It appears some people who consume mises.org everyday or visit via Facebook have an idea in their heads as to what the Institute will offer in the way of articles, what will be blogged about, and what news items might be posted on our Facebook wall. These vocal few have the idea that the Mises Institute should only concern itself with what they consider economics and what they consider libertarian political theory.
Stepping outside that box sends these folks into a tizzy. It’s as if they went to McDonald’s and ordered a Big Mac, fries and a shake, and their order arrives and it’s a salad, a flavored coffee, and Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait. “Wait a minute, I ordered something else, and besides what the heck does McDonald’s think it’s doing offering foo-foo coffees, salads and girly deserts?”
This tiny fraction of folks who have blown a gasket recently over a couple of Facebook posts think by signing up as friends of the Mises Institute Facebook page that they ordered something specific, but now are receiving something that, they not only don’t want, but are repulsed by. Also, these folks must think that since they don’t like these particular posts no other fan of mises.org or Austrian economics could possibly like these posts either.
What Facebook does is make the world all about “Me.” See “Me.” Read “Me. Be Influenced By “Me.” Take a look at “My” Likes. What I like, you should like. Because, after all, the world would be a better place if everyone were just like “Me.”
But not all fans of the Mises Institute are alike and mises.org and the Institute Facebook page are more akin to a buffet than ordering a specific meal at the counter. Why does McDonald’s change its menu over time? Because tastes change, but more importantly the company seeks to expand its customer base. Now the burger eater can convince his salads-only friend to give the golden arches a try.
Offering the occasional daily, blog or Facebook post about pop culture news items might just introduce new readers and students to Austrian economics.
The storm that generated this piece, started with a local teacher who happens to be married to a Mises employee. Rebecca Black’s video “Friday” was all the rage for her young students. Jeffrey Tucker was made aware of the video and his “Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’: A Libertarian Allegory” was born and as I write nearly 1000 people on Facebook have given Mr. Tucker’s piece the thumps up. He has been interviewed three times on radio about this article and a TV appearance has been scheduled.
When one of the Institute’s Facebook Administrators noticed that nymag.com ran a short bit entitled “Who’s Covering Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ on Glee?” the administrator posted it thinking it was a nice follow up to Tucker’s very popular article.
Imagine the surprise: “Mises is rolling in his grave” “Ludwig would NOT approve” “WTF is this LVMI??” “i’ve unfaned pages for less” “Who gives a —-? This use to be a great website.” “You want the country to stop being sheep? Unhook the methadone clinic that is TV pop culture.”
And so on…72 (at this writing) comments, the over whelming majority negative.
The comment that we should ignore pop culture to turn the country around is especially rich coming from someone who took the time to comment on a social networking site, that might be considered….pop culture.
The fact is, if the Mises Institute didn’t have an eye on pop culture, we wouldn’t have a Facebook page for that person to throw his or her two cents at us in the first place.
A couple days later, one of the Facebook administrators noticed a news item in the nytimes.com “ABC Cancels ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live.” Posting the short piece seemed like a great way to honor Murray Rothbard, who loved soap operas, and share a memory about him that many people likely wouldn’t know.
The response was:
“why are you posting random news bits? I don’t want my celebrity news from this facebook page. I want economic thoughts. Learn your role and achieve it.” “Who the hell is running the Mises facebook page? This is starting to piss me off.” “I agree, Mises is getting very chatty with fluffy stuff.” “WTF!!! Who gives a —- about soaps….” “I’m pissed because this facebook page is supposed to be about the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Austrian economic thought, not Lindsay Lohan’s newest coke binge or Charlie Sheen’s 7 gram rocks.”
And so on. 55 comments, that while more balanced, the negative comments are longer and more aggressive.
By the way, I don’t think we’ve posted anything about LiLo, but as her comeback progresses, anything is possible. Mr. Sheen has made a mises.org blog post recently and who knows what may come?
What’s interesting is that the person most upset about the soaps post has two books by Murray Rothbard posted on their information wall as favorites. For a New Liberty and A History of Money and Banking in the United States. So, this person is clearly a Rothbard fan but for some reason doesn’t find it at all interesting that Murray loved to watch soap operas. This person is annoyed to the point of posting multiple, lengthy, nasty comments concerning a tiny article about the passing of an era in television and doesn’t see the relevance that one of his or her heroes loved to watch these programs.
A couple weeks before this whole Glee, “Friday” brouhaha started, an article about Vogue’s Editor Anna Wintour was posted on the Facebook page, generating comments like: “I think von Mises has jumped the shark.” “I was thinking who cares? and what does this have to do with economic liberty?”
So why would an administrator of the Institute’s website post a lengthy profile of the woman who was the inspiration for the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”? Maybe because in a world of dying print media she has created a tremendous brand and following by going against convention. High fashion Vogue has featured Knicks forward Amar Stoudemire “amidst the magazine’s lissome models” in a photo spread. She has put LeBron James on the cover as well as celebrities and politicians. “Wintour realized long before most that fashion was about to burst its tight seams and join the broader culture.”
To have a real impact Austrian economics and libertarian political theory must become part of the broader culture. We won’t do that by being just a place for a selective group of economics and political geeks to get their daily fix. Austrian economics is not an investment strategy or political movement.
“Economics is not specifically about business; it deals with all market phenomena and with all their aspects, not only with activities of a businessman,” Mises wrote in The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science,
In Human Action, he wrote, “Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that economics cannot remain an esoteric branch of knowledge accessible only to small groups of scholars and specialists. Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.”
For those who have popped off, commenting that Mises wouldn’t approve of our pop culture posts, I disagree. I think he would very much approve. The goal is to reach as many as possible with the message of free markets and economic liberty. With social networking each and every person now has the opportunity to help with that mission. To turn a blind eye to pop culture is to ignore millions of young people that are eager to learn and open to new ideas.
The Mises Institute will not ignore an audience that in numbers overwhelms any political party or movement. I urge our Facebook fans to embrace Mises’s message that economics is; for everyone, and about everything.