Friday, October 15, 2010

Stupid Op-Ed of the Week

I always get a smile when I read someone who thinks they understand the writings and philosophy of Ayn Rand, and yet doesn't have a clue. This time, an Op-Ed written in the Christian Science Monitor written by Rand's fellow Russian Vladimir Shlapentokh betrays a near-complete ignorance of Rand:

But the ironic truth is that, among American authors over the past two centuries, it is impossible to find somebody who has so openly and consistently praised the American elite as Rand has. Rand created magnate protagonists like John Galt and Francisco d’Anconia who ran their industries and societies without paying heed to public opinion. Rand and her heroes hold ordinary people in great contempt. They would surely be appalled to see how the “everyday Americans” at tea party rallies have demanded that they (not the American nobility nor the Ivy League graduates) should have the decisive voice in American politics.

There was nothing elitist about Rand. She believed in ability, not in privilege. She had no admiration for nobility, and deeply distrusted the ivy league elite. What she wanted above all was a limited government, a possibility that Shlapentokh and many of his fellow collectivists will not even consider. As for Rand's attitude towards everyday Americans, one paragraph from The Passion of Ayn Rand, a biography of Rand written by Barbara Branden, is particularly telling:

Two preview of the movie [The Fountainhead] were scheduled, one in Beverly Hills, the other in Hollywood Park, a working-class district. Henry Blanke [producer of the movie] hoped the studio would give the first preview in Beverly Hills. Ayn told him she wanted it to be in Hollywood Park, because that was where her real audience would be. It was in Hollywood Park. "I never saw so responsive an audience," she recalled. "They understood it all, and they applauded Roark's speech. After the previews, the top brass were gloating and delighted, they were sure it would be a big hit, and we had an enourmous celebration. The Beverly Hills audience was not quite as responsive or perceptive, although they liked it. That's why I like the common man." [pp 211-212]

Another ridiculous statement in the Op-Ed, totally unsupported by fact:

While tea partiers commend Rand as the champion of individualism, they conveniently forget that in her novels, the only people who seemed to benefit from her aim to protect individualism and the unlimited freedom of action were her Nietzschean tycoons. Indeed, Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings – “savages” in the words of Atlas’s steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages.

The character Hank Rearden never once referred to his workers as "savages" in the novel. He had the utmost respect for his employees, having worked his way up from being a mine worker as a boy.

There are many more nonfacts in the Op-Ed. Anyone who has read Rand will recognize that Shlapentokh does not understand her at all.

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