On the Media's Take on Ayn Rand (featuring Reason's Nick Gillespie)

NPR's On the Media did a long segment over the weekend about Ayn Rand's continuing popularity and influence. Among the folks they interviewed was reason's Nick Gillespie. Snippets here:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's Gary Cooper playing Howard Roark, the tall, angular architect of tall, angular buildings in The Fountainhead. That book has sold something like six million copies since it was published in 1943. Ron Paul should be so lucky.

Rand died in 1982 - but Rand lives!

NICK GILLESPIE: Let's put it this way: Ayn Rand's work, I think, is popular for the same reason Prometheus has always been popular with humans. It's about somebody who dares to struggle against great odds and, you know, steals fire.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Nick Gillespie is the editor of Reason.com and Reason TV and former editor of Reason Magazine, a Libertarian journal whose name is a nod to Rand's favorite wordreason, above all - reason above conventional pieties, reason above religion, above especially collectivist societies and command economies, the horrors of which she witnessed as a child in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution - reason that finds its purest expression in capitalism.

NICK GILLESPIE: Virtually every CEO of every major company will list Ayn Rand as a major influence. A bevy of Hollywood stars, ranging from Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie to Vince Vaughn - a director like Oliver Stone, who is fond of Castro, says that Ayn Rand is one of the most important figures in his intellectual life. Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Hugh Hefner - I mean, the reach of this author is pretty astonishing....

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I don't think that influence derives from her persuasive argument against command economies.

NICK GILLESPIE: She gives egoists a positive case for why the world should revolve around them and around their efforts. If you are the person who is creating value, if you are the star, the sun really does revolve around you. And not only should it be that way, but that's the moral order of the universe....

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Nick Gillespie, of Reason, says he was never wowed by Rand's novels but that the attacks on them are often swipes by people who would rather not seriously engage her ideas.

NICK GILLESPIE: How many characters from Saul Bellow novels, how many characters from Don DeLillo novels, inarguably great writers, how many of them have penetrated the American cultural consciousness in the way that a Howard Roark or a John Gault [sic] has, to a degree where these are shorthands for an entire system of ideas?

I think that that speaks pretty highly of her power as a writer. She is a great author because she has a phenomenal audience, including a lot of people who go through a worshipful phase with her. And, you know, here we could be talking about Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, as well as any number of pimply-faced adolescents who decide to grow beyond her.

Whole transcript here.

The piece, which runs about 15 minutes, is rich with bits of audio. Listen to it:

reason on Rand here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Wait... Who is John Gault?

  • Fluffy||

    Gault?

  • ||

    how many of them have penetrated the American cultural consciousness in the way that a Howard Roark or a John Gault has,

    but not enough to make sure his name is spelled right!

  • ||

    Now that's impressive.

  • ||

    come visit us : www.revolutionbroadcasting.com

    Radio home of www.Revolutionmarch.com

    Featuring the march on DC July 12th with Dr Paul

    Live radio and true news without the MSM spin.

    LIVE CHAT ROOM to interact with other fellow marchers and Ron Paul supporters.

  • Episiarch||

    She gives egoists a positive case for why the world should revolve around them and around their efforts.

    I'm glad Nick touched on this, as I think this is the real reason so many famous, and often otherwise leftist people, say they like Rand. Which means that touting how many people read her is sort of like saying that tons of people watch Sharapova play tennis and forgetting to mention that a lot are just watching her ass and aren't that interested in the technique.

    If people who say they love Rand don't take any of the economic and freedom issues to heart, who gives a shit whether they like her or not?

  • Ashley||

    why the world should revolve around them and around their efforts

    This is an extremely poor reading of her work. Also Galt is misspelled.

  • .||

    losers

  • ||

    Sheesh. Take this down before you embarrass yourselves further.

  • Pimply-Faced Adolescent||

    It's not a "phase"!

  • ||

    "This is an extremely poor reading of her work."

    Perhaps, perhaps not. It is, however, a fairly dead-on reading of her appeal.

  • ||

    Who is Willie Gault?

  • MK2||

    My favorite Rand quote:

    "The first intended victim of the new isolationism will probably be Israel-if the 'antiwar' efforts of the new isolationists succeed. (Israel and Taiwan are the two countries that need and deserve U.S. help-not in the name of international altruism, but by reason of actual U.S. national interests in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.)"

  • ||

    Rand's criticisms of command economies surely wouldn't attract any interest. We all know that a command economy is the most moral system. However, for some incredibly naive teenagers the self-centered, egotistical rantings can be attractive.

  • Colin||

    How about discussing the cult of personality that has formed around her?

    Objectivists = Scientologists who are allowed Prozac.

  • ||

    I'm reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy for the first time ever and just got to the part with the Objectives terrorists, so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

  • ||

    I have a lot of affection for Rand and her ideas. I admit to going through a "worshipful phase" as well, in my mid-twenties. I don't think I've rejected any of her big ideas really; I've just been turned off by the bizarre personality cult that developed around her, and how she tried to convert her own personal tics and traits into profound intellectual theories (like her position on smoking, for example).

    I really think she would have been bigger if she had possessed a sense of humor. It is so strange to me that she believed so fervently in the individual and in human life, and yet was such a sourpuss.

    Still, I admire her to death. It's the gaggle of mediocrities flitting around her corpse cheerleading her every saying that make me want to hurl.

  • ||

    "Qui est Jean Gaul?"

  • anon||

    I don't think I've rejected any of her big ideas really; I've just been turned off by the bizarre personality cult that developed around her

    Kind of describes how I feel about Ron Paul, actually.

  • Travis||

    Talking about Ayn Rand on National Public Radio makes about as much sense as putting her face on a United States Postal Service Stamp. Two organizations she would have fought to close down.

  • Travis||

    "The first intended victim of the new isolationism will probably be Israel-if the 'antiwar' efforts of the new isolationists succeed. (Israel and Taiwan are the two countries that need and deserve U.S. help-not in the name of international altruism, but by reason of actual U.S. national interests in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.)"

    This is one of the many reasons I can't stand this bitch she's such a fucking hypocrite so much for the nonaggression principle.

  • Mad Max||

    An LP member once told me that there are two types of libertarians - those who outgrow their initial fixation on Rand, and those who don't.

  • Guy Montag||

    Which means that touting how many people read her is sort of like saying that tons of people watch Sharapova play tennis and forgetting to mention that a lot are just watching her ass and aren't that interested in the technique.

    What kinda freak watched her for 'technique'?

  • nombre élevé||

    Stevo!

  • Travis||

    "An LP member once told me that there are two types of libertarians - those who outgrow their initial fixation on Rand, and those who don't."

    I guess I better join another party then, because I've never been fixated on her & never understood why anyone else was.

  • Travis||

    "What kinda freak watched her for 'technique'?"

    She had a great back swing.

  • ||

    how she tried to convert her own personal tics and traits into profound intellectual theories (like her position on smoking, for example).

    Another Murray Rothbard fabrication.

    A no-name character in Atlas makes one remark in a 1200-page book WRT smoking, and Rothbard turned it up to 11 in "Mozart was a Red".

    Tim, not to beat on you too badly, but there's no evidence that Rand turned smoking into a requirement to be a rational being.

  • e||

    I have an opinion on this article but none of you are worthy of the genius of the labors of my superior intellect, therefore I am deleting it rather than letting a bunch of parasites degrade it with their spiteful comments!

  • ||

    Pro Libertate | May 12, 2008, 6:03pm | #
    Who is Willie Gault?
    -------------------
    I believe he was a wide receiver on the Raiders, if memory serves me correctly he was opposite Tim Brown on the first Tecmo Bowl game. His most memorable play in that groundbreaking video game was jogging down the field while Bo Jackson takes it to the house every time unless you pick up and A on defense. Even if you pick the play he would break a long one sometimes. I had no idea he was a libertarian

  • NoStar||

    Ayn_Randian,
    It wasn't just smoking that she tried to raise to a high moral position. She and her sycophants regarded men with facial hair to be hiding more than just weak chins. It was a sign of hiding something much more sinister.

    For Rand and "students of Objectivism", there is no such thing as a personal picadillo. Anything done without a moral philosophical underpinning is anti-reason and therefor anti-life, and therefore anti-man.

    Consequently, Rand had to justify things like smoking and having an affair, or lie like hell about it and the reason the affair was terminated.

    My opinion is that lying is anti-truth and therefore anti-reason, and therefore.....

  • Zach||

    Objectivism: Giving the rich and powerful yet another excuse to be self-righteous assholes.

  • ||

    NPR segment creep me out. The monotone talk, with the herky-jerky way that sound bites and interview snippets are edited in. It feels like......government sponsored propaganda.

  • JLM||

    segments

  • ||

    If you ever liked Ayn Rand at all then I suggest you watch these two youtube clips ...they reminded me of why I liked Atlas Shrugged so much after listening to all the stupid commentary on her over the course of many years.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpo3OoyUUUc&NR=1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V-kTeWozXQ

  • ||

    NoStar - I'd like to see some evidence about this bizarre "facial hair" claim.

    And in what way did she "lie" about the affair?

  • Nikita||

    tons of people watch Sharapova play tennis and forgetting to mention that a lot are just watching her ass and aren't that interested in the technique.



    Can we talk more about Sharapova's ass?

  • ||

    "Bioshock". Good for the legacy of Objectivism, neutral or bad? Discuss.

  • ce||

    Can't anybody just recognize that there are some important ideas in her philosophy and simultaneously accept its (and her) flaws? We seem to be able to do this with every other philosopher in history, but when it comes to Objectivism, everyone has to slam her to prove to the cool kids how mature they are.

  • ||

    Good point, ce.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Talking about Ayn Rand on National Public Radio makes about as much sense as putting her face on a United States Postal Service Stamp.

    An Objectivist friend of mine gave me a block of those stamps framed in a really cool stainless steel Art Deco frame that really accents the stamp. Art. Man, this is art, and I make no apologies for displaying it on my glass mantle over the fireplace.

    I still think Piekoff is a putz though.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Objectivists = Scientologists who are allowed Prozac.

    That's funny, but I have friends who definitely wouldn't agree.

  • dhex||

    If people who say they love Rand don't take any of the economic and freedom issues to heart, who gives a shit whether they like her or not?

    depends on how closely you expect people to hew to the source materials generated by others, i guess.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    to a degree where these are shorthands for an entire system of ideas?

    Case in point, the Simpsons.

    Just last night I'm walking trough the fireplace room where the kids are watching some ghastly cartoon where everyone is screaming (why is there always someone screaming bloody murder in every cartoon?) and I hear some character say......and a copy of Atlas Shrugged......

    No context for you (or me).

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I have been guilty of beating up on Rand myself, however, I freely admit that several generations of us true believers owe her a debt of gratitude.

    Actually, I owe Rand a huge debt of gratitude. The second spark that ignited into a relationship that's lasted dang near 25 years came about when I noticed that Mrs TWC was reading For the New Intellectual.

    .....Huh? And she's reading Rand, too?

  • JB||

    NoStar, what's the deal with facial hair hiding something? Detail please. All the Google turns up is that she and some of her followers didn't like it.

    Now I could see it hiding a beautiful woman because I definitely wouldn't see her under that mustache.

  • JB||

    TWC, I gotta agree. Chicks that read Rand and like her = hot.

  • Guy Montag||

    As stated before, I have no quibbles about her, but some of her followers are kinda out there. Just noticed something on the DC Craigslist commerating this Randaversary (Aynaversary?) and know whare to stay away from this month, but I stay away from that place most of the time anyway.

    Beginning to suspect that my lack of quibble may have something to do with having read little to none of what she has written, but I do like what a lot of the thinking Randoids say about her ideas.

    Most of what I know about her ideas are from Brian Douherty, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Ayn_Randian.

  • JB||

    Guy, any details on the event? I can't find diddly on C's list.

  • Guy Montag||

    JB,

    http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/rnr/678102392.html

    Found it by typing "Ayn" into the search window on the washington dc CL.

  • Travis||

    "An Objectivist friend of mine gave me a block of those stamps framed in a really cool stainless steel Art Deco frame that really accents the stamp. Art. Man, this is art, and I make no apologies for displaying it on my glass mantle over the fireplace."

    I wasn't putting anyone down for buying them, I thought it was ironic & bought some myself.

    I always wondered if some objectivists who worked for the post office didn't suggest the idea as a inside joke.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I wasn't putting anyone down for buying them....

    Didn't take it that way. I was mostly anticipating flak from the Rand bashers so I got in the first salvo.

    :-)

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    JB, yes, I used to live with a chick that was a leftie like Joe. Things go better with Coke, also her motto.

    There is much to be said about common ground and shared philosophies of life. It sure minimizes the arguments.

  • Brandybuck||

    I was a libertarian long before I read any Ayn Rand. In fact, I read Human Action before I read Atlas Shrugged. So when I got to the point where she was lecturing about how all good freedom loving people must be selfish atheists, I said to myself "screw this bitch!"

    For all that Ayn Rand has done to promote libertarianism, she has done more to keep it marginalized. You have to be truly out on the edges of the fringe not to get a cognitive dissonance headache believing that the highest expression of free individuals to be a slavish adherence to a cult of the personality.

  • ||

    I'll tell you what scared the hell out of me not long ago...Going to a libertarian conference and meeting Objectivists with SENSES OF HUMOR!

    The younger crop is lightening up. It's a far cry from when I got excommunicated from the GWU set after dinner for asking why it was moral to extort taxes from people who might not want protection of certain militaries.

    Of course, I had one of the founders of the ISIL with me, and he got booted too, so it was sort of a rite of passage. In a DC kind of way, I became a man that night.

    Oh yeah, and if you date one.. EVERYTHING is a transaction, which can be refreshingly honest, in a way.

  • cheesehead||

    Who is Mr. Roarke?

  • ||

    You have to be truly out on the edges of the fringe not to get a cognitive dissonance headache believing that the highest expression of free individuals to be a slavish adherence to a cult of the personality.

    You have to have a childish and anti-intellectual understanding of Objectivism to think that it advocates anything close to your crude and undeserved mischaracterization.

  • ||

    I said to myself "screw this bitch!"

    Oh, and did you ever notice how it's OK to be misogynistic towards Ayn Rand? Prominent, popular, independent female author, and the feminists refuse to defend her and men think it's ok to call her a bitch or worse.

  • Guy Montag||

    A_R,

    At least they are not drawing her as a monkey in political cartoons like they do the Sec. State.

  • ||

    At least they are not drawing her as a monkey in political cartoons like they do the Sec. State.

    Woah. Mainstream cartoonists do this?

    F* that...I guess it's ok to be misogynistic towards "libertarian" philosophers and racist to Republicans.

  • Joel||

    A_R,

    I don't have anything against Rand, but how can anybody possibly read about the doings of the Objectivists and not come away thinking "These people really seemed to believe that the highest expression of free individuals is to be a slavish adherent to a cult of the personality"? I mean, c'mon! Expulsions and ostracisms for un-Randian thoughts? That - and the "affair", of course - is all I seem to find when I try to read up on what the Objectivists were all about in practice. It seems like a fairly logical conclusion to draw.

  • robc||

    Chicks that read Rand and like her = hot.

    [insert obvious joke about not having to worry about a rape charge]

  • flinky||

    Who is Jane Galt?

  • Guy Montag||

    F* that...I guess it's ok to be misogynistic towards "libertarian" philosophers and racist to Republicans.

    Well, no but we all know that the modern Leftists have cornered the 'idea market' on sexism, racism, censorship and assorted bigotries to be enforced by the police power of the state.

  • Guy Montag||

    Who is Mr. Roarke?

    Isn't he that Byron guy at National Review?

  • ce||

    Joel - I think you can look at the principles of her work and her ideas separately from her own conduct and those of her close followers. That is, they have some merit whether her and her acolytes really lived those principles or not.

    I think the main flaw with the whole Rand thing is the characters in the books really do live her philosophy, but they can only succeed in the world of those books, almost like superheroes. Rand and her closest followers tried to be exactly like those characters but it's just not possible for human beings to live that way in the real world.

  • Joel||

    Joel - I think you can look at the principles of her work and her ideas separately from her own conduct and those of her close followers.

    I - guardedly - agree. I'm not hating on Rand here. Some of Peikoff's blather about "achieving moral perfection" aside, Rand was human and therefore imperfect. I wouldn't want all my actions put under the microscope that hers have suffered for decades.

    But if you believe what you preach you'll at least attempt to practice it, and the way the Objectivists practiced Rand's philosophy could certainly be lampooned by suggesting that they thought the highest expression of individualism was groupthink.

  • ce||

    I'm going to guardedly agree with you too, Joel. I think the problem was Rand in effect said "I live my life as the perfect individualist, so if you're not individual the same way I am, you're doing it wrong." Feedback loop isn't quite the term I'm looking for, but something along those lines developed.

  • the second husband||

    Despite all my quibbles about Rand (the nasty, ill-formed 'second-hander' sneers, snide talk about mediocrities and the 'people who matter' garbage etc.) I still love the "say 'yes' to life" theme underpinning all her work.

  • Taggart||

    I have very mixed feelings about Rand, too. And I despite what I dislike about her and her ideas, I feel no reason to throw the beeyatch out with the bathwater.... Hey, just joshing, Ayn Randier than thou.... there's much to love in her writing, too. And when it first came out, it was a refreshing contrast to the dreery, cynicism of other writing at the time. To some extent, at this time, as well.

    But the funny thing is, she would reject this as the 'cult of the gray' and demand that everyone pick sides. She would insist you have to love her or hate her, nothing in-between.

  • ||

    You don't have to marry the lady and nitpick with her about all the problems you percieve...just admire her damning condemnation of collectivist. It is pretty powerful. It shows why collectivist of all stripes are dicks and what assholes all the people are who are assuming that anyone who wants low taxes is morally inferior to the tyrants and useful idiots insisting they are morally superior for taking our shit from us.

  • ||

    jsut reread that...ok, she says it better.

  • Boston||

    TWC-

    Futurama episode "I Second That Emotion"

  • Brandybuck||

    Oh, and did you ever notice how it's OK to be misogynistic towards Ayn Rand?



    Oooh! Hyper-sensitive Objectivists! Quick Martha, get the camera!

    p.s. If Atlas Shrugged had been written by Peikoff, I would have said "screw that dickwad" instead. Would that have made me a misanthrope?

  • Antiglobalism||

    Anyone believing the health of a society can be measured in money is a fool. Ayn Rand doesn't impress me very much with her individualist-capitalist ideas that have destroyed the West from within.

  • ||

    "Bioshock". Good for the legacy of Objectivism, neutral or bad? Discuss.

    Finally, something I care about.

    I would say good, on the whole. Undersea habitat? Cool. Genetically engineering yourself? Cool. Awesome architecture? Cool.

    Sure, there's bad guys running around, but hey, there's also plenty of "self-defense" available as well.

  • anti-idiot and cultist||

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    In one corner, we have the humorless devotees who take themselves so seriously they actually name themselves after her. In the other corner, we have mindless, unsubstantiated drek like this below:

    "Anyone believing the health of a society can be measured in money is a fool. Ayn Rand doesn't impress me very much with her individualist-capitalist ideas that have destroyed the West from within."

    Let's see - the most extreme collectivist/socialist societies (such as Cuba, North Korea, and failed Communist governments of the past) are having the time of their lives?

    And where did Rand say the health of a society can be measured in money?

  • Guy Montag||

    I suspect that I am standing in a third corner. No idea how many sides there are to your imagenary construct, but expand it so those freaks can have their own corners, please.

  • TB||

    I don't know why you're all so puzzled by the postage stamp thing. It's not ironic. Rand wrote essays about her philatelism. (And yes, like smoking, found some philosophical reason that stamp collecting was Good)

  • Roberto Diego||

    I never had a pimply face and I'm one of those CEOs. Ayn Rand is still popular today because many people who read her works agree with her ideas. When you consider what we are offered as heroes by politicians and left-leaning universities; people who brag about what they do for others in order to gain power over those others, it is refreshing to see a hero who struggles and succeeds in a productive career and who does more "good" than all the collectivists put together.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement