syrakusos

National Review: nothing changes in 50 years...

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Collateral damage.

That's what I thought too and that's what nags at me.

Sorry for your discomfort.

Does not bother me at all.

Since we are using military terms, then let's follow a military scenario. Suppose the killing of 300 people on a train is not the consequence of bureaucratic interference, incompetence and cowardice but of civil war. Suppose that in order to eliminate Kip Chalmers and two dozen other looters, a certain band of freedom fighters fires a mortar at the train.

Maybe I was being satirical...

Hiowever, since I taught argumentation and debate, I always am amused by the "what if 'arguuments.'"

Now, I could respond several ways:

1) well since it was John Galt, he used the special mortar shell that he designed wherein the schrapnel finds only the designated looters;

2) well what if Hell freezes over and we go ice skating instead; and

3) not answer the argument because it does not deserve one and I probably would be laughing at the fact that that is the best you can do?

A what if scenario?

And it would be Ragnar who would carry out the operation and he is my favorite character of the original trinity.

A....

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May I cut in?

I also found that the initial review of The Fountainhead was balanced, insightful, and generally positive. That was all necessary to establish the fact that Jason Lee Steorts did not like Atlas Shrugged. That is what has not changed in 50 years: National Review's editorial stance on Atlas Shrugged.

Since I read the book first in 1966, the Tunnel Scene always bothered me and for all the same reasons and even more besides. I mean, it was after Directive 10-289, so were looters the only ones using the Comet? We know that the heroes traveled, also. Good thing none of them was on the train.

Read my review here in the OL Library of Allan Ashinoff's Shadows Live Under Seashells. When I was reading it, I made many notes about problems I had with the plot and I sent them to the author along with the typographical errors I caught. (Microsoft Word's spelling checker can be hilarious.) None of that was relevant to a review. It is a story.

Take The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. So, it is cost-effective to ship convicted criminals to the Moon, but the Moon will run out of water because that cannot be shipped to the Moon at a reasonable cost to save the colony -- which supplies Earth with wheat? Just for openers. Or Asimov's "Spacer" worlds, individualists in the extreme and therefore doomed to failure for unstated causes. My favorite science fiction author is William Gibson. He stopped calling it science fiction after the second time that reality overtook his future.

Myself, as a professional writer, I do not criticize other authors easily. I don't have to like the story. I tried Toni Morris's The Bluest Eye and I tried Herzog by Saul Bellow. As a writer, I knew from the first contact with the page that I was in the presence of a Nobel laureate. But I did not finish the books. And it ends there.

Today, I take the Tunnel Disaster as a literary device. All of Atlas Shrugged is just that: a story, made up of elements, defined by the theme and the plot and the characters. If the book reflects something within you that you like about yourself, that's all that matters, just like any visit to any art museum.

(And, yes, a friend of mine whose work actually hangs, taught me how to stretch a canvas, and all the rest. I even had a college studio class. But, no, I would not presume to condemn a work I would not surpass.)

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Hell, it's all to illustrate that avoiding reality has consequences. In an almost Biblical manner, as ye sow, so shall ye reap. Men of the mind assumed the responsibility of others, wrongly (immorally)- and the wake-up was catastrophic. The tunnel tragedy in fact, can be traced back to partial responsibility by the 'prime movers' also.

I don't agree with 'collateral damage' - the total damage had already been accomplished, and this was the final act.

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Hell, it's all to illustrate that avoiding reality has consequences. In an almost Biblical manner, as ye sow, so shall ye reap. Men of the mind assumed that responsibility, wrongly (immorally)- and the wake-up was catastrophic. The tunnel tragedy in fact, can be traced back to partial responsibility by the 'prime movers' also.

I don't agree with 'collateral damage' - the total damage had already been accomplished, and this was the final act.

You are right. Creatures like Kip Chalmers existed because otherwise decent folk defaulted on their political responsibilities prior. We have a "duty" to ourselves to keep the stables of politics free from shit.

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I don't agree with 'collateral damage' - the total damage had already been accomplished, and this was the final act.

Tony:

Nor do I.

Ever do any fishing?

A...

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These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideals. As the train went into the tunnel, the flame of Wyatt’s Torch was the last thing they saw on earth.

"This kind of gleeful schadenfreude . . ."

Where is the gleeful joy in the suffering and death of others, Mr. Not FF?

Thanks for the quote. Now we know that every passenger was a wretched altruist of one stripe or another. Therefore when the author flipped her artistic switch to turn all those selfless fools into blackened corpses, there need have been no fretting over "collateral damage."

Oh wait, there's this:

The woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, "I don't care, it's only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children."

Given the character of the mother, it must be safe to presume the kids have already been turned into good little Young Pioneers--or whatever the scouts are named in Rand's dystopia. Dispatching them would be no great loss.

And there is this:

The man in Seat 5, Car No, 7, was a worker who believed that he had "a right" to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not.

Is there thoughtcrime in Rand's fictional world? Apparently so, because this guy gets snuffed out simply for not believing in laissez-faire.

This chapter from Atlas sounds uncomfortably like Genesis 19, in which Sodom is destroyed because the quota of 10 good men could not be met.

The man in Roomette 3, Car No. 11, was a sniveling little neurotic who wrote cheap little plays into which, as a social message, he inserted cowardly little obscenities to the effect that all businessmen were scoundrels.

To the gas chamber even bad writers go!

Her scream sounded like the screams that had rung out in the last moment in the darkness of the tunnel . . .

“Don’t go back! Dagny! In the name of anything sacred to you, don’t go back!”

She looked as if she did not know who he was. . . . With the force of a living creature fighting for life, she tore herself loose so violently that she threw him off balance for a moment. When he regained his footing, she was running down the hill—running as he had run at the sound of the alarm siren in Rearden’s mills . . . .

Where is the gleeful joy in the suffering and death of others, Mr. Not FF?

I've never argued that Dagny was gleeful. After all, the worst railroad disaster in history took place on her railroad and on her watch.

Signed,

Not Not FF

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I have to agree with Not FF here, and also Steorts. The characters are above it all,they exhibit no reactions, but it is Rand being, if not gleeful, authorially vigilantist and vindicated. A long and fairly honourable literary tradition.

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The author's commentary has struck me as schadenfreude since the first time I read Atlas. I had and have no hatred of Ayn Rand.

Ellen

Edit: Stephen deleted the post, next above, to which I was responding. Thus people reading the thread after memory of it is fresh wouldn't understand why I made the comment disavowing hatred for Ayn Rand. It was because Stephen had called seeing schadenfreude in Rand's authorial description of the Winston Tunnel disaster "Delusional Rand hatred." I think those were the exact words.

Edited by Ellen Stuttle

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Rand has left us with some things to contemplate:

The Tunnel, Disaster

And Dagny's killing of the guard, because he would not make up his mind.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Rand has left us with some things to contemplate:

The Tunnel, Disaster

And Dagny's killing of the guard, because he would not make up his mind.

Ba'al Chatzaf

The guard is in the book for the purpose of being killed by Dagny. The scene serves no necessary plot function.

The Tunnel disaster is important to the plot, with its giving an example of how things would fall apart with increasing loss of intelligence and a sense of responsibility in supervisory personnel. However, I think that Rand would have provided less in the way of justifiable ammunition to detractors if she'd handled the descriptive text differently.

A plot decision with which I have a great deal of trouble - it's given me a feeling of strong protest ever since I first read it - is Galt's decision not to let Hank Rearden know that Dagny was alive, instead to let Hank search and search looking for the wreckage of the plane. I realize that letting Hank know would have caused a headache for the plot, but I wish the headache had been coped with and a way found.

Ellen

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No, Ellen.

GLEEFULL JOY IN THE SUFFERING AND DEATH OF OTHERS, was the allegation from Mr. Hiding-Behind FF (and from Mr. Chambers?). "To the gas chambers go" is their old refrain and representation of the novel. Rand? The monster who favors mass murder by suffocation. No mere schadenfreude read in by these guys. Gleeful. It's not in the novel's text, only in that reader's fantastical villification of Rand.

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No, Ellen.

GLEEFULL JOY IN THE SUFFERING AND DEATH OF OTHERS, was the allegation from Mr. Hiding-Behind FF (and from Mr. Chambers?). "To the gas chambers go" is their old refrain and representation of the novel. Rand? The monster who favors mass murder by suffocation. No mere schadenfreude read in by these guys. Gleeful. It's not in the novel's text, only in that reader's fantastical villification of Rand.

Bravo Stephen.

I have always been completely disgusted by Bill Buckley's choice and his adamantine position regarding Ayn's complete works.

I worked closely with his brother's campaign in NY.

Never could get to the bottom of the issue, as to whether it was personal, political, or, philosophical.

A...

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No, Ellen.

GLEEFULL JOY IN THE SUFFERING AND DEATH OF OTHERS, was the allegation from Mr. Hiding-Behind FF (and from Mr. Chambers?). "To the gas chambers go" is their old refrain and representation of the novel. Rand? The monster who favors mass murder by suffocation. No mere schadenfreude read in by these guys. Gleeful. It's not in the novel's text, only in that reader's fantastical villification of Rand.

Let us then ask what the author's purpose is in putting only altruists and collectivists on the death train. Unless the train was expressly booked to carry 300 true believers to a looters' rally in San Francisco, the passenger list should be expected to include salesmen, small businessmen, ordinary families on vacations, and college graduates on their way back home or off to a new job. In other words, more than a few people who give value for value, take pride in their work, and don't believe the world owes them a living.

Clearly Rand went against probability to create a situation where people who believe in evil ideas would have to suffer and die. You yourself (in deleted Post #5) have referred to it as "poetic justice." And the level at which one finds satisfaction in such justice may be called schadenfreude.

I said the chapter is the weakest part of Atlas Shrugged. I never said or implied that all of the rest of the book is weak. While I prefer The Fountainhead and We the Living, there is no question that Atlas is a major artistic and philosophical achievement.

Criticizing portions of a writer's work does not constitute vilification.

As for hiding behind someone, Francisco Ferrer is my handle on this forum. Like millions of others who post on the internet (including more than a few on this forum), I choose not to give my real name. We are very far from the freedom of Galt's Gulch. In our world of the Super Snooper State, people sometimes get jailed or physically attacked for mere words--even in the good ol' USA. Pseudonymously writing for liberty has an old and honorable history.

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Criticizing portions of a writer's work does not constitute vilification.

Amen.

And I think, Stephen, that the sort of incensed reaction you've displayed to FF's legitimate criticisms is the sort of reaction which lends credence to hostile critics' charges of cultism.

I wonder, do you also become upset when people describe the characters as "wooden"? (I don't remember if you've said anything about that charge in posts of yours I've read.)

Ellen

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GLEEFULL JOY IN THE SUFFERING AND DEATH OF OTHERS, was the allegation from Mr. Hiding-Behind FF (and from Mr. Chambers?). "To the gas chambers go" is their old refrain and representation of the novel. Rand? The monster who favors mass murder by suffocation. No mere schadenfreude read in by these guys. Gleeful. It's not in the novel's text, only in that reader's fantastical villification of Rand.

Stephen,

I hear you.

People who don't see Rand's point, or don't want to see her point, or want to misrepresent her point, usually infer their own meaning onto that passage and treat it like that was her intent.

Rand had a particularly cold, emotionless, portrayal of justice at times. I remember her description of Francisco D'Anconia's face during a moment of justice as precisely that, but I don't recall where in the book anymore. If I remember correctly, the ruthless coldness (I think that was her description or close to it) of Francisco's face in that moment caused Dagny a tremor of fear.

I believe Rand was using what could be called a "metaphysical voice" in the description of the individual people in the tunnel disaster. This goes beyond the traditional literary "omniscient voice" in that it totally ignores the human context. It's a God perspective without God.

By this, I mean the following. Someone who acts stupidly is punished by reality and there is no emotion or second chance or "should have been" or anything else human beings normally feel or express when witnessing it. If you defy reality, it kills you. Not even an "oops." Reality does what it does and that's it. To reality, punishment for poor choices is merciless and carried out merely as another event.

I think Rand was trying to depict that kind of perspective detachment in literary terms to make her metaphysical point. The people on that train ignored reality to varying extents and reality was going to do what it does. It was going to kill them. No more, no less. And being reality, there was no emotion, just cause and effect.

If you look at the disaster from a humane point of view, you can't help but root for the people to get out of there in time. When Rand partially blames the disaster on them, it might seem like sadism from this perspective. But if you look at it from Rand's metaphysical view, cause and effect kick in irrespective of all else. It is what it is just as surely as a falling rock falls downward and no amount of attributed meaning will make it become any different.

I'm a touchy-feely person at heart (but please don't tell anyone :smile: ), so I get the humane point of view. I do. On reflection, I have to admit the passage did bother me a little when I first read it. But after reflecting on Rand's intent, I found it quite clear and that initial bad feeling never returned on my several later rereadings of AS.

This is not schadenfreude. It's merely using a reality lens instead of a humane one.

Michael

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To say that the author GLEEFULLY bumped off 300 people is not simply to make a criticism of the writing. It is to make a moral criticism of the author (particularly since there is no such gleefullness in the text), and in Mr. Chamber's piece, the philosophy. Mr. X wrote GLEEFULL. His representation is of Rand as a moral monster. I am not a cult follower of Rand's. My criticisms of her literature are peppered throughout these pages, including earlier in this very thread (thanks, Darrell). My criticisms of her philosophy have been repeated again and again, and they are not the juvenile one's one could read in Life or the Post or NR way back when. Not all literary criticisms are character assasinations of the author. But some are.

(Sorry if there are mispelled words in this post. We are in DC to see Tristan last night, and I'm not on our own machine.)

Thanks, Michael.

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Criticizing portions of a writer's work does not constitute vilification.

That is a more than fair statement.

I still do not trust you, however, I am willing to listen.

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To say that the author GLEEFULLY bumped off 300 people is not simply to make a criticism of the writing. It is to make a moral criticism of the author (particularly since there is no such gleefullness in the text), and in Mr. Chamber's piece, the philosophy. Mr. X wrote GLEEFULL. His representation is of Rand as a moral monster. I am not a cult follower of Rand's. My criticisms of her literature are peppered throughout these pages, including earlier in this very thread (thanks, Darrell). My criticisms of her philosophy have been repeated again and again, and they are not the juvenile one's one could read in Life or the Post or NR way back when. Not all literary criticisms are character assasinations of the author. But some are.

(Sorry if there are mispelled words in this post. We are in DC to see Tristan last night, and I'm not on our own machine.)

Thanks, Michael.

Stephen,

I'm well aware that you aren't a cultist, that you have numerous criticisms both of Rand's literature and philosophy, also that you don't consider yourself an Objectivist. I think that if you note my wording in #44 carefully, you can see that I was not accusing you of being a cultist but referring to a type of reaction.

Michael,

I appreciate your analysis. I think it's a thoughtful presentation of one way in which the scene can be interpreted.

However, it isn't the way the scene "plays" as I read it. Instead, the quality I get, and have gotten from the first time I read it, is schadenfreude, and even gleeful schadenfreude. The words which I think would be a good caption for the omniscient-eye authorial description are Francisco's words left displayed on the calendar when he departed:

"Brothers, you asked for it!"

I don't hear those words as merely factual assessment either, but as gleeful. Likewise with some passages in Galt's Speech.

Echoes of the canonical "Book of Revelation" in Atlas Shrugged. Whether "Revelation" has any gleeful quality in its depictions of the fate of the damned can also be debated. My own feeling is that "Revelation" is more toward the straight-reporting-of-consequences end. Others' reactions might differ.

I suppose I should add, I am not intending what I'm saying as a moral criticism of Rand. That some people use Rand's handling of the scene as basis for moral criticism doesn't mean that everyone who's bothered by the scene is censuring.

This kind of issue came up over and over during the years when I knew a lot of NYC area Objectivists. A lot f them didn't seem able to understand that just because hostile critics of Rand make certain criticisms doesn't mean that everyone who makes those criticisms is therefore hostile.

Ellen

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Possibly because Rand herself, and the first-generation of Randists, perceived her fiction, philosophy and personal self as a seamless whole, and to criticize one part was to criticize the whole. "Am I not real?", etc.

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This kind of issue came up over and over during the years when I knew a lot of NYC area Objectivists. A lot f them didn't seem able to understand that just because hostile critics of Rand make certain criticisms doesn't mean that everyone who makes those criticisms is therefore hostile.

Correct Ellen.
I firmly believe, having been in some "inner circles," that the defensive security paradigm tends to interfere with the free flow of ideas.
A...

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