At this point, it would be easy enough to bring up any of the vast and bloody crimes of colonialists, anti-communists and capitalists who cut a deadly swath through the 20th century and ask if it therefore means that anyone who reads New Republic or supports a capital gains tax cut is therefore an accomplice to the butcheries of Augusto Pinochet, Jonas Savimbi, or Suharto. But I'm more interested in what they think of Ayn Rand's admiration of W. Edward Hickman.
Rand was a big admirer of Hickman's; in her journals, she expressed the opinion that one of his public statements ("Like the state, what is good for me is right") was "the best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have ever heard". She based one of her first novels -- an unpublished work called The Little Street -- on Hickman, and the main character was based on him even down to their background and appearance. In the notes she kept around the time of writing The Little Street, she continues to gush admiration for Hickman, and formulates the opinion that anyone so widely reviled by society must be doing something right ("No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the 'virtuous' indignation and mass-hatred of the 'majority'... it is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal"). She describes the jury that tries her hero as full of fat ugly women and thin soulless men, stupid and hypocritical.
Of Hickman, the man upon whom she based her superior, altogether wonderful hero, she blames society for his maladjustments -- an excuse she hardly extends to others whose flaws she finds contemptible: "The worse he is, the worst must be the cause that drove him to this. Isn't it significant that society was not able to fill the life of an exceptional, intelligent boy, to give him anything to outbalance crime in his eyes?" Hickman had "a brilliant mind, a romantic, adventurous, impatient soul and a straight, uncompromising, proud character. What had society to offer him? A wretched, insane family as the ideal home, a Y.M.C.A. club as social honor, and a bank-page job as ambition and career." In a long paragraph displaying arguments Objectivists never seem to extend to the poor, the sick or criminals other than Mssr. Hickman, she speaks of the horror the poor lad faced in a future that involved actually having to work for a living like everyone else, a "long, slow, soul-eating, heart-wrecking toil and struggle; the degrading, ignoble road of silent pain and loud compromises".
Of course, Ayn Rand was a young woman when she wrote this, and perhaps a bit foolish and flighty. You know, much like the callow punks who idolize Charlie Manson, or the trust fund kids who put up Che posters in their dorm rooms. So it would be wrong to judge Ms. Rand, or her followers, or the rightness or wrongness of her theories and beliefs, based solely on this youthful fascination for a man who...well, what did William Edward Hickman do, anyway? Who was this famous young fellow who so captured her imagination?
Nothing much. He was just a lowly clerk who kidnapped the twelve-year-old daughter of the president of the bank where he worked. He sent a number of taunting ransom notes to the girl's father, saying he was a terrible parent who didn't truly love his child, and blaming him for anything that would happen to young Marion Parker if he contacted the police. He swore he wouldn't harm the girl if he was paid his $1500 ransom, which, finally, he was, and as promised, he turned Marion over to her loving, anxious family -- by throwing her out of the car in which he fled the scene. Marion had been dead for days. Her legs were hacked off and her arms torn out at the sockets. Her eyes were pried open with pieces of wire. She'd been gutted and all of her internal organs were removed; Hickman crammed the empty cavity of her corpse with wet towels to soak up all the blood. Before he dangled for the crime, he confessed to another murder, and explained how he'd killed Marion even before writing the ransom letters in which he promised no harm would come to her, imperfectly strangling her and then tearing off her limbs in a bathtub while she was still alive. That's who Rand talks about in her journals, cooing over his bad-boy good looks.
Just something to keep in mind next time one of these apes starts barking about Che t-shirts again.