Day 10: Where’s My Head At?

jolie-atlas-shrugged.jpg

I am sure some of you know this already and that most of you will tell me not to be surprised at the outcome of this, but I’ll do this anyway: let’s take a look at Brangelina’s politics. Brad has just reaped lots of politically correct shoulder-patting for Babel, which tried to represent a globalized planet’s cultural/communicative problems and succeeded in doing so in a manner almost as intelligent as Crash’s “useful” insights into the problem of US racism (i.e. a ridiculous liberal cop-out). He has also been following Angelina around and joined her in her attempt to use her cultural capital to make the world a better place, draw attention to humanitarian projects (e.g. Angelina’s function as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, working primarily in Africa and South-East Asia). They are both trying to show the world how politically active they are and I do, in fact, generally respect them for the humanitarian work they are doing. Maybe, however, I should not have assumed that it is in fact ideologically motivated (that it actually has a foundation that arises out of a desire for actual social critique), since the latest film project of the couple contradicts pretty much all of their supposed humanitarian ideology and reveals it all as nothing more than a series of PR stunts without any substantial underlying conviction.

Brangelina is currently filming an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which will be released in 2008 (production photo above). ATLAS SHRUGGED! Are you kidding me? How is it possible to act as though you in fact care about the humanitarian plight in Africa, South East Asia, pretend to be interested in resolving it by acting as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and then take a role in the adaptation of anything by Ayn Rand? Just this morning I listened to the Thom Hartman program on Air American Radio who talked to a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute (aynrand.org). This good man presented a typically Ayn Rand-ian, objectivist, individualist, i.e. radical egotistical, free-market argument about the dangers of governmental regulations on pharmacetutical patents sold on a free-market to African and South-East Asian countries. According to him, we are making a good product and we should be able to sell it as expensively as we see fit and if some countries cannot afford it, well…bad luck for them.  “You just cannot punish us and our ingenuity,” so his argument, “just because some countries are not economically competitive.” In other words, our individual economic rewards for our great work trump their basic humnitarian needs–it is unreasonable to expect us to make less profit to help people and it sure as hell is not our duty to do so.

How can you star in a movie about a novel that logically contradicts everything you say you stand for? How can you further promote a book written by a “philosopher” who has become the favorite writer of egotistical and radical individualist US capitalism, as well as the model for contemporary anti-humanitarian, anti-social (justice) “theory” that allows for the absorption of free-market ideology into the social fabric, creating a vision of a society free from any of the values that traditionally used to define the very concept of a society. Well, in a way it makes sense for Brangelina: if you support Rand’s idea that government protection (or you may call it “regulation”…oooh–evil word!) is a bad thing (see Reagan and the X Files crap on the idea that a government is a bad thing), there is more room to solve problems privately. And this is exactly where Brangelina can step in! Hey, Brangelina, can you also help me privatize my health care and social security system?? Aaaah, the freedom of being a special, unique snowflake. If the effects of Ayn Rand’s philosophy need to be visually represented at all, I have to say that we already have that film. It is called American Psycho. Even better than that, read Ellis’ novel, which precisely illustrates the social results of objectivism.

I will have to stop here, as my notebook might get damaged by me taking out my anger on its keyboard. I just cannot believe that a) people LOVE Ayn Rand to the extent that we actually witness in the US at this point and b) that I can still be negatively surprised by the political and social hypocrisy of our Hollywood elite, which takes so much pride in selling itself as liberal and progressive. Well, liberal they are. Neoliberal, in  fact. What kind of a world do we live in where one cannot even trust Brangelina any more? Makes me sick. Guess I should do my liberal Hollywood thing now, go to Starbucks now and calm down over my triple-shot-soy-hazel-flavor-twice-steamed-latte-macchiato and learn more about the state of the world and how we can all do our part to make it better by reading the insight number 132 printed on the side of the cup.

for this visit: http://www.starbucks.com/retail/thewayiseeit_default.asp

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23 Comments

  1. I want to say that this is shocking. I’m too busy banging my head on the coffee table in front of me.

    Do I feel betrayed? Is it possible, as little faith as I have in Hollywood?

    Ayn Rand has a book called _The Virtue of Selfishness_ which tells you pretty much all you need to know about Any Rand. I’d like to think that most people graduate from that kind of thing before they graduate from high school.

    There are many things I’d like to think. And many conservative “think”tanks well funded to promote both the ways that they would like us to identify with their “liberal persecution” and “free”market irresponsibility in line with the Rand worldview.

    Hopefully no one will go to see Atlas. Or if they do, maybe they’ll come away secure in the knowledge that actually they don’t deserve health care, or for that matter, any consideration as a human being whatsoever.

    The naturalization of psychopathic behavior is absolutely what continues to go on. Still, shame on Angelina, Brad, and the people who stand to profit from irresponsibility.

    Shame.

  2. Shame indeed. Since it is a Brangelina movie, however, I assume lots of people will go see it (lest it become a Gigli-pendent, but with this subject matter I doubt that). It will further disseminate the idea that government interference is a bad thing, as though that were the end to universal policies. Who makes regulations and policies (not on paper but in practice) in the absence of a government? A corporate elite that we cannot influence democratically at all any more. Oh, wait, we still have that largest of all powers everybody talks about: the power of being a consumer. If we stop buying, surely corporations will have to budge! Just remember how well that went during the last year when people started to get pissed off at the oil companies.
    Record profits is what happened.
    Interesting to see, however, how in a climate where people think to know that government intervention (or a “big government”) is a bad thing, everyone cried out for a big protective government and pointed out the scandal that this government does not exist/left us alone during Hurricane Katrina. Oh, so it is bad to let hundreds of people die in Louisiana, but it is ok to let thousands of people die regularly as a result of not having a decent social security system, or let millions of people go without health care? So people DO think that the state is there to take care of its people?
    The whole thing would possibly be less infuriating and frustrating if people were at least aware of the fact that they have been so depoliticized that they are unaware of how confused their own ideological positions are, how they tend to contradict themselves and how, in moments of crisis, they actually resort to using social logic and come to the correct conclusions all by themselves–without the help of neoliberal propaganda. Hence see Hurricane Katrina as a tragedy that lifted the ideological veil for just a few months. Now we can get ready for the culture industry to do its regular job and close that veil again–> Atlas Shrugged.

  3. I on my part have never harboured any faith in any of these hollywood people allegedly going and saving the world. for starters, the UN goodwill ambassador category should have been sufficiently discredited as soon as ginger spice was seen jumping around in a union jack hotpant in DRC or some other country she previously didn’t even know existed, let alone had a civil war resulting from a global corporate bartering over natural resources. angelina finaly blew it for me when she adopted a cute cambodian boy, like there aren’t enough cute infant orphans in your own free country. still, for me she fares slightly better than madonna, jumping on the adoption bandwagon in Malawi – but maybe that is just because she is infintely hotter.

  4. Ayn Rand and her philosophy is a bitch to understand. It is not just ‘dog eat dog’ and jungle fever/realism as we se it perpetrated by the elite of the world today.
    Yes, she promoted Capitalism, but she never allowed monopolies in her utopia, because That Would Never Happen in her world.

    Her concept of how the world was and how it should be, was nothing but a reaction to her conception of the Communist revolution in 1917. She fled that country and came to the The Land Of The Free, and she must be considered a true immigrant.

    Her philosophy is available to all who read her two major works: ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’. They are basically nothing but a point-by-point rejection of Communism as an ideology. Ironically, she had the same ideal of The Heroic Man that inspired the cult of Marx and Lenin, but that was hardly unusual in the age of the Great Roosevelt; The Great Patton; The Great Churchill; The Great Groucho…

    Brangelina are not concerned with the philosophies of Ayn Rand. ‘Atlas Shrugged’ deals with heroic people doing heroic things that are not recognised by the stupid, common people.

    We all know that Angelina is the prime mover in -that- relationship, and it is obvious that The Most Desirable Woman in the World wishes it to be known that she is an Heroic Creature free of governmental restraints, able to join All The World together in her nuclear family.

    Thus: Brad supports Angie in her Oscar role: The Woman That Could!
    Don’t fool yourselves. If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about. Buuuulsh’t

  5. Well! And critics say that Objectivists are a conceited, obnoxious bunch.
    Atlas Shrugged is first, a well written, and intriguing romantic novel about a young woman trying to keep her family’s railroad running, against a backdrop of corporate and political corruption & incompetence, and a social (philosophical) upheaval of values. She must use her wits and her willpower to battle these forces, but is also faced with an unknown adversary who, one-by-one, is causing her closest and most reliable allies to abandon their life work and disappear. Her race is to try to save her railroad before it is too late.

    The philosophy promoted in Atlas Shrugged is one of self-respect, hard work, and pride. It promotes being fair with others, and demanding fairness in return. It is almost diametrically opposed to the type of “victimism” that dominates American culture today, saying basically that no one is owed anything – except the right to the pursuit of happiness. Today, too many people think – are taught to think – that they are simply “entitled” to happiness.If you are into entitlement, if you think the government or others owe you free medical insurance, or a guarantee of success, then this book or movie is not for you.

  6. Well, and here is where you fail.

    Believing in self ownership, and seeking the best value for You,does NOT strike out Charity.

    This because very “benefit” does not have to be monatery. If Angelina Jolie, feels that she has a Profit by helping, in the form of, say, good feelings, (and mind you, for a child that gets helped, I wouldn’t give a damn who helps me. How many children have those “hypocritical” hollywood stars helped AND HOW MANY THEIR CRITICS?) then charity, can still be a ego driven act.

    If anything, this makes charity rather than an abstract anonymous thing in the background a very individual matter. If you help, why shouldn’t be recognised that it is YOU that helped? Not anyone else, YOU. It is an act of good from YOUR heart the prestige of it NO ONE other has a claim to.

    In other words, if a child said to Joilie: “wow, thanks, is it America that gives this money”?

    Jolie would be justified to answer: No. Not America. ME.

    Because (in a private charity system) she would be the one doing it, giving her justly aquired money (Jolie didn’t force anyone to go to her movies).

    And I would say that such charity, leading to the mutual benefit of both partners (the child gets helped, Jolie receives the recognition) would be VERY much in tune with Ayn Rands ideology.

  7. As usual, the masses are over-reacting. Has anyone thought that maybe Angelina and Brad are making this film to illustrate what NOT to do? All of you – get a life!

  8. Finally–a smart comment on this page!
    Yes, they are certainly making this film in order to show what not to do. No idea why we did not think of this before.

  9. I think you should read Atlas Shrugged and the Virtue of Selfishness if you haven’t already done so. I consider myself an Ayn Rand critic partly because I both praise and condemn her ideas. In other words, I agree with her some of the time, not all of the time. The problem with the Ayn Rand Institute by my observation is that most of them don’t think critically about Rand despite the fact she was a logician. Too many of them are parrots, agreeing with her every word.

    However, I always try to avoid unconditional praise AND unconditional criticism of anything. Like I said, much of Rand’s philosophy makes sense, but some of it doesn’t. Just remember that Rand defines selfishness as “in one’s own rational self interest,” which means that stealing and hording and usurping are still wrong because it’s irrational. And she was not completely averse to government interference. She called for a separation of economics and state which would eliminate most regulations as well as corporate sponsorship, which is one of the key causes of today’s corporate corruption. Of course, in Rand’s ideal society, the government can intervene if the company does something criminal, like Firestone tires knowingly manufacturing bad tires. In our society, they’re protected. In Rand’s society, they’re punished, because Ayn Rand’s moral imperative is life.

  10. I’ve read _Atlas Shrugged_ and _The Fountainhead_. While your point regarding the problematic practice of dismissing entire systems of thought is well taken, I still resist any kind of popularization of Rand’s writings. Yes, there is usable thought even in people such as Carl Schmitt, as has been proven lately, yet Rand’s logical system is based upon a logical structure that a) cannot be rescued for anything that can lead to progressive thought and b) in fact harbors a very dangerous logical structure (as has been sufficiently proven throughout history). One such problematic component is the rationalism you mention. While your defense seems to make sense at first glance, the very concept of rationalism comes with A LOT of historical baggage that is simply ignored in such a defense (and perpetuates Rand’s shockingly one-dimensional, reductive and underdeveloped thought). There is a reason people began to seriously question the Enlightenment project–just look at Adorno, as an early example and virtually all of political philosophy of the last few decades. Rand sadly never made is that far and her simplistic and often shockingly uncritical logical apparatus is therefore not only beyond repair, but, if popularized to the degree we witness in the US, has the tendency to ignore all progress in political philosophy of the past few decades and impede the progress of truly rigorous philosophical discussions.

    Again, I appreciate you argument, but Rand is not salvageable.

  11. I mean this in no offensive way to anyone at all but after reading all the comments I came to the thought that you all remind me of JIM and everyone who opposes Dagny in the book.
    You dance around the subject not really answering anything but talking so much that it seems like you have answered everything.
    Personally, I liked Atlas shrugged and it was good to read something that resisted what others generally think and feel. I really don’t care who is In the movie Atlas shrugged or wether it sells well.
    I liked the book and I intend to see the movie. Some people may not like Rand’s style of writing or thinking ,but at least it was different in it’s time period and it set the bar for different ways to veiw life.
    If it wasn’t a good book that stretched peoples thoughts and outlook on the world then it would not have become as big as it is now and we wouldn’t be talking about it.
    If you like Rand that is fine, I personally do. If you dont that is also fine. just remember that this book is Fiction and is just a good story thats all and nothing more.

    If you get more out of it then others do good for you, if not that Ok as well.
    I recommend seeing the movie. Not because I support Ayn Rand but because i support a good story. (A story of a man/women against the world, the people, and their way of life) a story of struggle, pride, and dertermination and that is all.

  12. You people are the worst! There is no one who can understand Ayn Rand without understanding what self-respect and pride means. However i believe this movie won’t be a big success only because very few actually understand Ayn Rand’s vision. I recommend this to everybody: Read Ayn Rand and learn to love and respect yourself as genuine individuals.

  13. Dear Howard,
    not exploring the interesting relationship between your first and last sentence, I do feel compelled to point out the narrow scope of your analytical approach to society and processes of subjection (let alone theories of consciousness), which is, however, fully in line with Rand’s thought.
    Indeed, it is the case that individualism, as countless serious philosophers, political scientists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, etc, have shown, is not the basis of society but in fact its very rejection. It corresponds to an infantile, underdeveloped state of consciousness that has to be superseded in order to create a functional society and make the very concept of civilization possible. You could, however, make the argument that individualism is the central logic of a capitalist society. However, this would be a very different argument with only isolated logical validity and you should identify it as such (and thus also accept its limitations). In the case of your final sentence, the words ‘love’ and ‘respect’, for example, are as operative terms functionally and logically contingent upon the concept of individualism, which, as pointed out before, is a very narrow, one-dimensional and reductive definition of both terms most serious thinkers (i.e. not Rand) will always reject. For the sake of future discussions, I would recommend to clearly distinguish between serious philosophy that displays analytic complexity and populist babble that is only a small step removed from self-help literature.

  14. Cerebraljetsam, well done. A very small part of the population has any chance of understanding what you are talking about. I do. You make objectivism seem flawed by referring to individualism which corresponds to an infantile state of consciousness, thus calling to mind a child striving to fulfill its basic needs. This straw-man you build and subsequently destroy does not do much to refute objectivism as a valid world-view, value-set, or moral code.

  15. Cerebraljetsam, nevermind. I thought you had only left the Nov 5 comment. After reading your other comments I realize I shouldn’t waste my time. You know a lot of words and you’ve probably read a lot of books. But you should pick up a book called “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell. I imagine he’s probably someone you would claim to respect and champion if his superficial qualities were described to you, but would come to hate once you learned how he believes.

  16. Well, by reading your article I couldn’t help but comment on one very important point you made…that Angelina’s actions are contradictory in that she’s starring in a movie based on a novel by Ayn Rand which advocates libertarian views on foreign support yet she gives humanitarian aid to foreign countries. I can assure you this is not a contradiction. In Ayn Rand’s philosophy she specifically states that it is entirely up to an individual whether he wants to give to charity, this is a personally moral issue, and is his right based on his value for human life. This is an ethical issue not political. In Ayn Rand’s political philosophy she DOES state that a government should not contribute to foreign aid and support. Angelina is not a government representative nor is she using government funds and is entirely free to spend her money in any way she sees fit. This is not a contradiction in Ayn Rand’s philosophy nor is it in hers.

  17. I’ll have to make this brief, as there always seem to be too few hours in the day to accomplish…

    Had you taken even a moment to read the book and have any idea what you’re talking about (which you don’t), you would have learned 2 important things.

    1. You are a looter.

    2. The amount of Humanitarian work that’s been done by those 2 20 million dollar movie stars, those capitalist pigs from whom you would take a handout in a hot minute, have accomplished more for other people and other societies than your impotant coffee house rants could ever hope to. The amount of people employed by “Branjalena” is in the thousands. Hardworking people, who in my 12 years of making movies, support for the philosophies in “Atlas Shrugged”; hard work, ambition, drive, motivation and not the sniveling “NEEDS” of those who are to lazy to DO. “Need”, “social duty” and “objectivism”… words that thieves use to steal, but only if given permission from the competent.

    I can’t believe I just wasted 30 seconds of my life on a coffeehouse crybaby who will just never get it.

  18. If communism is the champion of man…why has it failed, time and time again. Objectivism is not a substitute for government, it is a personal philosophy. How can anyone disagree with fair trade; one man giving an agreed upon sum of goods, time or talent in return for an agreed upon X. might we suggest that things and ideas be traded in an unfair fashion?

    cerebraljetsam:
    big words and complicated sentences do not make you smart, in fact they obscure your meaning and confuse your intentions. Do you have to explain your explanation? The art of communication is not in perplexing your audience. Claiming your verbal superiority over another merely makes you one who seeks superiority and power…is that not something which you stress (incorrectly) as a fault and poison of objectivism?

    All:
    What we are all getting away from in this topic of debate is freedom. angelina jolie may act in whichever movie she sees fit, adopt however many children she sees fit from whatever 3rd world country. You claim hypocrisy…this implies that you know her and her driving factors; surely you are dreaming. You cannot make the logical connection between her actions, however since no one here (so far as i can imagine) is god, omnipotent or any other form of all-seeing deity, what credential do you claim to judge a person that you do not know? After all, we are all just schmucks writing on a message board…really, thats it.

    condemning my choice to live in an objectivist fashion is wasteful and silly, because you won’t change my (or any others) minds. Those with so flippant an opinion that can be changed by message boards are really those who we as objectivists seek to overcome. those who seek popularity, those who live through others, those who have no self. Objectivism is not an outcry against establishment, government and society…you are right, these things are essential for the successful existence of people in close proximity…objectivism is a reclamation of the self and the right to pursue interests that we find enjoyable, spiritual or for whatever reason worthwhile to pursue. Our happiness as we define it.

    Ayn Rand did think in simplistic terms; since when has complexity determined the worth of anything? I struggle with the concept of objectivism being ugly. Do you truly feel that I should pursue anything other that my own happiness? Do you feel that pursuance of happiness is something that should be quelled for and forbidden?

    Taking pleasure in the deconstruction of another human being and their goals should be considered the highest order of evil.

    The movie will be terrible. Despite the best of intentions, 1200 pages bad or good cannot be forced into a 2 hour time slot. There is a reason why Rand opposed the creation of this movie while she lived. Don’t be an idiot, don’t boycott it because some coot on a message board told you to. Don’t be an idiot, don’t see it to profess your ever dying love for objectivism. See it if you would like to, take from it that which means the most and move on.

  19. Good for you, Eric. 🙂

    Just a few suggestions: there are some concepts you should really develop a more sophisticated understanding of before you begin to make large claims about them. Such concepts include: freedom (you use it in an incredibly uncomplicated manner, meaning in a way that assumes no other definition of the concept than the one you learned from your bourgeois individualist education–and that is a VERY inadequate one, as countless politicians, philosophers, artists and probably even miniature golfers could tell you, probably even with very few big words; you should really begin to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between and the different functions of ‘individual’ and ‘collective’–one of them is a logically empty category, a fact which bourgeois ideology must constantly hide–wanna guess which one?–also: this is precisely why you need the dialectic in order to understand everything starting with the formation of consciousness; and lastly: please spare us your uncritical and unintelligent Cold War propaganda (which, quite fittingly, has always been as hostile to complicated thought (big words) as your post is–anti-intellectualism has always been a great player on the team ‘non-progressive status quo’)–to this end I would like you to AT LEAST differentiate between communism, socialism and Marxism and keep your McCarthy-Reagan definitions out of a debate that strives to actually look at the underlying logic of things–‘communism has failed’ has as an historical, philosophical and political argument almost as much meaning as saying ‘the world is flat and now we’re all middle-class.’

  20. I am so angry about this! Ayn Rand would roll over in her grave, despite how much angelina says she is an ‘objectivist’. THat almost ruins the term objectivism.

  21. I’ve enjoyed reading this thread, and would like to thank everyone involved for giving me some entertaining reading. I would agree that the film is going to be nearly worthless, but that everyone should indeed “take from it that which means the most” (eric) and move on. Please don’t let it impact your views toward Rand’s writings too heavily one way or the other; there’s no substitute for reading, and that especially applies to contentious and complex matters such as Randian Objectivism.

    I would also like to point out that eric’s post is by far the most concrete and straightforward; a reflection of his values?

  22. Atlas Shrugged is an amazing book. I love it. It opens your eyes to the world infront of you. I think that Angelina could do a good job..but I don’t know. Her personality is far from that of Dagny Taggart. And I don’t really think that she looks like her at all. But I guess I’ll see when the movie comes out. It comes out in 2009 not 2008 by the way.

  23. I think it will be, most likely, a horrible movie simply because it’s such a conviluted project to pull off. Success would be a miracle.

    But your post sucks. Atlas Shrugged, despite its flaws (and believe me, Objectivism has many, many flaws), is a wonderful book, and you really do sound like a coffee house yuppie bitching about it. Typical idiot who thinks that Objectivism (the philosophy, but even libertarianism, the political ideology) means that you HATE philanthropy and think that no one should it. This is simply not true. It’s also why Pitt and Jolie can be huge fans of Ayn Rand (which they are, they’ve stated publicly, on multiple occasions) and still contribute massive humanitarian aid to those in need. Objectivism states that Altruism is the bane of human progression and scourge of intellectual thought. Altruism IS NOT “the act of charity or philanthropy”, but “the obligation to be charitable or philanthropic”, and it is this ideology that Brangelina subscribe to, and one I will always stand behind. No one is owed anything. Whatsoever. It is Ayn Rand that opened my eyes (and many others) to the hypocrisy of people who demand that you and I dedicate OUR time and resources for their freedom. It is why I totally respect those who donate their money or give their time for no other reason other than their own feelings of self-worth (that’s the virtue of selfishness!), and also why they are no better or worse than those who would rather spend all their money that they earned rightfully on themselves.

    How did that quote go?

    “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask any man to live for mine.”

    Listen, I hate the Liberal-Conservative divisive bipartisan behavior that splits up America (ICanadian, and damn thankful for it), and all the name-calling that comes along with it, but you’re more socialist than you claim to be. Goddamn free-loader.


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