The National Review's Dishonest and Relentless Vendetta

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Mon, 2008-01-07 21:49

The National Review has long feared Ayn Rand more than anyone else.

There is simply no other way to explain decades of consistently lying about Rand and her ideas by that magazine.

To Whittaker Chambers, in his infamously inaccurate review of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, Rand was a totalitarian materialist -- a self-declared, overt materialist, in fact. When this dumb mistake was pointed out in letters to the editor (which the magazine even published), no retraction or correction was forthcoming -- only WFB's stupid tittering at those very letters.

The intervening years have seen a remarkable flowering of scholarly interest in Rand's ideas, and many books and articles have been published since then which make such an embarrassing repeat of this sort of mistake only less excusable.

And, yet, the lies just keep coming.

Here's the latest. Describing the categories of atheists out there, Michael Novak describes #2 as:

"Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the 'death of God' has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will. This is the kind of moral nihilism that communist and fascist regimes depended upon, to justify the brutal use of power. It appears, also, to be the kind of atheism that Ayn Rand commended."

Michael Novak must know better. He certainly could have known better with very little effort or even just the exercise of minimal journalistic ethics. Novak is a pathetically bad scholar obviously lacking any such ethics, of course, but his editors had a basic journalistic responsibility, too. With journalistic credibility reaching new lows in the wake of various scandals, I suppose, we shouldn't have expected any better.

According to Michael Novak, Objectivism is all about "moral nihilism" and the use of "brute power," the "death of trust in rules of morality" -- and even "the death of trust in reason and science."

Isn't that why you became interested in Ayn Rand, friends -- and isn't that the source of her unique allure? (That's sarcasm, if you are reading this, Mr. Novak.)

But, I do think that it is very good sign when your enemies are compelled to start claiming that black is white and day is night. At some point, insisting that the Dish ran away with the Spoon affects one's credibility.

(Thanks to NoodleFood for the heads up.)


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It's anti-intellectualism, a "conservative" trademark

Chris Cathcart's picture

True enough, Rand has hardly ever come close to getting a serious listening by the "conservative" intellectuals. They'd rather slobber over Ann Coulter's airheaded lunacy (or clever trolling at best). I don't know about the motives of all involved, but it comes as no surprise that you'd find these reckless smears showing up in the pages of National Review. It's telling that not only does Novak just spout it out, but it clears (probably breezed right past) the editorial folks there.

Rand had these idiots pegged back in the '60s and before. "Conservatism" in the past several decades isn't about intellectuality, not with the credence it gives to religion, which relies so heavily on intellectual sloppiness and vacuity.

If I did have to point to one leading voice for "conservatism" in the past decade-plus, it would be Rush Limbaugh. He's at least better than NR in certain respects; at the least he has a minimally decent and basic respect for Rand though he still dismisses her atheism. He's not an intellectual, and at least unlike NR, doesn't make a pretense to be. And if you can stand to sit through many of his radio shows, you find that his strength is as a communicator, not as a thinker. He's an average, middling mind who mixes up a bunch of bad with the good.

A better, more thoughtful conservative voice in the actual sense of the term would be George Will. If the conservative movement were filled with a lot more like him and a lot less who take pride in anti-intellectualism, we'd have made a lot of progress in the political discourse.

Mr. Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

Well observed, Mr. Scherk!

Of course, Objectivists do not "wish that they could believe in God," at least not this one -- the very thought is horrifying -- but Novak did say "might."

Thanks, too, for providing a more noticeable link to the full text than I had already done.

(And, in all sincerity, I am all smiles about your substantive and clear post! Smiling)

Classification reeks

William Scott Scherk's picture

The full classification Nowak lists contains these top two:

One. Those rationalists who believe in science, rationality, and truth, and who abhor relativism and nihilism, and who have very firm moral principles grounded in reason itself — but who see no evidence for the existence of God, neither for the theism of the ancient Greeks and Romans nor the personal God of Judaism and Christianity. They might wish that they could believe in God, but their intellectual conscience will not allow them to.

Two. Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the “death of God” has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will. This is the kind of moral nihilism that communist and fascist regimes depended upon, to justify the brutal use of power. It appears, also, to be the kind of atheism that Ayn Rand commended.

One seems more suited to Rand and followers than Two.

Full Text of Nowak's "Christmas Atheists."

WSS

Nothin' Right

James S. Valliant's picture

Note: this was also an article on atheists' opposition to Christmas -- something Rand loved.

Apparently he's also a borderline illiterate...

Daniel Walden's picture

...or he hasn't read a real book since he was an undergraduate. It was Dostoevsky, not Nietzche, who said that "If God is dead, then everything is permitted."

The whole "classification" reeks of the sort of fuzzy thinking that you get when over-credentialed, half-educated nimrods write about books they haven't read and ideas they haven't wrestled with.

Oh Dear...

Olivia's picture

It's as if he's taken Gail Wynand to be the ultimate hero of the Fountainhead instead of Roarke.

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