Monday, May 12, 2008

Stay classy

Randzapper doesn't always keep up on the latest Randian nuttiness, so we are a little behind the times in noticing this remarkable essay by longtime Randolator Harry Binswanger.

Disregarding the old adage that you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, Binswanger launches a salvo of personal attacks on the recently departed conservative pasha William F. Buckley. And when we say recently, we mean recently; Buckley passed away on February 27, 2008, and Binswanger posted his jeremiad on March 10. At least he waited till the body was cold.

The title gives you a pretty good idea of what you're in for: "William F. Buckley, Jr.: The Witch-Doctor is Dead."

Though personally, we think "Ding-Dong, the Witch-Doctor is Dead" would have had more of a, um, ring to it - so to speak.

In case his readers missed the implications of the title - always a possibility when addressing dimwitted Objectivist twits - Binswanger begins his essay with the words, "William F. Buckley, Jr. is finally dead."

Finally! You can just hear Binny breathe a heartfelt sigh of relief. Or it would be heartfelt, if he had a heart or was capable of feeling anything.

Having established his bold, take-no-prisoners stance in defaming a dead guy who can't fight back, the intrepid Binswanger expands on his thesis that Buckley's grave is not worth crying over.

Buckley was the man who initiated and sustained the movement to bring religion into the conservative movement. His first book was "God and Man at Yale," which I haven't read or looked at, but which is said to have criticized Yale education for being both leftist and anti-religious.

Now, ya gotta love this. Binny has not "read or looked at" Buckley's famous book - one of the most influential tomes in modern conservative history - but he just knows it's bad, 'cause somebody told him so. Objectivist intellectualism at its finest! Let's hear it for the independent reasoning mind!

(Has it ever occurred to you that the Randian movement is much like the crowd of disciples in Monty Python's Life of Brian? "You are all individuals," Brian tells them. "We are all individuals," the crowd chants in unison. Except for one guy, apparently untainted by Randism, who says defiantly, "I'm not!")

Anyway, back to Binny and his bete noir.

[Buckley] then founded the magazine National Review, which Ayn Rand in her Playboy interview of 1964 called "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America," because of its crusade to tie capitalism to religion.

Get it now? Binswanger knows Buckley was bad without reading his book - because Ayn Rand (peace be upon her) said so.

The guru has spoken. The oracle has prophesied. Case closed.

And she said so in Playboy, which apparently was not "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America," despite its reprehensible overuse of airbrushing.

Inevitably, Binswanger next brings up that continuing thorn in Objectivism's paw, National Review's devastating and brilliant critique of Atlas Shrugged.

The Whittaker Chambers piece on Atlas Shrugged was probably the most hostile and distorted review of that great work ever.

Actually Chambers' essay was amazingly prescient and brimming with insights into the twisted Randian mindset. Read it for yourself. Or, if you're an Objectivist, just take Binswanger's word that it's not worth reading. After all, he's already told you what to think.

In the intervening years, National Review has written at least two major attacks on Ayn Rand. I recall one titled, I think, "Saint Ayn," and it featured on its cover a drawing of Ayn Rand, as if on a stained glass window, looking heavenward.

Heaven forfend! A magazine about public policy and conservative ideas that actually addressed Ayn Rand as a controversial and significant figure! Didn't Buckley know that, having received the Randian revelation, we were all expected to fall to our knees, blinded by the light, like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus? How dare they presume to criticize - criticize! - the Greatest Genius of the Past Two Thousand Years (TM)?

Notice that Binswanger barely even remembers the cover story on Rand and has to guess at its title. Since he mentions nothing of the content of the piece, it is safe to assume he didn't read it, just as he didn't read Buckley's book. Apparently he did glance at the cover, though. That's what passes for serious intellectual engagement in Objectiworld.

After taking Buckley to task for a couple of policy disagreements, Binswanger retails this unsubstantiated anecdote:

Incidentally, Ayn Rand told me that in the years following her public condemnations of Buckley, he sent her more than one letter "crawling on his knees" (her words) trying to get her approval and/or a rapproachment. Needless to say, he failed in this attempt.

Why do we have trouble believing this claim? Is it because the supremely confident and ever-poised Buckley does not strike us as the type who would crawl on his knees? Is it because Buckley had no conceivable reason to care if Ayn Rand liked him or not, inasmuch as Buckley was an influential leader of conservative thought and Rand was (and is) a sad joke ignored by everyone but dateless college freshmen? Is it because Rand lied so often about other incidents in her life, such as her affair with Nathaniel Branden and her early years in America, that her autobiographical ramblings have not the slightest whiff of credibility? Is it because Rand was obviously a megalomanical, narcissistic, delusional nut whose addled brain chronically conflated fantasy and reality?

After careful consideration and much prayerful reflection, we think the answer is: all of the above.

Not having excoriated the dead man quite enough, Binny lays it on with a trowel in his poisonous concluding graph:

Buckley, more than anyone else, is responsible for subverting the "conservative movement," turning it into its current, depraved status as the anti-reason, anti-man, welfare-statist "religious right." The world is well rid of him.

Nice, Harry. Really ... nice. You and the dead witch you worship were just made for each other.

Now, because what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the goosestepper, let Randzapper emulate your style with this parting thought:

Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, is responsible for polluting the minds of hapless young fools and creating a sick cult of personality that has ruined lives for decades. The world is well rid of this cheap Russian import. Indeed, the world would have been infinitely better off if Alicia Rosenbaum had strangled on her umbilical cord in her mother's feculent womb.

In an uncertain world, at least you can count on Randzapper to stay classy. Always.