Both the Lady Parts and Periods items were pulled within hours of posting, and Julia had launched quite a backlash meme, so one might think that the Obama campaign would be cautious about patronizing women again.
Alas, no. The Obama campaign has plenty more patronizing to do, this time in a plucky commercial. Thursday afternoon the Obama campaign released this spot, “Your First Time.”
In case you are not familiar with the young woman telling voting virgins to have their first time be with Barack Obama, that is Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO’s Girls. It is Sex in the City for millennials — all the sex and the single girl drama but without the cushy jobs to support the Manolo Blahnik fetishes.
According to Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, 1 in 25 Americans is a sociopath who has no conscience. These are people who could cut your throat from ear to ear because they don’t like your haircut and then go out for dinner and dancing before drifting off to a good night’s sleep. The good news is that the vast majority of these sociopaths aren’t inclined to be violent. In fact, many of them have even gone on to enjoy long, successful careers in Congress (sadly, I’m not joking about that).
Unfortunately, this is not always the case — particularly when a child who already has those inclinations also endures horrific abuse or a serious mental illness. When you put together an inability to feel guilt with a perverse desire to inflict physical suffering, you have a lethal killing machine that is all the more dangerous because he often looks just like everyone else. Remember what neighbors and friends always seem to say about serial killers and mass murderers: “He might have been a little strange, but he was quiet and kept to himself. I never thought he’d do anything like this.”
That’s probably just what the victims of these killers thought as they wandered into the grasp of these butchers like flies caught in the web of a cold, remorseless spider. The serial killers you’re about to read about don’t necessarily have the highest body counts, but their bizarre and sadistic behavior makes them stand out even in the ranks of America’s worst murderers. (Note: What you’re about to read is genuinely disturbing and not for the faint of heart. Please don’t say that I didn’t warn you).
7. Ed Kemper
Number of Victims: 10
Fate: Life imprisonment with the possibility of parole
To get an idea of how lethal Ed Kemper is, keep in mind that he’s 6’9″ and 300 pounds. He has an IQ of 130 and has been diagnosed as a violent schizophrenic. How violent? At 13, Kemper murdered his own grandmother because he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma“ and then he killed his grandfather because he was afraid of what his reaction would be after he discovered the murder.
Kemper was released from psychiatric care at 21, moved in with his mother, and began killing hitchhikers and engaging in necrophilia with their corpses after fights with his mother. After six murders, Kemper beat his own mother to death with a claw hammer, decapitated her, had sex with her head and then used it as a dart board. For good measure, he invited his mother’s best friend over to the house and killed her, too. Afterwards, Kemper called the police and turned himself in. Despite requesting the death penalty, which was apparently a childhood fantasy, Kemper was sentenced to life in prison.
What’s the most wonderful thing about this time of year? Is it putting Brach’s Pic-a-Mix at the top of the Halloween candy bowl to save the Kit-Kats at the bottom for one’s self? Is it dressing up as Big Bird with a binder full of bayonets (so I’m guessing will be the Beltway costume of choice this year)? Is it enjoying one last fun holiday before the Holidays With Pressure arrive?
It’s the TV, of course. It’s several straight nights or even a whole month (thanks, AMC) of getting to watch Donald Pleasence face off with Michael Myers.
The one. The only. The Donald.
Pleasence, of course, played Dr. Sam Loomis, archenemy to evil-brat-all-grown-up Michael Myers, in John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978), 1981′s Halloween 2, 1988′s Halloween 4, 1989′s Halloween 5, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
I give you 10 reasons why Donald Pleasence is that awesome — besides, obviously, being a great actor bringing a touch of class to a low-budget enterprise.
- The person in a horror movie who always knows what’s afoot while other don’t believe him always deserves a modicum of respect.
- He knows bullets can’t take down Michael Myers, and advises others of the same, but still keeps trying. Determination.
- How many other shrinks in trenchcoats do we have as movie action heroes?
- The best lines. Sheriff: “I have a feeling that you’re way off on this.” Dr. Loomis: “You have the wrong feeling.”
- The delivery. “We are talking about evil on two legs” sounds more awesome coming from Donald Pleasence than anyone else.
- His indestructibleness rivals Myers’, who can’t seem to kill his childhood psychiatrist with explosions, window tosses, etc.
- He never descends into weepy hysterics at the sight of Myers, but confronts and even challenges him: “Now you’ll come, won’t you, Michael?”
- You really root for Donald Pleasence. (And Jamie Lee Curtis, as well.) Whiny camp counselors being stalked by Jason in the Friday the 13th series? Not so much.
- He’s a man about it. “Michael? Why now? You waited ten years. I knew this day would come. Don’t go to Haddonfield. If you want another victim, take me. But leave those people in peace. Please, Michael?” Before he curses at Myers and pops .50 caliber slugs at him.
- He was the inspiration for Dr. Evil yet is the best fighting force against “evil on two legs” Myers.
A new installment in PJM’s Andrew Klavan’s prize-winning Homeland series of young adult thrillers - If We Survive - has just been published by Thomas Nelson. I read the first in the series - The Last Thing I Remember - and, although I am several decades beyond “young adult,” enjoyed it immensely. The new one takes the series out of the country to Central America where the heroes are to build a new school for the poor and, not surprisingly, run into some revolutionaries.
Klavan’s novels would make great holiday gifts for the high schoolers on your list. Buried beneath the good fun of the mystery plots are some values they don’t often get from their teachers.
CORRECTION: I have been informed that If We Survive is a standalone novel for Young Adults, not part of the Homeland series – all the more reason to buy both.
More on superheroes at PJ Lifestyle:
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
For Americans over 40, Leave It To Beaver is an iconic television show, complete with archetypal American characters. Every week during its Eisenhower/Kennedy heyday, Americans watched a handful of naifs (Beaver and Wally Cleaver, and their innocent little friends) stumble into dangerous or embarrassing situations thanks to Eddie Haskell’s slick, dishonest machinations. Eddie, a skinny, duplicitous young man, was adept at ingratiating himself with adults when called upon to do so, but his main goal remained to upset the placid social order prevailing amongst Beaver-ville‘s young. When anarchy threatened, Beaver and Wally always knew that their mother June would express worry and dispense kisses, while their father, Ward, acting in a lovingly magisterial way, would impart wisdom, impose appropriate consequences, and generally restore sanity.
Although the show ran for only six seasons (1957-1963) and pre-dated the upheavals of the 1960s, decades of repeats ensured that it resonated in the American psyche. Generations of Americans have laughed with (and yes, sneered at) the tight little world of Beaver-ville, one predicated upon stable nuclear families: wise fathers, stay-at-home mothers, and grateful children.
Perhaps the scenario is a fairy tale that never reflected the majority of American families, but it’s a lovely fairy-tale, one that promises lasting security for the child who can escape the bad boy’s enticements and embrace the elders’ wisdom. It presents an America as we wish it would be, although we’d be glad to update its monochromatic cast. In the 21st century, Beaver’s neighborhood would have different races, colors, and creeds, and it would probably be home to a conservative gay couple down the block, raising an adopted orphan from China.
What’s so satisfying about Leave It To Beaver is that it presents a time-tested way of ordering the world: it trusts maturity. Even the best-intentioned young people lack the wisdom and knowledge to cope with instability, danger, dishonesty, and disorder. Their innocence and naivete mean that they’ll too easily trust demagogues and make foolish, hurtful, and potentially harmful mistakes.
What kept the show from being a tragedy, and turned it into an amusing morality tale, was that week in and week out, the grown-ups in the room were able to sort out the child’s chaotic world. Sadly, real life isn’t like that. Too often, naive voters put their faith in demagogues and there is no rescue. This election, though, there’s still a chance that Ward Cleaver’s political stand-in can win the vote and save the day.
From the moment Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican candidate, this election took on the trappings of a contest between Ward Cleaver (played by Mitt Romney) and Eddie Haskell (played by Barack Obama). The comparison was easy at a superficial level: Romney bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Ward Cleaver, complete with commanding height, combed-back black hair, square jaw, and fatherly meme. Obama, too, is Eddie Haskell’s double since he shares the youthful face, lanky body, and manipulative, hustler’s demeanor.
If one digs beneath the superficial similarities, it’s uncanny how Mitt and Obama still stay close to the Ward and Eddie characters. Let me count the ways…
Recently CBS chief foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes host Lara Logan uttered the most profound and significant words heard from a reporter in recent memory. Addressing the Chicago Better Government Association, she reminded wayward professional journalism of its forgotten essence.
Presenting her research on the actual state of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Logan said:
So why did that story matter and why did we chose to do that particular story? If al-Qaeda was truly what drew us to Afghanistan after 9-11, we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asking of American leaders what the state of al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. And you would have heard leaders, you would have heard bandied around the number fifty… only fifty al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The impression we are given is that they’re one drone strike away from obliteration. And that’s just simply not true. They know it is not true. What we had to do was set about investigating what was the truth and we had to be very careful about that because there is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. Those are two very different things and the second is a very dangerous thing. It is the enemy of great journalism. It is a trap that is very easy to fall into.
Giving a breathtaking demonstration of the self-effacement required by journalism as she had just re-defined it, Lara looked straight at the thousand guests present and the millions she knew would see the recording. Without flinching or considering the cost, she answered the eternal question:
Quid est veritas? What is the truth?
This week Tom Wolfe, iconic American author in the white suit, reenters our cultural scene with his new book, Back to Blood. His return at the same time as Camille Paglia is a happy coincidence. Two of our sharpest culture critics both think that art and literature should mean something. (As they are both atheists, they need art to mean something, but that is one of Paglia’s arguments and so I will address it in my Glittering Images review, hopefully later this month.) Established fans of Wolfe know of his reputation as a cultural critic, but for younger readers for whom Back to Blood is their first knowledge of the author, a brief introduction to Wolfe’s massive influence:
Wolfe started out writing news as stories. He used a narrative, historical fiction style but, since he wrote on current events, he could interview the players and observe the events rather than creatively fill in gaps in the historical record. His first books were news stories about cultural phenomenon such as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about the hippie culture and The Right Stuff on NASA culture. He expected that those true stories would inspire related fiction. They didn’t.
So in 1987 he penned an explosive essay for Harpers, “Stalking the Billion Footed Beast.” He argued that if modern American authors insisted on writing novels about nothing, then they would cede American literature to realist authors like himself. His first fiction novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, was his proof. A story about wild New York City financial life in the ’80s, Bonfire was a fabulous success. By the time he published his next novel, A Man in Full, the old guard authors were annoyed — and ready to strike back.
Two weekends remain before Election Day — just enough time for movie fans to pop in a couple of flicks. These suggestions aren’t obvious election-related films like 2016 or Occupy Unmasked. For starters, these movies aren’t necessarily as depressing. They can instead be hilarious, uplifting, and fascinating. But each one has something to say.
Avalon is the gorgeous Barry Levinson story of Russian-Jewish immigrants who came to America, and who came to love America. They proudly sought America’s material promise and spiritual freedom. They built things, they raised families, they dreamed. They realized that no place on Earth offered the same life to those determined to work hard. Sometimes they failed, but that didn’t stop them. Sometimes they made mistakes, but they learned. Avalon is the story of what happens when the goodness of a nation is matched with good people. It is a story of what makes our nation great and what Americans have treasured for generations.
If Avalon is poetic and beautiful, this Mike Judge comic farce is ugly and lowbrow, except it really isn’t. Idiocracy is the story of an “average” American who is frozen for 500 years and awakens to a totally transformed America. Law, culture, morals, ambition, intelligence, initiative, thrift, industry, and competence have all rotted away. The movie is a comic romp through the resulting society. Planes fall from the sky, government planning leads to near famine, and sugar drinks flow through tubes to millions watching TV on the couch.
The title of this article is polarizing and I expect to get in trouble for writing it. As a homeschooling parent, I’m not supposed to think homeschooling superior to institutionalized education. I’m supposed to take the stance that all choices are equal in the effort not to offend anyone who prefers public schooling. It’s a hot topic in the mommy circles and one that most homeschooling moms want to avoid. We all encounter the same comments and exclamations like, “How do you do it? When are you going to put them in real school? You must be crazy! How long do you plan to do this?” My personal favorite: “I could never do that!” This article is a response to all the times I’ve wanted to answer truthfully but held my tongue in order to preserve peace.
Disclaimer: Let it be understood that I believe in the freedom of every individual to choose how to raise their own children how they see fit. This does not prevent me from having an opinion as to the nature of public school and what state-run education inflicts on American children. This is based on personal experience and years of study and research. Further, many of you will argue that none of the examples in this article have ever happened to your child in your school. My answer is, not yet. I warn you, if you are a public schooling advocate and you continue to read this article you may become unhappy with your current choices and find yourself at a homeschooling conference and facing disapproval from your social circle. Read at your own risk.
8. Social Programming for Dummies.
Most people worry that homeschoolers aren’t properly “socialized,” whatever that means. As if uncivilized children should socialize each other (bad idea). Anyone who has read Lord of the Flies knows how that ends. And if the teachers are supposed to do the socializing, why can’t parents? Every homeschooling family I know (and that’s quite a few) has as many, if not more, extracurricular activities for their kids as everyone else. There are 4-H, Girl/Boy Scouts, Jiu Jitsu (that’s us), music lessons, art lessons, metal working, speech and debate, sports and more.
But the most important difference in home-school socialization is that the social values taught come from the parents instead of the state. During our lessons we learn about reading, writing, math, science, history, Bible, Christian character, and art. We spend absolutely zero time on fictional, apocalyptic “global warming.” We don’t preach at them about marriage “equality” or teach them how to put condoms on bananas. We do, however, teach them the nutritional value of bananas and how to be a good steward of the earth by composting the banana peel after we eat it. The state’s values have no effect on our children. When we teach history, we teach them the values of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. We do not blather on endlessly about the supposed heroics of mass murderers like Che Guevara. Because of this difference, homeschooling parents produce inherently American children.
A person isn’t American simply because he was born here and exists here, but rather because he has internalized and embraced American values. Home-teachers have the freedom to teach the real history of America that includes the Bible and its influence in American government and in the lives of our Founders. Without this knowledge (whitewashed from public curriculum), a child will learn a false history of his country and never truly understand the concept of rights that come from the Creator and not men. This one idea is so important, so vital, yet it is left out of context. As a result, these children grow up to attend colleges where “speech codes” punish free-thinkers and no one thinks it’s odd, not to mention illegal.
Publicly educated kids grow up too susceptible to the idea that “hate speech” should actually be silenced instead of balanced with more speech. They sit at the feet of the progeny of Marxist professors who fill their heads with ideas as old as civilization, ideas of madness and tyranny disguised as “fairness” and “equality.” This kind of education does not create Americans. Our children are being robbed of their rightful inheritance. Gone is academic excellence and here to stay is social programming.
My home is a happy vacation from such wrong-headed and stupid ideas. (And my children’s teacher wouldn’t be caught dead on strike in a Che shirt.)
Last night, Obama supporters again proved that they will hear what they want to hear. As the “binders full of women” comment gave Democratic women a hook for their assumption that Romney is bad for women in government, Obama’s comment about horses and bayonets launched an instant meme in which his supporters see what they want to see. This time, however, they are making fools of themselves.
If you were watching football or anything enjoyable last night, Romney was talking about the importance of maintaining our forces and lamented that we now had the smallest navy since 1916. Obama countered that Romney didn’t know much about the military, that this wasn’t a game of Battleship, that we had more than horses and bayonets these days. The left saw this as a zinger. Tweets about the obsoleteness of bayonets and horses started to flow. The left relished the idea that they were more military savvy than Romney. Alas, they were mistaken.
We still use bayonets. And horses. Remember when it seemed to take forever before we went into Afghanistan after 9/11? Special Forces had already gone in—on horseback—to ID and paint the targets for our attack. There is a lovely memorial going in at Ground Zero to commemorate these heroes. Bayonets can be seen in stock photos of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and in the Few, The Proud, The Marines commercials. In Great Britain one can still earn medals for proper use of a bayonet. (h/t @tobyharnden) In contention for the best comment of the night started by a mother of 2 Marines to Mona Charen: “Ambassador Stevens would have loved a horse or a bayonet or a Marine with either one.”
Obama was probably trying to say that in the modern era the number of ships isn’t as important as the kind of ships. If Obama hadn’t been aiming for a petty zinger, he might have been able to articulate that point. He didn’t, and his supporters ran with the horses and bayonets meme which exposes them as not only ignorant, but willfully ignorant of the military.
Contrary to expectations, Jason Aldean’s Night Train looks to be a Mumford-slayer when this week’s Billboard 200 is updated later this week. Estimates suggest the new album will break 400,000 and easily dominate last week’s slate of new releases. He won’t get much time to enjoy his first-ever No. 1 album, however, as this week’s juggernaut release, Taylor Swift’s Red, is set to be this year’s biggest-selling album. Her sophomore album, Speak Now, broke one million in first-week sales back in 2010, and Red has already spawned four top ten singles, two of which had opening week sales of more than 400,000. Nothing else on this week’s slate can touch that.
See Last Week’s Picks: TUESDAY NEW RELEASES – “A Fine Frenzy in the Shadow of Mumford”
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… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead – Lost Songs (Superball Music)
Bebo Norman – Lights of Distant Cities (BEC Recordings)
The most consistent songwriter in all of Christian contemporary music, Norman’s eighth studio album features his strongest material yet. Standout track “Outside Her Window Was the World” successfully channels Coldplay through Third Day, subverting expectations both from the pop and CCR perspective.
Being As An Ocean – Dear G-d… (Invogue Records)
Billy Ray Cyrus – Change My Mind (Blue Cadillac Music)
He who brought us the torture of “Achy Breaky Heart” coupled with his overhyped offspring Miley, Cyrus attempts a comeback and, at least with the title track, comes up with by-the-book modern country which won’t disappoint casual listeners.
Bridgit Mendler – Hello My Name Is… (Hollywood Records)
Colbie Caillat – Christmas in the Sand (Universal Republic)
Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional (Astralwerks)
Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise Records)
Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu (Warner Bros.)
At 28, Gary Clark Jr’s blend of contemporary soul and hip-hop with classic blues and r&b plants him firmly at the lead of today’s young tastemakers. Of his new album, Rolling Stone calls the album “uneven, [but] occasionally thrilling” and touts Clark’s willingness to experiment with blues in the age of auto-tune.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D. City (Aftermath)
P.O.S. – We Don’t Even Live Here (Rhymesayers)
Paul Banks – Banks (Matador Records)
Rick Berlin – Always On Insane (The Whitehaus Family Record)
Shiny Toy Guns – III (Five Seven Music)
Taylor Swift – Red (Big Machine)
This album is critically bulletproof, but when you strip away the hype, Red is a surprisingly strong album from a songwriter who isn’t afraid to leave country in the dust for the pop music she clearly longs to make. “I Knew You Were Trouble” flirts with dubstep flourishes and proves to be her strongest pop contribution yet. Haters, prepare to be surprised!
Titus Andronicus – Local Business (XL Recordings)
Tony Bennett – Viva Duets (Columbia)
Tweaker – Call the Time Eternity (Metropolis Records)
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Week after week albums continue to surprise, as this Fall’s releases prove there’s always plenty more great music worth highlighting. This week, KISS’s twentieth album gets surprisingly solid reviews. Plus crazy cabaret-inspired alternative from former Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer, new music from Muse and fresh material from Jack White’s latest revival project, Wanda Jackson.
Over the weekend I published the first in an ongoing series of book blog posts by me here at PJ Lifestyle: 23 Books for Counterculture Conservatives, Tea Party Occultists, and Capitalist Wizards.
This more than 17,000-word, free, online ebook features six sections of books on a variety of subjects: autobiographies, history, polemics, American exceptionalism, media, and science. (And included throughout are various YouTube videos and custom photos of relevant excerpts.)
The three autobiographies that begin this series each tell a different variation of a story familiar to many PJ readers: the liberal “mugged by reality” reemerging after disappointment as a more tough-minded conservative who recognizes the world’s evil and can call it by name. (Victor Davis Hanson refers to this as the tragic view.)
In reflecting on these narratives, one point often goes unsaid: the journey from Left to Right usually takes awhile — years, sometimes even decades. PJM CEO Roger L. Simon’s Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine, the late Andrew Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation, and leading occult author James Wasserman’s In the Center of the Fire each show as much for men traveling very different careers. For all three the journey out of so-called liberalism required many difficult realizations and personal struggles with both private life experiences and the big national stories.
When one’s ideology fails, a new process of searching for answers begins. The experience resembles a fish out of water flailing about on the shore. One flop forward, another scared slide backwards toward the progressive ocean.
I resisted accepting the “conservative” and “right-wing” labels for years; my own transition from Chomsky reader and Nation subscriber during college in 2005 to conservative new media editor in 2012 came in baby steps. I drifted from the hard left wing of the Democratic Party circa 2006 to the (imagined-in-my-own-head) Centrist Liberal wing of the Democrats by 2008. (Thank two and a half years of pay-the-bills-type jobs while developing my freelance writing career for those small gains.) I then flopped over to a disillusioned, independent “New Centrism” (my own term years before “No Labels”) as Obama came into office and his hard leftism emerged. (What was a radical like Van Jones doing in a “post-ideological” administration? Stanley Kurtz would answer that question.)
Initially I empathized with the polite, “center-right” David Frum/David Brooks-style “sophisticated” conservative circa Fall 2009. During 2010 and 2011 the ideological shift continued into more aggressive Tea Party and anti-jihad positions, though my “social liberalism” still remained. Only in the last year — as I’ve returned to a belief in God and grown certain in my need to someday become a father — does it feel like I’ve come all the way to the Right, thus inspiring an unashamed identification with social conservatism and family values. (That I still support state-level legislation favoring gay marriage for the kind of socially conservative, every-human-being-on-the-face-of-the-earth-needs-to-endeavor-to-get-married reasons that Jonathan Rauch argues in his book can remain an ongoing debate for another day…)
Does this kind of gradual journey sound familiar to anybody else?
Part I: Autobiographies
1. In The Center of the Fire by James Wasserman
Original Publication Date: June 15, 2012
In this daring exposé by a survivor of a unique era in the New York occult scene, James Wasserman, a longtime proponent of the teachings of Aleister Crowley, brings us into a world of candlelit temples, burning incense, and sonorous invocations. The author also shares an intimate look at the New York Underground of the 1970s and introduces us to the company of such avant-garde luminaries as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Harry Smith, and Angus MacLise. A stone’s throw away from the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol’s Factory, William Burroughs’ “bunker,” and the legendary Chelsea Hotel was a scene far more esoteric than perhaps even they could have imagined.
When James Wasserman joined the O.T.O. in 1976, there were fewer than a dozen members. Today the Order numbers over 4,000 members in 50 countries and has been responsible for a series of ground-breaking publications of Crowley’s works.
The author founded New York City’s TAHUTI Lodge in 1979. He chronicles its early history and provides a window into the heyday of the Manhattan esoteric community. He also breaks his decades of silence concerning one of the most seminal events in the development of the modern Thelemic movement — detailing his role in the 1976 magical battle between Marcelo Motta and Grady McMurtry. Long slandered for his effort to heal the temporary breach between the Orders of A.’.A.’. and O.T.O., James Wasserman sets the record straight. And, he meticulously chronicles the copyright contest over the Crowley literary estate–of which he was an important participant.
This is also a saga with a very human tableau filled with tender romance, passionate friendships, an abiding spiritual hunger, danger, passion, and ecstasy. It also explores several hidden magical byways including the rituals of Voodoo, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism. Finally we are given a bird’s eye view of the 1960s hippie culture and its excesses of sex and drugs, and rock n roll–along with the personal transformations and penalties such a lifestyle brought forth.
Reconstructed from personal memories, magical diaries, multiple interviews, court transcripts, witness depositions, trial evidence, and extensive correspondence, this book elucidates a hitherto misreported and ill-understood nexus of modern magical history. It also shares tales of a mythical moment in American life as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic participant in the hip culture of the day.
Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:
James Wasserman’s memoir accomplishes an elegant feat by juggling three narrative threads: A) his own personal transformation from socialist hippie drug addict in the late ’60s to gun-toting, libertarian family man and influential elder statesman of a new religion, B) the legal and personal battles surrounding Aleister Crowley’s copyrights and the leadership of the Ordo Templi Orientis – the same emotional intensity that inspires one to build religious movements also pushes others to tear them apart, C) the professional transformation from clerk at Weiser’s bookstore to acclaimed book designer, author, and talking head in Discovery and History channel documentaries. These three threads of course connect with our three CounterCon movements.
In describing the ideological and biographical aspect of Wasserman’s memoir, a good comparison is to PJ Media columnist Ron Radosh and his memoir Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left. Radosh and Wasserman played comparable roles in their respective movements of the New Left and Thelema, each acting as movement historian and subtle observer of behind-the-scenes events and the larger-than-life, legendary personalities.
And both made their journey from left to right one step at a time over the course of many decades. For Wasserman disillusionment from the organized left came in the late ’60s while working in Washington, D.C., on civil rights and antiwar issues. (He realized that the leaders of the movement admitted they didn’t care if the communists won in Vietnam — or that communism was even a bad thing.) But this just knocked him into more than a decade of wandering around the 1970s New York occult scene. It wouldn’t be until decades later when several life events would deliver the rightward kicks needed for him to eventually come out vocally as an advocate of political liberty. The one that I’ll emphasize here: during the mid-’80s Wasserman decided to purchase a gun to protect himself from some of the crazier individuals in the darker corners of the occult underground. He realized that he bore the responsibility to protect his family and that he could not rely on anyone else.
It’s one thing to live a happy little counterculture existence prancing around in a circle, casting spells and dropping LSD. But the reality is there are evil people out there who don’t want us to have this freedom. If we want to live as counterculturalists then conserving our liberty means having a bigger gun than the other guy, the skill to hit him when we fire, and the courage to pull the trigger before he does. And of course this same principle applies whether the bully is a thug wanting your wallet or a despot enriching uranium.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
Aleister Crowley — the founder of Wasserman’s religion of Thelema and the most influential occultist of the 20th century — has a really bad reputation. Much of this is his own fault but his enemies did a smear job on him that makes today’s mainstream media look as benign as internet comment trolls. Even still today most of the time when mentioning Crowley’s name in an article someone will show up in the comments to insist that he was a child molester and Satanist who drank blood and performed human sacrifice. (Roger L. Simon mentioned the connection between Crowley and Walter Duranty in his speech opening the Duranty awards — subjects to be explored in more depth in future editions of this list as I do more research.)
This has its benefits for a young religion; it’s much better if the founder is a jerk who’s very difficult to like. That way the ideas and spiritual teachings have to fall or stand on their own and you’re less likely to idolize the founder and emulate his life.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” remains the most well known tenet of Crowley’s system of Thelema and most widely misinterpreted. Those who just “dabble” in Occultism as a kind of revolt against the “establishment” Judeo-Christian tradition think that it means “Do whatever you want is the only law you have to live by because you’re a superman better than everyone else. So you can cheat and party and live the life of a hedonist.” (That certainly sounds to be the Duranty reading of it.) People just assume that because Crowley lived as a libertine for periods of his life that sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, racism, Satanism, and anti-Christian rhetoric were natural outgrowths of the religion he founded.
But that’s not the case. And you see it in the lives of people like Wasserman who find God and make themselves better people through nontraditional religious practices. Thelema isn’t a license to be an evil person. The operative word most misinterpreted is “WILL” and it translates the command more like this: “Find your True Will and then pursue performing it with all of your being.” How does one find his True Will? What does that even mean?
The answer is more mundane than those with the Crowley “Great Beast” caricature in their head may suspect. Crowley wrote in Magick Without Tears:
It should never be forgotten for a single moment that the central and essential work of the Magician is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Once he has achieved this he must of course be left entirely in the hands of that Angel, who can be invariably and inevitably relied upon to lead him to the further great step—crossing of the Abyss and the attainment of the grade of Master of the Temple.
True Will = The Will of God, or God’s plan for you on this earth, which we can find out through invoking angels to tell us and then transform us into the people God wants us to be.
Those thinking that the world of the occult is an escape from the Judeo-Christian tradition are in for a shock should they delve deeper. The reality is that Crowley-influenced occultism relies heavily on Jewish and Christian traditions. Don’t believe me? Wasserman’s previous book, The Temple of Solomon: From Ancient Israel to Secret Societies, featured later on the list, spends almost 400 pages making the argument.
What this means is that it’s time for occultists and those of “alternative” spirituality to recognize that they too are a part of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage — and have a responsibility to participate in defending it from the genocidal antisemites who want to conquer us all. We’re all Jews. Anyone who regards the Bible as a net positive for humanity, worth defending — regardless of their specific beliefs about the meaning of the words written in it — counts as a Jew. And everyone who struggles with God is Israel.
Why Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:
Also tucked into Wasserman’s memoir the reader finds the inspiring story of his multifaceted career in book designing, publishing, writing, and editing. Wasserman played a vital role in the publication of much of Crowley’s work today, perhaps of most importance being Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck in 1977, for which he also wrote the instructions. (This is my favorite Tarot deck.) Wasserman also produced a stunning edition of The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day. The books he designed have an elegant, authoritative quality to them. Spring for the hardback of In the Center of the Fire instead of the Kindle edition.
The important piece to grasp here is the role of writing as it relates to Wasserman’s spirituality and politics. When he founded a new OTO lodge in New York City the name he selected was TAHUTI. Likewise his memoir today is published by Ibis Press. TAHUTI, also known by his Greek name Thoth, was the Egyptian god of the scribes, the inventor of magic, writing, science, peacemaking, and a central figure among the Western occult tradition:
When we spend our entire lives breathing air, how often do we stop and think about the atmosphere we’re stuffing into our lungs? Do we even remember that there’s stuff called air surrounding us? And having always lived in text-based, book-based societies, can we comprehend what it would be like to live in a world without the written word as the common bridge between minds?
Writing is both a technology and a process for analyzing the world; and upon it sits in delicate balance Western civilization’s liberty-based religious culture, political system, and wealth-generating economic engine. Now with his memoir Wasserman can look back and see the truth of this occult theory as he manifested it over the course of his own life: Through the acts of writing and publishing the world can be transformed. Cast a spell and you can shape the world as you Will.
Through the memoir of another counterculture conservative publisher, lost too soon, we see a concrete example of how to implement this principle to address our dire political situation today…
The unedifying saga of Amanda Todd is one with a single victim, no heroes, and too many auxiliary vampires and vultures.
Every update about the adorable looking 15-year-old girl who was apparently driven to suicide by online “jailbait” bullies simply increases the world’s toxicity.
So I hesitate to add to this mess, and am unsure whether I have anything original or useful to say.
Except one thing, the thing I haven’t seen mentioned much in all the bandwagon-jumping articles condemning “cyberbullying” and “rape culture,” and calling on Somebody (always Somebody Else) to Do Something.
Here it is.
Are you ready?
DON’T POST NAKED PICTURES OF YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET.
Like peanut butter and jelly, like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager were meant to be together. Their on-air, on-stage chemistry works because it was meant to work. It’s supposed to work.
I am simply the one who made it all happen.
But unlike a coming together of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of cold milk, the union of the foul-mouthed atheist comedian Carolla and the erudite religious conservative Prager was not something as plain as the delicious smell wafting into the nose on your face. There was preparation and man-hours involved. There is a backstory.
Here it comes.
In 2005, while sitting on the roof of a house whose shutters I was painting to make some side cash during my senior year of college, I heard for the first time the commanding voice and demonstrable wisdom of Dennis Prager. In spite of the poor sound quality my small boombox offered, I heard the intellectual mentor for whom I’d been searching. Although the work I was doing at that exact moment was mundane and thoughtless, the monologue Prager unfurled had a zeal and depth that made one want to drop the paintbrush in order that he might go read an important book or start a charity or help an old lady cross the street.
Or, at the very least, do the best job of painting a shutter that one possibly could.
Like greater men such as Andrew Breitbart and David Mamet before me, I “found” Dennis in much the same way Gary Cooper in Sergeant York “found” religion.
To be fair to the Cooper-Breitbart-Mamet analogy, conservatism already coursed through my veins, but up to that point my political appetite had been fed primarily by the red meat served up daily on cable news shows and in Sean Hannity’s books. I believe in Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, and so please understand that I mean no disrespect to any of the fine people who represent my values in the media, but it was then, finally, that I heard in Dennis’ presentation a voice of strength and breadth and insight that I had secretly craved.
A man of substance. A man of thoughtful inquiry. A man of big ideas.
This was my introduction to what I affectionately call “Prager Conservatism,” and from that point until today I haven’t gone more than a few days without listening to his nationally syndicated radio show or reading his discerning weekly columns. Eventually, after graduating from college, my friends and I began hosting “Prager Hour” nights twice a month where a bunch of guys in their 20s would come over, enjoy a cigar if they so chose, hear a pre-selected segment or two of The Dennis Prager Radio Show’s podcast, and engage in lively discussion and debate for a couple of hours. Dennis was Obi-wan to our band of Luke Skywalkers.
Thankfully none of us have had our hands chopped off with a light-saber by a scary man who claims to have sired us…yet!
Dr. Helen asks the question at her blog: Name 5 Reasons a Man Should Get Married,
As I think about it, I wonder in today’s anti-male climate, whether there are financial and legal reasons that a man would want to marry. Maybe I’m being too cynical here. Can readers help me out?
No financial or legal reasons exist for a man to want to marry. I’ll go further: no secular reasons exist for a man to marry. Choosing marriage is an entirely irrational act, contrary to male nature and self-interest. It’s an act of self-sacrifice in which the man decides to give up his own life so he can take care of his wife and their children, giving them a better life than he knew himself.
There’s only one reason why anyone should marry: Because they believe in a religion that says you’re supposed to get married and have as many children as possible and that happiness will then follow. If a transcendent God doesn’t exist and death is the absolute end then what difference does it make if a man spends his money on a wife and kids or on toys and escorts?
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I guess it’s to be expected – that the cool grew up to be square. Hell, even evangelicals are hipper than liberals now. (I used the word Hell deliberately, even though it isn’t cool.)
Now here’s the thing: Liberals are beginning to realize they’re not hip anymore. They won’t admit it, but they do. Witness Obama’s behavior with the press. He’s sweating like Nixon – and that’s definitely not hip. (On second thought, Nixon was finally hipper than Obama.)
And Jay Carney? Would you call him hip? And what about Biden? Has there ever been a soul so square?
What makes modern liberalism the mess that it is today is that it is mainly composed of people who desperately wanted to be cool in high school – wanted to be Abbie Hoffman or Eldridge Cleaver – but never were. Their longing – this need to be Abbie – has clouded their thinking and their ability to perceive reality, placing us all in a mess along with them.
Meanwhile, Bob Dylan became a conservative.
– PJ Media CEO Roger L. Simon, June 19, 2012
“He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will, too. I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we’ve gotta … name this condition that he’s going through… I think it’s called Romnesia,”
– President Barack Obama, October 19, 2012
Of course we’re down to the final months of the president’s term, as presidents…
…as President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and refinery, you have to wonder what he’s thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute.
And by the way in — in the spirit of Sesame Street, the president’s remarks tonight are brought to you but the letter ‘O’ and the number $16 trillion.
– GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, October 18, 2012
Previously at PJ Lifestyle we’ve discussed the phenomenon of the “crunchy conservative,” the individual who embraces politics and values commonly associated with “the Right” while living a more natural, “hippie” lifestyle stereotyped as a monopoly of those on “the Left.”
But libertarians who prefer raw milk and organic food aren’t the only oddballs smashing the stereotype of what a “Bitter Clinger” actually looks like. Here are three more political-cultural hybrids:
Someone with classical liberal politics and outside-the-mainstream art tastes, lifestyle choices, diet, fashion sensibilities, sexual preferences, or religious beliefs. Often times this mindset comes as a result of a political shift to the Right later in life.
Archetypal example: New Media troublemaker and publisher, the late Andrew Breitbart (whose memoir appears second on the list.)
Tea Party Occultist
One who identifies with both the founding fathers’ Enlightenment politics and Masonic spiritual values — and perceives the relationship between the two. Religious Liberty requires a government based in Political Liberty and a military to defend it from barbarian idolaters who would take away both. Alternative definition: one who identifies with both the “Right-Wing” Tea Party movement and the Right-Hand path of the Western Mystery Tradition, adequately defined here by Wikipedia:
The Right-Hand Path is commonly thought to refer to magical or religious groups which adhere to a certain set of characteristics:
(See the rest of the Wikipedia entry for a list of various religions and mystical groups characterized as Right-Hand.) Even within the magical world those on “the Right” cherish the Rule of Law, while those on “the Left” embrace anarchy.
Archetypal example: James Wasserman, author, book designer, and a “founding father” of the modern revivals of the mystical secret society the Ordo Templi Orientis and its religion Thelema. (Wasserman’s new memoir begins the list and four more of his books also appear.)
One who understands the magical abilities of the free market to create value, wealth, and prosperity out of nothing but hard work, great ideas, and good luck. In free societies you really can wave your wand and turn lead into gold. All wealth begins when the entrepreneurs who will someday create it first dream and then put pen to paper to lay out their plan. Writing creates wealth. The ridiculous level of comfort in our society today — our government can afford to pay for the luxury of a cell phone for “poor” people — could happen because hundreds of years ago men wrote that the pursuit of happiness was an innate right.
Archetypal Example: Walt Disney. What began as imaginations in his head and sketches of a mouse would one day become a billion dollar multimedia empire with DisneyLand — our Mecca — as the permanent celebratory reminder of how the imagination can manifest mental and spiritual wealth into the material world.
One can note that these categories each correlate with one of the three values of the American Trinity identified and defined by Dennis Prager in his book Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Counterculture conservatives embody Liberty, Tea Party Occultists emphasize In God We Trust, and the Capitalist Wizards live E. Pluribus Unum in both theory and practice.
These three categories also have their natural opponents, of whom more will be said later in the list when appropriate:
- Counterculture Conservatives Vs Cultural Marxists.
- Tea Party Occultists Vs Nazi Mystics.
- Capitalist Wizards Vs Corporatist Sorcerers.
My intent with this list is to compile an annotated bibliography of sorts — a collection of books on a variety of subjects and genres that when put side by side can manifest fresh connections and new ways of looking at the world so we as individuals can solve our problems and live happier, more fulfilling lives.
Future editions will include additional categories and authors, as well as expanded entries for the books and authors already included. (Please leave suggestions of who should appear in future updates. And if you leave an especially strong comment then I might include it in the next edition.) This first list comprises only a bare bones beginning for defining these three emerging traditions. Perhaps 100 more titles await in my mind for potential inclusion and with input from PJ Lifestyle’s readers that number can grow.
Here are the various sections of the list for your browsing convenience so you can jump to the subjects or authors who are of most interest. However, I’ve still written this extended article (really more of a free e-book before the election) with the traditional intent that it should make the most sense read beginning to end… that is, if it ends up making any sense at all — which is not something I can guarantee… Caveat Emptor…
Part I, Autobiographies: Forging Counterculture Conservatism In The Center of the Fire
- Occult author James Wasserman in the context of New Media publishers Roger L. Simon and the late Andrew Breitbart.
Part II, History: The Temple of Solomon and the Foundations of Western Civilization
- Abraham, The Patriarch as Original Counterculturalist.
- Also: the truth about the Muslim occultists who tried to separate Islam from Shariah and their hidden role in shaping Western Freedom.
Part III, Polemics: A Moonchild of Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter
- “Freedom is a two-edged sword of which one edge is liberty and the other, responsibility. Both edges are exceedingly sharp and the weapon is not suited to casual, cowardly or treacherous hands.” — Jack Parsons…
Part IV, American Exceptionalism: The Secrets Embedded Within The Fourth Great Western Religion
- The Tarot cards hidden in Washington D.C.’s architecture.
- Why America really is a nation of crazy people.
- Also: meet Ronald Reagan’s favorite occultist.
Part V, Media: Douglas Rushkoff and Programming Internet Magic
- The Bible as R-rated Counterculture Comic Book For Adults.
- What’s the difference between capitalism and corporatism?
Part VI, Science: Howard Bloom and the Modern Alchemical Marriage of Secularism and Spirituality
- What does it mean to understand Mother Nature as “a bloody bitch?”
- And what does it look like when an atheist proves that God exists not as a noun, but as the Kabbalists always said, a Verb?
In last week’s Classic Rock installment I wrote that if you wanted to spark a lively conversation among aging baby boomers just pose the question, “What was your first rock concert?”
Without a doubt the best answer is any Beatles concert.
But, it just so happens, a close friend, JW from Virginia, attended the first Beatles concert. This was held on February 11, 1964 at the Coliseum in Washington D.C. – two days after the Beatles made their historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
After alluding to him in last week’s piece, JW wrote the following comment:
Late winter of ’64 we were still in a funk caused by Kennedy’s Assassination and not yet into the hoopla of the Johnson-Goldwater campaign. Saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s in NY, and they were to entertain down the East Coast: Washington and Miami. Manage to get tickets to sold-out Washington show in the round. Ringo was in the middle and on an elevated, rotating platform. They had made the mistake of saying that they like jelly-beans, so we all brought a supply. When the music started the crowd pelted the stage with jelly-beans trying to hit any of the Fab-Four, though Ringo was the principal target. He was up there turning on the platform, dodging the beans. Kids in the lower rows were pelted by the incoming from the other side. It was a blast!
For the record, JW was a high school senior at the time, born in the first baby boom crop of 1946, along with two future presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Reading JW’s comment piqued my interest so he agreed to answer a few questions.
Q. You mentioned in your comment that “we were still in a funk caused by Kennedy’s assassination.” Given that the two events were less than three months apart — can you further elaborate on the emotional connection between Kennedy’s death and the Beatles popularity?
A. The Kennedy assassination was a national shock: our emotions remained subdued during that Christmas holiday and into the cold of late winter 1964. I felt a sense of emptiness, since kids of my age had been so “grabbed” emotionally by the Kennedy Presidency, which was an exhilaration following the drabness of the 1950s. The Beatles lit a spark in us that seemed to re-enliven my peers, and lifted us into our college years. President Johnson was quite dull in comparison, and could not compete with the Beatles as a social phenomenon and distraction
Q. As a 17-year-old in the audience, did you have any inkling that you were watching history being made?
A. Definitely, yes: all the kids were a-buzz about the Fab-Four before they even came to the US. When the first US tour was announced, I knew it would be really big so I went out of my way to get tickets immediately when sales started, and it was sold-out early.
Q. From your perspective 48 years later, what are your lasting impressions of that first Beatles concert?
A. The frenzy of the crowd was unforgettable, and as I described in my comment, arching jelly-beans over the Fab-Four heads into the crowd on the other side was like the food-fight in “Animal House.” Also, Ringo turning around on his elevated turntable and ”I Wanna Hold Your Handdddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!”
Thanks for the memories, JW.
While we are regaling in baby boom nostalgia, JW is truly a walking exhibit! Besides witnessing the first Beatles concert, JW marched in President John Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural parade as a Boy Scout. Then later, as a member of Yale’s 1964 freshman class, that aforementioned 1946 born president, George W. Bush, was one of JW’s classmates.
Like many baby boomers, JW is a fruit of the vine connoisseur, so I asked him to make this week’s cheap wine recommendation. As a Virginian, JW takes great pride in his state’s small, but nationally award- winning wineries and thus chose Naked Mountain Chardonnay.
Fortunately, I am familiar with this quaint, picturesque vineyard situated about 60 miles west of Washington D.C. in Markham, Virginia. And, while enjoying the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, have been seen consuming a glass or two of their buttery, richly-flavored oak tasting Chardonnay — so I applaud JW for his refined selection.
Let’s toast to JW and the first 1946 crop of baby boomers who paved the way and changed our nation forever. Now that 10,000 of their younger peers are reaching the age of 65 every day for the next 17 years, they are scheduled to bankrupt Medicare and Social Security — again changing our nation forever.
But that my friends is a discussion for another day.
Check out Myra’s previous Classic Rock and Cheap Wine columns:
Each year at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, the packed house is reminded of the scientific and intellectual contributions Israel has made to the world. I’d suggest adding Oren Peli to the list for creating a horror franchise that has actually remained satisfying and reasonably fresh (and oh-so-profitable) through three sequels.
The Paranomal Activity series has remained a guaranteed box-office success without recessing into the torture-porn subgenre — exactly where the Saw franchise went after the first film had a suspenseful twisting storyline. Nor does the PA family rely on pricey special effects to deliver the spooks: The first film — directed, written, and edited by Peli — cost a whopping $15,000 to make and raked in nearly $200 million worldwide. Peli returned to produce the next three while handing the directing reins to others.
Many have tried the found-footage genre with widely varying degrees of success. The original Paranormal Activity was released a decade after the wildly successful Blair Witch Project, which made nearly $250 million worldwide as one of the most successful independent films ever. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 didn’t fare so well, and plans for another sequel fizzled. Cloverfield used the found-footage framework for a monster attack; Quarantine for a runaway apocalyptic virus. Most attempts at the style have found cult followings at best, like the gem Grave Encounters that riffs on the explosion of ghost-hunting shows on TV today, most notably Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel.
In the PA series, the ghosts have often been effects that you could pull off with fishing line, and they’re still scary. They don’t exactly reach the dramatic sweep of The Shining, or the apocalyptic terror of 28 Days Later, but they do the job for which they were created — being a creepy popcorn movie sans a comical Jason or Freddie running around.
In Paranormal Activity 4, which opened at late screenings last night to the tune of $4.5 million (and it cost $5 million to make), a new subgenre is introduced to put a twist on the classic PA formula: the creepy child.
The creepy kid has a hallowed tradition in horror films, from Damien in The Omen to Toshio in The Grudge and the Children of the Corn. Paranormal Activity 4 serves up another creepy little devil in the form of Robbie, the kid from across the street who wanders into the neighbors’ treehouse, and meanders robotically with a blank face.
There’s little mystery as to who Robbie’s “mom” is, as we’re reminded at the beginning of the film that Katie split with her nephew Hunter at the end of Paranoramal Activity 2. But there are even twists from this assumption.
‘If Everyone Could Spend Even Six Months as a Crematory Operator, the World Would Be a Far Better Place.’
Caitlin Doughty, 28, has found success working in the death business.A Los Angeles-based mortician, Doughty grew up in Hawaii and, she says, had “a proclivity towards the macabre.” She got her start as a crematory operator. Currently, she is working on a memoir about her years handling the dead and runs the Order of the Good Death, a group that seeks to inspire others to find the beauty in death.
What’s the difference between being a mortician and being a funeral director?
Mortician, funeral director, and undertaker are basically the same thing. Funeral director is the more fancy, sanitized, modern title. I like mortician best because I’d like to think I’m a practitioner of death, not just a director of funerals.
I get the heebie-jeebies when I think about handling a dead body.
That’s a normal reaction, because we never see them anymore. Like being a crematory operator, handling a corpse is something everyone should do. They remind us that we, too, will die, which is a thought process we’re missing.
Related at PJ Lifestyle on death:
If not now, when? Ayn Rand is being hailed for her uncanny ability to project societal trends, as our limping economy and mushrooming government begin to look more and more like the decaying America her novel depicted more than a half-century ago. Her influence on today’s political debates is indisputable — even though Paul Ryan, who gave her books to his staff and says she inspired his political career, now actively distances himself from her philosophy. And the second installment of the Atlas Shrugged movie opens October 12, promising to draw even more attention to Rand and her ideas.
Not surprisingly, with all the attention, the culture is suddenly full of pundits and instant Rand experts eager to describe her ideas in a nutshell. And it’s natural to consider all this commentary in deciding whether Rand’s novels and essays are worth reading for yourself.
But be careful; unfortunately, much of the commentary on Rand gets her badly wrong.
It’s common, for instance, to hear that Rand’s is a plutocratic philosophy — “of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy,” says Paul Krugman — one that favors “the rich” against “the poor.” Yet she rejects such categorization. The real distinction she draws in Atlas Shrugged is between thinking, productive individuals at all income levels versus the irrational and unproductive, among whom she includes worthless, political-pull-peddling CEOs.
Others claim that Rand’s open advocacy of egoism — she even wrote a book called “The Virtue of Selfishness” — is proof that she blithely endorsed cruel predation against poor and weak people. Except that Rand explicitly rejected this account of selfishness, offering in its place a revolutionary morality that rejects sacrifice of any kind — sacrifice of self to others, but also of others to self. Rand’s new concept of “selfishness” — in which “every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others” — holds that one cannot achieve personal happiness by treating others as masters to be served or as victims to be exploited. The irony is that she is accused, by commentators who miss her central point, of endorsing precisely the form of vicious “selfishness” she so meticulously exposed and rejected.
Almost 20 years have passed since the publication of Jeffersonian Legacies, a collection of essays published on the occasion of the Founding Father’s 250th birthday that ushered in a new era of Jefferson scholarship. What were modern Americans to make, the book asked, of the 18th-century slaveholding patriarch who could not envision a multiracial America but who nonetheless authored America’s creed—a vision that has inspired people the world over? At the very least, one had to be, the book suggested, conflicted about the man.
Henry Wiencek is not at all conflicted. He loathes Thomas Jefferson. In Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, his attempted takedown of the man, the third president appears as a demonic figure warped one summer day by a sudden discovery that being a slaveholder could pay. I’ll detail how Wiencek arrives at his bizarre proof of a Jefferson who suddenly becomes Simon Legree, but I should say up front that this book fails as a work of scholarship. This is surprising. I favorably reviewed Wiencek’s book about George Washington, Imperfect God, and I admire The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White. What happened with Master of the Mountain?
The book’s tone and presentation betray a journalistic obsession with “the scoop.” Getting the scoop can be the life’s blood of journalism. It does not work so well for writing history, which is not always (or almost ever, really) about discovering things previously unknown. This sensibility leads Weincek astray in a number of ways. To begin with, it compels him to write as if he had discovered, and was writing about, things that had not been discovered and written about before. In truth, all of the important stories in this book have been told by others.
More history at PJ Lifestyle: