Ayn Rand Has Done Some Good Things for Us: An Interview with Chelsea Wolfe

Last year I was presented with the opportunity to interview the lovely and talented neo-psych-folk-doom chanteuse Chelsea Wolfe. Now, I agreed to do this based solely on the fact that I absolutely love her 2011 album Apokalypsis. Truth be told, I knew nothing about the girl other than that I like that album when I signed on. So, I was more than a little confused when I started peruse through her press materials to help come up with, you know, something to ask her about and found that the first person she cites as an influence is none other than…Ayn Rand. Seriously, so of course that was the first question I asked her and I found her response rather compelling:

THAD: You’ve been largely inspired by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged which I find kind of fascinating. That work has recently been closely associated with the Tea Part’s slash-social-program insanity despite the fact that Rand herself was decidedly anti-Ronald Reagan (and Jesus for that matter). I’ve personally never read any of her works except maybe some excerpts in a philosophy class in college, so you ‘ll have to help me out: What would you say it is about her writing that inspires darkly beautiful music in you and selfish asshole psychosis in others? 

Chelsea: I think politicians have taken her theories of objectivism and twisted them for their own interest or benefit, just like they do with anything. I am not one of those people who typically looks into the author or painter; I just know what I like and enjoy the book or the painting. Sometimes you learn more about the artist and fall in love, like John Waters, for example. But with people like Ayn Rand or Burzum, I appreciate their work separate from what they may stand for. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, to me, have a grand vision and idealism that I relate to. She really predicted what society and the workplace would become as well. We exist in a world where extraordinary people are oppressed by systems or a shitty boss with a power trip. The worker-drones are afraid to speak up or do something special for fear that they’ll be called out or fired. Even the sound-ray weapon, Project X, I think there is something like this in existence now.

Read the whole Interview here.

One of the things I love about Disinfo is that we explore the complexity of issues. It’s easy to write off Ayn Rand as the heinously evil inspiration for creepy Tea Party freaks, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Her speed addled writing also apparently inspired at least one album I really dig. Rush fans (I like some of what that band does) – I’m also looking at you. Those dudes once notoriously dedicated their album 2112 to: “the genius of Ayn Rand”. What the fuck are you gonna do?

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  • InfvoCuernos

    I learned over the years to never put too much stock in the artists’ personal views. I’ve also learned to avoid meeting the artists whose work I enjoy-they almost always disappoint me with their humanity. Thanks for bringing this young lady’s music to our attention!

    • Thad McKraken

      Separating the artist from the art is key. Should be also noted that she’s very young and apparently going through an Ayn Rand phase is quite common among kids. Even people like Robert Anton Wilson and Richard Metzger admit to it.

    • Thad McKraken

      Separating the artist from the art is key. Should be also noted that she’s very young and apparently going through an Ayn Rand phase is quite common among kids. Even people like Robert Anton Wilson and Richard Metzger admit to it.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

        “Going through an Ayn Rand phase is quite common among kids.”

        I’ve heard this sentiment said often, in similar context. And with the implication that with wisdom and experience, one would “out-grow” Ayn Rand.

        Much as I would like to dispute this, it’s actually “true” in my experience!

        (I would love to be able to sit here today and write something in one-to-five paragraphs that explains the genius and accuracy of Ayn Rand, and how if you aren’t currently working on pro-Ayn Randian Objectivist goals or philosophy, you have some catching up to do. But I surely can’t. Wisdom and experience have confounded that notion out of me.)

        However, the problem as I see was not that Ayn Rand’s “baby” was bad, but that the “bath-water” has been held in place of the baby itself, and a religion (a logical, moral tyranny) made of it.

        Ironically, it was Ayn Rand herself who was most to blame for the abortion of her legacy. She did more than half of the work of making Objectivism into a private, cult, logico-moral religion, instead of the science it aspired to be.

        She never found a man or a person able to live up to ideal vision, her hero. And thus she never yielded “I might be wrong” over to anyone.

        And thus, the cult. Drinking the leaded bath-water of Ayn Rand’s baby and calling it fine wine.

        * * *

        My point, though, was that her work and her ideas are significant, and not just as foot-notes in Matt Taibbi books. She was onto something, in very important intellectual territory for anyone who wants to speak to the conflict of individualism and collectivism. But, she and all other captains of the expedition went far afield and are currently lost there.

        The so-called “Open” Objectivists have my respect, for being the most public and notable Objectivists to admit that their empress was not wearing the clothes she proclaimed:
        1: http://www.atlassociety.org/sites/default/files/The_Contested_Legacy_of_Ayn_Rand.pdf
        2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlas_Society

        Unfortunately, public debate, media attention, and (financial) capital flows all seem to totally down-play the Open School and promote and remember only the “Closed School” of Objectivism, whose paragon is The Ayn Rand Institute.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

        “Going through an Ayn Rand phase is quite common among kids.”

        I’ve heard this sentiment said often, in similar context. And with the implication that with wisdom and experience, one would “out-grow” Ayn Rand.

        Much as I would like to dispute this, it’s actually “true” in my experience!

        (I would love to be able to sit here today and write something in one-to-five paragraphs that explains the genius and accuracy of Ayn Rand, and how if you aren’t currently working on pro-Ayn Randian Objectivist goals or philosophy, you have some catching up to do. But I surely can’t. Wisdom and experience have confounded that notion out of me.)

        However, the problem as I see was not that Ayn Rand’s “baby” was bad, but that the “bath-water” has been held in place of the baby itself, and a religion (a logical, moral tyranny) made of it.

        Ironically, it was Ayn Rand herself who was most to blame for the abortion of her legacy. She did more than half of the work of making Objectivism into a private, cult, logico-moral religion, instead of the science it aspired to be.

        She never found a man or a person able to live up to ideal vision, her hero. And thus she never yielded “I might be wrong” over to anyone.

        And thus, the cult. Drinking the leaded bath-water of Ayn Rand’s baby and calling it fine wine.

        * * *

        My point, though, was that her work and her ideas are significant, and not just as foot-notes in Matt Taibbi books. She was onto something, in very important intellectual territory for anyone who wants to speak to the conflict of individualism and collectivism. But, she and all other captains of the expedition went far afield and are currently lost there.

        The so-called “Open” Objectivists have my respect, for being the most public and notable Objectivists to admit that their empress was not wearing the clothes she proclaimed:
        1: http://www.atlassociety.org/sites/default/files/The_Contested_Legacy_of_Ayn_Rand.pdf
        2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlas_Society

        Unfortunately, public debate, media attention, and (financial) capital flows all seem to totally down-play the Open School and promote and remember only the “Closed School” of Objectivism, whose paragon is The Ayn Rand Institute.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=651217112 Paul Stella

        “The first new dogmatism I embraced after rejecting the Marxist BS (belief system) was Ayn Rand’s philosophy (not yet called Objectivism in those days.) _The Fountainhead_ had exactly the appeal for me that it has retained, decade after decade, with alienated adolescents of all ages. (The average youthful reader of _Thus Spake Zarathustra_ decides he is the Superman, and the average youthful Randroid decides she is an Alienated Super Genius.) LIke most Randroids, I went around for a few years mindlessly parroting all the the Rand dogma and imagining I was an ‘individualist.’

        “Some years later, after becoming a published writer, I actually was invited to meet Ayn Rand once. (I was ‘summoned to the Presence,’ as Arlen said.) I confessed my doubts about certain Rand dogmas and was Cast Out Into the Darkness forever to wail and gnash my teeth in the Realm of Thud. It was weird. I thought the Trots and Catholic priests were dogmatic, but Ayn Rand made both groups look like models of tolerance by comparison.

        “I thought she was a clinical paranoid. It was nearly 30 years later that I found out Rand was merely on Speed all the time, which creates an effect so much like paranoia that even trained clinicians cannot always tell the difference, and some even claim there is no difference.” -RAW

        Also: http://jmrhiggs.blogspot.com/2012/05/illuminatus-vs-atlas-shrugged.html

      • ParanoidCoast

        I too briefly went through an Ayn Rand phase in my late teens early 20s. I read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Then I read “Beneath the Wheel” by Hermann Hesse and it blew my mind away. Reading well crafted writing will expose schlock. I suggest CW should start reading about Romanticism and then move on to the existentialists starting with Kierkegaard…

      • http://www.facebook.com/shn.wyn Shn Wyn

        Apparently, Metzger’s Karl Marx phase stuck though. He’s a true believer.

    • ParanoidCoast

      Sometimes this is true, Ezra Pound comes to mind.

    • ParanoidCoast

      Sometimes this is true, Ezra Pound comes to mind.

  • rus Archer

    this is the same as when non-believers accuse christians of not getting jesus because obviously he was a peace loving hippie
    everyone interprets things how they want
    i enjoy what i get out of rand even though she would probably disagree with my interpretation
    but isn’t that kind of her point?
    we get all sorts of crowley fandom round here and rand sounds pretty much the same to me

    • David Howe

      deflection.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Well she died. That was pretty good.

    • Calypso_1

      Let us not underestimate her contribution to kink in the monetary system.

    • Calypso_1

      Let us not underestimate her contribution to kink in the monetary system.

      • Anarchy Pony

        WHERE’S MY BRAIN BLEACH!?

        • Calypso_1

          Evil LOL

        • Calypso_1

          Evil LOL

        • alizardx

          Under your copy of The Fountainhead. Missed that image somehow the first time around, pass it this way when you’ve had some.;

      • alizardx

        the only thing I dislike about your statement is that I didn’t think of it myself first.

  • alizardx

    “There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kld’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.” – “The Value of Nothing” by Raj Pate

    First time I’ve ever seen the full quote with proper attribution.

    It can also be argued that Ayn Rand made a positive contribution to humanity by sucking into her belief system people who otherwise would have been of negative value to whatever useful social or political movements they might have joined instead.

    Some people you don’t want on your side.

    • Anarchy Pony

      That quote was what popped into my mind immediately.

    • ParanoidCoast

      Like a shit magnet/magnate

  • CW

    Where did the quote “Ayn Rand has done some good things for us” in your title come from? Also an Ayn Rand book influenced some concepts of an album I made – she is not an influence on me or my work as a whole. Tried to make that clear. CW

    • Matt Staggs

      Dear Chelsea, while the title and content of the piece is Thad’s, the inclusion of quotation marks are entirely due to an error on my part. I apologize for any distress that this might have caused.

    • Thad McKraken

      CW,

      You kind of made me want to read some Ayn Rand. Have you heard Tom Sawyer? It fucking destroys! Thanks for helping me empathize with concepts I know nothing about and keep doing what you do!

    • Thad McKraken

      CW,

      You kind of made me want to read some Ayn Rand. Have you heard Tom Sawyer? It fucking destroys! Thanks for helping me empathize with concepts I know nothing about and keep doing what you do!

    • alizardx

      I’ll check out your music sometime soon.

    • alizardx

      I’ll check out your music sometime soon.

  • happypedro

    Sure, plenty of “extraordinary people are oppressed by systems or a shitty boss with a power trip” but Ayn Rand´s viewpoint contributes immensely part of that problem, and is the opposite of any kind of solution to that. Individualism to the adoring-of-serial-killer degree of Ayn Rand is exactly what capitalism loves. Atomize people and you can sell them more crap they don´t need, and divide and conquer all the way to the bank. Cooperation in the right ways — universal health care, free and good education, egalitarian economics, etc — leads to far more liberation than anything Ayn Rand ever coughed up.

  • Dingbert

    This is actually the last paragraph of “Atlas Shrugged.”

  • echar

    Dr. Christopher S. Hyatt was cool with Ayn Rand. I’ve never read her books, but I am tempted just to see what all the hub-bub is about. I like Chelsea Wolfe’s music.

  • echar

    Dr. Christopher S. Hyatt was cool with Ayn Rand. I’ve never read her books, but I am tempted just to see what all the hub-bub is about. I like Chelsea Wolfe’s music.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I like women that are into philosophers. It doesn’t matter if I like the Philosopher or not. Also I like Vegan women, even though I think Veganism is bullshit. . It doesn’t matter what the particular idelogical quirk is, having it just makes them more attractive.

    (Of course I asked a hot looking Vegan Philosophy PhD candidate out, and she shot me down, so after that I had to deconstruct her Bullshit claim that eating fish is not as bad as eating a mammal since many cichlid species raise their own young, like birds and mammals do and definately feel pain)

    • David Howe

      you have several problems

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        Fuck you. Wanna Fight?

        • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

          Interesting dialectical discourse.

          Ideally, or hopefully, things don’t have to escalate next logical step (“Fuck you. Yeah let’s fight!“)

          One of the only reasons I have come to accept this sort of dialect as perfectly, perfectly valid, is that I have seen the lack of remedy through legal dialect (and the systemic corruption in legal dialectical recourse). (I mean in the high-powered corporate law scene, and the US Court systems. And that I’ve seen things done to others, not to myself.)

          But I ever hope for non-violent recourse and discourse to prevail in long negotiations and recurrent dialectical conflicts.

          On the other hand… Fight Club + Popcorn!

          What is a definition of insanity? It’s “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” By that standard, most of us are insane. But not at the same time. And on that basis we trust. But can this way of life endure if more and more people are insane at the same time?It becomes, as Gordon said: systemic. Like cancer. What happens then?-Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps 2010

        • David Howe

          the fight is already over

        • Calypso_1

          Neuro-throwback throwdown.

        • Calypso_1

          Neuro-throwback throwdown.

        • echar

          I think it’s quaint that you asked. In some circles he would be laying on the ground already. Teh interwebs is sirius bizness!

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Didn’t Ayn Rand say something like Smart women should give THEMSELVES credit for being smart? Instead of like saying basically “I’m smart therefore WOMEN are smart”

  • JohnFrancisBittrich

    I have tried to read her major works but the writing was just too, too stilted and the symbolism and metaphors too obvious and over-the-top for me to get past the shitty philosophy. However, I did get the chance to see Chelsea Wolfe here in Cambridge recently and she was pretty good. Almost as good as her opener, King Dude, who Disinfonauts should also check out if you get the chance.

    • Lucifer

      KING DUDE RULES

    • Lucifer

      KING DUDE RULES

  • http://www.youtube.com/ac1dchr15t ac1d

    Yeah Rand was a selfish bitch it seems, but at heart, her intentions for society where mainly good. Paul Ryan is infinitely worse than Ayn.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Economic-Freedom/1490544250 Economic Freedom

      >>>her intentions for society where mainly good.

      Moron. Hitler’s and Stalin’s “intentions for society where [sic] mainly good,” which shows you what you get when you combine political power plus “good intentions for society”; i.e., Hitler murdered 20 million innocent people and his one-time ally, Stalin, murdered 30 million. All with “good intentions”, of course. Rand’s intentions were directed entirely toward the individual, not society. You should at least try reading her major fiction works — The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged — before making ignorant remarks about her.

      >>>Paul Ryan is infinitely worse than Ayn.

      I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, and apparently, neither do you. I have no confidence that you know anything more about Paul Ryan than you do about Ayn Rand. Here’s a start, genius:

      http://www.hoover.org/multimedia/uncommon-knowledge/by-guest/94806

      These are two video interviews (pre-election 2012) with Paul Ryan by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. After watching the interviews, you can get back to us here and explain why Paul Ryan is “worse” than Ayn Rand.

      You have a lot to learn about a lot of things (philosophy, politics, economics, etc.). Wouldn’t today be a good day to start?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Economic-Freedom/1490544250 Economic Freedom

      >>>her intentions for society where mainly good.

      Moron. Hitler’s and Stalin’s “intentions for society where [sic] mainly good,” which shows you what you get when you combine political power plus “good intentions for society”; i.e., Hitler murdered 20 million innocent people and his one-time ally, Stalin, murdered 30 million. All with “good intentions”, of course. Rand’s intentions were directed entirely toward the individual, not society. You should at least try reading her major fiction works — The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged — before making ignorant remarks about her.

      >>>Paul Ryan is infinitely worse than Ayn.

      I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, and apparently, neither do you. I have no confidence that you know anything more about Paul Ryan than you do about Ayn Rand. Here’s a start, genius:

      http://www.hoover.org/multimedia/uncommon-knowledge/by-guest/94806

      These are two video interviews (pre-election 2012) with Paul Ryan by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. After watching the interviews, you can get back to us here and explain why Paul Ryan is “worse” than Ayn Rand.

      You have a lot to learn about a lot of things (philosophy, politics, economics, etc.). Wouldn’t today be a good day to start?

      • http://www.youtube.com/ac1dchr15t ac1d

        Thanks for your time.

      • http://www.youtube.com/ac1dchr15t ac1d

        Thanks for your time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Phillip-Schmitt/1590026226 James Phillip Schmitt

        Hitler and Stalin were motivated by what is best for Hitler and Stalin and retrofitted their respective ideologies to match. This practice has been adopted by every institutional authority ever. Any operating system is only as good as the user

  • bobbiethejean

    I will acknowledge the good she may have contributed, grudgingly, as long as we all agree not to forget that she was nevertheless, a massively hypocritical, unrepentant sociopath with gruesomely illogical ideas and borderline fanatical, dangerous ideals.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pcwag33 Pete Wagner

    Like Marx, Rand was commissioned by the banking cabal to undercut the movements in Germany. During Marx’ time, the power of the German industrialist families had risen higher than those of the bankers. An attempt was made to marginalize that power by manufacturing strife between workers and owners. Marixm was the resulting (classic) divide/control strategy. Rand’s philosophy was essentially an answer to National Socialism, which had demonstrated its superiority over capitalism in the years leading up to WWII. Both Marx and Rand twist human nature and historical realities, poisoning relationships between people (again, divide/control), thus allowing money and heartless technocratic institutions to fill the voids. Rand supporters today fall into two groups: 1) The naive and misled; 2) The collective deceivers.

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