Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Moral Right to Kill

In his post on Rand's declining influence, Greg Nyquist noted the inversely mounting hysteria emanating from the Ayn Rand Institute, particularly over the Middle East. Now Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of The Ayn Rand Institute is quoted at the site Objectivist Living as saying the following:
"If you're happy at a Hamas victory, you deserve the bullet of an American soldier."

"If you wear a tee shirt with a silhouette of bin Laden on it, an American has the moral right to kill you."
While this is not a direct quote, a skim around some Objectivist sites produced the following, equally indirect response from Brook, via Lindsay Perigo at Solopassion (in comments).
"Yaron Brook has replied to my query with a lengthy account of what he remembers having said and the all-important context in which he said it. But he's very explicit that it's for my eyes only—he asks that I not quote him in this context since to do so would grant the premise that the Barbaras of this world are open to rational argument and proceed in good faith. I certainly would like to quote him, and don't agree that to do so would grant such a premise, but I must honour his request. I will say, though, that it's clear from his comments that he doesn't support the gratuitous killing of anyone, even in war."
Strangely, these 'lengthy' comments are too doubleplus-secret for anyone else to see, and the supposed 'context' too 'all-important' to give a straight yes-or-no answer to. There are questions of 'granting premises of rational argument' and 'good faith', and the 'honour' involved in being the privileged vessel for such 'eyes-only' comments.

In other words, we can take that as a 'yes.'


Michael Prescott said...

Robert Anton Wilson has some comments in The New Inquisition that seem relevant here:

(start of quote)

For some reason at this point I think of what has been called the Right Man syndrome.

This is not a concept from clinical or experimental psychology. It is a mere empirical generalization by the writer A.E. Van Vogt, in a pamphlet Report on the Violent Male, cited by [Colin] Wilson in [The Criminal History of Mankind] p. 64-71. ... The Violent Male -- and almost all violence is committed by males -- seems to be a man who literally cannot, ever, admit he might be wrong. He knows he is right; he is the total psychological opposite of the agnostic, in claiming absolute gnosis, total certitude, about all things. Van Vogt found that an astonishing amount of violence is committed by these males, and he calls the type The Right Man, because this man always insists he is Right. ...

Concretely, the Violent Male -- the extreme form of the Right Man -- edits out the suffering and pain he causes to others. That is only appearance and can be ignored. In The "Real" Universe, the victim is only one of Them -- one of all the rotten bastards who have frustrated and mistreated the Right Man all his life. In existential reality, a large brutal male is beating a child; in The "Real" Universe of self-hypnosis, the Right Man is getting his just revenge on the oppressors who have abused him. ...

The ghastly acceleration of violent, inexplicable and seemingly "pointless" crimes by Right Men in this century -- and their hideous magnification into mass murders and war crimes by Right Men in governments -- indicate the prevalence of this type of self-hypnosis and what Van Vogt calls "the inner horror" that accompanies it. This "inner horror" is a sense of total helplessness combined with the certainty of always being Right. It seems paradoxical, but the more totally Right a man becomes, the more helpless he also becomes. This is because being Right means "knowing" (gnosis) and "knowing" is understanding The "Real" Universe. Since The "Real" Universe is, by definition, "objective" and "outside us" and "not our creation," we are made puny by it. We cannot act but only re-act -- as The "Real" Universe pushes us, we push back. But it is bigger, so we will lose eventually. Our only defense is in being Right and fighting as dirty as possible. ...

(end of quote)

Daniel Barnes said...

I still love Colin Wilson, even tho I am more of a Popper man these days...;-) He is such a generous and
optimistic writer - there is probably no better introduction to philosophy than reading Wilson.

Rand has inexorable appeal for the 'Right Man' mainly thru her rhetorical claims to 'absolute certainty','black and white' morality etc. But the urge to be always right is emotional - even tribal - not rational. Reason tells us we will, in fact, mostly
be wrong in our theories, and so should act accordingly. The atavistic (usually male) tribal role
of being 'always right', of being the ultimate source of truth, is the origin of most kinds of violent

Or as The Flaming Lips put it recently in "Free Radicals" from their marvellous album "At War With The Mystics":

"You think you're a fact you're fanatical..."

Anonymous said...

Interesting that a science fiction writer like A. E. Van Vogt would notice "the Right Man syndrome" (unless I've confused him with someone else with a similar name). A lot of science fiction promotes models of male behavior very much like that, especially Robert Heinlein's novels, and the many novels influenced by his. Rand's novels promote a similar pattern of male behavior to emulate, showing that she, like many science fiction writers, inadvertently appealed to a common character defect in many Americans.

Anonymous said...

The hysterical comments coming out of ARI concerning the war on terror reveal, besides the obvious poor judgment, an astonishing ignorance politics, statesmanship, and military strategy and tactics. The various hints of genocide of Muslims demonstrates that many objectivists have no clue. They are non-experts making very controversial assertions about matters of fact they know nothing about.

Some rank and file objectivists have advocated using nukes to rid the world of the Muslims. You have to be pretty far removed from reality to advocate such a policy. In the first place, it wouldn't work. The genocidal value of nukes is somewhat over-rated. Such a policy would be lucky to achieve a 40% causality rate. The survivors, every last one of them, would be "radicalized." But that's not the worst of it. If the United States tried to pursue any kind of liquidation policy against Muslims, this would lead to the complete isolation of the U.S. against the rest of the world. In the days of the Cold War, U.S. isolation was one of the goals of Soviet foreign policy. It's precisely what the enemies of the U.S., from Bin Laden to Castro, hope to achieve. No nation is strong enough to isolate itself against the rest of the world. The last country to try something along those lines, Nazi Germany, did not, as I seem to remember, fare that well.

The excessively hawkish talk of the ARI denizens, even if it doesn't go so far as to advocate genocide, is self-contradictory. To fight the sort of war advocate by ARI would require a military draft (which constitutes a huge violation of individual rights) and, as a necessary corollary, marshall law (because no draft could be instituted in the U.S. without putting the left down by force). So in other words, ARI is advocating military policies which would lead to the severe curtailment of the very individual rights which they professedly seek to champion. In short, ARI is advocating policies that are self-contradictory and, indeed, represent a kind of ideological suicide.

Daniel Barnes said...

>The excessively hawkish talk of the ARI denizens, even if it doesn't go so far as to advocate genocide, is self-contradictory...

Yes, it's just tough-sounding nonsense. A similarly daft meme currently circulating via the ARI's John Lewis is the idea that to solve the Islamic threat of terror, the US should invade Iran, and separate Islam from the state the way the US did with Shinto in Japan post 1945. It's almost impossible to describe how retarded this comparison is (clue: 73 mill Japanese in 1 country in 1945 vs 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide), tho it does allow Lewis to allude to the nuke option for the M.E.

And as with Greg, I have no idea what army the ARI are intending to use to conquer and enforce this genius plan.

Anonymous said...

Rand advocated something of an isolationist position from what I can gather. She didn't seem preocupied with the Middle East and Islam like here followers. (However, according to her recently published Q&A, she strongly supported Israel in the 73 war & supported force against Iran over the hostage situation.)

The earliest statement calling for war against an Islamic country I'm aware of is Peikoff in 1989 over the Rushdie affair --

Anonymous said...

Objectivists' focus on radical Muslims also reveals an irrational risk assessment, similar to the way the media pump up clusters of school shootings into national emergencies, even though schools remain overwhelmingly safe. Objectivists face a much greater risk of death from their smoking than from Muslim terrorists.

Michael Prescott said...

Yes ... except smokers aren't likely to subversively infiltrate and undermine Western civilization, as some of the jihadists seem intent on doing. (Case in point: the Paris riots, now apparently an annual tradition.)

Anonymous said...

Actually for a real change I agree with most of the people here, ARI
is bonkers, Rand herself was an anti-Arab racist and the mostly Jewish ARI groupies follow that sad tradition including the pathetic good goys like Ed locke, Hull, Ridpath, ad nauseum.
Michael P, if the US changes foreign policy there the Islamic
threat goes away, unlike death from
smoking. France should never have colonized Arab areas, now the chickens come home to roost.
Tough, it's called life.