Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Steve Bannon: Pseudo-intellectual

Steve Bannon

From the NY Times Book Review:

When Buckley assigned a review of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” to Whittaker Chambers[Big Sister is Watching You], a Communist turned fervent anti-Communist and devout Christian, he must have known the sparks would fly. To call the review an evisceration is to understate its severity. 

For Chambers, Rand’s novel was morally obscene, a shrill and dogmatic exercise in political propaganda that promoted a form of inverted Marxism in which a coterie of capitalist supermen do battle with and justly triumph over throngs of resentful, parasitic “looters.” Buckley himself would criticize Rand in similar terms on many occasions over the years, including in a decidedly mixed appreciation written on the occasion of her death in 1982 (William F. Buckley and the Odyssey of Conservatism).

That the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is an admirer of "Atlas Shrugged" says something unflattering about the intellectual caliber of the country's political leadership. No one assumes that political leaders have to be intellectuals, but Ayn Rand is sinking very low.

Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand

NY Times Magazine story last March quoted Steve Bannon: 

"What's that Dostoyevsky line: Happy families are all the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own unique ways?" (He meant Tolstoy.) "I think the Democrats are fundamentally afflicted with the inability to discuss and have an adult conversation about economics and jobs, because they're too consumed by identity politics."

The Tolstoy quotation Bannon was attributing to Dostoyevsky: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Bannon got the gist of the quote right, but mixing up Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky---two very different writers---suggests that he hasn't read them, that he's a phony and a pseudo-intellectual.

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At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mixing up phony or not regardless of how one may look at it.... it is a true statement.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

The status of that quote has been elevated to "The Anna Karenina Principle" for endeavors in which a checklist of criteria all must be met for success. This could be family happiness, a sports team, a restaurant, etc. If any of the criteria are not fulfilled then the endeavor fails. Thus there can be any number of reasons for failure while all successful endeavors are similar in that they've met all the criterial.

This principle can be applied to an aspect of the High Speed Rail project, have they included the number of suicides the trains will encounter? Will the trains stop or will they even notice? Currently Caltrain snuffs about one person per month and they claim that most are suicides. Now add a few hundred miles more of inviting track.

So Anna, by stepping in front of a train, made her eponymous principle self-fulfilling in the current HSR endeavor.

(back in the 80s a 14-year old kid already understood that bicyclists don't have to abide by the traffic safety rules so pedaled around the gateposts in order to cross just as the train passed. The last thing he ever saw was the train coming from the other direction on the adjacent track.)

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Mixing up phony or not regardless of how one may look at is a true statement."

No, it isn't. It's nothing but pseudo-profundity, unworthy of a great novel.


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