Sunday, April 21, 2024

A still from “Atlas Shrugged,” the first of a potential trilogy bringing Ayn Rand’s novel to cinemas — if free-market forces allow it.

A two-part quiz: Who are the biggest political boosters of free-market principles? If you said conservatives and tea party members, you would be correct. Who are the biggest hypocrites when it comes to being on the receiving end of those free-market principles?

Not even worth answering.

Opponents of gay marriage are upset that Atlanta law firm King & Spalding dropped the U.S. House of Representatives as a client last week and declined to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. The conservatives blasted the move as revealing of “a big gap between elites and everybody else.”

The speaker of that comment in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy president Maggie Gallagher, further complained that “They’re trying to exclude you from the public square.” (Translation: “They” are the elites; “you” are everybody else.)

We heard similar reasoning from John Aglialoro, the funder, producer and a writer of the “Atlas Shrugged” movie that premiered last month, when reviews were terrible and audiences were slow to come in. Here’s what he told The Los Angeles Times on April 26 about completing a trilogy that would see conservatives and tea party members through the lengthy Ayn Rand novel:

“Critics, you won. I’m having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2. Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming in like lemmings? I’ll make my money back and I’ll make a profit, but do I wanna go and do two? Maybe I just wanna see my grandkids and go on strike.”

On Thursday, though, Aglialoro told the conservative Big Hollywood site that he was “misunderstood” when he said all that. Check out his long-form answer:

“Make no mistake, we want to make Part 2 and Part 3 and we’re committed to finding a way to make it work. There’s a temptation to make the movies expecting to lose money, to say to heck with the critics and invest another $10 million and hope to make some of it back. But to do so would betray Ayn Rand’s principles. This has to be a profitable venture. The challenge is in finding a way to overcome the critics and the rest of the establishment, who are united against us. The most frustrating thing is knowing that there are people who are missing out on an opportunity to enjoy the experience of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ on the big screen either because of what critics have said or because they just don’t know it’s in theaters because they haven’t heard about it.”

You know what else has a sequel coming out? “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” because in its time in U.S. theaters alone it took in $402 million, which must really have big-time Hollywood producer Aglialoro confused — the movie was loathed by critics. parses 323 reviews and says the movie is only 20 percent fresh, while audiences rating the movie say it’s 76 percent fresh. gives the movie 35 out of 100 based on a reading of 32 reviews, while 1,381 rankings by users of give “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” what amounts to 59 out of 100.

Critics are the ones complaining that their negative reviews of horrible movies can’t keep fans away and their championing of superlative movies can’t fill seats. Now we get an example of a conservative, who decry the elites as being out of touch with “everybody else” and “real Americans,” giving a few dozen people writing for newspapers and blogs credit for standing between millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of theaters who want to make money so badly they mark up the cost of popcorn by 900 percent. (Aglialoro’s movie, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, was to be in 1,000 of those theaters by the end of April.)

It wasn’t critics, of course, who forced King & Spalding to walk away from the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Getting the blame this time, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as quoted in the Times, is the “law-professional culture.”

“[The law-professional culture] has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”

In a way, that’s true. One of the reasons cited by King & Spalding for dropping the case was that it would have difficulty getting top recruits from law school, according to the Times and Talking Points Memo. This is the flip side of those arguments that finance and law have to award huge bonuses and salaries to attract and retain the best employees, and it seems as though if one is fair, the other must be as well.

And the pressure to drop the case came from corporate clients of King & Spalding big enough to matter, not some mysterious cabal of elite lawyers lurking in shadowy chambers atop ivory towers. From Talking Points Memo:

Sources with knowledge of the backlash confirm that one of King & Spalding’s top clients, Coca-Cola, also based in Atlanta, directly intervened to press the firm to extricate itself from the case.

A Coca-Cola spokesman declined to comment on or off the record for this story, but pointed TPM to the company’s long public history of support for equality and diversity.

Sometimes it’s not the elites, folks. Sometimes you have to let that free market have its way with you. And sometimes that feels like how an Ayn Rand hero woos an Ayn Rand heroine.