Friday, February 27, 2009

From the days when conservatives weren't all stupid

In a fairly forgettable article about CEO's passion for Ayn Rand -- which is no more mysterious than any other susceptibility to flattery -- we get a link to Whittaker Chambers' review of Atlas Shrugged for National Review. He was not impressed, and it's worth clicking through to see why. Here's a taste:
The embarrassing similarities between Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's brand of Communism are familiar. For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Right, scarcely differs from the same world seen in materialist view from the Left. The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?

Something of this implication is fixed in the book's dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: "To a gas chamber — go!"
Ah, the internet. I couldn't have imagined yesterday what I would be reading with my breakfast this morning.

OTOH, perhaps the internet is indirectly to blame for the article's impression that "weaved" is the past tense of "to weave," or that Ayn Rand wore "broaches" shaped like dollar signs. Perhaps the author's dictionary told her that these were acceptable alternatives to "wove" and "brooches." If so, she needs to throw away that dictionary and find a good one. In fact, in deference to Ms. Rand, I'll go so far as to say: buy a good one. Though in deference to Mr. Chambers, I won't add that the former dictionary should be burned. See? I am all sweet moderation.

P.S. -- Out of deference to this blog's patron, another quote from the review:
Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzsche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche's "last men," both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils Maria. And much else comes, consciously or not, from the same source.
A professor said to me of Foucault that what's good in him is taken from Nietzsche, and what isn't from Nietzsche isn't good. (A perhaps unconscious paraphrase of Samuel Johnson.)

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