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Rand's views on murderer William Hickman

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#1
brit2006

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An article I found.

I am not trying to promote ideas contrary to Objectivism, however I am wondering what the response to this article would be. Is any of it true?

#2
Maarten

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The first thing that comes to mind when reading this is how easy it is to totally misconstrue someone's views when you discard the context. I think that pretty much sums it up in this case.

I must admit, though, that I didn't bother to read the whole thing.

For one thing, I don't think the writer of this piece mentions what exactly she found to be an expression of independence about the guy. Obviously he regards it as something despicable, but I think it would be quite possible to abstract one good quality from someone who is utterly depraved in other aspects of his character. It is quite clear to me from one of the quotes that she did not consider his crimes something positive about the man.

Edited by Maarten, 20 May 2006 - 04:36 AM.

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#3
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I am wondering what the response to this article would be.

Hmm, moderately interesting, but I doubt there is anything damning to get from it.

If is it true that she in some way admired a criminal, what would be the inevitable conclusion?

#4
thejohngaltline

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Hm, interesting article. I've read it in its entirety, and have also done some research of my own--although I wasn't able to find much else on the topic, as far as it included Ayn Rand, and I do not have access to her journals. I will, firstly, give some (minimal) credit to Prescott for admitting his bias toward Rand, and also for at least attempting to include a few journal passages that show that she was not kidding herself about the severity of Hickman's crime. Personally, I think her fascination with Hickman is justifiable, albeit a bit morose. Rand's early writing does show some interest in the idea of crimes committed "against humanity." Clearly, her fascination with this idea does not involve a brutal murder but an act of selfishness that a pandering public can not understand. Ultimately, I think Rand's fascination with Hickman is justified in her journal entries. Even from the selections Prescott included (which I suspect are highly tailored to suit his purpose) it is evident that Rand admired Hickman for voicing an idea that was admirable ("What is good for me is right") although she greatly disapproved of his actions. I think Prescott would have done well to remember that this is the woman who wrote in Galt's speech, "Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive.... the use of physical force against others."
"The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours... Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind." - Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged

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#5
Dismuke

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That is interesting. I have yet to read the Journals and was not aware of that entry and had never heard of William Hickman before.

I think Maartin is very correct about the issue of context - and I am afraid that the necessary context is not going to be immediately obvious to someone who is not especially familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas and personal history and stumbles across that article.

Perhaps there is more material in the Journal entries that the author of that piece did not include, but based on what he quoted, I would say the most relevant passage is the following:

At one point, a sliver of near-rationality breaks through the fog of Rand's delusions: "I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn't." Her moment of lucidity is short-lived. "But it does not make any difference. If he isn't, he could be, and that's enough." Yes, facts are stubborn things, so it's best to ignore them and live in a land of make-believe. Let's not allow truculent reality to interfere with our dizzying and intoxicating fantasy life.

Had Ayn Rand written what was quoted for publication, I would absolutely agree with this. But it wasn't written for publication. It was written for Ayn Rand's own private journal - for her eyes only.

Why would Ayn Rand take the time to write about the evils of kidnapping, murder, lawlessness, etc. in notes that are strictly for her? The author of that article cannot point to anything Ayn Rand has ever said or suggested to indicate that she was at all sympathetic or even merely indifferent towards murder and kidnapping. Indeed, it goes against the totality of everything she has ever written and stood for. For what purpose would Ayn Rand have taken the time and effort to write an explanation in her private journal about something ridiculously obvious such as why murdering children is morally despicable? Because she might become famous someday and people might end up reading the journal many decades in the future? If one were to hold such a standard with private journal entries, they would probably never be written.

My guess from reading the quotes is that, at that time in her life, Ayn Rand was very focused on "people watching" i.e. observing behaviors of a wide variety of people, including types of people she had great difficulty relating to, in order to gain a better understanding of various personality types and psychological motivations. Such observation would have been crucial for any novelist - but especially for a young Russian immigrant seeking to understand the popular culture of a new and very different country in which she intended to write fiction to a large audience.

In 1928, Ayn Rand's entire knowledge of the particulars of Hickman and the murder case would have been almost entirely through newspaper accounts. If the story received national attention, it is possible that there might have been some coverage by some of the early talking picture newsreels put out by a few of the major movie studios. But even assuming such coverage existed and Ayn Rand saw it, it would not have been less in-dept than the newspaper coverage and, at best, would have shown a only a few very brief film shots of Hickman. Radio was still in its infancy as was radio news coverage which would have been little more than an announcer reading wire reports. Remote, on-location microphone technology was very expensive and cumbersome and the odds of Hickman being actually interviewed on radio, assuming that Ayn Rand even had a radio set, which would have been an expensive purchase for a struggling writer, are extremely unlikely.

The author of the article asks:

How exactly she knew that Hickman was "brilliant, unusual, exceptional," or that he "had a " is far from clear. A more realistic portrait of Hickman would show him as a calculating sadist.



Well, Ayn Rand would NOT have had any way of knowing that he was "brilliant, unusual or exceptional" or had a "brilliant mind, a romantic, adventurous, impatient soul and a straight, uncompromising, proud character." The ONLY way that Ayn Rand would have been able to come up with such descriptions was through PROJECTIONS based on the limited evidence available to her about Hickman and his situation: primarily newspaper accounts as well as her observation of the public reaction to those accounts.

The relevant question is WHY would Ayn Rand fantasize such projections? The author of that article suggests that it was because Ayn Rand was a sociopath and considered it acceptable to create and walk across corpses in order to indulge in one's whims. But can it not be that Ayn Rand perhaps observed that, while following the Hickman case, she had unidentified feelings of sympathy for such an obvious monster and, rather than feeling guilty and banning the thought, she decided to ask herself WHY she felt such an obviously odd emotion and explore it deeper? Can it be that her journal entry on the subject is the result of such introspection? Can it not be that her subconscious isolated certain out-of-context statements by Hickman and by various voices of public opinion in reaction to the case and it was THAT which she was reacting to?

Clearly Ayn Rand's description of Hickman as quoted in that article is highly romanticized to an almost ridiculous degree and massively drops huge amounts of context. But dropping context is entirely appropriate and, indeed, exactly what one does, when one isolates out a certain aspect of a situation and looks at it strictly on its own terms for purposes of analysis. Indeed, to demand that one keep a wider context while engaging in such analysis is, itself, to drop context. Based on Ayn Rand's admission that she "idealized" Hickman and that he most likely wasn't the sort of person she described, my take on it is Ayn Rand discovered she had an out-of-context sympathy with a brutal murderer and, curious as to why, she introspectively identified and isolated (i.e. took outside of their normal context) the particular aspects of Hickman that evoked such an emotional reaction in the first place. Once she isolated those aspects of Hickman's statements and overall demeanor as well as the aspects of the public reaction that she found offensive, I think she then asked herself, what sort of premises would lead to Hickman making such statements and having such a demeanor and what sort of premises are behind such a public reaction.

My take is that the journal entries quoted are nothing more than "creative fantasizing" a sort of mental "what if" exercise. To me, it is pretty obvious why such an exercise would be of great potential value to an aspiring novelist. It is also pretty obvious to me that, if, while engaging in such a mental exercise, one had to pretend that others were watching in and privy to one's thoughts thereby making it necessary to constantly explain and make the fantasy objective to other people's contexts.....well, if that were necessary, my guess is that very little "creative fantasizing" and daydreaming would ever take place.

To summarize - that article drops several bits of very important context.

1. The fact that the journal entries were PRIVATE, not intended for publication and, therefore, the contents were not written for the purpose of being objective to any audience other than Ayn Rand's own eyes.

2. The entirety of Ayn Rand's explicit philosophy which was consistent across volumes of works written over the span of many decades - including her philosophy's contempt for those who initiate force.

3. The fact that Ayn Rand herself dismissed it all as probable "idealizing."

4. The fact that, Ayn Rand, unlike the author of the article, did not equate self-interest with "walking across corpses" and, therefore, did not regard an out-of-context admiration for certain attributes of a brutal murderer's statements and demeanor as having possible negative implications for a morality of self-interest worthy of giving serious consideration to in the mental exercise the journal entry documents.

Now, if someone who was very familiar with the William Hickman case but had never heard of Ayn Rand before somehow stumbled across that particular journal entry, I can fully understand why he might properly conclude that Ayn Rand must have been some sort of strange, sociopathic kook not worthy of looking into further. But the author of that article very clearly IS familiar with the larger context of Ayn Rand's work and her personal history - so my conclusion is the article is nothing more than a cheap and sleazy "hit piece" designed to smear Objectivism. Don't be too surprised if it is embraced by the likes of David Kelley and Barbara Branden as more "proof" that Ayn Rand was indeed nothing more than a malevolent neurotic kook who somehow, nevertheless, managed to make a few good philosophical points here and there.

If anyone has a copy of the Journals, I would be interested in knowing if the article represents the entries correctly or if it leaves important information out.

Edited by Dismuke, 20 May 2006 - 01:42 PM.

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#6
BurgessLau

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Dismuke, generally speaking, you have accurately portrayed the situation. You have done an excellent job of detection, working from that author's dishonest writing.

I have read the Journals, as the subject of a six-month long study group that our local Objectivist Story Tellers conducted.

The point to keep in mind is the purpose of the journals: to give Ayn Rand a place where she can put her thoughts -- mostly intended, once they were thoroughly examined, to appear in works of fiction -- down on paper, as an aid in her own development. Her journal entries make crystal clear that she thought the crime committed was terrible. But what she noticed, she says, is that a big part of the public reaction to the criminal was not his crime (others had done as bad) but his apparently forthright, standup manner. The mob, she observed, hated him more for his apparent independence than for his bestial behavior.

It helps too to keep in mind Ayn Rand's definition of art: the recreation of the elements of reality according to the values of the artist. Ayn Rand picked an element -- one man's standup behavior -- and noticed a connection to another element -- a mindless mob reaction -- and began to think about that connection abstracted from its original, ghastly historical circumstances. She was not a naturalistic author, which perhaps is the fiction-writing style of the author of the diatribe against her.

For many Objectivist intellectuals, The Journals of Ayn Rand is worth a slow, steady, thoughtful reading, perhaps a few pages a day over the course of a year or so. They are just what you said: a journal. They were not a diary or running sociological analysis of crime in Los Angeles or any other subject that fascinates others.

Reading her journals, with full context retained, increased my admiration for Ayn Rand.

Edited by BurgessLau, 20 May 2006 - 03:32 PM.

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#7
thejohngaltline

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I think everyone's done a great job identifying some key flaws of the article that are not easily discernible to someone less informed about Rand and Objectivism. I wonder, would anyone be interested in compiling some of these ideas into an article that may be posted on the web in response to Prescott's article?
"The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours... Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence, which is man, for his sovereign rational mind." - Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged

"Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and the spirit of a man.... And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I would fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual." - John Steinbeck East of Eden

#8
Fred Weiss

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The only pathology in this story is Michael Prescott's, since he blatantly distorts Ayn Rand's journal entries concerning Hickman and seems to take obsessive (and entirely gratuitous) interest in the excrutiating details of the mutilation of one of Hickman's victims. Prescott is clearly on a mission (which has been going on for some years) and he will clearly use whatever means he thinks he can get away with to smear Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

One important thing to note is that he never actually bothered to read AR's journal entries for himself. He bases his smear entirely on *another author's smear of Ayn Rand*.

So, let's look at the *actual* comments in the book:

First, from the editor's preparatory notes:

"Hickman served as a model for Danny only in strictly limited respects, which AR names in her notes. Danny does commit a crime in the story, but it is nothing like Hickman's. To guard against any misinterpretation, I quote her own statement regarding the relationship between her hero and Hickman:

[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside.
Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy.
It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me."

However, it clearly doesn't really matter to Prescott what AR actually said. He is so virulently opposed to Objectivism that he will use the flimsiest, out-of-context comments (such as this one) to attack it. He is not the first and he won't be the last. Incidentally, for him as for most of the others, their primary objection to Objectivism is *its commitment to reason*. Prescott, for example, is an avowed mystic.

Enough said.

#9
LandonWalsh

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*** Mod's note: Merged thread with an earlier thread. - sN ***

I just got this crazy comment on one of my online debates and I'm not sure what to make of it... What the hell is he talking about? Not that his argument is anything but intimidation.


"So what happened to the William Hickman/Ayn Rand link I posted on your page? Did you have a hard time RATIONALizing why the Holy Rand called a sociopathic child murderer a "beautiful soul"? It's all fun and games to poke and prod at people's beliefs until your OWN come into question?
For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about:

Corey's hero/leader Ayn Rand wrote about and idolized a kidnapper & vicious murderer of a 12 year old girl named William Hickman.
Here's a link to the article...(which Corey deleted from his profile without comment)

http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

A very interesting read, it gives a lot of insight into the private mind of Ayn Rand...and, through Hickman, it illustrates the danger inherent in her "what is good for me, is right" philosophy.

Everything is broken. A follower is a follower...bicker away..."

Edited by softwareNerd, 07 March 2010 - 04:28 PM.
Merged threads

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#10
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Rand thought Hickman was "degenerate".

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#11
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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Rand thought Hickman was "degenerate".


I'd have to read her journals in the context of what she knew about Hickman, and exactly what she was hero-worshiping about him. Certainly, Miss Rand liked the conflict of an individual man against the laws of society, as she shows in Penthouse Legend (see her introduction to that), We the Living (Andrei before the Communist panel), Roark before his trials, and Rearden before his trial. I sincerely doubted she thought Hickman was a hero for slaughtering that young girl; but his statement that "What is good for me is right!" is a good sense of life idealization of the proper attitude to have about values and one's moral right to them. Of course this doesn't excuse him of murder and possible torture, and he deserved to die for his crimes; he might have even deserved to have been cut up into pieces while he was alive.

There is also a kind of personalization of this attitude in the short story "Good Copy" whereby the hero character wishes something god-awful to happen just so his life would become a bit more interesting.

Of course, the more mature Ayn Rand held there was a difference between a real anti-man criminal and a man who broke the law in support of rational ideals -- i.e. take a look at Ragnar as the arch-Ayn Rand criminal breaking the law in order to secure justice for those throttled by a viciously evil government.

By the way, I haven't read Miss Rand's journals and don't own a copy of them. I might read them someday, but I realize that what someone writes in their journals is very personal and not meant for the eyes of others. In other words, she didn't edit them carefully for publication, nor did she clarify her thoughts, since they were understood by her and not meant to be trying to explain something to someone else.

But no, I don't think Ayn Rand was a sociopath....

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#12
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"What is good for me is right" Hedonism ?
Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world - Immanuel Kant

#13
Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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"What is good for me is right" Hedonism ?


That would depend on the standard of the good. For a hedonist, the standard is pleasure, not man's life. If we take "what is good for me" as an objective good, by man's life as the standard, then the statement is a good presentation of the proper attitude to have about values and their relation to one's own life -- that having such values is right. In other words, it would be a statement of righteous moral pride.

Obviously, however, Mr. Hickman was not an Ayn Rand hero in the John Galt sense of the term. What he did was hideous and viciously evil. Without reading the whole context of her statements in her journals regarding this case, but knowing what I know about Ayn Rand aside from that, I think it was a case of an individual man up against a mob mentality that she was defending.

It is rather interesting, though, that she made those statements about the jury, since she had a different attitude about the jury in The Fountainhead and in Atlas Shrugged. If, in principle, a jury is supposed to be a jury of one's peers, I can understand her disdain that Christians would be judging a man who in her opinion made a statement of rational pride. Would a devote Christian even understand that? and would they judge him as guilty for having that attitude? would they want to lock him away, not because he committed murder and torture, but because he was guilty in spirit, even if he never committed that particular crime? I think these were the issues she was thinking of.

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#14
softwareNerd

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Without reading the whole context of her statements in her journals...

She was thinking about portraying a protagonist who would have committed a crime, and yet had a sense of life that one could admire. The particular work was titled "The Little Street". Later, in "The Night of January 16th" she created another criminal protagonist. As the editor to her journal points out, she uses the introduction to that play to explain that she does not support criminality, but certain psychological characteristics. Again, in the Fountainhead, we see similar characterization in Wynand's early rise (criminality is not the essential). We get a brief glimpse of it in Atlas Shrugged, where Readen is looking at a young man who is organizing a team to sell him (is it ore?) illegally, and thinks that this could be him in his younger days.

Back to her journal, she says this:

[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.


There are more, pretty extensive, notes on the Hickman case. Rand says that she does not want to make up details that are exaggerated; as an author, she wants to bring them together in "The Little Street". as for the jury. She appears to want to show that the jury in her story is guilty too. I see an embryo of thoughts that would later underlie the scene in Atlas Shrugged where the train is stuck in a tunnel and "innocent" passengers die. From a vantage point of psychology, ethics and motivation --- though not from action -- the we have the guilty trying the guilty: that is what is dramatic.

Basically, the article to which the OP linked is a smear job.

Edited by softwareNerd, 13 July 2009 - 02:23 PM.
Removed troll remark

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#15
Grames

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She also made observations about the mob mentality and behavior around the case. Mobs are pretty much the same whether the target of their outrage is objectively evil or merely perceived evil. Her relative unconcern with Hickman is partly a consequence of her focus on the mob. Of course Hickman was evil, and what more is there to say about the actual crime he committed? If Ayn Rand finds psychotics uninteresting, that makes her normal.

By the way, Prescott is an author who has made a career out of glamorizing serial killers, he is obsessed with them.

edit: Also remember Ayn was a refugee from the Russian civil war, and had spent time helping at a military hospital. She likely was somewhat desensitized to blood and guts.

Edited by Grames, 12 July 2009 - 06:42 AM.


#16
spaceplayer

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From Journals of Ayn Rand: David Harriman (editor) gives a lengthy explanation/defense of Rand, but I'll let her speak for herself:
"[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me." p. 22

Edited by spaceplayer, 12 July 2009 - 03:28 PM.

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#17
Amaroq

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*** Mod's note: Merged thread. -sN ***

http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

In this, I'm not even sure what to call it. Article? Blog entry? Anyway, the guy levies some serious attacks against Ayn Rand. That she basically admired a gruesome, cold-blooded killer. William Edward Hickman.

I can see by some of the things the author quoted of Rand (that he probably thought were bad things) that she admired his independence, etc rather than the gruesome things he did. She wanted to make a character like him, but with purpose and without the derangement. Though it's hard to see how she could ignore the other things this man did.

What're your guys' thoughts on this? While I think it has no implications on her philosophy, I still find it hard to accept that Rand admired a man like that.

Also, you might be interested in knowing that the Wikipedia article about William Edward Hickman has a section pretty much saying the same thing, though a lot more fairly.
http://en.wikipedia....e_Little_Street

Edited by softwareNerd, 10 January 2010 - 06:17 AM.
Merged thread


#18
A is A

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At the age of twenty-three, AR knew that she was not ready to portray her ideal man. Her goal here is less ambitious; she wants only to project her ideal man's sense of life. The protagonist, Danny Renahan, is an independent, uncompromising, nineteen-year-old boy with a passionate hunger for life. Some of Danny's characteristics are based on an actual nineteen-year-old boy, William Edward Hickman, who was the defendant in a highly publicized murder trial that had just taken place in Los Angeles. Hickman was accused of kidnapping and murdering a young girl. He was <jrnl_22> found guilty and sentenced to death in February, of 1928; he was hanged on October 20, 1928.

Judging from the newspaper accounts of the time, Hickman was articulate and arrogant, and seems to have enjoyed shocking people by rejecting conventional views. The public furor against hint was unprecedented. For reasons given in the following notes, AR concluded that the intensity of the public's hatred was primarily "because of the man who committed the crime and not because of the crime he committed." The mob hated Hickman for his independence; she chose him as a model for the same reason.

Hickman served as a model for Danny only in strictly limited respects, which AR names in her notes. Danny does commit a crime in the story, but it is nothing like Hickman's. To guard against any misinterpretation, I quote her own statement regarding the relationship between her hero and Hickman:


[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.


William Edward] Hickman said: "I am like the state: what is good for me is right." That is this boy's psychology. (The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I ever heard.) The model for the boy is Hickman. Very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.


The Hickman Case
The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of the whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the "virtuous" indignation and mass-hatred of the "majority." One always feels the stuffy, bloodthirsty emotion of a mob in any great public feeling of a large number of humans. It is repulsive to see all those beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal, proud and secure in their number, yelling furiously in defense of society.


This is what I think of the case. I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn't. But it does not make any difference. If he isn't, he could be, and that's enough. The reaction of society would be the same, if not worse, toward the Hickman I have in mind. This case showed me how society can wreck an exceptional being, and then murder him for being the wreck that it itself has created. This will be the story of the boy in my book.
Facts and details that will be useful to me
The insistent efforts of the newspapers to represent Hickman as a coward, to break down the impression of his strength and daring. Immediately after his arrest the papers were full of articles about his being "yellow," his "breaking down," his "hysterical fear," his "white face," his appearance of being "a rat instead of a Fox," and so on, all insisting that even if he seems calm, he really isn't, he must be in a deadly terror.


Adela Rogers St.-Johns cleverly noted that Hickman is an extremist, a type that can either be very good or very bad. This is true and the idea of the "extremist" is splendid. We should have more extremists—then life wouldn't be what it is. But she says that "an extremist is always dangerous" and we all should be just in between, the "golden mean," the balanced average. This is a wonderful expression of the view exactly opposite from mine. What I want to show in my book is just the horror of that middle: the illogical, inconsistent, weak, tolerant, mediocre, loathsome middle. For if men were extremists they would follow each idea and feeling to its end, they would be faithful to their purposes and to themselves, they would be clear, straight, and absolute in everything. And they wouldn't tolerate a lot of what is tolerated now. This is just what we need.
She says that Hickman could be either a very great man or a very great criminal. Well, it only shows that he is always great and the one thing impossible to him is pettiness and mediocrity. For this reason I admire Hickman and every extremist. [Later, AR identifies "extremism" as an "anti-concept"; see "Extremism, or the Art of Smearing" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.]

She says that Hickman was always conscious of himself, always thinking of the effect he produces, always centered on himself. This is one of those things that isn't worth arguing about; the opinion on egoism is organic in every person and can't be changed or argued.

So she is afraid of men being too good or too bad? I think of the man who said: "Oh, that their best is so very small! Oh, that their worst is so very small! And oh, how horrid it is to be small!" [This is an approximate quote <jrnl_42> from Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.] This is what my book is going to say. Extremist beyond all extreme is what we need!


Edited by A is A, 10 January 2010 - 07:20 AM.

"It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men." - Samuel Adams

#19
ctrl y

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I never understood why Rand said that the people jeering Hickman had far worse crimes on their consciences.

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A is A

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*** Mod's note: Merged thread. -sN ***

http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

In this, I'm not even sure what to call it. Article? Blog entry? Anyway, the guy levies some serious attacks against Ayn Rand. That she basically admired a gruesome, cold-blooded killer. William Edward Hickman.

I can see by some of the things the author quoted of Rand (that he probably thought were bad things) that she admired his independence, etc rather than the gruesome things he did. She wanted to make a character like him, but with purpose and without the derangement. Though it's hard to see how she could ignore the other things this man did.

What're your guys' thoughts on this? While I think it has no implications on her philosophy, I still find it hard to accept that Rand admired a man like that.

Also, you might be interested in knowing that the Wikipedia article about William Edward Hickman has a section pretty much saying the same thing, though a lot more fairly.
http://en.wikipedia....e_Little_Street

Where does it say she admired a man like that? It is clear that she is conceptualizing and abstracting certain factors from the individual's character and social issues from other people's responses to his character. Many criminals have been idealized and admired in abstract form from Bonnie and Clyde, to Al Capone, John Dillinger, the Mafia families in NY (The Godfather), etc., etc. Many times have criminals been presented as individuals against society. This whole subject is amazing to me that anyone could think that she is admiring a criminal for his criminal actions. Those who attack Rand for this analysis of Hickman are actually attacking reason.

Edited by A is A, 10 January 2010 - 07:04 PM.

"It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men." - Samuel Adams

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Tyco

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Hmm, the post I made in this topic seems to have disappeared...

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Amaroq

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I suspected she was just taking certain aspects of him in her admiration. But it took the context provided by this thread for me to fully realize that. The article that attacked her for it didn't provide the full context, so while I suspected that it was just his independence and arrogance that attracted Rand, I didn't know for sure until I read this thread.

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Alexandros

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I forget where I read this, but I once saw this part of Ayn Rand's life called her "Nietzsche phase". If she gave any weight to the idea that morality is good for the unwashed mashes, but not good enough for extraordinary men (Ubermensch, anyone?), and that these men should follow their own, subjective "inner law" (chosen by the degree to which it allowed them to impose their will on others), I could see how Hickman's horrific crime could take a back seat to his attitude towards life.

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Axiomatic

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Was Rand ever really that endeared to Nietzsche's philosophy? Especially with regard to morality? I have heard that she was fond of his prose and the occasional insightful comment negating religion or exalting man, but not his morality.

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Jake_Ellison

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I forget where I read this, but I once saw this part of Ayn Rand's life called her "Nietzsche phase". If she gave any weight to the idea that morality is good for the unwashed mashes, but not good enough for extraordinary men (Ubermensch, anyone?), and that these men should follow their own, subjective "inner law" (chosen by the degree to which it allowed them to impose their will on others), I could see how Hickman's horrific crime could take a back seat to his attitude towards life.

Even if we set aside whether your characterization of Nietzsche is correct or not, there are several facts about Rand that we do know:

1. She never adopted Nietzsche's view of morality. The only thing that comes close to that would be a statement that she liked Nietzsche before she figured him out. Then she realized that what he was saying was not something she agreed with. That's not a phase, just giving a great mind the benefit of the doubt.

2. Hickman's crime did not ever take a backseat to his attitude, for Rand. She appreciated the attitude without appreciating the crime, or the person for that matter.

This second point, by the way, you can find out just by reading this thread. It has direct quotes.

Edited by Jake_Ellison, 19 January 2010 - 01:42 PM.



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