April 26, 2011, - 4:00 pm
Ever since the trailer for the “Atlas Shrugged: Part I” came out, I’ve been ceaselessly asked by readers whether I’d review it. As many have noted, even though the movie came out on April 15th, I’ve yet to do so. And here’s why: the movie had no critics’ screening or other opportunity for me to see it, and the producers neither contacted me, nor sent me a screener. So, I won’t be posting a review, until and unless I see it, and I wasn’t aware it was playing in Detroit (now that I am, I may see it). Some are deriding the fact that it was a small production with unknown actors, but that’s irrelevant. I’ve seen some great stuff made on shoestring budgets with no names, who can act. So, we’ll see. That said, I really think people need a reality check on Ayn Rand.
Reality Check on Atlas Shrugged & Its Author Ayn Rand
I enjoyed Ayn Rand’s books when I was younger and my father recommended I read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” I liked both and their messages. But my father was smart enough to warn me about the author, a Russian Jew who wasn’t too keen on Jews or Judaism from whence she came. While Rand was a brilliant writer, she was by no means the heroine or “conservative” so many have been fooled into believing. She was a militantly pro-abortion atheist, feminist, isolationist, and anti-Vietnam war protester, who hated Ronald Reagan and opponents of busing as much as she hated religious people. If she were alive, today, I’m not so sure she’d be any different from the rest of the feminist, left-wing world in their silence on the Islamic threat to the West. She might even have voted for Barack Obama.
Sadly, these days, conservatives–as much as liberals and perhaps far more–seem to have replaced principles with personalities (and, on top of that, the personalities leave a lot to be desired). That includes Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin (and anyone who came out of her vagina and is whoring out a single mom act), Michelle Fraudkin, Donald Trump, and a number of other hypocrites, frauds, and lesser minds who are performers and selfish acts (laughing at you behind your backs), nothing more. Criticize them and actually do your homework on these circus performers, and you are mercilessly attacked for legitimate criticism of their overwhelming fakeries and clown acts.
As I said, conservatism has pretty much ceased as the mindless lumpenconservatariat has sacrificed values and principles like morality, family values, in-wedlock births, and knowledge for those who eschew these. And that includes the sudden conservative embrace of Ayn Rand, who was far smarter and more legit than all of those I named above combined, but who really wasn’t such a great human being.
When I went to college, the Randians on campus weren’t just libertarians, they were weirdos: anarchists who believed in no government at all (not even small government), bizarros who derided myself and other persons of faith, and they supported the “Four Ps”–Pot, Pornography, Prostitution, and (ending) Pregnancies (via abortion). What’s needed is a refresher on Ayn Rand for those who seem to be ignorant, and a great, recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Donald L. Luskin, an Ayn Rand expert and Chief Investment Officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC. He is the author of I Am John Galt: Today’s Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It, an upcoming book from the Randian viewpoint, and tells you everything you need to know about her in his terrific column.
Here are some key excerpts on how Rand ain’t so grand–information sorely needed to be absorbed by many of Rand’s current rabid conservative fans:
It’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of [DS: Atlas Shrugged's Barney Frank-esque government villain] Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all. Still, most of the heroes of “Atlas” are big businessmen who are unfairly persecuted by government. . . .
The reality is that in Rand’s novel, as in life, self-described capitalists can be the worst enemies of capitalism. But that doesn’t fit in easily with the simple pro-business narrative about Rand now being retailed.
Today, Rand is celebrated among conservatives: Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) insists that all his staffers read “Atlas Shrugged.” It wasn’t always this way. During Rand’s lifetime—she died in 1982—she was loathed by the mainstream conservative movement.
That’s when conservatives had principles and intellect and didn’t sacrifice either for popular personalities like Palin, Hannity, Trump, and the like.
Rand was a devout atheist, which set her against the movement’s Christian bent. She got off on the wrong foot with the movement’s founder, William F. Buckley Jr., when she introduced herself to him in her thick Russian accent, saying “You are too intelligent to believe in God!” . . .
Rand rankled conservatives by living her life as an exemplary feminist, even as she denied it by calling herself a “male chauvinist.” She was the breadwinner throughout her lifelong marriage. The most sharply drawn hero in “Atlas” is the extraordinarily capable female railroad executive Dagny Taggart, who is set in contrast with her boss, her incompetent brother James. She’s the woman who deserves the man’s job but doesn’t have it; he’s the man who has the job but doesn’t deserve it.
Rand was strongly pro-choice, speaking out for abortion rights even before Roe v. Wade. In late middle age, she became enamored of a much younger man and made up her mind to have an affair with him, having duly informed her husband and the younger man’s wife in advance. Conservatives don’t do things like that—or at least they say they don’t. . . .
She was an early opponent of the Vietnam war, once saying, “I am against the war in Vietnam and have been for years. . . . In my view we should fight fascism and communism when they come to this country.” During the ’60s she declared, “I am an enemy of racism,” and advised opponents of school busing, “If you object to sending your children to school with black children, you’ll lose for sure because right is on the other side.”
If anything, Rand’s life ought to ingratiate her to the left. . . . And in 1975 she wrote, “I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan,” primarily on the grounds that he didn’t support pure laissez-faire capitalism. But she endorsed Richard Nixon in 1968 because he supported abolition of the military draft.
Yes, Ayn Rand was a great writer, but personally, she was no hero. As is the case with almost everyone the right embraces these days, she was a personality, not principled.
Unless you pick principles over personalities, you will always lose. . . even if you “win” the thrones of power. False idols abound and have many followers. Sadly, tried and true principles do not. Those who abandon them to win elections or feel good about embracing a selfish, ambitious quitter governor and empty-headed feminist from Alaska, have nothing. They are losers. Desperate losers. And very stupid ones, too.
And Sarah Palin and Donald Trump and Sean Hannity and the like are laughing at them . . . all the way to the bank, just like “Atlas Shrugged’s” James Taggart (and the ghost of Ayn Rand from her grave).
Tags: Anti-War, Atheist, Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged movie, Atlas Shrugged: Part I, Ayn Rand, busing, Dagny Taggart, feminist, I Am John Galt: Today's Heroic Innovators Building the World and the Villainous Parasites Destroying It, James Taggart, movie, personalities, principles, pro-abortion, pro-busing, pro-choice, Ronald Reagan, Vietnam War protester, William F. Buckley