The life and times of Ayn Rand. Now in epic webcomic form.
Louie Helm is a Machine Learning Engineer at Fathom Computing
well, that just nerdsniped a half hour of my life
It’s hard to understand how someone could (rationally) put so much time and effort into a story about someone they clearly despised, without the purpose of offering a philosophical (moral) alternative (an “As opposed to”). The scathing language, the emphasis on the negative, and the seeking of pleasure through rumination of the self-inflicted misery of Rand … I would probably dislike having the psychology/subjective experience of the person who created this quite a bit.
No Rand bashing in the comments yet on Rockstar Research as I post this. Seems people need to participate in collective Rand bashing in order to satisfy some kind of sacred cow response. If one wishes to join in on the Rand bashing, which seems to serve as a great way to socially ostracize individualists, the i09 posting of this last year has quite a few people turning over that leaf: http://io9.com/webcomic-biography-of-ayn-rand-puts-her-works-in-contex-1421655984
Now that the comic is actually done, I thought it was worth mentioning again.
I agree making it doesn’t seem like it would be fun for me, but the story made me see Rand in a better light as a more complex person than the small bits of slander I’ve heard about her life and ideas from others before.
Given how many of my friends have strong opinions about Rand, I feel like I understand both those who love her ideas and those who see her as a hypocrite that much more now… and forgive Rand for her contradictions a bit too. No one doing useful things in life gets it all right.
I don’t mean to be overbearingly critical of your posts … I hold your work and efforts to high standards, given your affiliations and that we share similar goals.
To anyone with little understanding of Rand reading this comic as a source of knowledge, it might be helpful to know that the majority of this information likely comes from Barbara Brandon’s book, or it in some way originated there.
The aspects of her life emphasized here are the typical ones emphasized by people seeking to trivialize her literary and philosophical work. Never have I seen such gross inaccuracies written about a person after they died, and go unchallenged by the mainstream smart people, who otherwise seem dedicated to “rationality” and “science”. While many of the “events” this comic touches on did happen, the how’s and why’s are generally arbitrary, inaccurate, or misconstrued.
I would just challenge anyone who reads this as “non-fiction” to please, dig for the original sources of such claims. Some examples: the characterization of her personality as a child, the characterization of Frank’s attitude about wearing a bell, the stuff about her actual motivations for moving back to NY, the stuff about the meetings in the “collective” being a “trial”, the stuff about Greenspan being a dedicated follower of her even while he was going into public politics, the shocking omission of Leonard Peikoff. On almost every slide you can find something that was characterized in an unverifiable manner, or very likely to be false. The comic isn’t a rebuttal of her, it is making fun of a person whose polyamorous relationship went very wrong.
Furthermore, many aspects that are essential to understanding her livelihood and character are not here. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, her longstanding and central friendship with Leonard Peikoff is absent. She was a mentor to him for 30 years, and he was one of her closest friends — close to her family, and she was close to his. I suspect because Peikoff doesn’t have any well-known public strikes against him like Greenspan, but rather a successful but modestly lived life and career, and healthy family.
Another important and major aspect in her life, one that is also shockingly absent from this history, and one that I think demonstrates her dedication to the philosophy she held, was that she worked in very low paying jobs that she hated for a long time, the equivalent of minimum wage jobs today. She would work all day at these jobs, as they were the only jobs she could get at the time, and would cry in the evenings because she hated them so much, and they were hard on her psychologically. (think of how some kinds of customer service jobs can effect people) She would often write in the evenings after coming home from long shifts in such jobs. I think this will be a relatable trait and life experience to artists and in general, people who care about “ideas”. The comic makes it seem like she had an easy working career, hollywood this and broadway that, but the truth is a large portion of her life was spent in dull, psychologically agonizing, draining, non-creative, non-intellectual jobs.
If I could summarize: there is no short-cut to understanding unique, complex and controversial people. Not surprisingly, it takes effort to seek out a reasonable understanding, especially for controversial figures because one has to overcome biases they have in order to care enough to obtain a verifiable and reasonable perspective. Journalists have a “special” relationship with Ayn Rand, which doesn’t help. I would argue that with Ayn Rand you would have to put in more effort than you would with most people to actually understand her. Coming from someone who has a background in philosophy and has spent a long time trying to understand her life and ideas, I can say you are not going to get very far from this comic.