Nothing illustrates the utter craziness of our society in the post-9/11 era than the controversy over the "Ground Zero mosque." To begin with, the proposed Islamic center – not a mosque, but the Muslim equivalent of the YMCA – a nonprofit foundation wants to build in New York City isn’t at "ground zero," it is four blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. But that doesn’t deter demagogues like Newt Gingrich and various other unsavory opportunists from making it into a political issue.
Never mind the fact that there is already a mosque four blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center (see here), which has been there for many years. If we follow the "logic" of Newt and his fellow crusaders, then this should be torn down – along with all the other hundreds of mosques in New York City. And don’t forget Washington, D.C., the site of the attack on the Pentagon: surely symbols of the "enemy" religion must be banned there, too.
Of course, that would suit the haters, like Pamela "Shrieking Harpy" Geller, fuehrer of the "Stop the Islamization of America" movement, just fine. Geller is a self-proclaimed "Objectivist," a follower of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, whose blog – "Atlas Shrugs" – is named after Rand’s famous novel. It’s a case of intellectual expropriation both obscene and absurd, since Geller’s style of "argumentation" is as emotion-laden and out of control as Rand’s was cool, objective, and rational. Geller’s "argument" is that all Muslims are inherently and irredeemably evil, and out to destroy America: there are no "moderates," and those who pretend to be so are merely biding their time until the day they can reveal their true colors and impose Sharia law on the rest of us. Reading her tracts is kind of like perusing the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, only with Muslims taking the place of Jews as the sinister, all-powerful Forces of Darkness. Geller herself is a nobody, a publicity-seeker with no real arguments to make, so I won’t burden my readers with too much of her incoherent shrieking, but here’s a sample:
"Another stab in the eye of America……….’Muslim Family Day’ on September 12th. Vile. Six Flags hosts the annual Muslim Brotherhood front, I.C.N.A., for Muslim Family Day on September 12. ‘This event offers fun for the entire family and will also offer halal food stalls.’"
Had enough? I thought so.
Geller’s "intellectual" mentor, Leonard Peikoff, the founder of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Rand’s "intellectual heir," however, is a different story. He does make arguments, if you want to call them that.
Asked if he supported the right of the builders of the mosque to their own private property, this alleged advocate of reason and property rights answers with an emphatic no:
"Let’s start with property rights. Property rights are limited and they are contextual. You cannot do anything you want with property even though it is yours, not if its ramifications objectively entail a threat to the rights of others. You can’t build a bomb in your home. You can’t even build a big bonfire in your backyard legitimately because the principle of rights is that property rights are a derivative of life as the standard and there can be no right to threaten anyone’s life nor indeed to threaten anyone’s property."
How does a mosque, or, more accurately, a Muslim community center, "objectively entail a threat to the rights of others"? According to Peikoff, all manifestations of Islam – the very idea of Islam – is "objectively" a threat to the United States. Therefore, by his "logic," it’s okay to violate the property rights of Muslims – any and all Muslims. Indeed, killing them all would be a good thing, according to his sick perversion of Objectivism. Not that he has the intellectual honesty to follow his own murderous "logic" to its "rational" conclusion….
"Second," Peikoff continues,
"Rights are contextual. In any situation where metaphysical survival is at stake all property rights are out. You have no obligation to respect property rights. The obvious, classic example of this is, which I’ve been asked a hundred times, you swim to a desert island — you know, you had a shipwreck — and when you get to the shore, the guy comes to you and says, ‘I’ve got a fence all around this island. I found it. It’s legitimately mine. You can’t step onto the beach.’ Now, in that situation you are in a literal position of being metaphysically helpless. Since life is the standard of rights, if you no longer can survive this way, rights are out. And it becomes dog-eat-dog or force-against-force."
Peikoff’s example has nothing to do with the reality of the issue: indeed, it is so far removed from it that his answer seems completely unhinged. Unless one assumes the premise of his argument, which is that Islam – and, specifically, this Muslim community center four blocks from Ground Zero – represents such a grave threat to the US that our "metaphysical survival" is at stake. Given this demented and demonstrably untrue premise, his diatribe makes a kind of Bizarro World "sense" – but of course it isn’t true, and so what comes out of his mouth is the intellectual equivalent of vomit from a drunk.
"Rights are contextual." "You have no obligation to respect property rights." "Rights are out"! Where have we heard this before? Wesley Mouch – is that you talking?
So much for Peikoff and his misnamed "Ayn Rand Institute" as defenders of capitalism, property rights, and the sanctity of the individual.
If you thought Peikoff couldn’t get any wackier, you didn’t anticipate this:
"Now, let’s apply this to the foreign relations issue. The context today is that we are at war and not a cold one. A real one. We are facing widespread terrorism sponsored by a number of governments with tremendous popular backing in virtually every Mid-East Islamic country. Even Turkey, the one priding itself on its secularism, has now gone Islamic."
(Note how he seems to have gotten the neocon memo that Turkey – once one of Israel’s few allies in the world – is no longer kosher, and must be vilified. Okay, back to Peikoff:)
"Now, the United States’ response, the western response to this is a continuation of the appeasement that was started back in the ’50s with Eisenhower when Iran seized western oil companies. The Americans, the British, and the Israelis, as I remember, launched an attack to try to reclaim it and — or at least the British and the Israelis did and Eisenhower vetoed it."
Say what? When a senile old hater says "as I recall," the result, as in this case, can be unintentionally funny. What Peikoff is "recalling" here isn’t a joint US-British-Israeli assault, or an assault vetoed by Eisenhower, but the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammad Mossadegh, who was making noises about nationalizing British and American oil interests. As anyone who knows anything about the history of the region can tell you, this led to the imposition of the Shah Reza Pahlavi, whose tyrannical regime slaughtered thousands, jailing and torturing many more.
What gets me is that this self-proclaimed "philosopher," and advocate of the "supremacy of reason," doesn’t even bother to get his facts straight: Peikoff’s ignorance of the history of the Middle East, and specifically Iran, is monumental – and he knows it. But history, knowledge, and facts are unimportant to him, as they are to all haters and the vicious demagogues who want to make use of them. If history won’t conform to Peikoff’s ideological delusions, he simply makes it up, to wit:
"Since that point there’s more and more and more craven appeasement by the west and across 50 years the audacity and scope of outrage of the Islamic world — I mean by that, the activists, the militants, the terrorists, and their countless followers — they have continually upped the deaths, the assaults, the horror, while the US has continually upped its appeasement."
Yes, the overthrow of the Iranian government, unconditional political, military, and financial support to the occupiers of the West Bank and Gaza, two invasions of Iraq, support to Arab dictatorships (as long as they’re "pro-American," i.e. Mubarak in Egypt) – this was a policy of "appeasing" the Muslim world. Those Made-in-USA bombs falling on the factories and churches of Lebanon, disgorged by Israeli planes – that was "appeasement," too.
What planet is this "philosopher" living on?
Peikoff then launches into an inchoate rant about how American soldiers are having their hands tied, because they aren’t killing enough civilians: if you think I’m exaggerating, please read this, and this. George W. Bush is denounced by Peikoff for averring that bin Laden represents only Islam’s lunatic fringe, and the result, says Peikoff, is that we have a "non-policy," and "there’s no enemy," while the authorities "excuse" and "downplay" the terrorist threat.
Now to any normal person, the idea that the government is downplaying the danger represented by jihadist terrorism is a joke: indeed, ever since 9/11, our policymakers have been obsessed with this issue, and our politics have been dominated by it. But when one believes the existence of a Muslim community center represents a "metaphysical threat" to our very existence as a nation – well, then, yes, I suppose the expenditure of multi-billions of taxpayer dollars, two major wars, and a continuing war at home on our constitutional liberties is indeed a craven "non-policy" of "appeasement."
So how will it all end? Peikoff warns:
"Now, it should be obvious that there is no end to this, no final result, and not too far from now in time before there will be Islamic devastation or even take over of a paralyzed United States."
Of course, no one is better at devastation than the United States government, but then, according to Peikoff and his tiny clique of foaming-at-the-mouth followers, the killing of innocents is the only "moral" way to fight a war. Yes, you read that right: that’s what they believe. If the US goes to war, it must never take into account the innocent lives of bystanders, since, according to them, there can be no such category of persons. Rand herselfopined, back in the cold war days, that it would be "moral" for the US to invade and conquer the Soviet Union, since the Soviets were bloody dictators and the US the fountainhead of freedom in the world: furthermore, she "reasoned," the citizens of the Soviet Union allowed their rulers to continue to rule – the gulags, the secret police, and the apparatus of repression notwithstanding – and therefore it would be okay to pulverize them too, if it came to that. A thoroughly nutty conception of a rational foreign policy, but Rand’s epigones, including Peikoff, have taken this insanity a few steps further into complete lunacy by universalizing Rand’s original formulation.
As for the alleged possibility of a Muslim takeover of a "paralyzed" United States: that’s about as likely as Peikoff becoming a rational human being.
What makes Peikoff’s views and those of his "Objectivist" comrades even creepier is their pretense at "objectivity," "reason," and "logic." They worship at the shrine of an author whose early disciples called her "Mrs. Logic" – and yet they are so far from being logical that the distance can only be measured in lightyears. Indeed, there is an emotional ferment obvious in the tone and content of Peikoff’s diatribe, which originated as a podcast: you can hear the hatred bubbling up from the very depths of his being as he chokes out his prescription for mass death and massive rights violations. By his "logic," it would be "rational" to lock up every Muslim in a concentration camp, or – to save money – simply liquidate them, as the Soviets used to say. In the Peikoffian worldview, applied to the realm of military strategy, anything less than genocide is appeasement. His is the foreign policy of the Borg.
Peikoff is honest enough to recognize where all this murderous hatred is going, and to his credit he comes right out and says it, his voice shaking with anger:
"Give notice and bomb Tehran as a beginning — but, we can’t do that. But right now the question is: What should we do in this case?
"Now, my view in this context, any objective sign — not what could be subjectively taken one way or the other, but any objective sign sign of our weakness, it is immoral and catastrophic for Americans to permit it insofar as they could stop or weaken the effort to it. And the mosque is absolutely a textbook example of this. There is only one objective message.
"Now, let me give you an analogy if it’s not self-evident. Japanese strike pearl Harbor. We declare war. Japan, the Japanese, are then given a large spread of land in Pearl Harbor to build a temple celebrating — I don’t care what. The Japanese superiority or Shinto peacefulness or — I don’t care what. Now, if you can even conceive of that as justified because of ‘property rights,’ then I say you haven’t a clue what property rights, or individualism, or Objectivism is saying. Because what permitting that amounts to is ‘Roll over. Kick me. Kill me. I have nothing to say.’"
To begin with, what does Iran have to do with it? During the Iraq war, the Bush administration assiduously cultivated the myth that Saddam Hussein organized the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, although that was a patent lie (Bush later admitted it wasn’t true, but by then the legend had taken root in the public subconscious). Is Peikoff saying Iran was behind 9/11? It’s hard to say, but, as Peikoff would put it, "I don’t care what." His fact-free form of "objectivity" surely allows him not to care.
Secondly, let’s dispense with the pretense of Peikoff’s alleged devotion to "individualism." There are lots of ideological labels one might affix to someone who advocates the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in wartime, or at any time, but "individualist" isn’t one of them. One who treats the members of an entire religion as an undifferentiated mass, to be treated like vermin, is only an "invidualist" in Bizarro World, where it appears Dr. Peikoff has taken up full-time residence.
Thirdly, it’s interesting that Peikoff should pick up on the example of the Japanese in World War II, because the logic of his position justifies the internment camps set up by Roosevelt – that precursor of Peikoffian "individualism" – into which Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate. It’s clear from his remarks that he would fully endorse a similar fate for Muslims in the US – yes, that‘s how crazy he is.
I have to say that I am appalled – really disgusted to the point that it makes me want to throw up – that a moral monster of Peikoff’s sort is sullying the name of Ayn Rand with his certifiable craziness. I was inspired to become a writer by her example, I loved her novels when I read them as a very young teenager, and I am not one of those tired old Boomer types who "got over her" – I admire Rand, as a novelist and a person, today more than ever, in spite of her flaws. As I have written elsewhere, Atlas Shrugged is not only a work of literary genius, it is a work of almost preternatural prescience: we are living that novel today. I couldn’t have survived my adolescence without The Fountainhead, and my favorite movie of all time is the Italian film adaptation of We the Living, Rand’s first novel. (Buy it here: Alida Valli as Kira, the heroine, is fabulous!)
That said, the takeover of her legacy by her self-proclaimed "intellectual heir," the monstrous Peikoff, is an obscenity, and a truly sinsister development. If you think I’m exaggerating, read what Peikoff is exhorting his followers to do, since "we can’t bomb Iran," and are otherwise constrained by the spinelessness of the "appeasers":
"Now if you ask me, in conclusion, ‘Well, what, then should properly be done?’ Obviously war, but I mean in regard to this issue I would say: Any way possible permission should be refused and if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence, evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity. You know, a nice little example would be Howard Roark is relevant here.
"I want to just conclude by saying that I’m doing these podcasts for nothing but the enjoyment of talking to young people about important issues. I am not here to have a heart attack, so please don’t send me any more questions like this. I will not answer them."
Readers of The Fountainhead will be familiar with this reference to Howard Roark, the main character, an architect who, in the course of the novel, blows up one of his own buildings because its design has been altered and perverted. In no way is his example "relevant here," except in Peikoff’s senile mind. Roark was defending his own work against the depredations of a contemptible parasite, and, needless to say (except when one is talking to "Objectivists"), The Fountainhead is a work of fiction: Roark’s act was symbolic. Rand certainly did not advocate that admirers of her work should go around blowing things up.
At the end of Peikoff’s podcast, someone other than Peikoff appends a note at the end, averring:
"Dr. Peikoff has asked me to state, in case anyone misinterpreted, that the blowing up of a building mentioned near the end is an action, which like all foreign policy issues, can properly be taken by a government. He in no way suggests or condones private action in this issue."
Peikoff is a liar: having stated that Roark’s blowing up of a building is "a nice little example" of "what, then, properly should be done," he cannot then back away from the implications of his own words. After all, wouldn’t this same principle of letting the government take care of the bombing apply to Roark? And it can hardly be said that the building of the mosque/community center is a "foreign policy issue," since we’re talking about a building in the heart of New York City. The builders aren’t applying to the UN for a building permit: it’s up to the city government. Which is why the leaders of this crazed "stop the mosque" movement are putting pressure on local officials to violate property rights and make bigotry the official policy of the Big Apple.
No, it’s clear from the context what Peikoff is advocating, or, rather, inciting: he is telling his followers – a thoroughly nutty bunch, by any measure – that it’s okay for them to blow up the "ground zero mosque." That’s where hatred of this intensity always winds up: in naked bloody violence. In this sense, Peikoff is an intellectual criminal.
Peikoff has said some pretty nutty things in his career as Rand’s "heir," but this one takes the cake. This latest hate-filled diatribe even has some of his followers shaking their heads (albeit ever so tentatively and politely), which is a sign that the Objectivist "movement" – or that part of it Peikoff hasn’t long ago purged for alleged ideological impurities – is nearing yet another in a seemingly endless series of splits.
It’s interesting that he starts out his tirade by honestly proclaiming the hate and rage roiling inside him:
"Isn’t it private property and therefore protected by individual rights and no one has a right to interfere? Now, I don’t take concrete political issues like this, but in this case it is an issue of such ramifications that I just can’t ignore it. I also am going to lie to or deceive you in this way: not in the content of what I say, but in the manner. left to my own devises, I would be enraged and spout off all the way through my answer on the wickedness of the people who believe this or the non-knowledge of the people who agree with them. But I asked for questions and therefore if I take it, well, nobody forced me, I gotta be calm, just as if it was any other question. So, do not let my manner deceive you as to my opinion, my evaluation."
Don’t let his manner deceive you. That skinny little guy with the comically high voice, and the pencil thin neck, is a potential mass murderer, whose followers are entirely capable of violence incited by his murderous "philosophy" – a philosophy that might be described as Bizarro "individualism," i.e. the complete opposite of everything that Rand — and any other individualist worthy of the name — ever stood for.