Friday, January 24, 2020

Ayn Rand and Pittsburgh; Official Objectivism and Munich

Scott Holleran has a piece about Ayn Rand in the latest issue of the Pittsburgh Quarterly. He begins by making a connection between Ayn Rand and the city. It's a tenuous one. He notes that Rand wrote positively about Pittsburgh while passing through in 1947. She was taking a cross country trip by train as research for Atlas Shrugged. Investigating steel mills was an important part of that research. One of the few positive reviews of The Fountainhead was by Pittsburgh Press critic Bett Anderson. 

Holleran continues by noting that the University of Pittsburgh Press is publishing a series of works on Ayn Rand's philosophy. Unfortunately, these books are written by academic philosophers for academic philosophers. Therefore, it's doubtful they will have any impact on American culture. Such unread, and largely unreadable, books fly off university presses. They will sit unread in university libraries until the end of days. 

This academic book project brings us to the main theme of Holleran's article. It is yet another effort by those affiliated or in agreement with the Ayn Rand Institute to appease, pander and suck up to the left, including the academic left. 
 Let's begin with Holleran's description of Ayn Rand: 

A Jewish atheist who escaped from Russia to the U.S. in 1926, Rand became, by the time of her death in 1982, America’s foremost woman thinker." (emphasis added) 
The above is a classic example of definition by non-essentials. Ayn Rand never, ever described herself as Jewish. She had no interest in the Jewish religion. There is no evidence that she had any interest in Jewish culture. Of course, Ayn Rand was an atheist. But, she never defined herself with that negative concept. She defined herself in positive terms. In her famous short introduction to Objectivism, or Objectivism while standing on one foot, the word "atheism" is not found.  

Why describe Ayn Rand in such a way? After all, George Soros, Saul Alinsky and Karl Marx are also "Jewish atheists." Probably for that very reason. It's calculated to appeal to leftists who will assume that a "Jewish atheist" is far left of center or at least sympathetic with their cultural Marxist nihilism. The evidence is the careful massaging of her message by Anthem Foundation Fellow Gregory Salmieri

Ayn Rand described herself as a "radical for capitalism" who fights for the "supremacy of reason." This will not do for Holleran or Salmieri. Instead, they appease and evade. They water down Rand's ideas to make them palatable for leftists. For example, this doozy: 
We’re at the point in history of Rand’s passing from being a controversial contemporary figure in the history of thought,” said Salmieri. “It’s time for reference works.” 
Rand "controversial!" Hush your mouth! Objectivism isn't "controversial."
I think that readers who associate her with conservatives or libertarians might not know that she viewed government as good and necessary. Her thoughts on freedom of speech and intellectual freedom relate to the views of John Locke and the founding views of America. She held that there are principles governing how societies operate — that there’s a real need for a government and that government [should] stick to certain proper functions and fully perform those functions. I think the structure of her view is not well understood by people who just think of her as a kind of propagandist against Big Government.”
Her views on individual rights (missing from the above) are extremely "controversial" to the left. Only evaders refuse to see that the academic left avidly seeks to destroy what's left of Lockean liberalism in America. Their hostility to free speech doesn't require any further evidence. The "founding views of America" are what the left most hates - along with the Founders who created the country. 

He continues,
Salmieri said the notion of Rand as an exclusively right-​wing thinker stems from the left/​right dichotomy that dominates American politics. 
This was particularly [prevalent] during the forties through the early seventies — when Rand was writing — and the issue that most obviously separated them was the growth of the welfare state.” Because Rand was critical of communism and socialism, Salmieri said, she was strongly opposed by the left. (emphasis added)
No. What separated Rand from the left was their rejection of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and political freedom. Ayn Rand excoriated the left on such cultural issues as environmentalism, women's lib, modern art, affirmative action, and above all, its egalitarianism. Needless to say, these remain core anti-values for the left. 

Salmieri has claimed elsewhere that the right/left political divide is largely meaningless because both are of mixed premises. The motivation is to create the impression that both are equally irrational, altruistic and dangerous to freedom. Such nonsense is contrary to observable reality. Earlier this week "rightists" who support gun rights peacefully demonstrated in Richmond, Virginia despite the leftist government's threats. Meanwhile, the left engages in vicious and violent suppression of free speech at every opportunity. Antifa riots and mayhem are their specialty. "Rightist" speakers on college campuses require armed guards. The inability to distinguish between the relative merits and demerits of the right and left is itself a form of evasion. It's the refusal to differentiate between Edmund Burke and Robespierre or between Joe McCarthy and Joe Stalin. 

Ayn Rand was not "critical" of communism and socialism. She properly defined each as evil that leads to mass death and makes human life impossible. Her first novel We the Living was publish in 1936. It is set in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. In it she dramatizes how communism must destroy the best for the worse. There are countless examples in Rand's non-fiction writing to demonstrate that she wasn't "critical" of communism and socialism. She trenchantly proved that there is little difference between the two and that both are irredeemable evil. This is why the left hates her and smears her at every opportunity. 

The left, including academia, is now absolutely dominated by their hatred of the good for being the good. This nihilism permeates their entire political and social agenda. Ayn Rand wrote "The Age of Envy" in 1971. It is a tour de force that lays bare the naked evil of the left. She identifies its pathology that has metastasized in our day into a society wrecking cancer. Only an extended quote can do it justice and make my point:
Altruists are no longer concerned with material wealth, not even with its "redistribution," only with its destruction - but even this is merely a means to an end. Their savage fury is aimed at the destruction of intelligence - of ability, ambition thought, purpose, justice; the destruction of morality, any sort of morality; the destruction of values qua values. 
The last fig leaf of academic pretentiousness is the tag used to disguise this movement: egalitarianism. It does not disguise, but reveals
Today's advocates of "equality" do not pretend that they wish to improve the lot of the poor; they do not wish to exploit the competent, but to destroy them.
If anyone doubted the possibility of such motives, the ecological crusade should remove all doubts.
But, the hippies were not enough. They were surpassed by the caricature to end all caricatures: Women's Lib.
This is what Salmieri refers to as "critical," as if Ayn Rand was some academic of "critical studies" who ignored fundamentals and "criticized" based on non-essentials. He continues by describing Rand's political views thus,
Salmieri cited Rand’s desire to preserve freedom of speech, secularism, abortion rights, end of life decision rights and equal protection of minorities. (emphasis added)
Salmieri has spent his entire career in academia and has adopted its Newspeak of evasion. Note the absence of the concept of individual rights in his examples. When academic leftists speak of "equal protection of minorities" they mean equality of results between racial/ethnic groups. Everyone knows this. Salmieri isn't stupid, he fully understands the implication of this phrase to his left-wing audience. It's the reductio ad absurdum of the left's collectivism and egalitarianism. Furthermore, protection from whom? White racists, of course. Part of the left's pathology is their belief in "white privilege" that causes different achievement rates between groups. And, like a "good" academic, Salmieri concurs that "white privilege" exists and is a problem. The race obsessed academic left's hatred for white people is yet another issue that Salmieri shamelessly evades.

As for state sanctioned and enforced homicide, known as euthanasia, I would like to see the reference in Rand's work supporting it.

The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has a long history of rewriting Objectivism in order to make it more attractive to the academic left. In part, this is because most of ARI's principles are more comfortable socially with political leftists. In part, because many of ARI's leaders are from the political left. They just don't like or understand the "Deplorables" who elected Donald Trump. 

Another obvious reason for ARI's leftist lurch is the necessity of not offending its founder and patron Leonard Peikoff. In 2012, Peikoff published The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West are Going Out.  Based on his thesis, Peikoff makes the following prediction for America: 
Not just a religious totalitarianism, but a religious-fascist totalitarianism - that is my prediction of the American future.
Peikoff really believes that Jerry Falwell, or his equivalent, is poised to takeover the USA. Meanwhile, the left continues to gut Western Civilization with the enthusiastic help of their Mohammedan allies. 

It seems to be a major job description for ARI intellectuals to rationalize Peikoff's absurd prediction. Hence, they attack Donald Trump as the second coming of Hitler. Hence, they always punch right while seeking the left's sanction. Hence, they ignore the existential threat posed by mass invasion from savage cultures. Official Objectivists consider American "right-wing" Christians as the main enemy. Official Objectivists judged academic Marxists as potential allies. In reality, they are the destroyers of everything as Ayn Rand well understood.

4 comments:

  1. A very good article and a sad commentary on ARI and those who work there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Two comments about your article: first, "... the University of Pittsburgh Press is publishing a series of works on Ayn Rand's philosophy. Unfortunately, these books are written by academic philosophers for academic philosophers. Therefore, it's doubtful they will have any impact on American culture. Such unread, and largely unreadable, books fly off university presses. They will sit unread in university libraries until the end of days."

    Philosophy is upstream of popular culture, to paraphrase Andrew Breitbart, who may have read "For The New Intellectual"?

    Second, "The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has a long history of rewriting Objectivism in order to make it more attractive to the academic left. In part, this is because most of ARI's principles [sic] are more comfortable socially with political leftists. In part, because many of ARI's leaders are from the political left. They just don't like or understand the "Deplorables" who elected Donald Trump."

    I wouldn't dispute these assertions, but simply ask for proof; citing ARI Watch might not really be sufficient... A shout-out to the supporters of Donald Trump seems unnecessary here.

    ReplyDelete