Amidst a grab-bag of authoritarian ideas, including xenophobia, anti-capitalism, and radical environmentalism, the El Paso mass murderer was primarily motivated by a bigoted hatred for immigrants from south of the border. His manifesto is full of denunciations of "race mixers," "Hispanic invasion," and "cultural and ethnic replacement"—buzz phrases for racists and white supremacists who elevate an illusory collective racial and cultural heritage over respect for people as individuals.
He couldn't have more thoroughly distanced himself from the liberal/libertarian ideas of the pro-liberty movement if he'd gone through a checklist of shitty notions.
The liberal tradition that libertarianism inherits and extends doesn't treat people as members of some sort of Borg collective or as any other representation of a group identity. While we're all humans and sometimes fail to live up to our aspirations, libertarians at least aspire to treat with people on their own merits—or lack thereof, as in the case of people who mouth the sort of nonsense espoused by Patrick Wood Crusius in El Paso.
"Racism is a particularly pernicious form of collectivism," wrote John Hospers, the late professor of philosophy and the first presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, in 1972. "Persons who cast racial slurs on others are not considering the individual merits or demerits of the person slurred; they may not know the individual at all, except that he is a member of some racial group (Jews, blacks, Italians, etc.). Though the person's individual qualities may be quite different from many other members of the group, all this is ignored: all they know or care is that he is a member of that group."
The recognition of the superiority of individualism over the evils of group identity was a long time coming. But it was also a logical evolution of basic liberal ideals that nudged advocates in the right direction, however hesitatingly and—let's admit it—sometimes unwillingly when it proved inconvenient. Once you accepted that people were more than possessions of the church or the king, and had inherent value, the path led in one direction.
"The abolitionist movement grew logically out of the Lockean libertarianism of the American Revolution," notes David Boaz in his 2015 book, The Libertarian Mind. "How could Americans proclaim that 'all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,' without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage?"
Of course, some people did notice that—and ran the other way. They developed moral rationalizations and pseudoscientific theories to justify slavery and post-Civil War racist laws, and explicitly rejected libertarian, individualistic views that required equal treatment of all people. These bogus intellectualized justifications for racism later seeped into the Progressive movement in updated form, creating the basis for differential treatment and even forced sterilization.
Remainders of this garbage still pollute the discourse, fueling alt-right fears of "race mixing" and other nonsense that drives modern bigots.
It would be delightful to be able to report that the libertarian movement has remained entirely unpolluted by bigotry and the collectivist abuse of people who should be treated as individuals, but that's too much to hope of our fellow humans. Too many "libertarians" and former libertarians have embraced bigotry, trying to reconcile contempt toward and ill-treatment of out-groups with some degree of advocacy of personal freedom.
(In)famously, racist material appeared in newsletters published in former Rep. Ron Paul's newsletters during the 1990s. For what it's worth, Paul himself denies any knowledge of the inflammatory material published under his name. But the writers and editors of that material certainly identified with the libertarian movement and thought they could get away with mixing up a toxic stew of libertarianism and bigotry.
Prof. Hans Herman Hoppe, associated with the "paleolibertarian" movement that purports to merge conservative cultural values with individualist ideals, has long flirted with nationalists and racists who embrace a collectivist vision for western civilization. He describes as naive the libertarian "belief in the empirical equality and hence, the interchangeability, substitutability and replace-ability of all people and all groups of people."
But all of these "libertarians" and former libertarians deliberately set themselves apart from what they see as the politically correct, "cosmotarian," and mushy mainstream of libertarian thought that refuses to make a place for their white nationalism, racism, and collectivist treatment of people.
And good for us for making the bigots feel uncomfortable. They're free to go elsewhere if they want to trumpet tribalist nonsense to whatever cellar-dwellers will have them. But part of being a libertarian is calling out the enemies of freedom and denouncing their ideas and their actions.
"There is no 'pipeline' between libertarianism and the alt-right," Reason's Nick Gillespie wrote two years ago as the alt-right emerged as the latest embodiment of racist thought, such as it is. But "alt-righters need to be called out wherever we find them espousing their anti-modern, tribalistic, anti-individualistic, and anti-freedom agenda."
Yes, they do. Because calling out bigots and tribalists is part of advancing the unfinished business of extending freedom, tolerance, and respect to all-comers, and of treating people on the basis of their personal merits and not based on some group identity.
White supremacists, racists, and collectivists of all sorts are alien to libertarian thought and enemies of our values and aspirations. And we need to take them on whenever we encounter them.