We must admit, we're surprised. Aren't Ayn Rand admirers usually known for their
jolly sense of humor?
That's his total response, which is very typical of Taranto. Any time he encounters a question for which he has no ready answer, he resorts to snark and sophistry. Still, I would have expected more sophistry and less snark if he were going to bother to respond at all. Does he really expect his readers to be as dismissive of Rand as he is?
Why the lack of substance in his reply? Is it because he hasn't read Rand, and he's embarrassed to admit it? Perhaps he only knows her as someone who defended the morality selfishness, and he has no idea what she meant by it, or what she said about it. It could be that his use of her name in his column was merely intended as a humorous reference to the uninformed stereotype in his head, and he does not know how to respond to criticism other than to try to laugh it off. We could then ask what do James Taranto and Barack Obama have in common?
Another possibility is that he knows full well what Ayn Rand believed, and he knows his misrepresentation would be obvious to anyone who has read her. Conservatives have a history of misrepresenting Rand's views that goes all the way back to the book review of Atlas Shrugged that appeared in National Review. It's something they have in common with leftist academics. It serves two purposes: 1) it gives their followers an excuse not to read the books in the first place; and 2) it gives their followers cover to dismiss Rand's views out of hand if they do happen to read her. They don't have to engage with her arguments, because they have a ready-to-wear defense against her. They can read through her writings in a fog, and repeat the mantras they were taught:
"She was a fascist."
"She was an atheist."
"She preached selfishness."
"Her admirers are humorless cultists."
Well, a sneer isn't an argument, and in this case it is just a confession of intellectual impotence.
In spite of those sneers, Rand's writings continue to sell. Her ideas continue to spread. New books are being published expounding on her ethical theory (see here, here, and here). Atlas Shrugged is being read in college classrooms around the country. University philosophy departments are opening up to her ideas. The political outlook may not be all that bright right now, but I'm looking forward to the day when we can all have a jolly old laugh at Mr. Taranto's expense.