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The Passion of the Frightened

September 5th, 2010 by Jim May · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

A fantastic post by Gus Van Horn on the topic of anti-Objectivist screeds discusses what I have long known about 99% of Objectivism’s and Ayn Rand’s critics:

And that — the attempt to prevent Rand’s ideas from getting a fair hearing — is the common thread that has run through all the misconceptions, smears, and outright lies about Rand and her ideas that I’ve encountered ever since. You can draw your own conclusions about why so many of her ideological opponents elect to use such tactics.

Well, Gus, I will indeed draw those conclusions, to wit:  what her critics expect, is that if her ideas get a fair hearing, their ideas will lose.

Therefore, no discussion of Ayn Rand can ever be permitted to be about ideas.  It simply *must* be about smears, about persons, insults, straw men, grudges, emotions, imagined slights etc. … anything but ideas.  After all, they know that they can’t lose a fight that never happens.

I wonder whether Objectivists are really aware of how panicked many of our enemies are.

First case in point: the recent partial walk-back of Whittaker Chambers’ infamous hatchet-job “review” of Atlas Shrugged by the conservative National Review.

The article by Jason Lee Steorts is full of the usual kind of material that Gus is discussing, and the overall point of the article and headline is the same as always.  That’s not what I find significant — it’s the fact that the National Review found it necessary to publish an essay walking back some of the things in that Chambers “review” — after republishing it twice, unedited, in 2005 and 2007!

That’s a pretty significant, if small, alteration of their stance on Rand — and a very sharp, recent one too.  But now, here they are suddenly taking a step away from this position, held over half a century and twice reaffirmed in *this* century as recent as three years ago!  They even allowed the word “Great” to be applied to Ayn Rand, in a cover headline!

Why do this?  What is this move intended to pre-empt?

Whatever their motive, it most likely stems from events that have occurred since 2007.   I am confident that whatever brought them to believe that this move was necessary, it must have occurred in the last five years.

There has been only one significant event bearing any sort of connection to Ayn Rand in the last five years, and that is the Tea Party phenomenon.

This brings us to the second data point:  The Tea Parties, notwithstanding their flaws and notwithstanding the fact that they are slowly being co-opted by conservatism as I expected, are nonetheless exceeding my expectations in that they are being co-opted much more slowly than I thought. The evidence for this includes a recent flurry of anti-Tea Party criticism from the right that I have been seeing of late.

As I have noted before, the Left’s overriding fear of the Tea Parties lies in the potential of the latter to reintroduce Americanism to the political mainstream, in particular that mass of political independents which increasingly determines election results.  This is something that the Left knows it can ill afford, because in any battle of actual ideas, they will lose.

What the National Review and other religious conservatives are confessing, is that they and the Left fear the same thing in the Tea Parties, and for the same reasons. The only difference is that the Review, at least, appears to have a better idea of whose influence is sustaining and feeding that threat — and that perhaps, at some point, it may be politically necessary to begin moderating their hostility to her.

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Richard

    I think the election of ’08 was mostly predicated upon voting against Bush, not as much for Democrats. Serving as a harsh penalty to the religious “compassionate conservatives” who were merely Democrat lite. Seeing their opportunities shriveling up, the NR is turning more pragmatic and throwing Rand a bone in the hopes of winning more favor.

    Frankly I’m content to wait another 5 or 10 years until the day NR prints a review of Rand’s work that does her justice without any backhanded commentary.

  • Steve D

    “Well, Gus, I will indeed draw those conclusions, to wit: what her critics expect is that if her ideas get a fair hearing, their ideas will lose.”

    That and some of your other statements are very encouraging observations.