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Why Does Salon Lie about Ayn Rand’s Ideas?

Usually I don’t comment on the slime published by Salon, as its writers’ idea of journalism often is to publish the most audacious lies they can imagine and hope they can get away with it. But I’ll make an exception regarding a recent pack of lies Salon published about Ayn Rand.

Dave Johnson writes for Salon:

Who is Ayn Rand, and what is the philosophy of this person [Paul] Ryan calls a “thinker? Ayn Rand’s philosophy actually says it is not only bad for society, but morally wrong to help other people because it makes them “dependent.” Rand’s philosophy says that altruism is evil, and that democracy (which they call “collectivism”) is the ultimate expression of this evil because it brings about a society in which government works to make people’s lives better.

Leaving aside the fact that Ryan is no advocate of Rand’s philosophy—something I’ve addressed previously—what’s wrong with Johnson’s remarks?

First, Rand did not claim that it is “morally wrong to help other people.” Beyond the obvious fact that all business transactions involve two or more parties self-interestedly helping each other, Rand recognized that charitable giving can be perfectly moral, so long as it is not sacrificial. An eloquent example of this comes from her novel The Fountainhead. The protagonist Howard Roark pays for rent and meals for his friend Stephen Mallory, a struggling artist, so that Mallory can spend his time sculpting. Roark’s gift to Mallory was self-interested, in that Roark valued Mallory’s sculpting more than he valued other things he could have purchased with the money.

Second, Rand did not claim that democracy is the “ultimate expression” of the evil of altruism. She saw that various forms of statism, such as Communism and fascism, require individuals to sacrifice or be sacrificed for some alleged “greater good”—with the result being rivers of blood. She recognized that democracy—in the sense of “unlimited majority rule”—also demands self-sacrifice. Democracy, she wrote, puts “one’s life . . . at the mercy of any gang that may muster the vote of a majority at any moment for any purpose”—that purpose being an alleged “greater good” than the individual. She recognized that a proper government constitutionally limits democratic action in order to protect individual rights.

The fact that Salon published lies about Ayn Rand is no surprise; lying about Rand has become a pastime for many on the left (and some on the pseudo right).

The interesting question is: why? What is it in Rand’s actual ideas that the left is afraid to face and deal with directly?

The essence of Rand’s moral message is that every individual should pursue his own life-serving values; everyone morally must respect the rights of others to do the same; and no one should sacrifice for anyone. Altruism, she saw, does not mean being nice to others or helping them out. Altruism means sacrificing one’s own values for the (alleged) sake of others; it means surrendering greater values for the sake of lesser values or non-values. That is what Rand regarded as evil. And Rand doesn’t merely assert these ideas. She provides observation-based, rational arguments for them.

But Salon, Johnson, and their ilk would rather lash out at Rand with absurd lies than identify her actual positions, let alone her arguments for them.

What is it about Rand’s philosophy that they are so afraid of? This is the question that should follow all such fabrications.

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Posted in: Ayn Rand and Objectivism

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Ed Bolton

    Typical of leftists to change the narrative of what one believes and then pick appart the”Straw Man”!!!

  • J.W. Jackson

    Dave Johnson must have been in my intro to ethics class 15 years ago. That is almost exactly what my professor said when asked about Rand. It was the first and the last mention of her in any class. (My degree is in philosophy.)

  • Froi Vincenton

    Like most Salonites, Dave Johnson is just a typical brain-damaged liberal…

  • David Blankenau

    I think 2 common reasons that they are (rightly) terrified of Ayn Rand’s ideas are: 1. Her ideas are actually foreign to many of them, and they CAN’T understand them; 2. They know that if Objectivism takes hold in the U.S., their dreams of dictatorship are done for, so they must attempt to prevent and destroy her philosophy at all costs.

    These feeble attempts to discredit Ayn Rand would be laughable were it not for the fact that the American public has been so indoctrinated by leftist government education that they are barely able to think independently, and to honestly evaluate ANY philosophical ideas.

    Thanks to the Objective Standard and the Ayn Rand Institute (among other organizations), we have a chance to re-educate people on a rational philosophy and the proper role of Government in a free society.

  • Dale Netherton

    The unintegrated nonsense in their heads that they are not willing to challenge ( read” think about” ) spurs the emotion of ” I have to act and speak out”. Without any viable arguments you observe the irrational attacks that only an unintegrated mind can produce.

  • Anonymous

    It seems my comment has not been “approved”.

    Why, I wonder? The Boston Tea Party was a clear case of the wanton destruction of the property of somebody else. Hardly objective behaviour. Ayn Rand would certainly not have approved of it.

  • abbeysbooks

    Actually that is about the way Salon writes about almost everything. Sloppy, ideologically, baiting for trolls to bring in the hits. anything negative about Rand will bring a feeding frenzy of hits. Don’t feed them and they will stop. You just make them stronger arguing with them.

  • David Blankenau

    So, you consider revolt against tyranny as non-objective behavior, amounting to wanton property destruction? Wow, you really need to read Rand.

    Given the circumstances of the time, it was most certainly a natural and logical reaction to King George’s heavy-handed despotism. Not only would Ayn Rand have approved of it, IMHO, I think she would have considered participating, if she had the opportunity. That’s how strongly she felt about freedom and individualism!

  • Anonymous

    The time-frame has no bearing whatever – a pure red-herring. Principles and rationality are timeless – demonstrably defined by logic.

    The assinine action of tossing tea in the sea was an irrational action of pure unjustifiable vandalism. It’s not as though the rightful owner was proved to be one with whom the problems lay.

  • The Ultimate Philosopher

    Since humans have free will and complex psychologies, there could be any number of reasons why Salon and their ilk lie, but the simplest and easiest explanation is that it provides them with cognitive and ideological comfort to make believe that those on “the right” are intellectually and/or morally stunted or inferior in ways that they are not. They are also not intellectually serious in the way that one would expect of trained professionals in such demanding disciplines as philosophy; they don’t grasp the detailed nuances necessary to actually figure out what Rand actually said/thought.

    Aside from very vicious evaders who really ought to (and do) know better, such as Brian Leiter, it’s actually very difficult to find professional philosophers these days who will put their reputations on the line by bashing/diminishing Ayn Rand, whereas it’s not difficult (if one puts in a minimal amount of time and effort of the sort expected of the intellectually rigorous) to find professional philosophers who take Rand most seriously.

    Simple way to prove the Rand-bashers to be intellectually bankrupt: See if one could locate any professional philosopher willing to debate a Harry Binswanger or Tara Smith on the subject of whether Rand should be taken seriously as a philosopher. It’s very much doubtful that one could do so (and Leiter would run from the challenge like the coward that he is). Why the leading academic Objectivists haven’t issued a challenge of this sort to “mainstream academia” already, I haven’t the faintest, but it would help to launch Objectivism into a position of respectability that it hasn’t yet reached, almost overnight.