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October 2, 2013

Right Wing Celebrity Worship

Patrick W. Allen

Conservatives have a thing for historical celebrity-worship. They tend to pick out a few figures from history – usually, but not always, heterosexual white males – and establish them as their own cultural superheroes.


There’s nothing wrong with having historical figures you look up to, but you know there’s a problem when the greatest heroes of a movement are people who wouldn’t have approved of the movement at all. Here are some of the historical figures that today’s right-wingers tend to idolize… without knowing much about what these people really believed.


Ayn Rand: Atheist, Pro-Choice, and Hated Libertarians.


Certifiable sociopath Ayn Rand has been one of the gods of conservatives ever since The New York Times dubbed her the “novelist laureate of the Reagan Administration” in 1987. After this point in time, conservatives, including Alan Greenspan, Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and Paul Ryan, all unanimously decided that Ayn Rand was just awesome.


Just to demonstrate that they’re independent thinkers, masses of high-school and college-age libertarians decided that they’d sound really smart if they called themselves objectivists and said that they adhered to Ayn Rand’s philosophy and formed a Cliff’s Notes-based cargo cult on her ideas.


The funny thing is that, until at least the 1980s, MS. Rand was pretty largely despised by the right because more people bothered to find out what she actually believed – like that she idolized a serial killer, that she was pro-choice, and that she was staunchly opposed to religion.


Objectivism was all about cold, hard reasoning with no room for anything remotely spiritual or emotional. So Ms. Rand was not only openly atheist, but she considered religion to be an instrument for brainwashing people into obedience. In Philosophy: Who Needs It? she wrote:


Faith and force are corollaries: every period of history dominated by mysticism, was a period of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny.


In other words, Ayn Rand’s world has no room for your religion, or anyone else’s.


So, what about the unborn, those precious little souls terminated before birth that conservatives use as poster children for the evils of liberalism? Ayn Rand didn’t care much for them, either, as she stated in The Voice of Reason:


An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn). Abortion is a moral right – which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?


Wait a second that sounds… That sounds a lot like what you hear from feminists, doesn’t it?


Conservatives who are willing to concede that Ayn Rand wouldn’t be a fan of the modern-day Republican Party usually jump to the next conclusion. She would totally be on board with libertarians, right? Well, unlike many historical figures, Ayn Rand was actually alive long enough to see her beliefs being misappropriated and was quick to shoot that down. In 1971, she wrote in The Objectivist:


For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either.


Thomas Paine: Socialist, Loathed Organized Religion


How does a socialist become a tea-bagger? There’s not a punch line. It’s a serious question. Thomas Paine was a hardcore socialist who somehow became, in the minds of his oblivious “followers,” a gun-toting, God-fearing, tax-cutting, immigrant-hating conservative – to the point that right-wing lunatics like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have gone so far as to rewrite Paine’s Revolutionary War pamphlet Common Sense for today’s audience, and Thomas Paine is considered one of the most influential historical figureheads to conservatives.


We already know that Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are off their rockers (i.e., crazy), but for the record, Mr. Paine was everything that these right-wing lunatics are not. For one thing, he wasn’t a fan of church involvement in religion – or even church involvement in church. In his magnum opus, The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote:


My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.


Whoa, that sounds almost like something a radical liberal would say! But it doesn’t stop there. His pamphlet Agrarian Justice is essentially a socialist manifesto and full of the things that inhabit the nightmares of conservatives. Calling uncultivated land “the common property of the human race,” Mr. Paine stated that property is necessary in a society with buildings and agriculture, but that since all “improvements” take place on land that naturally belongs collectively to mankind, property-owners naturally have a debt to those who do not own property.


He outlines a system in which the wealthy pay taxes for all their income, and that those taxes are used to provide for the needy. Remarking that financial support for the elderly is “not the nature of a charity but of a right,” Mr. Paine suggested setting up a national fund that would pay the living expenses for everyone over age 50, as well as the “lame and the blind.” Adjusted for inflation and our pesky increasing life expectancy, that’s Social Security – invented by liberals and loathed by conservatives.


Thomas Paine also suggested that poor families receive a credit every year to help support the cost of feeding and housing every child under the age of 14. This has existed since the Clinton era in the form of the Child Tax Credit, which Republicans staunchly opposed – because, hey, if you can’t feed ‘em, don’t breed ‘em, right?


Once those kids came of age, Mr. Paine stated that they were owed a one-time payment of 15 pounds to help them get a start in life, ensuring that even poor young adults would be given some opportunity at success. Instead, a couple-hundred years later, our young adults are saddled with five-digit student loan debt – if they’re privileged enough to go to college to begin with – by the time they reach their 21st birthdays.


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