It is our eternal shame as country that such intellectually weak sauce as Ayn Rand should attain an almost mythical status among the very people who should revile her the most. But attain it, she has, and it’s got to be pushed back on. Vigorously.
I have shrieked for years that if something wasn’t done to disembowel the mystique of this legendary mistanthrope, her fast food fascism would nourish future generations of video game addicts who are more far comfortable reacting to ideas than having or ever questioning them.
While many a social writer has taken stabs at her over the years, George Monboit has carved up this phony icon with a economical precision in a all-too-brief essay entitled:
How Ayn Rand’s Bizarre Philosophy Made the New Right so Toxic
Rand’s psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats.
Without mincing any words, George gets to the point straightaway:
It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the post-war world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.
Of course, no discussion of Ayn Rand can even begin without mention of her most famous manifesto, the ponderously overwrought, yet absolutely seminal work for the “Only Job Creators Matter” Tea party crowd:
Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.
If you never really knew this, it is from her wretched political screeds that too much of the churlish partisan drivel emanating from Fox News, Redstate.com, TheBlaze, Rush Limbaugh, and most other celebrated wingnut emporiums of hate and mindless greed is so often derived.
And turning a blind eye toward its appeal to the uneducated and culturally embittered has helped lead us down a path of pure evil. And the trail guide on this trip into an ahistorical black hole, from which a healthy American middle class may never emerge? Why none other than that pied piper of objectivist voodoo economics, Mr. Alan Greespan:
There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as “the ‘greed’ of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer”. As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a “superlatively moral system”.
While Monboit gets right to the core of this cancerous legend very efficiently, one essay can’t counteract the impact of her screeds on our culture, if not our planet. Recognizing the power that this seducative pap has had with people who get their world history from cereal boxes, I’d like to create a site that helps educators teach high school students why her rancid polemical fiction is not reasoned political philosophy, nor even valuable social commentary.
Rand’s works are little more than the angry ravings of a cold-war era, anti-collectivist relic who knew how to make mean-spirited cliches into compelling narratives for people who have rarely read more than one book. It’s the perfect propaganda for a dumbed down electorate that values feelings over facts, and will alway high-five some plutocratic diatribe, while being outwardly dismissive and hostile toward anything bordering on mature pluralism and dialectic process.
Progressives cannot laugh at this kind of thing any longer. It has much too much traction already, and it’s only growing. If you want to help me discuss how we might make tools that can mitigate some of her ruinous impact on younger—or just vulnerable—minds, if not our entire culture, please post a comment, or contact me on Twitter.