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Ayn Rand Parodies McSweeney’s

McSweeney’s has published an attempt at parody of Ayn Rand that quite spectacularly misconstrues her attitudes toward immigrants and Jews, two categories to which she belonged. The piece’s take on Rand’s attitude toward her own sex (“Women can’t read”) might be intended ironically, but the notion that Rand must have been xenophobic is evidently meant to be taken seriously.

She was more likely to be on the receiving end of such attitudes. Rand was once derided as an “an ignorant little Jewish girl” by Ludwig von Mises (himself a Jew) — though on another occasion he called her the bravest man in America (yes, “man”). And as a thickly-accented Russian emigre frequenting right-wing circles in the ’40s and ’50s, she was no stranger to suspicions about her “Americanism.” This oral history leaves no doubt about where she stood on immigration: “Someone asked her for her views on immigration, if she thought it was a good thing. And she got indignant immediately at the very idea that anyone might be opposed to immigration, that a country might not let immigrants in.”

McSweeney’s Megan Amram has given us a splendid self-parody of hipster wannabes who can’t think about politics in terms other than the crudest of liberal cliches. If you want a really good Ayn Rand parody, though, you can’t do better than the man herself, as this clip from an NPR piece on Thomas Mallon’s Yours Ever: People and Their Letters shows:

Mallon quotes from Ayn Rand, in a chapter he calls “Advice,” fascinate precisely because of their lack of elegance. Mallon observes that “the ugly, pile-driving clarity of Rand’s writing was … suited to the giving of advice, at least in those instances when the requester needed someone else’s certainty to pulverize hesitation.” He then quotes from a letter that Rand wrote to her niece who asked for the loan of twenty-five dollars to buy a dress. Auntie Ayn stipulated a repayment plan and signed off thusly: “If you become ill, then I will give you an extension of time — but for no other reason. … If, when the debt comes due, you tell me that you can’t pay … then I will consider you as an embezzler. … I will write you off as a rotten person and I will never speak or write to you again.”

For more on Mallon, by the way, see Scott Galupo’s essay on Richard Nixon and Mallon’s latest novel, Watergate.

about the author

Daniel McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review, and Editor-at-Large of The American Conservative. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, The Spectator, The National Interest, Reason, and many other publications. Outside of journalism he has worked as internet communications coordinator for the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign and as senior editor of ISI Books. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied classics. Follow him on Twitter.

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