Reprised—Betraying the self. Betraying a heroine.

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Wed, 2006-02-01 07:35

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? - Mark 8:36

What makes someone give up their soul? In the decade after the publication of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand was at the very top of her game and she began preparing another, final, novel, To Lorne Dieterling, in which she hoped to dramatise the answer to that very question. Unfortunately for all of the fans of Rand’s earlier novels, a real life drama got in the way.

The novel’s basic theme, she wrote in her first notes on the new-book-to-be, is “the story of a woman who is totally motivated by love for values—and how one maintains such a state when alone in an enemy world.” The task she set herself was to show “what it means to ‘live for one’s own sake’—shown not on a social-political scale, but in men’s personal lives… [to] show the manner in which men betray their values, and show the results… The issue, ‘to think or not to think,’ takes actual form, existentially and psychologically as the issue: ‘To value or conform.’” In 1964, she clarified the theme in her notes as: “Loyalty to values, as a sense of life.” [Italics are all Rand’s own.]

It was a book that millions of her fans were never to read. It was never completed. Her notes for it run through discussions of the various kinds of value-betrayers she identified—the ”above-zero” types including the idealist-aspirer—the ‘Byronic’ idealist—the ‘glamorizer’; and also the below-zero types: the cynic—the Babbitt, or human ballast—the ‘Uncle Ed’ type of power-luster, who in actuality wants nothing at all—the presumptuous mediocrity who wants the unearned.

The notes end in 1966. Ironically, by then, she had some real life dramas to sort out that parallel the theme and her notes, and the characters that she was mapping out for her novel: a real-life betrayal of values on such a scale that she would spend the next two years trying to unravel it. The unravelling of that betrayal can be read in Ayn Rand’s own Journals, a poor substitute for the book they now have to replace.

The Journals form Part II of a book by author James Valliant—a San Diego prosecuting attorney—that examines the monstrous duplicity of her biographers, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, across almost the entire eighteen years of their time as associates of Rand. It is impossible both to admire Ayn Rand and to read this book unmoved. Valliant the attorney is out to convict, but Valliant the author makes abundantly plain—well beyond reasonable doubt—that Nathaniel Branden exploited Rand sexually and romantically, and that both Brandens exploited her professionally and emotionally, and did so consciously and fraudulently. To this day the Brandens continue with the deception, only now with us as dupes.

To put their story in a nutshell, in order to advance themselves by association with Rand they pretended to be what they were not, and in the end they both got burned by it. All else is obfuscation.

The scale of their duplicity is vast: it stretches almost from the time they first met Rand to the time of her death, and extends even after that with biographies and memoirs published after her passing that, as Valliant shows conclusively, are mired in contradiction and embroidered with tissues of self-serving lies. Rand was and still is a meal-ticket for both Branden, B., and Branden, N.; they have both done their best to consume her for their ends, and to dishonestly denigrate the philosophy and the woman they once claimed to represent.

It now seems clear that neither ever fully understood or accepted the philosophy of Objectivism. To first build and then save their own reputations they took to lying about themselves, then to lying about Rand to save themselves, and at all times distorting Objectivism. Writing in her biography The Passion of Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden says that Rand used psychology like “an Inquisitor might use the rack”; Nathaniel Branden’s memoirs suggest that Rand was literally insane on the subject of himself; both Brandens suggested that after their falling-out with her in 1968, Rand was moved only by a desire to see Nathaniel Branden dead. All these and similar claims are shown by Valliant to be utterly self-serving fabrications.

It was not ‘Rand the Inquisitor’ that was torturing these two; it was their own inability to maintain their lies in the face of reality—of trying to be the people they claimed to Rand to be in order to worm their way into Rand’s esteem. In Branden N.’s much quoted and widely-circulated ‘Benefits & Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand’ (an MP3 download of which still features on his website’s front page for the price of just $9.95) he complains how Objectivism encourages both ‘repression’ and ‘moralizing’; yet as Valliant and Rand’s Journals show all too clearly it was neither Objectivism nor Rand that caused the Brandens’ own confessed repressions—indeed Rand had for at least two years been encouraging Branden N. to de-repress his manufactured emotions—it was their own attempts to fake reality. As Valliant says:

Objectivism was never a description of reality for Branden [N.], it was a ‘theory’ disconnected from acting—except the act that he was putting on for Rand. Objectivism was entirely disconnected from everything else in Branden’s life… The Branden’s blame Objectivism and Rand for ‘making’ them [repress and] lie so much… [but] Branden is here confusing what ‘Objectivism demands’ in the abstract with what he had been claiming about himself to Rand in particular. Whether Branden was ever a ‘traitor to his values’ depends, of course, on the nature of his actual values.

Branden N.’s whole life with Rand was an act. In attempting to fake reality as he did, the ‘repression’ and ‘moralizing’ he claims to the inexorable hazards of Objectivism can in fact be seen—not as hazards of Objectivism—but as the hazards of trying to live a lie. Branden B’s nervous breakdown, dramatised in the shabby film of her Rand biography as due to Rand’s intransigence, can be seen instead as all Barbara’s own work. And Branden N.’s own repression, his emotional autism, and the claimed dogmatism he still claims to bedevil Objectivism were not in fact endemic to Rand’s philosophy at all, but were personal prisons of his own making. 

What was not allowing the Brandens to eat their cake and have it too was neither Objectivism’s rigidity nor Rand’s “intellectual authoritarianism," as they have both claimed since, but reality. They repressed their “true selves” not in order to “live up to the alleged ideals of Objectivism” but so they could misrepresent themselves to Rand as something they weren’t in order to claim a value they hadn’t earned. Claiming otherwise as they have done since is to hear the whining of small children at the denial and exposure of their unrealistic whims.

Branden B. whines for example that Rand’s authoritarianism required her “to tear out of myself my passionate response to Thomas Wolfe’s novels”—to “repress her true artistic tastes”—yet as Valliant shows, many of Rand’s associates including Alan Greenspan, Alan Blumenthal, Leonard Peikoff and Mary Ann Sures all had artistic tastes at odds with Rand’s, yet rather than repressing them they were simply honest with Rand and with themselves. (Note too that in answer to a recent question of my own, Branden B. conceded “[Rand] thoroughly detested the music of Wagner. But for reasons I can only speculate about, she never objected to my love for it”). So much for Rand’s much-discussed ‘artistic fascism’—it’s clear what Rand was after in her associates was not dishonest agreement, but honest analysis.

Meanwhile, Branden N. whines in chorus with his ex-wife’s bleatings that Rand “was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon”—fields of charlatanism Branden has since begun to plough all-too enthusiastically (see for example his work with and endorsements of mystic philosopher-psychologist Ken Wilber—“paradigmatic” Branden called him). Rather than argue for these misbegotten notions at the time, like a coward and a flake he repressed his desire to do so; instead of blaming himself for dishonesty and cowardice he blamed Rand for her “rigidity” and “dogmatism.” He concludes his carefully worded self-justification in ‘Benefits and Hazards’ with the comment:

Would I be giving this presentation if Ayn Rand were still alive? Although I can’t answer with certainty, I am inclined to say: No, I wouldn’t… In view of the disgraceful lies that she spread about me at the time of our break, in view of her efforts to destroy me, to ruin my reputation and career—which is a story I do not care to get into here—I would not have wanted to do anything that would benefit her directly while she was still alive.

Cowardly, dishonest—and vindictive too it seems, even fourteen years after Rand found him out as a phony. The fact is that neither his presentation nor his ex-wife’s book nor his own memoirs could have been published while Rand was alive, since there is barely any information in either that can be trusted and that could not have been the subject of a libel trial if she were. As deputy district attorney Valliant demonstrates, the “disgraceful lies” are not Rand’s but are all the Brandens’ own work. Of the Brandens, one is left to ponder their silence since the airing of these charges, and what Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman’s account of her life (quoted by Valliant in his book): “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.”

Rand has gone, but fortunately her Journals and prosecutor Valliant live on to speak for her and to finally expose the Brandens’ calumnies and the many, many contradictions in their memoirs, and most importantly to resurrect the real Rand from under the dirt heaped upon her by her ‘biographers.’ In particular, after reading Rand’s own words written at the time and Valliant’s case for the prosecution, there is no doubt of the utter worthlessness of any of the Brandens’ claims to truth, or even any of their descriptions of Rand herself.

As Rand’s Journals now show incontrovertibly, at the time of abandoning her novel on value-betrayers, Rand was up to her eyes with the real thing: offering psychotherapy to a man—her chosen legal and intellectual heir—who had over the years play-acted the role of an Objectivist hero in order to ingratiate himself with Rand, and to literally gain his chance at the big time—at fame, fortune and professional advancement through the sexual and romantic exploitation of a famous and widely-respected woman. That man was Nathaniel Branden. No wonder he hoped the Journals would never see the light of day; they expose him as a con-man and a fraud.

Rand’s account of Branden’s psychotherapy (requested by him, he said at the time, to help solve his sexual impotence and ‘emotional autism,’ but in reality simply to delay his inevitable day of reckoning) offers the same view as does lifting up a rock and watching the cockroaches scuttle around: under the glare of her penetrating analysis he has no hole left in which to crawl, and eventually, painfully, his fraud is exposed, and his worlds—professional, romantic, emotional—collapse around his feet. 

He is left exposed in the wreckage as a thirty-eight-year-old fraud prepared to do anything to try and keep alive his con trick, including ‘confessing’ that if not for his sexual impotence on which Rand had wasted more than two years attempting to cure, his “ideal” would be to have sex with the sixty-one-year-old Rand “up to six times a year.” This at the time as he had been bedding for four years a ‘chorus girl’ he had specifically denied to Rand being involved with, an affair which he had conspired with Barbara Branden to conceal. His eighteen years of deception would end in the sordid, shabby collapse that it deserved.

We’re now in a position to answer the question posed at the start: What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, but to give up his soul? As Nathaniel Branden’s duplicity shows us about such an attempt, the answer is: nothing at all. In fact, both the world and his soul are denied to such a man. 

In trying to live out the fraud that his life had become, Branden set reality against himself—and that is a game that just cannot be won; reality is the ultimate avenger. In betraying his self and the values in which he claimed to believe he set in motion an inexorable chain of events in which, one by one, he lost and betrayed the business he had built up, the women he claimed to love, and the values and the philosophy he claimed to uphold. At that point he tucked his dick between his legs and scurried off to California with the ‘chorus girl’ he couldn’t give up, the mailing lists from Rand’s magazine with which he began his client list, and the manuscript of his first book that Rand’s ideas had helped him write. Left behind was the business he had built up on the back of Rand’s reputation, the ex-wife who had lied and pimped for him, and the ‘honorable self’ that he had for so long masqueraded as being.

His years of deception had lost him both his soul and the world he had once hoped to win. If man is a being a self-made soul as Rand has convincingly argued, then Branden, N. can be seen to have defaulted on the job.

Years later after he rebuilt his career he was to write another book called ‘Honoring the Self.’ The irony is palpable, and a poor substitute for the last novel Rand was never to complete. In its place now we have James Valliant’s book The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. It is exactly as merciless as those critics deserve, and just as well-argued as it needs to be. I was persuaded reluctantly to read it; I am now very happy I did. One emerges from reading it with the firm conviction that Rand never needs to be apologised for again—and that one should never have been put in the position of being required to.

The Brandens' biographies of Rand, said Valliant in one interview, have "distracted from Ayn Rand's message. It would be a shame," he said, "if one of the most important writers of the twentieth century went down with the portrayal by these two." Her achievements and her memory deserve so much more.

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All done?

Peter Cresswell's picture

Perhaps after 17527 reads and 395 comments everything about this has already been said? ;^)

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

I agree. ARI & TOC should be

Wayne Simmons's picture

I agree. ARI & TOC should be judged by the standards of reason and Objectivism.
Shayne, do you care to defend David Kelley's recent speech to a Muslim organization? Does that meet your standards?

Campbell does not have an answer

Glenn I Heppard's picture

Robert, unlike you, I have never tried to make anyone believe I'm an expert on Ayn Rand's ideas. But your "academic work" and posts prove you are not one.

Or are your tall tales all about career prospects envy?

Is your question about me or you?


Mike_M's picture

Robert Campbell,

Despite the fact that Diana's email records make the content of your supposed conversation impossible, you stand by this fabrication. I think the "rules" of association of most people (Objectivist or not, ARI supporters or not) would preclude serious interaction with someone prone to cover his ass by fabrication. No wonder no one at ARI was interested in a scholarly conference with you.

Disgusted (though not shocked),

Corrections to Mr. Campbell's corrections

mcohen's picture

Mr. Cambpell,

Thank you for your corrections regarding my SOLOHQ post in which I cited PARC as the cause of withdrawing from speaking at the 2005 TOC Summer Seminar. Unfortunately there are still some inaccuracies that have to be corrected.

My article for JARS was not "ready for publication" as you claimed. The editorial process, do be done by Chris Sciabarra and Lester Hunt, had not even started. The preliminary draft was accepted, but could be withdrawn by JARS if I objected to the editorial changes.

In Fall 2004 I cited the TOC-Cato joint conference on the war in Iraq as a cause of my dissatisfaction with TOC. Not Kelley's speech at the rally organized by the Free Muslim Coalition, which did not take place until May 2005.

I have an issue with your attempt to portray those who were influenced by PARC as puppets who changed overnight from Branden-loving TOC cheer-leaders to Branden-bashing ARI cheer-leaders. Reading PARC restored my confidence in Rand as a person and helped me severe my ties with TOC. It was a part of a long ongoing process.

Michelle F. Cohen

No shortage of insults to JARS

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Fahy,

You aren't sparing Chris Sciabarra anything.  Ms. Hsieh has subsequently made more than a few insulting remarks about the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies directly to him.

You know, when I meet with an enemy--or an administrator--I'm in the habit of compiling a "meeting memo" shortly thereafter, so the other party can't forget what we said, or misrepresent it.

But then I'm not in the habit of keeping meeting memos on friends.  I'm not in the habit of anticipating that my friends wiill repudiate their own prior publications as products of benightedness and sloth, with the obvious further implication that my encouraging comments on their manuscripts now constitute proof of my ignorance or lack of discernment.

My recollection still stands.

Robert Campbell

PS.  I am well aware that the Ayn Rand Society meeting (which I couldn't get to in December 2005 on account of my injuries) and events at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center are treated as neutral ground by the Ayn Rand Institute (either through explicit dictate or by custom--I don't know which).  The meeting Ms. Hsieh once talked about would not have taken place at either venue, hence would have been prohibited by ARI's "rules of association," as I understand them.  Have I gotten these rules of association wrong?


Robert Campbell

Well then,

Casey's picture

I stand corrected.

Sorry (Chris) for the insult I suggested Diana might be suggesting about JARS.

Still False

DianaHsieh's picture

Robert's supposed memories, although now more detailed, are still wrong. I've already stated that he's attributing a view to me about JARS that I've never held nor even heard. My e-mail archive confirms that -- as well as another absurdity in his claims: I didn't even begin speaking to Greg S. about these issues until the very last days of December 2003! Technically, that discussion began with my e-mail to him on December 29th, then his reply on December 30th. JARS was not even *mentioned* until later. Yet Robert claims that we discussed these matters in December 2003.

That's all I'll bother to say about Robert's supposedly fantastic memory. While we're on the topic of his flights of fancy, let me mention that his claim that I regard "meeting[s] to discuss Objectivism with non-ARIans [as] of course out of the question" is also fabricated. If that were true, then merely attending the annual meeting of the Ayn Rand Society would be out of the question. Yet I attend when I can.

In fact, I would be more than happy to discuss Objectivism with any honest, decent, and knowledgeable scholars, whether associated with ARI or not. Robert could not meet those minimal qualifications.

-- Diana Hsieh


Casey's picture

You hit paydirt, my friend. Eye


It sounds to me as though, given the context you have provided, that perhaps Diana's reference was not to the dictionary meaning of academic but to the specific brand of conventional academia represented by JARS! Holding one's nose while referring to the state of the academy in the field of philosophy is not alien even to you, I would wager?

If so, that's a horse of a different color, isn't it? And quoting it earlier as an example of the lack of interest in going the academic route, as you implied it, was misleading and not a fair representation of Diana's motives taken out of this context.

I'm not implying that I think Diana said this, but I think that under the circumstances you describe even if she did it would have had a specialized meaning that you neglected to mention earlier.

Re: R. Campbell falls down and can't get up

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Heppard (if that is really your name),

Wow.  You really know what to say to a guy who was laid up for three months with two broken wrists...

Since you would have us believe you are an expert on Ayn Rand's ideas, here's a question that you shouldn't have much trouble answering: 

How does the Objectivist ethics evaluate a life spent trolling message boards?

Robert Campbell

Alleged false memories

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Hsieh apparently does not recall the conversation we had in December 2003, in which she referred to Mr. Salmieri's advice not to publish in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, because that would constitute "going the academic route."

I stand by my recollection.

It may well be that Ms. Hsieh had not entirely decided to follow Mr. Salmieri's advice at that time, because she seemed to be still interested in holding some kind of meeting or workshop in which both Mr. Salmieri and non-ARI-affiliates such as myself and Michael Young would participate.  Once she publically converted to the ARI worldview, any such meeting to discuss Objectivism with non-ARIans was of course out of the question.

In April of 2004, Ms. Hsieh told Chris Sciabarra--not me--that lack of "quality" and widespread participation by amateurish authors who were ignorant of Objectivism precluded her publishing in the journal.  But by that time, Ms. Hsieh's conversion to ARIanism was essentially complete, though she had not yet announced it in public.

I took "going the academic route" (in the December 2003 conversation) to mean engaging in picayune intellectual game-playing or uncomprehending argumentation of the sort that academics are sometimes guilty of. We had previously discussed, on a number of occasions, how some professors violate their own announced codes of scholarship and intellectual exchange, and how advocates of various minority positions, including Objectivism, are more likely to be receive unscholarly treatment than advocates of mainstream viewpoints.  It was also not entirely clear to me, in December 2003, whether Ms. Hsieh wanted to seek a faculty position in philosophy once she completed her degree.

I was well aware at that time that the Ayn Rand Insitute tries to place Ph. D. level philosophers in faculty positions.  In fact, Ms. Hsieh had described the ARI/Anthem programs to me in some depth earlier that same year.

So my quotation about "going the academic route" pertained to Ms. Hsieh's reasons for not wanting to publish in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and to the advice she said she was getting from one ARI-affiliated individual.  It was not intended to imply that the Ayn Rand Institute is uninterested in placing Objectivist philosophers in faculty positions.  Nor was it intended to imply that Ms. Hsieh is not committed to an academic career at the present time.

The irony is that that Ms. Hsieh now associates with a significant number of colleagues who seem to pride themselves on grossly unscholarly treatment of opposing points of view.  But that is a topic for another post.

Robert Campbell

Correction to what I said about Ms. Cohen's decisions

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Cohen,

The SOLOHQ archives (including items I hadn't read before) make clear that you were defending ARI and criticizing TOC in the fall of 2004, and that your objections to David Kelley's willingness to speak in front of an Islamic organization played a significant role in your disaffection with TOC. My error.

As the Associate Editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, I get notified when an article that we have reviewed and expect to publish gets withdrawn.  I will say merely that you seemed convinced that articles published in JARS must be critical of Ayn Rand to be published there--a preconception that Chris Sciabarra and I tried to disabuse you of in a public discussion on SOLOHQ, back in December 2004-January 2005.  But I was in error to suggest that Mr. Valliant's book played a role in this decision.

As far as I can tell, your dispute with Mr. Bidinotto and others on SOLOHQ did pertain partly to Mr. Valliant's book, but not only to it.

These are my best efforts to set the record straight.  It would have been better to get it right the first time.

Robert Campbell

Her philosophy

eg's picture

She identified her basic philosophical principles early on.



James S. Valliant's picture


If you read Rand's philosophical journals, starting as early as in her twenties, you can see that she wasn't just wingin' it.

Adam,What philosophy had Ayn

Hong's picture


What philosophy had Ayn Rand consciously lived by for the first 50 or so years of her life before she wrote Galt speech and systemized her philosophy?

Living by a Philosophy

AdamReed's picture


Please consider the difference between

(1) Living by a philosophy - that is, consciously judging and acting according to the principles of a philosophy; and

(2) Living, for other reasons - probably good ones - in a way that mostly happens to accord with those principles.

I referred to (1); you are referring to (2).

R. Cambell falls down and can't get up

Glenn I Heppard's picture

Robert Campbell makes things up when he can't win an argument with reason? I'm shocked, shocked!

ARI is against "the academic route?"

From the first issue of ARI's newsletter in 1985:
"Dr. Kelley will receive a grant of $10K to prepare a scholarly book on the Objectivist theory of concepts. ...the first of many such scholarly activities by Objectivist professors to be supported by the Institute. Scholarly writing on Objectivism is crucial to its gaining wider academic influence.

Mr. Campbell --

mcohen's picture

"My recollection is that Michelle Cohen cited The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics as a reason for (1) withdrawing from a speaking engagement at the TOC Summer Seminar; (2) pulling an article that was ready to be published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies; (3) aligning herself with the Ayn Rand Institute; and (4) withdrawing from participation on SOLOHQ."

I challenge you to provide any evidence whatsoever for 2, 3, and 4. Your claims are total fabfications and I demand that you retract them.

* My reasons for pulling out my article from JARS were disucssed in private with Chris Sciabarra. I never discussed it in public and it is nobody's business.

* I defended ARI on SOLOHQ in the Fall of 2004, before PARC was published.

* I withdrew from participation on SOLOHQ due to the hostility directed toward me when I corrected Mr. Bidinotto's misrepresentation of Dr. Peikoff's book signing at LFB in 1982. See my last post there.

-- Michelle F. Cohen

Sorry, Adam

eg's picture

"Hide" is the correct word, tendentious or not. Her affair with Nathaniel wouldn't have happened without hiding it from their friends. It is called "The light of day." She sequestered herself with three others she could dominate and control and burdened them with her rationalization(Drunk. In the context of her life I don't condemn her for what she did, but it was wrong and damaged many lives, including her own. This was not a woman experimenting with a daring new philosophy, this was four people in over their heads. These things happen all the time. We all stub our toes, regroup and go on, hopefully in better directions or ways.


I read Adams post as saying

John M Newnham's picture

I read Adams post as saying she was the first to live *explicitly* by the philosophy of Objectivism. I do agree with you that there are many who live a life of reason, and rational self interest, some without knowing anything about AR or Objectivism.


Adam, you said:   Ayn Rand

Hong's picture

Adam, you said:

Ayn Rand dared to live by a philosophy no one had lived by before. Being the first to live by a new philosophy means testing your ideas against reality for the first time.

I very much disagree with your above statement. Ayn Rand was not the first person, nor the last, to ever lived by a philosophy of reason, of objective reality, and of rational self-interest. I’ve known real life people who are much more like Roark or Rearden than any Objectivists that I came to know even though they don’t necessarily know about Ayn Rand or Objectivism. Such people exist now and they certainly existed before.  - Hong

False Memories

DianaHsieh's picture

Robert's claim -- based upon his supposedly fine memory of a phone conversation -- that I decided not to publish in JARS based upon a desire to avoid "the academic route" is completely false.

Here are the facts: Greg argued the points I outlined in my earlier post about quality scholarship -- and the lack thereof at JARS -- via e-mail in early 2004. I have those e-mails; I reviewed them recently. They argue exactly what I've said. They contain nothing about some problem with going "the academic route." Moreover, that kind of argument makes no sense whatsoever, since Greg and I are both going "the academic route." In the spring of 2004, I thought about Greg's actual arguments about quality scholarship -- and eventually came to agree with them.

Also, on a related point, Robert says: "Since Ms. Hsieh champions the view that no Rand scholarship should ever be undertaken, except under the supervision of the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals..."

That's absurd, I've never said anything of the sort. I defy Robert to find any quote from me that even hints at such a position.

I'm not pleased to see this new strategy from my opponents of serving up outlandish misprepresentations of my views. It's nothing but an attempt to mislead others by discrediting me on false grounds. So let me urge the readers of these threads to check the claims of my opponents about my views against my actual writings. If my detractors don't provide supporting documentation (in the form of links to my blog or other public comments in which I state the view in question), their claims should be regarded with great suspicion, if not dismissed outright.

-- Diana Hsieh


AdamReed's picture


Your use of the term "hide" is tendentious - it amounts to claiming that Rand somehow "owed" the world information about her private life. She didn't. I don't know her reasons, but I have no reason to think that her reasons were less than reasonable. I do have a couple of conjectures, though. These are just guesswork, but either one might be in character:

1. Being the first to live by a new philosophy meant daring to experiment. Not every experiment bears out the conjectures it was based on, and often the results are not what the experimenter hoped for. Experiments are not published until/unless their results are known and understood. The failed ones stay in the experimenter's file.

2. Given that unconventional sexuality (rather than obscurantism, evasion, force and so on) is the central symbol of evil in Christian (and therefore "mainstream" American) culture, Ayn Rand rightly judged that bigotry against her unconventional sex life would distract public attention away from her philosophy. Since she wanted Americans to pay attention to her philosophy, she chose not to publicize what would have been a powerful distraction.

The above are not mutually exclusive, nor do they exclude the possibility of other, equally reasonable reasons. Why assume that anyone owes you the intimate details of their sex life?


eg's picture

Adam, if what you say is true, why did she hide her affair with a married man from her friends and the world? What was she afraid of?



James S. Valliant's picture


I rarely post when I agree with something, but I have to say that your last one was beautiful. Dare I say it? Perfect.

Moral Perfection-WHAT, EXACTLY IS IT?

Rowlf's picture

~~ The biggest problem with this whole subject (re AR or just on it's own) not only across threads, but across forums as well, is that while there's so much stress and gossiping about 'real people' and 'feet-of-clay' and 'flaws' and whatnot about no one being a demi-god(dess) one, pro or con, seems to ever be concerned with 1st clarifying their definitional criteria of this concept of 'moral perfection'.

~~ Everyone takes it to be obvious that all responders are talking about the same thing; r-i-g-h-t. Might's well be talking about 'fairness'; we all agree on what comprises THAT, right? R-i-g-h-t. --- 'Define your terms' is a maxim fairly ignored in this whole pro-con abortion-, 'scuse me, moral-perfection debate.

~~ Argue over the proper definition 1st; then debate the applicability to person 'X', 'Y', etc. Else, lottsa pointless heat over mis-understandings due to (sometimes) accidental equivocations should be chronically expected.



P.S: A 'hint' on *my* view. If a former murderer changed her ways, she may still 'owe' something now (then again...?), but, if changed, no longer is one. A 'past' episode' may indicate something, but, establishes nothing about present status.

Moral perfection

AdamReed's picture


You write that you "admire Rand ... without pretending that she was a perfect human being." No need to pretend. Moral perfection includes, in my judgement, daring to judge and act in the context of one's knowledge - just as it is a variant of moral treason to not judge and not act, on the excuse that one's knowledge is not complete (not intrinsic?) enough. Ayn Rand dared to live by a philosophy no one had lived by before. Being the first to live by a new philosophy means testing your ideas against reality for the first time. The risk of being wrong or misled comes with the territory. This is not a mark of moral imperfection. It is the unavoidable price of daring to live by the evidence available in one's context: the price of being, in context, morally perfect - in the only valid sense, that of judging and living as coherently as possible in the context of one's actual life.


eg's picture

At least it didn't get worser and worst! Smiling


Hi Robert. I mentioned the

Prima Donna's picture

Hi Robert.

I mentioned the dog fight because I'm expecting someone to apply some sort of "true believer" analysis to my post -- and it's a label I will not wear. Labels get very tiring. Smiling

The session was a Q&A about his time with Rand, and my problem was with his delivery of certain subject matter. I cannot remember his exact wording on some of the answers, but they were related to her bursts of anger, quick judgment of people, etc. However, etched in my memory is his grin and tone, which only needed a wink to complete the "inside joke" at her expense. (I should have expected that given the tone of Judgment Day, but decided to give it a go anyway.)

I realize that Rand was not perfect (nor do I expect her to have been), but his attempting to get a few laughs at her expense was tasteless and vindictive to me, and added nothing to the topic.

I heard him speak at one other TOC event in New York, and I don't recall him doing it then, but the first time was enough.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Kinda Figured...

James S. Valliant's picture


Yeah, when you posted here that I have a “cult mentality,” I kinda figured you’d made up your mind pretty conclusively. Conversation seems rather absurd now, wouldn't you think?

As for the ARI “appeals” you mentioned, well… that was my point: all these folks are former TOCers. Branden complaints – indeed, Branden comments of any kind – much less “appeals” to TOC itself – do not come from that direction at all, do they? Such appeals are appeals to former colleagues from former critics of ARI.

However, instead of looking for some master “strategy” by the nefarious forces of ARI to bring down TOC, may I suggest that you actually consider the possibility that what you’re dealing with here are honest responses by sincere people?

Rand “perfect”? Where do I ever even imply this in PARC?

I do believe moral perfection is possible – and that it’s actually been accomplished by folks other than Rand. But there’s no reason to go there since I do not assert this in the book at all and none of PARC’s theses require this notion.

PARC states repeatedly and explicitly that Rand was a human being with a human psychology who made mistakes. Of course, PARC is not a biography of Rand, and it does not attempt to draw definitive conclusions about her psychology. Even here, however, I suggest that Rand was sometimes unfair to questioners, that her anger was unusually intense, etc. (you did read it, right?)

Do I think Rand committed any major moral wrongs? No.

Do I think that she was “heroic” (as you also seem to suggest about her yourself)? Absolutely.

I reject what seems to be your implicit premise, that one must acknowledge significant moral failings in any biographical subject in order to be regarded as being “objective” about that person.

Your mischaracterization of PARC's theses is also troubling. PARC does not say that all Rand criticism comes from the Brandens. On the contrary, and as you know, I cite multiple critics of Rand who do not rely on the Brandens. PARC repeatedly discusses the history of such criticisms, and states that the Brandens inspired only one "particular form" of Rand-bashing (pages 1-2). You and I have previously been through this very point together, haven't we? You once apologized, as I recall, for making this very mischaracterization over at SOLOHQ.

Your comments on Diana’s position are simply bizarre. May I ask for the exact quotations?


Robert Campbell's picture


A lot of people dislike Nathaniel Branden, for one reason or another.  I don't find that fact alarming--it's certainly not worth getting into a dogfight over.

I'm assuming, though, that you hadn't heard him speak before, at least not at a TOC event, so it wouldn't have been the "same old same old" experience that Bill Nevin complained about.  (I wasn't at the 2004 Summer Seminar, or the 2005 for that matter, so I don't know what NB said at either.)

Did the potshots bother you because you thought his statements about Ayn Rand were false?  Or just because you thought they were irrelevant to the topic of his talk, self-aggrandizing, etc.?

Robert Campbell

Disowned Self

JoeM's picture

Brant, I'm racking my brain trying to justify my comment. I can't find the quote or the person who said it, it was a reference to Branden's book with the aside " a book he has since distance d himself from", or something to that effect. But without the reference, I'm gonna have to let that drop. Regarding the content, though, warmed-over Jung (child self, etc.).

I don't believe it

Mike_M's picture


I don't believe for a second that Diana said this. Perhaps you misunderstood/misremembered what she said. I have an even harder time believing that Greg Salmieri (or anyone else at ARI) would make this argument. Why? Well, for starters all students in the OAC graduate program are REQUIRED to submit at least two academic papers for publication. That information is available on the OAC website. Put in other words: ARI makes all of its graduate students "go the academic route." Also, shunning the academic route would be in direct contradiction to ARI's funnel program Greg Perkins just blogged about on NoodleFood (the funnel program is older than 2003, so let's avoid the "maybe things have changed" tangent).

"Since Ms. Hsieh champions the view that no Rand scholarship should ever be undertaken, except under the supervision of the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals..."

Why can't you play nice? That is an absurd straw man of Diana's position. She can explain her own view, though. I just didn't want to let that slide without saying that I think this is an utterly shameful characterization of her position.

- Mike

Allegations of pseudo-scholarship

Robert Campbell's picture

My quotation from Ms. Hsieh, concerning her reasons for not wanting to publish in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, comes from memory.  My memory for people's words has always been pretty good.

There is nothing in Ms. Hsieh's email archive to that effect because she made the statement during a phone conversation.

Just to keep the context of that remark completely clear, Ms. Hsieh attributed unspecified arguments against "going the academic route" to Greg Salmieri (whose name I hope I am not misspelling).  Mr. Salmieri is a grad student at the University of Pittsburgh who was already affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute at the time (affiliated in the strict sense--he had given at least one talk at an ARI conference).

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't moved past that somewhat unsettling remark, and had stopped to ask Ms. Hsieh her detailed reasons for avoiding publication in JARS.   For if her views in December 2003 were essentially the same as the contentions about "pseudo-scholarship" that she made in her blog entry of July 2005 (part of which she quotes in her post), we would have quit being friends right then and there.  Instead we went our separate ways in August 2004, after she had denounced David Kelley, denounced Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, enunciated all of the ARI shibboleths, and proclaimed that her previous work was the product of an inadequate understanding of Objectivism.

Since Ms. Hsieh champions the view that no Rand scholarship should ever be undertaken, except under the supervision of the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals, I think it would be helpful for her to identify which of the following works constitute "pseudo-scholarship"--and at least briefly indicate why.

Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra (currently an Editor of JARS)

Explaining Postmodernism, by Stephen Hicks (long associated with TOC)

What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand, by Lou Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi (who have spoken at TOC events and published in JARS)

Harry Potter and Philosophy, co-edited by Shawn Klein (long associated with TOC)

Any of the articles in JARS by Roger Bissell, Peter Boettke, Ed Younkins, Douglas Rasmussen, George Reisman, Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Kirsti Minsaas, Adam Reed, Stephen Boydstun, Stephen Cox, Peter St. Andre, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, etc. etc. etc.

And, for good measure, my article in JARS on "Ayn Rand and the Cognitive Revolution in Psychology."

Robert Campbell

Never mind

Mike_M's picture

Ok, question answered. Since I plan on going the "academic route" and ARI has encouraged me in this I was a little confused.


Mike_M's picture

Mr. (Dr.?) Campbell,

You wrote: "However, her public denunciations of TOC for inviting "the Brandens" followed her decision, around December 2003, never to seek publication in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies--on the advice of an individual aligned with ARI, who declared that so doing would constitute "going the academic route.""

Could you (or Diana) explain what was meant by "going the academic route?" That seems like a rather odd, meaningless reason to criticize JARS.

More Falsehoods

DianaHsieh's picture

Robert Campbell said: "However, [Diana Hsieh's] public denunciations of TOC for inviting 'the Brandens' followed her decision, around December 2003, never to seek publication in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies--on the advice of an individual aligned with ARI, who declared that so doing would constitute 'going the academic route.'"

That's not at all the reason why I decided never to publish in JARS. In fact, Robert appears to be making up that quote entirely, since it appears nowhere in my voluminous e-mail archive. Nor do I think I ever said anything like it, since that's never been my view.

I came to my decision about not publishing in JARS based upon the persuasive arguments of a fellow graduate student in philosophy (i.e. an "academic"!) that JARS is substantially harming Objectivism's chances in academia by failing to uphold proper standards of scholarship. In fact, I blogged about this very issue here:

    Too much published on Ayn Rand in recent years has all the illusion of scholarly inquiry without any of its substance. It is pseudo-scholarship: it substitutes superficial understanding, invented controversy, and detached cynicism for the clarity, depth, and care of good study. (Certainly, my own essay in the _Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand_ anthology betrays far too much of that kind of pseudo-scholarship. Given my skewed standards at the time, the fact that I very much wanted to write a fine essay had little bearing upon the quality of the work I produced.)

    The serious study of Ayn Rand's work -- in and out of academia -- is only in its nascent stages. If stillborn, our culture is doomed. (So the stakes are high, to say the least!) Whether Ayn Rand's ideas take hold in academia and the wider culture or not will largely will largely depend upon the work produced in the next few decades. That work will consist of a relatively small number of influential publications produced by a relatively small number of scholars and intellectuals. So at this point, and for many years to come, even a few pseudo-scholars pose a grave danger, as do those who tolerate them. After all, today's intellectuals would love nothing more than to be able to dismiss Objectivism by means of stawmen erected by its supposed defenders. (Oh, what a sad time that would be!) Such is why promoting the highest standards of objectivity in scholarship on Ayn Rand and Objectivism is not just important, but of particular pressing importance at present. It's not just some academic game: it's literally life and death.

All of that criticism very much applies to JARS. Moreover, it was my reason, then and now, for thinking the journal unworthy of submissions from genuine Objectivists.

-- Diana Hsieh

Appeals to TOC not to invite "the Brandens"

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant,

Between late November and early March, I didn't contribute to any online forums. And I only rejoined this one the other day. But I did feel, toward the end of November, that our discussions didn't have much further to go.

You describe Michelle Cohen and Greg Perkins as TOC members, but to my knowledge they had already quit TOC and aligned with ARI before they made public statements about the unacceptability of inviting "the Brandens'" to speak at TOC events.

Ms. Hsieh definitely did not "turn on a dime," as Shayne Wissler alleged a while back. For much of 2003, her objections to the way things were done at TOC stopped well short of endorsing the ARI worldview. However, her public denunciations of TOC for inviting "the Brandens" followed her decision, around December 2003, never to seek publication in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies--on the advice of an individual aligned with ARI, who declared that so doing would constitute "going the academic route." Around that same time, she apparently also accepted Leonard Peikoff's relegation of David Kelley to the outer darkness in "Fact and Value." After that, I suspect her alignment with ARI was just a matter of time.

Bill Nevin, who remains with TOC but doesn't want to see Nathaniel Branden on the speaker list any more, does constitute an exception to my generalization.

As for Allan Blumenthal, he and NB have hated each other for years, and each made nasty remarks about the other in print well before IOS/TOC even came into existence. (Murray Franck also dislikes NB, and reportedly left the IOS Board in 1996 when plans were first made to have NB speak at a Summer Seminar.) I am surprised that you mention AB, though, because he so obviously contradicts the implication you want readers of PARC to accept--that no one today says negative things about Ayn Rand's character or actions unless he or she got them from "the Brandens."

Robert Campbell

Brant ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You wrote:

Nathaniel may have gone off the tracks, and I am sorry if he did, but I remember him for the good he did--for me!

You mean, he gave us you, on top of everything else?

It just gets worser & worser.


I hate

eg's picture

I hate to reply to myself--not really--but I am in the center of my universe JUST LIKE AYN RAND WAS AT THE CENTER OF HERS!--do ya get it? Just because she had an incredibly heroic and productive life, genius and all that, does not give her special moral status that means she should be worshipped or culted--and this applies to the Brandens too!--it means we should not look up or down at her but accept her as the special individual human being she was and honor her by trying to do the same to the limit of our abilities--just like she did.



eg's picture

Nathaniel may have gone off the tracks, and I am sorry if he did, but I remember him for the good he did--for me! So, choose your weapon!


Branden's self-promotion and other BS

nevin's picture


You wrote,

"What bothered me a great deal about TOC, however -- and still does -- was listening to Nathaniel Branden's Q&A at the conference in Vancouver (2004), and listening to him take psychological potshots at Rand -- all with a very whimsical attitude and wry grin. I left the session fuming,"

I found him very frustrating to listen to in Vancouver for the same reasons. And in Schenectady he was even worse, always taking potshots at how narrow-minded Ayn Rand allegedly was, and always about to unleash some great new theory that was going to blow her out of the water - a new theory of psychology, proof of ESP, something stupendous. And always he just put out hints, teasers, with never any substantial evidence. All obviously BS to push his own agenda and make him seem great.

The only other things he did were to talk about how great he was and to plug all of his own books, especially the recent ones.

The guy is such a loser and his appearances are such downers, I wish TOC would dump him. He does nothing but bring bad repute on them. I have suggested this to them from the inside as well. But the message hasn't gotten through yet.



eg's picture


Re: The purpose of PARC

mcohen's picture


You wrote: "PARC was aimed at those who had been influenced by the Branden biographies, the victims of the Brandens' distorted portraits, and those who rely upon those biographies in their own work."

It was also aimed at those who did not believe the Brandens, and needed to see a lawyer take up her defense and tear their accounts to shreds. Those who wondered why the Ayn Rand Estate kept silent all these year. Those who were disillusioned with TOC and thought that "all was lost." Well, someone like me. Thank you!

-- Michelle

Re: Lack of objectivity?

Robert Campbell's picture


My recollection is that Michelle Cohen cited The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics as a reason for (1) withdrawing from a speaking engagement at the TOC Summer Seminar; (2) pulling an article that was ready to be published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies; (3) aligning herself with the Ayn Rand Institute; and (4) withdrawing from participation on SOLOHQ.

Meanwhile, Ms. Hsieh, who, as you noted, decided to align herself with ARI before Mr. Valliant's book was published, is encouraging Randians to read it, in the apparent belief that it will help convert them to the ARI worldview.

I haven't read Ayn Rand Answers, so I can't comment on Dr. Mayhew's editing thereof.  I have read Mr. Valliant's book, however, and, in my opinion, it has a lot to do with the ARI true believer mentality.   PARC shares with official ARI publications the presumption that Ayn Rand never did anything wrong and had no character traits that might merit criticism.



Prima Donna's picture

Though I'm leery of engaging in any kind of dog fights about this, there is something I am compelled to voice because it relates to all of this TOC/ARI debate. To be clear: I know very little about ARI, so I will not offer comment in that regard. What bothered me a great deal about TOC, however -- and still does -- was listening to Nathaniel Branden's Q&A at the conference in Vancouver (2004), and listening to him take psychological potshots at Rand -- all with a very whimsical attitude and wry grin. I left the session fuming, because it seemed to be done for nothing more than effect. *That* is why I have an issue with TOC giving such things a stage and an audience. What ends do they serve?

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.


eg's picture

Ayn Rand did claim, one way or another, moral perfection, which is one reason students of Objectivism were afraid of being hosed down by her--of being seen less than morally perfect themselves, especially by her. Now that wouldn't be nearly as much a problem today, for the Orthodox Objectivist leaders don't have her moral suasion, she's dead and there is a much bigger Objectivist world out there than theirs. You might even say that Objectivists are gradually moving from a collective to individualism, including James Valliant, Casey Fahy and Diana Hsieh.


Looking for a fight

sjw's picture

Diana, I've suspected your looking for a reason to declare war on me on our first interactions here, so I'm not at all surprised by your response.

I'm familiar with your history and your writings. Which is why I recognized that any brief comment I made here would in fact be arbitrary relative to casual readers; properly analyzing you, objectively, requires reading most of your articles.

There are two premises here that you rely on that are outright false. The first is that it's inherently wrong to state your beliefs without fully backing them up, that lacking time or priority to properly dissect a claim for your audience is tantamount to a requirement you to put a muzzle on.

The second is that it's arbitrary to wonder whether someone who has flipped from one extreme to another has really executed due diligence. I didn't say "accuse" I said "entertain" the question. If I said you could accuse someone, well that would be arbitrary. But confirming that the person indeed executed due diligence is a required step before advertising their "integrity" to the world--that is due diligence required on your own part.

Now I don't see that either of these two bogus premises you use is controversial. I expect that most people would agree with me. If not, provide your reasons and I'll see if I can answer them.

Free PARCing

Dan Edge's picture

That title really has nothing to do with what I want to say, I'm just a sucker for stupid puns.

That's interesting James, what you say the "aim" of PARC was. I do think I was negatively influenced by PAR and PAR-fans, but just kind of grew out of it over the years. The negative influence took the form of a prejudice attitude towards those who are stalwart defenders of Rand's philosophy. For a long while, I assumed that a majority of hard-core Objectivists were rude and rationalisticly belligerent. I had a negative view of Objectivists in general, even though I considered myself one.

Now, having met hundreds of Objectivists in person and thousands over the internet, I have found that rationalistic asshole Objectivists are few and far between. They're just often the loudest of the bunch. Over the years I've learned how to deal with these types: I either ignore them, disarm them with my southern charm Eye, or unleash my inner redneck on them if they cross the line. (Warning! Do not curse at me in anger if you meet me in person unless you want a screaming, angry, cussing 6' tall redneck in your face). But for the most part, I find members of the Objectivist community to be intelligent, rational, and generally nice.

I want to note that, in my experience, TOC folks are more likely to be belligerent than ARI folks. That's completely oppsite from what I expected to be the case when I first starting meeting people from both groups (considering TOC's focus on tolerence), but it's true.

--Dan Edge

Diana in 2003

William E. Perry's picture

Diana wrote:

"Bill Perry can verify, for example, just how unhappy I was with TOC almost full year before my public break with the organization. (During his visit to Denver in the spring of 2003, I unloaded quite a litany of complaints upon him.)"

This statement is definitely true. When I visited Denver and stayed in Paul and Diana's home in 2003 we had extensive discussions about problems with TOC. In fact those discussions began when Diana picked me up in the car at the airport, and concluded in the car on the way to the airport when Paul dropped me off. We did talk about some other things during the trip which was for a presentation I made at FROG, but we discussed the subject extensively.


Insults by Implication

DianaHsieh's picture

I have no patience for Shayne's arbitrary insults by implication. The simple fact is that I thought about the issues pertaining to my departure from TOC -- long and hard and for many many many months before I said a word in public. My views have been settled for some time now, but they were not always so. I'm certainly not going to apologize for coming to firm conclusions in the face of the overwhelming evidence available to me.

Bill Perry can verify, for example, just how unhappy I was with TOC almost full year before my public break with the organization. (During his visit to Denver in the spring of 2003, I unloaded quite a litany of complaints upon him.) At my last TOC conference in July 2003, I spoke to quite a few friends about my great frustration with the organization, particularly its positive resistance to offering any moral support, guidance, or education to its students.

Moreover, both public posts and private e-mails confirm that I was extremely wary of ARI in the months after my public break with TOC. (The feeling was mutual.) And my husband, with whom I discussed these issues at length over the course of months, could tell you just how long it took me to come to my current views on libertarianism and the closed system, for example.

I spent basically the first half of 2004 thinking of little other than these issues; they were just that important to me. I was so engrossed that I had to take incompletes in both of my graduate classes that spring semester, since I had no hope of finishing the required papers. (I haven't caught up yet.)

The only injustice here is Shayne's transparent attempt to accuse various people of hasty, unjust judgment without the responsibility of naming names or presenting evidence. In my case -- and in the case of many others -- I know that charge to be utterly baseless. And no, Shayne was not merely raising "legtimate questions" but accusing people of grave wrongdoing. To make that clear, let me quote the relevant bits of his past two messages:

"Everyone who was formerly from the TOC side who turns on a dime and starts preaching the opposite of what they formerly preached obviously hasn't learned their lesson--their injustice toward Ayn Rand is going to repeat itself like a broken record except with different targets."

And in response to my inquiry: "Do you include me in this category of 'everyone who...' And who else do you include?" Shayne said:

"I'm not going to answer your question here because I'm not going to back up a particular assertion about you here, which would be your obvious next question if I did answer. Given all you have written, that would be quite a job, and even if I were to take it up, it would be weeks and weeks of going through each of your various articles and writing up my own analysis. I will only point out that you have indeed gone from one extreme to another, and it is a legitimate question to entertain about you."

Our cease fire is now over, Shayne. Please consider yourself unworthy of further notice by me: I don't argue with people who indulge in the arbitrary, particularly not when the purpose is to unjustly attack me.

-- Diana Hsieh


James S. Valliant's picture


It really depends on your interests and needs. PARC was never intended by me to be "an essential" read for all Objectivists. I am grateful to those who credit me with philosophical insight, and I do believe that we can learn much from Rand's own experience. PARC was aimed at those who had been influenced by the Branden biographies, the victims of the Brandens' distorted portraits, and those who rely upon those biographies in their own work.

If you don't fall into that category, but still admire Rand, you might still "enjoy the read," as you say.


eg's picture

For me TOC is too permissive and inclusive and ARI is too restrictive and exclusive. I think the problem is that "Fact and Value" assumes one can more easily know what is true both in terms of human conduct and what should therefore be sanction or lack of sanction than one actually can.



eg's picture

Nathaniel to my knowledge has not "disassociated" himself from any of his books. How could he do that? The book he most distanced himself from was his first, "Who Is Ayn Rand." He also used "The Disowned Self" as a kind of appendix to "The Psychology of Self Esteem" in that it was bringing it up to date. In a general way he finds his later books on psychology to be more sophisticated and valuable than the earlier, but I have never come across any information that he doesn't continue to think "The Disowned self" to be good and valuable still.

Should I Care About This?

Dan Edge's picture

I don't mean that to be a rhetorical question. I've always thought that the ARI/TOC distinction was important, especially if you're going to give money one or the other. The techinical epistemological and ethical differences are particularly important, and fun to figure out (for me anyway). But I thought anyone who was consistently focused on ARI vs TOC, Rand vs Brandens, etc., was somebody I probably wouldn't get along with on a personal level. Again, I do consider these issues to be somewhat important, but am I missing something essential? (Again, not a rhetorical question).

Considering that I'm not particularly interested in schismology at this point, should I still read PARC? I mean, I may enjoy the read, but do you guys think it's an essential read for those who want to participate in the Objectivist movement? All respect to Valliant, whom I really like based on his writings here, but as much trouble as I had getting through Judgement Day (felt like watching Jerry Springer and I couldn't finish it), I don't know if I want to go over the sordid details again.


--Dan Edge

Contrary to PARC people's hyperbole...

sjw's picture

I'm not a TOC advocate Neil. Bidinotto isn't my "mentor" and I'm not a lover of the Brandens. And I don't even disagree with PARC. On the contrary, I think the main conclusions there were evident for any careful reader to see before Valliant even wrote it. Which makes this all the more ironic--those sloppy readers who couldn't see the truth before having their noses rubbed in it have a lot of gall to criticize me for asking them to take care when analyzing ARI & TOC.

What I am is a lover of reason. I have seen scant critique of TOC by PARC people that has stood up to the light of reason, and I have seen scant evidence that they actually engage in the same kind of moral thinking about ARI as they do about TOC--which smells strongly of agenda. *Both* ARI & TOC should be judged by the standard of reason and Objectivism.


sjw's picture

The first thing you should recognize here isn't who I intend to include, it's to re-affirm the basic principle, one which hasn't been pointed out in this connection, but a basic truth that should guide any man who is facing a radical correction of his assumptions. The first questions he should ask himself are: "Is my basic thinking method at fault? Have I been dishonest?" And also to recognize that any congratulation of people on their "integrity" merely because they happen to claim to believe what you believe is empty without considering this.

I'm not going to answer your question here because I'm not going to back up a particular assertion about you here, which would be your obvious next question if I did answer. Given all you have written, that would be quite a job, and even if I were to take it up, it would be weeks and weeks of going through each of your various articles and writing up my own analysis. I will only point out that you have indeed gone from one extreme to another, and it is a legitimate question to entertain about you.

Lack of Objectivity?

Neil Parille's picture


Since PARC came out, some people have rethought their opinion of the Brandens. But I don't know anyone who has embraced the ARI as a result of PARC. (I believe Miss Hsieh's change came earlier, though I could be wrong.)

If I were an Orthodox Objectivist, I'd like a group that advocates on behalf of Rand's philosophy more energetically than TOC does (in fact, I took a disliking to them once they changed their name) but that is a secondary issue.

PARC doesn't have anything to do with Mayhew's editing of Rand's answers, the ARI's true believer mentality or whatever.

Me too?

DianaHsieh's picture

Shayne wrote: "Everyone who was formerly from the TOC side who turns on a dime and starts preaching the opposite of what they formerly preached obviously hasn't learned their lesson--their injustice toward Ayn Rand is going to repeat itself like a broken record except with different targets."

Since I don't wish to jump to conclusions, Shayne, let me ask you: Do you include me in this category of "everyone who..." And who else do you include?

-- Diana Hsieh

Shameful lack of objectivity

sjw's picture

Linz: Objectivity with PARC might have only required reading PARC and comparing it to the Brandens. That was before James decided to use PARC as a device to attack TOC. Now objectivity requires looking carefully at TOC and ARI. I don't know if you've done a complete about-face on ARI's history or not--but by patting James on the back while ignoring his agnosticism toward ARI--you're encouraging the ARI behavior you have always been so critical of.

Now if you've changed your mind about ARI and want to join in with the whitewashers, fine. Just come out and say it though.

Frankly, when it comes to those who have been "changed" by PARC, the only one I find credible to date is Bill Perry, who has the good sense to realize that if he could have been that wrong for so long, then he needs to take some time out to think. Everyone who was formerly from the TOC side who turns on a dime and starts preaching the opposite of what they formerly preached obviously hasn't learned their lesson--their injustice toward Ayn Rand is going to repeat itself like a broken record except with different targets.

ARI's "Appeals"?

James S. Valliant's picture


Glad to see we're still talking... I was getting worried. I recall our conversation a bit differently, but we were talking to -- not at -- one another. I hadn't gotten the memo about us not "debating" anymore after the accident.

Anyway, it's TOC members who have been complaining about TOC, not ARI at all. They have remained silent about this matter, unless I've missed something. It's TOC speakers, like Linz, Greg and Michelle, and before that Dr. Blumenthal, who were and are doing all the complaining and quitting about this. Diana, too, was affiliated with TOC, once upon a time, and her arguments long predate her affiliation with ARI.

Re: For the record

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant,

You definitely did take a risk vis-a-vis the Ayn Rand Institute.

But once Leonard Peikoff saw what you had put up on the Web (the precursor to Part I of your book), he knew pretty much what you would say once you got access to Rand's unpublished journal entries.

You could slay the serpents in the Garden for him and the other folks at ARI.  And if the project backfired, he always had the option of denouncing and disowning your book.  Plausible deniability and all that.

Anyhow, he got what he wanted.  And I expect he is thoroughly relieved that he didn't have to write about Rand's journal entries himself.  After all, she hid The Affair from him until the day she died.

As far as The Objectivist Center is concerned, I've donated money to them and spoken at their conferences.  I've also had a number of polite philosophical disagreements with David Kelley.  And I've sharply criticized Robert Bidinotto's policy of not reviewing or discussing your book in TOC publications (you may recall that I did so on SOLOHQ).  Plus unlike Robert B, I refrained from commenting on your book until I had read it. TOC can no better afford not to respond to your book than it could afford not to respond to "Fact and value," and for the same reasons.

But your allegations that "the Brandens" control TOC's agenda are absurd.  David Kelley and Will Thomas control TOC's agenda.

Besides, there is something incongruous in all of these appeals to TOC to repudiate "the Brandens" and bar them from speaking at conferences.  From the ARIan point of view, David Kelley has chucked out objectivity for subjectivity, most notably in the moral realm, and the ordinary members of TOC are either grossly ignorant of genuine Objectivist principles, or have accompanied Kelley on his free fall into depravity.  If the ARIans are right (and how often do they contemplate the likelihood of being otherwise?), their appeals are guaranteed to fall on deaf ears. So why do they bother?

Robert Campbell

"he wrote Breaking Free and

JoeM's picture

"he wrote Breaking Free and The Disowned Self (books that Mr. Cresswell, in his essay, dismisses by implication as being of no value)."

I thought it was NB himself who disassociated himself with "Disowned Self." (Not a great book, btw.)

Jim, ditto Lance's comments.

Rand's heroism

Robert Campbell's picture


I'm not questioning Rand's genuine heroism.  But surely I can be allowed to admire Rand the same way I admire Sonny Rollins or Victor Hugo--acknowledging her stature and achievements, without pretending that she was a perfect human being.

The problem that Rand poses (and that Rollins or Hugo does not) is that she publicly proclaimed herself to be morally perfect--i.e., to be like Howard Roark or John Galt.  That's what "And I mean it" really means.

When asked whether he subscribes to the doctrine of "the moral perfection of Ayn Rand," Mr. Valliant has either denied adhering to it, or danced around the issue.  But the strategy of argumentation, both in his book, and his contributions to online dicussions, has been to reject all negative judgments of her character that come from the serpents in the Garden, because "the Brandens" can't be believed about anything, then to dodge any negative evidence about her character or behavior that comes from other sources (including her published writings).

It's all in the SOLOHQ archives (as well as on Chris Sciabarra's Notablog), if anyone has the patience to wade through it.

As for Nathaniel Branden subscribing to overintellectualized conceptions of people's motives, of course he did while he was with Rand.  But after being cast out of the fold, he wrote Breaking Free and The Disowned Self (books that Mr. Cresswell, in his essay, dismisses by implication as being of no value).

Ayn Rand's only move away from philosophicopsychological diagnosis was her confused essay, "The Psychology of Psychologizing," which she filled with examples of the very tendency that she professed to deplore.

Robert Campbell

Re: Valliant & ARI

Robert Campbell's picture


I appreciate your persistence concerning Mr. Valliant and the Ayn Rand Institute.

I quit debating Mr. Valliant and his claque back in November, because I'd crunched both of my wrists in an accident and needed all of my resources to recover.  But even if I hadn't been faced with an imperative to change my priorities, I had the sense that the debate was well past the point of bringing further returns.

Mr. Valliant would refrain from judging some action of ARI, or of its interlocking entity, The Estate of Ayn Rand.

Or he would concoct excuses for  the most flagrant actions (such as the Estate's game-playing with Chris Sciabarra over Ayn Rand's college transcript, or the erasure of unpersons' voices from recordings). 

Or he wouldn't answer at all (he never did explain what philosophical errors in David Kelley's book, The Evidence of the Senses, led to its no longer being sold by ARI or cited by ARI-affiliated scholars).

Every bit of it's in the SOLOHQ archives, so readers can judge for themselves.

Robert Campbell

Salute to James

Lanza Morio's picture

James, I too salute you for sticking by your guns through all this. You went down a lonesome road by developing PARC, publishing PARC, and defending PARC. No one but you can know what it feels like to have done it. I imagine it feels both terrible and great at times. Terrible to leave yourself open to any buck-toothed kid with a BB gun who wants to take a shot at you. Great to have led us to see more clearly who Ayn Rand was. It's a major achievement.

When the buck-toothed kids get a little hyper-active rest assured that there are people who understand what you've done. Some you know and some you don't.

No problem, James!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Your post, "For the Record," was outstanding.

As far as the learning curve is concerned, one of the things I've learned is the true extent of amoral indifference. I suppose it owes something to the "Who gives a shit?!" mentality that pervades this revolting pomo culture. But even here, which is supposed to be better than that, folk can observe fouler than foul behaviour & not only shrug it off but make excuses for its perpetrators & their sponsors. Years of lies, gold-digging manipulation & smearing? Who gives a shit?!—let's give the liars, smearers & gold-diggers a spot. After we've said we'll never discuss their behaviour. Well, just for the record, such baseness is not part of any official SOLO "party line." The Credo, including its advocacy of honesty, sincerity and eternal hostility to their antipodes, is!

Thanks, Linz.

James S. Valliant's picture

Thanks, Linz.

Valiant Valliant ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I hate to disappoint you: my book was not the result of an ARI plot against TOC.
But I do have to plead guilty to something: Peikoff likes the book! Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My surprise at all of this is genuine, folks, whether this fits with the Brandens’ and TOC’s well-established script or not. The reaction to PARC has convinced me that for all it's "openness," TOC's defenders are stuck playing out that stale script. It has all been quite a learning experience.

Has it what?! And speaking for myself, I'm *still* learning!

Shameful, Shayne!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's shameful how Linz lets you remain so ignorant of ARI's history. Justice indeed. I expect the next thing is that Linz is going to be claiming that he was wrong to criticize ARI all along.

What on earth are you talking about?

More of the same

sjw's picture

It's shameful how Linz lets you remain so ignorant of ARI's history. Justice indeed. I expect the next thing is that Linz is going to be claiming that he was wrong to criticize ARI all along.

Regarding this statement: "On the other hand, I do know the damage TOC causes by spreading the Brandens’ distortions." If you could have demonstrated this James, I'd still be on your side. But you couldn't. It's just empty hyperbole. Indeed, it's "misrepresentation and hyperbole."

I was perhaps the first to call you heroic James precisely for your defiance of stodgy ARI behavior. But for me, heros have to meet a higher standard than merely defiance. They have to be rational. In all areas. Mere devotion to a cause is not nearly enough. Indeed, devotion to a cause to the point of irrationality is the opposite of heroic.

For the Record

James S. Valliant's picture

For the record (for some minds, something that has a memory-span no longer than a single thread, it seems):

I wrote PARC believing what I had been told about ARI – “Any discussion of the Brandens will get you ‘excommunicated,’ Jim!”

Whether anyone believes me or not, I never gave a shit. (Forgive me, this has become a tiresome ritual by now.) On every page of my book, I thought, I was entering forbidden territory, and my fate with all those at ARI, including a teacher to whom I owed much gratitude, was surely sealed. One simply did not cite Libertarians, or mention Rothbard’s critique, or have the nerve to use Sciabarra’s work, or the brazenness to cite – gad zooks! – ‘Liberty’ magazine, etc., etc., or, well, etc., etc. Hadn’t David Kelley reported on his tolerant dismay on the subject of Ms. Branden’s book being placed off-limits among “prominent Objectivists.”

“To hell with that,” I thought.

So, based on what you folks had all assured me, there was no way I was going to consult with Peikoff about my project. The first half of my book had been posted on the Web for about a year and I had already taken it down before Peikoff, to my great surprise, called ME.

You can imagine what I expected when Holly told me one evening after I came home from work that “Leonard called… I think we already know what it’s about…”

And, indeed, almost the first thing he said to me was to ask why I had not previously consulted with him about this. The next thing was his reported reaction when it was first handed to him (and by whom, I still don’t know): “Am I gonna have to have a fight with Valliant now?”

Well, if that wasn’t enough, when Peikoff made anything and everything in his possession available to me, when he said he’d read the final version AFTER it was published, when he attached no strings to the project begun without his permission and against his advice, I was simply floored.

This obviously wasn’t reality as it had been laid out for me.

Not the “reality” you guys seem to arbitrarily assume as something axiomatic.

Next, I expected open debate on one side and angry denunciation on the other. Instead, I was accused of bad motives for even dealing with Rand’s estate and told that any project ever associated with anyone ever associated with ARI was to be thrown in the trash… like PARC.

I really did not anticipate being called “a parasite” by Mr. Bidinotto before my book was released, any more than I anticipated the deeper and stubbornly unexplained embrace of the Brandens by TOC following PARC’s release, or the assault on me personally and the bizarre theories floated about my motives – whole threads on my mental condition.

So, I started to question the “reality” everyone assumed about ARI. I asked for evidence, I expressed my dissatisfaction at the empty charges, and, of course, another round of questioning of my motives would begin.

I admit it: I remain dissatisfied with the critique of ARI.

On the other hand, I do know the damage TOC causes by spreading the Brandens’ distortions.

When I started out, I had no affiliation with either ARI or TOC. When it came out, I was told that PARC had caused divisions and differences of opinion at both “camps.”

I remain caught in the middle of absurd hypocrisy coming from many directions, and very little by way of substantive response to my arguments, but Lord help the man who tries to give his honest opinion with TOC boosters around here!

The evils of “political truths,” forbidden topics, airbrushed schisms, and silenced debates, as I have recently learned the hard way, exist on the TOC side at least as much as their bellyaching about ARI suggests about "the other guys."

Robert, I set out to critically examine the biases and perspectives of first-hand historical sources about Ayn Rand. This is inevitable and necessary. If it had only been their nasty break in 1968, their motives as reporters would and should be subject to critical analysis.

Shoddy accusations of alcoholism, dubious accounts of private conversations contradicting the rest of the known evidence, and things of this nature, abound. Credibility issues cry out for discussion. It's that simple.

I hate to disappoint you: my book was not the result of an ARI plot against TOC.

But I do have to plead guilty to something: Peikoff likes the book! Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

My surprise at all of this is genuine, folks, whether this fits with the Brandens’ and TOC’s well-established script or not. The reaction to PARC has convinced me that for all it's "openness," TOC's defenders are stuck playing out that stale script.

It has all been quite a learning experience.

False alternatives

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Mr. Campbell would have it that to react with due disgust to the reprehensible behaviour of the Brandens, revealed to its full extent and in its full enormity for the first time in PARC, is to be a "Rand-worshipper" and an ARIan. I defy Mr. Campbell to look at the evidence and classify me as an ARIan. "Rand-worshipper"? Well, yes, in the same way I am a worshipper of Rachmaninoff or any other hero. I worship, proudly, but hardly blindly. Whatever her actual flaws, the Brandens deceived and manipulated this woman over a period of years in a way that would leave any soap-opera script-writer breathless with awe, then smeared her as well. They're still at it. The kind of ignobleness required to turn a blind eye to such behaviour and succour its perpetrators beggars contemplation.

James V can speak for himself, but it's worth remembering that the PARC project has been met with hostility by a significant section of the ARI. James has negotiated treacherous terrain to complete his task, having grenades lobbed at him from all directions, and I for one salute him. He is a hero, too, in my book. So put that in your pipe & smoke it, Mr. Campbell. Few care about justice the way he does, as one or two contributions to this very thread remind us.



eg's picture

Ayn Rand wasn't "perfect." But her life was heroic. She was in over her head psycotherapeutically speaking, but mostly due to Nathaniel, who also shared her over intellectualized view of psychotherapy in those days. If you put her heroism on one side of the scale and her imperfections, especially in dealing with others on the other, the heroic slams down. But ultimately James Valliant comes a cropper because he overestimates the Brandens in all this.


Valliant & ARI

sjw's picture


"Mr. Valliant’s true relationship with the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals has been much debated (so far, the only decision of theirs that he has dared to criticize has been their refusal to sell George Reisman’s magnum opus)."

As one who has engaged Valliant (and his two biggest supporters) rather intensively over the past few months, I have to add that it's worse than you imply.

Most criticism of ARI or any ARI supporters on any grounds is responded to with calls for being more "benevolent", giving them benefit of the doubt, giving them time to respond, alternative explanations, etc. And when the evidence is particularly clear against ARI--then there is no response at all. At no point during these discussions do I remember them recognizing that they did anything wrong ever. Even with the Reisman affair--if memory serves Valliant merely agreed it'd be good if they published his book or some such--but he never said they were wrong. When it comes to evaluating ARI, they are quick to claim ignorance and give them huge helpings of benefit of the doubt.

The situation is exactly the opposite when it comes to TOC. Valliant et. al. have with TOC instead been very quick to evaluate TOC policy and actions. With regard to ARI, they act like moral ignoramuses; with regard to TOC they act like moral authorities. Which pretty much speaks for itself--there's definitely some kind of agenda or bias here as neither organization is beyond reproach.

The likely impact of Mr. Valliant's book

Robert Campbell's picture

Peter Cresswell’s essay of February 1 helps to clarify what James Valliant’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, is truly accomplishing.

Mr. Valliant will never succeed in convincing the wider world that Ayn Rand was a moral paragon before whom they should get on their knees. To the extent that non-Randians accept Mr. Valliant’s equation of respect for Ayn Rand’s ideas with worship of her person, they are unlikely to respond with either.

Nor will non-Randians be much impressed by Mr. Valliant’s efforts to tie every last sin, real or alleged, of Rand and her movement onto the backs of "the Brandens."

As some observers have already pointed out, what Mr. Valliant has actually produced is the latest test of loyalty for orthodox Objectivists. What Peikoff’s "Fact and value" was during the 1990s, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics will be for the next decade, maybe longer. Until some further way is found to ensure that there are "fewer, but better" Objectivists...

Mr. Valliant’s true relationshjp with the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals has been much debated (so far, the only decision of theirs that he has dared to criticize has been their refusal to sell George Reisman’s magnum opus). Not subject to debate is the fact that his book has convinced some Randians to align with ARI. Indeed, it will continue to be a recruiting tool for some time to come. But only among existing Randians who have been insecure in their convictions so long as they doubted that Ayn Rand was morally perfect. Some other Randians have come away from the book with a more negative view of Nathaniel Branden than they previously held. But any response short of outright Rand-worship will prove disappointing to the ARI crowd.

I am far less worried than I was a few months ago that Mr. Valliant’s book will make large numbers of converts for ARI. I now think that it will achieve the desired effect only with those who already identify themselves as Objectivists and already harbor worshipful tendencies. (I’m reminded of those Lubavitcher missionaries I used to encounter on the streets of New York City, whose first question was always, "Are you Jewish?" As soon as I told them I wasn’t, I was spared the rest of the pitch.)

I think two features of Peter Cresswell’s review deserve special notice.

One is his effort to out-Valliant Mr. Valliant, by accusing "the Brandens" of preventing Rand from completing To Lorne Dieterling. Isn’t it just possible that Ms. Rand was written out, fiction-wise, after completing Atlas Shrugged? Next I expect to hear that Rand wasn’t really depressed from 1958 to 1960. After all, "the Brandens" have said that she was. And neither Howard Roark nor Dagny Taggart would get depressed.

The second is his (and Mr. Valliant’s) casual acceptance of Rand’s role of psychological counselor to various of her followers, including her estranged lover:

Rand’s account of Branden’s psychotherapy (requested by him, he said at the time, to help solve his sexual impotence and ‘emotional autism,’ but in reality simply to delay his inevitable day of reckoning) offers the same view as does lifting up a rock and watching the cockroaches scuttle around: under the glare of her penetrating analysis he has no hole left in which to crawl, and eventually, painfully, his fraud is exposed, and his worlds—professional, romantic, emotional—collapse around his feet.

It is highly doubtful that any psychologist will be converted to ARIanism or Rand-worship by reading The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. Clinicians and counselors are taught that amateurs should not be doing psychological counseling, and professionals should not be offering therapy to friends, lovers, or disciples. What’s more, while psychologically informed readers will empathize with Rand’s pain at being betrayed, those who read her journal entries are not going to be bowled over by her ad hoc philosophicopsychological diagnoses of Nathaniel Branden—the "big shot premise," "the Kantian goddess premise," and all of the rest. Mr. Valliant would have done much better by Ayn Rand had he excused these purported diagnoses as the judgments of a woman who was in over her head and being fed a steady diet of bullshit. Instead, he missed no opportunity to praise her psychological acumen.

So although PARC has galvanized many of the Rand-worshippers, it will not raise Rand’s reputation in the eyes of the wider public. Over time, Mr. Valliant’s book may actually lower it.

As long as the Rand-worshippers continue to stand in the way of objective assessments of Ayn Rand’s ideas, I will continue to recommend PARC to those who are curious about these matters.

Robert Campbell


Rowlf's picture

~~ I'm not yet quite done with PARC, but so far I sympathize totally with your perspective, not to mention how JV has handled...comments.

~~ Strange thing occurred reading your missive. You referred to 'MYWAR' a couple times and I was so perplexed that I decided to Google around; heh, anti-war groups, music band/sites, but nothing meaningfully relevent. --- Then I reread (nothing like context to help decode) your post. "My Years With Ayn Rand" finally clicked. I never read it. What I read (and still have) was Branden's original "Judgement Day" aka JD(!) --- Then, after that 'Eureka' moment, I looked again at the acronymic initials: M-Y W-A-R.

~~ Wonder if there's more to the subconscious than we yet know?


Thank You

James S. Valliant's picture


Thank you for your kind words -- and your willingness to endure the journey. It does take some endurance -- and stomach.

Your civility and warmth -- in all of these discussions -- have also been much appreciated.

To Rand and Ditko

Landon Erp's picture

I can relate to the sentiment. Sometimes I think the only thing that saved me more anguish over the issue was my comic background.

No matter what someone said about how Rand didn't "mean it" I could always count on Ditko. It brings me a lot of comfort to know that the woman who put so much into perspective to me and changed my life for the better in a far greater way than anyone else (save one person who loves pandas) very well did mean it.

I guess I just feel sad that other mediums don't have their own "real life Howard Roarks" to get through times and ideas like that.


It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

Congrats, Regina!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You have stood up & been counted for justice.

A Valliant Effort.

Prima Donna's picture

I find it interesting that James has been vilified for his misrepresentation or hyperbole, when the facts are in plain view, whether through the blatant contradictions of the Brandens themselves, or in Rand’s own words. One could read PARC without James’ commentary at all, and still come to the same conclusions.

There are those who have used whatever tactics possible -- including the use of innuendo about the publisher of the book (the funniest attempted diversion yet) -- to discredit PARC and what it reveals about the character of all parties involved.

James, I watched how you handled yourself through all of this, and thought to myself: Here is a man whose name is quite fitting. You have used the pen as your sword, to rightly return to Rand the reputation she never should have lost to begin with. Your keen sense of justice is one I can very much appreciate.

Part of the anger I feel right now is directed toward myself for not catching the contradictions that were plainly in front of my face –- I should have read The Passion of Ayn Rand more carefully, for they are right there on the written page. (I never thought much of MYWAR to begin with, as it reeked of retaliation.)

But the most poignant part of all was in Rand’s words themselves -- to see the years of mental and emotional effort wasted, and to see the patience and benevolence with which she methodically analyzed each detail…I think how much better her time could have been spent. I wanted to shout through the pages to her “You’re right! Stop giving them the benefit of the doubt!” That her analysis was so spot-on is a testament to the power of her mind -– one I would much rather have seen put to more productive use.

Many have said that the biography must be separated from the philosophy, and I do not disagree. But for me, at the age of 22, reading Rand’s words lifted me to such a level of exaltation that it was a crushing blow to discover that perhaps she did not, in fact, “mean it.” I wonder how many young people have been through the same, and have given up on her ideas altogether. In the end, I decided that the ideas were valid enough on their own, and put her personal “contradictions” aside.

For those who say that her personal story is unimportant, I wonder how often they have had to listen to the spew coming from someone’s mouth upon discussing her ideas, based solely upon the “reputation” she has been given as a result of books like PAR and MYWAR. I don't even want to talk about the movie. The ideas themselves are difficult enough for most people to understand, but with the added bonus of them coming from a “crazy, neurotic” woman, they are easily dismissed. Those same people read of her ideas about love and equally dismissed them, given that she was married to a “cuckolded alcoholic.” Perhaps some of the greatest injustice here has been done to Frank himself. My disgust is palpable.

Thank you, James, for defending the heroic, and for providing a sword of truth to cut through the threads of innuendo used by false admirers.


-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Riddle Me This, Batman

Holly Valliant's picture

It's the whole combo that's so revealing:

1. Kelley complains when "prominent Objectivists" won't debate Ms. Branden's book;
2. TOC's official policy is to silence debate on the issue now;
3. Branden and Bidinotto would suppress all the evidence contained in Rand's notes;
4. When released, their associates complain about every real or imagined out of place gnat's eyelash in the editing;
5. Ms. Branden's book was a "heroic act of bravery";
6. Rand's own words on the same topic must never see the light of day, and the motives of those who would release this evidence must be automatically questioned.

Only One Motive Here

James S. Valliant's picture

Nathaniel Branden, in his memoir, bizarrely calls the publication of any of Rand's journals an effort by Peikoff to convert Rand's legacy "into personal cash" -- although that's what his own memoirs do, and quite literally what Ms. Branden did in auctioning off her own Rand's manuscripts and memorabilia a while back, and although Peikoff is not making a dime from my book (i.e., he doesn't have a clue as to Peikoff's policies here), etc. Bidnotto's assertions about PARC prior to its release seem cribbed from Branden.

PARC shows what Branden feared. This fear is manifest towards the end of Branden's memoir, where he wonders, "God knows what" Rand will write about him in her private journals, i.e., he did not know their contents, but then "assures" us that any "consideration" of the "truth" will not be involved, i.e., it will all be a pack of lies.

This desire to suppress Rand's notes, despite all of the amazing things we are learning from them -- things of great philosophical importance -- seems to stem from this Brandenian fear. Brandens and friends of the Brandens seem to be the primary source.

Admirers of Rand are typically eager for new material. The estate seems eager to release it. But whether it's "embarrassing" or not, it should all be released in as "raw" a form as possible and as soon as possible. Rand has passed on and she gave all of this to her estate with the inescapable expectation that it would be used when needed.

The effect of these notes on the credibility of Brandens' accounts is apparent -- new information compromising Rand's privacy is not.


Casey's picture

Here's a tip: saying 'getting weird here' is less offensive than saying 'you people are weird.' Neither is all that edifying, but one is more civil and would not be seen as an insult and would be seen as an appraisal of an idea as opposed to an appraisal of people.


sjw's picture

Holly: No, it's not nice to call someone's behavior "weird" and "bizarre". So in that sense I'm not being civil. But really, that was the last stage in my trying to comprehend your behaviour. I tried a few times without being "uncivil" (not that my statements were THAT over the top), and it just got more strange. Partly, I figure if I declare: "Hey guys, getting weird here"--maybe you'll come around and explain. Probably not, but maybe.

Next time I see my friend, I'll have to mention the "nakedly pro-Branden" bit. I'm sure they'll get a kick out of it. Hey, maybe they'll even come to see things more my way when it comes to ARI. If so, then, thanks in advance, you've been a great help.

Own "Agenda"?

Holly Valliant's picture


You wear your own many issues on your sleeve, so no further comment is necessary, but even you cannot imagine that many of your recent posts have been "civil."

The cause of our doubts is obvious, not weird, of course. Few at ARI would ever take such a nakedly pro-Branden position as you suggest. Nothing in Rand's journals compromises her own privacy or is in any way an embarrassment to her. The Brandens' tabloid treatment of Rand had been the culprit there. No, these notes are the devastating refutation of so much of the Brandens' smear-job that the position you claim for an "ARI" type is hard to imagine.

The publication of this sort of material, of course, is quite common when it comes to other authors, and there is material of psychological and philosophical substance from Rand's pen here, too. Also, those at ARI who are skeptical of the book have expressed only one common theme: the Brandens don't deserve the attention or PR. So, this is something both new and improbable -- that is coming from anyone who admires Ayn Rand.

The truth was never Rand's enemy.

It's easy to see why your friend would want to keep such an opinion to himself if he hangs out with many who actually admire Rand.

Weirder and Weirderer

sjw's picture

Casey, I'm not claiming that this reaction is proof of anything except that even some people who like ARI don't at first glance like the idea of all of us going through Ayn Rand's private diary. No they'e not read PARC and maybe they'd change their mind, they didn't seem to think so but I can't speak for what they'll do if/when they read it.

Shayne, you stated "Indeed,

Casey's picture

Shayne, you stated "Indeed, I was having a discussion with a friend about PARC a few weeks ago who is a fairly loyal and regular ARI conference attendee, and they were quite disturbed by the idea of publishing Ayn Rand's diaries like this."

Like what? When challenged it turns out this person hasn't read the Brandens' books or PARC. That person has no idea how they were used and yet feels "quite disturbed by the idea of publishing Ayn Rand's diaries like this."

This is a prime example of why anecdotal evidence from anonymous sources is worth bupkiss. Once any context is known about the person and the reasons behind his statements, their value usually evaporates. In PARC, James tracked down the context of quite a few of these anecdotal references and found them to be, once placed in their context, worthless as observations and certainly of no value to the argument they were cited to support in the first place. This person's completely ignorant comment can not be reasonably cited to support the idea ("Indeed") that Rand would not have wanted her diaries published. And since the person has no knowledge of or interest in the subject, who cares what this person thinks about it? It certainly isn't proof of Rand's state of mind in any event! Surely, it's not "weird" to see this obvious fact? Or do you think that "normal" people SHOULD be interested? Interested enough to contact this person even? Hmmm... That seems pretty weird to me.


sjw's picture

Don't know what else to say Holly other than that your expectations here are surprisingly bizarre. I have respect for a person's right to privacy and am even willing to go ask that person if you can chat with them and you go Frank Burns on me?

I don't know, I'm starting to think that you people are just really, really weird.

No Thanks

Holly Valliant's picture

No, Shayne, keep the name if it has to be whispered. The fact that neither you nor he are willing to "publicize" the name says all I need to know.

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