We Still Have a Long, Long Way to Go!

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Thu, 2007-10-04 18:39

I hate to rain on everybody's "Atlas Month," but for all the new-found "respect" for Ayn Rand from certain writers and publications being noted around here, we still have a very LONG way to go -- and I mean, just to find substance and accuracy.

From the Left, CNN.com/Living's "Full-of-Themselves Famous People":

"The egotist's egotist, author Ayn Rand (born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum) is the patron saint of Thinking You're Better Than Everybody Else.

"Her most famous novels, 'The Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged,' are massive dramatizations of Objectivism, her self-spun Oscar-the-Grouch philosophy for success. Objectivism champions ego and accomplishment, shuns all religion as folly, and condemns any form of charity or altruism as counterproductive to society.

"Rand's novels often focus on protagonists (invariably men) who are shunned by others because of their genius, but then persevere over the foolishness of morons to prove said genius and emerge triumphant.

"Not surprisingly, she saw humility as a weakness and regarded laughing at yourself as 'spitting in your own face.' [Something CNN must be used to these days.]

"So, just how much did Rand believe in her own philosophy? Let's just say a lot. With signature modesty, she ranked herself as the philosophical equal of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas."

Of course, Ayn Rand never said that charity (much less "any form" of it!) was "counterproductive." Whatever this author thinks is "invariable," the central figure of her magnum opus is, of course, the heroic ~ woman ~ who runs a transcontinental railroad! This "Oscar the Grouch" believed in a "benevolent universe" and advocated a "benevolent sense of life."

An "egotist," Rand was not -- she lacked the slightest traces of conventional vanity. Of herself, for example, she wrote that there was nothing special except "honesty." A philosophical "egoist," Rand was -- and a justifiably proud one, too, as those aware of her own professional struggle know.

You can keep listing the errors if you have the stomach for it...

CNN's calumnies, however, don't hold a candle to the defamation spread by our conservative friends, who, as usual, are far more despicable, dishonest, and empty of substance and accuracy.

From the Right, a recent article in The Weekly Standard:

"This was in the late 1950s. By then, Rand had published her two thick, preposterous novels, 'The Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged,' and stood poised on the brink of international stardom. Her creepy philosophy of Objectivism, placing the self at the center of the moral universe, was being enthusiastically embraced, as it still is, by tens of thousands of pimply teenage boys in the dreamy moments between fits of social insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation. As her cultish fame spread, Rand wanted to keep tabs on her most intimate acolytes. Of these Greenspan was the most promising and, by all appearances, the most normal. Which worried her.

"He had, for example, a life; most of the members of the Collective--the name her dozen closest followers attached to themselves--did not, devoting themselves to her welfare exclusively. Greenspan was making good money, soon to be great money, as a savvy economics consultant. He lunched with bond traders, corporate leaders, even titans of industry, real-life versions of the planet-girding capitalists Rand fantasized about and invented for her books. On Saturday nights Greenspan, then in his early thirties, would gather with his fellow Collective members in Rand's dim, shuttered apartment in midtown Manhattan (she kept the windows closed and the blinds drawn for many years, after one of her beloved cats tumbled tragically to its death). There in the grim presence of their idol they would sit on folding chairs and release expletives of thrilled admiration as her writings were read aloud."

The author's source? 'My Years with Ayn Rand' by Nathaniel Branden. Well, if you were guessing, your odds were about 50/50, right?

It is the sheer invention of this piece that is simply breathtaking! For example, Rand's friends had included many leading businessmen, including William Mullendore, Herbert Cornuelle, Leonard Read. Her research for "Atlas" involved inspecting large steel mills and industrial plants -- and even learning to drive the engine of a locomotive! But, here, in her stifling isolation, we see Rand "fantasizing" about businessmen. (The author is just sure that those shutters were never opened!)

Indeed, our author has climbed into Rand's head to tell us how the "appearance" of "normality" among her students was something that "worried" her -- you know, a PhD candidate with Sidney Hook at NYU, attorneys, physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, journalists, Merrill Lynch stockbrokers, etc., and only Greenspan is "normal." We are even told that Rand was somehow "keeping tabs" on them all because of it. My goodness!

But this kind of stuff DOES make super fiction.

The lack of any substance, and heavy load of ad hominem is also noteworthy. Seemingly, young Rand readers are more prone to pimples and masturbate more "furiously" than other adolescents.

Wow.

[Thanks to Noodlefood for the heads up.]


( categories: )

Suma- "I discovered Ayn Rand

Aaron's picture

Suma-
"I discovered Ayn Rand about 10 years ago, quite by chance while I was searching for research papers on multithreading."

That rocks, geekiest intro to Rand ever!

Elijah-
I'm not a fan of your 'wealth-n-hookers' take on Objectivism, but couldn't help but think of you when I recently encountered the gold-digger on Craigslist and the oh-so-appropriate responses to her.

Column about, Ayn Rand, In Canada's National Post

Wayne Simmons's picture

Shrugging off Ayn Rand
By Peter Foster, Financial Post

http://www.canada.com/national...

Consider The Source

Rufus's picture

What's wrong with being a pimply faced masturbator? I was when I first discovered Ayn Rand 25 years ago.

The "writers" of this nonsense will only reach the level of Ayn Rand's achievements in their wet dreams.

False Illumination

F L Light's picture

Slander illuminates America,
Flashing you senseless with the newsroom media.

http://theeleutherian.blogspot...

I Wonder...

James S. Valliant's picture

... if those guys over at 'The Weekly Standard' find it "creepy" that Ronald Reagan -- someone they are known to "admire" -- described himself as an "admirer" of Ayn Rand in private correspondence, and that he did so ~ after ~ conservatives, like those at 'The National Review,' had already begun to slime Rand. I doubt that they would they put him in the "pimply-faced-masturbator" category, the only Rand-fans about whom we are told.

Elijah

James S. Valliant's picture

"Predictable" does not mean "excusable," and while the instant articles are nothing I haven't seen many times before, an injustice is an injustice.

That always bothers me.

Elijah

gregster's picture

You do have a colourful turn-of-phrase. ha ha

"up to his neck in tits and arse, or cock"

CNN

Elijah Lineberry's picture

is not known for accuracy! Sticking out tongue

As I said earlier, do not get upset about predictable attacks on Objectivism from the 'mainstream' media.

These chaps are basically ignorant and stupid and envious of the people they write about.

Half Full?

James S. Valliant's picture

The expected partying and sexual antics of youth, including my own, are not the point, Elijah. The correct understanding of Rand's actual moral values is the issue.

Suma is, of course, right: the very attention paid to Rand says ~ something.

But is mere accuracy too much to ask for?

An optimist's POV

Suma's picture

If Ayn Rand was so inconsequential, why would they devote real-estate to misrepresent her views or trash her.

I discovered Ayn Rand about 10 years ago, quite by chance while I was searching for research papers on multithreading. I think it is so much easier to hear of her now, even if via negative articles like these in the MSM.
The CNN article for example, was dripping of envy and hatred of good, any normal person would get quite the opposite message (of what the author intends). I am now curious to find out more about Hitchcock (liked some of his movies), Dali ("Every morning when I awake, the greatest of joys is mine: that of being Salvador Dalí." - what a great quote) and Al Jolson (never heard of him).


"After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one." Cato the Elder

If

Elijah Lineberry's picture

you take a likely scenario...

You are talking to a teenager and introducing them to Objectivism for the first time.

From your point of view, you are not simply wanting to have a chat, but want to encourage this chap to pursue freedom, capitalism and happiness.

The concept of egoism...morality being based on self interest...will be easy enough to explain, and after a couple of dozen questions, be understood.

Matters are then at a point of this teenager either saying "Well, that was nice, thank you" ...or...eagerly asking "Now what?"

If it is the 'Now what?" option there would be a need to show self interest from his point of view (rather than yours or Ayn Rand's)...so you would need to ask him "If you were a budding capitalist making $5000 per week in profits what would you spend it on? what would your life be like? for better or worse, what is important to you?" (etc)

It is always possible, in view of his age, that he answers along the lines of... driving around town in a Jaguar, a waterfront apartment, nice clothes, a nice watch and to be up to his neck in tits and arse, or cock (depending on his preferences), nights on the town, foreign holidays..(etc).

These may be some of the first things he considers important in the self interest department.

This is the scenario which would see a silly University enrolment application torn up, and the 'Forming a Company' application filled out instead.

If you stop and think for a moment as to the sorts of teenagers likely to be discussing objectivism with you Eye...it is unlikely their view of self interest is to stand back and let the "rugby heads" and "boy racers" have all the fun (which their high school years have consisted of) whilst they meekly eat 2 minute noodles and wear a cardigan their grandmother knitted.

(No offence intended to anyone)...but, if your younger years did not involve any of this (for whatever reason) it does not mean that egoism - self interested morality, to others does not consist of these sorts of things.

Rand and the rubbish about her ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

That Weekly Standard quote sounds like the worst sort of pomowankery. Despicable. And Elijah, all those nauseating "positive thinking" bromides from ghastly self-help gurus don't change the reality of pomoism's (or conservatism's) perfidy.

Ayn Rand's precise statement about charity was that it is a "marginal" issue. She most certainly didn't say charity was counter-productive, and as James observes, she practised it herself.

I like this part the most:

An "egotist," Rand was not -- she lacked the slightest traces of conventional vanity. Of herself, for example, she wrote that there was nothing special except "honesty." A philosophical "egoist," Rand was -- and a justifiably proud one, too, as those aware of her own professional struggle know.

One of the impediments in promoting Objectivism has been certain pathologically conventionally vain people who, failing to make that distinction between egotism and egoism, think Objectivism validates their pathology. These are the "Objectivist monologuers" I have written about. These types are obnoxious, non-potty trained, and a turn-off. Rand was not like that at all. For one thing, she specifically repudiated vanity as "that most second-hand of the vices"; for another, though she could certainly monologue (and was fully entitled to), she was the most patient and attentive dialoguer.

Oh, Yeah

James S. Valliant's picture

"Thin skinned"? Can you imagine any other writer of Rand's influence being treated like this? In any event, these are manure piles way too stinking to go mining for rose petals in, Miss. Pollyanna.

Do you mean "rich enough" to buy more whores? Or, will the money convince your lover to "lay" you more frequently? I'm not sure what you think Rand's moral vision was all about, Elijah.

Well, you're in a large crowd there.

Oh

Elijah Lineberry's picture

do not be too thin skinned as the media tend to operate this way, and ironically rather proves the point about ...who are shunned by others because of their genius, but then persevere over the foolishness of morons to prove said genius

This article was intended to be negative, but I find it best to turn negatives into positives! Laughing out loud

...for example, we could say to teenage boys "if you become rich and successful you can afford the best treatment for pimples, and will be rich enough to get laid 4 times per day, whilst your poorer friends will have to wank"

Always look for the positive in every situation Smiling

Elijah

James S. Valliant's picture

YOU may think it all "splendid," Elijah Smiling(?), but it's not what Rand said or wrote, as is being claimed.

Just to dip into your quotation a bit: Rand did not think herself "better than everyone else," her protagonists included heroic women, and Rand engaged in charity herself -- and consistently with her philosophy.

This is nothing but grotesque caricatures and lies.

We have "a long way to go" in simply being described in a factually correct way by major media outlets -- and in simply avoiding ugly smears.

I

Elijah Lineberry's picture

am unsure what is wrong with this James? Puzzled

the patron saint of Thinking You're Better Than Everybody Else....Objectivism champions ego and accomplishment, shuns all religion as folly, and condemns any form of charity or altruism as counterproductive to society...Rand's novels often focus on protagonists (invariably men) who are shunned by others because of their genius, but then persevere over the foolishness of morons to prove said genius and emerge triumphant.

Surely all that is a splendid thing! Laughing out loud

I am presuming you mean "We still have a long way to go"...[to have everyone else doing it, too]?

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