One pleasure in reading the New York Times is its movie reviews. They leave few stones unturned, covering everything from major releases to obscure foreign films. The New York Times has passed on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (unless I missed something). This reminds me that NYT was the last mainstream-media newspaper to deign to mention the rascally and radical Tea Party.
Atlas’s only NYT mention appears to be Maureen Dowd’s “Atlas Without Angelina” in her Sunday, April 17 Op-Ed section. Dowd tells us that Obama’s “we’re all in this together, that we look after each other” philosophy would be “antithetical to Rand’s idea man,” that Paul Ryan’s “pushing the cost of Medicare and Medicaid onto the old, the sick and the disabled while rewarding insurance companies with bigger profits, would be more up her alley,” and that she need not waste her time on Atlas Shrugged because P. J O’Rouke (that noted film critic!) had already panned it.
Rand, Dowd tells us, was dead wrong. She failed to see that capitalism would “evolve into a vampire casino where you could bet against investments you sold to your clients, and make money off something you didn’t own or that existed only on paper.” She then goes on to rehash the NYT 2007 story about a Democrat movie producer, who failed to get Rand’s permission to make Atlas into a movie because she wanted artistic control. Rand made a good decision, in my view. Dowd ends with the implication that Atlas Shrugged is a waste of time because it is supported by the Tea Party and Sean Hannity.
A NYT film critic would indeed be troubled by Atlas Shrugged’s cheerleading for unfettered capitalism and individualistic entrepreneurs and its railing against Washington. He or she would, at long last, share conservative discomfort with the standard Hollywood rendition of a caring liberal President protecting us from snarling Republican killers of the poor, weak, and infirm.
Ayn Rand was the first and only major writer to spin readable stories about the rent-seeking society. Dowd believes that the “fiscal meltdown” proved Rand false. Viewers of Atlas Shrugged, however, will see that Rand’s half-century-old account captures dead-on today’s suppression of (evil, greedy, and unpatriotic) entrepreneurs, the private-government “partnerships” (GE and the federal government), and the buying and selling of political influence that characterize our world today.
The NYT may choose to ignore an Atlas Shrugged as beneath their dignity, but it may turn out to be a rallying cry in the 2012 election. If so, the venerable NYT has again missed the boat.