Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, April 15, 2011


Our Megan McArdle has reviewed Atlas Shrugged and given it two opposable thumbs down. One commenter repeated the famous quote about Randians:

DP 3 minutes ago
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

McMegan 0 minutes ago in reply to DP
That was mildly amusing the first time I heard it, twenty years ago.

That would be difficult as John Rogers wrote it on March 19, 2009, two years ago. However we all know McArdle's difficulty with numbers; getting things wrong by a factor of ten is habitual for her.


Myles said...

In this case it would uncharitable to read "twenty years" as anything but an exaggeration for effect.

Anonymous said...

feature not a bug
not intended to be a factual statement

Myles said...

On second thought I don't think she was exaggerating. She probably did have the impression of its being twenty years ago or some similarly distant period of time.

It's one of those things that, as Hitchens once wrote of Brideshead Revisited, that form vague "scratches on the mind." Sort of like "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." Not really accurate, but not really dishonest either.

Susan of Texas said...

Charity is for suckers, Myles. Just ask Ayn Rand.

Myles said...

I think insofar as charity leads to happiness and satisfaction on the part of the donor, it has utility within the libertarian framework.

NonyNony said...

Congratulations on your new pet concern troll Susan. Make sure you feed and water him daily or he's sure to make a mess.

Anonymous said...


Maybe her calendar got gastritis too!


Anonymous said...

Not really accurate, but not really dishonest either.

IOW, not intended as a factual statement, or technically true but collectively nonsense.


atat said...

"Ayn Rand's work has been described as "a sermon with a cast", and now, after 60 years, it finally has one.

God, I didn't make it past the first sentence. First of all, she can't write. But we knew that, so...60 years? Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. Damn calculator. Secondly, she seems unaware that Rand began her career as a screenwriter and playwright, so even the premise of her opening sentence is incorrect.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

NonyNony, I think giving it food and water guarantees it will make a mess.

atat said...

Not to mention that there have already been film adaptations of Rand's work within her somewhat arbitrary 60-year time frame. But that would have required either some knowledge of the subject she chose to write about, or a 30-second detour into

Kathy said...

I wonder if ArgleBargle pas Myles to defend her, or sends him home made cakes?

Kathy said...

PAYS Myles, not pas.

trittico said...


Just curious about what film adaptations in the past 60 years you're talking about. I don;t know of any (the re-release of We the Living doesn't really count since it was filmed in '42)

Anonymous said...

The Fountainhead with Gary Cooper was 1949. 62 years ago.

atat said...

My calculator only goes to 60. The point was that her opening premise about Rand's sermon "finally" getting a cast is made incoherent by the fact that this isn't the first time her work has been dramatized. She was obviously shooting for cute opener, but didn't think about it for more than few seconds.

Anonymous said...

That would be difficult as John Rogers wrote it on March 19, 2009, two years ago. However we all know McArdle's difficulty with numbers; getting things wrong by a factor of ten is habitual for her.
Stop with the hilarious IEDs!
I'm reading along, swigging and/or swilling (if possible) my iced coffee (very black, very little ice), and I read your above line and spit all over my computer screen.

Now I've got iced java on the screen, iced java up my nose, and I'm still chuckling.

You cannot be so humorously vicious and do so in such an accurate manner UNTIL the iced brew reaches my digestive system.

Substance McGravitas said...

I wonder if ArgleBargle pays Myles to defend her, or sends him home made cakes?

Myles is a blowhard for free.

Kathy said...

Gah, I watched the ArgleBarble video and now I'll be in a bad mood all day.

You know those late-nite commercials for "wonder mops" where they show some retarded person who is unable to clean her floor with a normal everyday mop? she just slops the mess around? That's what ArgleBlargle reminded me of when she was supposed to be "creaming" the butter & sugar. Could even She be that stupid & inept?

If, in the Olden Days Of Yore, women were as hapless as she seems to be, then I guess cooking WAS really really hard, and it's amazing the Human Race survived at all.

Nobody special said...

Think what you like, but it's a fundamentally dishonest argument to interpret her response as much more than an acknowledgement that many people, myself included, have long described Rand's work as fascistic power-tripping crap.

I'm sure it's sorely tempting to subject a pernicious, soulless tool-person like McArdle to the maximum ridicule possible at any moment, if only to maintain one's sanity. But ultimately the ability to engage such people without allowing their lack of a moral compass to destroy yours is what makes you better than them, and what may make it worth the ridicule I'm likely about to receive for saying this.

Mazel tov and best wishes.

atat said...

Because mocking the dishonest tools of the elite is as morally reprehensible as being a dishonest tool of the elite? Your compass works about as well as McA's calculator.

Like the demon in The Exorcist, if you engage her, you've lost. She can only be exorcised by pointing and laughing. It's actually the morally responsible thing to do.

UncertaintyVicePrincipal said...

@Nobody special

Funny because for me it was clear that she was responding to a specific humorous comment and saying it had been around for twenty years, as a way of claiming that it was old and thus borrrring.

Acknowledging (or knowing, more to the point) that it was only two years or less would contradicted her entire point.

Amazing really, that she and so many others rush to twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend her when she makes an obvious and enormous error, and one that if corrected would wreck any point she had been trying to make.

If you click on that link re the original power of ten error, what you notice is that she responds to someone pointing out that $75 billion divided by the US population is $250 per person, not $25 as she had written, not by simply saying "Oops, typo!" or something, but with this:

"That, mind you, requires some pretty big assumptions. For starters, it assumes that the rather optimistic estimates of Mark Zandi about the size of the stimulus multiplier..."

In other words she's actually arguing that her getting $25 per person instead of $250 is the result of "mitigating factors", which she then starts to detail, all of which miraculously reduce the $250 to exactly ten percent of itself, or $25.

To anyone even remotely awake it's just obviously someone caught screwing up and deciding that talking fast and spewing as much smokescreen as possible is the best way out.

Over and over.

Kathy said...

People try to "engage" ArgleBlargle all the time on her blog, quite politely most of the time. It always ends in ruin and despair for the person "engaging" her. Sometimes that person kills him-herself, or the stronger ones just turn to a life of illegal drug use and bad SciFi movies.

Susan of Texas said...

How can her lack of a moral compass destroy my moral compass?

I always thought Nietzsche was wrong about that. If you know what is right and refuse to look for excuses to do wrong, someone else's insanity--their refusal to admit they are lying to themselves and living in a fantasy world--doesn't affect your reality.

The reality is that the McArdles are being paid to harm others by deeply selfish and deeply ambitious men. It's incredible that you think they should be left alone to do whatever they want, whatever the consequences. That they should not even have to endure ridicule, the tool of the powerless.

It is common for someone to to appeal to the vanity of liberals by saying "you're too good for this" or "this will harm your moral superiority." Bullshit. You bash me, I bash back. You try to take away Social Security and Medicare, you'll have to fight.

Syz said...

@Nobody Special

Are you suggesting that it is immoral to satire public figures? Or that it does no good? I think both points of view are unjustifiable.

Susan of Texas said...

We should criticize McArdle on a factual basis.

On a factual basis, but not too often. That's stalking.

On a factual basis, not too often, and without excessive ridicule. That will make me less of a person.

On a factual basis, not too often, without excessive ridicule, and without saying that she's lying. That's rude.

On a factual basis, not too often, without excessive ridicule, and without saying that she's lying. And one at a time. Don't want to gang up on her, you know. That's not fair.

On a factual basis, not too often, without excessive ridicule, without saying that she's lying, one at a time, and without mentioning anything tacky like how much money she's making.

We should criticize Megan McArdle by saying we disagree, and that is just what happens between between two honest, well-meaning people.

Syz said...

Paul Krugman had an excellent blog post yesterday. He points out that Civility is the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel. Myles and Nobody Special would do well to take note.

Larkspur said...

"We should criticize McArdle on a factual basis...."

Susan, that whole comment is pretty damn brilliant. I wish to react by emitting the opposite of a Mc:SIGH:, so I reckon you are now hearing a vigorous, gasping, respectful inhalation.

From me. You know. Obviously. Yes?

Left Coast Tom said...

@Syz: Myles and Nobody Special would do well to take note.

Are you sure they aren't the same person? I'm not.

Myles said...

I don't actually ever engage in sock-puppetry, you know.

brad said...

Wait, Susan, how did Nietzsche argue that others' moral ambiguity affects one's own?
He wasn't a relativist or nihilist, dammit, he was pointing out their (still) modern prevalence underlying popular "morality" and attempting to begin a response. It's mildly comparable to Marx arguing that a capitalist phase was necessary as a step towards socialism.
Sorry, I geek out on this stuff.