Q/A with Michigan man who stripped naked at Libertarian Convention
A Michigan man who stripped naked at the Libertarian Party National Convention last week is suspended from the Libertarian Party after the video from the convention went viral.
James Weeks is running for Livingston County sheriff as a Libertarian. The executive committee of the Libertarian Party of Michigan voted yesterday to suspend him until 2018, after video of his stunt went viral. But the political director for the Livingston County Libertarians says the state party cannot actually block the nomination of a candidate who runs for local office if that candidate had the support of a majority of the local caucus. And he will appear on the November ballot with the Libertarian Party affiliation, since he had already filed the required paperwork before the suspension.
Michigan Radio interviewed Weeks about his actions and this is what he had to say.
Q: Could you describe the mood or vibe of the convention before you stripped?
A: The mood or vibe of the convention before I stripped, well during the strip, it kind of shifted on me about halfway through. It shifted right around the time [my] pants went. Before that, a lot of the crowd was really into it, clapping along and some people even got up on their chairs and started dancing too. But once the pants were gone, that’s when the boos really started.
Q: What did you hope would come from getting naked?
A: Well I was making a political statement in the form of performance art in lieu of a speech. A lot of it was to get attention for Libertarians, because we get kind of ignored in the media a lot. There's not a lot of attention towards Libertarians and Libertarian ideas, and it’s like we have to get almost naked on stage to get calls from the press.
Q: The language of your press release doesn’t seem very apologetic, so are you at all sympathetic to those in your party who feel like you shouldn’t have stripped on stage, or at least given an explanation of your act beforehand?
A: Performance art shouldn’t need an explanation, and I think it’s bad to try to explain meaning behind performance art. I think it should be left up to interpretation. Now I know there’s people who think what I did was a bad thing, but I think press attention is a good thing for the party, and I think in the long run, people will see that this will pay off.
Q: How do you feel about people who consider public nudity as sexual harassment?
A: I don’t believe that those people would be Libertarians to begin with, but we don’t really have a right to not see something we don’t like, or have a safe space from language. I mean the whole idea of having a safe space from things you find offensive is kind of ridiculous.
Q: But wouldn’t you think that gives privilege to those who aren’t as likely to be offended by something someone else says or by certain types of expression?
A: Being offended by something doesn’t grant you any special privileges. Being offended doesn’t mean people can’t say something around you now. If me wearing a pink shirt offends you, that doesn’t mean I can’t wear a pink shirt around you. That’s just not how things are supposed to work. The only way that could happen is if we have an extremely tyrannical government completely destroying individual rights, because that’s exactly what it is. A safe space is the destruction of individual rights.
Q: But that means a safe space for certain things, right? You’re not saying that a safe space from something like violence would be a restriction of individual rights, correct?
A: Yes, but that’s because we don’t have a right to do violence unto one another. People have the right to express themselves, people have the right to say things and act in a peaceful manner. The only check on that is no violence. It’s not what color shirt you’re wearing, or whether or not you’re wearing a shirt. We have the Free the Nipple campaign going all across the nation so men and women can have the same right to be topless in public. People don’t have a safe space to not see a woman’s nipple.
Q: Do you think your actions undermined the purpose of the convention?
A: I think they brought attention to the convention, so I don’t think they undercut the purpose of the convention. I mean the purpose of the convention is to do Libertarian things and dancing around is a Libertarian thing. It's free expression. There’s people that have said what I did was the most Libertarian thing that happened at the Libertarian convention, so I don’t think what I did undercut the principles of why we were there and what we’re trying to accomplish.
This post has been edited to clarify Weeks' status on the November ballot.