The above question (in several different variants) has come up in several different contexts over the last few decades:
- Various “Objectivist” chat-boards/discussion forums (from which I was later either “excommunicated”, or simply abandoned, so as to not “morally sanction” the circular firing-squad/plain old ideological “circle-jerk”.
- The rabidly anti-Rand types, who just want her to be a “scapegoat” for something else they really hate. (For example: the sort of “critics” who latch onto her advocacy of “selfishness”, somewhat idiosyncratic use of the term “altruism”, those who deliberately misunderstand her advocacy of “capitalism” as corporate cheer-leading, etc.
The common denominators between the above are:
1.. the inability (or unwillingness) to understand that even an idiot or charlatan retains the ability to “parrot” correct ideas.
2. The inability (or unwillingness) to acknowledge the reality that it IS possible for a conscientious person to be “beaten down”.
past a certain point, Ayn Rand was an idiot charlatan. However, the idiocy was basically “self-inflicted”, and led to the fraud.
If you read Journals of Ayn Rand (which ANYONE claiming to be an “Admirer” of Ayn Rand should do, by the way) — AND you are honest — you simply cannot help but acknowledge the fact that Ayn Rand began as an exceedingly enthusiastic fan of Friedrich Nietzsche .
She did NOT begin as an Aristotelian. Not even close. Interestingly, anyone interested in re-tracing the actual “philosophical” development of Ayn Rand need to no more than to get a copy of H.L. Mencken’s English-language exposition The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche .
THAT was the book which represents Rand’s philosophical beginning — to the point where she once wrote a slobberingly-adoring letter to H.L. Mencken himself, where she comes off as…..well……you can read it for yourself:
“Let us start by looking at a letter Rand wrote HL Mencken, July 28, 1934, “I hope you will understand my hesitation in writing to one whom I admire as the greatest representative of a philosophy to which I want to dedicate my whole life.”
This is one of the shittiest and most dishonest things about Rand: her complete and total dishonesty about her OWN philosophical development. I mean, seriously: she was planning to open each chapter of the Fountainhead with quotes from Nietzsche .
So yeah: She was a Neitzsche fangirl, who later lied about that fact. THIS is also one of the reasons why ARI should never have published Journals — having her “process” available for public scrutiny (even if in a heavily-edited form) seriously undercuts the pretense.
So: even if she was initially sincere, that was basically gone by the time she came into contact with the Brandens: she started to believe THEIR fawning, adulatory bullshit.
Thankfully, the evidence for THAT still exists, as well: the book Who is Ayn Rand?
I’ve read it: it is an absurdly adulatory morass of bootlicking and agitprop, written (collaboratively) by the Brandens during the time-period when N.B. and Rand were most likely reenacting the “benevolent rape scene” on a fairly regular basis.
Now, think about this: a pretentious schlock novelist surrounded by a gaggle of sincere (but tragically misguided) “admirers” — most of whom originate from a single Canadian family (remember: Peikoff and Barbara Branden were cousins). So, yeah: already you have the makings of the whole “flunkies and yes-men” thing. Throw in “The Collective”, and the tendency for Rand to “break” with those who failed at bootlicking, and…..the result should be blindingly obvious.
The thing is: absent some (garbled) pseudo-Aristotelian window-dressing, Ayn Rand is nothing but a (horribly bad) novelist writing dumbed-down Neitszche, while pretending that’s not what she’s doing. Her whole “heroic individual vs. slobbering sub-animals” schtich is straight out of Neitszche. Ubermenschen vs. untermenschen — altruism as “slave morality”, etc.
The only value Ayn Rand has is the fact that she happened to plagiarize Aristotle: “Objectivism” is basically a dumbed-down version of Neitszche with some Aristotelian window-dressing. Absent the frantic turd-polishing of her follwers (The Brandens, Peikoff, David Kelley, Tara Smith etc.), she would have vanished into the trash-heap of history decades ago.
The primary reason Rand’s novels sell so well? NOT because anybody actually reads her bullshit. Rather, ARI (the Ayn Rand Institute) has been engaged in what amounts to an elaborate money-laundering scheme designed to funnel “royalties” directly into Leonard Peikoff’s pocket. What they do is: pay for thousands of copies of her novels to be dumped on school libraries, where (gullible) teens read her shitty, schlock novels, and then participate in one of the godawful essay contests ARI sponsors.
It’s basically equivalent to those organizations which hand out “free” copies of the Bible at pep rallies.
At any rate: ARI (probably still smarting from the utter failure of the Atlas Shrugged film trilogy some years back) has dumped vast amounts of Peikoff’s pseudo-intellectual babbling (er, I mean “tape courses”) online. If you’re willing to waste the time listening to poor-quality recordings of poor-quality agitprop from what is essentially the Right-wing equivalent of Scientology, then the “ARI campus” probably makes for some fun times.
(Bonus: You could even create a “Leonard Peikoff” drinking game based around the following verbal tics: “I think that’s fantastic!”, “Gloop!”, “Ish Ka Triddle” — or hell, if you just want to get blackout drunk as quickly as humanly possible: “The crow!”
Did I mention that (as cults go) Objectivism has the stupidest possible jargon?
“Blank out”. “Whim-worship”, the gratuitous misuse of “qua”…….”the crow epistemology”, etc. NO WONDER nobody else takes O’ism seriously.
But, back to my original point:
It’s not that I “agree with” Ayn Rand. To the extent that I ‘agree with” anything, it is most likely something that orignates with Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and/or something which Rand plagiarized from Aristotle.
Qua novelist, she’s a pretentious hack. Qua “philosopher”, she was a clumsy dilettante who never even managed to write a coherent treaties of “her” philosophy.