Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Objectivism and Scientology: a sublime to the ridiculous comparison

Fat Cat goes Galt

Back in April, I started a series about Atlas Shrugged and how Objectivism is contributing to collapse.  It's been seven months, so I'm way behind.  In fact, I'm so behind and so many new people have started reading this blog that I'm going to review what I rewrote back then.  That it helps explain the nature of the hornet I'm swatting is a bonus.  That written, here is the first of the relevant sections of last April's post.
Atlas Shrugged: A movie this demented ought to be against the law

Charlie Jane Anders — Every cult needs its own wacky trainwreck of a movie. Scientology got Battlefield Earth, and now the cult of Ayn Rand gets Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. But how does Atlas stand up to Battlefield Earth?
I have an entire canned list of quotes on the similarities between Objectivism and Scientology, but this isn't the post for me to regurgitate all of them. I'll just post this one.
Wasn't Ayn Rand a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard?~Mike Huben
I think this is the post for me to regurgitate my canned quotes about he similarities between Scientology and Objectivism. Here goes.

I have a "from the sublime to the ridiculous" comparison of Scientology and Objectivism.

First, there is also a book, "The Cult of Ayn Rand" by Jeff Walker that compares Objectivism and Scientology. In it, Walker makes the following connections between Objectivism and L Ron Hubbard/Scientology (quotes from, an anti-Scientology site).?
There have been other Ayn Rands, before and after Ayn Rand. throughout this book I draw attention to the striking parallels between Rand and such figures as Mary Baker Eddy, Edward Bellamy, Count Alfred Korzybski, L Ron Hubbard, Werner Erhardt and Bhagwan Rajneesh. The phenomena she represents are common and recurring ones that say a great deal about the nature of individuals and society." (page 4)

"Most of the star gurus, certainly Reverend Moon, L Ron Hubbard, Rajneesh and Werner Erhard were partly innovative and partly syncretic, all to a significant degree breaking with traditional religion, but all offering doctrines which were amalgams of pre-existing traditions...bits and pieces of Objectivism have been around for ages before her (Rand). Rand's - and Branden's - contribution was to select them, string them together and package them for mass consumption." (page 68)

"For many, Rand's Objectivism was a way station between L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics and Werner Erhard's est...not only has the Objectivist movement been a classic cult as defined in the dictionary, it may arguably be viewed as a destructive psychotherapeutic-religious cult..." (page 98)

"Ayn Rand was not the first to propound an ethics for the masses based on survival as a rational being. That honor goes to fellow novelist and cult leader L Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), the science-fiction writer who founded Dianetics and the Church of Scientology. Dianetics preceded NBI's start-up by eight years and the Objectivist ethics by 11 years. Dianetics groups formed on campuses during the 1950's, much as Ayn Rand clubs would in the 1960's. Many who flocked to Objectivism in the 1960's had previously had some contact with Dianetics or Scientology. Dianetics used reasoning somewhat similar to Rand's about the brain as a machine. Hubbard's 'analytical' versus 'reactive' mind has its equivalent in Rand's system. Both have a higher mind reprogramming the rest of the mind. Hubbard and Rand were both extremely intelligence- and survival oriented, in the interest of a rational man. They counseled the uprooting of irrational premises (or 'engrams'). Both contended that the resulting enhanced rationality leads to greater capacity for healthy emotion. Perceptual data is immaculate for both. Both regard our often being unconscious of incoming data as the real problem. After many years of working at it, the student of Dianetics becomes a 'clear,' while the student of Objectivism becomes a full-fledged Objectivist...Both Dianetics and Objectivist psychology draw fire from the psychiatric establishment. The philosophy of each relates immorality to decreasing one's survival potential. Each claims to be science- and logic-based. Both share a benevolent universe premise...Hubbard and Rand are very much against all rule-by-force. Both assert that rational men have no real conflicts of interest. Each deplores social complexity being wielded as an excuse for introducing government regulations when it is the latter that generates the former in a vicious cycle...Each was lambasted by biographers for serious personality problems. And both figures have been denounced by former associates who claim that the leader had feet of clay and the doctrine is detrimental to its adherent's health.

Because Hubbard and Rand shared a number of quirks and basic ideas, it does not follow that their complete philosophies are essentially similar - that is hardly the case. What we can see is that those basic ideas were circulating within the culture of mid-century America and that both figures exemplify the growth of a cult preaching 'rationality'."
Next, and starting the descent into the ridiculous, here the video at this link from Netroots Nation.

At about 6:00 in, Hale "Bonddad" Stewart interrupts his description of Alan Greenspan's part in creating the credit crisis with, "If you thought Scientologists were weird, Ayn Rand devotees are just bizarre." Greenspan was a personal follower of Rand during the 1960s. At 27:45 in, Representative Brad Miller (Democrat, North Carolina) remarked that it was reassuring that Bernanke didn't go home and read and re-read "Atlas Shrugged" every night, unlike his predecessor. At both points, the liberal audience responds with mocking laughter. To them, Ayn Rand is an object of scorn; they think the same thing of Rand that conservatives think of Marx.

I'll have more to say about Alan Greenspan and his relationship to Rand and Objectivism later. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this quote from Paul Samuelson.

"But the trouble is that he [Alan Greenspan] had been an Ayn Rander. You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy."

Descending farther into the ridiculous, TVTropes has a "Just Bugs Me" page about "Atlas Shrugged."
What about the plan in general? Inferred Holocaust and Moral Dissonance if I've ever seen it! One hundred odd people bring about the end of the mixed economy as we know it without actually doing anything, countless are dead, the infrastructure is shot... and our protagonists act like they will be national heroes, and that the country will be up and running in a month or so. If any semblance of civilization managed to survive, then it would take a good hundred years to get the country back to its current size and strength.

The fact that they "didn't actually do anything" is the point. Galt's plan depended upon getting all of the right people to go on strike and turn their back on the society that leeched off them while condemning them. For them to actually do anything to that society would have diluted the "moral purity" of their stand.

Also, they're clearly willing to take that hundred years to rebuild as long as it's on their terms. Even with Galt's perpetual energy device, the Gulch's residents were excited about one of them finally assembling a single tractor to help them farm.
It is an interesting exercise to compare Ayn Rand's forward to Atlas Shrugged (she claims that she is the only novelist in history to write about a new idea) with L. Ron Hubbard's forward to his Mission Earth series (he claims that if you don't find it uproariously funny your'e obviously exactly the sort of shumck he was trying to ridicule, and no, he's not kidding). I am quite sure the two were never in the same room together, as the Universe would have collapsed from the accumulated hubris. On that note--"

Fountainhead Earth on Uncyclopedia
Uncyclopedia advertises itself as content free. This article lives down to the description, which completes the descent into the ridiculous.

More tomorrow.

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