The Passion of the Critics of Ayn Rand's Critics (reprised to mark the death of Rand arch-critic Nathaniel Branden)

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sat, 2006-02-25 07:18

The Affair … The Break … The Affair Revealed (The Passion of Ayn Rand) … Peikoff in denial … Judgment Day … Anti-Peikovian backlash … IOS-TOC … The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics … Ancient History … Yawn … Better Things to Do …

I was one of those who resolved not to read James Valliant’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, openly touted as “The case against the Brandens.” My position was—why gnaw at those old bones? The orthodoxy had confirmed the truth of Barbara Branden’s pathbreaking Rand biography by denying its most startling revelation—The Affair—all those years ago, with Peikoff having to be dragged kicking and screaming to finally acknowledging its veracity. Twenty years later the orthodoxy finally gets round to publishing a response to Passion (and Nathaniel Branden’s sequel) and we’re supposed to take it seriously? Did they finally muster up some facts and think of some arguments, two decades on? As the young folk say, “Yeah, right!” Moreover, trusted friends who had read it told me PARC dealt in the stupefyingly trivial, the numbingly tortuous, the excruciatingly inconsequential. It was boring. Once you put it down, you couldn’t pick it up, they said.

Still, I got talked into reading it in a thread right here on SOLOHQ. And I’m glad I did. It does none of the above. Rather, it pulls one up with a salutary start. It is a stark reminder of a litany of unconscionable deceits. It is an account pregnant with the tortured cries of the deceived, Ayn Rand, as she struggles to make sense of a monumental mendacity completely alien and inconceivable to her innocent soul. It has the ring of truth about it—and turns much of the Branden-painted picture of the private Ayn Rand on its head.

It must be stated at the outset that author Valliant is a prosecuting attorney by training, and he behaves exactly like one in his pitiless pursuit of the Brandens. The hell with a rounded portrait; he’s out to convict. These two are irredeemably rotten. Their smallest inconsistency is a Big Lie. He’ll discount or downplay any evidence that helps the defendants’ case. He’ll indict their memoirs as “valueless as historical documents” because of the self-serving lies with which he says they are riddled, but he’ll quote from them as though they’re truthful when it suits. (He’ll also, of course, quote from them to show they are untruthful when it suits.) And he’ll neglect to remind us as often as he should, perhaps, that the defendants have long since pleaded guilty to the main charge, in these very biographies he dismisses as worthless. For Prosecutor Valliant, there is no Statute of Limitations and no protection against double jeopardy.

It must equally be stated, however, that Valliant is not working to an agenda-ridden Branden-bashing brief drawn up by the Ayn Rand Institute. This is not a belated arousal of the orthodoxy via a stooge. Valliant is his own man. To be sure, the crucial exhibits—Ayn Rand’s private journal entries—were supplied by Leonard Peikoff, but these merely bolstered (enormously) conclusions Valliant and his associate Casey Fahy had already reached independently. (For Valliant’s own elucidation of this point, see the Ayn Rand Smeared Again thread on this site.) And it must further be observed that Valliant has at least had the courtesy to mount his attack on the Brandens while they are still alive to rebut it if they so choose.

The crux of the case is honesty, or the Brandens’ alleged lack of it. Valliant slams Barbara’s Passion and Nathaniel’s Judgment Day as “monuments of dishonesty.” He claims the Brandens continue to peddle their untruths to this day—often not by what they say but by what they don’t say—chiefly about The Affair and The Break. It is to these untruths, Valliant laments, that critics of Rand’s philosophy routinely repair in their attempts to tear it down.

Here’s the kind of pattern Valliant is talking about. In The Passion of Barbara Branden—her only public comment on PARC to date—here on SOLOHQ, Barbara says:

When Rand broke with Nathaniel and me, it appeared to her admirers that a near-impossibility had occurred: in the persons of Ayn and Nathaniel, two totally rational people had encountered differences that reason could not resolve. It was a deeply shocking and hurtful event, made much worse by the fact that the real reason for the break was not presented, leaving our students deeply confused and deeply hurt. I felt strongly at the time that the truth—that Nathaniel was in love with another woman and was unwilling to continue his affair with Rand—should have been stated if anything at all was to be stated. But Rand was unwilling even to consider this, and I had given her the most solemn oath of secrecy of my life.

Now this is unexceptionable, as far as it goes. But that's not very far. A more candid account would have depicted “the truth” thus:

Nathaniel was in love with another woman. He had been for four years. He’d been having sex with that woman all that time. He had deliberately and with excruciating cruelty deceived Ayn about it while assuring her that he remained romantically interested in her, stringing her along with extraordinary callousness. I was an active participant in that deception and cruelty for two of those years. The reason we deceived Ayn was that she was our meal-ticket, and we figured she'd cut us off if we told her the truth.

Now that is the full truth, and it’s much less appetising than the first version. Problem for Valliant, though—as earlier noted, the Brandens did actually ‘fess up to the full truth in their memoirs. So … where’s the beef?

Valliant’s beef is that the Brandens have succeeded in deflecting attention from the sheer enormity of their misconduct and given Objectivism’s enemies ammunition by painting a portrait of a Rand to whom it would have been near-impossible to ‘fess up and live to tell the tale: a portrait of an impatient, dogmatic, obsessive, humourless, psychologically ignorant, reality-removed, repression-advocating, rationalistic, manipulative moraliser with a hair-trigger temper who drove her husband to drink and her friends out of the park. She was the “woman scorned” than whom “hell hath no greater fury”—and her famous To Whom It May Concern, repudiating the Brandens, was simply a rationalisation of that fury. Contrast this unflattering picture—the one gleefully seized upon by critics—exhorts Valliant, with the actual Rand revealed in her journals:

*A Rand who gave endlessly of her time and intellect proffering Branden what amounted to psychotherapy, struggling to help him overcome problems that were actually fabrications by him designed to throw her off the scent of his clandestine affair with a young actress.

*A Rand who saw the fallacy of rationalism and repression in his problems as he falsely stated them and lovingly sought to haul him out of those traps.

*A Rand who veritably encouraged Branden to have a sexual affair with a younger woman as she came to realise that the age gap between herself and Branden must be a problem for him, notwithstanding his repeated reassurances that he would continue to find her desirable at any age. (All the while, of course, he was having a sexual affair with a younger woman!)

*A Rand who for four years erred on the side of the most charitable explanation possible for Branden’s increasingly erratic, baffling and hugely hurtful behaviour, even as her “stomach feelings” (yes, the “rationalistic” Rand—“stomach feelings”!) told her the man was actually rotten.

*A Rand who contemplated the continuation of her professional association with him even as she realised she would probably have to repudiate him personally.

*A Rand who, to herself, wished him “best premises—in the name of the best within him” even after she had finally come to deem him “the worst traitor and the most immoral person I have ever met.”

This Rand, to be sure, is far removed from the Ayatollah Ayn who makes up a significant part of the Brandens’ portraits, and one can only laud Valliant for his resurrection of her.

As one progresses through Rand’s journal entries with the advantage of hindsight, one wants to yell, “Nathan, you lousy bastard, tell her!!” One wants to yell, “Ayn, listen to those stomach feelings. He is a lousy bastard. Let go!!”

In the end, when Ayn was finally told the truth—by Barbara!—Nathan was hauled down to Ayn’s apartment for a protracted screaming-at and a face-slap or three. Terrifying and all though it must have been to be screamed at by Ayn Rand, he got off lightly. He should have been horsewhipped once a day for every day he had lied through his teeth to her.

That said, there are contra-considerations. Not all the blame for the carnage The Affair wrought can be laid at Nathaniel’s door. Four adults, one of them an epoch-changing genius, played with fire. Four adults knew they risked being burned. Four adults were burned, the epoch-changing genius most of all. What can one say, ultimately, except, C’est la vie!? And for all that Ayn might have accepted the intractability of the age gap intellectually, there remains the very silly “eighty and in a wheelchair” part of her scream-fest when her true, raw feelings were pouring out. There is an Ayatollah Ayn on display at times, as in her infamous and also-very-silly remarks about homosexuality. There is definitely a rationalistic tendency evident in her journals to over-intellectualise questions of sex and romance, areas in which the objective fact of the matter is that there’s much we don’t yet understand (see my essay, Romance and Rationalism). There are many positive aspects to the Brandens’ memoirs—especially Barbara’s, whose lyrical eloquence left this reader for one with an overwhelmingly exalted view of Rand, warts and all. Valliant the Prosecutor overlooks or minimises these considerations. But he has also made a persuasive case that many of the warts are illusory, or were grafted on by the Brandens.

Though Nathaniel is clearly the greater villain of the two, Barbara’s credibility certainly takes a hit. To take a simple, prosaic example—her description in Passion of the Rand/Phil Donahue interview, as Valliant points out, can be shown to be flat-out wrong by the simple expedient of slipping the video of the occasion into a video-player and observing what actually happened.

More ominously, Valliant shows that the evidence for Barbara’s assertion that Frank O’Connor was an alcoholic is flimsy at best. SOLOists know that she has sponsored and endorsed a similar claim about me on the basis of even flimsier evidence—and, more importantly, has not shown willing to retract in the face of overwhelming, unsolicited contrary testimony from friends who know me far better than she. If this episode is a demonstration of her customary journalistic standards and ethics, then readers should be wary of accepting anything she reports at face value. But this, frankly, does not compute with the Barbara I have interacted with happily and fruitfully over many years. My “stomach feelings” still find it hard to accommodate any portrayal of Barbara as irredeemably rotten or relentlessly dishonest, as Valliant would have her. I shall continue to go with my “stomach feelings” for now, even though her recent behaviour towards me personally—mirror image that it is of behaviour described by Valliant—has certainly given me grave cause for pause.

I owe James Valliant an apology for initially dismissing The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, sight unseen. This is precisely the kind of behaviour for which the ARI, rightly, gets condemned and ridiculed. James, I’m sorry. Your book deserves much better. It deserves the widest possible readership. Your research is unimpeachable and your achievement admirable. You have redressed serious injustices. But there’s part of the spirit of my initial dismissal that I hold on to—the notion that sometime soon we must move beyond the relitigation of Rand/Branden she said/he said-she did/he did. The important thing about Rand is that she was an “epoch-changing genius.” She’s also very dead—and as Joe Rowlands would say, the epoch is not going to change itself. We who grasp and love Rand’s ideas must get on with the business of injecting them into the rotten, nihilistic culture that swamps us. That is what is most important. Internecine warfare, while necessary and just at times no doubt, deflects us from this, our most urgent task … so the sooner we can put it behind us, the better.

In this regard, I can do no better than quote Rand as quoted by Valliant on the last page of his book:

There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days—the conviction that ideas matter. In one’s youth, that conviction is experienced as a self-evident absolute, and one is unable fully to believe that there are people who do not share it. That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters. And the radiance of that certainty, in the process of growing up, is the best aspect of youth.

Its consequence is the inability to believe in the power or the triumph of evil. No matter what corruption one observes in one’s immediate background, one is unable to accept it as normal, permanent or metaphysically right. One feels: “This injustice, or terror or falsehood or frustration or pain or agony is the exception in life, not the rule.” One feels certain that somewhere on earth—even if not anywhere in one’s surroundings or within one’s reach—a proper, human way of life is possible to human beings, and justice matters.

With PARC, justice to Ayn Rand has been done.

Our challenge remains to bring a proper, human way of life within our reach within our lifetimes.

That is the best way we could honour our late, noble, much-wronged standard-bearer.


( categories: )

Nathaniel Interviwed in 1989 (Judgment Day Tour)

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

Michael Kelly over at So-Called Objectivists Who Lie For A Living found this 1989 interview with Nathaniel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

-NP

it's more complicated

Brant Gaede's picture

If you put what I said against what you say, Lindsay, you might be able to find truth in both without contradiction. If you put up how Rand comported herself with her friends over the years, for instance, you'll find a generous and beneficent person. This doesn't necessarily contradict any of not so good stories. Regardless, my point of view is only a speculative thesis for which some facts might be adduced. Something one might think about if one cares to.

--Brant

Neil

Brant Gaede's picture

Both your critique of PARC and PARC are pretty much now obsolete. Even Lindsay is moving on.

--Brant
you're keeping PARC alive which will only be a weak source of bemusement to a future generation

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

I'm joking, of course. But Valliant's book is mostly made up of stuff such as:

1. Barbara made a mistake about how Rand took her last name.

2. The Brandens threw a surprise party in an effort to "control Rand's context through deception."

3. The Brandens disagree with Rand about libertarianism.

4. Nathaniel doesn't think it was nice for Rand to refer to von Mises as a "bastard."

5. Henry Holzer disagrees with Rand on constitutional interpretation.

Etc. etc. etc.

How this proves that The Passion of Ayn Rand is a "monument to dishonesty' is beyond me.

-Neil

Brant and Neil

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Brant: Your claim that Rand wanted more lies is, disappointingly, the standard Brandroid one, contradicted by what's in her diaries. That Branden had run out of lying fuel is not true either; he continued with some variant of his insidious spin till the end, save for occasions like the YouTube interview I linked to earlier.

Neil:

Don't tell Linz that (I assume) you like surprise parties. Valliant and Linz consider surprise parties particularly evil.

There you go again. Next thing you'll be saying I called PARC "gnat's poo," or that Sam Weaver is James Valliant. Complete fantasy. I have no particular view on surprise parties, though I fancy I'd rather enjoy being surprised. Matter of fact, when I think back, I organised a surprise party for one of my boyfriends once. Please cite where I called surprise parties "evil."

Brant

Neil Parille's picture

Brant,

You write,
_____________________________

Rand continually traduced facts not supporting her story. Hide her affair with Branden. Mis-represent her editorial changes in "We the Living." Tell readers of "Atlas Shrugged" that "no one helped me." All sanctioned and abetted in many ways general and specific by those around her. Such was the world of Ayn Rand. Such is the world of her--not my (or anybody else's frankly) Objectivism. Reality carried away by art--incredibly powerful art. I think Rand would have forgiven Branden anything but the truth. In his case the truth of his lying. She wanted more lies but he had run out of lying fuel. The truth set him free but damaged but she had no intention of ever being free of the world of her great novels.

______________________________

When Barbara said such things, Valliant and Linz denounced her as a liar.

Don't tell Linz that (I assume) you like surprise parties. Valliant and Linz consider surprise parties particularly evil.

-Neil

Well

Brant Gaede's picture

redacted

Brant

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I only met her once and that was quite peculiar.

Well, don't stop there! Smiling

Neil

Brant Gaede's picture

I never knew Rand. I knew of her and saw her in public venues from NBI to the FHF from 1968 on well into the 1970s. I only met her once and that was quite peculiar.

--Brant

Brant

Neil Parille's picture

What years did you know Rand?

Has anyone interviewed you or have you given a written account?

It would nice to read such an account. It would also be great if we had full interviews of Heller, Burns, Barbara, the Archives and J. Walker available.

It would be fascinating to read the full interviews of people like Barbara Weiss, Eloise H, Iris Bell, Ruth Hill, etc.

As a final point, since 2005 (the year of PARC's publication) there have been almost 1600 pages of new material (the bios and 100 Voices). I'm not sure why anyone would think that Valliant's case has gotten any stronger. For example, even the pro-Rand 100 Voices doesn't quote Eloise on Frank's alleged drinking, nor does it claim that Fern Brown lied about seeing Rand getting her name from the RR typewriter.

-Neil Parille

bios

Brant Gaede's picture

I stopped reading both 2009 bios when my first-hand knowledge started conflicting with them. Heller's was secondhand Barbara Branden and Burns', the much more intellectual and better researched, didn't well match up there either to what I had in my head already. I will be going back and finishing Burns, however, when I have time for a slower and detailed annotated reading. She likely deserves a better evaluation.

No, I suspect you'd not have liked Branden very much. But your not liking him and the reason of that, would have been much different than Lindsay's. I don't think Lindsay would have gut-level disliked him--though he might have been neutral--and I think you would have, though likely not greatly. It might have even been not much one way or the other with you. I dunno. Your ever really knowing this is now gone. There are some things I never liked much about Nathaniel myself, but I dislike immensely the idea of no Nathaniel Branden. I dislike it "a whole sky full!"

--Brant

Brant

Neil Parille's picture

I never met Branden and something tells me I probably wouldn't have liked him very much. But he did admit his wrongdoing and apologized for the lives he hurt. I'm not sure what else he could have done.

Certainly it isn't fair to Barbara to tar her biography of Rand with his wrongdoing. Valliant, Linz, Fahy, et al. haven't shown any lies in The Passion of Ayn Rand. Sure, there are mistakes (the typewriter story) and some questionable judgments, but I think it's fair to say it has stood the test of time. The 2009 biographies are good as well.

-Neil Parille

Niel

Brant Gaede's picture

Nathaniel helped mightily to create a context that was more and more insane he had to maintain by more and more lies. That "worked" until it stopped working. "Con man" is too narrow, but in turn to think that there must be a financial consideration is narrower still. There is simply no good single word summing up of NB during those NBI years. The whole situation was extremely complicated and he himself was even more complicated. If it's reduced to morality only then you put both of them into the same metaphorical moral bed back at the beginning even before they literally ended up in bed. It's hard to imagine such intelligent people getting in so far over their heads, but they did. It wasn't Rand, however, that made it worse and worse, especially in the 1960s, it was Branden. To ultimately reduce everything to moral judgment--Rand liked that sort of thing--is simply to leave oneself in too much ignorance. I'm saying this about both you and Lindsay and above all about Valliant's PARC. Pure reductio ad hominem as a bottom line result too much sucks. It's so bad it doesn't even work for Hitler for the same reason. Once you shoot that SOB you try to explain the bastard and where he came from and what made him possible. NB was so much exponentially better--so too Rand--(so too any Tom, Dick and Harry) he gets to be celebrated for the many last decades of his life--even for the NBI years. As I said once before--I don't think here--he was the one true entrepreneur of Objectivism, even libertarianism. He never claimed the credit.

Lindsay's special animus to Barbara Branden got mixed up with PARC's primary focus on Nathaniel Branden creating, IMHO, too much negativity from him to him. Lindsay can claim personal wrong from her to him, even if anyone can debate that. I don't see how he can do the same for her x. The alligator brain is always with us. Lindsay's entitled to his. It's a biological default. You should see what runs around in mine.

--Brant

NB

Brant Gaede's picture

Nathaniel made the interesting but unimportant mistake of referring to a dinner at his and "Devers" home with him and her, Mike Wallace and Ayn Rand. It must have been Barbara and likely in 1959 as Wallace did his AR interview in 1959. I only mention this to indicate the likely date and to clear up any confusion.

--Brant

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

Nathaniel lied about having an affair. That was obviously wrong.

However, I don't think those proves that he was a con man. Contrary to what Sam said below, Branden never admitted that he lied to Rand for monetary reasons.

-Neil

Nathaniel

Lindsay Perigo's picture

If all I knew of Nathaniel was this interview, he'd be one of my many heroes. Who would know from this what a con-man he was (which goes to show how adept a one he was, I suppose!). He deftly demolishes the fallacy of rationalism ("reason is a process of knowledge; it is not itself knowledge"); puts paid to the think clearly/feel deeply dichotomy, and, around 4' 15" is talking about exactly my idea of an authentic person—someone on the level as opposed to a chronic "gamer" and practitioner of ruses and deceptions, including self-deceptions. Magnificent! If only he weren't in practice—all his life, not just the Ayn Rand years—the quintessential inauthenticist!

I had..

Jules Troy's picture

I had a much higher opinion of Objectivism before I ever knew there was an online objectivist community(ies).  

I shrugged.

I take pictures.

?--Brant

Neil Parille's picture

Brant,

I don't know who these two people are. However, I don't think Doherty is making them up.

It's further proof that plenty of people described Rand just like the Brandens did (if not worse).

-Neil

?--Neil

Brant Gaede's picture

Not naming "these people" is just one more reason not to quote Dougherty so why do you?

A "philosophy for living on earth" is a philosophy no Objectivist has any good reason not to have in his or her head right now thanks to Ayn Rand, unless they are intellectual and moral wimps.

Nathaniel Branden did a lot of good for a lot of people starting at least over four decades ago. If he did you no good--okay. Glad you didn't need it, Gregster, and it's too bad anyone needed it, but I sure did. Something about "living on earth."

--Brant

Objectivism . . .

Neil Parille's picture

isn't a "philosophy for living on earth." It hasn't done much good for those involved from what I can tell. Objectivists seem to be a dour lot, with all their denunciations. Consider Dr. Diana. Are people who devote pages to attacking their enemies happy? I'd note, however, that in Ayn Rand Nation G. Weiss was able to find many well-adjusted Objectivists.

In Dougherty's Radicals for Capitalism he quoted two "long time members of her [Rand's] inner circle." One said that "she was the cruelest and most destructive (person) I have ever known." Another said that the idea that Rand had a benevolent sense of life was "the greatest fiction surrounding Ayn Rand." He/she said life with Rand was "abnormal." (page 705.)

He doesn't name these people. I've always wondered who they are.

-Neil

Good Soldier

gregster's picture

What a dignified re-entry you've made. Perhaps after all the water under the bridges we are settling towards a near mutually-accurate perspective. I can place the fallout from the deceptions, or the "affair," on a lower rung of importance. Though I haven't been as near-sighted as to contribute to the Branden shrine.

Edit

That Objectivism was a philosophy for living has been severely damaged by Branden. Hence the salivating of religionists and liberal authors such as Heller. And ant Parille.

well

Brant Gaede's picture

I think, Sam, one way to better critique the Brandens vs Rand, especially before the break, is separately. This puts more weight on Nathaniel than Barbara, which is just. Another thing to consider is the powerful culture created and nurtured by the Brandens and Rand through NBI and the people known as "students of Objectivism" involved therein. It's not so much the Brandens needed their livelihood for financial reasons, though obviously they did (that's profit seeking), but how deeply they were immersed in that culture and how they knew everything was in danger of blowing up, which it did. Nathaniel was ultimately glad he was blown out of there. I don't think Barbara ever stopped regretting it--the end of that culture as such via NBI. And it was Barbara, not Nathaniel, who desired to see Rand at the funeral home. I did. I saw Alan Greenspan there. 900 others also visited. Apparently all were welcome but her and him. (I also went to the burial where David Kelley read "If" as the snow came down in incredibly gigantic flakes.)

No point now for going further into all this by me. I'm not up to it because Nathaniel just died and I fell on my face this morning and I had to get glued back together. My cats did a scan and told me I was okay, but they used their own equipment at the hospital.

--Brant
there is a time for the grace at least of space

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

I never said that you believe PARC is "gnat's poo."

When Valliant and I were mixing it up over whether Barbara made a mistake about the origin of Rand's name, the evil of the Brandens in throwing a surprise party for Rand, etc., I recall you said it was a bunch of gnat's poo. I agree. If I misquoted you and you think these things are significant, then I apologize for misrepresenting you.

Neil

Neil

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Please cite the "gnat's poo" comment you attribute to me.

My view of JV's book is contained in the review at the top of this thread. If you read the review you will see that I applaud the book, and its debunking of Brandenian lies. I do not call the book "gnat's poo." I'd call your scribblings "gnat's poo," and probably have. Perhaps you're confused?

Sam

Neil Parille's picture

I appreciate that you don't have the time to make the A/B comparisons that I did; however, I don't know of anyone (other than Valliant and Fahy) who thinks I have misrepresented his book or the Branden books. Valliant's book is made up of dozens of pieces of trivia such as whether Barbara made a mistake about the origins of Rand's name, whether the Brandens were evil in throwing a surprise party for Rand, whether the Brandens disagree with Rand about libertarianism, etc. As Linz says, it's a bunch of gnat's poo, but it's the gnat's poo that Valliant think makes his case against the Brandens. (And also the diaries - more on that later.)

Remember, Valliant claims the Branden books are "monuments to dishonesty." Barbara's book is 400 pages long. If her book is so dishonest, then it should have been easy for Valliant to identify one big lie every ten pages. That's forty in total. Where are these lies? Really, it shouldn't have been difficult. For example, "Branden quoted Dr. Blumenthal as saying Rand got upset when she misidentified the IV poll for the tree. I called Dr. Blumenthal and he said Branden made it all up."

"However, I really could not say more than this without doing an in-depth side-by-side evaluation of all four books (PAR, PARC and the two versions of Nathaniel Branden's memoir) at a minimum. I imagine I would also have to refer to a multitude of outside texts. " No, there are not a multitude of outside texts. There are just a handful, such as Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult. That's the problem with Valliant's book.

______

Although Valliant claims that he wishes to tell Rand’s “side of the story,” it’s almost always the Brandens’ version of events versus . . . well, no one’s. As a result, PARC focuses on almost exclusively the alleged implausibilities, exaggerations, and discrepancies in the Brandens’ books. For example, since Valliant has no additional evidence about how Rand reacted to the notorious surprise party, he is reduced to claiming that the Brandens attempted to “control Rand’s context through deception.” While this might convince those who consider Rand’s “context” particularly sacrosanct, it is of little value to those of us who like surprise parties or are neutral about this psycho-epistemological issue.

TPJVC, p. 11.
_______

As far as the diaries go, I haven't seen the originals. Valliant says he hasn't rewritten them in the way Harriman rewrote Rand's Journals. I'll take his word for it. But considering all the copying errors in PARC, I don't think we can take them at face value. Valliant is a sloppy and careless writer. He has never explained what efforts he undertook to make sure his transcriptions were correct.

I agree of course that the Brandens lied to Rand (much worse than in the case of Nathaniel). It's important to keep that in mind. However, I don't see any reason to think it was to use Rand as a gravy train. Nathaniel seemed to do much better financially when he moved to California.

My main focus has always been Barbara's book. She interviewed over 200 people, if memory serves me correctly. Jennifer Burns (I think) and Anne Heller (for sure) had access to all these interviews (and more). If Barbara's bio is a bunch of lies, then I think we would have been told by Burns and Heller not to trust it. Heller's bio and to some extent Burns' bio are harder on Rand than Barbara's. Burns said she didn't find any significant mistakes in the Branden accounts.

If you want to discount as things for which Nathaniel and Barbara are only source, then that's fine. It's a reasonable position, although not one I would agree with. (Of course, you'd have to discount their testimony that Rand secured everyone's consent for her affair - they are the only witnesses for that.) However, we still have the testimony of all sorts of people such as the Blumenthals and Bob Hessen who have described a Rand no different than the Brandens.

Simply put, next to Frank (who didn't leave any journals or give any interviews), the Brandens are the people who knew Rand best from '50-'68. You can't write a bio of Rand without using them as a source, however cautiously. (Even Valliant quotes them when it suits his purposes.) But even if you leave them out, you don't get a different Rand.

Neil

Sam W.'s picture

This is going to be long, but in fairness, I've read a lot of your materials over the past few days in re-reading part of your long-form critique and some of your conversations with Valliant. In a broad sense, I'm going to give you my justification for my view of the Brandens, the value of their books and the value of PARC.

I've read parts of your book-length critique and skimmed others. Perhaps more importantly, I have read in their entirety the conversations that you and others have had with James Valliant on this website in the comments on the chapters of PARC that he posted here. I say that this is more important because from reading those 1) I obtained a clearer understanding of the whole context of your criticisms and 2) I was able to see you and Valliant more or less discussing the merit of particular claims of his and those of the Brandens.

After reading all of those conversations, I did mostly agree with Valliant. Valliant himself acknowledged that a few of your factual critiques have merit, and I will acknowledge the possibility that more of them have merit. However, I really could not say more than this without doing an in-depth side-by-side evaluation of all four books (PAR, PARC and the two versions of Nathaniel Branden's memoir) at a minimum. I imagine I would also have to refer to a multitude of outside texts. In the end, after devoting a great deal of time to that pursuit (which I do not intend to do), I would essentially end up with a greater knowledge as to exactly which minutia of PARC contain errors.

I say this last part because that seems to be the theme of most of your criticism: you focus on very specific incidents cited by Valliant as inconsistencies in the Branden books and for the most part do not discuss the big picture. With PARC, I think the big picture is more important than the minutia. This is what I'm going to speak to in the remainder of my post, and I want to make something clear: This is not because I'm conceding to you that Valliant is dishonest or that PARC is riddled with errors or any other such thing. It's because I simply do not have the time, knowledge or time to get the knowledge that I would need to go point-by-point with your various critiques of PARC. Instead, I am addressing the big picture, which you seem to be almost entirely leaving out. Again, this is not a concession to your critique, but an attempt to point out something that I think the critics of PARC tend to miss and which I think is just as important, if not more, in proving the central thesis of that book than Valliant's identification of specific inconsistent or false statements made in the Branden books.

One important thing about PARC is, as Lindsay says in his review above, that it is a prosecutorial book. It's not a biography, it's "The Case Against the Brandens." Because of this, Valliant's primary focus in evaluating PAR is not necessarily in determining if things actually happened as Barbara Branden said. It's to point out where she contradicts herself. Another consequence of this style is that Valliant errs on the side of overkill: basically, he throws everything and the kitchen sink at the Brandens' books. So, if he mistakenly labeled something in PAR as an inconsistency once or twice or even five or six times, there's still an array of inconsistencies and question marks left.

More important when I talk about the big picture of PARC, though, is the fact that Part I—the part that is the focus of your critique— is actually not needed to support a great deal of the actual case against the validity of the account of the Brandens.

For starters, we don’t need PARC at all to establish the truth of the following statements (though Valliant certainly elucidates them in PARC and makes the arguments in their favor clear):
1) Nathaniel Branden deceived Ayn Rand for a long time and Barbara Branden was complicit in this deception for much of this time.
2) Their primary reason for continuing this deception was because they were afraid to lose their relationships with Rand and thus the livelihoods that they had built in large part off of Rand's fame.

These two truths—admitted by both Brandens (and corroborated by Rand in Part II of PARC, or, since we're not using PARC at the moment, in "To Whom It May Concern")—imply another truth: the Brandens were willing to lie and exploit Rand for the benefit of their own careers. This fact, on its own, should tell all scholars that these two are very questionable (or "Highly Dubious," to quote Valliant) sources of information. One of the first things students are taught in advanced placement high school history classes regarding the evaluation of information sources is to evaluate possible biases and not blindly trust sources with significant biases. To use a non-Objectivist example: I would not trust Alexander Hamilton to give a neutral description of his political enemy Thomas Jefferson.

If we also admit Ayn Rand's journals in Part II of PARC as a source, we can learn even more about the nature of Nathaniel Branden's character. Recall that these are Ayn Rand's private journals and that—though we should still look for her personal biases—she had absolutely no reason to lie in them at all. In the journals, we see places where Rand's description of the nature of their psychotherapy sessions contradicts Branden's. It shouldn't be difficult to determine that we should probably trust the private writings of an honest person instead of the public writings of an admitted liar where these two conflict. From the journals, then, we learn that even after Nathaniel Branden came clean about some of his deception, he continued to distort events to make Rand look unreasonable. Valliant enumerates the many contradictions between Rand's and the Brandens' (mostly Nathaniel's) accounts of the events surrounding the break in the section on pages 193-215 in PARC.

Essentially, without even looking at Part I of PARC, we can establish that the Brandens are not very good sources for biographical information on Ayn Rand because of their admitted past dishonesty and clear motive to lie, and that particularly Nathaniel has been shown to be dishonest in his memoir by its contradictions with the private accounts of a more honest primary source (that is, Rand herself). So, what is the value of Part I? Part I is an evidence gathering venture to document that the Brandens were definitely liars in their books, not just people who we should consider highly likely to be liars. It is also the first of what will hopefully be many attempts to call out the characterizations of Rand written by her enemies where they are blatantly untrue or highly questionable.

This is the place of Part I in the greater context of PARC and the Branden issue. While I am inclined to believe that a significant portion—if not necessarily all—of Valliant's case against the Brandens consists of valid critiques, even if they aren’t, many of PARC's main theses hold. If only half of what Valliant calls out as dishonest about the Branden books in Part I is in fact dishonest, the case against the Brandens is still overwhelming and we can safely say that Valliant's thesis that they are useless to historians is proved. If absolutely none of Part I is at all valid, it's still true that the Brandens are far too biased and admittedly dishonest to be of much use as biographical sources—and the evidence that they distorted the truth from Rand's journals in Part II exists to back this up. Fortunately for Valliant, I would estimate that much more than 50% of Part I is valid. Judging from his discussions with you, I, as an outside observer, would say almost all of it is, and therefore that the field of Rand biography needs to repudiate the Brandens as sources once and for all. My purpose here was to attempt to remind everyone of the broader context and point out that even if PARC is riddled with errors... Valliant is still basically right about the Brandens and their books.

-------------------------------------

PS: I want to add this postscript as a message to anyone who is observing, possibly even years after this is written like I did with Neil Parille and James Valliant's debates: Even if you don't trust James Valliant any further than you can throw him, I strongly advise you to read Part II of PARC. In that section, Ayn Rand not only gives her private account of the break but also reveals the psychology of Nathaniel Branden. Rand, acting as Branden's psychotherapist, tugged at a few loose threads in his psychology and, over time, unravelled the whole mystery to reveal Branden as a naked emperor. In addition to revealing Branden's dishonesty, she also found the hidden (seemingly even to him) rationalism that plagued his attitude towards love and sex, and demonstrated its errors. For this reason, Ayn Rand's journals in Part II of PARC are a tremendous value to anyone who is interested in the break or in the error of rationalism as it applies to romance—or even to anyone interested in gaining a greater understanding of Ayn Rand's methods of philosophical and psychological analysis. I highly recommend reading them first-hand.

Lindsay

Sam W.'s picture

I'll do my best to keep posting, but some of my lengthier ones, like my forthcoming reply to Mr. Parille, require a somewhat significant time commitment. I also again want to thank everyone for their kind words.

As I'm sure you know, the tone of that "obituary" is unfortunately representative of the tone taken in almost all discussions of Ayn Rand in contemporary media. And though they didn't boldly write this sort of garbage themselves, the Brandens gave these people the ammunition they needed in the form of a variety of falsehoods and half-truths. And I think it's fairly safe to say that they knew exactly what they did.

Yup

Jules Troy's picture

Sam you are indeed a breath of fresh air.  

Remarkable

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Outstandingly strong thinking and writing, Sam! I hope you're on the side of the good guys.

is as it seems

Brant Gaede's picture

Neil,

Sam's voice is too young and fresh and intelligent for sock-puppetry. It doesn't reflect the scars of maturity.

I've never read your 81-page critique of PARC for I read the book and my own critique is enough. It's an adversarial lawyer's brief with some really nasty twists. I have no intention of being as wrapped up in that book and its author the way you had to be to write such a detailed analysis. I'm afraid I would wake up screaming. (Edit, this is not a response to your just previous post.)

--Brant

Sam - The Book You Are Defending

Neil Parille's picture

Sam,

If you don't have the time to read my critique of PARC, you might want to check this out. It's a blatant example of Valliant's incompetency, if not dishonesty.

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

-Neil

The Telegraph Obituary

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

There are numerous inaccuracies and mistakes in judgment in it, but I don't think they have anything to do with the Branden books.

Its not really an obituary of NB, but an attack on Rand.

Neil

Sam

Neil Parille's picture

May well be who he says he is.

Certainly comparing him to Valliant and Fahy was wrong on my part. He is much more intelligent and articulate than they are.

Sam

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Would you post every day several times, please? I just love reading your prose. You probably don't realise how refreshing a deviation from the norm of Generation Airhead you are!

You wrote, with astonishing perspicacity:

Though I was born long after "To Whom It May Concern"—in fact long after Ayn Rand's lifetime—the events discussed in that letter, in the Branden books and in PARC affect me and the movement going forward. As Valliant details in the beginning of PARC and as I observed long before I even heard of that book, the Branden books have affected how the outside world views Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The first well-known biography of Ayn Rand was written by someone with an obvious motive to include fabrications or distortions of events in Rand's life or of her personality. Any such falsehoods that create a negative perspective of Ayn Rand cause unnecessary harm to the advancement of Objectivism.

Objectivism, in the public mind, is associated almost solely with Ayn Rand. It is also popularly believed that Ayn Rand ran what amounted to a cult. Objectivism is regularly compared in popular media with Scientology. Now, this comparison is obviously nonsense, and Objectivism can be supported by rational arguments, but the more people associate it with a cult, the less likely people are to give Objectivists a chance to make those arguments.

Murray Rothbard is of course partially to blame for this perception, but so are the Brandens. The whole idea pushed in their books that Ayn Rand ran a cult while excommunicating anyone who disagreed with her aesthetic tastes and yelling at students who did not immediately understand her philosophy is tremendously harmful to public perception of Objectivism and therefore to the advancement of the philosophy. That's why PARC still matters. It's not as though the Brandens' deaths caused their books or the public perception caused by them to pop out of existence. If their representations of Ayn Rand are distorted—which Valliant shows to be the case—it's important that this can readily be demonstrated.

Here's an example of the garbage that is now part of the folklore thanks to the Brandens, all of which is dealt to in PARC. Brandroids, hang your heads in shame. An ill-wisher sent me this link in cackling glee. Cackling gleefully in their attempted posthumous revenge against Ayn Rand is what the Brandens did. Cowardly filth.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new...

To reply to everyone:

Sam W.'s picture

Lindsay,

Thank you for your kind words about my writing. I agree that Branden was evil—I did not mean to convey that he was just errant in his thinking and nothing more. I do think that he could have ended up differently—a man of his intelligence who had some kind of draw to Rand and her writing at first could have been a very good man. I meant to posit in my last post that perhaps if Branden had acknowledged his rationalism and worked to remove it from his thinking, maybe he would have been able to truly understand Objectivism and choose to not act in the malicious way he did. However, as we know, he didn't, and held on to a faulty mindset—and later, in part because of the error of that mindset, chose to do evil.

I do agree with you about the prevalence of condemnation of rational anger in the Brandens' writings. Particularly notable, I think, is the account of Barbara Branden's about Ayn Rand's TV appearance where she became moderately angry when an audience member asked a rude and dishonest question, which Branden referred to as, if memory serves, a "disaster" (or something akin got that at any rate). I agree with you that opposition to rational, justified anger is certainly an attitude to watch out for in the Objectivist movement. That seems to be an instance of Objectivist-leaning people unconsciously having problems with the mind-body and reason-emotion dichotomies.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Brant,

Thank you, as well, for the compliments on my writing. I really do appreciate it. I will tell you why I, as a member of a younger generation, care about the issue of the Brandens (as a side focus of my primary one, which is, as you advise, Objectivism).

Though I was born long after "To Whom It May Concern"—in fact long after Ayn Rand's lifetime—the events discussed in that letter, in the Branden books and in PARC affect me and the movement going forward. As Valliant details in the beginning of PARC and as I observed long before I even heard of that book, the Branden books have affected how the outside world views Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The first well-known biography of Ayn Rand was written by someone with an obvious motive to include fabrications or distortions of events in Rand's life or of her personality. Any such falsehoods that create a negative perspective of Ayn Rand cause unnecessary harm to the advancement of Objectivism.

Objectivism, in the public mind, is associated almost solely with Ayn Rand. It is also popularly believed that Ayn Rand ran what amounted to a cult. Objectivism is regularly compared in popular media with Scientology. Now, this comparison is obviously nonsense, and Objectivism can be supported by rational arguments, but the more people associate it with a cult, the less likely people are to give Objectivists a chance to make those arguments.

Murray Rothbard is of course partially to blame for this perception, but so are the Brandens. The whole idea pushed in their books that Ayn Rand ran a cult while excommunicating anyone who disagreed with her aesthetic tastes and yelling at students who did not immediately understand her philosophy is tremendously harmful to public perception of Objectivism and therefore to the advancement of the philosophy. That's why PARC still matters. It's not as though the Brandens' deaths caused their books or the public perception caused by them to pop out of existence. If their representations of Ayn Rand are distorted—which Valliant shows to be the case—it's important that this can readily be demonstrated.

So the reason why I studied this topic was, firstly, to understand whether these accounts were accurate. Once I came to the conclusion that they were not, my purpose in continuing to discuss this topic is to help advance Objectivism by being armed with the truth that is needed to dispel the myths of cultism and other such distortions or falsehoods.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Neil,

Actually, I'm 18. I hadn't updated my biography in several months, but now I think you'll find it to be up to date.

You are welcome to believe that I am James Valliant (or Casey Fahy) if you so desire, but that is not the case. I am not going to do something outlandish in an attempt to prove to you that I am who I say I am, and not, you know, James Valliant, because you probably won't believe me anyway. It's your decision to believe some arbitrary claim instead of assuming that I am being honest.

I will say this, though: If you really believe that I am James Valliant in disguise, your opinion of him is lower—and more unfoundedly low—than I would have previously believed.

Neil

Jules Troy's picture

Wouldn't that be "ironic"?

Sam Is Not I Am

Neil Parille's picture

I don't think Sam is a 17year old Deep Thinker.

Maybe's he is Valliant or a Valliant hack like Fahy

Branden Rand

Brant Gaede's picture

Hi, Sam. I'm in awe of your writing ability, lucidity and rationality. I was a friend of Barbara Branden and friendly with Nathaniel who was also my psychotherapist in the upper mid-1970s. I read Atlas Shrugged over 50 years ago and saw these people and Rand and Peikoff at NBI. I was in NYC in 1968 when things blew up. I saw Rand at the Ford Hall Forum year after year after the break and in some other places, though I only met her once.

Rather than agree and disagree, evaluate and what have you with you about what you've written, I'd suggest a primary focus on Objectivism going forward, in what I hope will be a long, rewarding, happy and productive life, as opposed to these people qua people. Nathaniel dying pretty much ends the era he and Rand were so prominent in even after they broke up, so we have this flash of Internet interest. Regardless, in a few years some of your conclusions might shift somewhat as you learn even more about these people and people and things generally.

--Brant

Sam

Lindsay Perigo's picture

My congratulations also to you, again, for the eloquent literacy and precocious wisdom of your posts. One thing, though—Branden was not merely "rationalistic"—he was evil, in a Rasputin kind of way that mesmerised even Rand. Of course he was not as evil as Kant, in spite of his best efforts, but evil he was—not just prone to errors in his thinking. No one seems to get his most egregious evil, which I pointed out on the other Branden thread: he quite deliberately set out to disarm legitimate anger. He most certainly contributed significantly to the currently fashionable, politically correct theology that anger is never justified, even as he reserved unto himself, as did Babs, the right to get angry without justification. Therein lies the disarming of the good. I hope someone does get this eventually. You're a very likely candidate, Sam! Smiling

Olivia and gregster,

Sam W.'s picture

Thank you for your kind words. I do my best to write well and appreciate it when people compliment me on that.

Gregster, I agree that Branden was exceedingly immoral for deceiving Ayn Rand while seeking her counsel over the course of several years. However, I don't think he reaches the levels of Kant, because Kant obfuscated the nature of reason and reality in his widely read works, which equates to an attack on not just the lives and minds of one man or a few men, but on those of all men.

I was, of course, being as charitable as possible to Branden by referring to "rationalism" as his sole issue. I think his rationalism did lead to his other issues, though. One of the major themes that I really focused on in reading PARC was the fact that Branden's rationalistic understanding of Objectivism—putting Rand in place of God and Objectivism in place of the Bible—caused him to repress any emotions of his that disagreed with the Objectivist ideas he was trying to hold explicitly in his head. As Rand put it in the journal entry quoted on page 205 in PARC:

...at 14, reading The Fountainhead, he might have recognized some similarity between some of his own feelings and Peter Keating's. This would have terrified him—since all of his conscious mind and better premises admired Roark and he wanted to emulate Roark. His solution was to repress the Keating element fiercely—and to make himself into a Roark by "will power"...

Valliant says that

By the end, Rand would see Branden, not as an independent John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, but as the opportunistic social climber Peter Keating from The Fountainhead, and a Keating who refused to admit his own flaws to himself.

This is of course is not to limit Branden's faults to rationalism, but to illustrate that this is the error in his thinking that led to a worldview where he felt the need to hurt Ayn Rand for his own personal gain. Because of the nature of his deceit, the honesty of Ayn Rand and the benevolence with which she acted towards him, I agree that his is beyond the "garden variety" of immorality. But given the fundamental nature of Kant's dishonesty (that he deceived people about the very nature of the mind and reality) and the magnitude of its effects, I would assign Kant a lower rung of the metaphorical Hell.

Sataniel Branden

Neil Parille's picture

Yes, it was quite wrong for him to lie to Rand for at least 4 years, But if Rand has the MRI mind that clown prince Valliant said she has, she would have realized it. On some level she probably did.

And Rand defamed Branden by falsely accusing him of stealing frrom her.

Plenty of blame to go around for these two.

The fallen pillar

gregster's picture

Is it correct to term the Brandens’ deception of Rand as immorality—an immorality which exceeds a normal garden variety to rival the depths of Kant, and similar anti-heroes? It certainly could be. It probably is. Nathaniel, in particular, was responsible for an ongoing deception for which he sought Rand’s counsel, all the while fabricating its nature.
In his The Moral Revolution in Atlas Shrugged: “Man is free to act against the requirements of his nature, to reject his means of survival: his mind—but he is not free to escape the consequence: misery, anxiety, destruction.” That great book’s refrain: “Man the rational being has found his spokesman and defender, and has been released from his moral underground. That is the imperishable achievement of Ayn Rand.”
For an individual of his intelligence, armed with an intimate knowledge of Objectivism, to wilfully act as he did proves a malevolent streak for which “rationalism” is too kind a description.

I enjoyed reading your posts here too Sam.

Thank you Sam...

Olivia's picture

for being so literate. It's a pleasure to read your posts.

My life is at stake?

Sam W.'s picture

You and I interpret James Valliant's numerous debates here very differently. I typically found him to be more honest than his adversaries: he was willing to admit his errors—as he did about a number of small factual inaccuracies in PARC—and he lucidly explained his arguments, showing all his work. I found that those conversations often went in unproductive circles, but out of no fault of Mr. Valliant's. As for his mind and his soul, I think James Valliant was noble for using fact and reason to right what he saw as a grave wrong done to a great value. I appreciate your concern for my brain and soul, but James Valliant has done no harm to me. I came to the topic of the Brandens as a neutral truth seeker, and came out of it believing Rand and Valliant—the two of whom together make an overwhelmingly convincing argument in PARC.

I would also not be one to criticize anyone for participating infrequently on an online forum. Some people choose to dedicate time to that, others do not. I find that I often get too caught up in other matters to remember to continue replying to threads online. That's no insult to anyone who either does or does not—it's just a matter of personal preference. I say Valliant gets credit for dealing with criticisms of his book at length, even if he did not participate as often as others on non-PARC topics.

I have to disagree on the subject of 4AynRandFans—they have a restrictive commenting policy but I do not see the leaders of the site as at all malicious. ObjectivismOnline is a grab bag that seems to consist of a lot of people who are either not Objectivist sympathizers or who are not well-versed in Objectivism, and with a few exceptions I don't find much of value there.

What you said about always being truth-seekers is certainly true, and I think agreed upon by most of the people you are condemning. But that does not preclude drawing a line or choosing a side when such action is called for. To use an extreme example, the action of taking a side on the issue of Islamic terrorism is certainly called for and necessary. So it's easy to say that you're not a line-drawer when we talk about issues within the Objectivist community, but in reality, anyone on the side of objective truth has to take sides when it is called for. In my view it is called for in this instance as well, though certainly not in the same way as in the instance of Islamic extremism.

I also think it's fair to portray all of the good and all of the bad in both Rand and Branden. And I won't deny that there's good in Branden—The Psychology of Self Esteem is a good work—and I will say right now that I absolutely disagree with anyone who says that he was as bad as Kant or any such thing as that. I do think he was dishonest, and I do think PARC showed that, but I think a big part of that was his failure to deal with his rationalism. I don't know if you've read PARC, but Valliant, using Rand's personal journals in many places, makes the case that Branden had a major problem with rationalism which is what led to his dishonesty in the end.

What I will say, though, is that to acknowledge that there was good and bad in both Rand and Branden does not mean neglecting the fact that, in Rand, the good significantly outweighed the bad, and that, in Branden, the bad significantly outweighed the good. When we look at both these figures, we simply cannot ignore the fact that Branden deceived Rand for years on end and then wrote a memoir after her death designed to harm her reputation. As Valliant demonstrates.

Kyrel

Jules Troy's picture

You said it much better than I (as always

Yes, But

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Sam -- You make many good points. Valliant did indeed debate the somewhat narrow issue of his book, on this one site, for a relatively long time -- albeit not very intelligently or honestly. But he's a rare one among the cultists and that was a unique event. Valliant certainly didn't discuss issues in general, like everyone else on Solo Passion, nor have anything like an open mind, proper spirit, or noble soul. His humanity and decency was almost always missing as he pitilessly sought to brain-wash and soul-blacken innocent and almost defenseless young people like you. Are you sure that he and the Randroids didn't succeed? Your life is at stake here.

As for 4AynRandFans and ObjectivismOnline, I've been illegitimately banned there countless times, and haven't visited them in the past few years, so I take your word for what's going on there. But a leopard doesn't change its spots. Their loathsome culture and sense of life surely maintains. I call them vermin and there isn't the slightest chance in hell I'm wrong to so name, and morally judge, them. I have more virtue in my pinkie.

As for "choosing a side" or "drawing a line," I haven't done that on this issue, nor on any issue in the philosophical universe, nor will I ever. I'm on my own side, as well as that of (objective, absolute) truth. Anyone who can assist me in that pursuit, even the wretched monsters and destroyers of pseudo-Objectivist cultdom, I listen to and learn from. But when they morally fail, as they usually do, I'm going to note that too. Reality never gives me a moment of rest, so I'm never going to give one to any of you. You people need to be truth-seekers and truth-finders forever.

I attempt to accurately perceive and portray all of the good and all of the bad of both Rand and Branden, without fear or favor, without prejudice or interest, and to update and improve my information as rapidly as possible.

Life is beautiful. But it's best when your mind and soul are rational, individualistic, and free. Don't let the zombies eat your brain, and don't let the vampires steal your soul.

Well my own position

Jules Troy's picture

Well my own position on PARC, the Brandens etc is who gives a fuck.  AR dealt with him.  She got hurt, but she was in a relationship with a married man.  Any married guy will lie.  Shit happens.  None of it furthered objectivism.

Critics and free discussion

Sam W.'s picture

From what I've seen on the archives of this website, James Valliant stood in for months, maybe even years defending PARC. Yeah, he's not around now, but can you expect him to stay around indefinitely to deal with everyone's objections to his book? PARC was first published in 2005. It's been nine years. How much of Mr. Valliant's life would you ask him to dedicate to debating internet critics? As far as I'm concerned, PARC was an excellent exoneration of Ayn Rand and criticism of the Brandens, and Valliant did as much as or more than I would expect any author to do in addressing criticisms of it. I don't see how his or anyone else's arguments have been "routinely crushed" here. And I don't see how Objectivist Living has a "policy of semi-openness and semi-freedom" since it says in that website's rules that "Branden bashing is not tolerated," which severely limits the ability of supporters of PARC to speak in favor of it. Meanwhile, I don't know how long it's been since you've looked at any of "the verminous fake-Objectivist sites" that you name, but 4AynRandFans is practically dead, and every single comment on the Nathaniel Branden thread on Objectivism Online is in praise of Branden.

Honestly, no one has really discussed the issue of the Brandens in years except for a brief flare-up right now and a brief flare-up when Barbara Branden died. I think the lines have been drawn by this point and anyone who was going to read PARC and give Valliant a chance to make Ayn Rand's case has done so, and everyone has chosen a side. I know I have.

Olivia

Neil Parille's picture

PARC was "brilliant"? I guess that's why 2009 biographies ignored it (except for Rand's diaries).

Seriously, the Brandens' throwing a surprise party for Rand, Barbara making a mistake about how Rand got her name, etc. somehow proves the Brandens are liars? As Linz said, Valliant's book is just a collection of gnat's pooh.

-Neil Parille

Sissyboy Jimmy and Friends

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Jules -- All of the cultists refuse to debate. All of them pussy out, turn tail, and run. Not just Valliant. They reject free discussion on principle. Yes, they pitifully claim they don't wish to "sanction evil." But the shining, obvious truth is they can't refute this "evil," and this real Objectivism, because it isn't evil. Their poor arguments get routinely crushed on Solo Passion, Rebirth of Reason, Objectivist Living, and everywhere else that has a debate and discussion policy of semi-openness and semi-freedom. It's amazing that they last as long as they do in their rare forays on Solo Passion, Rebirth of Reason, and Objectivist Living. The current zombie population there, it's worth noting, seems to be zero. Hilarious! Even facing off against mostly low-quality critics, who don't know or care how corrupt and rotten they are personally, they can't remotely bear up psychologically/spiritually, nor win out intellectually. These religiosos "discuss" the issues on closely-censored forums only. Only on the pathetic loser sites like Objectivism on Line, 4 Ayn Rand Fans, the Harry Binswanger List, NoodleFood, etc. Only the verminous fake-Objectivist sites.

Olivia

Jules Troy's picture

Yeah well it seems to me he just used this site to flog his book and then..left.

NB books had far more positive impact on many of us regardless of his personal life.

Jules..

Olivia's picture

that's harsh!

PARC was a brilliant defense of Rand and a worthy take-down of the lying, canniving Brandens. James Valliant will always be a hero to me because of it.

Dear James

Jules Troy's picture

Have a nice cup of "go fuck yourself".

Valliant is "his own man"?

Neil Parille's picture

Valliant is not working to an agenda-ridden Branden-bashing brief drawn up by the Ayn Rand Institute. This is not a belated arousal of the orthodoxy via a stooge. Valliant is his own man.

Linz, you can't be serious.

In PARC, Valliant said that Babara should have given the reasons for her split with the Smiths. Kay Smith was producing Rand's play Night of January 16th. She allowed an actor to change one line in one of the last performances of the play. Rand heard about it and became irate and excommunicated Smith.

Valliant called what Smith did a "systematic and personal betrayal of" of Rand.

Thanks to Jennifer Burns, we now know that Leonard Peikoff has permitted or authorized the rewriting of 6 of Rand's posthumously published works, including her Journals.

Valliant not only refuses to criticize Peikoff but tacitly defends him.

And if Valliant is his own man, why has he abandoned this independent Objectivist site? It looks like the only reason he ever came here was to push his book.

Here you can find Clown Prince Valliant defending the rewriting of Rand's material.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R...

-Neil

Very Brief Reply

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Lindsay writes:

"Valliant is not working to an agenda-ridden Branden-bashing brief drawn up by the Ayn Rand Institute. This is not a belated arousal of the orthodoxy via a stooge. Valliant is his own man."

This is all news to me. Who on the planet is a bigger cultist than Valliant? Who had a bigger agenda, or was more of an unthinking basher, without a hint of desire to search for the truth in the various contradictory Rand/Branden claims? Who is more a de facto slave of ARI? How is Valliant not the epitome of a stooge (and buffoon, doofus, hack, drone, hachet man, walking cliché, etc.)? Who is less of a man of any type, not just his own? Who could ever be more of a book-writing zombie -- more of a moral and spiritual insect?

The zenith of evil comes, not from those who are outrageously prejudiced and tell incredible lies, but from those who have no interest whatsoever in the truth. Those who are indifferent to truth per se. When I first read To Whom It May Concern (1968) I desperately wanted to believe Rand. I made every possible effort, that I was capable of, to not see reality. But even with not reading Branden's rebuttal (which I didn't know existed, since the religiosos kept so silent) for 20 years I was able to recognize terrible lies when I read them.

Branden indeed may have committed moral errors (beyond being a horrific cultist) in his personal and professional relationship with Rand. But her account of their dispute gave us no idea what they were.

I care about the theories and ingenious intellectual insights of Rand and Branden much more than their personal dispute. Still, I'm curious about the latter somewhat. I'd love to have an even slightly impartial observer gain access to both persons' sets of private papers and see what they can dig up. In sifting for the truth, and weighing the different conflicting claims, it's not humanly possible for another evaluator to do a worse job than Valliant.

PARC 2.0

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

A couple of weeks ago Valliant called into Amy Peikoff's radio show. He said he was working on a revised version of PARC, but it won't be out until his book on the New Testament is out (which has been promised for years).

PARC is a joke. None of its claims have been accepted by Burns or Heller.

If the Branden books were "monuments of dishonesty" as Jim claims, why couldn't Peikoff find a competent historian to "defend" Rand?

Neil

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

I have no desire to defend the Brandens. I had only a few dozen email exchanges with Barbara and maybe 1 or 2 with Nathaniel. Barbara wrote a good biography of Rand which has stood the test of time.

Valliant made dozens of errors and has admitted only a few.

Speaking of Valliant, his allegiance is not to Ayn Rand but to Leonard Peikoff. He defends (or at least refuses to criticize) Peikoff for allowing Rand's posthumous material to be rewritten by Mayhew, et al. I have a higher regard for Ayn Rand than does Valliant.

Neil

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I regret to report—actually, I don't—that I've no intention of reading your 81-page critique. You admitted to me long ago that you are a humanity-diminisher, which means you're the perfect person to be the stooge for the Brandens that you are, and a perfect comrade-in-arms for the O-Lying Brandroid types: postmodernists who worship Sun Ra and other such filth (and pollute the minds of youngsters as they do so). Knock yourself out; it's a free world (or once was) and this is a free forum (paid for by me). But please don't expect me to take you seriously. You refuse to look at the Big Picture. I say again: "Life on the level: the Brandens??!!" Valliant's errors, which he owned up to, were inconsequential in the scheme of things. He showed Rand to be noble and the Brandens ignoble; there's the nub of it, which I fully expect you, being in such thrall to ignobleness, to evade till your dying day.

The Passion of James Valliant's Criticism

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

I wrote an 81 page critique of Valliant's errors in 2008.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/9421...

I believe you said that prior to writing your review you had not not done the type of A/B comparisons that I did. Now that it has been done, I don't see how your positive review can stand. As you know, both Burns and Heller reject most of Valliant's claims.

-Neil

Gnat's Poo

Neil Parille's picture

Linz,

I was just trying to be clever.

I believe you said that all the points I made in TPJVC amounted to "gnat's poo." However, the things I took issue with are the very things that Valliant bases his criticism of theBrandens. For example many of Valliant's points such as Barbara made a mistake about the origin of Rand's name, the Brandens threw a surprise party for Rand, Barabara's failure to include the reasons for the split with Kay Smith, etc. are trivial. The things he says that might effect the credibility of the books are misrepresented by Valliant.

Neil

I reprise this ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... since one of Barbara Branden's defenders on another thread claims I dismissed Valliant's book as "gnat poo." It should be clear from this review that I did no such thing. Rather, I praised it as "a stark reminder of a litany of unconscionable deceits." I am not a fan of James' prosecutor's approach (the same juvenilism as demonstrated by another lawyer on the JFK thread—is this a lawyer thing?!) as I make clear—and I am not a fan of James' latter-day retreat from combat in favour of the babble of banality that is Faecesbook; but I acknowledge that he has turned the received wisdom about Rand upside down.

Such "wisdom" should never have been "received," and was so only because of the ludicrous head-in-sand approach to Barbara's book adopted by Peikoff, Schwartz, et al: something that Valliant, ironically, was never prepared to admit.

The main point is, the Brandens were low-life "operators"—and the fact that one of them has died should not blind us to her, or their, ignobleness. Objectivism is for noble souls—and the Brandens that ain't. Hate to break the news to the Brandroids, but that's the truth of it. "Life on the level," said Rand. "Life on the level," the Brandens??!!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.