"People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias": Humans of FreedomFest 6

Candid portraits from the largest annual gathering of libertarians and free-market supporters.


Editor's note: FreedomFest, held every July in Las Vegas, is the largest annual gathering of libertarians and free-market supporters in the country. Taking inspiration from the site Humans of New York, Reason is happy to offer Humans of FreedomFest, a series of portraits and brief interviews with various attendees. To read previous installments, go here.

Avens O'Brien

Avens O'Brien|||Sarah Rose Siskind, Reason

"I was on a panel and a question came up about abortion and it was interesting because there were four panelists. One person didn't let their opinion be known. Two were extremely pro-life. And then there was me, who was not only pro-choice but had had an abortion. We didn't have a knockdown, drag-out fight about it, but it was clear that we were all in our spaces about what we believe and none of us were moving."

Did your informing of the audience about your abortion add to your credibility or take it away?

"The pro-choicers were like, Yes, this lends legitimacy to the issue. She can speak from experience. And then the pro lifers, who are not gonna be moved, are like, Oh she's extremely biased. People use information however they like. It's confirmation bias."

Larry Sharpe

Sarah Rose Siskind, Reason

"Do you wanna hear the weird story?"

I want to hear the weird story.

"I'm adopted. When I was born in 1968, New York state, being the progressive state it is, wouldn't allow you to be adopted unless you had the right racial match. Since I was biracial, they had to find a biracial family. That was the law back then. New York, again the progressive state that it is, would not allow me to find my parents because, well, because. We fought many times, lost every time. The judges kept saying, 'We made a promise to those people and we can't break it.' It was 50 years ago and we now know genetics matter in health. So this is now life and death. And you think some promise to someone 50 years ago matters? What is wrong with you?… When I'm governor I'm going to change that."

Editor's Note: Sharpe has announced his intention to run for governor of New York on the Libertarian ticket.

John Stagliano

Sarah Rose Siskind, Reason

"There were talks about [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions initiating prosecutions against the porn industry. And I could be a target as one of the few remaining big producers of porn in Los Angeles…. I'm a target."

Are you nervous about that?

"No, not really… I don't have that much respect for the federal government. I'm nervous that people will move on, that I'll never become a celebrity again."

"Humans of FreedomFest" is a series. Read previous installments here.

NEXT: The Surprisingly Long History of Private Space Exploration

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  1. So this is now life and death. And you think some promise to someone 50 years ago matters?


    1. Not sure why he needs to find his parents to learn his genetic history – doesn’t he have DNA of his own that they can analyze for genetic predispositions? I mean, assuming the FDA doesn’t act like a giant dick and shut down companies like 23andMe and I can’t imagine them doing such a douche-bag shithead thing.

      1. I think that you would make a MOST EXCELLENT Scienfoologist! In Scienfoology, we WORSHIP the FDA!!! Come worship the FDA with us at

      2. Saw a case recently where cops used to try and match up DNA on a criminal case because their sample wasn’t in codis. So no , government isn’t going to ban those companies, they’re going to utilize them. gave the police the closest match who turned out to be a dead end in the case.

      3. 23 and me recently received FDA approval to offer genetic health screening.

        1. Yes, but only after near-endless delays and sucking of Government Almighty penis and clitoris… And who knows how many millions of dollars of bribes, ooooops, I mean, campaign contributions…


            To / From Heading?

            23andMe Irate Person
            1390 Shorebird Way 369 Booger Park Way
            Mountain View, CA 94043 Hells Bells, Kansas
            650-938-6300 37692-5402

            Dear Greedy Capitalists Who Might Want to Tell Me My Genetic Fortune, If the Almighty Overlords at the FDA Would Only Allow Us to Do So at An Affordable, Un-regulated Price,

            I read in the newspaper that the FDA wants to regulate your genetics testing services, which will doubtlessly inflate the costs to us consumers. Please accept my sympathies.
            Meanwhile, PLEASE consider my worthy suggestions here! The SHORT version is simply this: Set up a “Feng Shui Molecular Fortune-Telling Analysis” branch in China. Tell you USA customers how to run a Q-Tip across the insides of their cheek linings, and where to send it in China. Your Chinese subsidiary can then email or snail-mail the results back to the USA consumer, who is anxiously awaiting the results of the (obviously non-medical) analysis of the Feng Shui sooth-sayers in China. They will examine the arrangements of the molecules on the Q-Tip, to say what they might tell of the fortunes of the USA consumer. FDA problems solved!

            1. SURELY it is no crime for me to mail a dirty Q-Tip to China! SURELY it is no crime for someone in China to email or snail-mail me about my fortunes! So here is your possible, proposed verbiage to put on your flyers, web site, advertisements, etc.: “Our company regrets to inform you that the FDA has inflated the costs of our USA-based genetics testing services. If you appreciate the services of the FDA, you may purchase our well-regulated services in the USA for $700. However, if you are primarily interested in costs savings, and are a follower of Eastern Mysticism, then in the name of religious freedom, our Chinese compatriots are willing to assist you. They have meditated deeply about matters concerning the proper Feng Shui, and Chinese Buddhist, principles as they relate to the arrangements of molecules and atoms in your cheek linings. Keep in mind that our Chinese brothers and sisters are NOT addressing matters of medicine, here, they are addressing spiritual principles. So, regardless of your other spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, if you are willing to sufficiently believe enough in Chinese Buddhism to send some of your cheek linings to China, then they will mail or email you your fortune predictions, for $400 (not $700).

              1. We do not promise any scientific or medical accuracy here; this is simply a spiritual fortune-telling operation. However, we do challenge anyone to see if they can put in two identical source samples, under different names and addresses, and get significantly different results. We DO stand by the integrity of our spiritual fortune-telling operations. Follow these instructions: ?. Blah-blah-blah.”
                Actually, I am NOT a follower of Chinese or Eastern Mysticism of any sort, I am a follower of Scienfoology, and I would like for you to tell my effigy, at an affordable price, what its genetic fortune is. But since lame-stream society might consider me a “whack job” for saying and believing such things, I am NOT going to tell you that!

                Best Wishes,
                Irate Person, Etc.

    2. Cool how about medical history with all personal information stripped. No names, addresses, doctor’s names, hospitals, anything that can be used to find this person taken out. Somehow I think that’s not what this guy actually wants.

  2. Her red hair is so bright…

    I gotta wear shades!

  3. The pornographer is the only respectable one.

    1. Even though he refused to produce your movie The Dorking And I?

        1. You’re not.

        2. You know who else wasn’t funny?

          1. Robin Williams?

          2. Rocco Siffredi?

  4. How many days are we going to be told “Today is the first day…”?

    But seriously, I appreciate these tidbits.

  5. The democrat progressive socialist would have you believe that they are laid back and groovy. But their actions show them to be bitter and uptight control freaks.

    Why most can’t even support the mere re-legalization of marijuana because it’s the just to do. No, they can’t have it just re-legalized; oh no, it has to be taxed and regulated by central committee.

    So even when they think they’re hip and groovy for smoking weed, they’re uptight because the weed has to be taxed and regulated by central committee.

  6. Okay. Weird.

  7. I beat my meat like a red-haired girlfriend.

    1. Sugar is sweet,
      And so is honey,
      Beat your meat,
      And save your money!

  8. Siskind has one of those “Hey, look at me” hair styles combined with a “Hello Sailor” look about her. Takes all kinds i guess.

    1. And she has already had one abortion so you know she is easy…

      1. “And she has already had one abortion so you know she is easy”

        Genuinely curious how “easy” follows “has had an abortion”… Are you not aware how many married women or women in committed long term relationships have abortions?

        1. Avens, you should never feel like you have to descend into the lowest levels of the libertarian realm to engage the skototropic subterranean subhuman race known as the H&R commenters. You do, however, get cool points for doing so.

          1. I tend to do the opposite of common wisdom regarding the internet — I *always* read the comments. It’s worked out well for me. +1 cool point!

    2. More like a “Hello, Sailor Moon” look, ifyouaskme.

  9. “And you think some promise to someone 50 years ago matters? ”


  10. . I’m nervous that people will move on, that I’ll never become a celebrity again.

    Again? Who are you?

      1. If Buttman and Superfluousman got into a fight, who would win, and why?

        Please answer in 15,000 words or more, justifying your answer…

  11. Well I like this little series. I’ve never been to Freedom Fest because it’s a long ways from home and I gotta work and stuff. But It sounds like a pretty diverse group of interesting people I’d enjoy having a conversation with. The problem with libertarians has always been that people who value individual liberty are unlikely to join a party or subscribe to a platform or orthodoxy because it kinda requires that they give up their ability to think for themselves. Most of the attendees interviewed here do not fit into the orthodox libertarian mold. They value their liberty for very personal reasons but presumably value the liberty of others as well.

  12. I’m confused. Is Sharpe saying that New York still requires a racial match of children and parents in adoption, and that he wants to undo that? Or that it *should* require such a match-up (b/c “mental health”) and he wants to restore it?

    I get the impression he meant to make the case against such adoption-segregation, but the point about “genetics” is kind of hard to follow.

    1. I *think* he’s complaining about sealed adoption records. The “promise” in question is about good parents anonymity.

      I think anyway. Makes more sense then the racial angle.

  13. OK, I think he get it now. First he was talking about the old racial rules. Then he went on another tangent about how his birth parents are still protected by anonymity and he wants to overturn that policy so he can find out who they are.

    That’s… still rather weird. I get his personal stake in it but needing to know his parent’s “genetics” for health reasons is a real stretch. The real reason behind that policy is because the guarantee of anonymity (if wanted) encourages adoptions that might not otherwise happen.

    1. What was the promise given? That the child would never know his parents? That the child would never know their identity? It is hard to know what was promised. There is however the statute of limitations component that should cover all aspects of contracts concerning third parties who are not in direct party to the contract but are effected by it. As was mentioned would a nameless genetic makeup of the donor meet the needs of Larry?

      1. He knows his parents, they adopted him.

      2. There is no current legit. medical use that I know of for checking a parent’s genes. There’s *barely* any real use for checking somebody’s own genes, but it seems that (kind of by definition) you’d get all the possible info needed from the individual. I mean, if the parents didn’t pass on whatever gene– then how is it relevant?

        At a glance it looks like state laws do vary about this, and there is a right-to-know push for adopted children. I can see the arguments both ways, I guess. But it’s not a trivial concern if a child was put up for adoption with a promise to the birth-parents of permanent anonymity; if there are on the margins adoptions that the lack of such a guarantee would prevent. And I think the medical argument is silly. If it’s about a right-to-know as an ethical matter, just make it straightforward on that, not arguing there’s some real medical need to check the parent’s genes (which you couldn’t mandate their consent for anyway).

    2. NYS doesn’t still require it, but most states still factor it in. My wife had to do a ton of extra paper work for “cross racial” adoption, and how she’d be all sensitive to someone of another race, regardless of the fact that she’s married to one.

      On the genetics thing, I can speculate that he meant less ‘genetics’ and more ‘medical history’. We did an open adoption and it got us access to the birth mother’s family history, which gave us some convenient heads up’s for the future. My wife – who is herself adopted – has always missed having the information of stuff like cancer histories and how often people went crazy.

  14. Sorry to hear about Mr Sharpe’s troubles.

    In general, Freedom Fest doesn’t look that enticing. If the most interesting attendees are a pornographer and a an abortionist, the liberty movement is petering out

  15. Even the intelligent person will use their brain only to prove what they already believe. Using your brain to explore all sides of an issue critically is a lost art. My father taught me that until you could defend your opponents position then you really should just be quiet.

    1. Well yes. The issue is that so many don’t.

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