Basing one's belief system on "a little knowledge.... is a dangerous thing".... Â from Think Progress.
A film adaptation of the 1957 novelÂ Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, opened this past Friday. The release of the film has coincided withÂ a resurgence of popularity for Rand on the American Right. The trailer forÂ Atlas Shrugged had its world premier at this yearâ€™s CPAC conference, the Tea Party group FreedomWorksÂ has rolled out a massive campaign to promote the film, and the storyâ€™s opening line â€” â€œWho is John Galt?â€ â€” has appeared on numerous signs at Tea Party rallies.
At the same time, some of the rightâ€™s leading political and media lights have heaped praise upon Rand. The author of the Republicansâ€™Â new budget plan to gut Medicare and Medicaid, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI),Â has said Rand is the reason he entered politics, and requires his staff to read her work. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) have both declared themselves devotees of her writing. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has his law clerksÂ watch the film adaptation of Randâ€™s bookÂ The Fountainhead. Sheâ€™s also received accolades from right-wing pundits Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh,Glenn Beck, John Stossel, andÂ Andrew Napolitano.
During her lifetime, Rand advocated â€œthe virtue of selfishness,â€ declared altruism to be â€œevil,â€ opposed Medicare and all forms of government support for the middle-class and the poor, and condemned Christianity for advocating love and compassion for the less fortunate:
Rand alsoÂ dismissed the feminist movement as a â€œfalseâ€ and â€œphonyâ€ issue,Â said a female commander in chief would be â€œunspeakable,â€Â characterized Arabs as â€œalmost totally primitive savages,â€ andÂ called government efforts to aid the handicapped and educate â€œsubnormal childrenâ€ an attempt to â€œbring everybody to the level of the handicapped.â€
As for the newÂ Atlas Shrugged film, it made $1.7 million in its first three days in theaters, reasonable but unspectacular numbers for a limited release on 299 screens. The movie scoredÂ a paltry 8% on the leading film critic site Rotten Tomatoes. But box-office watchers looking to see if the Tea PartyÂ represents a discrete market would have been disappointed. The movie grossedÂ just $5,608 per theater over that time period, hardly a sign that groups were buying out theaters or that the movie was a pop culture phenomenon.
By contrast,Â An Inconvenient Truth took in $70,333 per theater during its first five days on screens. That number fell to $17,615 per theater in its second week, but that number is still higher thanÂ Atlas Shruggedâ€™s more widely-available debut. AndÂ Atlas Shruggedâ€™s numbers look positively puny next to another culture-war adaptation of a popular book, Mel Gibsonâ€™sÂ The Passion of the Christ, whichÂ raked in $125,185,971 over its first five days in theaters.
While everyone knows Ryan is indeed a personal fan of Randâ€™s work, not a single one of them said Ryan had required them to read the books. Responses include: â€œI had already read it prior to working for him, but it is by no means a requirement for employment,â€ and â€œSaying he â€˜requiresâ€™ his staff to read it is definitely stretching the truth,â€ and the flat out denial: â€œWe areÂ not required to read Rand.â€
His staff, however, gets the benefit of his pedagogical streak. "I give out 'Atlas Shrugged' [by Ayn Rand] as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well, . . . I try to make my interns read it." Ryan "looked into" Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, when he was young, he says, but he is a Christian and reads the Bible frequently.