Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paul Ryan Shrugged

It's a DoubleStuff version of a Cheez Whiz oreo.  Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan, the Brangelina of nihilistic free market capitalism, are both having career surges this weekend -- she with a movie premiere and he with another gala performance of "Killing Medicare" on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.  So what if one of them is physically dead, and the other is an intellectual flat-liner?  Where there's greed, there's life.... and it goes on and on and on, with the avarice and mendacity chromosomes of the gene pool being carried forward in many a self-interested body.

Star-Crossed Love Object(ivists)

Some people I know had a brief fling with the soap opera fiction of Ayn Rand during adolescence, since her novels seem to satisfy the deep-seated (mainly male) teenage urge to be the center of the universe, have lots of overblown sex, or just be left alone to do their own thing.  Most people do shake off adolescent fads and the rigid thinking of youthful cults and well,... just grow out of it.  But some don't, and Ayn Randism is nothing if not a cult.  Perhaps the most egregious example of someone never outgrowing  Rand's juvenile philosophy of selfishness is former Fed Chairman Al Greenspan.  To make matters even worse, he actually knew the woman in the flesh and was a member of her inner circle of acolytes.  Greenspan is a True Believer in the sanctity of an unregulated free market. The financial world crashed because of his misguided faith.  And no, he has never been indicted or even criticized all that much by the mainstream media.  It doesn't hurt that he's also married to an msm star (Andrea Mitchell). 

And now Paul Ryan is taking up the Rand baton of the free market and the evils of big government.  A mere lad of 12 when his dominatrix died, he nevertheless fell under her spell and has never looked back.  He even makes his staff read her novels as though they were the conservative gospel.

"That Paul Ryan thinks 'Atlas Shrugged' is worth reading (and wasting staff time on) tells you all you need to know about him. He is a non-intellectual lightweight who thinks Ayn Rand's dreadful, fascistic romance novel makes for a good lesson in social engineering and economics," wrote Marie Burns of RealityChex today in response to a Maureen Dowd column that simultaneously shilled and dissed yet another movie premiere.

Atlas Shrugged, so Maureen plugged.  Instead of a grade C remake, I would rather see a movie on Rand herself, something more realistic than that soft porn straight-to-cable biopic starring Helen Mirren more than a decade ago.  If Mirren could play the Queen, she could also play the cold, emotionless Ayn Rand.  She could repeat Rand's testimony before the House UnAmerican Affairs committee on the "red menace" in Hollywood in the 50s.  Another  pivotal scene might be of her famous "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" George Patton-like speech in 1974 to an audience of young West Point cadets. Although it is likely that future General David Petraeus was in the house and met her, that has never been confirmed. But it's only a  movie -- and our current government is Kabuki play-acting, anyway, and the military already calls battlefields and campaigns "theatres."

Parts of the speech, which included her assertion that the Military Industrial Complex is just a myth,  were later included in the philosophy curriculum of USMA.  Here's a choice tidbit she spouted during the Q & A with the cadets: "Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent." (or for that matter, any other continent, from Asia to Africa and beyond).  So she was a not-so closeted racist too, which also fits the bill to be a card-carrying right wing ideologue. Only now, racism is disguised as birtherism. And not so disguised, as in Donald Trump's recent boast that he gets along just fine with "the blacks."

The end of the film (I hereby nominate the Coen Brothers to be writers/directors) would depict Ayn sneakily applying for Medicare and Social Security toward the end of her life, when her chain-smoking habit finally caught up with her and she got lung cancer.    I can just picture Mirren haughtily rasping, "I took government welfare only because it was in my own self-interest to do so," before the fade to black.  There might also be a scene of young Paul Ryan getting his Social Security survivors' benefits when his father died, also purely out of   individualistic selfishness.  He certainly didn't need to suck on any of the teats of Alan Simpson's government milk cow, because he inherited a multimillion dollar business. But Social Security isn't means-tested -- though grown-up Ryan would certainly love to change that now. 

Of course, Ryan and Greenspan aren't the only Rand Fans.  The real Brangelina are apparently true believers.  So is Vince Vaughn.  Maybe Dowd could write about them next time.  Of course, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are in the fold. And  CNBC star Rick Santelli, whose on-air rant famously birthed the Tea Party Movement as a means of deflecting blame for the mortgage meltdown from Wall Street to Reaganesque welfare queens, is also a self-avowed Randroid. 

Screeched Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange in 2009: "Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water!"

He later admitted, "I know this may not sound very humanitarian, but at the end of the day I'm an Ayn Rand-er."   Curiously, despite being an avowed atheist, Ayn Rand is everywhere in  right-wing world. Her novels are enjoying a huge boost in sales.  The Rapture goes secular.

 "For over half a century," writes Jennifer (no relation to Marie) Burns in her new biography,  "Rand has been the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right."

Oh, and here's a scoop, in case you missed it in my Times comment. The TARP program, which bailed out the banksters, really stands for The Ayn Rand Program for troubled capitalists. They just never got around to telling us. 


turnipseed said...

Wow! This is great writing Karen! The cult of Rand is too creepy for words, but you captured that easily with your sharpened pen.

Have her devotees bothered to read an actual biography of the pathetic life of Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum? Perhaps they have--and perhaps that is where they learned to be such good hypocrites.

Janet Camp

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I feel like Valerie in Wonderland after reading this piece! Cult and creepy pretty much sum it up.

One thought did occur to me. Is it possible that Paul Ryan hasn't read a book since high school and this is why he has been so influenced by the caricatures in Ayn Rand's books?

John in Louisiana said...

I, too, am amazed at the love for Rand being displayed by those on the religious right. Don't they understand that her "philosophy" flies in the face of everything Jesus preached?

Of course, hypocrisy is something these people have never had any qualms about.

The latest evidence of this phenomenon is the way the right is screaming about the poor reviews the movie is receiving. The claim, of course, is that the liberal mainstream media are bashing the film for its politics (never mind that even the WSJ panned it). It never occurs to them that they love the movie precisely for its politics and not for any artistic merit it may have.

The only way to get a realistic, dispassionate view of the quality of this movie is to find a group of dispassionate observers and ask them what they think, of course. Those people might reasonably be believed to be a group of critics who are, after all, paid to be dispassionate about these things. But no, say the true believers. Far better we listen to a bunch of Ayn Rand fans rather than the people who critique movies for a living, because the Rand fans are dispassionate while the critics are not. Ayn Rand fans, they say, are a much more objective audience than the nation's film critics, whose politics are probably as much a mystery to these ideologues as they are to me.

Thanks for another great column.

Kate Madiso said...

A dissenting voice here! Do ya really think all the whitey-rightys have actually READ an Ayn Rand novel--or better yet, know anything at all about her personal biography? Obviously, I do not.

In my conserva-Repub right wing family, there were always Ayn Rand books around, but I never saw my parents or brothers reading them. My sister and I did out of curiousity mostly, and then sat appalled at the dinner table while my parents and brothers discussed what a wonderful vision she had for America. (Those were my pre-Cassandra days. I was gathering information.)

You see, I think--like many Ayn Rand fans--they had read ABOUT her, but not her actual books. Can't say I blame them really, they were poorly written and hell to get through!

I am very glad I read Ayn Rand and knew something of her biography. It is so much easier to reject later on! I did the same with religion, and I thank the experience with Ayn Rand for giving me good practice.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I followed you hear from Paul Krugman's article. I'll be back....

indianabob said...

Very good analysis.

By the way, that was a great comment you posted to Krugman's piece today.

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,

"The Evils of Big Government", you have Big Government with the guy you elected running it. How is that working out for you? It seems that throughout history "Big Government" attracts Big Special Interests to buy same. Something about the moneychangers running the temple comes to mind. If you plan on waiting for someone of that caliber to throw them out it could be a long wait.


Anonymous said...

Karen, your blog has earned a go-to spot on my bookmarks list. Keep it up.

Long past adolescence, I picked up (with no small effort, I might add), a copy of "Atlas Shrugged," because I felt I should at least read a book before I formed an opinion on it.

I am sorry to say that I found the book not only ponderous, but utterly unreadable, and I did not make it past the first third. There are books one keeps reading out of duty, or out of a mistaken belief that it HAS to get better, since it's so popular. AS isn't that type of book, and any sense of duty dissolved under the weight of pretentious prose and arrogant, astoundingly unsavory moral precepts.

Mr. Ryan believes, apparently as all hard-core Randians believe, that they, and they alone, are responsible for manufacturing their good fortune, and, consequently, all those who do not share such fortune must be equally responsible for their sorry state. No extenuating circumstances, no gray areas, just a simple, binary life. Much like that of the computer on which I type this note. How simple such a life must be. And how utterly unrepresentative of my life, or the life of any of the people I know.

turnipseed said...

Hey Everybody--some good news from Bold

Signatures are now submitted against 3 Republicans -- with local volunteers working to recall at least 3 more. Today, we placed our powerful pro-recall ad on Wisconsin TV for another week, but our ability to keep it up until the end of this campaign rests entirely on people like you.

They only ask for $3, so I keep on giving. If we can recall these reps, it may send a message to our Randian Governor.

Janet Camp

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Hi! Janet,

Thanks for the heads up on; I will send them what I can. Great idea on their part to only ask for $3. When I volunteered for public radio during pledge drives occasionally people would call in to pledge $5 or $10. They were always so apologetic that they couldn't give more. My attitude was always, if everyone who listened to public radio donated $5, NPR would be able to cut the pledge drive short. I hope everyone who hears about the recall effort pledges $3 or what they feel they can. All those little bits DO add up and it is an empowering opportunity to take part in our democracy.

By the way - I am with you on the stock thing. What meagre investments I have are all in a socially responsible investment fund. Talk is easy - it is putting my money where my mouth is that is hard.