If I were to ask you how communism was defeated as an ideology, what would you say? I bet it has less to do with any of its pros or cons, merits, writings, or sales pitches. I bet it has to do with how dense the followers were: communism would work, darn it, if people would just do it right. This is widely held with disdain. Not the pros or cons of communism–in fact, to this day, people agree communism sounds good in theory. (I don’t think this; I’m saying others think this.) It’s that it never worked and its followers wouldn’t give up on it.
I’m not sure most people opposed to communism could even outline the major points from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party. Intuitively, they see the encroachment of government; the unfairness of taking from one to give to another. But the nuts and bolts of the ideology? Probably not. You actually might read it. While I am opposed to all government force, Marx wasn’t wrong in his accusations. The natural tendency is for wealth to end up in the hands of a few. Wealth begets wealth. And, no, not all wealth needs produced.
I’ve been challenging Objectivism for almost two years now. It’s been a lot of anger, insults, and malice thrown my way. I got totally chewed out by a rather famous one who writes various books from an Objectivist perspective. Immediately, nearly all Objectivist “friends” left me. As I’ve taken my argument to social media, I get “put in my place” by hot head, muscle-ripped types. I get told “PFFFFFFBBBBBLLLLT.” Or I get called sweetie, honey, etc. They post memes with a person look dumb asking “why?” Why would I read your book? Why would I listen to a dumb woman like you? This is my experience 98% of the time.
I finally cornered one. He actually read my argument at the main page of this site. He declared I was “rambling.” He would not refute me, because that would condone my argument, which he told me was not “formal” because I had “no studies.” I said–ok. Rand had no studies. And I called her a god damn fiction writer–because swearing, being tough, etc. DOES have sway with these hot heads, who know no other language. He told me the burden of proof was on me for my claims. I told him, no it’s not. “I expect YOU to do YOUR reading for YOUR own thinking.” I totally turned it around and threw it at him. Not the merits or sales pitches of Objectivism. But the actual style of debate and nature of truth itself. He was cornered. He finally had to address my challenge to Objectivism: Rand says we we are born with an emotional blank slate and should “program” our emotions, and I say you cannot. He said there was no hard evidence to prove otherwise and “Occam’s razor” dictated that we assume the default of blank. I think, maybe, even he realized how weak this argument was. Who knows though? I definitely took this weak argument and added it at my main page, however.
This is what I propose. You give a full caricature of them. Describe fully their insults, attacks, and instant moral judgment. Show them how they are like Ego from Ratatouille. Show them how claiming “the burden of proof is on you” is a totally weak argument when we are talking about scientific inquiry into human nature itself.
You see, Objectivists can’t help themselves. They are wound up from Rand to be highly morally judgmental. She puts in them to have an “active” mind not an “open” mind. She describes any investigation into another’s idea as being like a military spy gathering intel about the enemy. They are weighted to see you as suspicious. They think it’s the very essence of reason.
You have to dismantle this. You have to show when they go to do the only thing they know–which is attack, insult, bury, and smear–that they are a god damn fool.
These are some general thoughts:
Don’t do anything to set off their “trigger.” If you call it “Randianism,” they jump all over you for not using “Objectivism.” They will never read such a “disrespectful” thing.
Hit them preattentively. People who know how to present data know the power of catching people preattentively. If you see a chart, something will hit you intuitively before digesting it intellectually. The goal is for that thing to be catchy. With Objectivists, I propose you hit them with something that they won’t acknowledge immediately but will get in their brain and simmer. In other words, throw them off balance. I have “We need a ‘scientifically developed’ morality as much as the Soviets needed a ‘scientifically planned’ economy” at the top of my website. I also have “We are not an emotional blank slate.” They can’t help but to read these things before all their defenses kick in. And it’s not what they are used to hearing nor have any defensive arguments against yet. And so it will stay with them. I expect my arguments to take about three years to work.
Use quotes and the language of the ideology targeted in your sites. I found this had to be the first step. I’ve read so much Rand and read so many countering thoughts that I intuitively have arguments against Rand. But before I can jump to those, I have to fully show I understand Rand. Then I start dissecting it piece by piece. While Objectivists still tell me I’m “rambling” and are sure to give me some generic insult, their hysterical insults are substantially less when I quote Rand directly. In fact, when I put together www.exobjectivist.com itself, the silence became deafening. Before, I was just some lady on an internet forum or Instagram. They piled on me easily, wondering things like, “Did an Objectivist male dump you?” When I put everything in one place and defined myself–an Ex Objectivist–all these wild accusations subsided. So two principles here: 1) show you understand them 2) define yourself.
Put them on the defensive and give them homework assignments. Objectivists love to do this to others: “the burden of proof is on you!” Make them define their own positions. What is Rand’s view on emotions? Do you know? The fact is they don’t–and they know it. It will creep in their head. They’ll pay more attention the next time they re-read Rand.
Be as quick and direct as possible. Get in and out. Catch them preattentively, throw them off balance, disarm them, define yourself, show you understand them, and get out. It’s a 1-2-3 punch. 1) State something totally new to them 2) Show an intolerance of their bullshit 3) Show a full understanding of their argument.
There is a fourth step but it’s impossible: fully describe your counter ideology or vision. This always takes some amount of explaining–and ideologues won’t give you the courtesy. At this point in time, I recommend giving some recommendations for things for them to read. But otherwise don’t let them make you do the impossible, which is explain an entire field of science in one discussion thread, one instagram post, one article, or even one book. Demand time of them. Of course this is the whole issue. They demand YOU constantly read THEIR gurus, not the other way around. In which case, slam them on how big of ideologues they are.
There you go. How to dismantle ideologues in a 1-2-3 punch. Easy.
Amber was an Objectivist for 10 years before realizing it was failing her. She was not dumped by an Objectivist male. See her book Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics