Saturday, November 12, 2011

Funny Mistakes and Malignant Intentions: The Real Rand and Her Critics

Somebody at the distribution house for the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged goofed. They wrote jacket copy saying the story was about "courage and self-sacrifice." An error, to be sure. And given that Rand believed no one should be sacrificed to anyone there is a certain amount of humor in the error. Of course, the film company is not laughing as they are recalling 100,000 copies for new covers.

Well, I've got mine and I'm not giving it back. Damn, that is a collector's piece. Copies with the old, erroneous cover will always be worth more than the reissued copies, especially since these will be unqualified proof that the edition is the real first one issued. All others will have the corrected cover.

What is interesting is the choir of hate that rose up to use this as another excuse to misstate Rand's views, to lie about her, and to smear her. It is predictable. Be they Christian Rightist or Left-wing Progressives, they simply can't help bashing Rand, usually by inventing her as a monster, often one espousing the very opposite of her actual beliefs.

Here are a few of those lies.

Gawker: "Self-sacrifice is for idiots, duh! Ayn Rand use to mock poor beggars for being so poor." Of course, no source is cited for this claim. So how did Atlas Shrugged deal with such a person in the novel? No doubt Rand had her "hero" shove any beggars into ovens to die the wretched death they deserve. Or did she?

Luckily Rand actually describes an incident beginning on page 654 of Atlas Shrugged. Heroine Dagny Taggart is riding in one of the trains of her company. She exits her car and hears a conductor screaming: "Get off. God damn you!" She describes the victim of the scream as an "aging tramp" who "had taken refuge" in the corner of Dagny's vestibule. He was someone with "no strength" but his eyes were "observant, fully conscious, but devoid of any reaction." The conductor has the door open and the train is slowing for a curve. It is clear the conductor wants to push the man out into the darkness.

Of course, according to true Randian inspiration, Dagny rushes forward and kicks the man to his death—or NOT!

Dagny actually looks at both men and sees that neither views the other properly: "The two men were not human beings to each other any longer." The tramp gets up, ready to jump, grabbing the small bundle of his belongings. Dagny yells out: "Wait." Rand wrote, "'Let him be my guest,' she said to the conductor, and held her door open for the tramp, ordering, 'Come in.'"

She offers the man a seat and asks him when he last ate. He responds, it might have been the day before. "She rang for the porter and ordered dinner for two, to be brought to her car from the diner." Damn, Rand, she missed a chance to prove that her critics aren't liars!

The tramp and Dagny talk. He tells her he doesn't want her to get in trouble. She wonders why she would, and he says because she must be traveling with a tycoon to be in her own car. She says she isn't. He assumes she must a tycoon's wife then. She says she isn't. He responds with a knowing, "Oh," implying her purpose was that of a prostitute or mistress. Was this where she sends him flying to his demise? Damn, not again! Instead, she laughed and told him she ran the railroad. They share dinner and conversation for several more pages. What a monster!

An unnamed author at Huffington Post ridicules the company that released the film because they set up a site where people can order, free of charge, a corrected version of the cover, if they wish. This for "angry Objectivists." Does Huffington Post think there are any other kind? There are, of course, it's just that they don't think so, they prefer their stereotypes. Actually the Objectivists I know find this error more amusing than infuriating. The anonymous author then misrepresents Rand's views by claiming "The generous offer strikes us as distinctly un-Randian." How is it "unRandian?" They don't say and I hazard they would have a hard time given a coherent answer—they would just stutter some remarks indicating they have no fucking clue what they are talking about? To say the least, there is nothing "unRandian" in making good on an error you committed. In fact, she would frown on those who didn't do so. But that doesn't fit the stereotype.

Gothamist used the same kind of smear, one you expect from bigots. Bigots tend to operate with a stereotype of the person or group they hate? Ditto for the Randaphobes. Bigots also tend to have limited knowledge about the group or person they hate. Ditto again when it comes to the Rand bigots. So, yes, this is a form of bigotry rooted in the same ignorance and hatred as other forms of bigotry. Gothamist can't even start the article about the recall without issuing an insult—much the way neo-Nazis can't mention Jews with first throwing in insults: "Ayn Rand's dogmatic 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, beloved by simpleton frat boys and self-serving millionaires alike....."

How does that work? How do these simpletons become millionaires? There have been lots of insults thrown at Atlas, but this is the first time I've run into anyone who honestly thinks that it is a book for simpletons. But then, I said "honestly thinks" didn't I? And there is no indication that is a honest thought at all. And didn't Hillary Clinton list Atlas Shrugged as an influence on her life? Oh, I forgot, she actually is a "self-serving millionaire."

Gothamist twists Rand's actual ideas grotesquely. They claim the DVD recall was to prevent purchasers from absorbing "some sick, twisted message of generosity." The emphasis on generosity was their own. Not only did Rand never condemn generosity but she was herself generous. Numerous people were given places to live at Rand's own expense. She sent food packages after World War II to friends and family. When she learned of a former teacher in a settlement camp in Europe she sponsored the woman to come to the US, and allowed her to live in her own home for a year.

Consider what happened when Ayn Rand came across the Kato family. These Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in racially-based concentration camps by the "benevolent" administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The husband and wife, along with a young daughter and small son, had been imprisoned entirely due to their race. But Roosevelt said all the things that make the Left go soft in the brain, so he's a good guy—unlike that evil bitch, Ayn Rand.

As for the evil bitch, well she discovered the Kato family had lost everything. Ryoji Kato lost his business when he was arrested due to his ethnicity. His wife Haruno, had worked in their business as well. They also lost their home. Once they were released they had nothing left. Daughter June was staying in a church-run hostel that was helping people from the camps trying to regain their life. Younger brother Ken was with his parents. Rand certainly knew what this felt like. Her father lost his business to the Bolsheviks the same way Mr. Kato lost his business to FDR. Her family lost their home and she was a refugee as well.

At the time, Rand and husband, Frank O'Connor, lived in a rural area north of Los Angeles, now part of Chatsworth. Rand hired Haruno as a cook—even though June says her mother couldn't cook very well and in spite of Rand already having a cook. Ryoji was also hired to help Frank with the flowers that he grew on the property—even though Mr. Kato had no previous experience gardening. Ten-year-old Ken was a bit young to be hired for anything. As for June, though she had just graduated high school, and had no experience, Rand hired her as well, to come to the house every weekend and do typing. In addition to paying a salary to June, Ryoji and Haruno, Rand also gave the family two rooms in her house so they had a place to live. Damn, apparently she didn't know that generosity was against her own philosophy. No one told her. But then, she was such a monster, who would dare? In addition to the Kato family another resident in Rand's home was Maria Strachova, an elderly refugee who had taught English to Rand as a child. Rand took her in for a year.

Rosalie Wilson was a small child when she met Rand and O'Connor. Her mother was once engaged to O'Connor's brother Joe, but eventually married someone else. When the Wilson couple were having a hard time in their relationship they went away to try to mend it. Rand and O'Connor gave Rosalie a home with them for the time, even though they lived in a one bedroom apartment. At night Ayn and Frank would sit in the lounge while Rosalie slept in the only bed. After a few hours they would trade with her, sleeping in their bed while she finished the night on the couch. Rosalie remained close to Ayn until one summer when she and her mother were invited to Rand's home for dinner. Her mother, who Rosalie describes "as a real bigot," made some bigoted remarks to Rand that ended the friendship between the mother and Ayn. Rosalie says she never contacted Rand again because she was too humiliated by what her mother had done.

Tammy Vaught lived with her parents and brother in Titusville, Florida, when Ayn Rand came to town to see a shuttle launch. Due to the high number of people in town for the launch the local Chamber of Commerce arranged for visitors to stay with families. Rand and her husband stayed with the Vaughts. Tammy remembered her as "just a nice lady" and didn't know Rand's fame, and clearly didn't realize what her reputation was supposed to be.

Even though her parents told her not to bother the visitors, Tammy did bother Ayn, to have conversations with her and to tell her about her stamp collection. For years afterwards Rand would send Tammy stamps for her collection, from letters she received, and would periodically call her on the phone to see how she was doing and if her gifts had arrived. Tammy described Rand:
I didn't know her as an artist: I knew her as a friend, through the stamps, and things like that. It was more of a grandmother, or an older person, that just took an interest in you, and just kept in touch. I don't think as a child I had any idea of how famous she was. She didn't act like a famous person. I didn't know of her work.
Damn the woman! Has she no decency? And she got worse, Tammy's father said, "I was surprised about her not having children, because she seemed to be so good with them." And it doesn't end with that horror: "She seemed to enjoy the children so much. They were swimming in our pool, and she just enjoyed listening to them laughing." Ayn Rand enjoyed hearing the laughter of children—clearly she was a beast and should have been burnt at the stake.

Obviously these critics are either intentionally confusing what Rand believed, or they simply have no idea what she said. She did damn a moral creed of altruism and self-sacrificing. She didn't think any human was a sacrifice for any other human. She was a critic of altruism and carefully defined what she meant by the term: "that service to others is the only justification for his [an individual's] existence." She warned people to never "confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others." Apparently Rand's whiny critics never actually read what she wrote, otherwise they wouldn't have made this kind of accusation. The accusation itself proves their own ignorance about Rand. There is nothing wrong with knowing little to nothing about Rand and her ideas—but these authors are speaking to the public as if they are knowledgeable when clearly they aren't. But bigots are rarely really knowledgeable regarding the objects of their irrational hatred.

One of the traits of a bigot is that he strips his prey of their humanity. He presents cardboard characters that are supposed to fit some predetermined, evil mould. While such blatant bigotry is no longer tolerated when it comes to gays, blacks, Jews, women, etc., the Left seems to relish it when it comes to Ayn Rand—even if they have to lie to do it. Then lying is how bigots convince themselves their bigotry is actually a clever perception that the rest of us "simpletons" don't see.

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