Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Telegraph on Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on October 22, 2007

The Atlas celebrations in India is covered by The Telegraph. Since I organized the one in Mumbai, I am mentioned several times in the article.

The writer of the article e-mailed me to express her regret that her original piece was “severely truncated” for space issues. I can see that the intent of the article is very positive towards Ayn Rand. However, as with all such cases of articles on Ayn Rand’s philosophy written and edited by people who are not properly familiar with it, this article contains at least three major factual errors. It is highly unfortunate. I immediately e-mailed the writer and pointed out the inaccuracies, asking that she either revoke the article or rectify the errors quickly. I offered some suggestions on how those errors may be rectified. I’m not sure what will come out of it.

😦

P.S. For copyright issues, I was told not to post the article on my site. So visit the link to read it in full.

UPDATE: I was just informed that prominent Indian actor Shammi Kapoor’s quote in the article (about AS’s thesis that money is the root of all evil) is verbatim. This means either the entire book went right above the man’s head, he has an incredibly weak memory of what he read, or Kapoor was just very sloppy in talking with the reporter. In any case, all of this merely underscores the case that he shouldn’t even be mentioned in the article.

I encourage all of you to send Letters to the Editor (ttedit@abpmail.com) pointing out this error and raising more points to get a discussion going. I’ll be writing one myself. Feel free to post your LTE’s here in the comments.

UPDATE: My entire interview with the reporter, which was excluded from the article for space reasons, is posted here.

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12 Responses to “Telegraph on Ayn Rand”

  1. Charl said

    Lemme guess:

    1) The part about you being an instant convert after reading Atlas Shrugged at 20.
    2) the part where that the actor dude is quote to have said that Galt’s speech was about money being the root of all evil. WTF. It’s the COMPLETE opposite. Was that misquote or did the actor get it all wrong. Or I have I got it all wrong? Serious confusion here.
    3) philosophical DETECTIVE novels? DETECTIVE, did he say? Maybe he meant “suspenseful” and “thrilling.” I’m reading too much into it.
    4) The writers say an important part of Rand’s thoughts is her materialism. May not be incorrect per se, but it doesn’t quite flow with the next sentence where some socialite talks about Randian individualism and the practical applicability of her philosophy to the corporate world (limited, btw, since the philosophy is applicable to every situation in life.)
    5) It might just be my training as an an editor, but the “anniversary” did not “[take] place across the country, including Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi.” I’d say the anniversary celebratings took place IN Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi. Is that right?

    Jeez.

  2. Ergo said

    Charl, you’ve been a busy commentor today! 😉 But I think I’ll have to edit your comment above as well… cuz, I think you intended to have point number 4 followed by point number 5, not 4 again! 😉

    The three major flaws I picked were:

    1) The thesis of AS is that money is the root of all evil. Either Shammi Kapoor never read the book; didn’t understand the book; read it but forgot what it was all about; or is sadly misquoted.

    2) Rand was not a rationalist, nor were her ideas.

    3) Rand was not a materialist, nor were her ideas.

    The other stuff you point out are not really factual errors. Oh, and the anniversary celebrations did indeed take place across India, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Calcutta. It also took place in Hyderabad and Bangalore. I was also told that there would be events in Patna–though, of this, I have no confirmation.

  3. Charl said

    oooh really. My bad. Looks like I made more errors than the Telegraph did. LOL. Ohh yay I got 1.5 points right atleast, no?

    And didnt you once tell me you rejected Rand’s ideas when you first read Atlas Shrugged (or was it The Fountainhead?)? But later you thought about it and questioned your own beliefs and all…

  4. Ergo said

    That was TF, which I read first.

  5. Ergo said

    Read the update above. Here’s my LTE that I just sent out:

    Dear Editor,

    The article “Take a bow, Ayn”, in which I am mentioned several times, reveals a good faith effort to portray Ayn Rand’s philosophy accurately. However, this effort is seriously squashed by Shammi Kapoor’s alarmingly sloppy recollection of the “thesis” of Atlas Shrugged. Kapoor says that the book projects money as the root of all evil. This is in exact opposition to Ayn Rand’s position that money is a symbol of great virtue! I quote Rand directly from her novel Atlas Shrugged:

    “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil? Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper… are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce.”

    Kapoor’s quote does a major disservice to the writers of this article who seek to achieve accuracy in reporting, to the readers who are not familiar with Ayn Rand’s ideas, and most importantly, to Ayn Rand herself on this the 50th Anniversary of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.

    Today, in the context of the debate on the Nuclear Deal–which should properly not even be on the debating table, and in the context of the last gasps of the dying and discredited Left and Communist Party, Ayn Rand’s ideas are more pertinent than ever in informing India’s political culture and increasing the momentum toward prosperity and freedom, which Indians are only now beginning to enjoy. Many from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations “shrugged” in the intellectual sense in response to the repressive Socialist policies of Nehru and the License Raj. Free minds cannot function under regulation and force. That generation chose to withdraw their minds and the products of their minds from this society in search of free societies in the West–like the US and the UK; the government of India at that time called it the “brain-drain”–Ayn Rand would have called it “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Now, with the opening of the Indian borders, the gradual acceptance of free markets, and the loosening of government regulations, not only is tremendous wealth flowing back into this country but also the minds who produce wealth and money are choosing to return to make their fortunes here in India. This is an indisputable fact. What remains is to investigate the implications and root causes of this fact.

    =======================
    I realize that it’s a very long LTE. I need to learn how to write more effective LTE’s. I think the ARI has some guidelines on that.

  6. Charl said

    About Shammi’s quote, I was so shocked that anyone could get something that BASIC wrong that I doubted my own take on it. Christ.

    I’m going to write my own (short) LTE about that; will post it when I’m done.

  7. You’re making headlines!

  8. anand said

    Most people who left India – the brain drain guys – are thankful to Nehru for setting up the world renowned IITs with public money. A majority of people stayed back then. A minority stay back now. This is a fact. Only a minority of the majority who leave return, constituting reverse brain-drain.

  9. Ergo said

    Anand,

    Rubbish. You said, “a majority stayed back then”–that’s because very few were rich enough to be able to finance their education abroad. “A minority stay back now.” Because wealth is now much more pervasive among the Indian population.

    Also, it is your personal opinion that most people who left India are thankful to Nehru for his evil policies (and for setting up the IITs.) But it’s a fact that the world-renowned institutions like the IITs does not *require* government funding, government protection, government subsidies, and government interference. It is more than reasonable to state that were it not for Nehru’s socialism, India today would perhaps have *more* than just a handful of IITs and IIMs to boast about: funded and fueled by private corporations and individuals with vested interests in getting the best brains for their jobs. Do you know that of all the people entering the Indian job market, only 20 percent are even hirable on a modest standard?

  10. anand said

    I was worried about factual inaccuracies in your argument that “That generation chose to withdraw their minds and products of their minds from this society in search of free societies in the West–like the US and the UK.” This generalisation cannot be supported with hard facts.

    You wrote: “Also, it is your personal opinion that most people who left India are thankful to Nehru for his evil policies (and for setting up the IITs.) ” I never said people are thankful for the whole set of Nehru’s policies, evil or otherwise. I was only talking about setting up IITs in the context of lack of strength in the private sector. You put a spin on what I wrote!!

  11. Ergo said

    For “hard facts”, read this and the links provided from there: http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/002090.html

    Also, as an aside, is “hard” facts different from “soft” facts, or just facts?

    Anyway, the point about many in the 60s and 70s generation who could afford to get out of India actually getting out is not a new observation, nor is it unique only to the Indian brains. We should remember also the best brains that left the facist and Nazi Europe in the early 20th century to settle in Galt’s Gulch of freedom in America (and much fewer in the UK). Some prominent examples are Einstein, Godel, Oppenheimer, Popper, Wittgenstein, and ofcourse, Ayn Rand. (Anticipating an objection here, I’ll clarify that Popper and Wittgenstein lived in various places in Europe.)

    About putting a “spin” on your comment: it’s actually called exposing your premises explicitly. If one is thankful for the IITs, then one must also approve to some extent the causes, preconditions, and policies that went into creating the IITs.

  12. anand said

    There’s are no facts in the link that are related to emigration of best brains from India. There was only a parallel drawn between Atlas Shrugged and India’s policies and the article claimed that emigrations therein were similar.

    I think it would be a gross misrepresentation to say that those who chose to emigrate were characterized by a sense of alienation from the land of their birth because of its policies. If this is the claim, it needs facts.

    There are many facts pointing that “best brains” have always engaged with India even after emigration. Indian brains part of who’s who of silicon valley is waxing eloquent about Corporate Social Responsibility. IIT alumni associations have been active in “giving it back” to the country of their birth. And some thought that the way to do this was to return and make products in India and teach the new young brains. (Wireless CorDECT is one such technology in the private sector, not to mention nuclear, space progress).

    Anyway, cheers.

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