Sunday, February 5, 2012
The ATLAS SHRUGGED Fantasy from Thomas Frank's PITY THE BILLIONAIRE
"The ultimate act of thirties usurpation is Ayn Rand's thousand-page 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. To its present-day fans, it is a work of amazing prescience, the story of the overregulating, liberty-smothering Obama administration told more than fifty years before it actually happened.'
"For me, it is the political flimflam of our times wrapped up in one big package: the manifesto of the deregulators and free marketeers who caused the economic disaster, embraced without a glimmer of awareness by the protest movement that the disaster stirred up.'
"The story of a group of business leaders fighting big-government oppression, Atlas Shrugged has been popular since it was first published, especially among egotistical fourteen-year-olds and among the sort of self-pitying mogul types who see themselves in the book's tycoon heroes. For free-market true believers, the tome is their very own Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, more accurately, their Caesar's Column.'
"With Barack Obama's inauguration in January of 2009, sales of Atlas Shrugged registered a remarkable uptick. Everyone could see that it was the novel for the era. The opinion page of the Wall Street Journal hailed it as the tale of our times foretold.
The influential blogger Michelle Malkin urged readers to emulate the book's entrepreneurial heroes. Officers of the Ayn Rand legacy organizations began appearing at Tea Party rallies, stoking the fires of discontent; protest signs started quoting famous lines from the novel; someone issued silver coins emblazoned with the name of the book's main character; and a movie based on the book was released to the great anticipation of the resurgent Right.'
"Rand fans heard the call to the colors. Among our characters, Rick Santelli and Mike Pompeo are both disciples. Paul Ryan suggested in 2009 that 'we are right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking."
Among the freshman class in Congress, the fandom burns brightly. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin refers to Atlas Shrugged as his 'foundational book.' Representative David Schweikert of Arizona cites Atlas Shrugged as his favorite book, Representative Rick Crawford of Arkansas quotes Rand on his Twitter feed, and Senator Rand Paul describes Atlas Shrugged as a "must-read classic in the cause of liberty."
According to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the other Ayn Rand psychopaths, it is the superior man who is being persecuted, "the ownership society," "the wealth creators," the "job creators." The rest of the population is made up of moochers and freeloaders whose sense of "entitlement" is a burden on "free men." And according to their propaganda in line with the Ayn Rand script, it is not the corruption of Wall Street that is to blame for the financial collapse. It is merely the government meddling that is to blame. Instead of replacing and enforcing the removed regulations on the banks, the Ayn Rand psychopaths want to double-up on the deregulation.
"In September 2011, House Speaker John Boehner, mimicking John Gault of the novel, announced that the economy wasn't improving because 'job creators in America, basically, are on strike." He says that we must 'liberate' these powerful ones from taxes and an insane, meddling government--or else. If talent isn't treated the way talent wants to be treated, it will walk. Just try running your economy then.'
"Those who think they have something to look forward to in the libertarian future would do well to reread the famous scene in Atlas Shrugged where Rand illustrates the breakdown of society with a colossal train accident. Rand arranges this disaster in such a way that the crash is attributable not to some act of negligence by the railroad but to the arrogance of one of the train's passengers, a powerful politician who forces the train's crew to proceed into a dangerous tunnel.'
"And then, in a notorious passage, the narrator goes through all the other passenger cars on the train and tells us why each casualty-to-be deserves the fate that is coming to him or her. One of them, she points out, received government loans; another doesn't like businessmen; a third is married to a federal regulator; a fourth foolishly thinks she has a right to ride on a train even when she doesn't own the train in question. For each one of these subhumans, the sentence is death.'
"For a reader like me, Ayn Rand's almost total contempt for humanity is her most repugnant point. For the master spirits of our contemporary Right, though, I sometimes suspect that's the stuff that rings truest." Identification with the billionaire as a superior man, and deserved comeuppance for the humiliation and death of everyone else. "The game is finally up for the whiners of the world, they exult. . ."
This is the script of the Tea Party, of the Republican Party as it stands. It worships the God of the Market, a false idol, a laissez-faire utopia. "What they pine for is a system that can never exist, that has never existed, and that will never exist. And with every inch they bring us toward that ugly utopia, our society's deterioration accelerates."
"Inflexible dogmatism is, after sociopathic shrillness and fast trains, one of the great selling points of Atlas Shrugged. . .But the lastest Right doesn't so much simplify reality as idealize it. They're in a place where beliefs don't really have consequences, where premises are not to be checked, only repeated in a louder voice."