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Myths About Ayn Rand: A Challenge to Journalists

Myths About Ayn Rand: A Challenge to Journalists

3 Mins
May 4, 2011


As Atlas Shrugged Part 1 came to theaters on April 15, many wondered: will the movie be true to Ayn Rand’s ideas? Theater-goers were relieved to find that that the movie portrayed the story’s essential themes: it is individuals who create wealth, and they must be free.

But now that Rand’s ideas have made it to the movie screen intact, the question is: will journalists recognize the ideas? Or will their disagreement with the message cause them to distort it? Despite its declining commitment to objectivity , journalism is still supposed to be a vehicle for the facts. Reporters and critics still have the obligation to portray their topic accurately.

That Atlas Shrugged is a fictional story does not change the obligation of a journalist to be objective. While there may be room for interpretation of art forms such as novels and movies, the interpretation must still be supported by evidence. One may disagree about the truth of the ideas in Atlas Shrugged, or argue that there will be unforeseen consequences, but first he must state the actual ideas. Just as it is unprofessional for a journalist to misquote an interviewee, fudge a number, or say that an event happened on Wednesday if it actually happened on Thursday, it is equally unprofessional for a journalist to describe Ayn Rand’s philosophy as something it is not.

And yet, this is exactly what so many writers, critics, and journalists have done. Beginning with Whittaker Chambers, the reviewer of Atlas Shrugged  (the novel), who in 1957 claimed that Rand “ plumps for a technocratic elite ” to Roger Ebert, reviewing Atlas Shrugged Part 1 on April 14, 2011, who says that Rand’s philosophy “reduces itself to: ‘I’m on board; pull up the lifeline,’” reviewers have chronically misrepresented Rand. (As you will see, Rand is clearly not an elitist, nor does she advocate cruel self-interest).


Unlike many philosophers, Ayn Rand is a household name. Her bestselling novels are available online and in book stores. In addition to The Atlas Society’s website, there are numerous resources for Ayn Rand’s ideas. Her own essays are widely accessible and nearly always include definitions of her terms. There is a growing library of Rand scholarship and analysis. Anyone with a particular question regarding Ayn Rand is welcome to submit it to The Atlas Society . In short, there is no longer any excuse for writing inaccurately about Ayn Rand’s basic ideas. Any journalist who continues to misrepresent Objectivism is at worst purposefully deceiving his audience; at best, displaying poor research skills.


Some have spoken out against the Atlas Shrugged reviews—criticizing the critics for their biases and opposing ideologies. This collection of essays, “ Myths About Ayn Rand ,” does not speculate about agendas, but simply holds journalists accountable for their misrepresentations of Ayn Rand’s ideas. The “Myths” are the basic categories of error in writing about Rand. We will expand this list as time goes on.. These errors may pervade cultural commentary, but they are errors, nonetheless, and they are easily dismissed by a basic understanding of Objectivism.

In order to hold writers accountable and demonstrate the many ways in which the errors occur, we also include links to a number of popular articles which commit these errors—the “ Perp Walk ." Under the " Myth Fighters " heading, we recognize other writers who are helping to dispel myths about Ayn Rand and her ideas.

To writers seeking to criticize Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged , the movie, or the philosophy of Objectivism , we encourage you to portray the ideas accurately. If you value your argument, you do it a disservice by misrepresenting its opponent. We maintain hope that truth and honesty are still a priority in the media.


>  What is Objectivism?

>  Ask us a question about Objectivism

> Introduction to Ayn Rand's Ideas

>  Self-Study Course: Ayn Rand's Ideas

> Three Myths About Ayn Rand

About the author:
Ayn Rand's Ideas and Influence
Journalism and Media