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New York Tea Party

April 16th, 2009 by Galileo Blogs · 40 Comments · Culture

I joined thousands of other protesters yesterday at the “Tea Party” protest at City Hall Park in downtown New York. My sign read on one side, “Reason & Capitalism. No Creeping Socialism!” On the other, it read, “Ayn Rand Is Right.” I saw many signs referring to Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand. One Objectivist joined me with his sign that read, “Who Is John Galt?”

We found a strategic spot right alongside Broadway. Many busloads and carloads of commuters got to see “Ayn Rand Is Right” and “Who Is John Galt?” on their way home from work. One person asked us who John Galt was. We told him that if he wants to understand what is wrong with the world and what should be done about it, read Atlas Shrugged. He said he would.

I was pleased overall by the event. It was remarkably secular. There were few references to God and the conservative Republicans only showed themselves in a tentative manner. (I think they know how responsible the Bush-era Big Government and Religious Right Republicans are for the crisis we’re in.)

Overall, the impression I had was one of a true grassroots protest. People were angry at the violation of our rights. People expressed it in terms of outrage over spending and taxation.

The speakers weren’t very good overall, but they were sincere and angry.

This is the first protest I have ever gone to. I have always thought that the battle of ideas is won through conventionally intellectual pursuits: writing and teaching.

But there is a time to speak out in the form of a protest. This was one of those times.

I hope we see more Tea Parties.

Thank you, Rick “Sam Adams” Santelli for issuing the clarion call that was heard around the country.

40 Comments so far ↓

  • Tea Party rundown | Atlas for Congress

    […] “New York Tea Party” — The New Clarion “I joined thousands of other protesters yesterday at the ‘Tea Party’ protest at City Hall Park in downtown New York. My sign read on one side, ‘Reason & Capitalism. No Creeping Socialism!’ On the other, it read, ‘Ayn Rand Is Right.’ I saw many signs referring to Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand. One Objectivist joined me with his sign that read, ‘Who Is John Galt?’ […]

  • Jeffery Small

    If you are interested in a follow up action that can extend the impact of the Tax Day Tea Parties, go to the web site go-galt.org and participate in the Atlas Shrugged Books-to-Politicians Campaign.

    Regards,

    Jeffery Small
    go-galt.org

  • Andrew Dalton

    “Overall, the impression I had was one of a true grassroots protest. People were angry at the violation of our rights. People expressed it in terms of outrage over spending and taxation.”

    Of course, the leftists are insisting that the Tea Party protests are an “astroturf” phenomenon orchestrated by the wealthy and corporations–without a shred of evidence, of course.

    The Left has invested a great deal in the notion of “mass movements” as the engine of historical change. This is part of both their propaganda campaign (appeal to democracy) and their basic worldview (proletarian collectivism). To them, any non-Left popular protest *cannot* be authentic.

    The irony here is that their opponents are much less invested in the “mass movement” mythology–and certainly not us Objectivists, who understand that the ideas that move history ultimately come from the intellectuals and not spontaneously from the angry mob. It’s certainly nice to have our ideas gaining an audience, but unlike the Left, we don’t have any validation of our philosophy riding on it.

  • Galileo Blogs

    Andrew,

    I completely agree. Spot on.

    -GB

  • dismuke

    “Of course, the leftists are insisting that the Tea Party protests are an “astroturf” phenomenon orchestrated by the wealthy and corporations–without a shred of evidence, of course….. To them, any non-Left popular protest *cannot* be authentic.”

    It is also a great example of PROJECTION on the part of the Leftists. After all, it is not at all uncommon for Leftist protests to be orchestrated and filled with rent-a-mob warm bodies and union members being bussed in (probably with the incentive of “if you know what’s good for you!)

    And if, even after all the orchestration, nobody still bothers to show up, the Walter Duranty media will PRETEND that there are a lot of people. I will never forget one of Cindy Sheehan’s demonstrations outside of Waco, Texas. It got HUGE press coverage and featured clips of Sheehan giving a speech. What the media did NOT show but someone else photographed was row upon row of empty chairs intended for an audience of protesters which never arrived. Yet Sheehan’s speech made headline news.

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  • Myrhaf

    Thanks for the report, GB! I wish I could have gone to the one in San Bernardino, CA, but Wednesday is my worst workday of the week. With that and a rehearsal of Measure For Measure at night, I had no time.

    Maybe Bill Brown will give us a report from Phoenix.

  • Galileo Blogs

    Dismuke,

    Well stated and completely true on all counts.

    Myrhaf,

    Next time I’m in your neck of the woods, if you are on, I will watch you perform, and I promise to bring no protest signs!

  • anon

    Jeffery,

    An AS books-to-politicians campaign? Be careful saying that around here; you might become the next David Kelley.

  • Galileo Blogs

    I am not sure what “anon” means by his comment, whether he is for or against the idea of giving Ayn Rand’s books to politicians.

    I don’t think it is a good idea, mainly because politicians are unlikely to be swayed by Ayn Rand’s books, if they bothered to read them. We get the politicians that we elect. Those politicians generally (with a few exceptions) support the growing state. They benefit directly from it in terms of power and money. Moreover, the electorate elects politicians who give them seemingly “free” benefits and who intervene to “correct” the excesses of the market.

    We need to change people’s basic ideas of man and his relationship to the state. That has to start in the universities and all other intellectual avenues, including blogging.

    Books-to-politicians is unlikely to achieve a good return for one’s money.

  • anon

    GB,

    With all of that said, what do you think about ARC’s efforts to promote “the philosophical case for individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism … to policy-makers”?

  • Galileo Blogs

    Anon,

    I think it is a good idea. ARC is trying to set itself up like one of the many think tanks in Washington, except it is from a philosophical, Objectivist perspective. ARC is trying to shape the debate over policies by being a public voice for individual rights and capitalism in Washington.

    Although politicians are corrupt, it does not mean that efforts to shape the debate over policies is fruitless. On the contrary. The more voices that offer a rational perspective on an issue increase the odds that such perspective will influence policies and legislation, if even just a small degree in a particular case.

    For example, a staffer for a congressman may read about ARC’s stance on a particular issue, or he may have attended one of ARC’s public debates or speeches. That may influence the analysis he shows his congressman, even if only slightly, and that will influence the drafting of the legislation.

    Or, in a more direct sense, ARC’s efforts will be picked up by congressmen who agree on a particular issue and are looking for good supporting arguments. ARC may just provide them with the supporting argument they need to make a convincing case and swing a few votes.

    Political activism in Washington is part of the whole equation. But, it is not the only nor even the primary way to win the battle for freedom at this stage of the game where fundamental ideas need to be challenged throughout the culture.

  • anon

    GB,

    And sending copies AS to politicians doesn’t have the same potential to effect change?

  • Galileo Blogs

    No, but maybe you will get lucky. I suspect they get many feet worth of documents mailed to their offices every day. But, a stray copy of Atlas could land in the right hands. The copy of Atlas may end up landing in a staffer’s hands and getting him to think differently. I can’t imagine any politician reading the book and being persuaded by it from a mailing, but it is possible.

  • anon

    GB,

    Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Oist movement had gone into this issue, in the depth of detail that you are – 20 years ago, when David Kelley first raised it – instead of just winging it like they are now?

  • Andrew Dalton

    anon –

    The Ayn Rand Institute has had the resources for directed political activism only within the last couple of years. If ARI had shortchanged their philosophical outreach from the start, in order to fund political activism, would they have had the donor base that has enabled their current scope of activism?

    Keep in mind the actual fortunes of David Kelley’s strategy.

  • anon

    Mr. Dalton,

    I haven’t defended David Kelley’s strategy. I’ve merely implied that the issue his behavior raised deserved more of a hearing than it was given.

  • anon

    Mr. Dalton,

    I should like to ad that, given the well-publicized stated reasons for ARI’s breech with David Kelley, I find it highly offensive that you would attempt to argue that that breech was merely for lack of resources.

  • Andrew Dalton

    I implied no such thing. You’re free to feel offended for whatever reason, however.

  • anon

    what did you imply?

  • Andrew Dalton

    Well, your original comment (#15) stated that Objectivists are “just winging it”–presumably in the realm of political activism. I disagree, and I think that the entry of organized Objectivism into Washington politics *had to* wait.

    What I would really like know is the following:

    – What particular issue do you think David Kelley raised 20 years ago?
    – What do you think Objectivists (ARI or not) should have done 20 years ago?
    – Why do you say that Objectivists are “just winging it” today, as opposed to having a strategy?

  • anon

    1) David Kelley raised the issue of forcing Objectivism on the population (through the election of “Objectivizied” Libertarians) versus convincing the population (through the infiltration of academia and the intelligencia by Objectivists).

    2) The ARI (and by that I mean, namely, Peikoff, Schwartz, Binswanger) should have created an ad hoc group to study the very sophisticated question of how Oism should deal w/ the outside world when it, inevitably, was to come knocking (as it is today).

    3) Leading Oists (the ARI) is “winging it” today because, essentially, they’re doing exactly what Kelley was doing 20 years ago. Granted, they’re doing it in a slightly less removed basis (talking to Libertarians informally instead of at their politically-aspirant functions), but the end result has to be the same.

    I’m not necessarily against the ARI for doing this, but I do think that had the Oist leadership answered the question of is it worth is to engage the outside world politically (which they’re implicitly saying “yes” to) 20 years ago, they would have far more effective operative principles for how to engage it than just participating in the first populist, emotional outburst (the tea parties) that comes along.

  • Bill Brown

    The tea parties fall into the category of ad-hoc political activism. That is the difference. If it were a speech at CPAC or the Christian Coalition, I would see some merit in a charge of hypocrisy. (Though his subsequent actions certainly affirmed Peikoff’s assessment of Kelley in “Fact and Value.”)

  • anon

    Mr. Brown,

    What, exactly, are the tea parties trying to accomplish?

  • Bill Brown

    “To express a dissatisfaction at the course that the federal government is charging down” is about as close a purpose as I could construct. I believe the diffuse nature of this particular set of events was too broad to be effective, i.e. the tent was too big. Along those lines, participation cannot possibly imply sanction.

  • anon

    What I mean is, the ARI is participating in the tea parties in order to bring awareness of the necessity of a moral justification for the popular opposition to the government’s recent actions.

    The “tea partiers”, through a show or force, are trying to scare our leaders into reversing course.

    How, exactly, is that any different than David Kelley trying to give Libertarians – who have been trying to use popular opposition to big gov’t to become elected (and thus reverse the gov’t course) – a moral justification?

  • anon

    “Along those lines, participation could not possibly imply sanction”

    ????

    Ask Dr. Peikoff, circa 1989. He would strongly disagree.

  • anon

    Something just occured to me.

    The crucial difference between the two actions -which are almost (but not exactly) identical – is that one (Kelley) advocates a show or force by the leaders to intimidate the followers, whereas the other (ARC) advocates a show of force by the followers in order to intimidate the leaders.

    The sad part: This distinction should have been made 20 years ago. If not for the petty, short-range concerns of the ARI’s leadership at the time, it would have been made.

  • Kyle Haight

    I can think of a few other differences between now and 20 years ago that may be relevant.

    The kind of large-scale public political engagement ARI and other Objectivists are now attempting requires a critical mass of intellectuals to have any chance at success. There are many more active Objectivist intellectuals now than there were 20 years ago.

    A substantial part of ARI’s media comes from talk radio, cable news and the internet. National political talk radio was just getting off the ground 20 years ago. Rush Limbaugh’s national show was launched in 1988. CNN didn’t really break through until the first Gulf War in 1991, Fox News didn’t launch until 1996, and the internet didn’t become a significantly influential media outlet until comparatively recently. Absent those kinds of fora, it would have been difficult-to-impossible for ARI to develop any kind of national exposure for Rand’s ideas. Some attempts were made, such as Leonard Peikoff’s foray into talk radio, but they didn’t catch fire. It is much easier today for an organization with limited resources to punch through and get a hearing.

    Another point about prioritization. All organizations have limited time and limited resources. Objectivism is not an easy philosophy to master. (Witness David Kelley’s failure to do so as a cautionary tale of how even smart people can go badly wrong.) The generation of intellectuals who learned Objectivism directly from Rand are aging, and will eventually retire and die. I am very glad that, before they did so, they spent time and effort building an educational framework to give upcoming generations of intellectuals the kind of training that results in people like John Lewis, Tara Smith and Robert Mayhew, rather than people like David Kelley and Ed Hudgins. I don’t think that would have been possible if they’d spent their time trying to convince the subjectivists in the Libertarian Party of the errors of their ways instead.

    There is a quote from Peter Schwartz’ article “On Moral Sanctions” that is relevant here. He wrote, in 1989: “Does this restrict the options open to Objectivist speakers? Certainly. Objectivism is a restrictive philosophy. It holds that the irrationalities of today’s culture should not be aided. However, this fact does not require Objectivist thinkers to communicate only with those already in basic agreement… there are countless non-Objectivist audiences that speakers can profitably address. There are college and high school students. There are numerous professional groups, such as medical or legal associations. And there are those with mixed ideologies, who hold mistaken but not necessarily irrational views, such as various conservative and liberal groups. There may be nothing wrong in cooperating or debating with those who merely hold mistaken views (as long as one makes clear what one disagrees with); there is nothing wrong in implying that they are moral. It is the irrational that ought not be granted a moral sanction; it is the irrational that should not be addressed as though it were open to reason.” The difference between the Tea Party movement and the Libertarian Party is that the former is ideologically unformed — a mixed case, in Schwartz’ terms — while the latter is fundamentally irrationalist. Given that assessment of the Libertarian Party, I think the current actions of ARI are entirely consistent with the principle enunciated above by Schwartz in 1989.

  • madmax

    Great points Kyle. Especially this:

    “The generation of intellectuals who learned Objectivism directly from Rand are aging, and will eventually retire and die. I am very glad that, before they did so, they spent time and effort building an educational framework…”

    Yes, we do owe them alot. Thank goodness for Peikoff and the rest. Most of them have been unfairly demonized but they gave Objectivism its start. Now it looks like it might be beginning to get its legs.

  • anon

    Mr. Haight,

    As I said to Mr. Dalton above, given their widely-known status, I find it highly offensive that you would so brazenly attempt to rewrite history regarding the reasons for ARI’s refusal to engage in political activism 20 years ago. Since it is simply untrue, I will not address any of that in any detail. It’s all very interesting and likely has merit, but I don’t consider you an honest opponent in search of a genuine solution.

    The only use it has in the present discussion is to demonstrate the lengths people such as yourself will go to in order to avoid admitting hypocricy at the present, or premature judgement in the past.

    As all of your current obfuscating indicates, the issue that David Kelley raised 20 years ago is a very complicated one. The question of just exactly how Objectivists should deal with the outside world needed just the kind of input that you provided in your comment. Instead, at the time it was raised, the question was dismissed out of hand and the issue was relegated to a matter of philosophical, rather than tactical, principle.

    Now, 20 years later, when the issue – as it was bound to – has resurfaced, individuals such are yourself have the audacity to act as if this had been the position all along? If there is anything that should be considered grounds for banishment from the movement, that should be it.

    20 years ago your points would have been welcomed by Dr. Kelley as constructive criticism; today they cannot be called anything other than, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Lewis, balm for a guilty conscience. And you wonder why Dr. Kelley has sort of “lost it” psychologically. Would you have been able to withstand that sort of drawn-out injustice?

    As for Mr. Schwartz’ distinction, it isn’t even one that Dr. Peikoff himself consistently practiced. The spark of the schism between he and Dr. Kelley was that Dr. Kelley gave a speech to The Laissez Faire Supper Club. A group that Peikoff himself had spoken to a few years earlier in order to promote The Ominous Parallels. By hiding behind one or two twists of method, and by suppressing carefully-selected historical facts, the ARI may be able to trick people like yourself into thinking that what they are doing today is somehow fundamentally different than what Dr. Kelley *suggested* should be done (or at least talked about) 20 years ago, but they are not.

    Apart from the history of hyopcrisy, even if we objectively consider Mr. Schwartz’ distinction, it still doesn’t change the fact that the ultimate goal of all political activism is, by definition, to change the political process. Whether is it by electing Libertarians to public office, whipping up popular sentiment through Tea Parties in order to scare elected officials into changing their ways, or to influence them through lobbying from the ARC, all that can result from any form of political activism is to have the government *force* elements of Objectivism on to an ingorant and hostile culture. That’s what political activism is. That’s what distinguishes it from all other forms of activism.

    Is forcing Objectivism onto the culture a good idea? I don’t know. The ARC and it’s supporters don’t know either. The only difference between people such as myself and people like you is that when I don’t know, I’m willing to say so. Your side, however, will spend 20 years hiding that fact underneath philosophical pretense and then, when the issue looms so large that it has to be dealt with, they will pretend that they’ve known all along exactly how to deal with it.

    What you see is occuring today is the result of that policy. The ARC is dealing with their new political influence in a haphazard, groping manner – with as little fanfare as possible, hoping that the tacit admission of their past sins, which their current actions represent, isn’t pointed out.

    Or, if none of that works and it is pointed out anyways, they will count on rank and file people like yourself to expropriate suggestions from the other side and to pass them off as if you’d held them all along; but with the added benefit of measured perspective. They’re counting on the fact that you, in doing all of this, will concoct a thicket of obfuscation so dense that you will come to take pride in having done it for them, and that the opposition will throw their hands up in frustration.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Yes, we get it now. You have a grudge against ARI.

    Next.

  • anon

    Mr. Dalton,

    I suggest you read dismuke’s post on this blog entitled “CNN Reporter Blanks Out On Camera.”

  • Andrew Dalton

    anon –

    I suggest you realize that I don’t give a damn what you think.

    You entered this thread for the purpose of picking a fight, and you don’t even have the courage to use your real name.

  • Bill Brown

    Anon et al.: this is veering quite off-topic. I granted a little latitude because we were talking about political activism.

    Anon: We are a blog by Objectivists, but not about Objectivism or the Objectivist movement as such. Please grind your axes elsewhere or confine yourself to the subject matter of the entry. Also, we support ARI so your particular axe is especially unwelcome. Thank you.

  • anon

    Mr. Brown,

    In light of the fact that this post is one of many recent posts by supporters of the ARI engaging political activism, I fail to see how a discussion (which, yes, is repetitive and controversial – who’s fault is that?) about just why ARI is now, suddenly, engaged in political activism is “off-topic.”

  • Bill Brown

    The blog entry was a field report about the New York Tea Party. Insofar as it discussed ARI and implicitly its recent forays into political activism, the discussion was on-topic. When you start hypothesizing about the motivations of ARI in light of previous actions by past directors, it is no longer germane. If you wish to further discuss the Kelley schism, there are plenty of other fora for you—however, this is not one of them.

  • anon

    Mr. Brown,

    Had a number of the other commentators not attempted to revise history, would I have had to “go off-topic”? Or, I suppose I should have addressed their version of events directly – granting it an appearance of legitimacy and helping them to paper over the issue entirely.

    What if I had? Do you honestly believe that by not provoking, and then having (even if it’s not “germane”) a thorough discussion of the proper scope and methods of Objectivist political activism, that this issue will go away?

    It won’t. Inevitably there will be a hiccup in the activism and instead of everyone taking a deep breath and recalling the strategy they painstakingly laid out, there won’t be a strategy and the grandstanding, moralizing, and excommunicating will start right back up again. Just as it did 20 years ago.

    I shouldn’t have to tell you about the damage that can do. The fecklessness – caused by decades of evasive wound-licking – with which Objectivism is (arbitrarily) engaging the Tea Party movement (of all things) should be ample evidence.

  • Galileo Blogs

    Anon,

    As the author of this post and the person who attended the New York Tea Party, I can tell you that I did not go as a representative of the Ayn Rand Institute nor even as a representative of Objectivism as such. I went as an American upset over the violation of my rights by our government. In that same spirit, most of the other participants attended, with varying philosophical views. They were united in outrage over government spending and taxation that is out of control and immoral, to us Objectivists.

    But, I would have been happy to represent ARI, as I support it. It is a good organization that is performing the vital role of fostering awareness of Ayn Rand’s writings and her philosophy of Objectivism. I firmly believe that her philosophy of reality, reason, and capitalism is the key and only hope to stop the current trend to destruction and usher in a new Renaissance.

    As for your using this forum to rehash the dispute with David Kelley, that is your prerogative. It is also the prerogative of Bill Brown, the owner of this website to set his policies on commenting. I support him on his exercise of that responsibility.

    As for the discussion itself, I don’t have a big problem with rehashing it, but it is a distraction from the central purpose of this website and if Bill decides to quash it, he has my support.

    As for the specifics of your argument, I will only say this. I believe in “Rugged Individualism,” not the “unrugged” variety. As far as I understand the issue, Objectivism itself is a closed system because it is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, just as Aristotelianism, Platonism, or Kantianism are closed systems. I also believe that principles are inter-related and if one opposes a fundamental principle, it may undercut the whole edifice of a system of belief.

    I don’t wish to address each of the points you made. Other commenters in this sequence of comments have done a good job of it. But one thing you said did strike me as odd. You said, “David Kelley raised the issue of forcing Objectivism on the population (through the election of “Objectivizied” Libertarians) versus convincing the population (through the infiltration of academia and the intelligencia by Objectivists).”

    Objectivism can’t be forced on people. No philosophy can be, unless you are talking about a forceful revolution such as the Communist Revolution. Objectivism isn’t some kind of stealth movement, either, that “infiltrates” academia. Objectivism is a philosophical system, and the way a philosophy wins is by persuasion. That means persuading people to become Objectivist intellectuals and supporting them in those endeavors, as they write, publish, speak and, occasionally, protest, to get the message out and persuade other intellectuals (and the public). Eventually, these people become teachers, writers, editors, television reporters, etc., and the culture begins to change.

    Isn’t that what ARI does? And isn’t that good?

    As for the libertarians, they are not worthy of support. At their core, they are *not* allies. They are philosophically opposed to the absolutism of reality and morality. That is good reason to be very careful in our dealings with them. Also, because they have so publicly identified themselves with (appparently) laissez-faire capitalism, any sanction we give them makes it that much harder for us to present our message that capitalism is the *result* of a rational philosophy and the morality it validates, not the other way around.

    That is as much as I want to say right now.

  • Bill Brown

    They had gone off topic. That’s why I addressed “anon et al.”

    This may be the site to discuss Objectivism and political activism. However, this is not the post. When (and if) we decide to cover the subject, we will make a post specifically about that. At that point, anything about the subject will be relevant.