Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I'm a little late getting to this, but three more major news outlets recently carried articles that focused on Ayn Rand or featured her prominently.
What I liked best about this is that two of the three were about Ayn Rand, and those two were positive. In the first of these, two marketing consultants writing for Forbes magazine discuss the inroads that Ayn Rand and her philosophy are making into the culture, quoting Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, along the way to explain why her ideas are gaining steam a half-century after the publication of Atlas Shrugged:
... Brook cites what he calls a cultural vacuum: "Today's left doesn't have anything positive to offer to young people. When they were socialists, there was at least something they were fighting for, and they believed in a right and a wrong. Today's leftist agenda is negative and nihilistic--focused on stopping industrialization, capitalism and even Western civilization. But young people want positive values. That's why religion is so strong today, because many view it as the only thing that promises a brighter future."The second positive article appeared in The Orange County Register and focuses on the commemoration by Rand's many fans of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, which will occur on October 10. Onkhar Ghate and Jeff Britting, both of ARI, are quoted extensively. Two images of interest to fans of Atlas Shrugged also appear: a page from the manuscript and an early ad for the novel.
According to Brook, this gap between liberalism and religious conservatism goes far to explain the surge in interest. "Ayn Rand is the only voice that offers a secular absolutist morality with a positive vision and agenda, for individuals and for society as a whole," he says.
Last but not least, there is a bonus for those of you who live in southern California:
While still in her 20s, and not long after she immigrated from Russia, Rand arrived in Los Angeles, seeking work as a writer in the film industry.The article does also include comments by a professor who attempts to compare Atlas Shrugged to Catcher in the Rye and dismisses her work as not being serious literature, but even he concedes that her work is of major "cultural and historical" interest.
So it makes a certain sense that an exhibit on her most-enduring work will be staged at the Frances Howard Goldwyn Regional Library in Hollywood.
And then, in very sharp contrast (and bringing up the rear), is this self-parody of a book review that was somehow selected as this month's cover article for The Weekly Standard. (Don't conservatives oppose the use of hallucinogenic drugs?)
Reviewing Alan Greenspan's recently-released memoirs, Andrew Ferguson lives up to every stereotype of the conservative as unoriginal, tradition-bound, conformist, and unable or unwilling to confront original ideas on their own merits, aping such titans as Andrew Stuttaford of National Review, the same publication that not too long ago reprinted a famously inaccurate screed about Atlas Shrugged by Whitaker Chambers.
If you've seen one of these conservative hatchet jobs, you've seen them all. Rand, based on rumor or (if you're lucky) some out-of-context vignette from her life, is painted as weird: And therefore her ideas are "creepy". The next part of the formula invariably involves some shoehorning of her admirers into negative stereotypes about religion (e. g., by calling them acolytes). Is it just me, or does this seem like a really odd angle for a theocrat to take?
I've already addressed the essence of this approach before, so I'll just quote myself:
[When] confronted by the fact, obviously unpleasant to him, that a small group of people regularly met with Ayn Rand after she became famous to discuss philosophy[, he] makes the following scintillating observations: (1) Rand was (twitter) "the sage of selfishness." (2) Those people sure were creepy. Call me crazy, but here's what I find creepy: people who meet regularly "at the feet" of some cleric to take whatever he says on faith, and then practice ritual cannibalism. Oh! But I'm wrong because more people do the latter.You might be tempted, perhaps, to give Ferguson some points for originality for implying that Objectivism is a vice of the young. But don't. For one thing, he is just borrowing the most common charge leveled against it by leftists. For another, as for this being sandwiched as he claims "between fits of social insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation".... Well, drawing upon one's own life experiences -- as Ferguson seems to be doing here -- is common to many authors and not all that hard to do, either.
But flights of fancy aside, Ferguson's review is curious for bringing up Rand at all, given that one of his main points (and one of the few that he gets right) is that Rand was not an enduring intellectual influence on Greenspan. He wastes half the article gratuitously (and ineptly) attacking someone he regards as irrelevant rather than discussing the book or Greenspan or his policies!
Why? For that oh-so-clever title? "Alan Shrugged." How did he come up with that? Or was he being paid by the word? And did the fellows at Marketing get together with the editors and tell them that the readership of The Weekly Standard hungers for snide opinions delivered with minimal wit, less research, and zero originality?
Were I a subscriber to The Weekly Standard, I would complain about this piece. Presumably, one would subscribe to a periodical for cutting-edge analysis and original thinking about current events that one could not get just anywhere else. Ayn Rand was a highly original thinker whom many academics are beginning to take seriously. Her ideas and the paying customers of The Weekly Standard (and Alan Greenspan's book, incidentally) deserve far better than the raving ejaculations of an all-but confessed recovering teenage wanker like Andrew Ferguson.
For decades, leftists and theocrats, unable to address Ayn Rand's ideas on their own merits, have alternately ignored or smeared her. But now that there is momentum on her side, the days when such shameful abdications of intellectual responsibility can go easily unnoticed are drawing to a close. Publications like National Review, Commentary, and The Weekly Standard continue their shabby treatment of Ayn Rand at the peril of their own credibility.
Today: Corrected some typos.