Thursday, April 09, 2015

10 Years After: 2012 -- What did Paul Ryan know about Ayn Rand and when did he know it?

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Presidential Election year of 2012.

In 2012, Paul Ryan's old ideological girlfriend kept showing up, pregnant and loud, at the worst times.

Who Is John Galt?

File Under: "What did Paul Ryan know about Ayn Rand and when did he know it?"

If you are unfamiliar with the name "John Galt", one wag once described him as:

"...a two-dimensional, stamped-out-of-chipboard Ayn Randite protagonist whose Pimpernellian exploits on behalf of poor, oppressed capitalists are shot through a vast, steaming heap of bad science fiction called "Atlas Shrugged" like veins of undigested corn."
Which is, of course, unimpeachably true.

"John Galt"  is also the pivot on which Ayn Rand's infamous, behemoth novel turns, every bit as much as "What is the 'Matrix'?" drives the plot of "The Matrix" and the search for the meaning of "Catch-22" propels the book and movie of the same name.

During the novel's first 2 million pages or so, John Galt remains largely a phantom, slipping in and out of society and spiriting away it's hero capitalists, leaving behind hordes of increasingly desperate moochers and "mystics" to cry into their rapidly-souring collectivist milk. We learn somewhere along the way that John Galt was once an engineer at an automobile plant the "20th Century Motor Company"* (which I previously and mistakenly elided in my head into the "20th Century Motors Company") who (entirely on his own with no help from anyone else, thank you very much!) discovered a hitherto-unknown domain of physics, worked out all the details (again, entirely on his own) and then (after apparently mining, forging, refining, milling, stamping and tooling all the materials necessary entirely on his own) constructed a prototype engine from scratch which generated electricity literally out of thin air, thus creating -- single-handedly -- the world's first clean, portable and limitless supply of electrical power.

So far so good, right?

But then (because this is "a vast, steaming heap of bad science fiction" and not the real world) rather than ending up a celebrated multi-billionaire on the cover of every business magazine in Christendom, John Galt is instantly beset by a gang of two-dimensional, mustache-twirling villains (union thugs and "collectivists", naturally) who attempt to steal his awesome invention and treat him so rudely that instead of hanging around one minute longer (to, say, single-handedly invent a cheap box fan capable of generating the tiny breeze necessary to blow these strawmen back into the little piles of hay from whence they came), he immediately gives up on humanity generally and storms away, taking his unique knowledge of his miraculous engine with him (so complex and tricksie is it that it cannot not be understood or reverse-engineered by anyone else on Earth) and promises to "Stop the motor of the world".

(Which, when you run it through the Adolescent Boy Tantrum Translator, comes out as "I am an unappreciated genius in a world full of loser assholes who shit all over me.  Fuck you, world!", thus explaining why "Atlas Shrugged" is very popular with smart, angry adolescent boys.)

As the novel slouches ever more slouchily onward (towards Bethlehem Steel to be born, one presumes), the phrase "Who is John Galt?" (the verbal shrug of exasperated hopelessness spoken talismanically every time some poor producer gets tangled up by the incomprehensibly evil traps and snares of Big Gummint, Unions or Religion) becomes so ubiquitous that by the time one has threaded through vast armies of straw men and traversed thousands of mile of leaden prose it becomes so blindingly obvious that Answering! This! Question! is the whole point of the novel that even a skeevy collectivist parasite like me figured it out all by myself without having to ask my Communist Party handlers to explain it to me even once! 

And in the most sustained slab of screechy, pedantic, Manichean writing in the entire book, Ms. Rand helpfully answers that question.  And whether you're an acolyte who gets that dreamy, fuck-the-poor, Objectivist glint in your eye every time you think of "The Speech", or you are a normal human being who recalls it dimly as "that interminable, godawful, blunt-force-trauma screed that seemed to go on and on and hellishly on forever" it is the one part of the novel that everyone remembers.


(Hell, it's the primary reason why, about 10 seconds after Barack Obama took the Oath of Office, the Right whipped itself into another of their trademarked fake-apoplectic frenzies, threatening this time to "Go Galt!" by walking away and leaving their batshit blogs untenanted. Or something. According to legend this "strike" by America's leading Conservative  "producers" ended once someone explained to the likes of wingnut welfare queens such as Rich Lowry and Michelle Malkin that copying and pasting RNC talking points was not actually the same as inventing the Bessemer process or building an aircraft out of bicycle parts, sailcloth and resin.)

However, for the fusspot who lives to look things up, the specific citation is Chapter VII of Part III, entitled "This is John Galt Speaking".

The speech begins as follows --

"For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing-you who dread knowledge-I am the man who will now tell you."
-- runs on for 64 more pages, and it is why, in addition to being a two-dimensional, stamped-out-of-chipboard Ayn Randite protagonist and the pivot on which "Atlas Shrugged" turns, John Galt is also the big, shiny, public petard* tenterhook from which Paul Ryan now finds his career dangling;  the smoking-gun proof that Paul Ryan is, beyond any doubt, a first order pathological liar whose sudden, magnetic-poles-reversing-themselves denials about Ayn Rand are so...tectonic...that he genuinely "out-Herods Herod".

Or at least out-Romneys Romney.

Here is the video where Ryan publicly cuts his own throat by violating the first rule of effective lying:  keeping your damned story simple-simple-simple.

Here is a partial transcript for those who have better things to do than watch  doddering old whore Brit Hume obediently deliver his softballs by slow freight (emphasis added):

Brit Hume, FOX News: What is your view of Ayn Rand? Are you an Ayn Rand disciple?

Rep. Paul Ryan: No. I really enjoyed her novels, Atlas Shrugged in particular. It triggered my interest in economics. That's where I got into studying economics. That's why I wanted to study the whole field of economics.

I later in life learned about what her philosophy was, it's called Objectivism. It's something that I completely disagree with. It's an atheistic philosophy. But I think what she's done is she's showed -- she came from communism. She showed how the pitfalls of socialism can hurt the economy, can hurt people, families and individuals and that to me was very compelling novels. Which says freedom, free enterprise, liberty is so much better than totalitarianism and socialism. Those novels, I thought were interesting. But her philosophy, which is different, is something I just don't agree with.
And right there -- right at the point where Paul Ryan states categorically that "Atlas Shrugged" (which Paul Ryan "really enjoyed" so much that he made his staff read it and handed copies of it out as Christmas presents)  is "different" than Ayn Rand's philosophy "called Objectivism" (with which Paul Ryan "completely disagree[s]") -- is where Mr. Ryan knowingly tells what may  be the biggest and most consequential lie any Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate has told in recent memory.

It's not just that "Atlas Shrugged" was written by Objectivism's inventor and chief spokesperson.  Oh my no.  It's that the novel's philosophical apogee and most memorable element -- that deadly, long-ass "This is John Galt Speaking" slab of awful that swallows up 64 pages of its  pages -- was consciously designed by Ayn Rand to be a comprehensive introduction to her Objectivist philosophy -- a philosophy which excoriates those who claim to act out of a religious faith that teaches charity and mercy as mere dictators and degenerate "mystics" whose only "craving is to kill" and whose "only satisfaction is to torture": 
“Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator. A mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement. He wants them to surrender their consciousness to his assertions, his edicts, his wishes, his whims-as his consciousness is surrendered to theirs. He wants to deal with men by means of faith and force-he finds no satisfaction in their consent if he must earn it by means of facts and reason. Reason is the enemy he dreads and, simultaneously, considers precarious: reason, to him, is a means of deception, he feels that men possess some power more potent than reason-and only their causeless belief or their forced obedience can give him a sense of security, a proof that he has gained control of the mystic endowment he lacked. His lust is to command, not to convince: conviction requires an act of independence and press on the absolute of an objective reality. What he seeks is power over reality and over men’s means of perceiving it, their mind, the power to interpose his will between existence and consciousness, as if, by agreeing to fake the reality he orders them to fake, men would, in fact, create it. 
“Just as the mystic is a parasite in matter, who expropriates the wealth created by others-just as he is a parasite in spirit, who plunders the ideas created by others-so he falls below the level of a lunatic who creates his own distortion of reality, to the level of a parasite of lunacy who seeks a distortion created by others. 
“There is only one state that fulfills the mystic’s longing for infinity, non-causality, non-identity: death. No matter what unintelligible causes he ascribes to his incommunicable feelings, whoever rejects reality rejects existence-and the feelings that move him from then on are hatred for all the values of man’s life, and lust for all the evils that destroy it. A mystic relishes the spectacle of suffering, of poverty, subservience and terror; these give him a feeling of triumph, a proof of the defeat of rational reality. But no other reality exists. 
“No matter whose welfare he professes to serve, be it the welfare of God or of that disembodied gargoyle he describes as ‘The People,’ no matter what ideal he proclaims in terms of some supernatural dimension-in fact, in reality, on earth, his ideal is death, his craving is to kill, his only satisfaction is to torture. 
“Destruction is the only end that the mystics’ creed has ever achieved...
Question:  How do you know this?

Answer:  Because Ayn Rand fucking well said so!   

Question: But why should we take your word for it, driftglass?  After all, isn't this just the sort of thing that a skeevy Liberal collectivist parasite such as yourself would lie about?

Answer: Well, duh!  Fortunately you don't have to take my word for it.  In fact, any idiot with a browser and access to the internet (I'm looking at you, David Gregory) can look these exciting facts up for themselves because the good people at "The Atlas Society" -- the organization to which Paul Ryan delivered the following speech in 2005 during which he explicitly states that he "goes [back to] the 64-page John Galt speech" whenever he needs to check his ideological bearings (at around the 3:30 mark) -- 

-- has an entire page devoted to painstakingly tongue-bathing John Galt's speech and explaining its Pure Objectivist Awesomeness in excruciating detail (emphasis added):
In Atlas Shrugged, the hero, John Galt, makes a radio speech to the nation revealing the strike of the producers and explaining its rationale. The speech resolves the philosophical mystery of the plot: Why are the most productive people leaving their work and disappearing from society? As such, it provides a comprehensive introduction to Ayn Rand's philosophy, though one that is tailored to the events and characters of the novel. In later works, Rand presented specific elements of her philosophy in nonfiction terms.

Ayn Rand regarded Galt's speech as the shortest summary of her philosophy, which she called Objectivism. "I knew it was going to be the hardest chapter in the book," she told an interviewer in 1961. "I underestimated. I thought, with a feeling of dread, that it would take at least three months. Well, it took two years." Rand began outlining the speech on July 29, 1953; it was not completed until October 13, 1955. Her biggest challenge was not the speech's philosophical content but its literary requirements. In a novel, she could not present her ideas in the form of a dry, systematic treatise; she had to state them dramatically, in the form of a revolutionary leader's manifesto and challenge to a corrupt society.

"I started by making an outline of the issues to be covered," Rand explained. "I originally began the theoretical presentation with metaphysics, starting with existence exists, going from metaphysics to epistemology, then planning to go to morality. After writing quite a few pages, I had to stop because I knew it was absolutely wrong. That is the logical order in non-fiction, but you can't do it in fiction. The speech had to start by presenting the morality, which is the real theme of the book, and where Galt would have to begin his explanation to the world. So I had to rewrite the whole thing."

Though the speech is written as a single, continuous presentation, it can be divided into three sections. In the first, Galt presents the moral code of reason and individualism (The Morality of Life) that the producers embrace. In the second, he explains and attacks the opposite moral code of mysticism, sacrifice, and collectivism (The Morality of Death), showing how it has always been used to exploit the producers. In the third section, he explains the strategy of the strike -- the withdrawal of "the sanction of the victim" -- and urges his listeners to reexamine their moral assumptions. This section also presents the political ideals that follow from the moral code of rational individualism. 
Or to put in in terms any novitiate Randite would understand,  ("Atlas Shrugged" = Objectivism) as clearly and unambiguously as (A = A), and anyone who has ever read and "enjoyed" "Atlas Shrugged" and says otherwise is either a pathological liar or mentally ill.

So who is John Galt? 

Well, if we had any honest national political journalism left in this country, "John Galt" would be fiery wreck that ended Paul Ryan's public career, and the iceberg that finally sank Willard Romney's presidential dreams once and for all.


* UPDATE:  Thank you to both people who corrected me on my use of "petard", as well as the individual who corrected me regarding John Galt's place of employment.

Why yes, the author of this post would be delighted to take your money!

1 comment:

TipsyDave said...

The real John Galt was an interesting (and, for the time, progressive) Scottish political writer / historical figure of the early 19th century, whose legacy was spat upon by Rand.