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The Mises Institute’s Concern Trolls

Summary:
There is no shortage of former hangers-on at the Mises Institute who now claim to have deep insights into the inner workings of the Institute and its staff. Among these people, one will often find a certain group of people who never miss an opportunity to tell you all about how tight they once were with the Institute staff, and how now they can no longer support the Institute because “it changed.” The latest writer that checks the usual boxes of the “self-described-insider-turned-critic” gimmick is a person named Jordan Schachtel in an article titled “Libertarian Cancel Culture: Prominent Think Tank Dismisses Scholar for Supporting Israel.” The “prominent think tank” in question is the Mises Institute, and the alleged “dismissal” is apparently supposed to describe

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There is no shortage of former hangers-on at the Mises Institute who now claim to have deep insights into the inner workings of the Institute and its staff. Among these people, one will often find a certain group of people who never miss an opportunity to tell you all about how tight they once were with the Institute staff, and how now they can no longer support the Institute because “it changed.” 

The latest writer that checks the usual boxes of the “self-described-insider-turned-critic” gimmick is a person named Jordan Schachtel in an article titled “Libertarian Cancel Culture: Prominent Think Tank Dismisses Scholar for Supporting Israel.” The “prominent think tank” in question is the Mises Institute, and the alleged “dismissal” is apparently supposed to describe the fact that Walter Block is no longer a Senior Fellow at the Institute. 

There’s no need to rehash here the Senior Fellow situation, and if you’re interested in that, you can read all about it here and here

What interests me here is the phenomenon in which an alleged former “insider” attempts to leverage a loose affiliation with the Mises Institute to gain credibility as a concern troll. 

If you are “very online”—to use a phrase from ten years ago—you may already be aware of the concept of the “concern troll.” For a decent definition of the phenomenon, we can consult dictionary.com which states:  ”Concern trolling involves someone opposing an idea or viewpoint, yet acting like they’re an advocate for the cause. A concern troll offers undermining criticisms under the guise of concern. Their goal is to sabotage the cause being discussed, and to inspire doubt among group members. This occurs in groups rallied around a particular issue, especially in political parties, and the goal of concern trolling is to cause dissent within a community.”

I’m not saying that a donor or supporter who criticizes the Mises Institute is necessarily a concern troll. There are plenty of honest people out there who may disagree with an article at mises.org or don’t like a staffing decision. Such people may be exactly what they claim to be: concerned supporters. 

But we do also see our share of concern trolls, and one of the more notable subgroups of concern trolls are indeed the “former insiders.” 

The hallmarks of the concern troll become immediately clear in Schachtel’s article, for instance. Schachtel claims to be deeply concerned about the Mises Institute, but before he gets to the specifics, he is sure to include some of the usual stock phrases the concern trolls use. For example, he writes that “the Mises Institute is an organization I once greatly ... respected. ...Unfortunately, they’ve changed a lot.” He goes on in an effort to establish his “insider” cred by telling his reader he was “frequently a welcome guest speaker at Mises events.” The key takeaway from Schachtel’s article is supposed to be this: “I was once a huge fan of the Institute, but they’re now so bad, I have had to painfully part ways with this organization that has now strayed from its core principles.” 

So what exactly is Schachtel’s concern? He seems to be upset that the editorial position of the Mises Institute is to oppose the current attacks by the Tel Aviv regime on the civilian population of Gaza. Schachtel apparently claims the lack of enthusiasm for the war among Mises Institute authors and faculty shows that the Institute “has changed.” It must have changed a lot. According to Schachtel himself, he was attending multiple Mises Institute events just a couple of years ago. But now has taken to calling the current president of the Institute, Tom DiLorenzo—who was a  senior fellow when Schachtel was a “great admirer” of the institute—a “neo-confederate.” In other words, Schachtel is now repeating 20-year-old smears from the leftist grifters at the Southern Poverty Law Center to express his deep, deep concern for the organization. Schachtel also accuses the Institute of an “obsessive hatred for Israel”—in spite of the fact that the treatment of the Israeli state on mises.org is virtually identical to the treatment dealt out to the US regime during the Iraq war twenty years ago. (It’s almost as if the Mises Institute is consistently opposed to states using taxpayer money to bomb civilians.) Schachtel then suggests the Institute’s damning lack of enthusiasm for the Israeli regime may be due to nefarious Arab influence stirred up by “a Bahraini national” who sits on the Mises Institute’s board. This “supporter” sure has a lot of reasons to strongly dislike the Institute. 

This brings us to the two components of being a concern troll. The first is trying to establish that the troll was, until recently, a die-hard supporter of the troll’s target. The second component is to make the case that the troll’s target organization has run afoul of its former positions. 

Let’s look closer to see how Schachtel follows this script, and how the reality is something far different than what Schachtel purports it to be. 

The first problem is Schachtel’s claim to be some sort of insider and died-in-the-wool supporter of the Institute. Before reading this article, I did not recall ever having heard of Schachtel, so I looked up his article archive at mises.org. There I found that Schachtel has written exactly one article for mises.org. That’s a good thing, of course, but it hardly makes one an insider. Moreover, no staffers at the Institute seem to have ever had any sort of working relationship with Schachtel so I further searched the web site for any evidence of Schachtel association with us. I did manage to find that Schachtel spoke at a 2022 Mises Meetup in Tampa to talk about covid. Yet, he seems to have had no dealings with staff that can be easily recalled. 

The second problem is this: there is nothing about Schachtel’s background that suggests he has any affinity for laissez-faire or peace in a Rothbardian vein. In spite of claims he is a great admirer of the Austrian School and the Institute, everything about Schachtel’s background tells us he is a mainstream conservative with all the anti-libertarian views one would expect. Indeed, Schachtel’s Twitter/X feed is full of the standard conservative complaints about Iran, the Chinese, Arabs, and various other foreign bogeymen. There is even a post condemning the legalization of marijuana. Indeed, if Dick Cheney had a Twitter page, one imagines it would look something like this. Schachtel, by the way, admits to being a paid employee of “The Israel Project” (TIP) which existed, in the words of one criticfor no other reason than to spotlight the very worst aspects of Muslim societies.” It may be the Mises Institute’s real crime, in Schachtel’s eyes, is being insufficiently Islamophobic. As part of his work with TIP, Schachtel set up deliberately deceptive web pages that were purportedly pushing feminism, but were really designed to manufacture more political support for the Israeli state. 

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The best I can tell, Schachtel’s “support” for the institute consists of him once being paid—under the old president—to give a talk at a Mises event. 

Now to the second part of being a concern troll: claiming the target organization “has changed.” Schachtel presents no actual evidence of this change.  When Schachtel was only too happy to share the stage with Mises Institute faculty, Tom DiLorenzo was a Senior Fellow at the Institute, as he is now. In other words it was apparently fine for Schachtel to associate with the Institute when it had a so-called “neo-confederate” among the senior faculty in 2022. In 2024, Schachtel—for some unexplained reason—now thinks that’s a big no-no. As far as our foreign policy allegedly changing, it’s fairly apparent Schachtel never bothered to read the institute’s foreign policy positions. After all, had he read up on our many years of condemning militarism—and Rothbard’s views on the Israeli state—Schachtel would know that the core positions we take now are the same as the core positions we took decades ago.

But, in typical concern-troll narrative, Schachtel tells us he is a deeply concerned hardcore supporter who cannot go along with the “changes.” 

You’ll actually meet quite a few of these people in social media. They are usually not what they claim to be. 


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Ryan McMaken
Ryan McMaken is the editor of Mises Wire and The Austrian. Send him your article submissions, but read article guidelines first. (Contact: email; twitter.) Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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