James Kirkpatrick reviews the film version of Atlas Shrugged. I was never an Ayn Rand fan anyway, but this sounds awful.
Even the promotional literature distributed by the makers of the movie doesn’t really reflect reality. It says, “What would happen if our producers disappear—Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, and other industrialists fall off the radar… their creative genius no longer powering America?” Of course, there are two problems here. One is titans of industry at the time Rand wrote her book were actual titans of industry that conquered nature and created new things. Today, fortunes are made on the Internet, which essentially lets us consume more efficiently or “create” things that only exist online. The second problem is that the titans of industry listed here are progressives. The last time the titans of industry were right wing was probably sometime in the 19th century when huge industries were built behind a protective tariff (which libertarians hate) and corporations were headed by men like Henry Ford, General Robert E. Wood of Sears-Roebeck, H. Smith Richardson and the like who would support things like the America First Committee and other right-wing initiatives.
In contrast, Sergey Brin and his company overwhelmingly support progressive Democrats. The site also censors right-leaning web results and collaborates with the web censorship of the Chinese government, suggesting no real ideological commitment to free speech, although a definite commitment to political correctness. Steve Jobs, meanwhile, proposed Al Gore for President in 2007. He has donated over $250,000 to political causes between 1990 and 2010—all of which were Democratic. If Galt’s Gulch were real, presumably it would look something like Berkeley, and Rand would be on trial for hate speech because she doesn’t have any Black capitalists in her books. As far as other young and famous capitalist icons go, the obvious one that comes to mind is Mark Zuckerburg, inventor of Facebook. Zuckerbuerg recently donated $100 million dollars to the public schools of Newark, NJ, on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” If the Aryan capitalist Viking Ragnar Danneskjold liberated Mark Zuckerberg’s donations, Zuckerburg would just send more. The moral code of the corporate elite of this country and the capitalist pinups Rand’s fanboys want us to fight for are promoting the exact kinds of altruism and victim worship that Rand despised. If the kinds of “producers” identified here went “John Galt,” the only things that would change would be the decline in Democratic donations.
The movie culminates with the government passing a crushing regulatory law that cripples Ellis Wyatt. In response, he abandons his oil fields and sets them aflame. As Dagny Taggart reaches the hellish firestorm that is left, she unleashes a classic B-movie cry of denial worthy of Star Wars: Episode III. The message of Atlas Shrugged was turned into something just as clichéd and predictable. It has been scrubbed, sanitized, and made ready for your next “Students for Liberty” meeting so you can encourage more people to vote for the likes of Gary Johnson.
Rand’s vision, whatever else one thinks of it, was unique. It transcended itself and contained implications that went beyond Rand’s actual policy positions and philosophy. Despite its flaws, Atlas Shrugged is one of the most forthright defenses of the aristocratic principle ever penned. It’s also a profound critique of the phony economy of banker and government manipulation and paean to an economy of production. In this film, it has been transformed into a call to let the likes of George Soros and Warren Buffett pay fewer taxes, despite their own wishes, and to turn this holy cause into the rallying point of the conservative movement. Unfortunately, I have no doubt the film will accomplish its purpose.