One of the very good developments of the last 10 years has been the explosion of alternative media. More and more people are realising that the established newspapers and TV channels are giving them very bad information. Particularly people who care about being well informed have therefore shifted away from getting their information from mainstream sources.
One could think that this stiff competition would encourage the old media to become better, so that they can prevail. However, interestingly, the exact opposite has happened. The quality of journalism in the old media has fallen through the floor. While in the past, newspapers like the New York Times or the Guardian were producing a lot of quality content, they are now almost exclusively engaging in the most primitive forms of government propaganda. The quality really is embarrassing. One has to wonder, who are the people who are still consuming this garbage.
A major reason why the old media has become so terrible is, because all the quality journalists have left them. Many have discovered that they do not need to work for these large news organisations and are able to work for themselves instead. Even a legendary journalist like Seymour Hersh is now selling his writings directly to his subscribers on substack.
Therefore, despite the total collapse of the legacy media, people interested in good information never had better possibilities. The new media is incredibly rich. Personally, I always have to pick and choose what I want to consume, because there is just too much quality content out there.
Having said that, not everything published in the new media is quality content. There is no shortage of bad information. Some of it is obvious low quality content. Others are just very ideologically coloured. Critical reasoning skills are therefore very much needed while listening to the avalanche of alternative information.
I have seen many people getting lost and starting to believe the most wild theories. But there you go, that is free truth discovery in action. One has to err many times before getting at least close to a little bit of truth. It is not easy. In the process, reasoning skills are getting sharpened and good information replaces bad one.
People in the alternative media space are quite diverse. They may agree that we are ruled by bad people, and that the old media is not informing us well, but they can differ a great deal in what they propose as their solutions. Many of them are far from libertarian. In fact there are many outright authoritarians who simply want a different form of authoritarianism.
One person, that many people might not immediately realise is a promoter of authoritarian ideas, is Matthew Ehret. He kept showing up on alternative channels that I like to watch. And not just the English ones, but even some German podcasts. I found him interesting and listened to what he had to say. He is not very upfront about what politics he is advocating.
When I first started to listen to him, I was a bit confused. He seemed to have the right mindset, but I could not quite understand the theories that he was promoting. It all seemed quite vague and there was just so much information.
Matthew Ehret has two homes on the internet: The Canadian Patriot and The Rising Tide Foundation. His work is incredibly prolific. Despite his young age, he has already written volumes of history books, in addition to producing multiple documentaries and constantly appearing on long form podcasts. Needles to say I have not consumed most of it, but then neither probably has the majority of his followers. Most people will mainly get exposed to him through his podcasts and presentations.
In addition to showing up on channels I liked, he was using the right terminologies. He was talking about elites that were out to oppress us, said he liked liberty and his main message was that we have been lied to about history.
All of that certainly got my attention. I love listening to new angles on politics, and I believe that there is a lot of falseness in history books. That Ehret is reluctant to label his politics could be seen as a good thing, a sign of being open minded. However, knowing a little bit about politics, this is also a red flag.
People who have a clear theory of the world, should be able to formulate that theory in clear terms, so that it can be understood and criticised. There are two reasons I can think of why people don’t want to do that. The first one is that they don’t really know what they are talking about. In order to disguise this embarrassing fact, they chose to stay vague to minimise the risk of being exposed.
The second reason is to appeal to as many people as possible to sell them the real massage later. This is what all successful politicians have mastered. They can give a speech to a variety of totally different crowds and let each crowd feel like this guy understands me, he knows what he is talking about. In reality, the politician has not said much of substance. All he has done is to use the right words that the crowd can then fill with their own ideology.
I think in Ehre’s case, it is a bit of both. He does not always seem to know what he is talking about, but he uses the right words. He is a patriot, against globalism, for liberty and against empire and oppression. To a lot of people on the alternative “right wing” media this all sounds very good, doesn’t it?
The problem of course is that these words can mean different things. What, according to Ehret, constitutes liberty, or oppression or globalism etc. After all, socialists also claim to value liberty and being against oppression. In the US, the big state socialists even call themselves liberal, a liberal of course being someone whose core political value is liberty. It would therefore be really good to have some meat on these terminology bones to know what he is actually theorising.
Ehret is reluctant to spell this out, however, he does mention a lot of historical figures. He not just mentions them, but also always makes very clear, which ones he likes and which one he thinks are the bad guys. Analysing which historical figures he promotes can give us a good indication of what Ehret’s political philosophy is.
Most people’s interest in politics does not go far enough to actually have looked deeply into the history of political philosophy. They therefore cannot possibly judge what he is talking about. However, they probably think that since, patriot, liberty, globalisation bad etc, he must be right about those historical people too.
It is here where I got a bit confused. I know a number of the people he is talking about. Despite him using words like liberty, against oppression etc, he seems to think that the people who I consider to be the good guys are the bad guys and vice versa.
For example, he really does not like Adam Smith and John Locke. That is interesting, because those are some key classical liberal thinkers. Both Smith and Locke argued for a small government that leaves people alone. So isn’t that against oppression? Ehret does not seem to think so. He even accuses them of advocating slavery.
He either must not have read any of their writings, or he is totally disingenuous. The very first sentence of Locke’s First Treatise Of Government is “Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation, that it is hardly to be conceived, that an Englishman, much less a gentleman, should plead for it.” He was passionately anti-slavery, and even tried to minimise this institution as much as possible in practise when he had some real political influence in Virginia.
Why does Ehret want to portray Locke as some kind of evil philosopher of oppression? Ehret even says that he likes the US declaration of Independence, which is weird as the important parts of it are directly from Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. But then, Ehret simply denies that this is the case. Instead he says that the German philosopher Leibnitz was the main influence behind the declaration.
Leibnitz was certainly a very interesting thinker, but he was no friend of liberty. Instead, like many intellectuals, his ideal was a strong government lead by philosopher kings. Not surprisingly, nothing like the words in the Declaration of Independence can be found in Leibnitz’s writings. And yet, Ehret claims that Leibnitz’s ideas were the main influence.
This is a total distortion of facts, and one has to wonder to what end? However, it gives us a good indication of what Ehret’s political philosophy is. He seems to not like liberty in the sense of being left alone by a government. Instead, he favours big governments and only focuses on how to get wise leaders heading these governments.
Another indication for this is that Ehret hates Karl Popper. Popper, again, was a classical liberal who advocated for an open society. But Ehret makes Popper into the person behind George Soros evil great reset. Soros’ thinking is indeed influenced by Popper, but more his idea that all theories can be false and therefore need to be constantly tested. This is the method with which Soros invests his money, and quite successfully. But while Soros pretends to try to achieve some kind of open society, he is clearly no liberal as he constantly advocates strong government interference.
Turning to the historical figures that Ehret does like, it becomes clear why he does not like classical liberal thinkers. His heros are all big state advocates. Among them are people like Bismark,who was the inventor of the modern welfare state in Germany, FDR, who turned the US into a welfare state, Hamilton, who was a mercantilist and favoured central banking or Lincoln, who made sure that the US central government was heavily strengthened. Ehret even expresses sympathies for Joseph Stalin.
He never clearly spells it out, but going through his work, there cannot be any doubt that Matthew Ehret is a big government guy. He favours strong economic regulation, likes mercantilism, supports central banking, and is opposed to free trade and markets.
According to Ehret, free trade is an evil invention of the British to install a global feudalist system. How he gets to this impression is not clear, as free trade is liberally the opposite of this idea. Ehret seems also obsessed with colonialism, which he appears to think is an entirely western phenomenon. I agree that imperialism is evil. Governments should be restrained by borders. Better yet, they should not exist at all.
I find it, however, strange to portray imperialism as a western phenomenon. Historically, states around the world have created empires, it seems to be in their DNA to do so. It is not a western phenomenon. If there is any difference between western empires like the British or the US one and many other historical empires than it is that these empires at least had some liberal elements.
I grew up in western Germany, which was part of the US empire. Sure, it would have been better if the US had minded their own business, especially for the people in the US, but western Germany was not a tyrannical place. It was quite good. The same cannot be said for the other part of Germany, which was part of a non-western empire, the Soviet empire. There, people had to grow up in a totally impoverished oppressive society. Of course, the US is not the same today as it was back then.
Much bad can be said about the British empire. Britain, like any other nation, had no shortage of authoritarian figures. There were many, authoritarian, slavery promoting Royals in her history. But unlike most other nations, in Britain, the anti-authoritarian liberals actually won some decisive political battles. Most impressively, Britain could develop a strong rule of law and became the first society in human history, who found anything wrong with the practise of slavery. They were so appalled by slavery that they abolished the practised in the entire British empire under great costs. Quite the contrary, therefore, to the portrayal of the British as the main promoters of feudalism.
Yes, empires are evil, and that includes the British and the US one. I would never support them, neither would most ordinary people. But there is nothing particularly western about them, nor were western empires exceptionally evil. To the contrary, liberalism, the idea that the state should leave people alone, is a very western idea.
Matthew Ehret, however, spins the exact opposite narrative. He pretends, western imperialism is somehow the source of most evil in the world. He clearly does not like the idea of a laissez faire market order and prefers strong leaders who can interfere in the economy.
The idea that western capitalism is imperialist and exceptionally evil was of course the official ideology of the “anit-imperialist” empire of the Soviet Union. Matthew Ehret appears to try to revive a modern version of this fairy tale, and he is doing this very cleverly. He is very open about how much he likes Russia and China. The only country he really hates is the homeland of liberalism which is Britain.
That is not to say that modern Britain is still the home of liberalism. Since World War 1, the country has transformed from a place where the average Englishmen’s only routine interaction with the government was going to the post office, to a high tax, over regulated, health and safety and surveillance nightmare. Modern Britain is run by a bunch of neo-conservative authoritarians whose lag of education is only surpassed by their ruthlessness. But this is not how Britain always was.
Matthew Ehret is a good example of someone who is advocating authoritarian politics under the pretence of freeing people from oppression. This is nothing new, all authoritarian political movements claimed to be liberation movements. That is not to say that he knows that he is advocating an authoritarian system,. Instead, he might just not understand what he is advocating. But make no mistake, he is very opposed to a liberal society in which people are left alone.
His view seems to be some kind of national socialism, without the racism and eugenics. Unlike the green communists who, to his credit, he is opposed to, he at least aims to improve the standard of living of people. In that sense, he is an old school socialists. But his economic policies are doomed to fail to achieve that. Protectionism and strong government economic regulations are a recipe for an impoverished society. And they are also a recipe that will inevitably end up in an authoritarian government system.
Whether Matthew Ehret understands that or not is hard to know. He does seem to be disingenuous in some of his arguments, like when he is claiming John Locke advocated for slavery. A more important question, however, is whether his followers understand what he is advocating. Many might not. On the other hand, some might as socialism has always been a very popular idea, no matter how it is sold. Ehret’s politics in not too far from Trumps protectionist ideas, and he won an election with them.
People who are interested in a free society, however, should not fall for these arguments. We don’t need a strong protectionist state, or maybe even any state at all. We need to be left alone to solve our own problems and pursue our own happiness.