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.

( categories: )

Can't find it

Jon Letendre's picture

Would anyone else care to comment on the claim that “she [Rand] claimed he [Peikoff] is the only person who completely understands her philosophy”?

I assume Casey bases this on her recommendation of his course, a statement that falls well short of his version. But perhaps she said something closer to what Casey claims? Are you aware of anything?

Also, where can I find the exact wording of her recommendation? I remember reading it, but I can’t seem to find it now.



James Heaps-Nelson's picture


On a more substantive note, I don't share Rand's view of sanction. I think in order to make sound judgments you need more information, not less. ARI went around in a fog for decades giving people misinformation or no information. I spent four years after 1989 not knowing about the split between Peikoff and Kelley because the TIA issue that contained Fact and Value came just as I was leaving for college in 1989. I actually listened to Kelley's talk at the Laissez Faire Supper Club on tape without knowing about the Split.

With the Reisman thing, again more mushroom treatment. Fed shit all day and kept in the dark. Luckily the relevant documents are on the web. I knew Linda Reardan who was the editor of the Intellectual Activist at the time and sided with the Reismans. She was the most honest one of the whole bunch. When I would see Gary Hull walking around campus in 1993, he always looked like he had a major case of constipation. Now I know why. He and Linda were very good friends.


Not on my mind

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I'll actually get to hear Linz speak this time. I showed up for the last two days of the Vancouver conference after visiting with my Aunt and Uncle in Seattle and boating for three days on Lake Washington.

I posted negative reviews of Barbara's book before reading PARC nd Nathaniel's Judgment Day was a major barffest. What's different about those books after PARC?

Hopefully I will get to meet you this year. I've enjoyed talking with you on SOLO.


Oh, Shayne!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I stuck up for you because in my assesment you're certainly not an "asshole." But I'm afraid your latest post does validate Casey's & James' evaluations of the quality of at least some of your reasoning (though Casey certainly sidestepped the issues *I* raised about ARI in *his* post). It's full of holes. They can speak to the ones that pertain to them—I'll confine myself to one point: your defence of Bidinotto. It's all very well for him now, airily, to say he can't be bothered discussing Rand's private life. He endorsed Barbara's book that revealed The Affair!!! He spent a lot of energy on the old SOLOHQ condemning Rand FOR The Affair, on grounds that would have made a conservative Catholic blush. When word got out about the upcoming Valliant book, sight unseen he called Valliant a parasite. Then, when the book came out & the honest among us realised it made a credible case, he conveniently went into "don't bother me, don't bother me, don't bother me" mode. This is disgraceful behaviour. And you're apologising to him??!!

Hey Jim, Well I think it

Lanza Morio's picture

Hey Jim,

Well I think it will be on everyone's mind. No? More like watching a car wreck than anything positive. I know of a few people who are scratching their heads about how to reconcile TOC's sanction of the Branden's (they do sanction them, right?) with Valliant's book. I just don't know how a person could read that book and not want to reconcile the two things.

I had a ball in Vancouver and yes, Linz certainly made an impression. I thought he'd need CPR one night in the Common Room. I've never seen anyone laugh that violently. I met the fabulous Alec M. and Andrew B. there. 8 of us had an incredible day whitewater rafting and cliff-diving on the Chillywack River. Good times.

TOC's focus

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Why would you think the focus will be on the Brandens? It wasn't last year when Nathaniel was there or the year before that in Vancouver. A good chunk of us were listening to Will Thomas' terrific lecture on Friends and Family. In Vancouver, Lindsay's talk was the toast of the conference.

Last year the two best presentations were from Michael Newberry and Lyman Hazelton.

The appearance of the Brandens will be a yawner.


Peter, what a terrific

Lanza Morio's picture

Peter, what a terrific review on PARC this is. Thanks.

Regarding TOC, I would expect David Kelly to make some kind of comment about PARC before or during the conference. TOC's association with Branden's N. and B. is a black-eye on the organization. I hope David will comment about it.

There are some wonderful people at TOC and it's a damn shame that (much of) the focus for this year's TOC Conference will be on the Branden's. That seems terrible for all parties.


sjw's picture


Thanks for speaking up (though I disagree that I'm "thin-skinned").

While I feel confident that I could regard Valliant and co. as allies on a certain level (it's safe to assume that they're for individual rights and capitalism), on the issue of judging TOC I think I've allowed myself to be duped. I started questioning myself on this issue yesterday when I saw how brazenly illogical they've been when it comes to this subject--which left me with a heightened sense of due dilligence when it came to the other things they've said (in other words: I don't find them to be credible anymore).

I had accepted and helped further the notion that TOC would be inconsistent in not evaluating PARC at some point (though I did say we should cut them some slack on the timeline). I was unaware of the fact, but TOC has a long-standing specific policy that excludes carrying *both* the Brandens' books and PARC. So while we might debate whether they should publish these kinds of things, they're not being inconsistent or sinister in some way not to. And I think the issue is debatable; it's not inherently evil to not support the discussion of Ayn Rand's private life in their official forums. Indeed, I can see how some might consider it poor taste.

And that quote that Casey used of David Kelly's was taken out of context. I don't see the evidence for Casey's implication that Kelly, like the Brandens, is an "Ayn Rand critic" that's now silent in the face of PARC. The association he draws is out of thin air. He has no right to foist the endorsement with the Brandens onto David Kelly, and no right to expect David Kelly to declare his fondness to PARC as if that were some kind of loyalty oath to Ayn Rand. (The retort will be: "But they invite the Brandens to conferences". They invite a lot of people to conferences, it doesn't mean they're vouching for the character of these people, unlike ARI, they leave it up to the attendees to judge for themselves).

My interpretation (and I think I need to write an article just for Valliant on the word given his odd fear of it) of the quote based on reconsidering it is that Kelly's point was that there were de facto prohibitions about speaking about it, and ostracism as a result of doing so, and *that* was what was wrong. Again, there is no hypocrisy on TOC's part here: Unlike ARI, they do not kick people out of the movement for talking about things like this. On the contrary, they've invited you to speak there, even in the face of you being a harsh critic. That says a lot about how open they are to criticism.

Robert Bidinotto was attacked by Casey for endorsing Barbara Branden's book. His latest public position on this is, basically, that he's got better things to do than argue over Ayn Rand's private life. After all of the arguing here, after looking at the quality of the arguments offered by Valliant and the time I've wasted trying to discuss anything with him, I have to say that I respect Bidinotto's answer. I suppose that they'd grant him the right to prioritize his own life if only he'd read PARC and retract his endorsement? I.e., if he'd change his priorities then they'd let him prioritize?

To summarize: I'm offering up my official apology to Kelly, Bidinotto, and TOC for any backing I gave to Fahy and Valliant in their baseless and evidently agenda-driven attacks. I completely withdraw any support I gave them to this end.

I do not of course retract my evaluations of the heroic stature of Ayn Rand and the contradictory nature of the Branden biographies. But PARC never changed my mind about that, it was clear enough from the biographies themselves: Rand was exploited and defamed by those two. I suppose one might consider us allies because of this, but I'm starting to think that they're like the stopped clock I mentioned. That we agree is probably an accident of some kind.

“she claimed he is the only person who completely understands.

Jon Letendre's picture

“she claimed he is the only person who completely understands her philosophy”

What is the source for this? Do you mean her statement to the effect that his course on Objectivism is the only one, to her knowledge, to be fully accurate? If so, you’ve changed the substance of that statement. If not, please provide your source.


Casey's picture

I am not an ARI-defender. It's just that what I'm seeing is some kind of conspiracy theory that cannot be countered by reason or the facts. When it is pointed out that nearly all of Rand's notes were printed in PARC, the baseless accusation stands that James may not be telling the truth, or that ARI might be withholding something. When a questionable footnote or misattribution appears (of course, no such accusations have been made about PARC) it's immediately presumed to be the tip of the ice berg, with no evidence whatsoever -- indeed ARI is criticized for digging in wastebaskets to find creative ways to make cash from Rand's marginalia!! When Peikoff presents a carefully reasoned and argued paper disagreeing with Kelley, all that is focused on is his reference at the very end to the reason he felt it was necessary to draw a line -- the intellectual heir designation -- as if a) that designation is a lie (with no proof whatsoever), b) it is some kind of tyranny (as though the only person who should not state what Objectivism is and is not is the very individual Rand wanted to be in such a role since she claimed he is the only person who completely understands her philosophy) and c) it's a lie anyway, and around and around it goes like a dog chasing its tail. The dubbing issue is not an issue of altering the record but only one of marketing products -- in all of these cases the original historical records are available. They are even available for someone like Chris Sciabarra to see for himself if not publish! But some sinister conspiracy is inferred with no discernible proof except for an underlying need to justify TOC's existence at the expense of ARI. The Reisman issue had to do with personal conflicts I am not privy to and neither is anyone else in this debate, but that doesn't stop them from chalking it up in the ARI EVIL column. The one thing I agree with is that references to Reisman's works should not be ommitted -- Rand did not even remove Branden's works from her books. They are wedded together intellectually for all time because of that.

If Shayne responded with something in the nature of a list of his actual evidence instead of constantly harping on tone and emotionalist garbage, then maybe we'd all have a chance to see what the smoking gun evidence behind all the smoke consists of. Until then, there's really nothing to talk about.

Casey, James, Holly ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Shayne is not an "asshole." He's thin-skinned, to be sure, but on this occasion he's right. Calling him an asshole is alienating an ally. Remember, he's a supporter of PARC. Like me, he doesn't see being supportive of PARC as necessitating a buy-in to the modus operandi of the ARI, as you guys—dismayingly, and contrary to your original assurances—seem to. Can't you see that your defending the indefensible replicates precisely the behaviour of blind Brandenians that you rightly disdain? It doesn't matter which instance of ARI's inexcusable behaviour you're presented with—you guys find an excuse for it or plead agnosticism (the one exception I recall being Casey's repudiation of the bleeping out of names from tapes, if I recall correctly). How does this differ from, say, MSK's slavish defence of Barbara?

If you think you won't be tapped on the shoulder by ARI at some point (assuming you haven't been already) and told you'll have to choose between ARI and your participation on SOLO, I can assure you you're dreaming. A former SOLO staffer was presented with precisely such an ultimatum once, albeit given a year to think about it! Unfortunately he opted for ARI almost immediately, rallying to its defence over the ridiculous apologies demanded by ARI of Bernstein and Prodos.

James, in your televised interview with Leonard there's a very telling moment. It comes when you ask the one "curly" question of the interview, seeking his response to allegations of "cultism." A rational, benevolent response to that question would have been, "Well, yes, that perception is out there, but it's wrong, and here's why ..." Even better, "Yes, at times the organised Objectivist movement has engaged in cultish behaviour, and I myself have occasionally gone overboard in my response to honest critics. These are errors, born of the philosophical error of intrinsicism, which we now strive extra hard to avoid. And for the most part, I think we're doing an excellent job of promoting the philosophy. Here's why ..." Instead, Leonard bristles and says if you weren't a friend of his he'd dismiss the question out of hand. One senses that if you pressed the point, he'd forget the friendship and throw you out. This is precisely the kind of behaviour that frustrates the hell out of folk who sincerely wish the ARI well but retain their critical faculties.

Leonard's human. ARI staffers are human. I'm human. You guys are human. We can all make mistakes, and we do. Equally, we can all admit to them and resolve to do better next time. Stubbornly justifying them and denying they're mistakes doesn't cut it. And it's a hell of a turn-off to those we seek to win to our cause.

This debate makes me realise just how "solo" SOLO is. ARI are bull-at-a-gate premature ejaculators, TOC can't get it up. (The analogy is inexact since both parties, unlike the sexually dysfunctional, consciously choose their respective conditions.) Let's shoot for the perfect performance! Smiling



Casey's picture

Spare me your hypocritical bloviating about "civil" discourse. You're an asshole, and that's putting it politely. I'm done dealing with you -- all you do is foam at the mouth like a rabid junkyard dog and half the time there's so much concentration on how offended you are I can't even tell the bloody point you're trying to make under all the faux outrage. Or maybe the only thing that's real about your complaints is the outrage? I can hardly see what justifies it from the meager substance in your comments.

Should I have my four year old post now?

Jon Letendre's picture

I am reluctant to hammer away at Holly, even though she is playing his replacement. I would think Shayne and James H-N feel the same way.

That’s the prevailing sensibility in our society—that one should not hammer away at a man’s wife instead of at him. But this is not the first time she has appeared instead of him at a tough moment.

It almost seems like “the [Valliants] [are] relying on conventional attitudes,” to paraphrase Casey.

It's getting clear

sjw's picture

It's getting clear that this is anything but "civilized discourse"--if by "civilized" we mean a commitment to reason instead of the barbaric defense of unquestioned values that the emotionalist indulges in, and I think it's stunningly clear which side has engaged in responding in terms of facts and logic and which side has merely created piles of utterly meaningless sophistry and context-dropping.

You know, Kant was a "civilized" guy. It's amazing what barbarism comes wrapped in a "civilized" package. I love Ayn Rand's metaphor for one popular view of "civility": A rusty iron claw in a marshmallow glove. Harsh, but apt.

Deep End

Holly Valliant's picture

There you go, Shayne, an invitation to bed down with the ever so savory Letendre.


You never exhibited an ounce of desire for civilized discourse on the subject. You went over the top on Diana and have been hostile, nasty and personal when challenged about this.

You were in no position to demand that anyone answer you about anything.

How's that for a clear argument?

Quality of Argumentation

Jon Letendre's picture

Picking up some succulent examples of the quality of argumentation I referred to earlier—huh, Shayne? The kind that James finds perfectly hunky-dory and even really, really good? Next time someone demands an example, I will just refer them to the previous dialogue. Many thanks to both of you!

Evasive or what?

sjw's picture


You claim that *I'm* the one not responding with substance and resorting to name-calling!? Give me a BREAK man. You are just beyond the pale. At every turn you've just let key points of my arguments drop by the wayside, completely ignoring them while you move onto your next wave of arguments. Case in point: my point about Peikoff's lack of being "careful" in F&V--which you've now failed to respond to TWICE. You wanna bow out while telling me to chill? Well as far as I'm concerned, you never showed up. You've not even been in this debate at all. All of your words are just here as a vapid pretense at actual debate.

You are either evasive, or you didn't read what I wrote (but that's just a form evasion), or there is some bizarre disconnect in our communication here that I do not understand. E.g., I thought I made it pretty clear that I rejected your sinister definition of "interpretation", and instead meant only: the translation of a particular individual's grasp of something into their own words. This doesn't deny the objectivity of the grasp or the translation into words or the existence of the thing.

In any case, and let me put this into the most polite terms I can think of: You can take your admonition that I take a "chill pill" and stuff it.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

No, I don't suppose so Smiling.

You wrote a whole book on how terrible the Brandens were. It should be pretty easy to dig up dirt on the good Dr. Reisman. No wait, he actually dared to publish material with a libertarian organization. I think that should suffice. At least it sounds better than just not getting along with the eminently agreeable troika of Leonard, Peter, and Harry.

How about the huge sin of actually *gasp* writing a letter to the editor at JARS. I'm sure Andrew Bernstein didn't catch flak for that.

I know that most people can work profitably with ARI if they stay mum about certain inconvenient things and stay within the guidelines. Hell, I can too and I know many, many good people over there which makes the lack of transparency and ideological rigidity even harder to swallow.

It's like in elementary school gym class where there's a big paddle with holes drilled in it on prominent display. You know it doesn't get used much, but you heard that last year some kid got out of line and the teacher really let him have it...


Rx: Chill Pill

James S. Valliant's picture


I "wondered" if you thought any view on Objectivism could be more than mere "interpretation." That is where I think you go wrong here -- on substance. Instead of responding, you then imply that this was name calling or psychologizing? Hmmm. On the other hand, you were loaded for psychologistic bear about Diana before I ever started writing. And, your intense emotions on ARI are obvious -- no "psychology" needed there -- and, thus far, utterly baseless, in my view.

Why is it that it seems to me that MY points aren't being addressed by you?

Suggestion: let's leave this for the time being and cool down some, eh? Or am I "psychologizing" again?


James S. Valliant's picture


Do you really know that many Marxists and academic subjectivists? Wow! So many of my friends are anything but Objectivists, I'd better start worrying myself, I guess... My friends and family are rather dubious, and we can start with that fellow Casey Fahy -- highly questionable on so many grounds.

I aso do not understand point 2 about "power struggles" at all.

As to the first, my context of ignorance has never been held against me. For instance, I still admire Reisman. But I also do not denounce anyone who says otherwise as being "moralistic" or anything -- and for the same reason, ignorance. So far, I haven't been ostracized or anything.

Should I expect to be?

George Reisman

sjw's picture

A stopped clock might look like it's right twice a day, and ARI ostracizing the right people occasionally may make their policies appear to be right, but how about you look at the clock at other than when it's stopped at before you declare it sound?

So I guess we're throwing "careful" out the window now when it comes to making claims about what is and what isn't in Objectivism? Where did Rand hint that "intolerance" is the essence of any of her views? On the contrary, the essence of her "black and white" view of things is that she's a principled thinker, which in some contexts might demand what others might label "intolerance", and yet in others it might demand the utmost tolerance (in evidence are her journals--as she acted with 100 times the benevolence and "tolerance" as many ARI loyalists do toward many of her fans, aquaintances, and friends).

How about you knock off your psychologizing? I'm getting tired of questions like: Ah, the inevitable mention of ARI's "ostracism"-- why change the subject? You are the one who comes back swinging time after time while completely ignoring important points that I make--if anyone deserves to be analyzed for motives it's you. Why exactly have you let my point about Peikoff's comments in F&V slide anyway? I thought these should have been of particular interest to you.

Anyway, I mentioned it for the obvious reason that it's apt. *You* were the one who opened up the subject, with your concern for what the masses think, for publicity. My point about ARI's actions and bad publicity naturally follows. Why do you seek for examples that tend to blur rather than clarify the issue? The Branden's are obviously not the example of ostracism to pick. It's as if I was trying to argue the injustice of burning people at the stake, and while trying to defend the practice you point to rapists and claim that they deserved it, while ignoring the rights-respecting atheists who got the same treatment. Read the subject of this post.

As for your last paragraph--that's why you wrote the book. And it's the only point here which I agree with you apparently. We both want Objectivism to be properly represented in the culture, which is why I approve of your book as an antidote to the Brandens. The next antidote I was hoping you'd write would be one for ARI, but I'm gonna take it that that won't be forthcoming.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

I try to count the number of people including friends and family that I would have to break with if I used Peikoff's standard. I'd have my brother and a few friends and that would be it. The reason many people are leery of getting into Objectivism is that it becomes an intellectual purity derby that spills over into areas of people's lives outside of the intellectual sphere.

It is true that we should judge and prepare to be judged, but we should also use a sense of proportion. The punishment should be proportionate to the crime. If we sentence a pickpocket to hanging, that's not justice.

The problems with coordinated social ostracism as practiced by ARI are as follows:

1. It ignores the context of many people who don't share the opinion of the judge through honest differences in perspective and asks them to come to the same conclusions the judge did whether or not they have the requisite information to do so.

2. It breeds power struggles. It is obviously a fairly powerful weapon to be able to completely disrupt the social life of someone you have some kind of personal issue with. Who guards the guardians or who judges the judges?

Now, I certainly don't have an issue with moral fastidiousness as Lindsay Perigo puts it, but to go out and actively isolate people and ask other people to share your judgment without evidence. That's beyond the pale and further it makes Objectivism look silly.


Still Missing It

James S. Valliant's picture


"Intolerance" is the essence of Rand's "black and white" view of things. And her breaks (what you call "ostracism") with people. It's implied in "judge and prepare to be judged." And much, much more.

Objectivism cannot be reduced the literal words of Rand. It is the ideas. They can be restated in different words -- but it's still the same. It's not just words -- it's the concepts, and how they inter-relate -- right? A new writer with the same ideas put differently would be an Objectivist -- right?

There are objective interpretations of Objectivism -- and others.

Ah, the inevitable mention of ARI's "ostracism"-- why change the subject? Do you include the Brandens in your complaint, or is some ostracism okay? It's in "complaints" of that kind that we properly lose the mindless drones.

Maybe you're too young, but for many decades Rand's ideas have been grossly misrepresented. I will still come across the beliefs that Rand stood for Nietzschean supermen, Social Darwinism, crude materialism, many who buy the Brandens view of Objectivism, as I mentioned, etc., etc. This "common knowledge" can keep away more than mindless "drones."

Missing the point

sjw's picture

James, you're missing my point and worse, grossly distorting it.

"My absurd account of Peikoff" is just your overreaction and reading more into what I said than what is there. Regardless of how "careful" he is in any instance, my point is that it's pointless. And in spite of you calling it "absurd", Peikoff does not around qualifying *everything* he says. Indeed, he did NOT qualify what he said when he wrote "Fact and Value". He didn't say "This anti-Kelly article isn't Objectivism". Rather, he invoked the "intellectual heir" bit. Which would be quite the opposite of "careful to distinguish his thought from Rand's". So in fact, you're the one being absurd. Utterly so. Peikoff is not so careful as you imagine. On the contrary, it appears that he wants people to think that he *does* speak for Ayn Rand.

Next you accuse me of subjectivism. You take reckless liberties in your interpretation of my use of the word "interpretation". An interpretation can be objective or subjective (and you give a good example of the latter in your interpretation of my use of that word)--the point is that if a given individual says something of something else, then *that individual said it*. It could be right or wrong, that's not the point here. The point is that it's *that person's* statement unless he's literally quoting someone. Maybe your intention is to quibble over the word "interpretation". The only idea I wish to convey with the word is: your own thoughts on what something means, i.e., your own grasp of something and its translation into your own words. So--contra your last sentence--this is indeed all about "interpretation"--in precisely the sense I mean and not in the sense you wish to foist on me.

In a sense, we *are* "stuck"--with our own conclusions. They may or may not be objective, but in the final analysis, that's all we've each got. Jim aptly quotes Galt's speech here. I would only add: you can mindlessly accept what others think, but you still bear the responsibility for the thought, it's *yours*, whether you like it or not, and whether it's valid or not. You may wish to presume that you can speak for Ayn Rand on some issue, but in fact you can't speak for her or anyone else on *any* issue. It's inherent in the facts of reality: each of our minds are separate and independent. Your grasp of Ayn Rand's philosophy is *your* grasp of it. You don't need to go around qualifying everything you say regarding what you think on it because this is obvious, and neither does David Kelly. You wish to accuse him of dishonesty? Fine. Do it in some terms other than the nonsense notion that he's implicitly declaring that he's channeling Ayn Rand just by saying that "X is compatible with Objectivism".

You declare: "Rand actually said the opposite of [tolerance is a virtue]". Did she? Who's attempting to speak for Ayn Rand now? Should we condemn you for "rewriting her philosphy"? Because if that's not a literal Ayn Rand quote, then you're doing exactly what you complain that Kelly does: taking your own grasp of her philosophy and asserting that something does or doesn't fit with it.

Finally you make some statements that this "protecting" of Objectivism you're trying to do isn't for people who actually read Ayn Rand, it's for the "unwashed masses." I've got a number of problems with this, not the least of which is: if it's the masses you care about, then the first thing I'd be worried about is all this ostracism business ARI carries out, because looking like you're a cult of some kind is the worst kind of publicity statement you can make.

Washed or not, most adults recognize that they shouldn't believe that Ayn Rand said something just because some guy is walking around saying she did. Maybe some kids got sucked into believing the Branden books and rejected Objectivism on that basis, and I kinda think that's OK. The movement already has its fill of mindless drones.

The Objective Objectivism

James S. Valliant's picture


First, your absurd account of Peikoff runs against the overwhelming force of the evidence: he is very careful to distinguish his thought from Rand's.

Next, I wonder if you believe that one can know Rand's thought at all, or if we are simply stuck, in your view, with someone's "interpretation" of it?

But, you also miss the point. Objectivism's fragility is not such that it cannot endure the "interpretations" of others or the additions of others or any other loony ideas someone might have about it. And it's not those who actually read Rand's work who are the victims in need of protecting here.

Very few people -- very few Christians -- actually read the Bible. If they did, they would know how bizarre its current interpretations really are. You can say, "the Bible is different, it involves things that can be interpreted in various ways." True, but it also contains things not subject to such doubt and which would horrify contemporary Christians. People persist in thinking all manner of false and even unfair things about authors whose true ideas are safely preserved in their books. The existence of those books doesn't stop those false beliefs from being widespread. Legend stands in the place of knowledge.

Generations of young who might have read Rand could be scared off altogether by the accounts of the Brandens, for example -- I've met some myself.

When one hangs out a shingle with the word "Objectivism," one is trying to lure a certain audience, a certain market demographic. But it helps define the term for the unwashed masses as well.

The Brandens have presented a rationlist-intinsicist view of Rand and her ideas through their work, for example, something we are still having to correct in the minds of... many who HAVE read Rand's work.

You say that "intolerance" is to be opposed not because "Rand didn't say it," but because it's "wrong." Well, Rand actually said the opposite of it. To incorporate this with Objectivism is like trying to incorporate the ideas of the New Testament with Objectivism. They are not merely alien but hostile to Objectivism. (Indeed, no fact or idea is evaluatively neutral to Objectivism, is it?) The attempt to incorporate this into Objectivism is to change what Rand actually did say.

This is not a matter of "interpretation."

Fundamental Flaw

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


It would be a major problem if I wasn't free to disagree with Kelley and others. Besides, it's an opportunity to provide the correct methodology isn't it?

For the Record

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Bravo from me, too. We cannot safely rely on any authority to do our thinking for us. There is no substitute for relying on our own judgment. I can only add Ayn Rand's words on the subject:

"Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience--that your mind is fallible but that becoming mindless will not make you infallible-- that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error." Ayn Rand in Galt's Speech


Brilliant Post

Jason Quintana's picture

This was a great post. Well done.

- Jason

For the record

sjw's picture

For the record, I think the open/closed debate is silly. Ayn Rand wrote what she wrote, and that is not open to modification (except to ARI archivers.... OK sorry, that was just a joke). Anyone can find out precisely what she said.

The only coherent meaning of the debate is whether INTERPRETERS of Objectivism may modify or extend it, where by "it" we cannot mean "Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism", because as I just pointed out, that's fixed for all time. So what is the "it"? Well, it's merely the interpreters' interpretations. Obviously he can modify and extend that to his heart's content, and we can listen to or ignore him at our pleasure. And obviously, if this interpreter makes the claim: "Ayn Rand believed or said X", where X clearly came from the interpreter not Ayn Rand, then he should be condemned as either incredibly sloppy or as a liar (or maybe forgiven if he admits that he messed up). Of course, that is NOT what David Kelly is doing.

Assuming the ARI loyalist has read along this far, they're going to feel compelled to sink from the discussion of principles to the quibbling over what sounds and shapes they'd permit us to attach to our own concepts and over grammar. Namely, whether it's "dishonest" to attach the word "Objectivism" to one's own personal interpretation of it, or whether Objectivism is a proper noun that may only refer to what Rand said and only what Rand said. It's as if they've never seen a dictionary before or thought about related but different senses of a word, and now a guy who says that a "mouse" is both a rodent and a man-made pointing device has slipped off into the abyss of claiming that A isn't A! Oh my god, think of all the poor confused kindergartners in computer class, whose whole world view is going to be corrupted by this evil computer teacher... but I digress.

Peikoff attaches the word "Objectivism" to his personal interpretations. He's constantly claiming "Objectivism says such and such", where Ayn Rand has never in any documented case made that connection before. We respect Peikoff because, by in large, based on our own evaluations, his interpretations are correct. Personal interpretations are personal, but they can either be subjective or objective, and we'll listen to the interpreter who we personally deem to be objective, and maybe even get mad at the interpreter who's making a mess of things. And we're free to criticize the mess as a mess, and we should do so (e.g., the idea of adding "tolerance" as an Objectivist virtue). But here it's wrong not because Ayn Rand didn't say it, or because of some arcane pseudo-Objectivist reinvention of grammar, but because it's wrong!

You can "delink" both

sjw's picture

Casey, I agree with you that we can criticize the issues independent of TOC or ARI. And in fact, we need to. To label something "ARI nonsense" without spelling out what the nonsense is would definitely be bad, if you're going to leave anything out, then leave out the word "ARI" not the logic.

Our thinking should primarily be driven by the principles involved, by what is right and what is wrong, not by what prominent person/group represents it or its opposite.

But there's the small matter of justice here as well. If the shoe fits, wear it--and if ARI or TOC spews nonsense, they deserve to be called on it. So while I see every reason to keep the principles separate from the individuals in order to think clearly, there's also every reason to apply them to the relevant entities. After all, Facts and Values must not be sundered.

Not "monolithic"

sjw's picture

And talk about sweeping broad brush strokes, just look at how you and James are painting me!

I call something "ARI nonsense" when 1) I see that it's nonsense and can provide an argument as to why (as I did), and 2) when I see it as common among ARI loyalists.

But if you were to ask: What's more important, 1 or 2, then definitely I'd have to go with 1. What's interesting here is that just because I said 2, you and James are zeroing in on that relative superficiality, and ignoring 1. I'm starting to think that I've got to stop using the word "ARI", just so I don't get this underhanded trick pulled on me over and over again by you two, it's getting pretty tiresome that's for sure.


Casey's picture

No "methodology for determining where Objectivism is open beyond a list of things within Objectivism that he considers to be more important than others" seems like a pretty fundamental flaw in his approach to me, and one which could end up bestowing the appelation of "Objectivist" onto a pretty broad wildcard of possibilities. That's exactly why Diana refers to TOC as "The Objectivish Center." Except that it's not called The Objectivish Center, it's called The Objectivist Center. You don't see a major problem there?

And, yes, you can de-link the issue from ARI. If there were only TOC and this was their platform, it could still be criticized on its own merits.

A Preview of Coming Attractions

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Casey and James V,

Lest you think I am a TOC shill, I will tell you exactly why Diana's arguments carry a certain amount of force and why they are wrong at a fundamental level. I'm spilling the beans a bit for my article, but the crux of the matter is as follows. David Kelley argued for an open system, but he was not specific about the nature and character of that system. He did not identify or sketch out a methodology for determining where Objectivism is open beyond a list of things within Objectivism that he considers to be more important than others.


Why not delink ARI/TOC criticism?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


The reason you can't delink ARI/TOC is that they both took fundamental positions on open/closed system, sanction of libertarians and on the emphasis on personal independence/ emphasis on personal fealty to the system and its official advocates.

Now the theoretical bind ARI is in and it is a real one is that they not only took one side of each of these issues, but they insisted on the maximum possible case for each. Not only is libertarianism bad, but they are like the Ayatollah Khomeini. Not only are those who speak to liberatarians bad, but they are dishonest, traitorous enablers and compromisers like Armand Hammer was with the Soviet Union. Not only is the philosophy of Objectivism correct in its fundamentals, conclusively demonstrated and self-contained, but anyone who raises serious questions about it outside the purview of its official advocates is not an Objectivist and should leave the philosophy alone.

The above positions are untenable and unreasonable.This is the real crux of the ARI/TOC battle and the meaning of Truth and Toleration. TOC has a lot of its own issues which I would be happy to address, but the problem ARI has is that they are flawed at their theoretical core.


Reply to Casey

mcohen's picture

You are correct, Casey. I spoke at TOC in 2001 and 2003 and was scheduled to speak again at 2005. I stopped donating to them in 2004 and reading PARC in 2005 convinced me to severe my ties completely.


Casey's picture

You painted Michelle Cohen with that broad brush ("ARI nonsense") just a few posts ago -- a former TOC speaker who dissociated herself with TOC only recently because, in her words, "I read 'The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics'".

That's a pretty slippery slope you're setting up for people. Criticize TOC and suddenly, Presto! You're an ARI stooge. You don't seem to feel the need to present any linkage between TOC criticism and ARI boosterism. In your mind, one automatically seems to imply the other. Perhaps that's why James detected a pattern. I've been on the business end of that sloppy brush on occasion, as well, with you.

After Barbara Branden accused Linz of succumbing to the dark side and practically becoming a charter member of ARI just for reading PARC, one starts to see a familiar tactic at work. I have now seen this tactic employed against James, myself, Branden's former website manager and a TOC advocate, Diana Hsieh, former TOC speaker Michelle Cohen, Lance Moore, Daniel O'Connor, and Linz himself. Bill Nevin is probably next. Forgive me if your use of this tactic strikes an all-too-familiar chord.

And you must realize that the Brandens have used this general approach for years -- call them liars and suddenly you're a blind worshipper at the feet of an impossible goddess named Ayn Rand. That's a phony argument designed to dodge any critical analysis of the Brandens' works. Charges of ARI-whitewashing and worship seem to crop up whenever TOC is criticized. It's an equally empty argument designed to dodge any criticism of TOC.

Can you de-link and separate these issues? Why not deal with TOC criticism on its own merits? Instead of bringing up ARI at all, or insidiously implying that all TOC criticism emanates from ARI, just focus on the issues raised about TOC. If that happened once in a while it would dispell the notion that you treat the subject monolithically.

Don't wax hypocritical please

sjw's picture

James: Let's suppose that in this one instance, I jumped to a false conclusion about your method. Does my one instance of error now imply that my whole approach is a monolithic, a "single psycho-epistemology" (whatever that means)? A single error implies I'm a "single psycho-epistemology"? I think you're providing evidence that I didn't in fact jump to the wrong conclusion.

And speaking of monolithic ARIish mindsets, for the Nth time, quit trying to paint me as a TOC loyalist just because I am criticizing Diana's arguments against T&T. I'm not defending TOC, I'm claiming that she didn't refute what she claimed to, and all her yapping is just that. (I think you have a poor memory--I've stood behind you with much of your critique of TOC).

Oh, and by the way, regarding your opinion that my criticism is too harsh: Diana's a big girl who dishes out harsh critique as good as I do or better.

Mindless Drone?

James S. Valliant's picture


You are presuming a whole lot about what I'm thinking.

Well, after all, it's "ARI" thinking, right?

So sorry.

This brings out something very important about your approach: ARI is a monolith, a single unit. There's now a single psycho-epistemology, it seems. TOC, on the other hand, cannot be generalized about from their op-eds, or from David Kelley's manifesto, or from both Brandens speaking at this year's conference, or from Bidinotto's or Hudgin's statements about anything, or from anything else, it seems.

Very well, then, let's start a thread about Kelley...

Jim ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... definitely write your article for SOLO. Exclusively. That way you'll get paid. Smiling And you'll be able to know the debate won't get shut down, ARI-style.

BTW, if you're at all interested in my own thoughts re open/closed, you can find them in my "Fundamentals & Fidelity" article in the SOLOHQ archive linked at the top of every page here. Smiling


sjw's picture

Jim: I think you should bring it up on her site. Or this one. Or both. But I've seen what happens to others on her site who make points she can't answer. She either lapses into "oh, it's not important enough to me to spend any more time on it", or she lapses into indignant rants against the person for not being respectful enough of her massive wisdom, or some such attitude. This from the "amazing lady" who's allegedly refuted T&T.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the open/closed debate in any case, though a different thread would probably be a good idea.


sjw's picture


In my tally of this thread, you're in the negative a few times over with me in responding with logic and evidence. Last time you just withdrew. Anyways, you should know better than to confuse my conclusions, which I did disclose, with the thinking that led up to them, which I didn't, not yet anyway. Take my comments as a challenge to post any single item of substance that Diana has offered in any of her vast yappings as to why David Kelly is wrong about anything in T&T (I don't assert that he is right about everything, just that *Diana* certainly hasn't addressed anything he said with anything coming close to a sembance of substance). Actually it looks like Jim has got the idea already.

And your point about the cause of TOC's op-eds has already been yapped on by Diana. Obviously, bad philosophy is a possible cause, but it isn't the only possible cause, and it certainly isn't an argument against T&T. This method of thinking is one that typifies ARI and frankly scares me to find in a lawyer. Just because David Kelly said or did something bad, even when it looks loosely familiar to his arguments in T&T, does not make his arguments in T&T bad.

The best you can argue is: for the elements of T&T that are ambiguous, we can take his actions in reality as an expression of what *he* probably meant by them. Which doesn't refute alternative interpretations (and granted, these would in this case be ours and not his), and certainly doesn't mean we should run and cuddle up to ARI.

Truth And Toleration

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V, Shayne:

I've been hesitant to bring it up on her site, because I think she has other priorities and I don't want to turn it into a long, drawn-out ARI/TOC pissing contest (I'm perfectly willing if it comes to that), but is there interest here in an essay analyzing her open/closed system arguments? I have some specific departures from Kelley on this which I have discussed with her over e-mail, but I am still in substantial agreement with the open system case.



James S. Valliant's picture


Then, may I disappoint you some more?

Kelley IS deeply and profoundly wrong.

Are TOC's "aweful op-eds" causeless? That, and most of Diana's other well-taken points, do integrate into something, Shayne, something which follows inexorably from their philosophical approach.

Your spleen is not nearly so convincing to me as her "ad hominem yapping," frankly.


sjw's picture

I find Diana's arguments RE her fallout with TOC promising on their face (and she does make a lot of unfulfilled promises about how she's going to prove such and such later--and later never comes) and then disappointingly vacuous at their roots. And I'm disappointed that you could be impressed with her empty show.

The only time she makes any good points about TOC is when they are obvious (such as some of TOC's awful op-eds). Her criticism of Kelly's philosphical writings are completely empty of anything resembling an argument, really it's just a bunch of ad hominems along the lines of "See, Kelly's philosophy led to this horrible op-ed, QED".

You ask: "Why the anger"? Well if you want to name the emotion involved, it's quite obviously one of contempt, and frankly I don't see how it's not obvious why I hold her in contempt. But I'll summarize anyway: She's making a lot of vacuous yapping noise about how deeply philosophically wrong David Kelly is, and then turning around and acting like a caricature of the worst ARI loyalist after having spent, what, a decade being critical of precisely that kind of behavior? That is a very sharp and loud about-face for someone who doesn't know the reasons why they're doing what they're doing.

You're a lawyer, you do the math. I'm sure you see this kind of behavior all the time. She doesn't stand up to cross-examination, she's not credible at all, and her loud protestations must be driven by some ulterior motive, the one I listed being the likely candidate.


Casey's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but not long ago you were a speaker at TOC functions, right? I point this out only because I think it's a little rash for anyone to accuse you of being an ARI stooge. Wink

I also understand that you have recently changed your mind about TOC. Is that correct?

Turn Down That Knob, Please

James S. Valliant's picture


I rarely say anything like this when I'm not directly involved in the dispute at hand, but your ugly attack on Diana went well past the pale. Her arguments are powerful, indeed, and far more substantive than you acknowledge.

It is you who seem to have "no knobs" -- when it comes to Diana. It's you who seem to have developed an "hysterical" approach to moral judgments -- about Diana. This time, the "yapping" is all yours.

Forgive me, but having met this amazing lady, I can assure you that she anything but the type in need of "coddling," nor is she capable of being "led by a leash."

Why the anger?

"Say it ain't so."

Peter Cresswell's picture

James, your comment here is worth repeating:
"My thoughts on the whole Branden saga are captured in a story my grandfather once told me about integrity. It was about the 1919 Chicago Blacksox scandal. A little boy once came up to Shoeless Joe Jackson right after the White Sox had thrown the World Series. "Say it ain't so, Joe". Well Joe couldn't say it wasn't so.

"Now, I think if the kid had any sense he'd ask Shoeless Joe how to hit .300. However, the moral of the story remains. Integrity, once lost, is very difficult to regain."

It sure is. And the loss is particularly crucial when integrity -- ie., honesty to oneself -- and introspection are both crucial to hitting .300 in one's chosen profession.

Knobs indeed!

sjw's picture

James: Diana has no "knobs" to turn down. She was an acolyte while she was at TOC, and only her loyalties have changed, she's still an acolyte. Note that one of her chief complaints about TOC was that she wasn't getting enough care and feeding. She wants to be coddled and led by the leash by some authority, any authority, and her "moral" hysteria is anything but moral. It's more like the hysteria of a yapping dog who thinks its owner is being threatened.

James Heaps-Nelson

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Yes I know. Diana needs to turn down the moral hysteria knob. The volume has been blaring full blast for 2 years now. I also think that TOC needs to direct Nathaniel away from speaking about Ayn Rand. He has many terrific things to contribute, especially about romantic love which I have tried to encourage discussion of on this forum, but much of what he says is about how repressed Objectivists are and how Ayn Rand encouraged that.

I've made no secret of the fact that I think that the Branden biographies and Nathaniel Branden's Benefits and Hazards talk are an unjust, slanted characterization of Objectivism and Ayn Rand. I also think that Nathaniel and Barbara need to be heard on topics which they have something to contribute.

Some of my comments on this thread have been colored by my recent reading of PARC. There are some things that I still need to sort out, but the truth is the truth.

My thoughts on the whole Branden saga are captured in a story my grandfather once told me about integrity. It was about the 1919 Chicago Blacksox scandal. A little boy once came up to Shoeless Joe Jackson right after the White Sox had thrown the World Series. "Say it ain't so, Joe". Well Joe couldn't say it wasn't so.

Now, I think if the kid had any sense he'd ask Shoeless Joe how to hit .300 Smiling. However, the moral of the story remains. Integrity, once lost, is very difficult to regain.


James Heaps-Nelson

rebissell's picture

James Heaps-Nelson wrote:

"...the ARI/Peter Schwartz position that Libertarians can be compared to the Ayatollah Khoemeini is ridiculous."

Ridiculous, yes, but no more so than Diana Hsieh's positing of a moral equivalence between Nathaniel Branden and Josef Stalin!

Roger Bissell, musician-writer

Lindsay's RANT...about others' rants...about Cresswell's article

Rowlf's picture

Lindsay (and Cresswell):

A well Titled response ("INTEGRITY") to those who (NOW!) find it passe to discuss Cresswell's so-called 'tabloid' stuff (which presumably wasn't considered 'tabloid' before PARC). Strictly speaking, I can sympathize with, and understand the idea of being really tired of discussing and reading/hearing about subject 'X' (I, myself, burnt out re trying to keep up on the Kennedy-Assassination [Rush-to-Judgement/WhiteWash/Warren Commission/etc] Lone-Assassin/'Conspiracy'-group? Who knows [other than 'them'] is all I got to say now). B-U-T, if one's 'tired' of the subject, why pick this, 1, single, particular, 'special(?)', thread out of so many others on this site, (not to mention Forums on other sites) which others show that they clearly aren't 'tired' of discussing the subject within, read through it, and then bemoan that THEY (and now the complainers) are discussing it? --- Indeed, "Integrity" IS what all of this whole subject really is (NOW, anyways) ALL about, whether one drags in (and, "Integrity" concerns are appropriate there, also) TOC, ARI, PAR/JD or PARC. As John Wayne was noted ('urban legend' or not, re literally) as cinematically-saying "Say what ya mean, an' mean what ya say, pilgrim."

I don't find this schism-stuff as mere soap opera; I've been trying to follow (from a tertiary distance) the ongoings of developments and trying to understand the ins-and-outs of the varied break-ups/break-offs within O'ism since I first became aware of the Original-Break.

The given (and sometimes changing) 'reasons' for the opposing (and varied within) side-pickers re one break or another are, granted, almost soap-operishly fascinating in the sense of "what'll s/he say next?" That there are earthquake consequences re what some say (or, maybe more relevently, certain ones don't) are really what's of import (indeed, that's exactly WHY the developments' interest by most are based on more than mere 'tabloid' concerns).

As I've mentioned before, I've a certain prob or two with both ARI and TOC as to how they 'handle' issues...or explain (or not) them. No point in going into particulars here. BUT, too often, reading blog-'apologists' (and here, 'apologists' for one are little different from 'condemners' for the other; indeed, that seems to be the MO for both sides, like abortion-debates) for one or the other is like listening to official Republican and Democrat legislators (or, not identical, but similar enough, 'conservative' and 'liberal' columnists) debating together on C-SPAN's morning 'call-in' show, where each clearly spins the motif "We're obviously on the side of the angels; therefore, anything the 'other side' says is promoting the side of the demons." --- 'SPIN' is the order-of-the-day for supposed rational arguing on the subject of any/all 'breaks' in O'ism too many 'followers' of whichever groups, if not the officials of them.

Too many speak of ARIans and TOCs (not to mention LIBERTarians) as if all (decision-makers/communication-transferers['propagandists'?]/grass-roots-followers) were majorically and clearly comprisable under a really 'definable' heading. (Give ARIans one thing: they establish their 'US/THEM' distinction-line clearly, whether properly/acceptably or not.) Now, the same seems to go for SOLOists (whichever 'new' types, now) and BRANDENites. Argue for/against ANYTHING about subject 'x' and you're 'one of THEM!' (in which case, diatribe # 8,792 to follow on *you*, man, 'cause *you* asked for it!)

Arguments that B-Branden did this, Piekoff did that, N-Branden did these, Valliant did those, Rand did the other, Frank did something else, CAN have merit...given 'evidence' (I get so tired of someone asking for 'proof'; I don't think even Rand ever did that, though she discussed the nature of it). Unfortunately, too many of the 'evidence' claims, to this particular jury-witness, are on the order of nothing more than 'he said/she said' (indeed, on a 'hearsay' basis of an other 'he said/she said' set of arguments!) If not 'conundrum', can one say 'convolution' for rational analysis? --- All that nwst, I must stress: though originally I wasn't agreeable to Piekoff's argument about (paraphrased; correct me if I'm wrong) "What you think about your idea of the reputations of person 'X' vs person 'Y', absent additional evidence, should determine which 'side' you go with in a 'forced choice' situation, regardless what anyone later says about either." Indeed, this can be a 'rational' basis for a 'rational' BIAS. I stress, however...'CAN.' I point this out because methinks, rational or not, some Rand-criticizers (and, the Brandens-criticizers) already have made their choices from-exactly-this-basis, consciously-aware of such, or not. (Interestingly, I find this is almost akin to Rand's idea of counting on a Sense-Of-Life check when she wrote "Night-Of-Jan-16th.") Personally, I think I really gotta now go with this idea as valid, to the extent that one's aware of how it plays in one's evaluations and judgements about others. However, like most here (though some have made clear how they have to be personally excepted), I'm in no be in any 'forced' choice. I'm not saying I'm 'therefore' agnostic; merely that I see no point in advertising my...SUSPICIONS...about 'X', 'Y', and 'Z', and, about their...condemn-the-disagreers supporters.

Just got PARC yesterday; won't be reading it for a week (other books to finish, blog-responses, 2 barely-teen kids, etc), so, this has nothing to do with what I've read about what 'he said' re what 'she said' about what 'he and she said.' --- I may (or may not) comment on that MUCH later (if this thread still exists; and, if it doesn't, then, like "Determinism and Free Will", I'm sure the subject itself will stay existing [probably alongside!]...somewhere.)

But, I must finish with: 'THE SILENCE' re what everyone (else) knows by now about what RAND herself has said, yet they have NO comment about, pretty well deafens out all (therefore) verbiage by them re what Valliant has said. (I think that my 1st post to SOLOHQ was on this very subject after I e-commented to a noted person that I thought that this yet-unread book was an O'ist tsunami coming). The 'silence' really, really, really...stands out, as a lack of "Integrity" (a specifically delineated O'ist 'virtue', if I remember correctly.)

Keep ranting, Linz.

Keep writing, Peter.

Keep responding, please, disagreers. Less 'Silence' from the Relevent-ones; less Distractions from the "I see no point in talking about this"-ones; and, most especially, from the 'apologist's-on-all-side-ones, more...Passion...for OBJECTIVity, (or, the factual-'truth')

Addendum: I've done so many 'edits' on this (punctuation, re-phrasing, etc) I am SO glad that they're not listed in this new 'solopassion' format. I say this with no more 'proof-reading' edits to come (else I'll admit it [yuk!])


P.S: Ebert nwst, methinks that anyone who liked "The Mask of Zorro" will definitely like "The Legend of Zorro" (even with a raised-eyebrow in a spot or two). My wife and I just caught it (DVD) tonight, and I KNOW Joey (one of my 2) will love it tomorrow night (nothing like a 'chip-off-the-old-block'! I mean the far.)

Why, exactly, is it "chutzpah"?

sjw's picture

Casey: You only call it "chutzpah" because you presume--without evidence--that Kelly doesn't believe that what he's preaching is compatible with Objectivism. But then, you prove this alleged dishonesty by refering to the "chutzpah" of claiming that what he preaches is Objectivism. Looks like a nice tight little circle of illogic to me.

So who in your opinion may morally refer to themselves as "The Objectivist Center"? Whoever has the sanction of the "intellectual heir"? Why, because he's presumed to channel Ayn Rand? When he dies should they change their name? Nonsense! No one can channel Ayn Rand, no one is the "official" disseminator of her philosophy, not ARI, not TOC, not Solo, and certainly not Diana Hsieh (who I only mention because she's the chief purveyor of this kind of nonsense).

No sane adult really thinks that "The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies" speaks for Ayn Rand any more than "The Objectivist Center" speaks for her. The entire obsession here with authorized doctrines is more in line with religious traditions than rational ones. Of course, given that many of us were raised in a religious context, it is understandable why so many slip into it on this issue, but I expect more from intellectuals.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

What really requires chutzpah is ARI maintaining that they are consistent advocates of individualism.



Casey's picture

It's not about TOC tacking on disclaimers, it's about TOC calling itself THE OBJECTIVIST CENTER. You have to admit, that's chutzpah.

ARI nonsense

sjw's picture

Michelle: Tacking gratuitous disclaimers like "this is my interpretation of X" on everything you say just because you learned X from someone else isn't called "honest", it's called "neurotic." It's implicit and obvious that if you make a claim, then *you* made the claim.

ARI is in fact in the unique position of being able to rewrite history because they have exclusive access to Ayn Rand's journals. They can edit what they want and drop whatever context they want. This is not an accusation that they are in fact doing this (though some have caught them on specific points), it is just pointing out the fact that they do have this power.

People concerned with the truth should be more concerned with ARI, which in fact has the power to rewrite history, and less concerned with David Kelly tacking on redundant and patently obvious qualifications onto everything he says.

Who's Rewriting What?

mcohen's picture

Kelley and the rest of TOC do not include a disclaimer to the effect of "this is my own personal interpreation" of Rand. They present what they say simply as "Objectivism."

How can ARI rewrite history when Rand's major works were published by her in her lifetime? Her philosophy is out there already.

Re Valliant's of Thu,

Reidy's picture

Re Valliant's of Thu, 2006-01-26 00:44

Shayne Wissler was right: you tried to dismiss it as a typo.

The misattributaion alone is not devastating, but it comes as part of a long line of attempts to rewrite history, starting with Rand's 1959 intro to We the Living, continuing through the dubbing-over of the Brandens' taped voices, the rewriting of journal excerpts and letters and the estate's chronic refusal to let anyone but the faithful into the archives (just to hit some highlights). If you want an excuse, the need to finish cataloging will do as well as any, but I don't see why ARI adherents are to be trusted any more than anyone else not to make a mess of things.

The misattribution is most likely the work of whoever prepared the index, either someone at NAL or a freelancer they hired. The failure to mention Branden is harder to explain away, though. Mayhew is an academic, and academics would sooner forget their last name than forget to give full and accurate sourcing in their citations. Somebody, maybe not Mayhew himself, didn't live up to this standard.

Prediction: the omission in the text and the misattribution in the index will eventually come to the publishers' attention and to Mayhew's. Forced to choose between making a correction in future printings and removing all mentions of the Branden article, they'll opt for the latter.

You point out that other Objectivist scholars have freely owned up to the infamous FHF quote, and that anyone can check on the authorship of the Branden article. The first means that things could be worse, and the second means that the omission has no chance of succeeding. If these count as defenses of the ARI / estate's behavior, you've got a problem.


Who's rewriting what?

sjw's picture

Last time I checked, the books Ayn Rand wrote hadn't been retouched, at least the ones on my bookshelf...

It strikes me as bizarre to compare literal changes to Ayn Rand's words to interpretations that you don't agree with, or indeed to compare the power ARI has to literally rewrite history with the relatively meager power Kelly has in presenting his personal interpretation of Objectivism.

On Misrepresenting Rand's Exact Words

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I don't see how TOC could be "rewriting" the Objectivist philosophy if it was laid down once and for all by Rand. The texts are still there. Peikoff's best representation of new material is there. People can evaluate it for themselves. ARI is free to publish archival material from Rand.

If, on the other hand you mean that Truth and Toleration and other works written by David Kelley and others misrepresent Objectivism, well that's the case at issue between Fact and Value and Truth & Toleration isn't it. Ayn Rand came down front and center against Libertarianism. That's not the issue. The issue is whether an Objectivist can properly appear at libertarian functions and engage in debate with libertarians.

I take a somewhat narrower view on this than David Kelley, but the ARI/Peter Schwartz position that Libertarians can be compared to the Ayatollah Khoemeini is ridiculous.


On misrepresenting Rand's exact words

mcohen's picture

Those who criticize “Ayn Rand Answers” for misrepresenting
Rand’s exact words should examine the way TOC has been
rewriting Rand’s philosophy openly and brazenly, under the
claim that it is an open system for anybody to rewrite as
they wish. For starts, check Rand’s exact words on Libertarianism.


sjw's picture

James, is that really fair? I think it's a legitimate question to ask whether or not the release of these historic documents should factor in complex financial/political calculations. E.g., the calculation of whether to reward you by withholding these documents (as Casey indicated Peikoff was calculating about but I don't know), and the political calculations like whether AR might offend homosexuals or make Objectivists in general look bad. I don't think the word "context" is an answer to this question, it's just presuming that the answer is: "Yes, we ought to perform this complex financial/political balancing act with the contents of AR's trunk." Furthermore, I don't think it's too much to ask ARI to be more open about their strategy here. If their strategy is indeed to choose the calculating route, then they should say so, and name the principle they're using to govern their choice in strategy. "I own them so I'll do what I want with them" obviously doesn't cut it--just because it's legal doesn't mean it's moral.

Comparing this to calling TOC the "Branden Institute" or some such isn't fair either. That implies a sweeping endorsement of the Brandens by TOC and no evidence of that has been presented. I've never said anything comparable about ARI, I said that they suppressed specific items (and they did), I question whether it's a good idea but I'm open to arguments that the suppression is OK.

Correspondence vs. Coherence

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

This brings up an interesting theoretical issue that Kelleyites and Peikovians have batted around for ages: what is the proper relationship between the correspondence and coherence theories of truth? In other words, if I come across a fact of reality that seems to fly in the face of a body knowledge I already consider to be true, how much weight do I give it?

Obviously, if I was using proper epistemology forming my previous knowledge, I must give it tremendous weight. It all coheres and was grounded in inductions from reality that I knew to be true at the time. However, I have this new fact that doesn't fit.

Context is important. However, it is extremely important when keeping context to admit what you don't know or facts that may contradict what you are trying to prove. It is bad pedagogy to do otherwise. If you hold something back, honest people will think you have something to hide.

Peikoff is a system-builder like Rand was and he likes coherence and for good reason. It is imperative for optimal mental functioning to integrate knowledge. If we don't, we aren't functioning conceptually and we are not taking advantage of unit economy in our mental processes. However, it is just as important to keep track of those things which fly in the face of the integrations we've made. That is the balance to coherence that correspondence to reality demands.


You Win

James S. Valliant's picture

O.K., guys, "Uncle!" Having come full circle now - and I guess that all I got across was the mystical word "context" - I quit.

"ARI" has "edited" and "suppressed" "reality" after all.

But heaven help anyone who might make any generalizations about TOC.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I agree with Shayne. Reality is what it is. Ayn Rand said what she said. I dislike the way ARI tries to change things when reality is inconvenient for them.



sjw's picture

Of course they have every right to make money from it. What I question is whether it's a good idea to maximize the financial gain at the expense of history. There can only be one primary goal. Is it to make the maximum financial return, or is it to have the maximum political effect, or is it to ensure that AR's words are accurately represented and passed on? The former goals would indeed take much calculation and time, but the latter goal is quite simple to accomplish.

The word "context" sounds nice, but I wonder whether it means anything here except that people like Mayhew get to pick and choose which of Ayn Rand's words will be made public and which won't (which means: the goal isn't about accurately passing on historic documents). I mean, these documents are what they are, no more, no less, I don't see what context has to do with it.


Casey's picture

You state: "and they certainly have every right to make money from it -- and as much money as possible."

Although, Peikoff refused any compensation for providing the material to you, Jim. It's worth noting, I think. It speaks to his desire that you be rewarded for the work you did. As the person who was the first (and most) reluctant reader of PARC and who, like subsequent reluctant readers, completely reversed field on the book, Peikoff decided you had earned the right to be the first one to reveal a record whose nature you had practically deduced sight unseen.

(Yeah, I'm bragging about my friend, folks, whom I have known since elementary school -- he's a genius.)


Proper Considerations

James S. Valliant's picture


Given the terrible misrepresentations of Rand and her ideas, her estate has every right to make sure that this material is first presented to the world with all the right context and in the right context -- and they certainly have every right to make money from it -- and as much money as possible.


Not a Chance

James S. Valliant's picture


Your request is pointless and meaningless -- and complete with implicit demands for negative proofs and assumptions of insidious suppression, etc. -- and therefore is unworthy of answer. The substance of what's there -- whole pages (numbered) of material with beginning and end well-defined -- is such that it matters little if Rand herself destroyed some material, something for which there is no evidence. Are you accusing the estate of destroying evidence? This is an arbitrary assumption built on an arbitrary assumption, an accusation revealingly bizarre.

An outsider's perspective with an insider's view...

Casey's picture


(Respectfully now) I think James was responding to comments like this one from James H-N:


Thanks for exposing more of this ARI nonsense. Objectivity, transparency, and adherence to scholarly standards seem to be quite lacking at ARI.


This is a rather universal statement concerning the discrepancies pointed out. Even if it referred to a body of other such discrepancies unmentioned, which is possible, the conclusion is quite sweeping, as I'm sure James H-P would agree.

Personally, I think that Peikoff wants James to make some money from his book. "How soon do you want me to publish these papers for the public" is a show of respect for a scholar for whom he has admiration and a desire that he reap a benefit for his hard work, knowing that the scholar involved was scrupulously honest about presenting the record in the first place. There's nothing wrong with him deciding to reward James with that grace period, even though James asked for no grace period in which his book would be the sole source for these records to the broader public.

I think there is a tendency to look for the bad motive. There are complex motives involved in some of these decisions. PARC should make that even more obvious when it comes to ARI's endorsement of the Brandens, implicit, historical, or otherwise, in the products that they offer to the public, as distinct from that which is preserved in the historical record.

I don't have any stake in ARI, nor they in me, so this is just an observation from my limited context.

POST-SCRIPT: I changed the last sentence in the second-to-last paragraph so that it would make sense.


sjw's picture


You write: "Anyone who ever walked through the front door at ARI is being unfairly "lumped," it seems to me." Really? Not to me. And if so then I'm "lumped" too because I've been to a few ARI conferences myself. Maybe you think I'm "lumping" because I use the term "ARI" when I talk about some negative aspect of ARI. Well of course I don't mean to indict everyone at ARI or even ARI as a whole (Jim and I have made this point repeatedly). I mean to say that some tendency is distinctively ARI, not that it is universal and consistently present at ARI or even in any individual. Big difference. Important to get that in these kinds of discussions.

I won't quote you a dictionary definition, but of course it's "suppression" when they suppress certain things (like AR's stated position on homosexuality or the fact that NB wrote some quoted article). Seems to be you're being rather daft about this point. Oh, and a point of clarification: whether or not it was appropriate to suppress AR's view on homosexuality depends on the context. If Mayhew was suppressing it because Mayhew deemed it to be politically incorrect, then that's dubious. At a minimum, if he did suppress it then I'd expect an editorial comment specifying what was omitted and why, making it clear that it's Mayhew's own agenda driving the omission not Ayn Rand's (and it's fine if Mayhew has an agenda, as long as it's not hidden or made to appear as if it's Ayn Rand's agenda).

Regarding the catalog effort: how many years does it take to catalog and preserve a trunk full of papers? Of course you said "as soon as possible". But what on earth is going through Peikoff's mind that makes him think the answer could be anything other than that? The only reason why these papers aren't available now is that ARI has not in fact decided that they should be available as historic documents. They are very likely weighing the possible publicity and financial(i.e., for Mayhew and others) ramifications involved in making these public. At least I see no other explanation for the time they've spent. Which raises a question: is this the right way to deal with historic documents? Should these considerations even be on the table?

Sure Mayhew might have only made minor corrections. Wouldn't it be nice if there were some way to double-check his work. If memory serves, Sciabarra has at least one example of ARI rewording Ayn Rand in a very dubious manner.

I've read it, I've read it, when will you get it?

Jon Letendre's picture

Shayne says that James' case is not based on ARI-provided materials, but on a critical examination of the biographies themselves.

But I read those biographies back when they were published, Shayne. I noticed most of the contradictions he illuminates. I just think his critical examination proves much less than you think it does.

Shayne goes on, “If you had read PARC you would have realized this--the AR journal entries are only supplementary to his core argument.”

But Shayne, in my list of “non-mentioned” data, I wrote that I have read the essay that PARC is based upon. Holly subsequently acknowledged that, "The writing changed in only minor ways.” Therefore, the only thing I am missing is [the estates’—and then James’—selections from] Rand’s diaries. I love reading diaries, I simply want to know James’ response to what I asked earlier…

“If James will say that he was absolutely given every single page of her diaries, every date, nothing missing, then I will accept it as long as it comes along with an explanation as to exactly how he can be sure of this.”



James S. Valliant's picture

No apology necessary, Jim, since my own civility is getting a little rusty, too.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

No, I don't lump everyone together at ARI. In fact, having read a good portion of your book, I've been pleasantly surprised at the thoroughness and objectivity of it. I do think everyone that wants to get seriously involved with activities at either TOC or ARI should read it. I'll lump you with all of the ARI intellectuals I like:

Darryl Wright, Tara Smith, Eric Daniels, Yaron Brook, Andrew Bernstein, Travis Norsen and others

I will also mentioned that I was a member of Lin Zinser's FROG group in Colorado that Diana Hsieh now attends for three years from '94-'96 while it was still a mixed club. I still would recommend that anyone interested in Objectivism in that area join FROG. All of the people I knew in that group are terrific people and would give them my wholehearted endorsement.

My beef is with a few people in ARI and many of the policy issues related to the split. That doesn't stop me from enjoying the company of most Objectivists on either side of the divide. If my civility was slipping during the heat of debate, I apologize.


"Why do you argue about that

Hong's picture

"Why do you argue about that which is of no interest to you?"

Hahaha, I have my selfish reasons. And I am quite satisfied. Thanks gentlemen.


James S. Valliant's picture


For a long time I took no position on the arguments made about ARI. The very fact that I wrote the book I did should tell you something about me. But on certain SOLOHQ threads my own credibility was being tied to every complaint ever made about anyone ever associated with ARI -- even though I have never been associated with ARI beyond using their archive. I felt compelled to give my very personal opinions -- even though they are all based on conflicting hearsay. On most of these issues, I am painfully aware of my painful lack of important information. This lack of data, however, does not stop some others from drawing the most negative conclusions about the motives of the dark, sinister, and secretive "ARI."

Once again, I feel that I am being "lumped" with everyone who you don't like at ARI about Kelley's "intolerance," but Kelley did say that we needed to "argue" about Ms. Branden's book.

I agreed.

Look at the results.

Facts Of No Interest?

James S. Valliant's picture

Okay, Hong, argue away without the benefit of any evidence. Contemporaneous notes referencing what is clearly at times a three-way dialogue wouldn't suggest inside knowledge to you? Hmmm.

Why do you argue about that which is of no interest to you?


James S. Valliant's picture


Anyone who ever walked through the front door at ARI is being unfairly "lumped," it seems to me. Of course, it's not a question of any "contest" of credibility, but "ARI" was being indicted with a very broad brush on this thread. Mayhew even writes that Peikoff did not review the final manuscript prior to publication.

You did refer to the other anti-"ARI" comments on this thread generally. I thought it was you who had done the "lumping" of yourself. My apologies if I misunderstood.

As to your allegation of "suppression," I believe that with regard to Rand transcript materials, for example, Sciabarra was indeed denied the use of this stuff for publication, but would have been permitted access to it. This is different from "denying access," isn't it? In my case, Peikoff specifically asked my opinion on how soon Rand's papers should be made widely available to scholars. Of course, I said "as soon as possible." From what I can tell, a very serious effort has been made to catalogue and preserve all of these papers. Is this really "suppression"?

Your other point, however, is well taken: an editor should indicate where a change has been made. But give him a chance. The changes may really be corrections of common oral errors. There are times when I literally say the precise opposite of my meaning -- but somehow that meaning is perfectly understood in the context of everything else I had said before. Under such circumstances, the editor should correct me for publication. These changes may have been few, minor and of this character. As you know, I would myself still put any changes in brackets or something to indicate where such a correction has been made. But, again, "suppression" -- really?


Casey's picture

If you're implying that because Barbara was not present at those sessions she was not aware that Branden was claiming to be sexually paralyzed and still trying to work on his marriage to Barbara, you would be wrong on both counts: James maybe should not have put it in question form, but Barbara was asked for her input on Nathaniel's issues, and offered her own deceitful suggestions to Rand, as is made clear by Rand's notes. And yes, hindsight is golden as far as how much time Rand should have invested in the Brandens. But when both Brandens are helping to create the illusion that Nathaniel's psychological issues were real, and, indeed, Patrecia was also keeping up a front for Rand and even went so far as to ask Rand for counseling even though she told Branden she thought Rand was crazy, it's hard to blame Rand for not jumping to the conclusion that all of these people were involved in a hoax. In fact, the Brandens counted on that -- they were trying to prolong their association with Rand as long as possible, remember. To blame Rand for being a sucker and not instantly realizing these people were duping her isn't fair or reasonable.

"For heaven's sake, are you

Hong's picture

"For heaven's sake, are you using my credibility to discredit PARC?"

Ah Casey, you made my day. Smiling

There is no need for your indignation. I am talking to James the researcher and the writer, am I?

James, you haven't answered a question that I think it's very important to me: was Ms. Branden  present at those conselling sessions?

And you still ask "Do you trust Ms. Branden on this point"? What point? If Ms. Branden was not even present at those sessions, she could only relay what others told her plus her own interpretations. And that's all there is to me.


Absolutely not. I am interested in Rand, not Branden, and thus not Rand's psychoanalysis of Branden. Frankly I think Rand was wasting her time doing those psychoanalysis. She should have just let Branden go. (Sigh).


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

No you're not ARI, but you seem to have mostly good things to say about them and mostly bad things to say about TOC. As for "eternal damnation" maybe I got carried away, but I guess that would be a very unusual thing on this site Smiling. In any case, I'll substitute your "spiritual rape" charge for "eternal damnation" and let my comments stand.

Kelley's "intolerance"? That's rich considering he'd gotten booted out of the Objectivist movement by men who compared libertarians to the Ayatollah Khoemeini.


Not a "which disturbs more" contest

sjw's picture

James: I was not the one who complained about Mayhew being selective RE the homosexuality issue, and please don't pile every critic into one lump. I do however object to him not giving proper credit when NB is the author. And I object when he edits out AR and doesn't specify where or why or give us the original.

Since ARI does not give access to the originals to critics, I think it does count as "suppression". If someone wants to make a case for or against that, fine, but let's not warp the English language. Actually I can see a case here for suppression, e.g., if it were AR's wishes that her private materials be suppressed. There were hers after all. What I don't think she would have agreed to is Mayhew rewriting what she said and not being specific about what was his and what was hers. If you think this kind of thing is OK then I'm gonna be shocked. Do you?

And I disagree with you about this being a contest for "most disturbing behavior", so I don't see the point of your last question to me.

You Make The Call

James S. Valliant's picture


Do you trust Ms. Branden on this point, or would you be willing to read Rand's own contemporaneous notes from those sessions which show Ms. Branden offering her own two-cents, repeatedly, even inventing explanations she knows are bogus -- given the truth she knows about Branden's personal life? How about notes that show Ms. Branden acting as a go-between? Interested?

Still Don't Get It

James S. Valliant's picture


In reprints of Rand's work or her Q & A's, the failure to name Mr. Branden as the author of some previously published article is, for you, utterly devastating to Mayhew's credibility -- really? Even though the back issues of The Objectivist/The Objectivist Newsletter, or the like, remain unaltered historical records of this authorship?

Since the Q & A book could not include every answer to every question, or even the full answers to just the questions covered, some cuts were necessary. Rand's negative view of homosexuality was retained by Mayhew, and Objectivist scholars such as myself continue to discuss Rand's full statement, so, is it really necessary to include language that might offend? (I would not have excluded material on these grounds, but I can understand it -- and I have not discussed with Peikoff any private comments Rand may have made about her own reply.) Does it constitute "suppression" if many people have access to the original -- and discuss it at length?

Even if my own editorial choices may -- repeat, may -- have been otherwise, it is clear that these issues pale in comparison to the complete suppression of all the evidence of Rand's notes called for by the likes of Bidinotto and Branden. The claimed "boredom" of Ms. Branden is a device, a ruse, to shut down all debate on the topic. The other instances cited in PARC of Branden-suppressed information are also of far greater significance than the relatively minor issues that concern you. Dr. Kelley's selective "shock" about the debate is truly disturbing.

"ARI" -- or, more accurately, Mayhew -- may leave out stuff you think is important, but the original material is still available. Facts are not being "suppressed" -- somebody wrote the article, one presumes -- and these things are minor points.

Some of my critics, however, would have information available no where else suppressed forever, and any further debate over books that were at first uncritically welcomed completely shut down.

Which is really more disturbing to you?


Casey's picture

For heaven's sake, are you using my credibility to discredit PARC? I helped edit the book, I did not research it or write it. If you're willing to dismiss a book you haven't read on such a flimsy basis just to continue believing in the Brandens, then your objectivity is questionable. And it is true that Barbara and Nathaniel Branden stand by their statements in 1968 about how minimal the psychological sessions Rand mentions were. Go to Barbara's website if you want to read them. So Barbara's obviously trying to have her cake and eat it, too, and you're willing to look the other way on that issue while indicting PARC because I was adhering to one of Barbara's stories but not the other one. (I admit, it's hard to keep all of the Brandens' contradictions straight, but that's why it took a whole book by James Valliant to lay them out side by side so people can judge the whole context instead of whichever position is convenient at the moment.)

For the record, I wrote: "Rand's notes were written before the break as she was trying to help Branden sort out his claimed psychological problems. The very fact that this was going on is omitted from both Brandens' accounts." If you had read PARC, you would know what "claimed psychological problems" refers to. If you had only read PAR, you would NOT know what "claimed psychological problems" refers to. That's my point.

"It remains a fact that Ms.

Hong's picture

"It remains a fact that Ms. Branden chose not to tell us the nature or extent of this counseling."

Was Ms. Branden present at those sessions? My recollection is that she was not, for the most part at least. Then why expect her to tell us the exact nature or extent of those counselings? How could she know?

Of course you're not ARI

sjw's picture

James, of course you're not ARI--on the contrary, you're quite the opposite in any terms I've been critical of them about. Really, you're my last hope for ARI--maybe, just maybe, they'll learn a lesson from you.


James S. Valliant's picture

In PARC, I discuss the radical changes in Ms. Branden's position on those counselling sessions over time and her continuing inconsistencies -- at some length.

It remains a fact that Ms. Branden chose not to tell us the nature or extent of this counseling. This psychotherapy was a means of prolonged deception and manipulation of Rand. Ms. Branden's role in this deception is indisputable. There can be no doubt that Ms. Branden's treatment of this in PAR constitutes a whitewashing of her own conduct.

Untruth and Intolerance

James S. Valliant's picture


"Eternal damnation"? See, that's a good example of improper moral judgmentalism -- against me. Who's pressing a case too hard now?

Moral intolerance, Kelley's theme, is best judged from examples. His two examples of improper Objectivist moralism in T & T. seem to have been himself and Ms. Branden.

In any event, it was specifically the lack of discussion about Ms. Branden's book that once so "shocked" Kelley. Where's his "shock" now? Do you see any issue there at all for him or TOC?

As for "ARI": I myself cite the Brandens and credit them for their authorship all over the place in PARC. I cite Rand's full statement on homosexuality. Am I "ARI"? I'm really not sure with brush strokes this broad being slapped on the canvas...

Casey, in stead of admitting

Hong's picture

Casey, in stead of admitting that you made an alright false statement ("The very fact that this was going on is omitted from both Brandens' accounts."), you go on with "Did she explain that Branden was claiming he was working on his marriage with Barbara?" Why don't you go and read PAR again to make sure this time? Gosh, did you just edited a book that dispute PAR?

Sorry, Casey, once again you have discredited yourself with me. If what you displayed here is any indication of the quality of PARC, I rather not to waste my time and money.


James S. Valliant's picture


Also recall that Ms. Branden still insists on the veracity of the 1968 statements she and her husband wrote -- where they denied any serious counseling ever happened.

Comment viewing options

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