DOWNTIME

Posted in Quick Hits on November 12th, 2009 by Ed

Sit tight for the next few days. I'm transferring to DreamHost without the slightest fucking idea what I'm doing and with the able assistance of their entirely ridiculous DIY guides ("Don't have metal stucco lath? Use carbon-fibre stucco lath!"). I expect to screw this up mightily and repeatedly. If this site is down, give it an hour or two and I'll probably be back.

INSTITUTIONALIZING SOCIOPATHY

Posted in Rants on November 12th, 2009 by Ed

My opinions about Ayn Rand have been stated unambiguously. There is no silver lining to anything Rand, not her infantile "philosophy", sub-Twilight writing skills, or legions of socially retarded acolytes who devote their "lives" to annoying the living shit out of the rest of the world and wondering what it would be like to talk to a woman. The great thing is that I don't have to pretend differently. It is perfectly acceptable in the academic world to treat Rand's Objectivism like the intellectually bankrupt farce it is. If I say Catholicism is a big pile of bullshit, I will get fired or at least seriously disciplined. If a student makes some Ron Paul argument about abolishing the Fed I am not allowed to laugh at him. But Ayn Rand? She is taken as seriously as astrology. If a student complained I think the people in the Dean's office would hit him with pies.

Objectivism and creationism are two sides of one coin, which explains why no one is obligated to take either seriously in academia. Creationists seek academic validation for their childish beliefs and ignorance. "Intelligent Design" is a feeble attempt to dress up their stupidity as a science. Objectivists similarly seek validation from philosophy departments for their adolescent selfishness and malignant narcissism. Philosophers aren't likely to consider "Being a self-absorbed, delusional prick" to be a coherent belief system on its own, so they call it an -ism in an effort to polish the turd. So far, no dice.

My intuition has always been that Rand herself was essentially a sociopath – not because it is a good, nasty pejorative but because I literally think she fit the characteristics of a sociopath. Her novels are thousand-page catalogs of warning signs. Rapes, murders, bombings, and mass killings of innocent nobodies, only to have the author reveal that they are not innocent at all. Every victim deserves it in Rand's fiction and every protagonist is a borderline psychotic who is utterly incapable of feeling love or kindness toward anyone but himself. She exalts mass murderers, sexual deviants, egomaniacs, and flat-out assholes. Her books don't feel like novels. They feel like the revenge fantasies of the 12 year old fat kid who everyone picks on and nobody befriends as he silently fumes in study hall, doodling violence in the margins of his notebook and hatching a plot to make everyone worship him or else.

Two new biographies of Rand have been released, Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns and Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne Heller. Both are ably parsed in this outstanding review by Johann Hari. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. In short, the biographers provide all of the evidence I'd ever need to support the hypothesis that Rand was Ted Bundy with a bigger vocabulary and enough self control to avoid crossing the line into serial killer territory herself.

A Russian Jew from a broken home with an aristocratic mother, "Rand" fled the Bolshiveks (after developing a deep hatred for the way their ideology upset her world of servants and leisure) to Hollywood and set about creating a movement that diametrically opposed Communism. Selfishness was praised, kindness was derided, and vast swaths of humanity were written off as "lice" fit only for disgust and extermination. But the overarching irony to Rand's entire silly career is how completely she embraced the worst excesses of Soviet Communism in developing her "Institute" and career as a philosopher and idol – authoritarianism, absolute prohibition of dissent, and a cult of personality that would embarrass Stalin, Hoxha, Kim, and Turkmenbashi. Because she was a shitty writer her novels were filled with characters who were ham-fisted stand ins for herself, characters who suffered the same basic contradiction and psychological disorder: overwhelming hatred for almost everyone on Earth coupled with a desperate, deep-seated psychological need to be liked. But Rand did not simply need to be liked. She needed to be worshiped in ways befitting the demigod she believed she was.

When she got addicted to uppers in her later life it is an interesting coincidence that both she and her insular cult of acolytes began resembling another great charlatan of the 20th Century – L. Ron Hubbard and his "movement." The high priestess of spiritual and intellectual freedom surrounded herself with sycophants and worshipers from whom she tolerated not the slightest bit of dissent. Expressing any individuality in the world of the great individualist herself was forbidden. Most sociopaths and narcissists inevitably turn into a parody of themselves as the followers they worked so hard to brainwash wander away one by one. In Rand's case she became a parody of what she claimed to despise, dying alone and unloved in her tiny cult where conformity and fanatical devotion to the Ideology were taken to levels that no Bolshivek could have imagined possible.

Thus will it be for everyone who subscribes to her sorry excuse for a belief system. But unlike The Master herself, the great unwashed masses of teabagging Objectivists truly will die alone and unable to delude themselves into thinking they commanded the army of acolytes they felt they deserved.