Judging Things by Their Covers

 Posted by on 5 April 2006 at 7:39 am  Uncategorized
Apr 052006

I was immediately captivated by the cover of the latest issue of The New Individualist from The Objectivist Center. So bold, it features the infamous Danish bomb-turban cartoon set against the blood-red background of a bloodthirsty mob. Editor Robert Bidinotto is fairly sure it is the first magazine in the nation to feature one of the Danish cartoons on its cover.

Surprised to see such seeming courage from an organization that has shown itself to be so wishy-washy, I quickly turned to the cover article, “The Jihad Against Free Speech” by TOC Executive Director Ed Hudgins. Bidinotto proudly characterizes it as lengthy and incisive and as presenting a potent case for something or other. Having actually read it, I’d characterize it a little differently: it is a lengthy and impotent disgrace to its provocative cover.

I found only a tepid mess where there could and should have been a strong presentation and defense of the values at stake — an answer to why such a bold and provocative cover must exist. It is vague, wandering, LONG, and largely argued from mushy appeals to a toothless foundation in Enlightenment-era sensibilities back when rights were barely a tolerant gleam in philosophers’ eyes. There’s precious little explanation and defense of the absolute validity of rights as against the irrational and bloody ideas of savages, and what is there certainly isn’t compelling. Worst of all, while the author is the Executive Director of The OBJECTIVIST Center, the power and clarity to be found in the Objectivist formulation and validation of rights is all but avoided. We’re instead treated to endless asides diluting and confusing what could have been a clear, powerful message about what’s really at stake. Sigh, I’d give a bunch of examples, but this train-wreck of an article is so diffuse and pointless that I would probably pass out from UTTER BOREDOM if I forced myself to go through it again.

In a discussion thread with people applauding and discussing ways to get it into more hands, Bidinotto said that “if you truly expect the obsessed critics of TOC to acknowledge positively this or anything else that we ever do, you are in for a harsh awakening.” But that assumes it is praiseworthy, and it is not. What was most striking about those applauding is that they never seemed to talk about having read the article. They were only focused on that cover. Well, the cover is great, but without a real commitment to the values that should drive being so bold and provocative, such action comes across as mere bluster and grandstanding — not genuine courage.

Those who are judging this magazine by its cover should try reading it.

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