As much as I have come to dislike Ayn Rand, I was initially hesitant to believe this story about her idolization of a murderer. But it seems pretty well sourced.
As revealed in a book of Rand's journals, when she was about 23 she wrote of her admiration for a fellow named William Hickman, who was executed by hanging in 1928. Rand quoted Hickman saying "What is good for me is right," while stating her feeling that this was "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard."
Why was Hickman executed? Well, long story short, it turns out that he kidnapped the twelve year old daughter of a wealthy banker, and sent several taunting ransom notes over the next several days. When the father finally paid the ransom, Hickman returned the girl.
In pieces. He took the money, threw the upper half of her body in the street, and drove away. He then eluded capture for about a week before being taken, tried, convicted, and executed.
Needless to say, Hickman became a deeply unpopular guy... but in recounting the incident, Rand said that the public's hatred was "because of the man who committed the crime and not because of the crime he committed."
She went on to say: "The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. 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..."
Um, no. Most people don't have worse skeletons in their closet than murdering a little girl, chopping her into pieces, and throwing those pieces at the distraught parent. And it's not loathsome to hate a guy who would do that. I don't know about you, but to suggest that public outrage over a genuinely outrageous act is somehow wrong indicates an extremely backwards ethical system to me.
Also interesting to me is where Rand idolizes his, er, "unconventional" lifestyle choice by denouncing a typical life thus: "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..."
To me this suggests nothing so much as one of those hideous Christian sermons where the preacher proceeds to ridicule and dismiss anything that might serve as contributing value and meaning to a person's life outside the religion. You know... "Human relationships aren't reliable; your friends will abandon you. You'll work for 40 hours a week at a soul crushing job that will leave you feeling empty until you retire, impoverished and alone..." Etc. Nothing gives your life meaning, of course, except Jesus Christ.
It's a profoundly negative message, because many people DO find satisfaction and fulfillment in careers, relationships, hobbies, and other worldly pursuits. But religions do their best to rip that satisfaction away and leave people feeling like they'll be miserable without the current product being sold. I was just reading a few chapters of "The Conquest of Happiness" by Bertrand Russell, in which he praised the possession of a zest for life, finding joy in even the trivial things that you like doing.
Rand's worship of her perceived "superman" always seems to have come at the cost of a certain overall contempt for most of mankind -- who, it seems, are constantly being portrayed as deserving to die in a train wreck, or have their kids murdered by superior men.