The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth - Part 4 - Rand's True Value


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The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth—Part 4—Rand's True Value

by Michael Stuart Kelly

There have been some negative observations about Any Rand recently on OL (mostly memories from people who knew her) and, of course, this is gleefully trumped up by OL’s detractors into the absurd notion that OL is a Rand-hating organization. The fact that negative memories are mixed with positive ones is totally ignored, but false rhetoric is normal behavior by people who have a stake in The Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth.

The overriding characteristic of such people is lack of objectivity when evaluating Rand and Objectivism. I will give some examples here, then present my own view of Rand’s value. I sincerely believe that many of the posters on OL share my view—in the main if not in the whole.

Before I start, however, I would like to mention one oversimplification that both sides of the Love/Hate Myth postulate: the fact that Rand could or could not live by her own philosophy. The Love-Rand-Only people state that she could and that she was morally perfect. The Hate-Rand-Only people state that she could not, and the inconsistencies in her personal life are solid proof of her hypocrisy.

Both sides are flat-out wrong and this argument is designed solely to sell their viewpoint, not actually present anything intelligent about Rand or anything at all about Objectivism. The affirmation itself is merely a hidden form of rhetoric and bombast. I will cover this in the last section on Rand’s true value. For now, let’s take a look at the commitment to facts of both sides.

Also, let’s not forget the following percentages that I gave in my first article in this series: 1% Rand readers are fanatics for her, 1% Rand readers are fanatics against her, and 98% Rand readers apply or oppose some of her ideas in their lives—but they avoid Objectivists and Objectivist-haters like the plague. (I was highly over-generous for the sake of argument, though. Each side actually represents far less than 1% of the people who have read the works of Ayn Rand considering that her works have sold over 40,000,000 copies.)

The Love-Rand-Only side

On the Love-Rand-Only side, there has been a very illustrative phenomenon recently that shows the complete lack of interest in facts by these people. They have a morally-perfect-Rand viewpoint to sell and their commitment to reason exists only to sell it. When that viewpoint becomes threatened, reason goes out the window in a barrage of rhetoric. Maybe reason in their own personal lives is used in a better manner, but in dealing with Rand and her works, it is a total disaster.

Consider the following: Barbara Branden finally revealed her sources for her account of Frank O’Connor’s problems with drinking alcohol in The Passion of Ayn Rand. If you consult several online forums and blogs—and I can think of at least 5 right off the top of my head that I personally read—you will find an excessive amount of strongly-worded damnations of Barbara for not disclosing her sources for Frank's heavy drinking (and possible alcoholism, as claimed by one source in PAR). This fact alone was heralded as the reason she should be discredited. She was constantly accused of making the story up in order to demean Rand. And she was called a plethora of names, including ones using gross profanity. Another issue these people constantly mentioned in that context was the honor, pride, courage, integrity, etc. of those who allegedly “exposed” Barbara.

As I said, I have read all this and it is well documented online.

Barbara finally published her sources and her reason for withholding their names here on OL a full week ago. You can read it here (4th post) and here (2nd post). Why? Simply because somebody asked her nicely (John Dailey). Nobody ever did that before.

For the record, the sources who say they witnessed Frank's problems with drinking are:

Elayne Kalberman, member of the Collective, and

Barbara Weiss, Rand's secretary (both with taped interviews)

and

Rand's maid (who is not named by Barbara or her detractors) and

Don Ventura, a sculptor and one of Franks drinking buddies (both with signed statements).

What has been the reaction from those who grossly insulted Barbara in public time-and-time-again? It's been over a week and I know that several of the people who offended Barbara in spades have read her statement by now. Have there been any retractions or apologies offered, as is normal with people of honor? People of pride? People of courage? People of integrity? No. Just more Branden-hating rhetoric, as if their opinions will alter facts.

As I mentioned elsewhere (in a recent post on RoR), consistent Branden-bashers are usually control freaks. When you disagree with them, they get obnoxious, resort to profanity, call you a Rand-hater, twist logic all out of shape, try to bait other people to join in by gratuitously insulting them, and engage in a series of rhetorical measures that do anything but argue facts. Their small cliques chime in with, "Me too!"

What is amusing is that every last one of them will proclaim the standard Objectivist line—that there are errors of knowledge and errors of morality—and that they, as people of integrity, are in the habit of making amends when they have been guilty of an error of knowledge. (They never admit to errors of morality.)

Some amends.

This whole incident is solid proof—not just opinion—of the lack of objectivity, and even outright hypocrisy, of the Love-Rand-Only side. The real interest of the leaders on this side is small-minded trivial power and control games.

The Hate-Rand-Only side

On the Hate-Rand-Only side is a loose collection of people and organizations, many of which are religious. I will mention only four people—four of the best in terms of knowledge of Objectivism. Just one (Bob Wallace) is a solid Hate-Rand-Only person. The others say they are not, but they all reject Objectivism. They are intelligent so I am examining some of their works. These writings are very useful for pinpointing areas that need work in Objectivism, both from a substantive view (philosophy and psychology) and from a PR view. Despite making good points, each of these authors lets anti-Rand bias cloud their objectivity.

One of the most important valid psychological criticisms of Objectivism comes from Bob Wallace, who used to post at LewRockwell.com, but was removed from the list of columnists last year over a spat about his observations on the swastika. The guy is extremely outspoken and has many, many strange ideas. He is problematic for Objectivists, yet he wrote about the undeniable truth that political and religious movements (or tribes in general) promote themselves by scapegoating a select group of people. They need a demon to get their crowd riled up and organized. The demonized victims are always seen as unspeakably evil and beyond redemption.

Normally hardcore Objectivists do this with altruists, collectivists, mystics, looters, etc. The hysteria against the Brandens is another example of scapegoating. If you propose any attempt to establish a friendly intellectual bridge with the people who are hated by hardcore Objectivists, they start hating you. I can think of no other problem that needs addressing so much in the Objectivist world as this. The practice is so irrational that it undermines the philosophy, the happiness of Objectivists, Objectivist organizations and even marriages and friendships.

Wallace added narcissism to this mix. This also hits the nail squarely on the head with intolerant Objectivists. They confuse selfishness in the Objectivist sense with narcissism and become really obnoxious people. (We all know a few.)

It sounds like this guy knows his stuff, right? Well try reading it. If you admire Rand even a little, you can hardly get through it. There are two main essays where he presents his arguments: “The Narcissism, Scapegoating and Leftism of Ayn Rand” and “The Secret Teachings of Ayn Rand.” To be fair, here is a reasonable quote from the last one:

Her philosophy, Objectivism, is also scapegoating. On the side of righteousness we have "capitalism, reason, and selfishness," and on the side of evil we have "altruism, mysticism and collectivism." The first are all good; the second are all bad. All badness is projected onto the second trio. So it has to be rubbed out. Her opponents aren’t simply mistaken; they’re evil.

That sounds close enough to correct to think about, actually. But then Wallace compares Atlas Shrugged to The Turner Diaries by Andrew Macdonald (pen name of William Luther Pierce, white supremacist—this book was one of the inspirations for Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma bombing), claims that Rand advocates human sacrifice through pagan worship and insinuates that Objectivism is equivalent to Nazism, Communism and Socialism (and other isms) in that respect, calls her narcissistic and says that she is left-wing.

What self-respecting Objectivist would want to read something like that? You can call it anything you like, but you can’t call it objective. Not by a long shot. The result is that a crucial observation, i.e., scapegoating is running rampant in the Objectivist world and has become much more important than positive ideas in several quarters, gets ignored by the very people who need it the most.

Greg Nyquist has written what I consider an extremely important book on Objectivism, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature (2001. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press). This is not because it is all true, but it is a wonderful compendium of questions that Objectivism needs to address.

He covers the entire spectrum, starting with the beginning, the division of philosophy into five categories: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Esthetics. He starts out by criticizing this division and asking why Human Nature and Human History do not have a place in philosophy. The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to agree that the Philosophy of Human Nature and the Philosophy of Human History are important enough to warrant separate categories. Tentatively, I would put the divisions in the following order: Metaphysics, Human Nature, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, Human History and Aesthetics.

If this seems strange, remember that Rand’s first nonfiction work in book form was For the New Intellectual. The title essay was about history. Also, The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff, which Rand sanctioned as an Objectivist work, is a book about the philosophy of history. Also, Rand had every intention of sanctioning The Psychology of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden before the break, which easily can be seen as a discussion of the philosophy of human nature in addition to psychology. (Branden even wrote in the Preface to the 32nd Anniversary Edition that “this book is more philosophical than most of my subsequent writings.”)

By putting Human Nature under Metaphysics and Human History under Politics, Objectivism takes the emphasis off of profound philosophical issues dealing with human beings.

I wrote elsewhere on OL (13th post) about a list of innate ideas Nyquist mentioned to contest the Objectivist position that innate ideas do not exist and the tabula rasa concept of a newborn. Briefly, they are:

  • Aversion to incest
  • Sexual selection
  • Studies of identical twins
  • Propensity to learn language
  • Propensity to expect environmental uniformities
  • Certain types of mental mutations: Turner's syndrome, Lesh-Nyhan syndrome
  • Handedness - right-handed or left-handed

There is much to think about here, but going into it is beyond the scope of this article. I only mention it to show the high quality of the thinking that went into the questioning. But then we come to Nyquist’s evaluations of Rand and Objectivism:

Rand was a surprisingly sloppy and even maladroit thinker who apparently believed that matters of fact can be determined by the manipulation of logic and rhetorical constructions. (p. xii)
If anything, it is not indignation or alarm that I feel towards Rand’s followers, but merely pity, because they have placed their hopes in a philosophy which, to my mind, will never deliver what it promises. (p. xxxi)

Or his final thought, literally the last sentence in the book:

No one who is educated in these matters and is endowed with the ability to think critically can ever regard Objectivism as anything other than a mistake. (p. 367)

I will be doing more work on this book later, but one thing I can affirm. This anti-Rand bias and bombast have made Nyquist’s arguments and questions highly uneven in terms of objectivity. I am not even half-way through, but it is easy to see that this book has extremely well-thought-out sections interspersed with those that force Rand’s words and thoughts into meanings that are simply not there. (I am saving the examples and discussion for another time.)

As to the quotes above, these kinds of sentiments and evaluations are highly insulting. They did not have to be presented in that manner. I agree that Rand could get pretty insulting, but Nyquist did not write his book for Rand to read. He wrote it for me (“me” being readers in general, but hopefully an Objectivist thrown in at times).

Or did he?

Actually, there is too much contempt in the style for it to have been written for me. Also, for a set of ideas Nyquist deemed to be “sloppy,” “will never deliver what it promises,” and “a mistake” (among other gems), he sure wrote a long book about them. Why not just dismiss them and move on to the important stuff in life? This is why I find him on the Hate-Rand-Only side of the divide, writing a book geared toward Rand-haters. That’s a damn shame, too, because of the quality of a lot of his thinking and research.

(I intend to do something with his work, as with the other works of the present Hate-Rand-Only writers, that I am sure will not meet with their approval. I am going to try to sift through the ideas to the good ones, raise the pertinent questions with strong Objectivist thinkers, provoke discussions and writings about them, and thus fortify Objectivism.)

Now we come to a person I happen to like, best-selling author, Michael Prescott. I have read several of his books and they are highly entertaining thrillers. The man is good at what he does and totally deserves his success. I have had very friendly correspondence with him, both on line and by email. He is an ex-Objectivist. Sometimes he has harsh words for both the philosophy and Rand, but he also blames a culture of negativity and underachievement that permeates many online Objectivist groups for his own lack of initiative in his earlier days. He has written an account of his own “shrug” (of Objectivism), however, the sheer number of blog entries about Rand and Objectivism that he has written is an indication (to me at least) that there are some fundamental Objectivist issues that still bother him.

Michael did some important historical research into an aspect of early Rand that is not too flattering to her. But I hold that facts should not be sanitized, but brought out into the light of day instead. So it was refreshing to read his report.

When Rand was in her early twenties, she was at work on a novel she never finished called The Little Street. Her hero was named Danny Renahan. From her published journal entries, she was still under the influence of Nietzsche. She focused on a story that was reported widely in the news in 1928. A young man named William Edward Hickman abducted a 12 year-old girl, Marian (sometimes Marion) Parker, demanded and received ransom from the family, killed the girl and chopped her up, then threw half of her body on the road in front of her father before taking off. He was later caught, tried, sentenced to death and hung.

In looking at his image during the trial and seeing the general public reaction to his crime and attitude, Rand isolated and worked on several aspects that would later evolve into her idea of heroic rational individualism. In hindsight, in light of whom she used as a role model, this focus looks rather unseemly. One can see the seeds of greatness in her journal entries and, at the same time, be pretty uncomfortable with the facts. Michael allowed us to look at the facts and wrote a report called “Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman.” It is a highly interesting read. Also, there is a different account of Hickman at the Crime Library website called “Fate, Death and The Fox: Edward Hickman.”

For the record, here is what one of Rand’s early physical models for a hero looked like (William Edward Hickman):

6-1-William-E-Hickman.jpg

With so much good information which practically speaks for itself, now take a look at what Michael concludes:

By the appraisal of any normal mind, there can be little doubt that William Edward Hickman was a vicious psychopath of the worst order. That Ayn Rand saw something heroic, brilliant, and romantic in this despicable creature is perhaps the single worst indictment of her that I have come across. It is enough to make me question not only her judgment, but her sanity.

At this point in my life, I did not think it was possible to significantly lower my estimate of Ayn Rand, or to regard her as even more of a psychological and moral mess than I had already taken her to be.

I stand corrected.

When you read something like that, you don’t want to take the facts seriously. You see that the author’s effort was not to understand Rand, but to discredit her. Regardless of what you read, you have the feeling that you need to check and recheck all of Michael’s facts and sources. Obviously, he was not writing for Objectivists or even the general public. He was writing for Rand haters. Nobody else could think Ayn Rand was insane.

Lastly there is Scott Ryan and his book, Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality (2003. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press). This looks like it is an important critical contribution of Objectivist epistemology and a fertile source of issues that need to be discussed and strengthened. Ryan uses the writings of Brand Blanshard as his philosophical basis, so this is not just a Rand-bash. The long detailed threads on the different Objectivist Internet forums about epistemology, and even works like The Evidence of the Senses by David Kelley, show that the Objectivist position is far from settled. Thus a book like this should be welcome. (I will do a critique after I read it.)

On flipping through the book, however, I read the following quite by accident:

However, an acquaintance of mine (who was associated with the Objectivist movements during the early 1970’s) lost his first wife to suicide because of her belief that, by Objectivist standards, she was a flawed specimen of humanity who did not deserve to live (or in Randian terms, had not “earned the right” to hold herself as her own “highest value” by “achieving” her own “moral perfection”.) And she was not the only Objectivist or ex-Objectivist to commit or attempt suicide. (p. 378)

For all that I hold sacred, I had to burst out laughing. Of course, I feel deeply for the person who lost his wife and I do not wish to make light of his loss, but to insinuate that Objectivism is a philosophy that leads to suicide goes way over the fence, even for normal Rand haters. People in all walks of life commit suicide. Their problem is psychological, not philosophical, and to treat a woman’s death by suicide as an attempt to degrade a philosophy does her memory dishonor.

Still, I remember seeing that Ryan was invited once to give a lecture at a TOC seminar. Now you can’t find The Pumpkinhead online (a rather unfunny parody of The Fountainhead), but Factism can still be found. I am not against lampoons when they are done with talent and the urge is to be funny (like with Michael Prescott, although some people disagree with me). I don’t like them when they drip with sarcasm, which is how Ryan’s humor strikes me. The point is that this guy put a lot of effort into his book, but he also does not seek to merely address the issues where he has disagreement. He wishes to debunk the entire Objectivist philosophy. Even the title of his book is insulting. This leads me to believe that his book will contain many weak thoughts that were “forced” beside some strong ones. Thus to get any value out of it, I am preparing myself to wade through a bunch of baseless observations.

The main theme running throughout the Hate-Rand-Only side of the divide is that their writing caters to Rand-haters, not Objectivists and not the general public. The above authors, some of the best of the lot, are blissfully unaware of that 98% plus public of Rand readers who might be interested in their writings, but they are turned off by factionalism and hatred of a successful author.

They lose a wonderful opportunity to raise valid issues through lack of objectivity.

Rand’s True Value

I speak only for myself as to Rand’s true value, but as I said above, I believe that many on OL hold a very similar view. I regard Rand as a brilliant thinker who wrote the foundation of a practical, efficient and easily learnable rational philosophy for individuals for living on earth. Her emphasis on production and happiness strikes young high-achievers like an oasis in the desert. Her moral validation of reason was probably one of her greatest legacies to mankind that will far outshine all of the rest down the centuries.

Rand also was a wonderful writer who knew how to be extremely clear and had a bagful of rhetorical devices at her command—this goes for both fiction and nonfiction.

Her biggest mistake was trying to impose philosophy on psychology. This is the root of most of her inconsistencies. Philosophy and psychology must go hand-in-hand for both health and the good to be present in a person’s life. One cannot be more important than the other.

But to claim that Rand lived by her own philosophy and then point to her inconsistencies and make excuses for them (in order to justify “moral perfection”)—or claim that nobody can live by her philosophy because her inconsistencies (in order to justify bashing Objectivism)—is to completely beg the question. It is pure rhetoric and bombast. Rand had a psychological nature just like every sane human being. Part of her struggle was to fight against the limitations of that nature, just like she fought against the irrational ideas in the culture where she lived and worked.

I believe that when Rand could choose, i.e., when her mind and body were healthy, she lived by her philosophy. I also believe that pain, love and temptation (especially about her public image) at times overwhelmed her will—her power to choose—through unhealthy surges and she did things and chose things that she would not have done otherwise. She certainly made some very poor choices in life—but once again, the chief one was the attempt to dominate psychology with philosophy (including the idea that she could completely program her subconscious with her rational will, etc.). However, it must be stressed that she also made strong and heroic decisions. Her body of work proves it.

I do not believe that inconsistencies in Rand’s behavior invalidate the philosophy or mean anything other than her reaction to psychological and/or social problems, or poor choices for whatever reason. Rand had some blind spots in her thinking. One does not accuse the blind of seeing in a distorted manner. The blind cannot see at all.

Trying to judge Rand’s application of her philosophy to her psychological blind spots is not only a mistake, I get embarrassed by those who do that. This goes for both sides—those who claim that she was morally perfect and those who claim that she was a hypocritical kook. It reminds me of people who mock those who limp or stutter or have some other kind of handicap. I do not consider mentioning Rand’s blind spots as insulting to her memory, either. The lack of examples might seem vague, but I don’t want to go into a litany of Rand’s inconsistencies right now. They are widely discussed all over the Internet.

Ayn Rand is one of my heroines in life. Her shining works are part of my own inner nature ever since I read them (many more than once) and contemplated them deeply. I have been doing this for decades. She has touched my life in a form that no other thinker ever did.

Just as she added to Aristotle’s work and that of other pro-reason thinkers, her philosophy needs additions and some ideas need a lot of work. She even admitted as much (especially about induction). Also, the “fully integrated closed system” does not align with man’s nature in all respects. This is one particular area where much work needs to be done.

Ayn Rand’s achievements were so great, though, that she does not deserve the indignity of being worshipped—nor of being hated. She deserves the very best that each one of us has when we read her. Her work deserves to be studied by serious people (and this is growing). She deserves to be loved and honored as she was. No greater honor can be lavished on Rand than holding up a true account of her nature and history, and comparing it against her stupendous achievements—and then pointing to her influence in the world.

It is a sorry spectacle to see the 1% Love-Rand-Only people trying to rob Rand of her achievement, the arduous tortured struggle to overcome her own limitations (psychological and otherwise) enough to produce a magnificent body of work and ideas. They do not love Rand or her work. They love their cheap little illusion of being “the chosen ones” instead.

The 1% Hate-Rand-Only people also stage a sorry spectacle. Their hatred is evident throughout their writing and they act threatened when there is no perceivable reason for either hate or fear. When you line them up against the 1% Love-Rand-Only people, though, they actually don’t look all that bad. But when you consider either of the 1% group against the 98% non-fanatical Rand readers, both sides stand out as petty and mean-spirited.

We are very fortunate that mankind is in much better shape than either side gives it credit for. People are building wonders in their lives. Many, so very many, are doing a great job of living. Those who read Rand and take from her what they like, then get on with their lives know a lot more about ethics (values) than those who have a stake in the Ayn Rand Love/Hate Myth. This 98% plus group doesn’t just talk about valuing in life—these people live their values.

It is true that many irrational doctrines are still prevalent in entire countries. But they have been around for centuries. Now, some of these faith-based and collectivist civilizations have grown strong with wealth from reason-based cultures (some Communist and Islamic countries in particular). They are in serious trouble, though. Technology and becoming used to wealth is slowly killing them. The Internet is killing them. Reason is killing them. And Ayn Rand’s ideas are an integral part of what is killing them. What will take their place are societies of healthier and happier people on earth. This is another part of Rand’s enormous value to the world. Our children will inherit a better world because she lived and wrote.

I hold it high honor to help spread Rand’s ideas and try to work through doubts as they arise, but I will follow no mediocre man or woman to do it. I have my own mind. I use it. It pleases me to no end to see that the people on OL do too. We honor each other with honest civil discourse, whether in agreement or disagreement.

Talk about a fellowship. OL is becoming a fellowship of first-rate independent minds. We care about the good and we care about the truth. Both fact and value are equally important. Please forgive the gush, but I’m extremely proud of us.

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I will be doing more work on this book later, but one thing I can affirm. This anti-Rand bias and bombast have made Nyquist’s arguments and questions highly uneven in terms of objectivity.

Now I haven't read this book, so I can only comment on the quotes you give. My question is: are these really an example of an anti-Rand bias? Being highly critical is not the same as being biased. In the latter case you've already formed a judgement before you've studied the arguments of the other one. Is there any evidence that Nyquist was biased, i.e. that he had already formed his judgement before he'd studied Rand's writings?

Let us now for example take the first quote:

Rand was a surprisingly sloppy and even maladroit thinker who apparently believed that matters of fact can be determined by the manipulation of logic and rhetorical constructions. (p. xii)

I think this is an accurate appraisal of her philosophical thinking with which I can agree. Does this mean that I have an anti-Rand bias? Or that I am a Rand hater? Definitely not! As I've said elsewhere, I think she had many good ideas and she was a terrific writer, but her philosophical arguments are full of holes. Such criticism doesn't mean that you're "anti-Rand", however.

Now it is an interesting phenomenon that even you - who are certainly no Randroid! - (and not only you, but other people too who in my opinion are quite reasonable and objective in general) seem not to be quite immune to the kind of reasoning that is so characteristic for Randroids, namely that (severely) criticizing someone's reasoning must be a sign of a bias, and that such a criticism implies that you're a "Rand-hater" and (at least according to the Randroids) you're the "enemy" (what are you doing here? Go away!). I've just read elsewhere on this forum that psychologizing is ok, so... I think such criticisms are not welcome while they threaten to undercut a personal belief system that I can only describe as religious. Criticizing Rand's reasoning is not unlike criticizing the works of God, if you start doubting them your whole world view might be turned upside down, so such heresies must be stopped at all costs. There must be something quite wrong with someone who is so critical, it seems impossible that his criticisms are honest criticisms, he must have some hidden agenda!

In contrast, in the scientific world sharp criticism of each other's theories and arguments does not necessarily mean that you can't have esteem for your opponent. An example: the long "war" between Richard Dawkins and (the late) Stephen Gould is well-known. Yet these "enemies" did have esteem for each other, as evidenced by the moving "Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight" in Dawkins' A Devil's Chaplain.

So my advice is: forget the "Rand-haters", the only real Rand-haters are the principled collectivists, the admirers of communism and the like. Strong disagreement is not the same as hate - Dawkins was no Gould-hater and Einstein was no Bohr-hater, although they had fundamental disagreements. The whole notion of "hate" in this context is ceding to the religious premise, let us leave that to the Randroids and other religionists and let's concentrate on the arguments only, how difficult that may be.

Also, for a set of ideas Nyquist deemed to be “sloppy,” “will never deliver what it promises,” and “a mistake” (among other gems), he sure wrote a long book about them. Why not just dismiss them and move on to the important stuff in life?

I can't speak for Nyquist of course, but isn't it possible that he thinks that the subject itself is important? That he's concerned that good ideas are spoiled by bad reasoning? (I sense here again the "what are you doing here? Go away!"). After all, if you consider it "an extremely important book", why can't it be important to Nyquist himself?

I've more to say about your post, but I'll leave that for another time (if I've the time...)

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Dragonfly,

So my advice is: forget the "Rand-haters"...

I was writing an analysis of the 1% on each side. How can I forget them when I am writing about them? This whole Love/Hate thing they promote is a myth, anyway. Most people don't care - just the small number of lovers and haters. (I believe that OL caters to the independent side, the 98% side, but people who are intimate with Rand's works. These have been called "homeless Objectivists" or "homeless friends of Objectivism.")

Nyquist was interested in debunking the philosophy. He stated so. He has several poor arguments that show this bias that I will write about later. (Frankly I don't know if this bias occurred before or after he read Rand. Why is that important anyway? He was biased before he wrote his book and it shows, despite a lot of good thinking.) Severely criticizing a philosophy, which is one of the things I am proposing to do - but from a constructive slant - is a whole lot different than calling the entire philosophy a "mistake."

If that ain't bias, then we have vastly different ideas of what bias means.

Is Objectivism a "mistake" for the 98% who like some of the ideas? Will Nyquist ever convince that 98% that Objectivism a "mistake"? Ha! He wasn't even writing for them. He was writing for people who don't like the philosophy. (I suggest that you look at history a bit and google this before making presumptions. There is a little community of Rand-haters and they are all friends with each other. Nyquist even has a review of Ryan's book up saying that he disagrees with practically everything in it, but still it's a great book because it attacks Rand.)

The point of my article is to cut through the hate and get to the ideas. Stating that the hate doesn't exist because you like an idea is not facing reality. The hate does exist and it turns people off. (I would bet that the book sales of the people I quoted for their works on Rand prove it, too.)

Michael

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In contrast, in the scientific world sharp criticism of each other's theories and arguments does not necessarily mean that you can't have esteem for your opponent. An example: the long "war" between Richard Dawkins and (the late) Stephen Gould is well-known. Yet these "enemies" did have esteem for each other, as evidenced by the moving "Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight" in Dawkins' A Devil's Chaplain.

First, that was an eloquent, and I thought excellent, post, Dragonfly.

Second, about the dispute between the sociobiologists (nowadays usually called evolutionary psychologists) and the cultural causationists, that was/still is a complex dispute involving issues of political beliefs as much as those of scientific truth. (E.g., Lewontin makes no bones about his political views; he's an avowed Marxist.)

I find the ongoing history of that dispute if anything even more interesting than that between Objectivism and its so-called "enemies." Possibly at some point I'll have a chance to write about the comparisons/contrasts. For now I'll only say that although Michael maybe didn't choose the best quotes to illustrate the sort of swords-drawn-in-advance approach of some who have written anti-Objectivism books, there is a group of critics of Rand (Scott Ryan is the one with whose writing I have the most familiarity) whom I would described as well and truly "biased" before they even started.

Ellen

PS: And now I must bow out of discussion until next week. Multiple little details to attend to before leaving for a physics conference later this week.

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Signing on to add a late-night-prowl detail of personal (or related) history: Larry, whose official last name (different from the original, grand-parental Russian last name) is "Gould," attended, in graduating groups a year apart, the same high school as Stephen J. (I think Larry was a year younger; what year was Stephen J. born? Larry's birthday is 5/9/41.) Larry doesn't recall their ever meeting.

Ellen

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I want to add a volume to the Hate-Rand-Only side that I am reading as of this writing (I'm on page 87):

The Ayn Rand Cult by Jeff Walker.

Outside of Ayn Rand the Russian Radical by Chris Matthew Sciabarra and The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, I know of no other work on Objectivism that has this level of scholarship and research behind it. In addition to a vast bibliography, Walker produced a 2-hour radio broadcast for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired in 1992, Ideas: The Legacy of Ayn Rand.

As research for that program, he personally interviewed: Michael Berliner, Allan Blumenthal, Joan Blumenthal, Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, Roy Childs, Albert Ellis, Antony Flew, Mary Gaitskill, Allan Gotthelf, Hank Holzer, Erika Holzer, John Hospers, David Kelley, Paul Kurtz, Ronald Merrill, William O'Neill, Leonard Peikoff, John Ridpath, Robert Sheaffer, Kay Nolte Smith, Philip Smith, and Joan Kennedy Taylor. He interviewed others by telephone: Edith Efron, Leisha Gullison, Virginia L. L. Hamel, Robert Hessen, Ralph Raico, and Murray Rothbard.

These interviews were used as additional sources for documenting The Ayn Rand Cult.

This book has been described as a work that joins all the dirt of the Objectivist movement in one place. From my read, it does far more than that - it is a fascinating overview of the history, for example, and a laundry list of cult aspects that need to be addressed and corrected in Objectivism.

Unfortunately, it has the same defect as the works I mentioned in my essay - the anti-Rand bias is so striking at times that this is clearly a book addressed to Rand-haters and not the general public. There's way too much speculation as to whether Rand will be important in the future (Walker is sure she will not be, except marginally), etc.

I believe that the book sales of this book could have gone through the roof if the bias had not been present. I just got a new copy. It was published in 1999. The copy I received is the third edition of 2002, so obviously the publisher has not sold out of that.

Still, this book should be on a "required reading" list of any person who is serious about spreading Rand's ideas. The bibliography is worth the price many times over. For example, I was not aware that Rothbard had written a review of PAR (in American Libertarian, 1987). There is a fascinating person named Rosalie Nichols who wrote a little-known pamphlet that was sold declaring her love for Rand. This bibliography is an excellent shopping list of books and materials on the Objectivist movement.

I am having a time putting blinders on when I read the anti-Rand parts, though, so I can enjoy the facts.

Michael

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Michael,

A short Aside:

It was in John Ridpath's Social Science course at York University that I was first introduced to Ayn Rand in 1986. I somehow had made it through high school without reading any novels until my final year, at least not completing any novels. The fourth novel I read completely was Stranger in a Strange Land. The fifth was Atlas Shrugged. What a contrast!

I received the lowest mark of any course I took in university from Ridpath's class, and deserved it; but that course changed the direction of my life. We were to write an essay, a book review, on Atlas Shrugged for 50% of the grade. I borrowed from John Galt and entitled my essay, "This is Paul Mawdsley Speaking." Although the essay was not a good one by my standards today, the spirit of that title still lives on in me.

It is this spirit of independent thinking, grounded in authentic experience, and proactive self-assertion that I respect most in Objectivist philosophy, and in the people I meet in general. It is unfortunate that Objectivist culture tends to run counter to this spirit. Objectivism has to be an open system, and the Objectivist culture needs to grow-up, if this is to be repaired.

Thanks,

Paul

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  • 2 months later...

This posting is in response to the character of William Hickman. I had never heard of him before. Although I suspect his crime has inspired at least one more writer.

I refer to Agatha Christie, from her most-famous Murder on the Orient Express. It may be noted that early on, an elderly man asks Christie's detective hero for help; the detective refuses. After he is murdered, it turns out that this man was responsible for a crime virtually identical to Hickman's

Now, back to Hickman — and to Rand.

Michael Kelly wrote:

In looking at his image during the trial and seeing the general public reaction to his crime and attitude, Rand isolated and worked on several aspects that would later evolve into her idea of heroic rational individualism. In hindsight, in light of whom she used as a role model, this focus looks rather unseemly.

I am reading one of the links provided; and it makes me wonder why Ayn Rand would have overlooked the evil this man did, and only focused on his individualism.

I can not imagine the individualist Howard Roark behaving like that; let alone John Galt, because "no one may initiate…violence."

Surely, John Galt stands poles opposite to Hickman, for that statement alone.

I am aware that Ayn Rand once created Bjorn Faulkner (from her play Night of January 16th) based on a Ivar Krueger, who was a swindler. According to Barbara Branden, Rand said later that the morality of a swindler, "taken literally, is the opposite of mine."

I wonder, what (if anything) is the relation between these two facts?

Next we may consider the lines that were cut out of We the Living — to wit, Kira telling Andrei "I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods…" Again, this was Branden's biography. My copy of We the Living only has, "I loathe your ideals."

I will agree with Barbara Branden, in saying it was "unfortunate" that Rand did not address this deletion.

I find this fact disturbing, and the quotations of Rand's journals more disturbing. I should begin by questioning those in a position to know:

Are the quotations listed http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm genuine quotations? Are they presented in a fair and just manner? And if they are, what conclusions may be drawn?

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C. Jordan:

Are the quotations listed http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm genuine quotations? Are they presented in a fair and just manner?

Absolutely. Now I haven't checked every word, but I've read the original passages of her journals, and these are horrifying, especially if you know who Hickman was and what he has done. I therefore most emphatically disagree with Michael when he writes in his original post:

When you read something like that, you don’t want to take the facts seriously. You see that the author’s effort was not to understand Rand, but to discredit her. Regardless of what you read, you have the feeling that you need to check and recheck all of Michael’s facts and sources. Obviously, he was not writing for Objectivists or even the general public. He was writing for Rand haters.

On the contrary, I think Prescott has presented the facts in an objective way, giving the original quotations which speak for themselves and the relevant facts about Hickman. I think his criticisms are warranted and not a sign that he was writing for "Rand-haters". I think that the whole notion of "Rand-hater" is superfluous, it's more like an emotional appeal than a real argument. Even having very serious criticisms of Rand doesn't make you automatically a "Rand-hater"; Prescott is not some raving lunatic, he does present his evidence, it's eloquent, and I'm sure that Prescott is honest and serious in his criticisms, and not trying to "get her" for some purpose of his own, like a Hsieh attacks her opponents. His criticism may be scathing, but I see nothing "petty and mean-spirited" in his article. The irony is that the real hate can be found in Rand's journals: read her numerous venomous attacks on all those "common people" who happen to be no John Galts; I've seldom seen so much blind hatred spitting against humanity in print, this is really petty and mean-spirited, and the fact that she was a great writer is no excuse in my opinion. I wrote elsewhere "the more I read about Rand, the less I like her", and that's not only based on what other people write about her, but also on what she writes herself.

Nobody else could think Ayn Rand was insane.

Well, that's certainly not true. I remember the passage in MYWAR where Patrecia sees madness in Rand's eyes. According to Allan Blumenthal Rand was paranoid, borderline and narcisstic. Edith Efron: "There is no way to communicate how crazy whe was...

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Well, that's certainly not true [that no one else could consider Ayn Rand insane]. I remember the passage in MYWAR where Patrecia sees madness in Rand's eyes. According to Allan Blumenthal Rand was paranoid, borderline and narcisstic. Edith Efron: "There is no way to communicate how crazy whe was...

The latter two references are to material in Chapter 9 of The Ayn Rand Cult. Fancy The Ayn Rand Cult being mentioned again today. I started reading that book last night. I'd never even bothered to order it before, because I'd heard such a chorus of negativity about it -- from people whose opinions I have reason to consider with seriousness as well as from those I don't -- I expected that none of it was trustworthy. However, some recent remarks made by Dragonfly piqued my curiosity enough I decided to acquire the book. So far, I'm finding it well presented, definitely interesting, and even in some respects informative.

Thus far I've only read two of the chapters in detail: 2. Entrails: The Anatomy of the Cult; and 9. The Dark Side of the Guru's Soul. Also, I've skimmed 11. The Disowned Ancestry of Atlas Shrugged. And read the last two sections of 1. The Cult While the Guru Lived.

I think Chapter 2 is an excellent discussion of cult dynamics. And that Chapter 9 holds some considerable truth. A fuller context is given there for a remark of Allan Blumenthal's which James Valliant quoted and which I found puzzling, wondering if Allan would have said exactly those words. In the full context, the details make sense. The part which Dragonfly refers to -- Allan's saying, in a recorded interview, that if one were thinking of Rand in DSM terms, certain categories might be applied -- relieves me of a reticence I've felt against repeating a remark Allan made to me in '78. This was after he and Joan had returned from Palm Springs, and I went to see him at his new place in New York and we were talking about Ayn Rand. I've already quoted part of the conversation in the first post on the "A Quote (from AB)..." thread in the Branden Corner. Another part was his saying that at one time it had been inconceivable to him that the mind that wrote Atlas Shrugged could be less than fully healthy. He went on to say that later he'd come to think that "the ideas were great, but the woman was crazy." I haven't repeated this remark before because I felt sure (and still feel sure) he was using the word "crazy" colloquially, not in the sense of a psychiatric diagnosis of someone "certifiable." But I was struck by his using so strong a description, Allan being prone to reserve and to under- not to overstatement.

One detail, btw, in Chapter 1 is entirely wrong, not by the fault of Walker but by that of Roy Childs who got his facts really screwed up in that story. (He tells the same story in a Liberty interview.) This is the account of a young woman who changed her last name to Hugo under the influence of Rand (Walker doesn't specify the last name, though Childs does in his interview). Every specific Childs reports is incorrect. The funniest error pertains to the name. The "young woman" (a close friend of mine when Childs met her -- I was there when the two of them met, at a small dinner party at my friend's apartment) took the last name "Hugo" under the influence of a stuffed owl her mother had given her when she was a child -- years before she'd even heard of Victor Hugo let alone Ayn Rand. The rest of what Childs says about her is comparably inaccurate. My knowledge of Childs's having gotten that one so wrong casts a pall of doubt on my trust in any account for which Childs is the source. (He was renowned as a gossip.) Thus I only believe a tale told by Childs if I have other confirming sources.

Ellen

PS: In case anyone read this before I caught the typo in the date of the conversation with Allan, please note the correction (from '68 to '78 ).

___

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I am reading the Bob Wallace article, and I would like to say that Mr. Wallace has proven one thing to my satisfaction:

That Richard Condon was right.

In The Manchurian Candidate, Condon wrote that the essence of brainwashing is "intensified repetition." Mr. Condon was making the point also made by the Nazis, that to convince someone that a lie is true, one must repeat the lie and repeat it and repeat it some more.

Mr. Wallace tells us and Tells us and tElls us and keeping TELLING us that Rand was "narcissistic," without explaining how he came to that conclusion. He denounces Objectivism, again with very little explanation. He does repeat the word "narcissism." And he repeats that word again, and he continues to repeat the word.

Mr. Wallace then discusses religion and psychiatry, all of which repeats his theme of narcissism.

He has much to say on scape-goating. He has a point there. He has a point in discussing narcissism — did I mention that word yet?

In fact, Mr. Wallace makes a number of points, and then he re-makes them. Never does he directly tie them to Objectivism, except by his saying so.

I wonder what would happen, if the "true believers" read this article? I would be in a strange position. They surely would respond with accusations of "dishonesty" and "evil evasion." In this case, I would have to agree.

(Gasps of horror. What? is this Jordan freak about to side with the Randroids? Call the police, call the fire department, and call the tabloids. Better yet, call Poodle Food. We have a scandal.)

I would have to agree, because it takes one to know one.

Reading Mr. Wallace's description of the personality disorders that he claims characterised Ayn Rand, and he claims are present in all Objectivists, begs the question: are there any Objectivists who BEHAVE according to his description?

They know who they are.

Mr. Wallace is right (in my opinion) to claim that narcissism is a universal human failing. I am not here to defend Ayn Rand against that charge. Nor to defend myself against that charge. Nor will I ask the easy question, as to how much of that is in Mr. Wallace himself.

I will counter some of Wallace's point re: Atlas Shrugged. Wallace says that "[Rand] gleefully murders innocent children in a train-tunnel collapse." Having read that book, I am not sure where to begin with the flaws in that statement. The described victims of the tunnel incident are adults, for one thing. But the greater point: if someone writes about disasters and deaths, is that gleeful?

I am writing about (among other things) a nuclear detonation. Does that mean I'm "gleeful" in murdering plenty of characters?

Wallace also states that Dagny "sadistically" murders a guard. We may re-read the revelvant part of Atlas for ourselves, and decide if the adjective is right.

Another point: Wallace repeats a common legend, that someone named "Sir Thomas Crapper" invented the commode. This fits with my assessment of the rest of his work: where he discusses Rand's work, he discusses less than 1% of the work itself and continues his arguments. He has more to say about narcissism, and he will repeat and refine and rehone and reiterate and regurgitate and recapitulate and again reiterate and in summary he will sum up the theme of his work.

It's about N_rc_ss_sm.

There are more mistakes about Rand's written philosophy in this work, which is as "overlong and repetitive" itself as he claims Rand's writing is. And there we have an illustration of projection onto others faults in one's self.

I will close with that observation, #-o after repeating that according to Wallace himself, narcissism and projection are univeral human failings. Again, I agree with that. And he should know. It takes one to know one.

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My tendency is to say that being a social metaphysician and being a narcissist are basically one in the same.

Now, I also see it as being realistic about humans (at least greater part of them, being that on the whole they live in communities, and were raised by those who were too) that there would be something wrong if a person didn't weight at least some value on the "we" part of existence. I don't know if it's innate, but I do know that it's around, and that it isn't the worst thing in the world to be conscious of what happens in one's social dealings.

To me, the interesting thing is that Rand's work pointed out the ratio, even if occasionally did so via use of a hammer without first putting a piece of velvet over it. I don't fault her that, as she had a lot of counterbalancing to do.

More interesting is that, at least in the little O-forum microcosm, certain regularly visible players clearly show their social metaphysician kung fu, while at the same time spitting out the fire-and-brimstone about that very subject. To thine own self, be true.

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C. Jordan:

I will counter some of Wallace's point re: Atlas Shrugged. Wallace says that "[Rand] gleefully murders innocent children in a train-tunnel collapse." Having read that book, I am not sure where to begin with the flaws in that statement. The described victims of the tunnel incident are adults, for one thing. But the greater point: if someone writes about disasters and deaths, is that gleeful?

A minor correction: there are two children mentioned among the victims. Now to the main point: writing about disasters and deaths is in itself of course not gleeful. It can for example be done in a compassionate way. But I do find Rand's description gleeful, while the message she conveys here is: those people deserved to die in that accident, while they held wrong philosophical premises, like the worker who believed that he had a right to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not. Now I've read many discussions about that passage, and it's usually defended by saying that Rand doesn't mean that they deserved to die, but that it only shows the ultimate result of bad philosophical premises. But in a novel it's not the intention of the writer that counts, but the message that it conveys to the reader, and for many readers (including me) the message is: these people deserved to die while they had the wrong ideas. And in view of what Rand wrote elsewhere (some which I mentioned in another post), I think Rand did really mean it.

Wallace also states that Dagny "sadistically" murders a guard. We may re-read the revelvant part of Atlas for ourselves, and decide if the adjective is right.

The adjective is not right, but that doesn't mean there isn't something very disturbing about that passage. It's not a question of a shoot-out in which a guard is quickly disabled to save Galt, there is quite a long discussion and at the end Dagny shoots the guard while he can't decide, that's the whole point of that passage. She kills him in cold blood while "he wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness". The message is clear: it's ok to kill people while they hold the wrong ideas or can't decide what to do, and it's that message that may explain the enormous aversion that many people have against AS (which I couldn't understand for many years, but that has changed in recent years).

Even at the first reading of AS I was disturbed by that passage, but my bad feelings about it have only increased in the course of the years, when I started seeing it not as an isolated incident, but as part of a bigger pattern, which puts the whole book in a very different light. I must have read AS at least a dozen times. I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to read it again, the years of innocence are gone.

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It is a disturbing passage. Funny how the first-time rush of reading the book let me get past it. I vaguely remember a touch of discomfort, but I went with the flow.

It's a flaw, it's a cruelty. But, I have to believe that is not something she merely "settled" for- not knowing how many years she put into writing that novel. I guess she determined that she wanted that point to be very clearly made (at gunpoint, in this case).

Those little things, I believe, account for some of the harshness you get out of some of the O-folk.

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  • 3 months later...

Dragonfly and Rich,

Regarding Dagny and the guard: I would like to point out that Dagny did not meet the indecisive guard at a tea party where they could discuss the morality of a hypothetical situation. He was part of a team holding an innocent man by force. Regardless of whether he understood the injustice of that, it was his body in the way of one of his victim's rescuers. This made him liable. As someone pursuing a righteous purpose, she was morally obliged to dissimulate with her mortal enemy in whatever way she saw fit in order to defeat him. Amazingly, she gave him a chance to get out of the way. She told him what she would do if he didn't. She did not express any enjoyment in what she did. She did it because it had to be done. I find her absolutely justified in killing him, for all the reasons that Ayn Rand gave. And this is all beside the fact that death quickly finds a man like this as the natural result of his frame of mind, one way or another. What planet did he think he was on, anyway?

From my brushes with dangerous adversaries, I think we should all be so lucky as to acquire Dagny's attitude about it. I greatly appreciate Ayn Rand's portrayals of the courage and honor demanded by high stakes situations. Her words helped me keep my head when I especially needed to.

Andrew

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I'd like to say a few things. First, I do think Dagny's motivation for shooting the guard was underwritten. Second, in an actual operation of that kind the guard and probably all the guards inside would have been shot out of hand. No discussions, no chance to give up or get out of the way. There was a lot of bloody mayhem that wasn't in AS but would have to be in real life, especially with Ragnar. You can't do what he did without a lot of collateral damage. Even in "The Fountainhead" Roark would not in real life have blown up Cortlandt for the simple reason of innocents who might have been in the way. There is a disjunction between real life and art. Still, I was bothered by the killing of the guard bit. I know, I think I know, why it's there. In "We The Living" a mindless guard kills Kira at the end, in "Atlas" Dagny kills a mindless guard also at the end, or near the end that is. There is a kind of gestalt in that. The USSR was full of guards and millions died. Ayn Rand's family destroyed even if they were still alive, which mostly they weren't as it turned out.

Where the author trips up here is trying to make a philosophical/moral point in those circumstances. But there is some obvious glee involved when she describes how Francisco blew the heads off two thugs attacking Rearden. While it is unlikely that his pistols could have done that even at close range--I'm not sure--the guard situation is disturbing and so is the tunnel disaster, which I always wished had been depicted differently because the passengers were generally condemned for epistemological reasons, just like the guard.

I think "Atlas Shrugged" is a great novel, maybe the greatest all considered, but I think "The Fountainhead" is the superior work of art and my favorite of hers. AS was too big a mouthful even for an Ayn Rand to properly chew in all its numerous significant aspects.

--Brant

Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly
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  • 1 year later...

I have a minor update on Bob Wallace, whose article was mentioned as irrationally denouncing Ayn Rand. Michael Stuart Kelley said that Wallace had a point about Randroids, by which I do not mean anyone present here.

Let me add that Wallace writes like a Randroid himself. I sent him a criticism of his critique, and got an irrational denuciation for my troubles. I'm not offended, in fact I think his E-mails are amusing. The main lesson I take from this encounter is that while he thinks I'm a Randroid, he acts like them.

This underscores Michael's original point, about the Love/Hate myth.

And that is all that needs to be said of him.

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Michael, good to hear that, but I knew that already of course. It's just that it's nice to know that at least someone agrees with me once in a while, I'm not used to that...

FWIW, I find that you are a sound thinker.

Arrrgghhhh! Smart as paint ye arrre!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Chrys,

Here is an account of my only exchange with Bob Wallace for your amusement.

... misreading Rand on purpose to find a defect where there was none. I put this in the same league with Bob Wallace once criticizing Atlas Shrugged for including a blunderbuss, see here. He even insisted on it...
Here was my response to Bob Wallace in that discussion:
I have the Objectivism Research CDROM, which contains the full text of Atlas Shrugged and a search option. I could not find the word "blunderbuss" in it. I even tried "blunderbus" and "blunderbusses." It's just not there. Incidentally, this word does not appear in any of Rand's writing on that CDROM, which includes all published fiction, nonfiction articles, edited writing courses, edited journals and edited letters. However, it doesn't include the marginalia or the journal entries on Nathaniel Branden, so those are still an option.

What happened is that Rand mentioned "musket" not "blunderbuss" (hat tip to Brant Gaede for prompting this being brought to light). Somehow, I don't think "musket" would have caused Bob Wallace to "burst out laughing" (in his own words), but then such a person would have to be engaged in ascertaining facts before judging. You are right about Wallace. He is a Randroid in reverse (and a bit more—for example, as I mentioned in the article, despite constantly accusing others of being Nazis, he was thrown off LewRockwell.com and his articles deleted there for defending the swastika among other issues). For the record, here is the passage in Atlas Shrugged that caused Wallace to guffaw and yuk it up.

I just looked up "musket" and "muskets" on the CDROM. Here is what I found in Atlas Shrugged (p. 227). Dagny is riding on the first run of the John Galt Line.
She looked out at the country. She had been aware for some time of the human figures that flashed with an odd regularity at the side of the track. But they went by so fast that she could not grasp their meaning until, like the squares of a movie film, brief flashes blended into a whole and she understood it. She had had the track guarded since its completion, but she had not hired the human chain she saw strong out along the right-of-way. A solitary figure stood at every mile post. Some were young schoolboys, others were so old that the silhouettes of their bodies looked bent against the sky. All of them were armed, with anything they had found, from costly rifles to ancient muskets. All of them wore railroad caps. They were the sons of Taggart employees, and old railroad men who had retired after a full lifetime of Taggart service. They had come, unsummoned, to guard this train. As the engine went past him, every man in his turn stood erect, at attention, and raised his gun in a military salute.

When she grasped it, she burst out laughing, suddenly, with the abruptness of a cry. She laughed, shaking, like a child; it sounded like sobs of deliverance. Pat Logan nodded to her with a faint smile; he had noted the guard of honor long ago. She leaned to the open window, and her arm swept in wide curves of triumph, waving to the men by the track.

I find it completely plausible that an old railroad employee living in the country would have an ancient musket lying around from his grandparents. At any rate, I certainly do not see this as being a blunderbuss. According to the Wikipedia article on Musket, "rifled muskets were the most common weapon used up until the late 1870s."

This was just one more case of attributing Rand with made-up crap so a person can bash her. Frankly, I have read about this habit, but seeing it up close is shocking. Rand made enough mistakes to criticize. So why make up stuff? Rand must really threaten some people. I swear, this kind of behavior makes me WANT to become a Randroid just to answer the gratuitous spite.

A person who laughs in derision at that has a lot of hate in him. I certainly would not have him babysit any kids.

Michael

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Michael: I've read your links, and am annoyed that these people missed the point.

The point of ATLAS SHRUGGED that they miss is: when we have a slave-society, no new technology can advance. At best society will stagnate. At worst people will degenerate back into barbarity.

This implies that history itself was frozen in the past. Thus ATLAS SHRUGGED.

But if they want an inspiration, I suggest North Korea. Particularly if anyone wants to adapt ANTHEM to film.

I could write a post detailing conditions in North Korea, and use them to prove how right ANTHEM is and how wrong were the editors who rejected Ayn Rand, for telling the truth. Because ANTHEM is not exaggerated, in any way.

But we were talking about ATLAS SHRUGGED, which begins in a somewhat archaic world but by the end is degenerating into ANTHEM, or North Korea. The only difference is that there is no red flame atop the Washington Monument in Rand's novel, and nobody speaks Korean. Also, Rand spares us the details of what it means to starve.

And if these people thought a bit more about Ayn Rand, they would do a much better job.

As for the blunderbuss/musket business: in 1974 there was a military coup in Ethiopia. His Majesty Haile Selassie was ordered to abdicate. Soon after that Ryszard Kapuscinski went to Ethiopia, and says he saw men with muskets dating back to World War I. He did not know whether they were loaded; but they were clearly in use.

And Michael: I think you are right about Bob Wallace. He clearly hates the character of Harry Potter. As for what he says about Philip Roth, I cannot comment. I know nothing of Philip Roth, except that I have heard before that he was an ignorant racist. But given what I know of Bob Wallace, and his opinions, I will require a second opinion before I take a tenth of it seriously.

If anyone has the stomach, the analysis of Philip Roth can be found here. :bug: Click on the bug.

There is a good side to this: I have a character who is a bully, a racist, a fool, and (unfortunately) a political leader in my presumed-Asia-of-2-centuries-hence. Now whenever I'm wondering how this character would speak, write, behave, all I have to do is read Bob Wallace. :sick:

Edited by C. Jordan
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