FreedomFest, a prominent Libertarian convention that hosts speakers and its own annual film festival, has come under fire in recent weeks for its decision to ban a documentary starring America First Conservative and talk show host Nick Fuentes.
Fuentes, an outspoken Christian Nationalist, was the subject of a documentary created by Paul Escandon and Jason Rink. The 21-minute short film details Fuentes’ experiences of being persecuted by the Federal government.
Despite never being charged with any crime, Fuentes was placed on a Federal No-Fly List, a designation typically reserved for only the most violent and dangerous international terrorists. In addition, the Department of Justice seized over $500,000 from his bank account.
The purpose of Escandon and Rink’s Film was to highlight civil rights infringement from the State, a cornerstone of Libertarian ideology, and an obvious fit for a Libertarian film festival. Initially, the documentary was approved weeks in advance by Anthem Film Festival, which runs its event within FreedomFest.
The following image shows the email correspondence between the documentary’s co-producer Jason Rink and an Anthem Film Festival organizer back in late April:
According to Rink, he additionally asked permission for Fuentes to attend the screening. On May 12, Anthem accepted his request and even offered for Fuentes to appear on a panel to discuss the film. On May 16, Anthem sent out a mass email listing a schedule of all their films for the upcoming festival which would take place on July 13-16.
The agenda listed both the documentary starring Fuentes, as well as his appearance at a panel titled “How to Fight the Information Police”:
Rink sent an email to an Anthem organizer asking for the agenda to be updated since Fuentes had yet to officially agree to be on a panel. Following the release of the official 2022 agenda for the Anthem Film Festival, some people on Twitter criticized Nick’s presence on the list.
They accused Fuentes of being a White Supremacist and further criticized the festival for providing him with an outlet. While FreedomFest did kowtow to the baseless smears and allegations against Fuentes, they still felt it necessary to show the film given its significance, which is above all about civil rights abuse against freedom of speech:
Regardless of political views, it must be noted that the focus of the documentary is about the federal government infringing on Americans’ rights, without cause. As Rink points out, allowing Fuentes and his story to be on display should be a common Libertarian perspective. He writes: “It is my belief that everyone deserves the right to due process under the law, regardless of their personal or political beliefs.”
“…When the government violates somebody’s rights simply because of their political speech – no matter what we might think about them and their beliefs – those rights should be defended. It is my belief that this is THE libertarian position on the issue. And it is not a controversial one.”
Despite the previous support and even encouragement of the film by Anthem and FreedomFest, by May 19, both the film and Fuentes’ marked attendance on the panel were removed from the official schedule. According to Rink, following the removal of his documentary from the list he went on a video call with both the FreedomFest and Anthem Film Festival organizers to deliberate the issue.
Rink alleges he has video proof of this encounter, where the organizers admit that the impetus to remove the documentary did not come primarily from the social media smears, but from the highest echelons of Libertarian organizations and think-tanks:
“On that call, I was advised that while the Twitter activity from some select individuals in the libertarian movement had an influence, it was actually when we were hearing from the highest levels at Reason, the Libertarian Party, the CATO Institute, National Review, FIRE, and MPI, people we respect” that lead to the decision to remove the film. I was informed that they believed the film didn’t do enough to disparage Nick’s views.”
Since the film is not publicly available to view, I can only assume these critics arrived at this conclusion from watching a 95-second trailer for the film.” In the most confounding display of irony, Rink was still scheduled at this time to speak on a panel titled “Cancelled: Fighting the Speech Police” He asked to be removed from the agenda as a speaker, given that FreedomFest and the Anthem Film Festival have acted as Speech Police, canceling both Fuentes and the documentary.
In Rink’s second Substack post, he asked a highly relevant question, “Did Reason pressure FreedomFest to remove the film? I’d like to know. The same goes for FIRE, MPI, the National Review, The Libertarian Party, and the CATO Institute. If they didn’t contact FreedomFest and influence their decision, then come out and say it.” He continues: “If they didn’t contact Freedomfest to influence them to remove the film, not only would it restore some of the respect I had for these organizations.”
“It would also tell me that I was lied to on that call … Instead they caved to the complaints from a handful of influencer accounts on Twitter. And honestly, that might be worse.”
Meanwhile, FreedomFest has now doubled down on its decision. Responding to Rink’s Tweet, which was a link to his original Substack piece, FreedomFest states:
Their Tweets were met with near-universal condemnation. Despite their nearly 4000+ followers, as of June 8, their statement received close to zero likes. Instead, there was a massive outpouring of support for Fuentes, and for his documentary to be shown.
The many commenters also pointed out the clear and obvious hypocrisy of FreedomFest; pretending to advocate for a censorship-free exchange of ideas while censoring and silencing those with different views:
The hypocrisy is especially highlighted by the mission statements of both FreedomFest and the Anthem Film Festival. Here is a quote from the official FreedomFest website:
“FreedomFest is an annual festival where free minds meet to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers in an open-minded environment. It is independent, non-partisan, and not affiliated with any organization or think tank.”
Here is another direct quote from the main page of the Anthem Film Festival Website:
“Welcome to Anthem, the world’s only fully juried libertarian film festival. This year we’re bringing you four full days of hard-hitting, controversial films — films that would definitely not be approved by Biden’s new ‘Ministry of Disinformation’ — films that have been banned on some platforms — but we aren’t afraid to show them.”
Given Rink’s statements, and the context surrounding the documentary’s cancellation, the sentiments of these organizations come across as both hollow and infuriating. How can a Libertarian film festival, which claims to be against censorship and canceling culture, cancel a documentary, and censor Nick Fuentes? It goes against not only the central premise of their convention but the alleged core principles of libertarianism.
Where are the Libertarians who used to say, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”? If Rink’s statements are true, they pose a massive blow to the credibility of either FreedomFest or these monolithic Libertarian organizations. Did these massive Libertarian groups lobby to snub freedom of speech? Or did FreedomFest organizers lie on the video to Rink, instead of surrendering to the mildest pushback of misinformed armchair antagonists?
This issue is not just about Nick. Love him or hate him, this is a hypocritical and deeply troubling act on the part of FreedomFest. How can they possibly claim to stand for the principles of free speech, while simultaneously acting as gatekeepers and speech police who silence any dissident voices?
How can they claim they are independent of the will of think tanks and monolithic organizations when according to Rink, the think tanks and billionaire-funded groups had the final say in the matter? The organizers of FreedomFest and the Anthem Film Festival have clearly not lived up to their namesake.
In the midst of rampant government censorship and cancel culture, we would expect Libertarians to be the bulwark of free speech and ‘the marketplace of ideas’. Instead, at the first chance to demonstrate moral courage, they buckled under the weight of a smear campaign by a small handful of blue checkmarks. Are these the actions of a group that is really committed to freedom of speech? Or is the so-called ‘FreedomFest’ another case of billionaire-funded subterfuge, designed to gate-keep any serious discussion about real Americans who are persecuted?
It remains to be seen where exactly the ‘freedom’ is at this festival. Fortunately, for those who truly care about free speech and would love to hear Nick’s story, there is a solution. Despite all the censorship and stonewalling on the part of FreedomFest, Fuentes has sidestepped the concerted efforts to hide his story by hosting his own film screening.
The film, ‘The Most Canceled Man in America’, will be premiered in Las Vegas on July 14, parallel to FreedomFest. The focus of this event is simple: the American people deserve to know the true unbridled power that the Federal government not only has but uses to deprive innocent Americans of their rights. No bureaucracy, thinktank, or gatekeeping film festival will stand in the way of the truth.