Over the weekend, Salon published an excerpt from Chris Kluwe’s forthcoming Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, in which the author succinctly explains the problem (as he sees it) with Rand’s worldview, as manifested in John Galt. If you’re even an occasional visitor to this space, you probably know how Flavorwire feels about the creator of Objectivism. So without further ado, a collection of some of the greatest Ayn Rand takedowns in recent memory.
Chris Kluwe: “Here’s what’s wrong with Ayn Rand, Libertarians“
In which the NFL punter explains the problem with John Galt: he has no empathy:
So I forced myself to read Atlas Shrugged. Apparently I harbor masochistic tendencies; it was a long, hard slog, and by the end I felt as if Ayn Rand had violently beaten me about the head and shoulders with words. I feel I would be doing all of you a disservice (especially those who think Rand is really super-duper awesome) if I didn’t share some thoughts on this weighty tome. … If you want to get rid of the moocher, you don’t do it by excluding everyone you think could be a moocher, by building your own private jail with yourself as both warden and prisoner. No, if you want to rid yourself of the moocher, you do it by focusing on and teaching rational empathy. If you treat other people the way you want to be treated, you’ll never want someone else to live your life for you, because shackling others means you’ve chosen to shackle yourself. We’re all free, or we’re all slaves.
“The Trouble With Ayn Rand,” by David Bentley Hart in First Things, May 2011
Hart takes umbrage with fact that “Ayn Rand and her idiotic ‘Objectivism’ are enjoying a — well, I won’t call it a renaissance, so let’s say a recrudescence,” but not only because he finds her views offensive. He writes:
“Still, I like to think my detestation of Rand’s novels follows from more than a mere disagreement over differing visions of the universe. What’s a universe here or there, after all? I prefer to think it’s a matter of good taste. For what really puts both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in a class of their own is how sublimely awful they are. I know one shouldn’t expect much from a writer who thought Mickey Spillane a greater artist than Shakespeare. Even so, the cardboard characters, the ludicrous dialogue, the bloated perorations, the predictable plotting, the lunatic repetitiousness and banality, the shockingly syrupy romance — it all goes to create a uniquely nauseating effect: at once mephitic and cloying, at once sulfur and cotton candy.”
“The Bitch Is Back,” by Andrew Corsello for GQ, October 2009
Corsello’s hilarious takedown is one of the best, focusing not just on Rand but the “Ayn Rand Assholes” she has spawned. “Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere — as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.”
As a bonus, it’s what you get when you Google “fuck you Ayn Rand,” probably due to this kicker:
Fuck you, Ayn Rand. Fuck you for turning some of the most open and interesting people I ever met into utopian dickheads. Fuck you for injecting them with a sneering sense of superiority, and with the tautological belief that anyone who didn’t “get it” was a jealous know-nothing — which, ipso facto, only proved that superiority. And fuck you for prose so bad that the only way to measure it is with a meat scale. There. I feel better. But wait — Ayn, you know that letter I just got informing me that my equity line of credit is being frozen despite my perfect credit history, and despite the fact that I bought a house I could actually afford? Yeah, fuck you for that, too.
“Ayn Rand’s adult-onset adolescence,” by Michael Gerson in The Washington Post, April 2011
It’s not only liberals who think Rand is bonkers. Consider a conservative Christian opinion from former George W. Bush chief speechwriter and policy adviser Michael Gerson in The Washington Post:
“If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.”
The Colbert Report, March 11, 2009
You can always count on Stephen Colbert to give some good sarcastic ribbing. He starts with the low blows: “This book is like the Conservative Bible (preachy and can be used to justify anything),” and ends with the serious takedown: “I think I can speak for everyone out there advocating following the advice of a 50-year-old novel set in an America that never existed: that when millions are losing jobs, losing homes, and losing hope, there is nothing more important than putting yourself first.”
“I Was Ayn Rand’s Lover,” by George Saunders for The New Yorker, October 2012.
In addition to being one of our greatest contemporary short story writers, George Saunders is a rather brilliant, often uncomfortably funny satirist. In this delicious takedown, he describes losing his “lover” to Paul Ryan. That jerk.
“Not many people know this, but I was once Ayn Rand’s lover. That’s right. The year was 1974. I was a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old, she was a prominent international author — and we were lovers. By ‘lovers’ I mean: we were constantly raping each other. Well, first there’d be a long speech. Usually by her. Then we’d gaze deeply at one another, and our souls would begin speaking the only language a man and a woman ever need: the language of mutual self-benefit. Each grasped, in the unflinching gaze of the other, a silent acknowledgment of the nobility of man, especially as manifested in work, the work that purified the soul the way steel is purified in the smelter. That sort of thing.”
Christopher Hitchens, during the Q&A portion of a lecture, “The Moral Necessity of Atheism,” given on February 23, 2004 at Sewanee University
An elegant, simple, and remarkably rational takedown that boils down to one idea: do people really need to be encouraged to be more selfish?
That time President Obama said that Ayn Rand is for teenagers.
“Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pickup,” he told Rolling Stone last October, in response to a question about Paul Ryan’s obsession with her work. “Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we’re considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that’s a pretty narrow vision. It’s not one that, I think, describes what’s best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a ‘you’re on your own’ society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.”