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Ayn Rand’s Answer to the Left’s Bullying

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Smug, self-righteous leftists bully anyone who dare disagree with their doctrinaire suppositions. This is a cynical but effective ploy that is socially castrating millions of sane, but otherwise intimidated potential critics. Rational, logical, and clear-thinking Americans are silencing themselves for fear of being ostracized by the true believers of various marxian faiths.

The leftist Thought Police wield the weapon of political correctness to silence any and all criticism of the left’s campaign to hijack the U.S. government to accomplish its authoritarian ends. The best way to counter-act such shameless political correctness is contained in an excerpt of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction work “The Virtue of Selfishness“:

In our political life, the Argument from Intimidation is the almost exclusive method of discussion. Predominantly, today’s political debates consist of smears and apologies, or intimidation and appeasement. The first is usually (though not exclusively) practiced by the “liberals,” the second by the “conservatives.” The champions, in this respect, are the “liberal” Republicans who practice both; the first toward their “conservative” fellow Republicans – the second, toward the Democrats.

All smears are Arguments from Intimidation: they consist of derogatory assertions without any evidence or proof, offered as a substitute for evidence or proof, aimed at the moral cowardice or unthinking credulity of the hearers.

The Argument from Intimidation is not new; it has been used in all ages and cultures, but seldom on so wide a scale as today. It is used more crudely in politics than in other fields of activity, but it is not confined to politics. It permeates our entire culture. It is a symptom of cultural bankruptcy.

How does one resist that Argument? There is only one weapon against it: moral certainty.

When one enters any intellectual battle, big or small, public or private, one cannot seek, desire or expect the enemy’s sanction. Truth or falsehood must be one’s sole concern and sole criterion of judgment – not anyone’s approval or disapproval; and, above all, not the approval of those whose standards are the opposite’s of one’s own.

Let me emphasize that the Argument from Intimidation does not consist of introducing moral judgment into intellectual issues, but of substituting moral judgment for intellectual argument. Moral evaluations are implicit in most intellectual issues; it is not merely permissible, but mandatory to pass moral judgment when and where appropriate; to suppress such judgment is an act of moral cowardice. But a moral judgment must always follow, not precede (or supersede), the reasons on which it is based.

When one give reasons for one’s verdict, one assumes responsibility for it and lays oneself open to objective judgment: if one’s reasons are wrong or false, one suffers the consequences. But to condemn without giving reasons is an act of irresponsibility, a kind of moral “hit-and-run” driving, which is the essence of the Argument from Intimidation.

Observe that the men who use that Argument are the ones who dread a reasoned moral attack more than any other kind of battle – and when they encounter a morally confident adversary, they are loudest in protesting that “moralizing” should be kept out of intellectual discussions. But to discuss evil in a manner implying neutrality is to sanction it.

The Argument from Intimidation illustrates why it is important to be certain of one’s premises and one’s moral ground. It illustrates the kind of intellectual pitfall that awaits those who venture forth without a full, clear, consistent set of convictions, wholly integrated all the way down to fundamentals – those who recklessly leap into battle, armed with nothing but a few random notions floating in a fog of the unknown, the unidentified, the undefined, the unproved, and supported by nothing but their feelings, hopes and fears. The Argument from Intimidation is their Nemesis.

In moral and intellectual issues, it is not enough to be right; one has to know that one is right.

The most illustrious example of the proper answer to the Argument from Intimidation was given in American history by the man who, rejecting the enemy’s moral standards and with full certainty of his own rectitude, said:

“If this be treason, make the most of it.”

(Ayn Rand, July, 1964)