It is a shame that Leonard Peikoff and most of the people at the Ayn Rand Institute did not embrace more openly the John Aglialoro Atlas Shrugged films. I’ve read Peikoff’s book on Objectivism and would have thought that he would have supported the endeavor which premiered in Las Vegas last night showing the third and final film—which is clearly the best of the three film series. All the Atlas movies were good, but this third film certainly puts the proper end cap on the long cinematic journey which took so many years for Aglialoro to achieve. The key to the third film is in meeting for the first time the long talked about John Galt and seeing the kind of life that he inspired in a hidden valley called Atlantis. The Atlas Shrugged filmmakers have been very open to those who are part of their online world called Galt’s Gulch and after several years of work had a special showing for them in Vegas which was a wonderful idea. As for the work of Ayn Rand, I can’t think of anywhere better that Objectivism has gained the most ground than with the group that has emerged out of Galt’s Gulch at the Atlas Shrugged web site—and that would not have happened without Aglialoro’s films or his team behind one of the most ambitions independent films ever done.
The third film is titled, Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who is John Galt and is clearly a work of philosophy draped with a love story between Dagny Taggart and John Galt. It has a wonderful message and for those who think in such a way was a comfortable place to spend a couple of hours. For the rest of the world—those who live their lives as second-handers—they will hate the movie. Because of the effort involved, I wish John Aglialoro would have had a larger presence from the Gulch and that online media buzz would have been more robust. But it has been ignored by virtually everyone, including The Ayn Rand Institute which has done a fantastic job over the years of keeping Rand’s books published and teaching Objectivism to people hungry for a functioning philosophy that actually works. I can’t think of a bigger Objectivist event than Atlas Shrugged Part III premiering in Vegas and opening to the world on September 12th, but on the morning of the premier, there was not a single mention of the film by the Institute even though they have their big benefit dinner in New York City on September 23rd. The closest that they have is that Yaron Brook is one of the guest speakers who was also a consultant for the movie. But there is no direct mention of Aglialoro or the new movie by the official gatekeepers of Ayn Rand’s legacy.
With that kind of in-fighting there is no way that the rest of the nation or the world can be expected to get behind an ambitious project like a film adaption of one of America’s most monstrously successful novels. Like it or not, Atlas Shrugged is the great American novel and is much better—and more relevant than any of Mark Twain’s work or John Steinbeck. Atlas Shrugged is what America was and will always be about and those who wish to change that definition absolutely hate the novel and refuse to recognize it—even though the public has bought the book for over half a century on pure word of mouth. It is the biggest underground classic in print, and the Ayn Rand Institute has helped make that so. They will only benefit from the John Aglialoro film as viewers wanting to know more will buy the book to get more details after watching.
To understand Atlas Shrugged and specifically this third film I recently drove my son-in-law who moved here from socialist England through the city of Norwood, Ohio. In the movie, John Galt gives a speech to the owners and workers of a manufacturing facility called the 20th Century Motor Company that is being overtaken by a socialist plan hatched by the company’s inherited owners. The labor union adopts socialism at the company which destroys the plant leaving it vacated of any life within a few years. What they made at the facility becomes quickly lost to history. Driving through modern-day Norwood I showed my son-in-law how the same thing had happened to that poor city just north of Cincinnati, Ohio. I showed him the vacant spot where the Cincinnati Milacron plant used to be. I worked there when I was young and felt very much like a young John Galt—the speech in the film hit home to me and was all too autobiographical. Shortly after I left Milacron, the company destroyed itself with socialism and is no longer there. It used to be a large sprawling campus in Oakley, but now it is empty except for a few small office buildings. Just a few miles to the west are the remains of the old General Motors plant that built Cameros during the hot selling 70s and 80s. Now it is an empty parking lot. Across the Norwood Lateral used to be the largest movie theater house in Cincinnati, the Showcase Cinemas of Norwood. I used to see small art films there like Clint Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart which played nowhere else in the city. It only played there because they had so many theaters they could afford to dedicate a few of them to pictures that were more philosophic than commercial. Back then, it was the kind of theater that would have shown Atlas Shrugged Part III. Now that theater is gone, it’s an empty parking lot. As Cincinnati Milacron died and the General Motors plant along with many other smaller businesses all for the same reasons—the investment money moved north to flee the high taxes of the city and parasitic nature of local governments who gain fame for themselves by spending other people’s money. Norwood is essentially a ghost town today after only 20 years of failed economic policy—just like the 20th Century Motor Company in the movie. The only theater that Atlas is playing now is where the money is currently, about 20 miles north in Mason, Ohio at the Regal. Many of the people who reside in neighborhoods around that theater moved from areas like Norwood years ago leaving only the parasites living through socialism to inhabit which collapsed the economy. Some of those Mason people understand the message of Atlas Shrugged because they have been through it, so the movie is showing there. But for the people of Norwood who are typically on welfare, jobless, and from families with several baby daddies coming in and out of their lives—the Objectivist message of the Atlas films are lost to them.
When I was a kid my grandfather used to take pigs to slaughter at a meat market near Union Terminal. Back in those days there were several breweries, packaging houses and much industry along the Western Hills Viaduct. Now it is an area mired in poverty driven by an overload of the welfare system. The Viaduct itself is falling apart and nobody can figure out where to get the money to fix it. The Brent Spence Bridge just to the south of the Viaduct is also falling apart and needs replacement. It is major highway artery from the north of the United States to the south, but there are no politicians with any answers even as the highway runs by Paul Brown Stadium which hosts only eight events a year during football season costing $455 million to build in the year 2000 numbers which equates out with inflation to $623 million. Just the spike in inflation rates should be alarming in only 14 years. But worst than that, it was some of the only new construction to take place in downtown Cincinnati in decades. That construction is driven by pure entertainment value which is hardly sustainable for long-term growth and profitability. There has to be industry which actually makes things in order to sustain other businesses and landmarks like the Western Hills Viaduct. The city of Cincinnati is dying just like what was seen in Atlas Shrugged Part III.
Of course people who don’t wish to acknowledge these issues will hate the Atlas films for bringing it to their attention. They wish to remain second-handers forever and don’t want to give up on their illusions of socialism. But for the few who are bold enough to look at the situation squarely—and with honesty, Atlas Shrugged Part III is a blessing. There are already an extreme minority who find that kind of subject matter enjoyable and they are lucky that John Aglialoro made a film for them. It’s not financially profitable to do such a thing, but for a producer like Aglialoro, money can always be made. What cannot be recovered is the American nation and if one truly does love their country—they would obviously try to save it. The Atlas films are an attempt to save the country before everyone simply leaves. The new Atlas film might be called Who Is John Galt, but I suspect that John Aglialoro has more in common with Dagny Taggert from the film than John Galt. Aglialoro is still functioning in the world trying to warn people of what’s coming with his movie. The people at the Atlas Society are already in Atlantis and hope to see it all crumble away—which is the likely anxiety between the two groups.
I thought all this while watching the scene where Dagny decided to leave Atlantis and return back to the world and fix her railroad problems. John Galt, who is the leader in the Gulch decides to leave with her much to the shock of his friends. Because of his attachment to Dagny, John Galt is put in danger of being looted off of once discovered because the world is desperate for someone with some kind of answer. If Dangy had stayed put, it is likely that their paradise would survive forever as the world around them crumbled. But because Dagny chose to leave and continue to fight—it brought John Galt back into the world to provide a deciding blow against socialism. The Atlas Society wants to stay in the Gulch and John Aglialoro—at least a time or two more, wants to fight it out to save America. And that is the crux of the matter. It is a shame; because the Atlas Society has a lot that they could do and if they worked with the Atlas III film, would find that the cause of Objectivism is ripe for the many millions of empty minds out there looking desperately for something to fill them. For the Atlas Society to not attach themselves to the film Atlas Shrugged Part III, they are missing a strategic opportunity that won’t easily come again.
As for where I stand in the film, it is the character Ragnar Danneskjold. John Galt simply wants to cut off the parasites from their theft against the productive. Ragnar wants to take back what was stolen along the way.