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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