Ayn Rand Crosses Over to Britain
On Tuesday, I went to a talk held by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) titled “Ayn Rand: More Relevant Now than Ever” in London’s luxurious Goldsmiths’ Hall, a grand old building near St Paul’s Cathedral. The crowd was mostly white, male, and wearing sharp suits, as you’d expect at an event devoted to Rand—the novelist-philosopher who came up with “the morality of rational self-interest,” a worldview that says you should pretty much do whatever benefits you and if that results in someone else getting screwed over, well, fuck them anyway. It was the second annual Ayn Rand lecture hosted by the Adam Smith Institute, a libertarian think tank. I was in a temple of the free market.
The speaker was the CEO of Saxo Bank, Lars Seier Christensen. As the head of an investment bank based in socialist Denmark, Christensen is particularly enraged by high taxation, social welfare, and banking regulations, which made him a perfect source of Randian rage. “The world is on the wrong track,” he told us. “A malady that has long beset Europe is currently spreading to the US.” Apparently we are experiencing a “socialist revival” to which “Ayn Rand is the only answer.”
If you’ve never had a college roommate who got way too into her, Rand was an amphetamine-addicted writer of trashy potboilers who, despite being laughed at by many conservatives of her day gradually became one of the most influential philosophers of the right. Her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged has been ranked the second most influential book after the Bible. The 1,000-page, dull-as-dishwater book describes a world crippled by a socialist government where a group of heroic tycoons and inventors abandon society, which promptly collapses without them. The plot is really besides the point though—mostly, Atlas Shrugged is a vehicle for Rand’s philosophy ofObjectivism, which advances “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life.” It also depicted rich people as superior beings and poor people as pathetic, hapless moochers. See why bank executives might be interested in something like that?
The Disabled Englishman Who’s Opened His Home to Teenage Drug Dealers
Recent cuts in government funding have made it increasingly hard for Britain’s disabled population to get by, with many of those with psychiatric or physical problems often struggling to escape the confines of their own homes. Often they have to rely on their friends and familes, who unfortunately might not be available to help.
One victim of the Conservatives’ plan to cut Britain’s debt is Barry, a 60-year-old from Watford who spent his early childhood in care and was diagnosed as manic depressive as a teenager. His vulnerable mental state eventually led to alcoholism and addiction, and—after the death of his child—residential psychiatric care. Finally, he wound up in prison. For the past ten years, Barry has been suffering from a degenerative muscle condition that has left him mostly housebound, and his condition has only worsened since the cuts have set it.
Barry’s existence is far from solitary, however—almost every night of the week he’s joined by a bunch of local teenage boys. Since the 1990s, his apartment has become a venue for their gatherings, each generation passing through before leaving it for the next. In the 90s, Barry allowed the kids to hang out because he enjoyed their company, providing for them a place where they could hang out and get high away from their parents’ homes; later, in the 2000s, as Barry’s personal and financial situation worsened, he started to allow them to store and deal drugs out of his apartment. He hoped that they would contribute to some of his bills with the money they made.
The Canadian Government Is Withholding Documents Concerning the Torture of Children
In the early 1990s an affiliation of Cochrane, Kapuskasing, and James Bay’s OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) detectives were assigned to investigate one of the largest claims of sexual and physical abuse against children in Canadian history. The testimony they amassed by talking to hundreds of survivors of St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany Ontario was horrifying. The investigation provided 7,000 pages of stories that wouldn’t be out of place in memoirs of concentration camp survivors, or of individuals trapped in a country where ethnic cleansing is a government policy.
The accounts of physical and sexual abuse are brutal and numerous—hetero and homosexual child rape, children being beaten with strops and rudimentary whips, forced ingestion of noxious substances (rotten porridge that children would throw up and then be forced to eat), sexual fondling, forced masturbation… the list goes on and on. But one of the most appalling and debasing examples of the indignity and the abuse suffered by children at St. Anne’s is that of being strapped down and tortured in a homemade electric chair—sometimes as a form of punishment—but other times just as a form of amusement for the missionaries, who, while committing these acts, were supposedly the ones “civilizing” the “Indians.”
What Do Hate Groups Think of Anne Hathaway?
Have you ever met anyone who likes Anne Hathaway? No? Me either.
Even if someone doesn’t know who she is, you can just show them a picture of her smarmy, drama school face or that clip of her saying “blerg” in an effort to appear human, and they’ll be an instant lifelong “Hathahater.”
Last week, I called around hate groups to see how they felt about Jennifer Lawrence, and it turned out they, like everyone else on earth, all liked her (kinda). So I decided to call up a few more hate groups and see what their feelings were on Anne.
COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS
Who are they?
A white supremacist group that, amongst other things, are against racial integration, the gays, and interracial marriage.
What do they think of Anne Hathaway?
Could I just ask, really quickly, if your group has an opinion on Anne Hathaway? Do you hate her as much as the rest of the world?
Who’s Anne Hathaway?
Catwoman in the new Batman movie? She just won the Oscar for Les Mis? Princess Diaries?
I don’t know who that is.
You didn’t see The Devil Wears Prada?
No. Why are you asking me this?
Because I really hate her. And I was just hoping to find some kind of group I can join that feels the same way.
Well, why do you hate her?
I don’t know! It’s weird. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it has something to do with her face.
Is she white?
Yeah, she’s white.
I don’t know. We don’t have an opinion on everything in the world. I don’t look at many movies. But I guess my daughters or my son or my wife might have seen her in something.
Are they there? Maybe you could ask them what they think of Anne?
[to his daughter] Renee, do you know what the Princess Diaries are? [to me] Yeah, she’s heard of it.
Ask her what she thinks of Anne Hathaway.
She just went to the other room…
Well what kinda stuff is your group into?
We’re the voice of a no-longer-silent majority. We’re paleoconservatives and populist conservatives.
I don’t really know what anything you just said means.
We’re like Andrew Jackson.
Was he Michael Jackson’s dad?
No, no. He was the president.
What do you guys think of Michael Jackson? It must be a hard one for you guys, right? Because he used to be black but then he was white.
Oh, I don’t know… I don’t really have an opinion on him.
What Are Republicans For?
Not that long ago—it was last year, though it feels like a lifetime ago—I wrote a column that could have made my reputation, and almost began to, but instead it made me sick. It was called “What Are Women For?”, and though it might have seemed like something a pundit had spent a night at a desk assembling out of notes and bookmarks and tabs, I actually wrote it in about 30 minutes at a coffee shop. I was more or less unemployed, I was wondering how long I could last in that state, and I had a deadline I wanted to hit.
When the column was published, I received an avalanche of criticism from outraged, irritated women and liberals, and the conservative establishment didn’t offer a peep in my defense. Rather than embracing my role as the bro version of Ann Coulter and try for a maybe-lucrative career as a conservative pundit, as the angry little controversy gave me a chance to do, I wanted to go back in time and arrange that the whole thing never happened.
On the one hand, politics, like gossip, is the art of talking about strangers. You goad people you don’t know into having a reaction, and, as a rule, the intensity of that reaction translates into success. On the other hand, as I suddenly realized, there’s very little joy in spontaneously inspiring real people you’ve never met to despise you, as if a piece of writing you produced was not just something with your name on it, but was actually you.
And sure enough, as I came to realize more slowly, when you publish things online and live most of your professional life on social media, what you write really is the closest approximation of you that almost anyone on earth can access.
In this episode of Foreign Correspondents, Hong Kong State Radio reporter Ben Leung heads to the Conservative Political Action Conference convention in Denver to see what’s what. China has a one-party system, so he’s always been bewildered by the pageantry of our elections. Watch as he attempts to wrap his head around one of America’s silliest, and most important, traditions.