What is a terrorist? It is someone who wishes to instill terror in a population to meet some religious, political or, ideological goal, to deliberately target or disregard the safety of regular people. Some definitions even now include acts of unlawful violence such as racketeering or protection rackets.
Understanding this, John Galt, the hero of the Ayn Rand novel “Atlas Shrugged” is easy to identify as nothing but a common terrorist.
Some have called him heroic. But what did he actually do? When presented with a situation which he did not like, he ran away. Instead of addressing what he viewed as injustice in government, he turned on the government itself. The government is a reflection of the people, of society itself, and as a result, in so doing John Galt decided on a course of action which resulted in the destruction of not only the government he despised, but the very people needed to support his businesses.
First, we must identify what he did. To an objectivist, Galt did nothing but assert his control over his works. Of course he himself did nothing to hurt anybody aside from himself (he would have been penniless for his refusal to economize his work). But what he did do was organize a systemic attack on the nation as a whole. He found key members of what he called the “makers” and arranged for them to cause severe economic damage.
This of course is Stochastic Terrorism, where he himself does not pull the trigger, but he makes sure the right words enter into the right ears to cause terrorist acts to occur. For example, Elias Wyatt used his companies market position to force dependence on his product, shale oil, by controlling sole supply of the substance. This was done intentionally, so when he “went Galt” all systems dependent on his product would be directly injured.
Others in the novel take more direct terroristic action, such as Ragnar Danneskjöld who seizes shipments to Europe and keeps them for himself. Theft and piracy, with an ulterior motive to force destabilization on to world governments. Calvin Atwood runs a monopoly for electrical power, and his “going Galt” cuts off the electrical supply for a solid third of North America. Thomas Hendricks’ new surgical technique was pushed to the forefront due to government support, resulting in other methods of stroke prevention being ignored, and undeveloped, so when he “went Galt” he directly murdered thousands of people as a result.
Atlas Shrugged is littered with these people. Ayn presented them as heroic figures, in the same way in which Osama Bin Laden presented the 9/11 hijackers. In the end, these were common terrorists, common criminals, with John Galt at their head. Blood of millions stained theirs, and John Galts, hands.
There is nothing heroic about using words to murder people. There is nothing brave about ignoring your fellow man. John Galt was disgusted by a government which was corrupt, but instead of working to better humankind, he instead embraced the corruption, to use it to slaughter countless innocents. Those who hold him up as some kind of standard, who now are crying that they are “Going Galt,” one must wonder if they, too, would rather watch the world burn.
Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.
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