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Blind Boy Apollo
and the All-White Astronauts

New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Sunday, March 16

overriding arrogance, implacably sustained

Whittaker Chambers, veritable patron saint of the Right, and National Review, its College of Cardinals, are not among my usual sources, or delights. However, I must admit to warm feelings toward Mr. Chambers, whatever else he may have written or said, for his delectably scathing review, over 50 years ago, of Ayn Rand's turgid jeremiad, Atlas Shrugged.

My favorite bit is the penultimate paragraph, where he dissects

...the book's dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: "To a gas chamber -- go!" The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture... At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.
Call me Carrie Nation, but I love how Chambers busted up Rand's living room with that one! First published on December 28, 1957, the full review -- "Big Sister Is Watching You" -- is available at National Review Online.

(See also: Ayn Rand on the virtues of shellfish.)