Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Farewell to Kings...

...or, "The ARI is dead...long live the ARI." (I would have said "the Pope," or "the Heir," but I didn't want people thinking that Peikoff actually died...) Remember the flap about Peikoff's letter to the board of ARI for the criticisms over The Logical Leap? I wrote, "If this is official Objectivism, then make mine anarchy."

Well, I must be an anarchist, then (though I prefer autarchist), because, apparently, this is official Objectivism...

I was being kind, compared to what Robert Tracinski has to say, which is that "The Objectivist Movement Commits Suicide." Read it for yourself (settle in and grab a Snickers, because you won't be going anywhere for a while)...

I'm not even going to quote from it; you really need to read it for yourself. I will, however, take this moment to explain this post's title, which comes from a Rush album. I haven't yet finished my "Rand-Rush Connection" series of posts dealing with Neil Peart's comments, printed in a 1997 article of Liberty magazine, about official Objectivism and "Randroids." In my planned posts, I am critical of Peart, though I hope I am being fair. But upon reading Tracinski's comments, I will say that, when it comes to the organized movement, Peart's comments have been vindicated:

In the late seventies I subscribed to the Objectivist Forum for awhile. And it could be such a beautiful thing, it could be like a breath of fresh air coming in the mailbox. But it became petty and divisive and also factionalized.... I tend to stay away from it [now]. It's in the nature of the individualist ethos that you don't want to be co-opted.

[Also], the ones most devoted to the cause are the ones with least of a life. A friend of mine who was involved in the Ayn Rand estate and the initial institutes and so on noticed that all of the coteries surrounding her didn't do anything.... The whole philosophy is about doing things ... with an eye towards excellence and beauty. And that was the one thing that was lacking in any of the coteries surrounding her. So that's another reason people stay away from [the official Objectivist movement], saying, "Well, I have a life and I'm living the philosophy -so why do I want to stop and talk about it with other people who aren't doing it?"

Why, quote from "A Farewell to Kings":

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies/
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes/
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise/
Beating down the multitude and/
Scoffing at the wise/

The hypocrites are slandering/
The sacred halls of Truth/
Ancient nobles showering/
Their bitterness on youth/
Can't we find the minds that made us strong?/
Can't we learn to feel what's right/
And what's wrong?/

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Rand-Rush Connection, Interlude: Making of 2112

Ok, so yesterday, I published my post on Rush and the New Music Express's 1978 hatchet job, and today the Classic Albums series released their 2112/Moving Pictures edition. I already knew about the release...what I wasn't expecting was how much time they would spend on...the NME hatchet job and the Randian influence. This was during discussion of the recording of "2112." Even more unexpected was the appearance of the ARI's John Ridpath (What? He's Canadian, too...) to summarize the history of Anthem. There was even Neil's revelation re: the ambigous closing statement, "We have assumed control..."

From the making of "2112":

Geddy: "Well, he (Peart) was a huge fan of Ann (sic) Rand’s writing, and he introduced her writing to us…"

Alex: "Not exclusively that…a very, very broad reader…"

Neil: "I had read, certainly,a lot of science fiction at that time…and Samuel R. Delany was an big influence on me…and around the same time I found a copy of The Fountainhead and said “Oh…all the smart kids at school used to carry that around…”

Geddy: "We all liked the book Anthem, which is the thing that kinda inspired "2112"..."

Introducing John Ridpath: "Anthem was a novellete that Ayn Rand wrote, I would say, roughly around 1939-1940 wrote when she was in the middle of writing The Fountainhead

And so, Anthem is basically the story of a society taken over by a priesthood of totalitarian dictators who used mysticism to try and subdue all the people in society that is so collectivistic and so totalitarian that the concept I has been eliminated from people’s minds.

They don’t even have the concept I which means they can’t even conceive of themselves as individuals.

Alex: "That whole idea of the individual and that …sort of libertarian values…played a big role in how that album shaped up…"

Neil: "I dreamed up this story about music being invented against a dystopian totalitarian society…"

"I felt this great sense of injustice that this mass was coming down on us telling us to compromise, and compromise was the word that I couldn't deal with…I grew up a child of the sixties, and I was a strong individualist, and believed in the sanctity of… you should be able to do what you want to do, you know, without hurting anyone…

"When I realized that the story was paralleling Anthem, I thought I had to say something about Ayn Rand and the association with "2112", and so, at the bottom of the lyrics, just put 'with acknowledgement to the genius of Ayn Rand…'

"Well, how that came back onto us afterwards…"

Alex: "Yeah, we got in trouble with the NME in Britian around that time…this journalist, you know, wrote it up like we were Nazis, ultra right-wing maniacs…

Geddy: "Growing up as the son of Holocaust survivors, I found that know...just so offensive..."

Cliff Burnstein (manager): The connection with Ayn Rand definitely was a media turnoff...there was certainly a...kind of association with the 50's, conservatism, the McCarthy years...all this stuff probably made the media think, 'well, this is just not my kind of band..."

David Fricke (Rolling Stone): "And even though Rand was, and still is, to this day, a controversial figure, it doesn’t mean that Neil believes everything she don't have to believe everything she says to understand there are points in those books that are worth serious consideration..."

Geddy: "It’s about creative, freedom, it’s about belief...believing in yourself…"

Neil: "And I did not think of politics, and I did not think of global oppression...I was thinking "these people are messing with me!"

Geddy: "You can say what you want about Ann (sic) Rand, and all the other implications of her work, but her artistic manifesto, for lack of a better term, was the one that struck home with the three of us…"

Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies): "The focus on "2112" is about the loss of individuality and kinda....state rule and the oppression of expression to the extent of the extinction of music, basically…"

Terry Brown (Producer): "A pretty dark character is Neil, there's no telling what was going on in his mind at that time...I certainly don’t think he would want to just recreate the Ayn Rand story…living 'happily ever after' in the mountains, I think, it would have meant a much less dramatic ending for us on record..."

Geddy: "That ending of that story is a little ambigious…and there's obviously some sort of a war going on…"

Neil: "That’s the good guys, that’s the cavalry, you know, coming in at the end…so it actually, to me, had a happy ending, as it were…that the solar federation was going to be shut down by the vision that our hero has of this other way of living…they’re the people coming at the end…that’s how I intended it."

Next: Pt. 5 of 8-"Hold Your Fire"...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Rand-Rush Connection: Grace Under Pressure in "Red" Sector A (Geddit?)

What's that, Tea Party, you're being smeared as racist and fascist? Yes, we know, it's nothing's just a waste of time...

("Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...")

My first exposure to the accusation against the band Rush for being "fascist" was in Paul Stump's The Music's All That Matters. Stump refers to the band as "politically suspect":
...their lyrics, often inspired by the far-Right Canadian philosopher Ayn Rand, featured social prescriptions of varying toxicity, such as exhortations to 'philosophers and ploughmen' to each know their respective places.
It was easy for me to dismiss Stump, based on the identification of Rand as a Canadian and the clever misquoting of the lyric from "Closer to the Heart" as "place" instead of "part." But it wasn't as easy to dismiss the question of why such an accusation even existed (indeed, I spent a lot of time trying to answer, via the work of Carl Jung, in my essays "The Trickster Archetype and Objectivism" and "The Objectivist Hero Cycle.") And it certainly didn't begin with Stump; in the case of Rush, it usually begins with Barry Miles...

In 1978, Miles had published an interview in the British New Music Express entitled "Is Everyone Feelin’ All RIGHT? (Geddit…?)." By this time, I was well-familiar with Ayn Rand, who I did not identify as fascist. But I wasn't ignorant of the charge against her, after reading in Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand about The National Review's review of Atlas Shrugged, "Big Sister is Watching You," by Whittaker Chambers. So, it's only, um, logical, that Rush would be smeared in the same manner as Rand...

(Click to enlarge)
(I am not the only one who has taken notice of this similarity; Chris McDonald, in his class expose Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class: Dreaming in Middletown, says that he is "not sure if Miles was aware of Chambers's review, but the similarities in their respective appraisals of Rand are striking. I have more to say on that book here.)

Both Chambers and Miles were associated with Socialism (Chambers, a former Communist, Miles, a socialist who also had his foot in the world of Pink Floyd's London underground, and clashed with Frank Zappa as well, re his Libertarian leanings). Both were assigned the charge of reviewing their targets for similar reasons: Branden quotes William Buckley: “He volunteered,” Buckley insisted. “He had read the first one hundred pages and had said that it was off to a wonderful narrative start, and he exclaimed over how thoroughly he knew her material...". Miles claims that he "got the job of interviewing Rush because I was the only on NME who knew who Ayn Rand was–simple as that."

And both seemed to be reading from the same playbook; take Chamber's now-infamous line:

From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged," he charges, "a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding ‘To a gas chamber--go!'

Miles, in turn, had this to say about Rush:
So now I understand the freedom [Peart] was talking about. Freedom for employers and those with money to do what they like and freedom for the workers to quit (and starve) or not. Work makes free. Didn’t I remember that idea from somewhere? “Work Makes Free”. Oh yes –it was written over the main gateway to Auschwitz Concentration Camp…
At this point, I can't help but comment on the "strange bedfellows" aspect of this, in that both Ayn Rand and Geddy Lee are of Jewish ancestry (Rand, the Russian-Jew emigre, and Lee the son of Holocaust survivors, as detailed in the song "Red Sector A" from Grace Under Pressure.) A fact conveniently overlooked by both Chambers and Miles...

The major difference between the two hatchet jobs is that Chamber's attack was a book review, without Rand's input, while the members of Rush were made to dig their own grave, blindsided after-the-fact in their interview with Miles. Peart, in an 1979 NEM follow-up interview (this time, with John Hamblett), entitled "Rock Against Right-Wing Rock Being Called Fascist," had this to say:
That was a very dishonest article. I was under the impression that Miles and I had gotten on very well. I even gave him my address in New York and told him to stop by any time he was in the neighborhood. All that so-called political dialogue took place after the interview had finished; we were just chatting, really amenably, I thought, and he twisted it all round. I just feel that it was basically dishonest.
After reading the article myself, it's certainly easy to see why Peart was so upset. Miles would quote Rand or the band, followed with his interpretations of what they said, which was of the ad-hominem variety. I will note that Miles does little misquoting, unlike Stump. His objections are clearly based on his British National-Health variety of socialism, evidenced in the back-and-forth between he and Peart re the argument over whether or not America and Europe were truly capitalist; this is purely a fight between two clear-cut ideological opponents who know where they stand. In that sense, I can hardly expect a friendly interview from Miles; what's offensive is the two-facedness in which he did it.
Miles concludes by claiming the moral high road: "Rush would like to return to the survival of the fittest jungle law, where the fittest is of course, the one with the most money. Make sure that next time you see them, you see them with your eyes open and know what you see. I, for one, don't like it." Of course, Miles doesn't take the time to address Rand's actual words on that very topic in Atlas Shrugged; such as the "money" speech or the parable of the 20th Century Motor Factory (to which Peart alludes to in his interview.) Peart would have to wait until 1979 to have his rebuttal, but the blogosphere gives us the ability now to respond to statements like Miles's a lot faster; scans of the article are found at the site Rush Is A Band; read for yourself how the band and Miles handled themselves. (Hat tip to Paul L. for the heads-up on the scans.)
But as for Peart and Rand, future interviews would reveal just how deep Miles burrowed under Peart's ideological skin. The eventual "progress" from "right-wing Randian" of "Anthem" to the "left-wing libertarian" of Hold Your Fire may certainly have been an evolution as opposed to a reaction, but it seems pretty clear to me that the NME article was the mutation thrown into the intellectual "genetic blend" with "uncertain ends"...

Next: Pt. 4 of 8-"Interlude-The Making of 2112 and Moving Pictures"...
(Previous: Pt. 2- "Rock N' Roll Comix")

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If This Is "Official Objectivism..."

...then "make mine anarchy." (click image to enlarge and see what I mean...)

Does Peikoff remember "free scientific inquiry?"

And yes, I appreciate the irony. It's as if "S" and "P" were using the same playbook...what's that quote? Oh, yes..."I loathe your ideals...I admire your methods."