Monday, April 30, 2012

A Short Note

Dear Readers (Especially People Who Know Me In Real Life):

I would like to ask a favor of you. When you see something like this:

And you read the mouseover message:

I had a hard time with Ayn Rand because I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with the first 90% of every sentence, but getting lost at 'therefore, be a huge asshole to everyone.'

Ask yourself the following question: Is Jenn "a huge asshole to everyone?" 

Then, because I really think it's important to thoroughly examine all premises, truly consider the possibility that I'm doing it wrong. Then ask me some questions about it and give me a chance to convince you that I am NOT doing it wrong. (Because I'm not.)

And if you feel inclined to tell me about some Objectivist you met once who was a jerk to you, allow me a few more minutes of your time to help you see that there are many, many, MANY more Objectivists out there in the world who are non-assholes than those who are.



P.S. I know this week's XKCD upset some of my Objectivist friends. Not me. It doesn't bother me in the least. It's a tired old stereotype (like how homeschooled kids don't have friends or social skills) that I can't even take seriously because it's so untrue. It's so untrue that it drains all of the humor right out of it.

Instead I view this kind of stuff as a good thing, because we have been provided with a golden opportunity for us to counter this false stereotype, to bust this myth.

I hope my many kind, benevolent, happy, fun, non-jerk Objectivists friends and acquaintances near and far decide to use this opportunity (and future similar ones) for a little mythbusting. The contrast is so evident and glaring, it won't even take very much effort.


fred said...

I love xkcd and follow Randall Monroe on G+, so today's comic stung a bit.

I contemplated addressing it publicly, but I have better uses of my time. I read a ready good objectivist blog the other day about focusing on the positive, rather than getting angry at the negative.

Thanks for writing this Jenn. I'll be linking on FB.


gilindrag said...

The people who see Objectivists this way are hardly worth the time to argue with. They obviously never read and or understood the work of Ayn Rand. They make me think of Rourks comment to Toohey "what must you think of me"
"I Don't"

DocTomoe said...

Two comments. One who says it's not worth it, the other creating a group of outsiders that should not be talked to because they obviously are wrong..

Seriously, friends, that is the way of a religious sect. We aren't a sect, we're a philosophical school.

Andrew Dalton said...

Nothing wrong per se with saying it's not worth the trouble. The alternative is to be sucked into the vortex of arguing with everyone who disagrees with you (which is the stereotypical Internet Asshole, Objectivist or not).

Seerak said...

I prefer Jenn's approach at the personal level' as it forces the person in front of you to re-evaluate his "theory" of Objectivists, or confess to being the asshole himself right on the spot.

However, Randall Parker isn't in front of any of us. He's a public figure, taking shots at **people** (but not at ideas; that's a key distinction there) he doesn't know. He won't read this, and neither will any of his *ahem* followers. In the public sphere, my goal is to make it about the ideas. So, I see this as requiring a different, sterner approach.

In this case, I just point out that the joke is on Parker, on several levels.

First, all of what purports to be "serious" criticism of Ayn Rand in venues like the New York Times follows precisely the pattern of what Parker intends as a joke. Parker does not realize that he's just dramatized what I've been saying for some time: Ayn Rand has no serious critics.

Second: In choosing to be precisely what he says we are, Parker illustrates another common pattern: with almost no exception, those attacking Objectivists (not Objectivism, note; there's that key point again. Wait for it...) are all acting on the premise that Objectivists are not worthy of even the most basic respect, or what they call "common decency". It speaks extremely poorly of their personal morality, and of their own creeds (whatever they might be; this particular pattern occurs quite evenly across the spectrum of "critics") that they would permit themselves this moral license to piss on any group of human beings.

Last but not least: without fail, all of this sort of thing is always directed at people. NEVER THE IDEAS. If they aren't attacking Ayn Rand or Objectivists *personally*, or making shit up wholesale about what Objectivist ideas actually are -- they are silent!

Yes, this is really all they've got.

Yes, when it comes to ideas, Ayn Rand has no serious critics. It's like that scene in Highlander where McCleod wanders the battlefield shouting "They won't fight me! Why won't anybody fight me?"

At least Parker implicitly acknowledges this fact in using a webcomic for his bit of "attack under cover of humor" juvenility. I already know that he's just going to say "Dude, it's a webcomic, chill out, can't you take a joke?" The same can't be said for the likes of Paul Krugman, the perpetually apocalyptic Zero Hedge, Gary Weiss or any of the other children on the playground.

Jenn's response is great, but IMO is most effective at the personal level -- with adults. But out in a field piled high with children whose only option is to stick you in the back and scurry away, our best bet is, in the name of any adults who might be watching, is to say resolutely:

Is that all you've got? When you want to get serious and discuss ideas for real, as it were, we'll be right here, at the adult table, talking ideas.

Feel free to join us any time.

Seerak said...

eek. Please swap in "Munroe" for "Parker" above.