There’s a Straight Line from a Child-Murderer to Donald Trump’s Treason

Thom plus logo The roots and brutality of the January 6th coup attempt grew in the soil of libertarianism and Ayn Rand's writings

Many Americans are baffled by the Republican Party's embrace of a billionaire sociopath and elected Republicans' willingness to overlook the death of five Americans, including a police officer, in an attempted coup. (Particularly after they spent over 2 years and tens of millions of dollars obsessing on 4 dead Americans in Benghazi.)

But it's not just power politics; the roots of this movement in today's GOP run from a 1927 child murderer, to a real estate lobbying group, to Ronald Reagan putting both of their philosophies into actual practice.

Thus, Republican policies over the past 40 years not only gutted America's middle class, but led straight to the Trump presidency and the attack on the Capitol on January 6th that he led. Many Americans are now so confused about how government should work that they've embraced a bizarre conspiracy theory positing Trump as a sort of messiah.

The Libertarians

Reporter Mark Ames documents how, back in the 1940s, a real estate lobbying group came up with the idea of creating a political party to justify deregulating the real estate and finance industries so they could make more money. Their Libertarian Party would give an ideological and political cover to their goal of becoming government-free, and they developed an elaborate governing philosophy around it.

Their principal argument was that if everybody acted separately and independently, in all cases with maximum selfishness, such behavior would actually benefit society. There would be no government needed beyond an army and a police force, and a court system to defend the rights of property owners. It was a bizarre twisting of Adam Smith's reference to the "invisible hand" that regulated trade among nations.

In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform included calls to privatize the Post Office, close public schools, give Medicare and Medicaid to big insurance companies, end food and housing support and all other forms of "welfare," deregulate all corporate oversight, and sell off much of the federal government's land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.

Reagan, who won that 1980 election, embraced this view in his inaugural address, saying, "[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." He then doubled down to put it into practice.

The child-killer who inspired a movement

Reagan wasn't just echoing the Libertarian vision; he was also endorsing Ayn Rand's "objectivist" view of the world, which traces its roots to a murderous sociopath in 1927.

Back in 2015, Donald Trump told USA Today's Kirsten Powers that his favorite book was Ayn Rand's raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, "The Fountainhead."

"It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions," he told Powers. "That book relates to ... everything."

Ayn Rand's novels have animated libertarians like former Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, who required interns to read her books when they joined his staff.

Powers added, "He [Trump] identified with Howard Roark, the novel's idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment."

Rand's hero Roark, in fact, "raged" so much in her novel that he blew up a public housing project with dynamite just to get what he wanted. Sort of like the person who planted bombs at the RNC and DNC headquarters the night before January 6th.

Rand, in her Journals, explained where she got her inspiration for Howard Roark and so many of her other novels. She writes that the theme of The Fountainhead, for example, is, "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself."

On Trump's hero Howard Roark, she wrote that he "has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world. He knows what he wants and what he thinks. He needs no other reasons, standards or considerations. His complete selfishness is as natural to him as breathing."

It turns out that Roark and many of her other characters were based on a real person. The man who so inspired Ayn Rand's fictional heroes was named William Edward Hickman, and he lived in Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties.

Ten days before Christmas in 1927, Hickman, a teenager with slicked dark hair and tiny, muted eyes, drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High School in Los Angeles and kidnapped Marion Parker - the daughter of a wealthy banker in town.

Hickman held the girl ransom, demanding $1,500 from her father - back then about a year's salary. Supremely confident that he would elude capture, Hickman signed his name on the ransom notes, "The Fox."

After two days, Marion's father agreed to hand over the ransom in exchange for the safety of his daughter. What Perry Parker didn't know is that Hickman never intended to live up to his end of the bargain.

The Pittsburgh Press detailed what Hickman, in his own words, did next.

"It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me," he said. "I just couldn't help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then, before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly."

Hickman didn't hold back on any of these details: he was proud of his cold-bloodedness.

"I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead."

But Hickman wasn't finished. "After she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out."

Hickman then dismembered the child piece-by-piece, putting her limbs in a cabinet in his apartment, and then wrapped up the carved-up torso, powdered the lifeless face of Marion Parker, set what was left of her stump torso with the head sitting atop it in the passenger seat of his car, and drove to meet her father to collect the ransom money.

He even sewed open her eyelids to make it look like she was alive.

On the way, Hickman dumped body parts out of his car window, before rendezvousing with Marion Parker's father.

Armed with a shotgun so her father wouldn't come close enough to Hickman's car to see that Marion was dead, Hickman collected his $1,500, then kicked open the door and tossed the rest of Marion Parker onto the road. As he sped off, her father fell to his knees, screaming.

Days later, the police caught up with a defiant and unrepentant Hickman in Oregon. His lawyers pleaded insanity, but the jury gave him the gallows.

To nearly everyone, Hickman was a monster. The year of the murder, the Los Angeles Times called it "the most horrible crime of the 1920s." Hickman was America's most despicable villain at the time.

Ayn Rand falls in love with a "superman"

But to Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, a 21-year-old Russian political science student who'd arrived in America just two years earlier, Hickman was a hero.

Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide, sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. Etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.

She had just departed Leninist Russia where, almost a decade earlier, there was a harsh backlash against the Russian property owners by the Bolsheviks. Alissa's own family was targeted, and at the age of 12 she watched as Bolshevik soldiers burst into her father's pharmacy, looted the store, and plastered on her Dad's doors the red emblem of the state, indicating that his private business now belonged to "the people."

That incident left such a deep and burning wound in young Alissa's mind that she went to college to study political science and vowed one day she'd become a famous writer to warn the world of the dangers of Bolshevism.

Starting afresh in Hollywood, she anglicized her name to Ayn Rand, and moved from prop-girl to screenwriter/novelist, basing the heroes of several of her stories on a man she was reading about in the newspapers at the time. A man she wrote effusively about in her diaries. A man she hero-worshipped.

William Edward Hickman was the most notorious man in American in 1928, having achieved a level of national fame that she craved.

Young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman the "ideal man" she based The Fountainhead on, and used to ground her philosophy and her life's work. His greatest quality, she believed, was his unfeeling, pitiless selfishness.

Hickman's words were carefully recounted by Rand in her Journals. His statement that, "I am like the state: what is good for me is right," resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else - even above friends, family, or nation - the result would be utopian.

She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman's were, "the best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I ever heard."

Hickman - the monster who boasted about how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl - had Rand's ear, as well as her heart. She saw a strongman archetype in him, the way that people wearing red MAGA hats CBS reporter Mike Wallace.

Suggesting that selfishness undermines most American values, Wallace bluntly challenged Rand.

"You are out to destroy almost every edifice in the contemporary American way of life," Wallace said to Rand. "Our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, our rule by the majority will... you scorn churches, and the concept of God... are these accurate criticisms?"

As Wallace was reciting the public criticisms of Rand, the CBS television cameras zoomed in closely on her face, as her eyes darted back and forth between the ground and Wallace's fingers. But the question, with its implied condemnation, didn't faze her at all. Rand said with confidence in a matter-of-fact tone, "Yes."

"We're taught to feel concern for our fellow man," Wallace challenged, "to feel responsible for his welfare, to feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under God and responsible one for the other - now why do you rebel?"

"That is what in fact makes man a sacrificial animal," Rand answered. She added, "[Man's] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness."

Rand's philosophy, though growing in popularity on college campuses, never did - in her lifetime - achieve the sort of mass appeal she had hoped. But today Ayn Rand's philosophy is a central tenet of today's Republican Party and grounds the moral code proudly cited and followed by high-profile billionaires and the former president of the United States.

Ironically, when she was finally beginning to be taken seriously, Ayn Rand became ill with lung cancer and went on Social Security and Medicare to make it through her last days. She died a "looter" in 1982, unaware that her her promotion of Dwayne Hickman's sociopathic worldview would one day validate an entire political party's embrace of a sociopathic president.

The result so far is nearly a half-million dead Americans, an economy laid waste, and the collapse of this nation's working class.

While the ideas and policies promoted by the libertarian wing of the Republican Party have made CEOs and billionaire investors very, very rich, it's killing the rest of us.

A return to sanity

In the 1930s and 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put America back together after the First Republican Great Depression and built the largest and wealthiest middle class in the history of the world at the time.

Today, 40 years of Ayn Rand's ideas being put into practice by libertarian Republicans from Reagan to Bush to Trump have gutted the middle class, made a handful of oligarchs wealthier than anybody in the history of the world, and brought a whole new generation of hustlers and grifters into the GOP.

When America was still coasting on FDR's success in rebuilding our government and institutions, nobody took very seriously Rand's or Koch's misguided idealist efforts to tear it all down.

Now that libertarians and objectivists in the GOP have had 40 years to make their project work, we're hitting peak libertarianism and it's tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and literally killing thousands of people every day.

If America is to survive as a functioning democratic republic, we must repudiate the "greed is good" ideology of Ayn Rand and libertarianism, get billionaires and their money out of politics, and rebuild our civil institutions.

That starts with waking Americans up to the incredible damage that 40 years of Rand's writings and libertarian Reaganism have done to this country.

It will succeed if progressive activists can push President Biden to reclaim the mantle of FDR and pull America out of the Second Republican Great Depression.

-Thom

Originally posted on thomhartmann.medium.com.

Comments

deepspace's picture
deepspace 32 weeks 6 days ago
#1

Thom, you're driving the troll-car too hard. It's gonna blow a head gasket.

If the Republican Party puked up its white supremacists, seditious insurrectionists, Earth-2 conspiracy theorists, anti-democratic authoritarians, radicalized religious extremists, violent Trump cultists, and now its libertarian/billionaire Ayn Rand types, who the hell is left? A few stubborn, beer-drinkin' couch-potatoes glued to Fux News on a fuzzy black & white TV with a bent antenna, too cheap to donate much, and too lazy to vote in person?

cuz's picture
cuz 32 weeks 6 days ago
#2

Wow, Thom, your TDS continues to fester. I have come to the conclusion that Trump had supporters that truly loved him. Biden doesn't have supporters. He just has Trump haters.

Legend 32 weeks 5 days ago
#3

Similar to the way that Hitler was loved. Loving a leader is a cult ("a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.").

Seems that the Republican Party thinks that January 6th was a good thing and shows their power.

They need to change the name to Trumpicons.

Old Republican Vs New Republicon.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/key-takeaways-trumps-effort-overturn-12565711...

They expect and get a Return on Investment.

They are leaving the Republican Party. More on this.

You will have to look in Israel, Jared Sold Them.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 32 weeks 5 days ago
#4

Love of Jim Jones = 900+ die.

Love of Trump = 500,000++?? die.

Love of Hitler = 6,000,000+ die.

Love of clinically insane, right-wing authoritarians throughout history = uncountable.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.

The radical-fringe, far-right-wing, Trump-leg-humping, Republican cultists (meaning pretty much the whole fckng party) are culpable for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their neighbors and fellow citizens. And they still poured out their "love" for their maniacal messiah even when he incited a violent mob to kill his political enemies.

Yeah... "America first!" ...the first time in our history when the Executive Branch physically attacked the Legislative Branch to disrupt a joint session of Congress performing one of their most sacred duties -- while the whole world watched. Yup, we just love the hell out of that guy. "USA! USA! USA!"

They got nothin'. Most Republicans and their trolls can't appeal to the head or the heart so they appeal to stupidity and hate, and then call it love. Most Democrats are rightfully alarmed and disgusted, which is certainly not hate but is definitely the correct emotional response for demanding truth and justice. Question your conclusions.

Steve S56's picture
Steve S56 32 weeks 4 days ago
#5

@cuz: TDS = trump delusion syndrome. You have it bad.

MoV 32 weeks 4 days ago
#6

Wow. People are STILL drinking the koolaid! I'm in awe/shock everyday the past 5 years how anyone can vote/like/worship such evil in our world! I wasn't much into politics until about 7 yrs ago when I started researching how our food system works in America. The same evil controls how we produce our foods with pesticides, chemicals, genetically modified organisms, factory farming(over using antibiotics that humans are now getting immune to so they don't save lives anymore!). And now we have lead and PFAS chemicals in our water systems,1 billion lbs of pesticides/glyphosate/chemicals being dumped on our foods every year. And they wonder WHY we're sick(including our children)? See White Wash by Carey Gillam.(and so many more books, articles, research). Are "they"(the evil among us) dumping all this poison on us intentionally? Everyday...I am in awe/shock of the cruelty becoming on humanity itself.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 32 weeks 4 days ago
#7

That is profound!

rostasi 32 weeks 4 days ago
#8

It's not an intentional dumping of poison for some nefarious reason,
but, rather, the misplaced idea that industry's existence is so important,
that they should be able to produce at any cost because, supposedly,
it's somehow better for everyone to let them produce unimpeded by
regulation.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 32 weeks 4 days ago
#9

Cuz is even more profound!

OnaM's picture
OnaM 32 weeks 3 days ago
#10

No I love Biden, I love Biden because he is smart, empathic, and believes in egalitariansim.

OnaM's picture
OnaM 32 weeks 3 days ago
#11

Never underestimate the savagery of man. I don't think it's going to get better, either the pandemic will be the awakening or demise of the human experiment.

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