Ayn Rand’s Favorite Child Murderer

Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer.  (The whole essay linked is well worth reading; this blog post only contains the barest summary of it.)

Ayn Rand was obsessed with a serial murderer named William Hickman, and based a hero in one of her early novels on him.  She thought of him as a noble rebel against a pathetic and mediocre society.  In praising her Hickman-inspired hero, she described what we now call “sociopathy” or “psychopathy” succinctly:

[He]is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.

Hickman kidnapped a banker’s child and held her for ransom, taunting the family with awful ransom notes; he managed to rig her mutilated corpse to appear to be sitting up and alive in the car next to him when he picked up the ransom, and he sped off and pushed the corpse out the passenger door when he was given the money by the father.

This was the sort of person who Ayn Rand admired.

American conservatives, particularly Alan Greenspan, the man who has been in charge of our economy for the last couple decades or so, admire Ayn Rand and what she stood for (with the exception, for many of them, of her contemptuous atheism).

Is it any wonder America’s economy is in a state of apocalypse?  The ideology followed by the best and the brightest in the world of finance is that of an unrepentant Raskolnikov turned cult-leader.

But maybe I’m too kind in blaming it on Ayn Rand.  This sort of thing went down in the 19th and early 20th centuries as well, without her help.  Perhaps unrestrained capitalism has always been a playground for the sort of personalities who are admired and encouraged by the same people who admire and encourage those who abduct, murder, and dismember children.

(via a comment in Kung Fu Monkey, via Terminal Velocity)

Yesterday’s News

From the Boston Globe:

January 3, 2007

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in “mass killing” late in 2007.

“I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,” he said during his news-and-talk television show “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network. “The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that.”

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Meanwhile, back in Deuteronomy….

18:20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?

18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

The Problem With Ponerology

Psychopaths in the Software Industry

The aforementioned Zed’s Rant inspired thoughts on evil in business — ponerization, the process by which an organization falls into the control of psychopathic individuals (a topic that’s been written about at some length — good links in the article).

This is pretty interesting and important stuff.  The big problem though with studying and publicizing the phenomenon of the small minority of people who seem downright evil, is that labeling certain people as evil and pointing to them as the cause of problems is a favorite tactic of the pschopaths themselves.  It’s tough to start playing that game and hope to win when it’s their home court.


I just took the Kiersey Temperament Sorter test and discovered that I seem to have flipped very decidedly from one quadrant to another — NT to NF. I’m wondering if that’s supposed to happen?

I was thinking it might just reflect a shift in values that’s taken place in the past few years, but maybe a shift in values is part of a shift in temperament.

Of course, I’ve spent my whole adult life moving myself into the perfect job for an INTP — computer programmer. I don’t know what INFPs are supposed to do. Kiersey calls them “Healers.” He says Albert Schweitzer, George Orwell, and Lady Diana are amongst them.

My general impression is that the ideal INFP career path would be healing injured baby animals.

Train Of Thought

I was looking something up and was on the wikipedia page for the Virginia Tech shooter dude, Cho. At the time (now long since lost in hundreds of edits) there was a note on an apparent “contradiction” — some of his teachers said he was a troubled kid who needed help and they were worried about him, and at least one other just hated him, said he was just plain mean, not troubled.

I thought, “that’s not a contradiction, is it? Becoming mean yourself is one common way of reacting to being tormented. Hating yourself and hating others, loathing yourself and loathing others, they’re two sides of the same coin. I know I’m ‘meanest’ when I’m feeling wretched myself, and vice versa.”

That led me to think about how I’ve been lately. On and off I’ve been hit by some really wicked depressed moods in the last couple weeks. It’ll be there one day and gone the next and there twice as bad the next day. I’ve been able to control it with cognitive therapy work, and that’s helped, but…

I’ve been pretty angry at people lately. Mostly people I will never meet, like Bush and his gang. (I haven’t been angry at the Cho dude, not because he hasn’t earned it or anything, but because it just sounds from the story like he was way out there in some very strange bad place of his own already, you know? I mean, what’s the point of getting angry at someone that horribly, horribly messed up? It’s like being angry at a shark.)

I’ve been angry at people on Reddit whose posts I’m disgusted with. I’ve been angry at someone on a BBS for saying he thinks Africa is a lost cause and we’d be better off nuking the continent and starting over. I’ve been angry at Fox News, I’ve been angry at a technical pundit I usually like for writing a particularly spiteful column, I’ve just been overall filled with outrage, disgust, and loathing. At people who richly deserve it of course!

But I realize now that this isn’t a coincidence. The depression and the righteous anger and outrage, they’re two faces of the same beast.

It’s the tyranny of evaluation. It’s a trap. By identifying bad guys and railing against them, I’m playing the “bad guy game.” Fighting fire with fire doesn’t actually work. It makes a bigger fire.

All the people that I admire most, who got the most done to make the world a better place, like Gandhi and MLKJr, did so by transcending the need to judge people as bad. They did their work of making the world a better place by means other than identifying the bad guy and fuming about how bad they were. They were able to say “I do not accept this. This is not right” without saying, to anyone, “I do not accept you. You are bad.”

So clearly abandoning the “bad guy game” is not abandoning a commitment to making the world a better place. It is probably the only effective way to really make the world a better place.

Changing the world aside, I think I’d be a lot better off cutting the world, and myself, a little more slack than I have been lately.

Let’s see how that works out.