I've discussed the subject of Rand's comments about William Edward Hickman in this blog a couple times before. I have some things to add here.
First off, I want to point out the fact that the anti-Rand smear artists don't get to lift Rand's comments on Hickman from her journals while ignoring the rest of the contents in the book from which those comments came - not if they still expect to maintain a shred of intellectual moral credibility. One doesn't get to do that while ignoring her later (as in decades later), mature journal entries chewing the principle of "the role of the mind in man's existence" (her stated theme of Atlas Shrugged, as any actual scholar with a clue would know). The principle is the same when it came to Rand's decision to accept old-age government benefits (which is consistent with her published comments about accepting government benefits); the smear-artists cannot claim credibility when calling attention to this while ignoring everything else in the book from which this information came.
But that's the nature of these smear-artists, see. Usually they're leftist scum who put political sabotage-activism above moral and intellectual scruples, and who mistake Ayn Rand for their usual easy targets on the political "right." As I've noted elsewhere (see the link immediately below), I don't think that the Left knows how to handle an opponent like Ayn Rand. (It makes a massive difference that she is an Aristotelian and they decidedly are not - and it's a certainty that Aristotle himself would not resort to the moral level of the sewer that these smear-artists inhabit.)
In that context, I'd like to reproduce my comments from a reddit thread from a few weeks back in which the subject of Rand's "idolization of Hickman" came up - namely, I'd like to present a much fuller context, which the scummy smear-artists typically choose to ignore. Here are a number of key passages from Rand's journals concerning Hickman, followed by the first part of my commentary that appeared in the original thread comment:
p. 22: "[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me."
p. 37: "[the reaction to] this case is not a moral indignation at a terrible crime. It is the mob's murderous desire to revenge its hurt vanity against a man who dared to be alone. It is a case of 'we' against 'him.'"
p. 38: "Yes, he is a monster - now. But the worse he is, the worst must be the cause that drove him to this. Isn't it significant that a society was not able to fill the life of an exceptional, intelligent boy, to give him anything to out-balance crime in his eyes? If society is horrified at his crime, it should be horrified at the crime's ultimate cause: itself. The worse the crime - the greater its guilt. What could society answer, if that boy were to say: 'Yes, I'm a monstrous criminal, but what are you?'
"This is what I think of the case. I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn't. But it does not make any difference. If he isn't, he could be, and that's enough. The reaction of society would be the same, if not worse, toward the Hickman I have in mind. The case showed me how society can wreck an exceptional being, and then murder him for being the wreck that it itself has created. This will be the story of the boy in my book."
P. 42: "[The] claim that Hickman's greatest crime is his anti-socialness confirmed my idea of the public's attitude in this case - and explains my involuntary, irresistible sympathy for him, which I cannot help feeling just because of this and in spite of everything else."
p. 43: "There is a lot that is purposely, senselessly horrible about him. But that does not interest me. I want to remember his actions and characteristics that will be useful for the boy in my story. His limitless daring and his frightful sense of humor...."
p. 44: "All the dirty stories about Hickman. In this case they are probably true, but how easily they could have been manufactured to throw dirt at the object of the public's hatred (which will be the case in my book)."
UP comments: To begin with, this last one carries such irony: the scummy leftist smear-machine manufactures all kinds of dirt to throw at the object of their hatred.