Book Review: Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists

Free the People’s Head Writer, Logan Albright, has written his second book. It is called Conform or Be Cast Out: The (Literal) Demonization of Nonconformists. The book is engaging, well researched, and a persuasive argument for the position that nonconformists aren’t merely ostracized, they are, quite literally, demonized.

In making his case, Albright documents the origins of many demonic myths and figures who were all at their core trouble-makers, misanthropes, iconoclasts, outliers but none of which were truly evil until society cast them as such to delegitimize them. He also explains the history behind some of our language that was used to demonize people has now become commonplace usage for outliers; words such as luddite and saboteur.

The stories of many historical outliers are also shared. Galileo, Socrates, the Alchemists, the list goes on of people who were just out of step with their time and thus suffered, as Shakespeare would say, “the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune.” Albright points out that many of these outliers weren’t weird, or evil, usually they were just too smart for their own time. They were more than a step ahead of the crowd, they were seeing beyond the horizon and telling people what lay ahead. But because they were different they needed to suffer.

Albright also discusses the Satanic Panic of the 1970s and 1980s. How use of satanic iconography which were used by bands and artists merely as “edgy” became overblown into a full on panic about satanism taking over our culture. These graphics or lyrics more often than not were an allusion to fantasy-realms made famous in the Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons, not as a serious commitment to satanism. In the parlance of advertising, the heavy use of satanic imagery was all sizzle and no steak. Nonetheless, these rock bands, video games, books, etc were all demonized and used as proof of some sinister plot to turn GenX kids into monsters. Albright properly points out these heavy metal musicians and other artists (and their followers) that trafficked in satanic imagery were more often than not just nerds trying to embrace their nerd status and set themselves apart from the mainstream, the jocks and the cheerleaders. They wore black and they grew their hair long as a way of creating their own culture apart from the “normies.”

It is natural, of course, for a committed libertarian like Albright to focus on the treatment of outliers because most libertarians, by their very nature are nonconformists at heart. The political philosophy of radical liberty, free-market fundamentalism, and extremely limited government flies in the face of most people’s natural political predisposition. Most people favor either a government acting as a nanny-state that takes care of the needs of the underprivileged and dispossessed and/or is a protectionism racket interfering free-market capitalism to prop up inefficient American businesses. And folks from both mainstream political parties want government to push their cultural agenda on the masses.

True libertarians who speak out for their political beliefs are often demonized as heartless and evil because they—according to the pro-government types—are unwilling to help the needy or less fortunate; they are in favor of “ruthless” profiteering by businesses; they eschew heavy-handed culture being peddled by government sponsored entities. Of course that is a total fiction. Libertarians aren’t against people in need receiving the assistance they need. We just believe there are better suited and, in most cases, more efficient solutions than government-run options. We aren’t in favor of greed, we favor market efficiency which corrects and punishes the greedy. We don’t want our values dictated to anyone else and we won’t have their values dictated to us. That isn’t heartless, its just embracing liberty over anything else.

As someone who came to this political philosophy by way of William F. Buckley’s admonition to “stand athwart history yelling stop, at at time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience for those who so urge it,” I’ve always considered myself to be a nonconformist. I have no problem at all being an outlier. I hold many unpopular opinions about government, its proper size and role. As such, I’ve ruffled many feathers and I have certainly been demonized for my beliefs. So this book definitely spoke to me.

If you’re on this page it means liberty is important to you as well. It means you’re also, most likely a nonconformist. I am certain Albright’s work will speak to you as well. I strongly recommend you pick up a copy, support a fellow Free the People writer and enjoy his excellent book.

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Matt Genovese

Matt Genovese is a 911 dispatcher and writer from New Jersey. He has written on topics ranging from first responders and emergency management to local politics, civil liberties and the liberty movement. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattgenovese.

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