Leonard Peikoff: even crazier after all these years
Nothing illustrates the utter craziness of our society in the post-9/11 era than the controversy over the "Ground Zero mosque." To begin with, the proposed Islamic center — not a mosque, but the Muslim equivalent of the YMCA — a nonprofit foundation wants to build in New York City isn't at "ground zero," it is four blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. But that doesn't deter demagogues like Newt Gingrich and various other unsavory opportunists from making it into a political issue.
Never mind the fact that there is already a mosque four blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center (see here), which has been there for many years. If we follow the "logic" of Newt and his fellow crusaders, then this should be torn down — along with all the other hundreds of mosques in New York City. And don't forget Washington, D.C., the site of the attack on the Pentagon: surely symbols of the "enemy" religion must be banned there, too.
Of course, that would suit the haters, like Pamela "Shrieking Harpy" Geller, fuehrer of the "Stop the Islamization of America" movement, just fine. Geller is a self-proclaimed "Objectivist," a follower of Ayn Rand's philosophy, whose blog — "Atlas Shrugs" — is named after Rand's famous novel. It's a case of intellectual expropriation both obscene and absurd, since Geller's style of "argumentation" is as emotion-laden and out of control as Rand's was cool, objective, and rational. Geller's "argument" is that all Muslims are inherently and irredeemably evil, and out to destroy America: there are no "moderates," and those who pretend to be so are merely biding their time until the day they can reveal their true colors and impose Sharia law on the rest of us. Reading her tracts is kind of like perusing the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, only with Muslims taking the place of Jews as the sinister, all-powerful Forces of Darkness. Geller herself is a nobody, a publicity-seeker with no real arguments to make, so I won't burden my readers with too much of her incoherent shrieking, but here's a sample:
"Another stab in the eye of America……….'Muslim Family Day' on September 12th. Vile. Six Flags hosts the annual Muslim Brotherhood front, I.C.N.A., for Muslim Family Day on September 12. ‘This event offers fun for the entire family and will also offer halal food stalls.'"
Had enough? I thought so.
Geller's "intellectual" mentor, Leonard Peikoff, the founder of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Rand's "intellectual heir," however, is a different story. He does make arguments, if you want to call them that.
Asked if he supported the right of the builders of the mosque to their own private property, this alleged advocate of reason and property rights answers with an emphatic no:
"Let's start with property rights. Property rights are limited and they are contextual. You cannot do anything you want with property even though it is yours, not if its ramifications objectively entail a threat to the rights of others. You can't build a bomb in your home. You can't even build a big bonfire in your backyard legitimately because the principle of rights is that property rights are a derivative of life as the standard and there can be no right to threaten anyone's life nor indeed to threaten anyone's property."
How does a mosque, or, more accurately, a Muslim community center, "objectively entail a threat to the rights of others"? According to Peikoff, all manifestations of Islam — the very idea of Islam — is "objectively" a threat to the United States. Therefore, by his "logic," it's okay to violate the property rights of Muslims — any and all Muslims. Indeed, killing them all would be a good thing, according to his sick perversion of Objectivism. Not that he has the intellectual honesty to follow his own murderous "logic" to its "rational" conclusion….
"Second," Peikoff continues,
"Rights are contextual. In any situation where metaphysical survival is at stake all property rights are out. You have no obligation to respect property rights. The obvious, classic example of this is, which I've been asked a hundred times, you swim to a desert island — you know, you had a shipwreck — and when you get to the shore, the guy comes to you and says, ‘I've got a fence all around this island. I found it. It's legitimately mine. You can't step onto the beach.' Now, in that situation you are in a literal position of being metaphysically helpless. Since life is the standard of rights, if you no longer can survive this way, rights are out. And it becomes dog-eat-dog or force-against-force."
Peikoff's example has nothing to do with the reality of the issue: indeed, it is so far removed from it that his answer seems completely unhinged. Unless one assumes the premise of his argument, which is that Islam — and, specifically, this Muslim community center four blocks from Ground Zero — represents such a grave threat to the US that our "metaphysical survival" is at stake. Given this demented and demonstrably untrue premise, his diatribe makes a kind of Bizarro World "sense" — but of course it isn't true, and so what comes out of his mouth is the intellectual equivalent of vomit from a drunk.
"Rights are contextual." "You have no obligation to respect property rights." "Rights are out"! Where have we heard this before? Wesley Mouch — is that you talking?
So much for Peikoff and his misnamed "Ayn Rand Institute" as defenders of capitalism, property rights, and the sanctity of the individual.
If you thought Peikoff couldn't get any wackier, you didn't anticipate this:
"Now, let's apply this to the foreign relations issue. The context today is that we are at war and not a cold one. A real one. We are facing widespread terrorism sponsored by a number of governments with tremendous popular backing in virtually every Mid-East Islamic country. Even Turkey, the one priding itself on its secularism, has now gone Islamic."
(Note how he seems to have gotten the neocon memo that Turkey — once one of Israel's few allies in the world — is no longer kosher, and must be vilified. Okay, back to Peikoff:)
"Now, the United States' response, the western response to this is a continuation of the appeasement that was started back in the '50s with Eisenhower when Iran seized western oil companies. The Americans, the British, and the Israelis, as I remember, launched an attack to try to reclaim it and — or at least the British and the Israelis did and Eisenhower vetoed it."
Say what? When a senile old hater says "as I recall," the result, as in this case, can be unintentionally funny. What Peikoff is "recalling" here isn't a joint US-British-Israeli assault, or an assault vetoed by Eisenhower, but the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammad Mossadegh, who was making noises about nationalizing British and American oil interests. As anyone who knows anything about the history of the region can tell you, this led to the imposition of the Shah Reza Pahlavi, whose tyrannical regime slaughtered thousands, jailing and torturing many more.
What gets me is that this self-proclaimed "philosopher," and advocate of the "supremacy of reason," doesn't even bother to get his facts straight: Peikoff's ignorance of the history of the Middle East, and specifically Iran, is monumental — and he knows it. But history, knowledge, and facts are unimportant to him, as they are to all haters and the vicious demagogues who want to make use of them. If history won't conform to Peikoff's ideological delusions, he simply makes it up, to wit:
"Since that point there's more and more and more craven appeasement by the west and across 50 years the audacity and scope of outrage of the Islamic world — I mean by that, the activists, the militants, the terrorists, and their countless followers — they have continually upped the deaths, the assaults, the horror, while the US has continually upped its appeasement."
Yes, the overthrow of the Iranian government, unconditional political, military, and financial support to the occupiers of the West Bank and Gaza, two invasions of Iraq, support to Arab dictatorships (as long as they're "pro-American," i.e. Mubarak in Egypt) — this was a policy of "appeasing" the Muslim world. Those Made-in-USA bombs falling on the factories and churches of Lebanon, disgorged by Israeli planes — that was "appeasement," too.
What planet is this "philosopher" living on?
Peikoff then launches into an inchoate rant about how American soldiers are having their hands tied, because they aren't killing enough civilians: if you think I'm exaggerating, please read this, and this. George W. Bush is denounced by Peikoff for averring that bin Laden represents only Islam's lunatic fringe, and the result, says Peikoff, is that we have a "non-policy," and "there's no enemy," while the authorities "excuse" and "downplay" the terrorist threat.
July 26, 2010
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.
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