We'll be back to real American news shortly. For now, a loop-closing exercise on the Atlas Shrugged Guy, and the beginning of another 18-month moratorium in this space on his thoughts and activities. Some time next fall, as we enter the last stages of the next presidential campaign, we may look in on him again. Here's what you need to know before this final-for-now installment:
• During the 2012 Obama-Romney race, one reader wrote frequently and with mounting passion about the threat to America's future an Obama re-election would mean. You can find an archive of his messages here, and all related posts here. Just before the election he declared that if the unthinkable happened and Obama stayed in, the ASG would close his business, lay off all his workers, and John Galt-like deprive the economy of his services.
• I happen to know that whether or not he meant that claim when he made it, he did not follow through. The ASG has run a small electronics-related business in the southern half of the country, with an emphasis on aerospace and some defense contracts. (Don't bother to write in asking how an anti-government absolutist can rely on Pentagon contracts.) He has avoided answering my direct queries about whether he carried out his threats, but I have determined in other ways that he did not.
• This weekend he reappeared with a new claim that the economy was falling apart because of the socialist policies brought in by Obama. I pointed out that you can criticize Obama's record in many ways, but you probably shouldn't start with a claim that the economy has gotten worse.
Now, to tide us all through the next 18 lean months, I give you a sample of reader reaction to the Guy.
1) Maybe he should have carried out the threat:
I assume that after he fired all his employees and put his company up for sale that there was a buyer who gave him a good price and who rehired all of those who had not already found better jobs elsewhere. That's what an economic recovery can do.
2) It's just trolling.
In my nearly worthless opinion (on this topic), the Guy is trolling you. I think the tipoff is in his telling you how smart and well-educated he is. I am reminded of an article I was shown about "Planet X". It described itself as a scientific dissertation. Scientists never do that. It borrowed the typography of Scientific American. That works for me!
I think it's clear that [various Atlantic writers], for example, are smart and well-educated. Do they make an explicit point of this? Does any authentic person? Very, very few. Authenticity speaks for itself; self-puffery, excluding humor, works against itself. That is why so much advertising is discounted.
For what it's worth, I am sure the Guy is not just trolling. He has his own personal / philosophical website, which I won't link to because it's under his real name, where he offers similar views at length. There is a category of people always telling you how smart they are; I seem to come across them most often in bars. He's in this category.
3) Two fantasy novels.
Back in the late seventies I worked with a guy at [major southwest city] Planning Department who was fond of saying "How many people does it take to make a self-made man?". I guess I've pretty much adopted the same perspective but we know what happened during the last presidential election. I don't take anything away from people who have worked hard, sacrificed, taken chances and been successful. I admire them and want them to enjoy their rewards. But they didn't do this in a vacuum. Many people had a hand in their success whether large or small. Anyone who doesn't realize it is just self-centered....
I, for one, thought Atlas Shrugged Guy was just blowing smoke. If he did follow through it would have been out of spite and not a real business decision. A number of months ago TCM showed the Fountainhead which I hadn't seen in many years. I read the book in my early twenties. I was struck with how wooden the dialog was and mused that Rand wouldn't have been happy with it until I saw she wrote the screenplay....
Anyway, I can't top:
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
4) The up-or-down question.
What about the answer to the question we've all been wondering: Did he shutter his business, as promised in the event of Obama's re-election?
Not everyone who believed Obama's (re)election would be bad the economy was required to respond in their own economic lives as though that was a bankable truth. But what fascinated me about ASG was that while claiming great intelligence and business savvy, he also claimed that this one political outcome was all he would need to know to make perhaps the most consequential business decision of his life: closing down a hitherto prospering business. Much of his claim to fame (for me, at least) rested not with his radical political views but with his willingness to put up his own business as proof of his seriousness.
So, was he serious? Or was he just enjoying the platform?
I don't know whether he enjoyed the platform — at one point he complained bitterly to me about disagreeing with him "in public." But as noted, I know that he didn't follow through.
5) Bridging the communication gap.
My brother still says the economic recovery under Clinton was just him getting the credit for the delayed effects of the Reagan and Bush economic policies.
I have been reading lately about how to talk to the American variety of conservatives, given that such communication seems to be important. I see that it will be hard to do.
Other than just wanting to talk to people, my motivation is the connection in the Evangelical mind (and increasingly in the conservative mind) between science and faith. One of my interests is genetics, and I find more and more of the people around me will not accept that it exists because they see a slippery slope to believing in evolution, which is apostasy.
Isn't this a dangerous turn?
6) Misunderstanding 'socialist.' The latest ASG missive asked if I was "still worshipping at the alter [sic] of socialism." A reader:
One of the truly frustrating tactics of the American Political Right is the way they are free to blur or outright change the definition of words. If we could simply agree on what certain words mean much of the dishonesty on display would be impossible. Words like 'socialism', 'terrorism', 'weapon of mass destruction' and 'liberal' have become, not just slippery but impossible to use because they don't mean the same thing to two different people. (And yes, I'm aware that the Obama administration, particularly DOJ, has taken advantage of the lack of clarity in terms like 'terrorist', but it is a particular tactic of the right.)
Alas Shrugged Guy apparently thinks that some number of current economic policies are socialist in nature. That is clearly, definitionally false, but only if we use the original meaning of the word. I'd LOVE to see him defend that position - see what policies he's defining as Socialism. Obamacare subsidies? Food Stamps? Agricultural Subsidies? The Big Bank & Auto Bailout? I'd also like to know why everything he's decided to call socialism is inherently bad. It's just a word he's using to describe a center-left administration deeply constrained by an opposition legislature.
7) Proof of Obama's socialism.
Attached is the smoking gun that proves Obama is a socialist. It's total Govt. spending, includes state/local and Federal. One-third of the 09 stimulus money went largely to replace declines in state and local govt spending, then stimulus dried up and sequester took over resulting in a pretty flat govt. spending overall for most of Obama's terms.
8) And, from Mike Lofgren, former long-time GOP Senate staffer:
. . . and why John Oliver beats Jon Stewart hollow:
That is all. A return to normal programming later today.
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