Culture And Society
In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s an unforgettable Thanksgiving scene at the mansion of Hank Rearden, a self-made millionaire industrialist whose achievements include the invention — after ten years of toil — of a revolutionary new metal, stronger, cheaper and more durable than steel. In addition to Rearden, seated at the table for Thanksgiving dinner are his mother, his wife Lillian, and his brother Philip, all of whom are wholly dependent on Rearden and his wealth.
Last November at ARI's student conference in Atlanta, #AynRandCon 2016, I heard a riveting panel on psychology, neuroscience, and free will. One of the highlights was a question from the audience on religion and free will — a tough question — that Dr. Ben Bayer, one of the panelists, tackled. Ben’s answer was clarifying and provocative, and invited the audience to explore the issue in depth. Listening to that Q&A, I reflected, it was clear that here was an expert on the topic who was also a skilled teacher.
I applaud Will Wilkinson’s essay at Vox.com criticizing the Trump administration’s view of the jihadist threat, but I can offer only one cheer, not three. Wilkinson tries to put the threat in perspective, and although he makes some important points, he exhibits a mile-wide blind spot. Thus, in his own way, Wilkinson fails to understand the Islamist menace, what enables it, and the urgent necessity of confronting it.
Here’s a postscript to my new piece at The Hill today, where I argue that U.S. policy toward Egypt needs to be put on an honest footing. Instead of playing down its authoritarianism, we need confront Egypt about its violation of individual rights.
After the attack outside Parliament in London on March 22, four people died and more than 40 were injured. Heading toward the Parliament buildings, the assailant drove at high speed on the sidewalk of Westminster Bridge, mowing down pedestrians. Then he got out of the car wielding a knife, sprinted inside the Parliament gates, and managed to stab to death one policeman, before being overpowered. The Islamic State has praised the 52-year-old killer, who was born and raised in England, as one of its soldiers.
Government And Business
Two weeks ago, some students and the administration at UCLA School of Law tried to ban my book Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism from being displayed at a free-speech panel. (The event was co-sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute and The Federalist Society; you can read a detailed account in my editorial at The Hill.) Appalled by that incident, I wondered whether this was typical of UCLA, whether the university would explain its actions, whether it cared at all about intellectual freedom.
When I first heard about the “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists,” I had grave misgivings: the freighted title, by itself, rang in my ears like a siren. Turns out, the “Field Guide” was worse than I thought.
Culture And Society
If you picked up a melon that smells rotten, would you bite into it? Nor would I. When it comes to our media diet, the same thing applies: if a news story smells funky, that's a reason not to swallow it. But what does it take to sniff out unreliable news articles?
The truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin has cast a lurid spotlight on German authorities. The police apparently knew the suspect, had evidence of his ties to jihadists and believed he posed a threat. Yet twelve people are now dead. Last August, we saw a truck used as a weapon of jihad in Nice, France, so why didn't police prevent this one?
Lately we've seen a whole flurry of articles — many of them overstated — about the influence of Ayn Rand on some of Trump's cabinet picks, and in that there's some (qualified) good news. Now comes this heartening news story: Israel's newspaper of record, Haaretz, reports that the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was seen in parliament reading a book by an Objectivist historian, the late John David Lewis.