Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Cult of Ayn Rand

Neither God nor Devil -- Daniel J. Flynn (City Journal) reviews two revealing biographies of the founder of "Objectivism": Anne C. Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made (Nan A. Talese, October 2009), and Jennifer Burns' Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Oxford UP, October 2009).:
The man most responsible for making the Objectivist movement adopt a cult of personality was Nathaniel Branden, so devoted to Objectivism that he incorporated Rand’s last name into his own. Libertarian moralizers, such as Branden, unconsciously adopted some of the uglier qualities of the extreme collectivists whom they railed against. While purporting to be the antitheses of Hitler and Stalin, Objectivists conducted star-chamber trials, demanded that followers denounce relatives, and imitated Rand’s aesthetic tastes (smoking, Mickey Spillaine: good; mustaches, Shakespeare: bad). “A slip of the tongue by an Objectivist who liked Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or secretly didn’t like the paintings of one of her favorite . . . contemporary artists, Spanish surrealist Jose Menuel Capuletti, could bring accusations of mysticism, whim worship, malevolence, or an attitude of ‘anti-life,’” Heller notes. In a similar vein, Burns points out: “When Ayn and [husband] Frank purchased a new piece of furniture, the Objectivist dining table became all the rage.”

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