk, Ayn Rand is like, the devil, or something. In this world, people are divided between people who are shocked by Ayn Rand and people who have read her. This headline-writer betrays their ignorance by using ‘Nutjob’.

Ok, you could make the argument that ‘Nutjob’ would be appropriate in an opinion piece, if a little strong, but AlterNet are claiming that this is a ‘story’. ‘Story’ connotes some kind of journalistic quality, which includes the pursuance of objectivity. If you’re going around calling people ‘Nutjobs’ it shows you’re more interested in shoveling some form of agenda than reporting on a story.

This headline is just a goldmine: ‘Scary’ economic thinking? Well, I guess if the readers aren’t turned away by ‘Nutjob’ they’ll have to be scared into it. Never mind thinking for yourself: these people are crazy and also what they believe is scary. Notice that they don’t use more tangible adjectives such as ‘incorrect’or simply ‘different’. Bad work, must do better.

Third article:
The ‘King of Coal’ Threatens to Sue EPA For Lying About Climate Change

It’s interesting to me that the only media outlets that are reporting on issues concerning climate change are these pseudo-counter-culture lefty websites. To everyone else, climate change is as dead a subject as can be. There is a limit to how much fear-mongering we can take. Occasionally you’ll see an article like this to reinforce the views of their readership, remind everyone that the agenda hasn’t changed, and then quickly move on before proper questions are asked. Also, be sure to remember that the only people who have any issue with the apocalyptic climate change narrative is Big Coal, Big Oil and people who are funded by Big Coal and Big Oil.

If AlterNet truly wishes to be on the ball on this issue, it should steer the debate from the veracity of the Anthropegenic Global Warming theory to: if it is true, what can we do about it? Unfortunately there is an almost universal assumption that taken Climate change as a given, the state needs to get involved in curbing CO2 emissions. However, this is entirely more controversial than the mainstream media likes to make out. There is a growing free-market environmentalist movement that explains that we needn’t institute a global totalitarian state to save the Earth – why aren’t they getting any attention? If AlterNet sincerely wants to be independent, they should refrain from simply repeating mainstream media talking points.

Fourth Article:
Elizabeth Warren Faces Right-Wing Stooge: Here’s Who’s Quietly Funding Her Top Critic

Again, ‘stooge’? Not exactly dispassionate journalism.

This tactic of looking at who funds everything is exactly what the left criticizes when Fox News does it. Who cares who funds them: are they correct or incorrect? The notion that rich people might give money to people who advance causes they agree with is not that shocking, please get over it.

Fifth article:
US Revives Domestic Terror Unit Amid Rise in Right-wing shootings

This is looking something like a news article headline, which is good. The only thing I would take issue with is the use of ‘right-wing’, which is not really necessary. We all know they didn’t put that in there to simply report the facts: they are always looking for a good opportunity to slam the right. Shameless partisan politicking.

Sixth article:
5 Reasons to Boycott Starbucks

Well, I know what at least two of them are going to be: because Starbucks are tax avoiders and that they don’t pay their workers enough. There also might be one about exploiting people in the third world, or something. Presumably there’s going to be nothing about their illegitimate advantages thanks to IP and Fair Trade laws.

Even if all of this is true, how on Earth is boycotting Starbucks going to help? If everyone boycotted them on the basis that they don’t pay their workers enough, the company would go bust and they’d get paid nothing. This may seem like a vapid and facetious point, but if the left doesn’t pick up on it, it says a lot about their lack of economic understanding. Anyway, it won’t happen, because there aren’t enough local 1940s-themed coffee shops for all of the hippy-dippy liberals to go to as an alternative. Their love of coffee supersedes their trendy political talking points.

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*Since, I have found another one: Hobby Lobby! Obviously, it is not libertarian to argue for a law compelling any business to cover any kind of healthcare, but the left found a way to argue that it is. Picketers are literally saying that the contraceptive choices are of no business of employers. I’ve got unusually agitated about this issue precisely because I now know how the left is so confused about basic concepts.

Hobby Lobby have not banned contraception, they have simply declined to provide a certain kind of contraception to their employees out of their own pocket. If you have a clear sense of what property is, there is no way you would describe the Supreme Court ruling as a restriction of the choices of women. But, we know that these people are not against restricting the choices of women on principle, because they were the ones arguing for the politicization of healthcare in the first place!

It’s mind-boggling, really, but should not be too disheartening. If the left are using (read: distorting) libertarian arguments for their aims, it shows that there is a popular ear for this kind of rhetoric. And when they use it, it’s an excellent opportunity to point out other areas where they might want to apply it properly!

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In conclusion, AlterNet is nowhere near libertarian enough to be considered a true alternative to the mainstream media. If one is assuming the legitimacy of state power, one will be continually missing the issue. The left has a history of anti-establishment thinking, but these days they will defend established institutions with their lives. To AlterNet, and other ‘progressive’ media outlets, giving the state a free pass is a fair price for all the stuff they want from it.