Insulting Ayn Rand

Ayn RandI have major problems with Christopher Hitchens. One of the biggest is that he chose to use his incredible intellect for such trivial pursuits. But when he was right about something, I was on his side. And the fact is that he was right about quite a lot. Unfortunately, he used the last ten or so years of his life dedicated to his racist complaint about Islam. But in the following video he attacks Ayn Rand. He starts with a two word response that is all one really needs to say, “The novels.” But he goes on from there. It is fun, but not all that insightful. In particular, when Rand made sense, whatever she was saying was obvious. Her clever thinking (such as it was), she left for her most ridiculous ideas like her constant pronouncement that altruism doesn’t exist.

There is one part of this short clip that bothers me. Hitchen quotes something great from Lillian Hellman. I don’t know why it is, but conservative intellectuals seem to not be able to control themselves from insulting that poor lady even when they are complimenting her. I’m not suggesting that she was some wonderful person. But there is definitely something that gets under their skin. I think it speaks well for Ms. Hellman.

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Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Insulting Ayn Rand

  1. Well, Hitchens admired Orwell. Orwell, during WWII, broke with the ranks of English socialists/pacifists and argues that England should stand up to Hitler. Hitchens figured by switching sides after the crazies bombed New York, he was doing the same.

    Huge comparative problem, there. Hitler WAS a threat to overtake England. How much, we’ll never know, but it was a serious concern. The crazies have never been and will never be a threat to overtake America (well, besides the homegrown crazies we already have.) Orwell’s break with the Left of his day didn’t win him any points or influence with Churchill’s circle; Hitchens got seduced by access to power and loved every minute of it.

    Too bad he didn’t imitate Orwell’s writing style — "never use a long word when a shorter one will do" and "if it’s possible to cut out a foreign or jargon-sounding phrase, cut it out." Orwell observed, in "Politics And The English Language" (I’ve read him as many times as Hitchens did) that windy bloviating word choices generally cover up the writer’s attempting to obscure his meaning, even from himself. (Which is how "hostile takeovers" became "venture capital," and why we use the term "Orwellian" to describe this sort of linguistic fudging.)

    Hitchens had a keen mind and was a powerful debater. Chris Hedges, whose face always looks like you just shot his dog, twice, reduced Hitchens to screaming insults when they debated. Partly that’s because Hitchens was often too drunk. If you haven’t read this anecdote by Dave Zirin about Hitchens spitting on him, read it now:

    Part of it, though, was that Hedges, as humorless as he is, knows exactly what he’s saying and has no problem saying it quite directly. Hitchens could be like that when he attacked Henry Kissinger, or Mother Theresa’s connection to junk-bond traders, or Clinton’s betrayal of leftism. When Hitchens started channeling his inner need to be Orwell and supported the Bush administration — supported a president who killed people because God told him to, this support from an avowed atheist — his writing and public speaking went to mush.

    I rant to friends, and recently on this site, without starting off by knowing what I’m saying. The process of putting it into words helps me get a better feel for what I’m trying to convey, for what I genuinely think. It may be annoying to read (and I appreciate everyone who reads/responds to it) but it’s not intended to be wisdom. It’s a sorting out of conflicted ideas. I know they’re not coherent rants. That’s why I try them out, to get a sense of how others respond before I engage flesh-and-blood opponents I hopefully can slightly nudge towards my political side. (Sometimes, too, I just vent the stuff I would never say to opponents; it would be rude and insulting to say these things to them. Common courtesy is my sole virtue, and not a bad one at that.)

    Hitchens dug being rude and insulting. At the end, his writing was so convoluted, bending over backwards to justify itself, it resembled tirades from the Ministry Of Information. That’s not a lovely legacy to leave behind. The Hedges and Noam Chomskys of this world might be the stone most monotone pedants ever, but they say what they say and think what they think. In an odd way, considering that I like humor and goofy wordplay, I admire them for that.

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