Rebirth of Reason


ATLAS SHRUGGED: Socialist Manifesto
by Dennis C. Hardin

Anyone optimistic that a movie version of Atlas Shrugged could have a strong positive impact on the culture should check out this article at the Huffington Post. The author, Rachel Sklar, compares the current Hollywood writers strike with Ayn Rand’s fictionalized walkout by of the Men of the Mind:

“…Somehow, the writers have managed to cast themselves as the ultimate John Galts — the mysterious, shadowy figures behind the shows that are our TV lifeblood…”

In truth, of course, the writers (or their leadership and those members who sanction the actions of their compulsory guild) are the walking embodiments of Orren Boyle, the president of Associated Steel who works with corrupt politicians to insure that his steel is the only product on the market.  The consequence of his reliance on the government’s guns, of course, is rampant death and destruction. 

The Hollywood unions are allowed to get away with using force because of labor laws such as the National Labor Relations Act. Membership in the Writers’ Guild of America is mandatory for movie industry writers in La-La Land.  What has the strike by the WGA achieved so far?
TV and film writers walked off the job November 5, 2007 in a dispute over payment for their work on the internet and mobile devices. Since then, writers have lost about $179.6 million in pay and other unionized workers, including stage hands, about $309.6 million. The total impact on the region’s economy is estimated at $1.4 billion and growing daily. 

The strike halted production on television shows which depend on writers for new scripts. Warner Brothers just announced they may lay off 1000 workers soon. Other major studios will no doubt follow suit. The Warner Brothers workers will join about 10,000 industry employees who have been idled by the walkout so far.  This does not count the thousands of innocent employees and owners of other local businesses—from restaurants to dry cleaners--who have been put out of work by the strike.

Imagine what that 1.4 billion dollar figure translates to in terms of real, day-to-day human suffering.   The Cosa Nostra would be hard pressed to wreak such unspeakable destruction on the civilized world over such a short period of time.  And this may only be the beginning.  The contract between the Directors Guild of America, which represents about 13,500 directors and associated production workers, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, an industry bargaining group, will expire on June 30.

Sklar appears to have been more or less awake when she read Atlas.  She offers a semi-decent description of the essence of the story:

“…the world's defining original thinkers and innovators band together and go on strike, preferring to remove their gifts from the world rather than have them exploited and abused by the cheap, venal, mercenary second-handers and followers who failed to appreciate their brilliance…”
The question is: How could a reasonably intelligent human being read that phenomenal novel and not grasp that it is a clarion call against precisely the kind of bureaucratic thuggery exemplified by the WGA?  Even the Cliff’s Notes version should have made that fairly clear.

What does this portend for the big screen version of Atlas Shrugged, assuming the gun-toting strikers eventually decide to allow the studios to make movies again?

If it does eventually make the silver screen, the movie version of Atlas Shrugged will hopefully be a wonderful experience for all those who love and admire the works of Ayn Rand.  The bad news is—chances are that is all it will be.  Even if the movie should make a reasonable effort to capture the genius of the written work—and, needless to say, it won’t--the culture is not going to be suddenly galvanized to change its unthinking, traditional ways.  Even if the film should prove to be a major financial success, the average moviegoer will learn absolutely nothing from the experience. 

However inspired we might feel as we leave the theatre, the world we return to will be just as embroiled in bureaucratic stagnation and the suffocating quagmire of rampant irrationality as ever, and will remain so for a long time to come.
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