A Journal for Western Man
When Vanity Devours Sanity:
Why SOLO Shattered and the
Character-Cannibalizing Culture of
Issue LIX- May 22, 2006
Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage.
He lives... by make-believe.
~W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up, 1938
Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are faced with a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong…
…And when this rule is applied to Objectivism, we find that vanity – not sanity – is its truer mandate for living.
~Orion Reasoner, after Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957
In the preceding months and years, the human social movement termed Objectivism has faithfully continued to savagely hack and slash at itself. Its members have continued their characteristically self-serving and narcissistic back-stabbing and devouring of each other, in the form of continual campaigns to undermine, libel, and slander each other publicly. This is not random; there is a reason for this.
No one is safe in Objectivism, and all sacred heads can – and have – rolled. All its golden children have eventually, finally, and predictably unleashed their full, narcissistic character cannibalism on each other and, in turn, been devoured themselves. Barbara Branden… Lindsay Perigo… Michael Stuart Kelly… Nathaniel Branden… all these overconfident, fine young cannibals have fallen prey to their own back-biting ways. They have all eagerly participated in the savagery, thinking themselves immune and, time and time again, have each been proven horribly wrong. And, rest assured, those who have so enthusiastically and naively replaced them – and who smugly think themselves immune from this dynamic – will experience the same thing soon enough.
Once again, this is not random. There is a reason for this.
And so, the following statement is no longer mere speculation – nor can it politely be stated as a merely rhetorical question or challenge for the reader; it is now fact and can only be stated as such, with no hesitation:
Anyone who has had, by now, any appreciable experience with the actual culture of Objectivism and the still-lingering culture of SOLO knows that it is possessed of a bedrock corruption and almost wholly to blame for its own downfalls, which have been countless since its inception. Only the variably vain and dishonest – those who still ruthlessly and short-sightedly calculate that they might stand to gain something from continuing to religiously endorse it – will disagree with this statement, to the extent of their anticipated gain… damning the torpedoes.
But why? Why is Objectivism this way? What causes it?
Good question. I’ll try to answer it.
In the beginning, there was a socially-insulated and estranged human being named Alicia Rosenbaum. She was a highly logical and somewhat socially autistic female who came to imagine that the limits of her personal biases and logical anticipations should be – and, in fact, were – the limits of the very world itself. In short, she was a living example of what the ancient Chinese guide The Art of War continually cautioned against: to avoid mistaking “the map” for “the terrain”… in other words, don’t assume that what you think the world should be, is what it really is.
But, damning the torpedoes, she went full steam ahead. She assumed the pen name of “Ayn Rand”, and the rest is history.
From the beginning, Ayn Rand’s movement – which she chose to title “Objectivism” – was doomed by its own internal contradictions – and, in particular, one specific contradiction involving two independent mandates for living: egotism and objectivity.
In plain English, the core contradiction that cripples Objectivism as a philosophy is that it “talks the talk of truth”, but “walks the walk of egomania”.
(For those of you who have clear minds to think, egomania is a bad thing. It’s legitimate self-pride that has turned cancerous, unjustly devouring all in its path to support its ravenous and imbalanced appetites. And it’s the actual reality of Objectivism, whether they like it or not.)
The great mistake that Ayn Rand made was in ram-rodding through the idea that self-love and self-promotion could never conflict with the truth of reality. In essence, she issued the edict, “Promote yourself at all times, and it shall never violate reality or truth.”
Well… she was wrong about that. And this, her error, was never formally identified or detected and, as a result, her fallacy propagated itself into a schizophrenic and destructive self-conflicted social movement which has bored its way into the psyches of all too many insecure power-lusters seeking an easy and sure foot-hold on life and all its myriad challenges.
Here is where Rand’s fallacy – and, yes, I am officially now calling it “Rand’s Fallacy”, as that phrase comes to stand for the specific contradiction between ego and truth – creates the problem:
The instruction to “promote oneself and seek maximum personal glory” simply cannot happen in certain instances where the instruction to “heed reality and admit the truth” contradicts the first instruction. One directive must be assigned a higher priority than the other.
But Ayn Rand never resolved this dispute, and, as a result, two types of “Objectivists” have emerged: 1) those who implicitly interpret her mandate to mean that egocentrism must come first and that truth should come second, and 2) those who implicitly interpret that truth must come first and that egocentrism should come second.
Quite understandably then, as a result, Objectivism produces two types of individuals: 1) psychopathically narcissistic egomaniacs who bend the truth shamelessly to enhance their illusion of personal excellence, and 2) embattled and smugly-ridiculed pariahs who compulsively strive to pursue the truth despite the social cost to their veneer of personal excellence.
And yes, I am, of course the second type. I wear the scars – as does my good friend, Gennady Stolyarov, who also knows this feeling well. There will be, no doubt, countless cadre cannibals who, continually admiring their own reflections in their respective houses of mirrors, will make a fine public display of identifying and scoffing at this remark, but it remains the truth.
This corrupting contradiction that Objectivism implants – vanity versus veracity – maintains itself within its indoctrinees quite lastingly. Even those whose reputations have had a chunk ripped out by the character cannibals of SOLO – such as Reginald Firehammer, Cass, and Diana Hsieh – still can’t help but practice their own brand of narcissistic character cannibalism at their own websites. They reserve exclusive rights to issue certain statements of truth that they routinely censure and bar others from their websites for making.
Yet this does not stop them from continuing to shout out “Injustice!” from the highest mountaintop, when it’s done to them.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Objectivism (because it was programmed into the equation from the very start).
All of this – narcissism and resentment – has been going on since and before the advent of Ayn Rand. The only difference is that Rand’s philosophy was supposed to end it, not make it stronger. But it has failed in that respect.
Objectivism as a philosophy will continue to fail, until the day when someone decides whether its top priority is vanity or truth. If the decision is ever made to make the philosophy’s top priority the dedication to full truth – otherwise known as objectivity – then Objectivism can rightly be called Objectivism.
Until that day, however, this philosophy in question can only be rightly called one thing, and that is Narcissism – an entirely different concept, to be sure.
Orion Reasoner is a contributor to The Rational Argumentator.
This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.