William F. Buckley on Ayn Rand. During his lifetime Buckley functioned as a gatekeeper for the conservative movement. Get on the wrong side of Buckley and a group on the right could quickly find itself relegated to the fringes of American life. So it was with Ayn Rand and her Objectivists, a movement whose main tenet seems to have been to say “Yes Ma’am!” to anything that came from her mouth or pen. Rand made her reputation and fortune by writing two novels: The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). The poorly written novels, with stick figure characters, were immense financial successes, combining Rand’s anti-collectivist libertarianism with heaping helpings of, for the time, explicit sex, her heroines, always Rand think-a-likes, having multiple lovers. Between the sex Rand specialized in long, bloviating, didactic speeches:
“Did you want to see it used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay their bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude—so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted? Would you feel proud of it?”
Atlas Shrugged, page 453
Buckley assigned Whittaker Chambers to review Atlas Shrugged. His review, entitled Big Sister is Watching You, appeared in the December 28, 1957 issue of National Review.
Several years ago, Miss Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead. Despite a generally poor press, it is said to have sold some four hundred thousand copies. Thus, it became a wonder of the book trade of a kind that publishers dream about after taxes. So Atlas Shrugged had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies. It appears to be slowly climbing the best-seller lists. Continue reading
John Derbyshire set off a firestorm this past weekend when he put up this article called The Talk: Nonblack Version. This was a response, of sorts, to a column published in the Orlando Sentinel in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Derbyshire’s column was swiftly condemned by commentators on all sides of the political spectrum. By Saturday night National Review had severed its ties to Derbyshire even though his column had appeared on another site.
What did Derbyshire do this time to draw such harsh condemnation? Derbyshire’s column utilized the conceit of giving his child a talk about race relations and what to do when confronting unknown black people. Though commenters objected to nearly all of what Derbyshire wrote, this was the most damning section: Continue reading
I wanted to followup on Don’s post from yesterday about National Review urging Gingrich to exit the race. As I said in the comments, I owe NRO a slight mea culpa. I thought that by including Santorum (and Huntsman) with Romney as the candidates they thought worthy of the nomination they were merely blowing smoke. Yet they have given Santorum fairly favorable coverage, so much so that angry Romney fanboys like Old Fan think that NR is in the tank for Santorum. I still think the hatchet piece on Gingrich was out of line, so I’m not totally ready to forgive them for that.
As for the actual meat of their suggestion, there is much merit to it. There have been nine primaries and caucuses thus far. Gingrich was the landslide winner in South Carolina, but has otherwise done terribly. He’s finished a distant second twice, and has barely hovered around ten percent in the other contests. Right now one poll has Gingrich in fourth place behind Ron Paul, and other polls show a clear trend towards Rick Santorum as the favorite among the anti-Romneys. Now, polls have shifted mightily throughout the campaign season, so Gingrich shouldn’t head for the exits quite yet. But poor showings in Arizona and Michigan should just about do it for Newt. Considering the fact that the bulk of his supporters will likely flock to Santorum (where as Santorum supporters are evenly split between Romney and Newt as their backup choices), and that Newt is much more favorably disposed to Santorum than Romney, I would imagine that Newt will not stay in the race if he has another pair of fourth place finishes.
That being said, if National Review wants Gingrich out of the race the last thing it should have done is publish an editorial making this feeling public. Republican primary voters in general, and Gingrich supporters in particular have, to a large extent, been driven by spite. It’s practically impossible to read a screed written by a Gingrich supporter that doesn’t mention the “Establishment” once or a dozen times. Throw in the fact that National Review is already reviled with a special kind of intensity in camp Gingrich – and with good reason – and I can envision Gingrich supporters doubling down. Newt himself has shown that he is prone to fits of spite, so National Review may have just guaranteed that Newt will stay in the race longer than intended. In fact I’d submit that if National Review wanted Newt out of the race the best thing it could do is endorse the man.
The Militant Secular Left Shows Their Cards, Proving That The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholicism
The militant secular left thinks they have won a victory with President Barack Obama’s “Accommodation” with regard to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate ordering religious based institutions to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and the morning after abortion pill. Some of the left couldn’t contain their glee, one guest on MSNBC described President Obama’s move as “brilliant.” In their distorted thinking they surmise that since not all Catholics adhere to the Church’s teachings, especially on birth control, they can cause a split in the Church.
First of all, the militant secular left continually cites the Guttmacher Institute’s polling, which is about as accurate as the daily pronouncements of Syria’s Bashar Assad. Secondly, it is one thing for Catholics to go against the Church’s teachings, it is quite another to say they are proud of it and want more Big Government telling them what they and the Catholic Church to do. The sheer nuttiness of this was illustarted in a discussion which occurred on Sean Hannity’s the Great American Panel seen on Fox News last week. One of the participants Jehmu Greene told fellow panelist Andrea Tantaros that without birth control she wouldn’t be here. When the incredulous Tantaros wondered how that could logical be, Greene went on a tirade that demeaned women who have children and or decide to work at home.
For years the militant secular left has treated pregnancy as a disease and families as inconvenient truths interfering with their own narcissistic ends. Powerhouse television shows like Sex and City helped to illustrate this point. Katharine Jean Lopez of the National Review wrote some time ago how disgusted she felt seeing men demeaned as objects in the Sex and City movie, the very treatment feminists have railed about for years.
However with the narcissistic Sex and City lifestyle comes another reality playing out in the streets of Athens, Greece and soon to come to a city or country near you in the western world. The declining birth rate means the youngest among us will have to eventually have to pay for a culture that aborted or contracepted itself into oblivion. The generous benefits demanded by those cultures, especially from the militant secular left can only last so long. As the old saying goes; “The problem with Socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The ancient Greek world gods who hailed narcissism and hedonism and whose lifestyle was proselytized by the Epicureans seem as irrelevant as ever as the pall of smoke hangs over the Acropolis, a fitting metaphor for what the militant secular left has wrought. Continue reading
Michael Potemera muses on the survival of two very different cultural institutions – Playboy and National Review:
I just caught the last couple of minutes of a cable-TV documentary about Playboy magazine, which featured a clip of Hugh Hefner opining about the huge cultural impact the magazine has had in its 50-plus years of existence. And it struck me as an illustration that, even in the realm of culture and ideas, it’s the supply side that makes the greatest difference. Two young men in the mid-1950s had vastly different ideas of what the American audience really wanted and needed, and ventured forth to create magazines that reflected these views. Hugh Hefner, convinced that America was too sexually conservative and really needed to let its hair down, founded Playboy in 1953. Bill Buckley, convinced that America was too politically liberal and needed to restore its older, small-r republican virtues that had been eroded in the Progressive and New Deal eras, founded National Review in 1955.
Now, think about how these ventures must have appeared at the time. Playboy was an outrage to conventional pieties about sexuality. National Review was an outrage to conventional pieties about politics. How much money would you have bet, at the time, that either one would survive for very long? “A dirty magazine? Won’t people be embarrassed to buy it?” “A magazine that’s to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon? Are there that many real fringies out there?” But the supply side takes a chance. And, quite amazingly, both ventures succeeded beyond imagining. Playboy bore fruit in the Sexual Revolution, which may already have reached its high point but shows little sign of receding. And from National Review emerged Reaganism, and conservatism as the broadly dominant system of political thought in recent years.
An extraordinarily prescient person, writing in the mid-1950s, might have predicted one of these triumphs. But anyone who predicted that both of the magazines, simultaneously, would have a massive, culturally transformative impact on our country, would have been dismissed as, at best, an extremely confused thinker.
But the truth is, we are a confusing country. We contain, in Walt Whitman’s sense, multitudes. Even as we prize national unity, we resist homogeneity; even as we embrace populist fads, we remain suspicious of conformism. It makes me wonder: Which two implausible — and apparently mutually contradictory — cultural ventures of our time will end up shaping the American life of the next half century?
Certainly fodder for further thought. There is a superficial explanation to this seeming contradiction. In a country that at the time both publications were launched numbered 200 million citizens, and where now north of 300 million live, it’s not unreasonable for disparate publications to attract very large audiences. If you draw, say, 100,000 subscribers (and I have no idea if this is anywhere close to how many people subscribe to either publication, now or ever), that’s barely more than .o1% of the population. So it’s easy to see why the same country can pack arena-sized mega Churches on Sunday while also making pornographic sites the biggest profit makers on the Internet. To put it simply, there are a lot of people, and they’re going to like very different things.
But of course that really is Potomera’s main point. We are a culture deeply divided, and that division seems to be getting more intense. While the pron industry is doing quite well, conservative (traditional, Orthodox, whatever adjective you prefer) religious institutions are also faring quite well. Gay marriage is gaining some traction while at the same time larger and larger families are filling the pews every Sunday. Admittedly, there is some overlap as some of the commenters observe (not to mention that William F. Buckley wrote articles for Playboy at one time), but by and large we’re talking about – dare I say it? – two Americas.
In the comments section I wrote the following, and it’s hopefully worth repeating here. One of the things to consider is the standing of both magazines within the movements that they helped launch. Playboy is considered tame nowadays, what, with the explosion of raunchier magazines like Hustler, and even more so with the easy availability of hard core pornography on the Web.
As for National Review, while there has been an explosion of other conservative magazines, institutions, and other media, NR remains one of the most influential journals of conservative opinion. Sure some might think it has gone “soft” in its own right (including yours truly, at least on occasion), but it is still no doubt more influential within its own sphere than Playboy is nowadays.
What that says about our society, and where it is trending, is perhaps more troublesome.
National Public Radio’s ludicrous firing of Juan Williams and a subsequent mainstream media article on Catholic bloggers may seem to be two separate issues. Some may say what does the overwhelmingly conservative leaning Catholic blogosphere have in common with the liberal leaning Juan Williams? The answer is quite simple; both scare the mainstream media because Juan Williams and the majority of the Catholic blogosphere put forth interesting solutions to often discussed questions.
The modus operadi of some in the mainstream media is to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. Combine this with a Juan Williams quote which most of America agrees with and voila you have it; the ultimate straw man from which you can tear apart any minority who appears on Fox News or any Catholic blogger who faithfully defends the teachings of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.
In this Associated Press article on the Catholic blogosphere, the piece mentions Thomas Peters and Michael Voris (who is known for his videos not his blogging,) but focuses on harsh unnamed Catholic bloggers. The article quotes John Allen who calls elements of the Catholic blogosphere “Taliban Catholicism.” The highly respected Mr. Allen, who though working for the dissident leaning National Catholic Reporter, is often known for his many high ranking Church contacts and his fairness. He should have know better than to give the quote that he did. To take a few bloggers from the right (or even from the left) and call them the Catholic blogosphere is the type of journalism that would not pass muster for a high school paper, let alone the AP. This would be akin to taking the worst rated college or pro football team and telling the world this is the best of American football, or perhaps watching the Walla Walla Community theater production of Hamlet and saying this is Hamlet at its finest. John Allen should have realized where this article was going and chosen his words more carefully.
The AP article continues by naming a Church official who seems worried about the Catholic blogosphere. One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Semple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana. I worked for years in a diocesan office and I have yet to meet, even in my travels, a diocesan official who is well versed in the blogosphere. It seems to be a generational thing and most diocesan officials are not to be confused with the younger, more conservative seminarians or young priests being ordained.
While some in the mainstream media snicker at the Pope and Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church) they in reality have their own magisterium. In their secular magisterium anyone who believes in the Catholic Church’s authority is hopelessly outdated, because according to gatekeepers in the mainstream media, true thinkers are those in the dying liberal churches who don’t know what they believe. Sadly, GK Chesterton prophetically predicted this would happen. He said, “It’s not that atheists and agnostics believe in nothing, they believe in everything.” In modern parlance, “It’s all good.” How sad that some who proclaim to be “open minded” can’t see the obvious; liberal Christianity is dying on the vine.” Continue reading
A bit of good news midst the gloom: A federal judge temporarily blocked the Obama administration Monday from using federal dollars to fund expanded human embryonic stem cell research (FoxNews.com).