Memories from Freedom Fest 2012
This is the most epic set of photos I’ve ever taken, not because they are my best shots, but because I’ve never captured so many living giants in one photo album. Just about every person in every photo in this album below has had significant impact, or clearly will have some significant impact, with many people in our culture. These are the incredibles. And I was struggling like hell to try to capture some human element from them. Which is challenging because they are often so guarded, and usually when they see some guy with a camera they tell him to fuck off. So like the bastard that I am, I made it my task to find a crack in their armor and capture that human moment. Not some awkward defensive goofball reaction, but something true and authentic.
Here you go my friends, if you’re a fan of anyone in this album, you can see that the legend is a human, like you. Reach out, pull up, join them.
[more info and MANY PHOTOS after the break]
A few words about the event…
As many of you know, I am very much a Libertarian. Because I see the main problems of our societies today stemming from the way we treat each other as pawns to be forced to cooperate with the objectives of others, instead of as free humans to be persuaded voluntarily. The problem is force. The solution is liberty. The supporters of liberty are libertarians. And with about 3000 attendees, there’s no bigger gathering of libertarians each year than Freedom Fest!
Last year the organizers of Freedom Fest didn’t know who I was. This year I was a speaker. And I was so honored. Freedom Fest is the largest gathering of the liberty movement all year. And I definitely felt like I had a relevant topic that could help. Most of the talks at these conferences are preaching to the choir, riling people up, and of course sharing valuable deeper insight into the ideas of liberty. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to discuss our ideas, I wanted to discuss our approach. That’s where I see us failing. Failing bad. We come off as threatening, unattractive, and complicated. I decided I was going to give libertarians some tough love and teach them some sales. Because there’s more to selling something than exposing the contradictions of others.
The reaction to my talk was very positive. You can give tough love, because after all, it is love. I did have a terrible time slot early at 9am in a terrible location on another floor far away from the main area of foot traffic, and yet the room was still filled. While I’m comfortable with my command of writing, I know that I’m not yet anywhere near where I’d like to be as a public speaker. Even though public speaking can be challenging enough as it is, life can throw you some extra challenges, like some unexpected complications that made me cut the talk short, speed up and edit it on the fly, causing me to omit some essential points, and yeah I was a little thrown off. And yet, despite that I’m very critical of myself and the talk wasn’t exactly what I wanted it be, the reaction was still very positive. I made some excellent points that connected. I’ll write up an article on the subject soon.
On top of being offered a speaking slot at Freedom Fest, this year I was also encouraged to take a bunch of pictures. This license transformed me from some dude with a camera into some dude with a camera with a moral purpose. I snapped A LOT of pictures. When I got back home I had to deal with the difficult reality of what I had done. Sorting through over 4000 (!) photos, I’ve managed to narrow down this photo album to ONLY my favorite 580 (!) photos. This is big!
To get a detailed account of what it’s like at Freedom Fest, check out my article last year:
“My First Experience at Freedom Fest 2011”
There’s some epic photos there too. Though I think I’ve grown as a photographer since last year.
I’m not going to give a long descriptive narrative account of the conference this time. I’m just going to give a brief description of some of the incredible heroes you see in the photos below:
(Consider this a crash course if you’re unfamiliar with some of them)
Peter is a giant and a legend. I’m definitely one of his biggest fans, and I’ve given him a Man of the Year award in an article I wrote about him 2 years ago. His image on the front page of Freedom Fest’s site is the main reason I registered last year. What Peter lacks in social skills, he more than makes up for in bold courage and clearly articulated insight that has inspired so many. His book Crash Proof was one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read; I learned so much from it. Peter is the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, he hosts the daily Schiff Radio, and runs a popular and provocative YouTube channel. Every human alive should watch the famous Peter Schiff Was Right video where he articulated a coming economic catastrophe while TV commentators argued with him and even laughed at him. But his most amusing video is probably the piece he did for Reason.tv where he had the balls to walk around the Occupy Wall Street protest debating activists who saw his large sign pronouncing “I AM THE 1%, LET’S TALK“. I was honored to host an epic cocktail party with Peter Schiff as a speaker at my house.
The Libertarian Presidential Candidate! I love Gary Johnson. In fact I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t like him. Gary is a genuinely kind lovable person who authentically stands up for what he believes in. It’s inspiring to see such a nice guy grow a massive successful business from nothing and go on to become the Governor of New Mexico for 2 terms. If only Gary was elected President, our country would be so much better off. I’ve held a couple successful fundraiser cocktail party events for Gary Johnson at my house and he even shot some of his promotional photos at my place. Very proud and honored to know Gary.
Judge Jim Gray
Never has an American Judge been so vocal against The Drug War. Well before I ever met Jim I used his words as a lead quote in my article “End The War On Drugs“. He’s been a significant supporter of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and a co-sponsor of ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana in California; even writing the acclaimed book “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed“. Jim is running as Gary Johnson’s Vice Presidential running mate for the Libertarian Party this year. This country would be a much better place with him in such an influential office.
Probably the most exciting organization in the liberty movement today is Students For Liberty, run and founded by its president Alexander McCobin. If this group existed when I was a student, I would have been involved in a big way. What SFL has accomplished is just outstanding. In a few years after starting with a few thousand dollar budget, they now have student groups in about 800 college campuses, reaching 10s of thousands of students. I was asked to photograph their International Conference last February, and they had over 1000 students fly out to DC to be a part of it. Check out the photos! They used a bunch of my photos throughout their recent Annual Report. I’m very proud about that ;)
These kids are sharp, they’ve got their shit together, and they know their stuff. Alexander McCobin’s “No Jeans” policy at conferences makes these students look far more presentable than the other conference attendees. SFL students dramatically improve the atmosphere of political conferences, which if not for them could easily become stale and frumpy. I highly recommend that SFL sends these words to conference organizers and insist that they should not only grant SFL students free admission, but that these conference organizers should actually PAY SFL whatever they can afford in order to bring over more of these impressive students and improve their conference.
If there is a liberty organization that is achieving incredible results while holding the most promise for the future, it is Students for Liberty. I encourage everyone to support what they’re doing.
Mention must also be given to other members of the SFL leadership, especially Clark Ruper, Megan Roberts, Kelly Jemison, Ankur Chawla, Moriah Costa, Carlos Alfaro, Marissa Gionnatta, Luke Ripp, and James Padilioni (all pictured in the photos below); as well as Jennifer Jones, Chelsea Krafve and Blayne Bennett among others (not pictured).
The famous son of Ron Paul who won election to the US Senate! Some hard core purists dispute his libertarian credentials, and yes endorsing his party’s candidate didn’t win him any libertarian friends, but NO ONE can deny that he is clearly the most Libertarian Senator the US has had in recent memory. Perfect or not, This. Is. Progress!
What a shame that the great philosophers and thinkers throughout history are all dead. What an opportunity it would be to have met them while they were still alive, centuries before their ideas gained international prominence. But you do have a chance still. Meet Stefan Molyneux, perhaps one of the most insightful and articulate men to have ever walked our earth. Stefan hosts Freedomain Radio, which is not only the most popular philosophy show in the world, it’s possibly the most prolific. I dare anyone to try to keep up with Stefan’s voluminous amount of daily content he posts to his YouTube channel. In fact, I dare anyone to try and find someone as quick, insightful, and articulate, while still as entertaining as Stefan. He has no problem exploring strong radical positions as you can see from these two great videos from him “The Money That Is Sold Abroad Is You!” and “The Story of Your Enslavement“. Whether I agree with him or not on any particular issue, if Stefan Molyneux says something, I will consider it.
Wayne Allyn Root
Ahh, Wayne is such a hot button issue in libertarian circles. Personally I love him. I am honored to consider him a personal friend. And I am honored that he gave me a personal introduction for my talk at Freedom Fest this year. I think he’s one of the best things the liberty movement has had in its history. He’s probably the most powerful and dynamic speaker we’ve ever had. His energy is truly inspiring. When he speaks it’s as if he is reaching out to genuinely shake you and lift you up to a higher potential. He’s the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential nominee in the 2008 election, and he’s given over 4000 media interviews in the last 4 years. And yet, despite this, many libertarians despise him. And I’ll have to admit that Wayne has unfortunately deserved some of it. Being the strong powerhouse character that he is, he often steps on people’s throats when he speaks. Some of those stepped on people are long time members of his own party. He’s been behaving a lot more graciously lately, still his views clearly lean conservative, alienating many libertarians who despise conservatives. But I think it’s a great thing that he can credibly connect with a large group that’s not necessarily libertarian and bring them closer. I see nothing wrong with that at all. Wayne is such an incredibly valuable asset. Although the way we’ve treated him means he truly owes us nothing at this point, and frankly I’m surprised we haven’t lost him yet. Despite the loud vocal opposition, he is loved and appreciated by many, including me, and I’m excited to see what my friend will go on to accomplish in the future.
Jeffry Tucker is awesome, and a model for other libertarians to follow. I LOVE his writing, it’s so enjoyable to read. And I love his attitude. So expressive and passionate, I challenge anyone to find a more positive political activist, especially one who is such an avowed enemy of the state. Check out this fun short article to see how he deals with some of his most ardent purist supports (expertly done!). He has also authored a couple books, including the incredible “It’s a Jetsons World“. Jeffrey is not just another well respected author, he runs Laissez Faire Books, successfully turning the famous libertarian bookstore around into a successful profitable operation. If all libertarians would read and learn more from the example set by Jeffrey Tucker, we would have a far more successful and enjoyable movement.
Steve Forbes was at Freedom Fest! Yes, as in Forbes Inc, Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, and that Forbes 400 wealthiest people list. Awesome to see such a successful and influential man get up on stage and give such impassioned words in support of the morality of liberty. He’s a hero.
Speaking of influential CEOs, John Mackey was back at Freedom Fest! He’s the CEO of Whole Foods. I particularly love his famous quote about unions: “The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.”
Do a YouTube search for Nick Gillespie and Bill Maher, pick any video and enjoy. Nick is quick, so articulate, a little sarcastic, and often he’s fucking hilarious. His humor is dry, usually off color, and somehow always catches you by surprise. Reason.tv couldn’t have picked a more clever bastard to be senior editor and host. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a while. Nick Gillespie represents a much cooler looser side of the libertarian movement. And to drill that point home he seems to almost never take off his signature black leather jacket. I wonder if he wears it to pool parties….
Also from Reason we had Matt Welch, the Editor in Chief of Reason Magazine. For some reason when I see Matt and Nick together it reminds me of sparring puppies. They’re playfully combative, but more damaging because they’re both brilliant.
Matt is an excellent writer, but more impressive is how he’s managed to keep Reason Magazine as not just my favorite magazine, but now the only physical magazine I still read.
Oh and I think the new facial hair suits him well. What do you guys think?
The newest addition to the Reason family is none other than Kennedy! The famous MTV video jockey icon from the 90s. She definitely had a libertarian streak back then, as you can see from this EPIC interview with Marilyn Manson. In Part 2 of the video she actually stumps Manson when she brings up how environmentalism and PETA are guilty of the same sins he just condemned Christianity for. Watch it for no other reason than the hilarious contrast of personalities. And that is what Kennedy is, a lot of personality!! She’s taking Reason.tv videos in a new direction and I like it.
Oh and she doesn’t know this, but the reason I became such a huge fan of The Catherine Wheel (who I’ve reviewed on this blog in the past) is because of a fleeting moment on MTV back in the mid 90s when Kennedy said they were her favorite band, which got me to check them out. Thanks Kennedy, I owe you one!
Matt Kibbe is one of the most prominent voices in the Tea Party movement. Running Freedom Works made him hugely influential and partially responsible for successfully spreading the wave of anti-government sentiment across the country. Everyone needs to brand themselves somehow, Matt has chosen signature sideburns. Whatever works! He’s got a new book out now called “Hostile Takeover“. I’m a fan of his big tent decentralized approach that he’s brought to the Tea Party movement. I hope he helps take it much further.
David Boaz was back! He’s pretty much the public face of the legendary CATO Institute. There was some roller coaster turmoil surrounding CATO this year, but that’s behind us now. We can again focus on the incredible value this think tank organization brings to the movement.
To be honest, I wish Yaron Brook was a little less harsh, maybe a little more softer and squishier, but no one can deny the incredible improvements the Ayn Rand Institute has seen under his leadership. Despite his tough disapproving demeanor, Yaron has performed miracles to transform ARI into a far warmer, friendlier, more open and accessible institution than it used to be. I think they’ve got a little bit farther to go, but hey let’s appreciate what we’ve got so far. I’m certain that literally no one who knows ARI would expect Yaron to even conduct an interview with Reason.tv, let alone join in the fun at a libertarian event even 1 year ago, and yet here he is. And I salute him for that, because I’m sure many don’t understand the powerful antiquated pressures Yaron has to struggle with in order to accomplish the progress he has. Despite the popular myths, Yaron can actually be pretty warm and light hearted, and I’ve even seen him smile :)
I hope to see Yaron continue bringing ARI further down a path of openness, there is just too much valuable insight to keep closed off.
And let’s not forget the epic 1940s themed cocktail party I threw at my house with him as a speaker (check out the photos!). He can be a fun engaging speaker, as long as he doesn’t bring up Mother Theresa!
One of my favorite people at the conference was John Browne. He is such a master at public speaking, able to convey his message with incredible strength, clarity, and a friendly British good nature, I’d go anywhere he was giving a talk. In fact I’m guilty of following him around just to hear him speak to other people at the conference. John used to be a member of Britain’s Parliament, and now he’s a Senior Economic Consultant at Peter Schiff’s Euro Pacific Capital. Peter did well to get a powerhouse like John Browne on board.
Tom Palmer has been on fire lately! His Wikipedia page reads like a man from an intellectual action movie. Smuggling the message of liberty into Eastern Europe and the Middle East. His credentials are already strong: Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, director of the Institute’s Cato University, Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and General Director of the Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace, and Prosperity. Not bad, plus putting together several influential and widely disseminated books that seem to be coming out yearly.
Tom Woods is an exceptional and prolific writer, and his book “Meltdown” is one of best books ever written in a political genre. It should be required reading for anyone who wishes to interact with our economy in any way. The book descriptively explains the causes of the economic collapse we faced, but I was struck by how clear and engaging the writing was.
Robert Murphy has gained some notoriety for publicly and loudly challenging noble prize winning economist Paul Krugman to a public debate. He’s currently raised around $77,000 for the cause. Somehow Robert is always able to keep economic discussions fun and entertaining. Probably due to his frequent use of bald jokes; whatever works! As the author of the book “Lessons for the Young Economist” Robert Murphy has demonstrated the remarkable talent of being capable of explaining complex economic concepts to a 13 year old.
Barbara Branden is a legend. As part of Ayn Rand’s inner circle in the 50s and 60s, Barbara has had a front row seat throughout the evolution and progress of the liberty movement. She’s still a firecracker! Full of attitude and insight.
Brian Doherty is a long time veteran liberty author. Currently he writes for Reason Magazine. He’s put out some classic books like “Radicals for Capitalism” and his newest “Ron Paul’s rEVOLution“. But Brian’s not all politics and no fun. He has also written written the seminal “This is Burning Man” (a topic I’ve also written about), and to know him is to know he’s actually got a pretty cool eclectic taste in music.
People in ideological movements tend to get heated. Too often at each other. Angela has been an incredible mediator to restore cooperation among allies. It’s hard not to get along with her, she’s very welcoming and friendly. As the Development Director at AntiWar.com (which does some great work, while often ironically militant in tone) she has managed to remain a passionate advocate without all the militancy.
John Stagliano is another one of my favorite people. He is a shrewd businessman who built his porn production company into an empire (NSFW). If you’ve seen the movie “The People vs. Larry Flynt” you might get some idea of what John went through. The US Government charged John Stagliano with enough obscenity crimes to put him in prison for the remainder of his life. John’s successful fight against this violation of the first amendment cost him over $1 Million and hardened him into a hardcore libertarian, and a massive contributor to the cause.
I believe in Melissa Palmer! She is so amazing. As Director of Development for Reason Foundation, it’s clear that Reason couldn’t be Reason without her. Reason just might be my favorite liberty organization and a big part of that is because of Melissa, and her ability to make everyone a loyal ally. So gracious and helpful and down to business, if there’s any well connected person in the movement to make friends with, make friends with Melissa Palmer.
Doug Casey is a legendary investor and author, writing wildly popular investment books throughout the 80s. Truly an international man, he lives in homes spread out among several countries. His financial firm Casey Research is well respected in its industry. Doug Casey seems to have more attitude than the rest of the conference combined. That is an impressive accomplishment! He shows up late to a panel discussion on the main stage, smoking a cigar, and refuses to put it out for complaining audience members, telling them to “call security” if they have a problem with it. Check out the photo to the left ;)
We need more young cool vocal entrepreneurs like Jeff Berwick in this movement. Jeff was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1999 after founding and growing StockHouse.com which is still currently the most active financial website in Canada. He now lives primarily in Mexico, while constantly traveling the world. Jeff is the Chief Editor of The Dollar Vigilante his blog/newsletter, and somehow he’s able to update it with new content almost daily.
John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow
Meet the producers of the upcoming Atlas Shrugged sequel film. I’ve written a widely received review of the first film, and I explained how I had no faith that they could pull off something decent, and yet they surprised me! I am really looking forward to what they will do with Part 2.
Rob is Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest drug legalization political organization in the world, notably getting these various medical marijuana and legalization measures on ballots in all these states around the country. It’s amazing to talk to Rob and hear him talk about which states he’s going to next flip to legalizing medical marijuana and which states he’s going to flip to actual full legalization. No one else I know alive has the ability to talk like that. Colorado and Washington look exciting for full legalization! Rob is definitely doing some amazing things.
Michelle Liberman is also known as The Freedom Friend. I shared my speaker time slot with her at Freedom Fest. We had similar topics. I was discussing sales and how intellectuals can connect with non-intellectuals. She was discussing how to better connect with a mainstream female audience. Michelle is an actress, model, entrepreneur, and will soon be an author. And she’s actually a real fashion conscious libertarian female, having something to do with her being an established personal stylist for many years, known as The Shopping Friend.
Sharon Harris is President of The Advocates for Small Government, that group that promotes the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (try it, take a few seconds). I’ve been reading her Liberator Online newsletters for the last 15 years, and I still read them.
Bob Ewing is the Director of Communications at the Institute for Justice, a law firm funded to litigate against government intrusion into civil and economic liberties. I did in fact write a viral popular article about How To Handle Lawyers Threatening You, but I was describing how to handle the rampant injustice in the legal world. The Institute for Justice is actually litigating against government on behalf of justice, and I am so supportive and excited about what they’re doing.
I met Bob when he was speaking at a different conference, and I was completely blown away! I couldn’t believe it, even though our talks were very different, everything he said fit with my talk. It was like he was giving a more practical application to the different concepts I’ve been talking about. And he’s simply a far better public speaker than I am. I remember the title “Winning Hearts and Minds”. I was so impressed that during the Freedom Fest conference I became the Communications Director for the Director of Communications at the Institute for Justice, promoting Bob wherever I could, because I do believe that Bob Ewing’s message of how we should approach our communication is the most vitally important message for libertarians to hear right now.
Ted and Courtney Balaker
Ted Balaker is the man behind many Reason.tv videos, including the regular fun Nanny Of The Month series, and some other excellent short liberty related videos. Courtney is also an award winning filmmaker. Together Ted and Courtney Balaker are the power couple behind Korchula Productions, sweeping Freedom Fest’s Anthem Film Festival with an award for each of their projects. Courtney directed a short narrative called “The Conversation” and Ted created an impactful video for F.I.R.E. that managed to rally the mass of Firefly fans behind a worthy free speech cause.
The huge personality behind Freedom Fest himself, Mark Skousen didn’t just organize the biggest libertarian gathering in the world every year, he is also an established author of over 25 books. Mark is also Editor in Chief of his popular financial newsletter “Forecasts & Strategies“. As you can see from all the photos this year and from last year, Freedom Fest is a truly exceptional event, and Mark Skousen has done something incredible here. Freedom Fest is an enormous contribution to the liberty cause. I am honored that he would invite me as a speaker. I hope he likes the pictures! ;)
Freedom Fest was founded by Mark Skousen, but it’s really Tami Holland who is doing much of the hard work to make it happen. I’ve thrown many successful libertarian related events, but I don’t have any idea of what she must go through to deal with all the moving parts associated with gathering 3000 attendees, dozens of speakers, hotel banquet halls, conference rooms, and the millions of problems all these difficult personalities throw at her from out of nowhere. And yet she’s able to pull it off expertly each year. She has been so gracious and supportive of me, and I am truly grateful that she’s included me as a part of Freedom Fest. Everyone involved owes Tami some serious gratitude.
And that’s enough, far too many exceptional people to write about. You get the idea ;)
As you can see, we have many soldiers fighting very different battles in the same war. Thank god we stick together somehow, stormy waters are coming, and we need all hands on deck!
If you’re in some photos and you want the high res unwatermarked files for marketing, online profiles, book jackets, or whatever, just message me. I’d love a photo credit, but I’m not charging; hope it helps!