The Atlas Society Policy and the Summer Seminar

Ed Hudgins's picture
Submitted by Ed Hudgins on Thu, 2008-01-17 20:27

I am writing in response to the controversy on several online discussion boards about The Atlas Society’s 2008 Summer Seminar, and the inclusion of Lindsay Perigo as a speaker on the program. I want to explain our Summer Seminar policies, to place the current controversy in context, and to address real concerns about the wisdom of that invitation.

Our Purpose

The purpose of The Atlas Society is to make Objectivism a recognized and respected perspective or view of life, culture, and politics. In the same way that Cato, Reason, and others have made “libertarianism” a political alternative distinct from liberalism and conservatism, we want to make Objectivism the positive philosophical alternative (using David Kelley’s categories) to the religious, pre-modern worldview and the value-relative, degenerate, postmodern worldview. We do this specifically by (1) calling attention to Objectivism and TAS, by (2) promoting understanding of Objectivism, and by (3) promoting a commitment both to Objectivism and to TAS.

We want to build a benevolent community of Objectivists and a benevolent culture and society based on reason and rational, responsible self-interest. Consistent with this goal, our approach to promoting Objectivism is to do so in an open, rational, and civil manner. Here’s what that approach entails.

Our Open Approach

We do not consider Objectivism to be some fragile, delicate flower-of-a-philosophy that must be protected from any questions, challenges, or engagement with other ideas. Rather, it is a robust philosophy that can withstand criticism and profit from open discussion about its implications and applications.

Thus, we use our events and other venues to explore deeper issues concerning the philosophy and its applications. Our open approach means that we wish to look at how Objectivism fits with new, cutting-edge thinking and discoveries in various disciplines. An excellent example is how Robert Campbell, Jay Friedenberg, Walter Donway, and others have addressed recent work on the brain, mind, and psychology. We believe that such insights strengthen Objectivism rather than undermine or dilute it.

“Open,” however, does not mean that we will engage in any debate over any issue—or that we do not approach issues from a settled, principled framework. We do come from an Objectivist perspective. Therefore we do not wish to squander our resources debating issues, arguments, or discussions that have already been heard and decided.

Our Civil Approach

Consistent with our open approach to discussion is civility in discussion.
A civil approach to discussion and debate entails treating others with respect, and it assumes that we have a common purpose—in our case, the understanding and promotion of Objectivism. It also assumes a community of generally well-intentioned and intellectually honest individuals. Thus, we recognize that many intellectual disagreements are honest ones and not an indication of moral failing, justifying anger and vilification.

We even recognize that critics who have fundamental disagreements with their interlocutors can be civil; I have seen Christopher Hitchens, one of the harshest critics of religion, having civil exchanges with religious right leaders at social gatherings.

Civility is not an end in and of itself out of all context; rather, it is an approach to dealing with others that facilitates goals that are in our rational self-interest.

We also believe that it is possible in particular cases for civil people to have strong personal differences yet agree about intellectual matters or acknowledge intellectual contributions; one might have personal issues with Nathaniel Branden while acknowledging his pioneering work on the psychology of self-esteem or with Leonard Peikoff while acknowledging his fine work in the taped series “Understanding Objectivism.”

I have tried to stay out of the personal infighting on the various discussion boards. And as an institution TAS has focused on the battle for ideas. This has meant that we are not neutral concerning the contributions that individuals have or might make to our institutional goals of promoting Objectivism. For example, I invited Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden to speak at our Atlas 50th event and we posted online a clip of Barbara’s moving remarks. I also have been an admirer the work of Chris Sciabarra, another target of a nasty personal smear campaign, and wish in the future there were some way for him to participate in our events.

TAS has also hosted at its public events speakers on the opposite side of these personal feuds. That’s because our aim has been to focus on the ideas that are of shared interest to all, and to stand above this infighting—even as some have tried their best to draw us into it as raging partisans.

Two Sources of Incivility

Sadly, there has been a propensity among too many Objectivists to reduce intellectual differences to the personal level and to bring the most intemperate forms of incivility to highly visible public arguments. That propensity has been evident largely from two quarters: from individuals prominently associated with the Ayn Rand Institute and also from online discussion boards, notably Lindsay Perigo’s SOLO-Passion.

Most of us know the reaction of many associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, including its co-founder Leonard Peikoff, to David Kelley’s widely discussed address to a libertarian social group in the late 1980s. That group’s libertarian outlook alone was considered by Peikoff and other ARI spokesmen to be prima facie evidence of its intellectual dishonesty or evil; and they further claimed that Kelley was immorally “sanctioning” that dishonesty simply by addressing the group—even if only to tell its members why he believed they were wrong. For that bizarre reason, Kelley was banned from further involvement with ARI.

Ten years ago, U.S. News & World Report published a major article on why Objectivists can’t seem to get along, focusing on the Peikoff-Kelley split. While Rand and Kelley came off okay in the article, the cause of Objectivism was not helped by Peikoff’s comment, “I’d rather blow up the entire Objectivist movement than deal with this slime.”

A second source of this incivility—where juvenile name-calling and vulgar insults are characteristically equated with a commitment to “passion”—has been the website SOLO-Passion. The appalling childishness so often expressed by individuals on that website makes a mockery of the term “rational.” Yes, there are also intelligent comments and rational discussions mixed in with the vitriol, which makes it all the sadder as pearls are trampled beneath the swine. Even Lindsay Perigo, the principal of that website and, sadly, a chief practitioner of and tone-setter for that approach, admits that some of those who post on his site go too far.

The widespread perception that Objectivists are fanatical ideologues who speak of reason but do not practice it, and who are instead irrational, screaming loonies, continues to be fueled by such public statements and actions, which do incredible harm to the spread of the philosophy.

Fostering Openness and Civility

To further our objectives, I have been trying in recent times to bring more reason and civility to the Objectivist movement. This is a difficult, perhaps impossible task, but a pursuit worth continuing.

For example, last year I met with Yaron Brook of ARI at a meeting of the libertarian Atlas Economic Research Foundation. At the event, BB&T chairman and ARI supporter John Allison gave an excellent talk, and Brook stayed on and attended a meeting put on by the conservative Heritage Foundation. I congratulated Brook on this new openness and I pointed out to him that it was for this very sort of thing—addressing “enemy” conservative and libertarian groups—that ARI denounced David Kelley. I insisted that it is time to abandon such practices, which have been to the detriment of Objectivism as well as ARI.

Where my initiative will go, I don’t know, but I have tried. And I do believe that among more responsible organizations, the notion of civility is starting to gain currency.

While I have not, especially of late, been a regular poster on discussion boards, I have tried to remain on civil terms both in public and private with Lindsay Perigo and, as he says, without any pretenses, he has generally remained civil as well. I hope this mutually civil approach continues.

Using the Summer Seminar to Restore Civility

At the Summer Seminar, we seek to develop our understanding and application of Objectivism in an open and civil environment. This certainly influences the talks and speakers we choose.

Thus, we would not be averse to having an ARI speaker discuss why Objectivism should be considered a “closed” rather than “open system.” That is a topic about which honest Objectivists might differ, and one that should have been discussed in such a forum, and in a civil manner, nearly twenty years ago.

However, it would be more problematic to invite someone to speak against intellectual tolerance as such, on the premise that those like Kelley—who hold opinions different from those of Peikoff—are not merely wrong but dishonest or evil. Though such a speaker no doubt would not wish to “sanction” our “evil” by attending such a forum, in any case we would not provide them a platform to denounce us and the policies of openness and civility that we champion.

In fact, we have hosted presentations at the Summer Seminar about strife within the Objectivist movement that were both civil and constructive. Two years ago, I gave a talk on what I call “mature Objectivism.” I argued that the error of mistaking insults for passion or commitment comes, in part, from an intellectual error. Objectivists understand that all actions must have an aim, and that they must be rational, moral, and efficient within a particular context. Thus, if one decides to insult someone, one must ask, “What is the point?” For the most part, Objectivists who indulge in such behavior fail to ask themselves whether their aim is rational and moral and whether the action is actually effective.

To take another example, in 2006 Barbara Branden gave a Summer Seminar talk on “Objectivist Rage.” When she proposed the topic, I was skeptical. I did not want “flame wars” from online discussion boards to spill over into the Summer Seminar. I didn’t want Barbara to bash Lindsay any more than I would want Lindsay to bash Barbara at our events. But she explained to me her proposed approach and we let her go ahead. The result was a thoughtful, reasoned, impressive, and civil approach to the topic. We posted her remarks on our website and remain grateful for her intellectual contribution to the movement.

So, if our Summer Seminar can be used to promote civility and end needless discord, I’m more than happy to use it as such. However, in light of the TAS commitment to the principles discussed above, I don’t intend to let the Summer Seminar be used to perpetuate the very incivility against which we have been fighting.

The Current Controversy

In the past Lindsay Perigo has given quality presentations at Summer Seminars that were well-received by attendees. With this in mind and hoping to promote greater harmony within the Objectivist movement, Will invited Lindsay Perigo to the Summer Seminar to speak on music and on “Objectivism's Greatest Enemy: Objectivists.” I have not seen the summary of this talk; however, Lindsay did write to Will that “I’ll speak about something non-fratricidal.”

In the aftermath that invitation, controversy has exploded—much of it fueled by Lindsay’s comments.

For example, about participants on the competing Objectivist Living discussion board, Lindsay writes that that “crowd … are, with barely an exception I could spot, irredeemably just plain rotten. Stinkingly, wilfully, cacklingly, conscientiously rotten.” About statements posted on that discussion board—which he always refers to as “Objectivist Lying”—he writes: “It makes my second talk on ‛Objectivism’s Worst Enemies’ as easy as my first on music. I just have to read out this stuff, say ‘I rest my case’ and get bundled off by my bodyguards.”

This propensity for incivility is alarming. Such remarks are clearly “fratricidal,” in my judgment, and they cause me to worry that his talk will not promote the civility that TAS seeks. Now, we face the very real prospect that the very sort of fratricidal conflict that we have been working hard to overcome will in fact be perpetuated at our Summer Seminar—ironically—by our very attempt to end it.

While some might argue that the posters on other discussion boards started the current controversy, those posters have also dredged up many of the past insults by Lindsay, many of which I and certainly Will Thomas probably missed. Thus, in hindsight, we at TAS should have expected such a storm of controversy.

More alarming, we also have been made aware of discussions on SOLO-Passion by some who have led personality-based jihads, who are proposing to host a participant-sponsored session at the seminar to ventilate their divisive views—and even to invite other outsiders who have expressed their contempt for TAS.

But to be clear, participant-sponsored sessions are open only to those who pay to attend the Summer Seminar. And while we leave the topics of those sessions open to almost any intellectual interest of the participants, we will not permit them to be used merely to perpetuate the personal ill-will they foment on discussion boards. Civility is the watchword at those sessions, as well.

Lindsay challenges those who oppose him to “come to my two presentations anyway. At the very least, you won’t be bored. My aim will be not merely not to bore you but to thought-provoke and uplift you also. Who knows, I might succeed? What have you to lose?” However, given the post-invitation discussions he’s led at SOLO-Passion, we now wonder whether we are about to be blind-sided. In that event, we would have plenty to lose.

Now I must ask Lindsay: Exactly what is your topic and what are your intentions? Is your aim truly to reduce “fratricide” within the movement, as we had hoped? Clearly TAS does not want to be the victim of some kind of “bait-and-switch.”

This, then, is a challenge. I want Lindsay Perigo to commit publicly to joining me in undoing the incivility in the movement that he himself has too frequently helped to foster. This, of course, means being civil in the content of any speech at TAS and in behavior at any TAS event.

But the challenge goes further. If all the energy and—yes—passion that has gone into internecine battles among Objectivists were expended instead on developing and promoting the philosophy in a constructive way, we would be much further along than we are today. Therefore I would like Lindsay to commit to this wider goal of building an open and civil Objectivist movement and to start it with SOLO-Passion, the forum for so much ill-will. I want to hear some proposals.

No, I do not expect him to withhold honest criticisms about ideas he considers mistaken. I do not expect him to become less of the colorful character that he is. I do not expect him to feign friendship with individuals with whom he has had personal fallings-out. I do not expect that he will make up with Nathaniel Branden and Barabara Branden, Sciabarra or others from whom he is estranged, nor is it my purpose to get in the middle of such relationships.

Rather, it is my purpose to influence the direction of the movement—and that is where Lindsay’s help, and everybody else’s, can be useful.

We at TAS have worked very hard both to promote an open, civil Objectivist movement. We have insisted on high-quality work. I hope our friends appreciate our past successes. We have future plans to make Objectivism a powerful philosophical force to be reckoned with. I hope our efforts can convert to friends from foes those who share our commitment to Objectivism.

If to achieve our goals we must make changes to any of our programs and activities, we will do so. We’re committed to ruthless self-examination, and open to constructive criticism.

To those ends, I await a constructive public response and commitment from Lindsay, which will help us determine whether his talk at the 2008 Summer Seminar will be consistent with our mission and purposes.

Sincerely,

Dr. Edward Hudgins,
Executive Director, The Atlas Society


( categories: )

"...a good stiff one."

Robert's picture

Are we talking alcohol here or something else... >:)

Ohh! I'm going to objectivist Hell for that one... Smiling

Father Bill!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

What a delight to see you back, you mad mystic! (There I go, name-calling again!)

Don't you love it - last time you were here it was Randroids burning me at the stake for my uncivil response to the fatwa. Now it's the Brandroids, those exemplars of openness and tolerance, for ... accepting an invitation to speak. I note the latter are painting SOLO as some sort of sub-set of the orthodoxy. They must have missed the Hsiekovian interlude.

I quite like the notion of being exorcised by one of Big Ben's Boys. I'm certain it won't work, but it sure as the hell I'm bound for will be fun.

And yes, as I breakfasted on gin, I raised one to Babs, who herself, I venture to suspect, could use a good stiff one.

Linz

You got it, Bill. Character

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

You got it, Bill. Character assassination dressed up as reasonable sounding objections. Which is exactly what Nathaniel and Barbara did to Rand in their books.

Jim

Linz vs. the Second-Handers

Bill Tingley's picture

Hey, Linz.

I've just caught up with this matter.

First of all, congratulations on your speaking engagement at TAS's summer conference. If what I've seen of Objectivist conferences on CSPAN is any indication, TAS is well-served to have a speaker who'll rally the troops rather than put them to sleep.

Second, as far as I can tell the big gripe against you is that a fair number of Objectivists put so much weight in every word you utter that they actually are deeply wounded when you call them names. How odd that these Objectivists would second-hand from you the opinion they hold of themselves! Of course, they might just give a little thought to not caring what you say about them, or at least stop spouting the idiot ideas that prompted the name-calling in the first place.

Third, of all the indictments against Linz Perigo, notably absent is a single charge that you don't honor the bargains you strike for your professional engagements. It is in this regard I think Hudgins's article execrable. Your deal with TAS doesn't involve how you run your forum, so either Hudgins is claiming without basis that your statements at SOLOPassion show your intent to break your commitments to TAS about the tone and content of your presentations this summer or he is attempting to unilaterally impose new terms to an agreement that has been finalized. Either way it stinks.

Fifth, I read Ms. Branden's dyspeptic rant about you. If you care to be merciful, Linz, and desire to put her at ease about those demons that are devouring your soul, I could if you like rustle up one of those exorcists Pope Benedict just put out in the field to purge you of your tormentors. Of course, that will only work if you truly repent of your wicked ways, you hell-bound heathen. Eye But what fun would that be? So, perhaps the best way to respond to Ms. Branden is to give her a hearty toast with a stiff drink that you promise will be merely the first of very many for the evening.

Finally, as you do the good work of opening doors that have been long shut, I advise you to heed the words of Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify."

Regards, Bill

Rand the Branden-basher

Chris Cathcart's picture

Nick: Brilliant. Smiling

Messrs Otani and Valliant

Lindsay Perigo's picture

(At this point, I would recommend my own book, The Pasision of Ayn Rand's Critics, available thru Amazon and Barnes & Noble, if i weren't so modest, of course.)

If I weren't so modest I'd point out that one can order PARC through the SOLO Store.

Mr. Otani

James S. Valliant's picture

If the Brandens are our only source for something of that nature, I would advise caution before accepting it -- even if Mr. Branden richly deserved such a slapping. (At this point, I would recommend my own book, The Pasision of Ayn Rand's Critics, available thru Amazon and Barnes & Noble, if i weren't so modest, of course.) To show that Rand was a "Branden-basher" herself, one only needs the public record -- her article, "To Whom It May Concern" (1868). And THAT would most certainly have never been allowed at OL.

Of course, Rand praised Aristotle to the sky, forgiving his errors, and praised Aquinas, and even Locke, with appropriate and important qualifications. She admitted her youthful attraction to Nietzsche, even though she became a harsh critic in later years -- as was also appropriate.

Her take on Existentialism may not have been "civil" -- but it was spot on.

As to whether she would meet TAS's standards of decorum... I guess the jury is still out.

Ayn Rand was a Branden-basher

NickOtani's picture

Ayn Rand, herself, slapped Nathaniel around as he sat in a chair in her livingroom. This is according to both Brandens. Gee! I guess Ayn Rand would not be allowed on the OL.

Ayn Rand also insulted and dismissed every philosopher other than herself and Peikoff. She said Existentialism belonged with Buddhism and philosophies designed for barefoot savages. Was that civil? Would she meet TAS's civility standards for speaking at the SS?

bis bald,

Nick

OL vs. TAS

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

You hit the nail on the head. It's amazing that you can go to a site with "Objectivist" in the title and be called a "liar" by the site owner for defending Ayn Rand.

Jim

OL vs. TAS

James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Bidinotto graciously concedes incivility himself and suggests to the folks at OL that they, too, have been less than civil on occasion.

MSK's reaction? "Day-am straight, Mr. B.!"

He reminds us that OL's "rules" overtly build in incivility -- and "close" the discussion -- as a matter of policy:

"No Branden-bashing.
"No promoting Branden-bashers.
"(And yes, it is OK to bash Branden-bashers.Smiling )"

Incivility is our middle name, Mr. Bidinotto! Take THAT!

Then, Campbell shares his belief that PARC is the source of the whole problem:

"[Rancor within TAS] has been going on for two and a half years, since the middle of 2005.
"And Mr. Valliant, seeking to restore a 39-year-old schism to full divisiveness, published his book three years ago."

Of course, long before PARC, TAS had already lost the Blumenthals, original members of Rand's "Collective," due to TAS's association with Branden.

And, Ms. B.'s bio in the 80s, and Mr. B.'s memoirs, the revised edition of which was released in 1999, were so conciliatory and forgiving, after all... and the interviews... and the movie -- all clearly designed to put that old controversy to bed.

Right.

And, sure, TAS can bleed a director, Mr. Perry, and TAS can bleed lecturers like Cohen and Perigo -- and TAS can have one of its most level-headed members, Jim Heaps-Nelson, since he is critical of PAR, personally attacked by the traditional friends of TAS. Bear in mind that all of these had originally chosen TAS over ARI for its "openness" -- you know, hard core "cultists," all of 'em. Just a bunch of "Branden Bashers."

Still, it's all that damn Valliant's fault!

To paraphrase:

"No, Mr. Bidinotto, we at OL demand that our brand of incivility be accepted -- we demand that any 'debate' which is 'tolerated' by TAS be the sound of our one hand clapping (for the Brandens), whatever David Kelley himself called for in the wake of Ms. B.'s book -- and we demand that TAS cater exclusively to the interests of the Brandens."

Ms. Branden herself has publicly shared her demand that Ed recognize the evil of that drunk "Perigo's invective" along with "ARI bloodthirstiness" -- yes, "bloodthirstiness." (And one suspects that she means something more than someone's approach to Iran.)

So, it is THEY who refuse to make peace with the "savages," after all.

And, here, all this time, I thought that schismism was all the savages' fault.

JHN...

Robert's picture

they could be looking at it as being the thin end of the wedge... First Linz, then... then Peikoff! {gasp}

They have the same initial you know. It's a a conspiracy I tell you!!!

Honestly. This is silly. Ed needs to make an executive decision and stick with it come hell or high dudgeon. If he keeps on trying to appear impartial he'll catch flak from every direction.

He's in charge of a privately funded organization and the boosters pissed! Whatever Ed's vision is for TAS, it has to be tempered by the fact that the folks that fund TAS (as exemplified by OL & RoR members) hate Perigo's guts. It doesn't matter whether their suspicions are delusional - they hold the purse strings.

So Ed's decision shouldn't be that difficult after all, unless he's contemplating offering his resignation to the lynch Linz mob.

The posts below Bidinotto's post...

NickOtani's picture

...are examples of Michael Stuart Kelly's civility. He hates Perigo and SOLO. He characterizes us all as Branden bashers, and he is denouncing anyone who even tolerates Perigo, including Hudgins and everyone at TAS.

I'm happy he kicked me off his board. He is not a tolerant man. Kat is not a tolerant woman. I'm not really an Objectivist, but I don't think these people are good for Objectivism or the goals of TAS.

bis bald,

Nick

Mr. B's a good guy. Things

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Mr. B's a good guy. Things will work out. I do agree that I don't envy Ed Hudgins' position. I still don't get what the big deal is about having Linz speak. It's not like they're conducting the first test at the Trinity site...

Jim

Worth Reading

James S. Valliant's picture

Here's the link to Bidinotto's post at OL.

Just read the posts at OL

Casey's picture

That followed Robert Bidinotto's post about Linz's invitation -- dear oh dear oh dear.

As Ayn Rand learned the hard way, it's important to be scrupulous about who you make your bed with. Afterwards, you have to lie in it.

Nonsense

James S. Valliant's picture

The new books, like "the old paperbacks," of Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal still have Branden's essays in them. If they had wanted to "airbrush"...

And Smith is hardly crediting Peikoff with Branden's work, as Ms. B. implies.

But this is off-topic.

Well known already surely?

gregster's picture

I'm not surprised this has happened at all and agree with Branden that it is a bad look for ARI.

BB: "Do you know about the ARI “air-brushing” of Nathaniel’s work? Do you know that in some of her published writings, Ayn Rand’s credit to Nathaniel for one or another concept has been removed? Do you know that Tara Smith, an ARI writer, in a chapter on Rand’s concept of self-esteem, gives credit to Leonard Peikoff for developing the concept, and that Nathaniel’s name is not so much as mentioned? – despite the fact that Rand had said that his work on self-esteem, as published in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist, consisted of his own identifications and was an integral part of Objectivism? I think you can imagine the disgust all of this – and I’m only scratching the surface -- would cause among scholars and writers were it to become known."

Still have the old paperbacks to prove it.

Balls

Peter Cresswell's picture

"Guess the ball's now in your court, Ed."

Always was. But he seems to be someone who likes to change the balls once the game has started, while pretending he's above the fray.

Frankly, I can't see why Lindsay would want to talk to a gathering presided over by such a man. Quite apart from his disgraceful denial of the virtue of exercising appropriate moral judgements, he also seems to be one whose invitations once offered are quite casually, quite public and quite "civilly" withdrawn -- if, that is, "civility" means putting the knife in your back while smiling to your face.

Linz,

Casey's picture

Yes, she's a good fiction writer, though. She makes what we know to be utterly false sound good and seem plausible. She made ax-grinding seem like a valentine in PAR. That's why it took a brilliant attorney like James to cut through the artifice and set the record straight.

James V

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Sure,

TAS's invite list can be criticized, but the coordinated attempt to silence a speaker who has already been invited bothers me. The first question I have when people do that is: what is it they don't want me and others to hear?

Jim

... would you want her to

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... would you want her to be YOUR biographer?

At least she's said this stuff while I'm alive! Smiling

It's the complete making up of stuff that boggles me. Libelous stuff. And the nerve of then professing to be a champion of civility!

With PAR at least the hatchet job was subtle, enveloped in a veneer of love and compassion, blah, blah. It was a "stiletto job" of the kind she praised Sciabarra for with respect to PARC. Here the veneer has been removed, so desperate is she to prevent my going to TAS. And I'm glad. The naked viciousness displayed in this latest attempt at character assassination must surely be one of the last, if not THE last, nail in the coffin of her credibility as a biographer of anyone.

Busybodies

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

WSS,

I abhor group influence tactics. I didn't like them in orthodox Objectivism. I don't like it from the Brandens. When I have a problem with something, I simply say I can't in good conscience attend X or do Y for the following reasons. It doesn't follow that others should follow my lead or put the same priority on my objections that I do. That's up to them and their own cognitive process.

In fact, I try very hard not to lobby against people. I can put forth a reasoned case and people can either take it or leave it. I value independence enough not to worry if they leave it. If I were a speaker at a function, I wouldn't care if they invited my sworn enemy the next year. I would depend on the rationality of the audience and figure that if someone decided against me, it was their loss.

This is not about the the merits of the case for Lindsay to speak. This is about standing, reputation and self-image. I came into an IOS organization in 1994 for whom those things were secondary to philosophical investigation. I don't care about all of that beyond how they can be used to bolster objectivity, further knowledge or help me be productive.

I understand that Ellen has made some points about objections to the topics being presented. Those kinds of arguments sway me much more than arguments against the speaker. However, this time I think Lindsay has something worthwhile to say. Let's hear it and get on with life.

Jim

Think about what Barbara wrote

Casey's picture

And ask yourself -- would you want her to be YOUR biographer?

The Kettle's Color

James S. Valliant's picture

I have to side with Mr. Scherk here, Jim, insofar as I believe that TAS's invite list is fair game for public criticism -- on any discussion board.

Yet, contrary to Mr. Scherk's implications, had Dr. Hudgins wished this to be a matter of private discussion only, it seems odd that he would post this at SOLO.

In any event, the sincerity of Hudgins' call for "civility" can be objectively tested by his willingness (or unwillingness) to address the very same issue closer to home, as well.

Busy bodies

William Scott Scherk's picture

JHN writes, "What I don't get is the busybody concern with who's invited."

Are you sure about this? The concern with the invitation comes from named people who have laid out their concerns -- some of these are members and supporters of TAS. One such person is Ellen Stuttle.

Do you not understand her concerns? Is she only a busybody?

(This word 'busybody' implies someone who is sticking her nose into someone else's business. Why isn't it Ellen Stuttle's business, or Roger Bissel's, or Robert Campbell's? Why should they not attempt to influence or have rescinded an invitation that they consider mistaken?)

The way I see things is that this is up to Lindsay and Ed. I would hope they do more than write past each other to a public audience; I hope they are exchanging emails and considering each other's positions.

As it stands, Lindsay put his conditions on his appearance, and noted what he will not do: name names of his erstwhile enemies; use invective against identifiable TAS members or presenters; use the presentation to settle scores with 'enemies'; single out anyone but himself as 'own worst enemy.'

Now Ed has given Lindsay a challenge. How Lindsay chooses to respond to Ed's challenge is up in the air:

Now I must ask Lindsay: Exactly what is your topic and what are your intentions? Is your aim truly to reduce “fratricide” within the movement, as we had hoped? Clearly TAS does not want to be the victim of some kind of “bait-and-switch.”

How will Lindsay respond over the next while?

This, then, is a challenge. I want Lindsay Perigo to commit publicly to joining me in undoing the incivility in the movement that he himself has too frequently helped to foster. This, of course, means being civil in the content of any speech at TAS and in behavior at any TAS event.

Lindsay has let us know his intentions on this count: he will be civil ("my talk will not be me unloading on people I dislike").

Still, Ed's challenge:

[ . . . ] I would like Lindsay to commit to this wider goal of building an open and civil Objectivist movement and to start it with SOLO-Passion, the forum for so much ill-will. I want to hear some proposals.

Now, Lindsay gave the first part of an answer:

"Well, that’s too bad, Ed, because I’m not going to make any. For one thing, it’s my forum; for another, it’s already the most “open” forum there is within Objectivism, by a country mile."

Now, I don't know if this means exactly what it says: Lindsay will not make proposals in response to Ed's challenge.

I await a constructive public response and commitment from Lindsay, which will help us determine whether his talk at the 2008 Summer Seminar will be consistent with our mission and purposes.

It seems to me that Lindsay has plenty of time to work on Ed and Will and the TAS folk who make decisions. It seems his invitation is pending, further discussions mandated.

WSS

How do we define "civility"?

NickOtani's picture

I do not make a lot of money as a substitute teacher and could not afford, last year, to attend the Summer Conference on the other side of the country. However, this year, it will be held at Portland, Oregon, which is not far away from Spokane Valley, Washington, where I live. I may attend. It could be fun. If I do, I do hope that TAS will not rescind the invitation for Lindsey Perigo to speak at the Summer Conference for 2008, and I hope he will not withdraw himself in disgust because of all the controversy this invitation is causing on discussion boards.

Ed Hudgins makes the point that TAS is concerned about civility in discussion and debate, something which doesn’t often occur on discussion boards, and something for which Lindsey Perigo and others are not necessarily famous. After all, he doesn’t want to see this Summer Conference fall apart into riots among the factions in this open form of Objectivism. That wouldn’t seem healthy for the movement.

Civility, however, can be just as effective a weapon against rationality as incivility. It is often used by holier-than-thou people who look down upon those with whom they disagree. When they can’t think of rational arguments to use against opponents, they just accuse those opponents of being impolite and evade them in the name of civility. I think this has been done to me by religious people and even some of those Objectivists Barbara Branden says are slow to judge, people like Michael Stuart Kelly.

Lindsey Perigo is not a model of civility. He has not always been civil to me. He generally blows me off with an unsupported accusation as he points out my misspelled words and such. He recommends that people ignore me, as he does. Then, he goes off somewhere else and ignores me. However, he has allowed me to continue posting here, unlike Michael Stuart Kelly who banned me from his board.

What is “civility,” anyhow? If I call someone a coward but explain why I made the accusation and give examples of that person’s cowardice, rationally proving my case, is that still incivility? Is it equal to hiding behind insults and unsupported accusations when I can’t think of reasons and evidence to support my accusations?

I agree with Barbara Branden about Biddle’s call for bombing crowded mosques in Iran. I’ve condemned that on this board and received a lot of crap for doing so. I also take a lot of abuse for criticizing Objectivism on fine points of epistemology and metaphysics. Many people here are avoiding my Alice series, rather than dealing with it in open debate with reason and evidence, but I am no delicate flower. I guess I can take it and move on. Can Objectivism take me? Is shunning and banning and evading the best way to deal with people who rock the boat, who don’t agree entirely with Ed Hudgins or Barbara Branden?

I really disagree with Kevin Owens, the Scientologist, but I debated with him civilly and left it to the audience to decide which one of us won. I think such open debates should be possible and can be good for Objectivism.

Bis bald,
Nick

When you first put this up

Mark Hubbard's picture

When you first put this up last night I wondered how you would, or could, respond. If me, then it would have been via spewing a seething rage all over the monitor, which would only have served to prove her point. Your restraint is remarkable.

 

And not wanting to make light of a wretched situation, but doing so anyway, I'm giving away my Shakespeare library: who needs him when I have threads like this Smiling

 

Concern with Invitations

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

What I don't get is the busybody concern with who's invited.

I think someone who wants to use a forum to air controversial views, but makes a big production about others airing their controversial views wants to have it both ways. Part of the intellectual currency that is paid under the masthead of free and open inquiry is that views and people you don't like might be put forward.

Jim

Dear Lord!

James S. Valliant's picture

I'm not sure what's more sadly revealing: her Campbell-like paranoid conspiracy theories -- the way she reprises her old Linz the Drunk defamation -- the sloppy and thoughtless way she misstates the foreign policy of some at ARI -- her defense of the "Branden legacy" -- the way she psychologizes as a fundamental basis for case, but with zilch for evidence -- or just her sheer desperation to get Linz booted.

Guess the ball's now in your court, Ed.

Rand, Linz and now the ARI...

Robert's picture

The nuke them 'till they glow policy championed by some ARI-faithful isn't unique. Nor is it entirely misplaced. Something drastic must be done to Iran before they obtain a nuclear weapon. So the ARI has correctly identified the target and the reason they should be targeted.

The only disagreeable thing in their thesis is the means by which they intend to deal with Iran. And it's only disagreeable given the extent of America's military abilities.

If the ARI is to be chastised about anything it should be that they haven't spent enough time in the military section of the library before deciding to make such a declaration.

It's interesting to me that she doesn't qualify her statement thus. She certainly has the intelligence to realize the point and several people have made this exact point near her presence if not within it.

For instance: I stole the library quip from Joe Rowlands, over at RoR, when he made this point recently (and more eloquently than I could ever do). I myself railed against this method of attack, when ARI-types championed it, last year. My words were even picked up on by MSK -- which prompted some good-natured heckling from Linz -- and quoted over at OL, her choice of discussion board.

She mentions the targeting of Mosques. Now, I don't think that is useful either: Why alienate the entire population when there is good evidence that most Iranians aren't happy with their government and are thoughtfully disposed towards the USA?

But I find it interesting that the ARI are the ones compared with Hitler, considering that Iran has pledged, more than once, to exterminate all Israelis because they are Jews. Reciprocity may not be attractive, but what it lacks in morality it makes up for in symmetry. The ruling Mullahs having declared their intention to exterminate our Allies simply because they are both Jewish and our allied to the 'Great Satan.'

Which is to say that one can argue that nuking Iran is advocating needless slaughter. However, were Iran a peaceful nation, the ARI would have nothing to say. Hitler, by comparison, toasted hawks and doves with equal aplomb. Hitler was a racist, anti-semitic, sociopathic murdering bastard. The ARI is not any of these things. And neither has it ever sort the sort of power that Hitler acquired. Something that Barbara has more than enough brains to see, so why is she blind to it here? Her simile is wildly inaccurate.

Barbara is not taking prisoners. The ~entire~ ARI must be spurned root and branch for some relatively trivial lapses in scholarship and logic.

Likewise, Perigo's ~entire~ career subsequent to 'Drooling Beast' is to be spurned root and branch because drink has rotted his brain -- the only rational explanation (according to her) for his suddenly saying nasty things about her.

I won't dwell on the fact that the 'close' observations that form bedrock of her hypothesis have been made over the intervening Pacific Ocean.

Is this is an example of the civility you wish Linz to foster on SOLO Ed? Comparing ARI to Hitler and suggesting that Linz is the Mohammed Atta of
Objectivism?

Hell, if Barbara and OL get this shirty after Linz is invited, imagine what she'd say if you'd invited Yaron Brook or Peikoff to speak. I hope you have a bullet-proof vest Ed. If your peace-talks succeed and you invite the ARI to your talk, you may need it.

My Favorite Bit...

Robert's picture

... was her tacit support for Campbell's grand conspiracy hypothesis.

"No, I'm not crazy, it's true!" "If Linz speaks he'll hypnotize the entire audience!" "They'll be helplessly under his power and he'll do unspeakable things to them!" "Listening to Mario, drinking wine, smoking... SWEEEAAARRRINGGG aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!"

First, Linz is the metaphorical suicide bomber. A born martyr seeking his 72 Rugby Players in heaven over the invective strewn bodies of his TAS enemies...
Then, 100 words or so later he's a Machiavellian mastermind seeking to subvert the Western World, starting with TAS!

Well which is it woman?

Is he the crazed loon about to blow TAS to smithereens or he is he planning to overthrow Hudgins and make everybody at TAS his bitch? Because it would be bloody pointless to do the latter if he suceeds at the former.

Wise

Tim S's picture

I think Linz takes a wise approach by essentially ignoring these attacks leaving it to others to make their own judgements.

Of all the errors in Ms Branden's missive I find the comments about the alleged second-handedness of his motives to be the most disagreeable...

"...because it will establish his superiority to the rest of us"

"...since that disastrous speech that almost no one attended — and that constituted a humiliation for him for which he never will forgive TAS or me"

I know Linz well and I know this is quite simply wrong.

Chris

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz can run circles around these figureheads as a lecturer. So what's with all the hand-wringing?

That's why the hand-wringing.

Ha, Olivia!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

When you've seen me inebriated, you've been more so. So "sharp as a razor" might be relative. Smiling Of course, we were both actually poster-persons for Gillette. Evil

Funny thing is, I've never "excused" any of my "tantrums" by saying I had had too much to drink, as far as I recall—though, of course, my brain is rotted by alcohol, so I could be wrong. My "tantrums" have been rages against unprincipled witches like Babs, which required no excuse—so there's a certain "well she would say that, wouldn't she?" quality to her protestations.

Exactly what they did to Rand

Casey's picture

Exhibit A.

How predictable.

Olivia's picture

And I see a man often befuddled by alcohol, which serves to make him still more grandiose and still more irrational. As you may know, he has very often in the past excused one or another of his forum tantrums by saying he had had too much to drink; apparently he hasn’t done that lately, because even his cronies were not taking it seriously any longer.

The alcohol accusations are just a passe drone now.... if this is the best that Barbara can dredge up, the pathos is all in her own court.

Even when I have seen Linz inebriated, he's still as sharp as a razor... not the befuddled, grandiose, irrational, drooling beast Barbara would paint him as. She wishes!

Observations about TAS-sponsored lectures (Atlas 50)

Chris Cathcart's picture

I thought I'd throw this out and step on what further toes I may. I was over at OL and just caught this thread.

Obviously TAS is getting hit from various corners about its direction, going back for some time. I attacked TAS right here just below for a decided lack of commitment to KASS at least on the part of its figurehead Executive Director. If TAS wants a reputation for KASS, it needs for its ED to get KASS or get a different director. From things I've seen, Robert Bidinotto often comes across as alright -- his dismissal of PARC to the effect of, "I won't spend my time reading and discussing garbage," not so much so. But if you want someone who does more of a KASS job at things, he looks like a good candidate. I'd like to see him give a lecture some time and get a picture of how he comes across.

This leads me to my observations about the "Atlas 50" gathering (I guess it was) that got televised on C-SPAN around Christmas. If I recall correctly, there were 4 speakers televised: Tibor Machan, Douglas Rasmussen, Will Thomas, David Mayer. I really only paid attention to the first three and lost interest in the subject being presented by the 4th. 3 of these presenters are professors and have experience making presentations in an engaging, professorly way. An excellent presenter and intellect all-around, someone like whom the culture of Rand studies needs a lot more of, is Douglas Rasmussen. But one lecture stood out to be as KASSless to an extreme, and that was Will Thomas's. Got insomnia issues? Just listen to lectures by David Kelley and William Thomas. If Objectivist organizations want to get the message out in lecture form, it simply needs better speakers than this. Maybe the chronic excuse-makers might come up with some story about scheduling constraints or C-SPAN editing decisions to leave in his KASSless lecture, but that's not a very good excuse. You got an opportunity to present to a national TV audience, you don't take these kinds of chances to begin with.

I'm not saying I'd be qualified to give a better lecture myself; I'd probably be a pretty shitty lecturer for all I know. What I am saying is that TAS has decisions to make about these things and it doesn't seem to be doing a good job at it. Two KASSless lecturers and one KASSless writer as arguably its top 3 figureheads there. Hey, guys, you want to spread Objectivism, you better be ready for these kinds of reamings and butt-kickings and do something about it. You can get Bidinotto to (apparently effectively) play up your successes all you want, but in something so important as spreading Objectivism, I don't see what room there is for putting up with needless mistakes in addition, and mistakes we can ill-afford at this juncture.

Linz can run circles around these figureheads as a lecturer. So what's with all the hand-wringing?

Clincher

Olivia's picture

I have done so not because of his continuing attacks on me, but because I’ve been fascinated by the psychological phenomenon that is Lindsay Perigo.

In light of Parille et al's use of Alan Greenspan's so called endorsement of PAR - notice how Barbara uses the word "fascinated" here??

Proof that it is not necessarily a compliment!

OK

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's clear the Brandroids are now pulling out all the stops in their campaign to get me disinvited from TAS' Summer Seminar. I expect BB is the star turn, the trump card, unless there's a Special Guest Appearance by Nathaniel planned as well.

It's also clear from Barbara's own words that a lot has been going on behind the scenes already. She's good at that. An "operator," as Nathaniel said, she certainly is.

I'm flattered that she's so desperate to prevent my appearance at TAS. It shows that this is indeed a defining moment for TAS, and this ultimate Rand-diminisher obviously realises it—whether to ossify in the sewer of Brandroidism or step forth into the sunlight and become the open, benevolent Objectivist community David Kelley said it would be.

I'm not going to go through Smearer-in-Chief's attempted assassination of me point by point. The outlandish "psychologising" won't be lost on any literate Objectivist, or any decent human being. Nor the hilarious, Campbell-like fantasies about what "deviousness" I'd get up to at the SS. Deviousness is the Brandens' specialty, not mine. I'd resent spending the time on such filth, though I'll answer any point arising from it that anyone cares to ask me about should he/she be concerned there might be some truth in it.

What I'm going to do is adopt the Night of January 16 approach, with you, dear readers, as the jury. I've resurrected and re-stickied relevant bits of evidence, such as my Borders speech, and my most recent TV appearance, in tribute to Pavarotti the day he died (this, in connection with Babs' smear that I've become a hopelessly alcoholic wreck—the filthy, unutterably disgusting, low-life bitch).

Whether you know me in person or simply via SOLO, the evidence is there. It's over to you to decide, on a sense-of-life basis, whether I'm guilty or innocent as charged. That includes you, Ed Hudgins.

Linz

Oh my! Smearer-in-Chief Weighs In!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I've just been given a heads-up as to the following on O-Lying, by Barbara Branden. I'm going to post it, then go back to watching an enthralling docu-drama on the Moors Murders, after which I shall respond to this utterly evil wretch (Barbara, not Myra Hindley).

Linz

________________________________________________________

Ed, I have read your statement, “The Atlas Society Policy and the Summer Seminar,” very carefully and thoughtfully. I want to say that I very much admire your good will and benevolence, as I have admired them during our conversations and through observing you over the past couple of years – that I am in full agreement with you that the goals of The Atlas Society are reasonable and appropriate -- and also that I think I understand you in the matter of the invitation to Perigo as I did not until now.

I believe I have grasped the difference between us in this matter, which was bewildering to me before. I think it is not the case that we have a similar estimate of the man, but that we differ on whether TAS should extend an olive branch to him and can reasonably expect that he will change his behavior. I have followed Perigo to some degree for the last few years, as you have not and had no reason to do; I have done so not because of his continuing attacks on me, but because I’ve been fascinated by the psychological phenomenon that is Lindsay Perigo. You apparently see a man who might be open to reason if he is brought to grasp that his irrationality is self-defeating; I see a man driven by demons, by malice and by hatreds that make him Impervious to reason when his self-image is at stake. And that self-image is, above all, of Perigo the Beleaguered Rebel – the rebel against everything conventional (whether a particular convention is good or bad), whose life is dedicated to a battle with the “Kassless” Babbitts of the world and who is prepared to go down to lonely defeat if he must. In a word, he believes he is doomed to martyrdom, and in some real sense relishes that fate and is determined to bring it about because it will establish his superiority to the rest of us and his dedication to his principles.

And I see a man often befuddled by alcohol, which serves to make him still more grandiose and still more irrational. As you may know, he has very often in the past excused one or another of his forum tantrums by saying he had had too much to drink; apparently he hasn’t done that lately, because even his cronies were not taking it seriously any longer. Now, he defends his invective-filled tantrums as “rational passion.”

Nor do I think you realize the extent of his deterioration since he last spoke at TAS. I agree with you that he once was a very good speaker, who could attract a large audience. But did you hear the talk he gave (the one that was supposed to be a refutation of my “Objectivism and Rage” talk -- which I had not yet given)? I suggest you listen to it; you will see what has been happening to him. His deterioration has vastly accelerated since that disastrous speech that almost no one attended — and that constituted a humiliation for him for which he never will forgive TAS or me.

This is a man who is out of control, and If he agrees to your terms you will have on your hands a pathetic, (yes, even I can see the pathos of his deterioration) severely emotionally disturbed man who can be set off into total irrationality by any perceived slight – and who perceives slights in the least disagreement with his positions on any and all subjects.

You have stated the terms you demand if he is to appear at the Summer Seminar. I see two possibilities: 1) He will feel that he would be “Kassless” if he acceded to you terms, and he will back out in a fury of invective; 2) He’ll say he agrees to your terms, intending to do his work through conversations with Seminar attendees and through planting questions in the question periods following his talks that will clearly “require” him to discuss the evil of TAS and “the Brandens.” I believe you underestimate Perigo’s deviousness, and the amount of backstage plotting he and his cohorts do. As one example, in advance of anything said publicly, he carefully orchestrated the scurrilous attack on Chris Sciabarra, which came from Perigo, Diana Hseih, and one or two others. One could tell it by the similarity in wording of many of their posts, a similarity too great to have been accidental. You can be sure that if Perigo goes to the Seminar, he will do everything possible to arrange methods for the achievement of his purposes.

I realize that to anyone who is not familiar with Perigo’s excesses, this may seem an exaggerated, even hysterical, attack on a flawed man who is nevertheless dedicated to the principles of Objectivism. But to those who have followed his activities and his writings, it is if anything rather mild. Ask Robert Campbell or Robert Bissell or Michael Kelley – or Robert Bidinotto – or several dozen others who characteristically tend to be slow to condemn anyone.

Here are just a few quotes from his posts to his forum that will give you the flavor of Perigo’s communications:

1. Discussing the Objectivist Center’s change of name to The Atlas Society:

“…that motley collection of cowardly weasel-worders, those evasive sponsors of smearers and Rand-diminishers, they who are embarrassed by and are an embarrassment to the word ‘Objectivist,’ will no longer be using it [the name ‘Objectivist’]… What a relief! Even more edifying is the probability that this is the last nail in their lice-ridden coffin. Mealy=mouthed appeasement doesn’t rule. How could it – except at TOC, its natural home?”

2. Perigo on Nathaniel and Barbara Branden:

“The Brandens’ place in history is secure… as lying, conniving, gold-digging, parasitical manipulators of an innocent and epochal genius.”

And:

“Those two wrote the manual on insincerity, informed by Iago-like malice and cunning.”

And about me:

”The lying, smearing, low-life bitch!”

Ed, Perigo’s vendettas have nothing to do with ideas, everything to do with his hatred of whoever crosses him. As an example, here is what he wrote about me before he decided that I had crossed him:

“Barbara Branden. One of the world’s great exemplars of the art of writing. Peerless in her elegance and eloquence, invariably leaves her readers, crusty Founder included, moist-eyed and wistful for more. Will go down in history as Rand’s definitive biographer. Told the truth, lovingly, fearlessly. Kept her head while all about her were losing theirs. Honoured by Founder as ‘Majesty.’”

I echo Michael Kelly’s question to you, here on Objectivist Living, about Perigo:

“What I don't get—and this is not offered in a sense of hostility, I am genuinely perplexed—what I don't get is what makes you think that this time will be any different?

“As a child I learned that you judge a person by what he says and what he does. And if he keeps doing wrong, but saying each time, "This time I learned my lesson and I will be good," you soon stop believing him. How many times does it take and why does Perigo get a free pass, anyway? He's an adult, not a child....”

Because of his embrace of martyrdom, because he has never learned the difference between rational egoism and vanity, Lindsay Perigo is the suicide bomber of Objectivism. I do not want to see him take The Atlas Society with him.

I want to comment briefly on your attempt at a rapprochement with ARI through Yaron Brook. Whatever the accomplishments of ARI, and I do not deny that there have been notable accomplishments, there are at least two particular issues that I see as being so beyond the pale, so appalling that they should make any rapprochement unthinkable. (These criticisms are not directed at the members and students pf ARI, many of whom. when they make public statements, are merely echoing the words of their teachers, and many of whom are unsympathetic to the policies I’ll name; they are directed at those who are the setters of policy and the voices of that policy.)

The first is the ARI position on foreign affairs. Are you aware that their writers have said, again and again, that we ought – today – to level Teheran and to kill its many millions of inhabitants with nuclear weapons? Do you know that they have said that those atomic weapons should be aimed not only at Teheran’s government buildings and military establishments, but also at mosques and schools? – a horror even Hitler did not contemplate. This attitude has caused ARI to be widely seen as a organization of vicious cranks and cultists; and has caused me to conclude that any association of TAS with such ideas could only greatly – and legitimately -- damage the fine reputation TAS has earned.

Secondly, do you know that the Ayn Rand archives held by ARI are open only to those who are proven devotees of ARI and that legitimate non-ARI scholars are refused entrance? Do you know about the ARI “air-brushing” of Nathaniel’s work? Do you know that in some of her published writings, Ayn Rand’s credit to Nathaniel for one or another concept has been removed? Do you know that Tara Smith, an ARI writer, in a chapter on Rand’s concept of self-esteem, gives credit to Leonard Peikoff for developing the concept, and that Nathaniel’s name is not so much as mentioned? – despite the fact that Rand had said that his work on self-esteem, as published in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist, consisted of his own identifications and was an integral part of Objectivism? I think you can imagine the disgust all of this – and I’m only scratching the surface -- would cause among scholars and writers were it to become known. And that it, too, would greatly damage TAS’s reputation should TAS be associated with ARI. And surely it is only a matter of time until this will be known publicly.

You wrote that the open approach of TAS “assumes a community of generally well-intentioned and intellectually honest individuals.” Do you think that Perigo’s vendettas and ARI’s appalling lack of humanity and of the rudiments of scholarship are the hallmarks of generally well-intentioned and intellectually honest individuals? Surely you and the other TAS principals have worked too hard and too long to establish TAS’s reputation as an organization of civilized, reasonable people to allow yourself to be associated in the public mind with the likes of Perigo and ARI.

You wrote that: “We want to build a benevolent community of Objectivists and a benevolent culture and society based on reason and rational, responsible self-interest.” Ed, you will not accomplish this by allying yourself with Perigo or ARI.

About both Perigo’s invective and ARI’s bloodthirstiness and lack of integrity, I would say -- to quote your words:

“The widespread perception that Objectivists are fanatical ideologues who speak of reason but do not practice it, and who are instead irrational, screaming loonies, continues to be fueled by such public statements and actions, which do incredible harm to the spread of the philosophy.”

With all good wishes,

Barbara

Mr. Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

I'm not sure that I would describe Diana as either "fearsome" or "doctrinaire" but I certainly agree that there is value to getting a variety of opinions. (She was once a TAS/Branden person, you know.)

As to "lecturing" Ed Hudgins, who ends:

"To those ends, I await a constructive public response and commitment from Lindsay, which will help us determine whether his talk at the 2008 Summer Seminar will be consistent with our mission and purposes."

I kinda figured he wanted comment from that.

The questions I asked are perfectly sincere.

William

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I have been about as ecumenical a guy as you'll on forumland. At one time, I was posting to all of the post-SOLOHQ forums plus Noodlefood. I've taken just about anything, but being called a liar repeatedly. Well, Objectivist Living will probably be a more peaceful place without my pesky presence.

I read as wide a swath of opinion as I can. I've read just about all of Nathaniel Branden's books. I don't have a no-read list. I never collectively damn a forum.

As for Ed Hudgins not reading the replies, well, he did put that bright, wonderfully colored pinata of an article right up there to swing at. We might as well give it out best shot Smiling.

Jim

A Branden-free forum

William Scott Scherk's picture

JHN writes: If people want a more sedate forum they can go to ROR. If they want a Branden-friendly forum, they can go to Objectivist Living.

This sounds as if there is a hierarchy of repugnance. The abnormally fastidious go to Betsey's forum and Objectivism Online. The fearsomely doctrinaire go to Noodlefood.

Of course no one actually 'goes' anywhere. Like me, many folk read a variety of opinions from many places, make a variety of judgements, and utter a variety of commentary.

I don't understand those who artificially bar themselves from reading what 'the other guy' is on about, nor do I understand the utility of collectively damning a list.

There seems a ludic abandon in lecturing Hudgin's here, when it seems obvious he doesn't spend time reading any of the lists! He ain't gonna get it. Why not just email him your declarations?

As for JHN's "and how are the TAS lists, hmmmm? Popular? Hmmmm?" tag line, that isn't nice. The last post there was from Nick Otani.

WSS

Policy Question

James S. Valliant's picture

In light of Chris' post, Ed, is it the official policy of TAS to avoid strong moral judgment -- except in the case of strong moral judgments?

As Rand herself reminds us, moral judgment is inescapable.

So, is there no moral dimension to the existence of TAS? Sure, its existence presupposes intellectual or methodological, i.e., substantive, differences with ARI -- obviously, if you were happy enough with ARI, there would be no TAS.

But this substantive difference amounts to what evaluatively? Anything? Does it come down to "the other guys are just wrong a lot and to the detriment of our cause, but it has no moral implications"? Is there nothing to it in moral terms at all? As Kelley reminds us, such a difference might be due to considerations of personal context. Can we really condemn here?

On the other hand, from your perspective, aren't some of these guys "religious zealots" subject to moral condemnation on psycho-epistemological grounds? If so, this isn't mere "name-calling" on your part -- it's substantive criticism.

And, on the other hand, if Peikoff is right, and TAS teaches not Objectivism, but a watered down mish-mash, then TAS's evasive failure to morally judge is itself something worthy of ethical condemnation, i.e., i.d.'d as being "slimy," or "slime." If so, then, just as calling Peikoff a "Pope" or the like wasn't, this isn't mere name-calling at all -- but the essence of the moral judgment involved.

Yet, if civility is such a high priority, then when exactly do we invoke our moral judgment, if ever? Where exactly does civility rank on the TAS hierarchy of values?

In other words, if you take personal offense at Peikoff calling TAS "slime," what is your position on the calling of him names -- a recreational activity in some circles -- indeed, among some TAS lecturers?

Is the position of TAS: "But those moral evaluations are the right ones, and, so, permissible, but Peikoff is just being 'uncivil'"?

Or, are the folks who engage in anti-ARI or anti-Peikoff abuse equally guilty along with Peikoff of violating the spirit of Kelley's call for "openness" and your call for "civility"?

Or, is such abuse of Peikoff (or PARC, not that these are identical issues) simply the appropriate occasion for making strong moral judgments according to TAS? (As Casey reminds us below, Mr. Bidinotto was morally condemning PARC even before he could have read it...)

Or, does TAS police only one side of this "civility" street -- as your statement implies?

I repeat: is this a serious proposal to deal with the incivility of TAS lecturers -- or, just a unique case being made of Linz for special reasons?

And what a posting it is.

Casey's picture

Brilliant, Cathcart. Wow. Enables one to merely point as an answer, and I thank you for that.

The call to make Objectivism boring

Chris Cathcart's picture

If there's one thing that describes my reactions to a presentation about Objectivism from TAS's CEO, it's: boredom. What the hell is supposed to draw interest, when it's all made so bland and inoffensive? What would TAS have titled a collection of essays on the Objectivist Ethics if they were to make the decision, and why would it 100% surely not be something so off-putting and mean-sounding as The Virtue of Selfishness? Why, if given the choice for the future course of the direction of Objectivism, would TAS drain all of the passion and excitement that Objectivism's founder brought to the general reader?

Never in a million years would Ed Hudgins pen an essay like Rand did with "On Living Death" due to concern about alienating a lot of people. You can read between the lines of that essay and know that Rand thought the Pope to be a nasty son of a bitch. It is the way she wrote, after all; you could tell these things. TAS, rather than taking the example provided by Objectivism's founder -- a proven recipe for success -- instead attribute to that example all kinds of ills related to Objectivism's alleged inability to connect with the general public. The problem is, in the very process of getting rid of all the rancor that such an example is so naturally likely to generate, everyone loses interest. In the very process of attempting to make your message appeal to everyone, people just stop paying attention. What does Objectivism have to say to people that's new and interesting and exciting that they haven't already heard from the Cato Institute and like organizations?

I submit that Ed Hudgins & Crew are the ones in thorough need of some self-examination and house-cleaning. They may well try and make the focus of their present criticism regarding "incivility" one particular firebrand of a concrete who's known for pissing people off and getting pissed off -- and who, in the process, generates interest and attention -- but I think their criticism is really of a more general nature and more broad in scope: they have issues with how firebrands as such do things. They say some pretty outrageous-sounding things. Their contempt for the Pope drips off their passionately-worded essays. They title their books The Virtue of Selfishness as a high hard "Fuck You!" to the raving altruists who took over the culture by slimy default.

You ever think to say "Fuck you!" to those who eminently deserve it, Dr. Hudgins? It would be such a blessed relief to see those words come off your keyboard just once in a blue moon. We'd actually be able to tell that you really cared for once. Do I piss you off with this very pointed criticism? Out with it, then! Call me an asshole if you have to! I want you to. Just give us something, for crying out loud.

If you and the others at TAS still possess any remnants of an ability to ever get it, then do your requisite house-cleaning and start getting it and showing it. Coming here with your mealy-keyboarded equivalencing (glossed over by the boring presentation), given the kind of stuff that occurs on rival forums and knowing damn well that you're going to get the same damn Lindsay Perigo that you got at past conferences, only goes to show just how much Linz's very calm-headed response goes beyond the call of duty. Really you should have already gotten it long ago and either become a CEO worthy of an Objectivist organization, or go on back to Cato.

(I have to thank James Heaps-Nelson for his spot-on observation that RoR is a sedate forum; that comment right there is what spurred me into action to write this oh-so-deliciously "abusive" and "divisive" posting. Smiling )

Understood

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Euan,

I understand your comment and Dr. Hudgins is an exemplar of civility, but everyone in Objectivism has their friends and opponents. If he were an equal opportunity civility advocate, he would acknowledge that the Brandens were not civil to Rand, Nathaniel Branden was not civil to Allan Blumenthal and many others.

I suppose the best thing in Objectivism would be for everyone to decide the few people they really can't get along with in the movement and be civil with everyone else. Barbara Branden had a good idea in her speech about a worthy opponent. That is a good concept, but you first you have to acknowledge that you are an opponent and you have to be worthy.

Jim

Here, here....

Euan's picture

Having spent the last couple of years reading up on Marxism and its various schisms, I find it ironic that I embrace Objectivism and find a level of vitriol almost befitting the Left.

 

Objectivist Living And Incivility

Wayne Simmons's picture

As far as I'm concerned I'd rather deal with Linz's cantankerous nature than deal with the hypocrisy of Michael Stuart Kelly. Kelly, is an exemplifier of the principle of civility? Please. Michael S Kelly called me a bigot for things I said about Muslims and Islam. This is after I made a clear distinction between the many Muslims who don't take their religion to seriously, and the Jihadis that do. Kelly ended up banning me without explanation. My last post was an indirect defense of Valliant's book and a criticism of the Brandens.

What a waste!

Leonid's picture

Leonid

Objectivist movement has been torn apart by its not very clever leadership. What a waste of the great legacy! Ayn Rand, no matter how brilliant she was, left to us only foundation and blueprints of the glamorous building which we suppose to create. Instead we are fighting each other and, in most of cases, for no reason whatsoever. It is high time to stop petty ego (subjective) battles and start to do real job. As Ayn Rand once observed “the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

Chris Sciabarra

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ed,

I hope you do invite Chris Sciabarra to a TAS Summer Seminar. That would be an appropriate response to being outraged by Diana's article here. You would put actions behind your disappointment and mitigate a wrong you felt was done. Do that and your words about incivility will sound less empty and more heartfelt.

In any case, Linz's invitation was given with the knowledge of what went on prior. It prompted a wholesale censorship campaign on Objectivist Living.

Jim

Bravo, Linz

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I'm looking forward to your talks more and more. Are we really going to get to the point where we either have to conform to the dictates of movement authority or the civility police? I defended the choice of speaker that TAS made on Objectivist Living and went 10 rounds for it.

Ed, incivility can break out either on Objectivist Living or Solopassion if your statement is taken badly by someone, but that's life. It will happen. I think the civility in internet Objectivism actually increases with time, because eventually people find where they are comfortable.

Also, there are a whole class of Objectivists found on the internet by Lindsay and Joe Rowlands in the initial organization. They created that market. There is now a choice. If people want a more sedate forum they can go to ROR. If they want a Branden-friendly forum, they can go to Objectivist Living.

Ed, how are the TAS electronic forums coming? Has the civility there attracted a lot of visitors?

Jim

Response to Ed

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ed Hudgins writes:

Sadly, there has been a propensity among too many Objectivists to reduce intellectual differences to the personal level and to bring the most intemperate forms of incivility to highly visible public arguments. That propensity has been evident largely from two quarters: from individuals prominently associated with the Ayn Rand Institute and also from online discussion boards, notably Lindsay Perigo’s SOLO-Passion. ... A second source of this incivility—where juvenile name-calling and vulgar insults are characteristically equated with a commitment to “passion”—has been the website SOLO-Passion. The appalling childishness so often expressed by individuals on that website makes a mockery of the term “rational.” Yes, there are also intelligent comments and rational discussions mixed in with the vitriol, which makes it all the sadder as pearls are trampled beneath the swine. Even Lindsay Perigo, the principal of that website and, sadly, a chief practitioner of and tone-setter for that approach, admits that some of those who post on his site go too far.

It’s not very civil, I submit, Ed, to regurgitate myths about the person you’re addressing. I dare say some, including me, who post on my site go too far sometimes, but that’s scarcely an “admission”—I’m sure some folk go too far on any site. What you are really alleging here, Ed, is that SOLO’s commitment to “rational passion and passionate reason,” to “KASS,” is just a euphemism for abusiveness, for which I personally set the standard while encouraging SOLOists to go forth and vilify. My answer to that is ostensive: just look and see what is here. Look at what’s on SOLO—stop this instant and scroll down the front page, Ed—and ask yourself if it can be categorised honestly as a preponderance of internecine vitriol where “pearls are trampled beneath the swine.” Then get back to me. We Objectivists like to start with the empirical evidence, do we not?

Sure, there is vitriol directed at statists, mystics and sacrifice-mongers. So there damned well should be!

The widespread perception that Objectivists are fanatical ideologues who speak of reason but do not practice it, and who are instead irrational, screaming loonies, continues to be fueled by such public statements and actions, which do incredible harm to the spread of the philosophy.

I would suggest the irrational screaming loonies are within your own camp, Ed. You fault my response to being likened to Hitler and Goebbels on O-Lying while, as Mr. Moeller has pointed out, having nothing to say about what I was responding to. You are silent about Mr. Heaps-Nelson being called a liar on that site (by its owner), and about the numerous bat-excrement crazy conspiracy theories being touted there about plots by me and Mr. Valliant to depose you, take over TAS, etc. Yes, I've received your note saying you don't believe this silliness, but the point is, as I've said to you privately, you're letting these crazies off the hook because they're your crazies, and damning SOLO for calling them crazies.

Ed, in spite of your disclaimer, you are commiting the venerable fallacy of moral equivalence, whereby civility is unconditional and indiscriminate. My position, for the record, yet again, is that civility should always be one’s starting point in dealing with others, but that one is not obligated to maintain it towards proven stinkers. Further, in the latter case, one will usually be justified in calling them stinkers.

Lindsay challenges those who oppose him to “come to my two presentations anyway. At the very least, you won’t be bored. My aim will be not merely not to bore you but to thought-provoke and uplift you also. Who knows, I might succeed? What have you to lose?” However, given the post-invitation discussions he’s led at SOLO-Passion, we now wonder whether we are about to be blind-sided. In that event, we would have plenty to lose. Now I must ask Lindsay: Exactly what is your topic and what are your intentions? Is your aim truly to reduce “fratricide” within the movement, as we had hoped? Clearly TAS does not want to be the victim of some kind of “bait-and-switch.”

Why must you ask me this, Ed? I had already made clear, to Will in private and on the “Hatches” thread in public, that my talk will not be me unloading on people I dislike; it will be pan-factional and deal with mistakes I think Objectivists across the board are prone to, myself included. I said to Will I’d talk about something else if he wished, but he said he was sufficiently reassured and would leave it to me whether I changed the topic or not ... and that I should not construe this as his encouraging me to do so! (As an aside, I feel sorry for Will here. He made a brave gesture, in absolute good faith, in a commendable effort to KASS up the SS, only to see his effort subverted by a knee-jerk lynch-mob of deranged bigots.)

This, then, is a challenge. I want Lindsay Perigo to commit publicly to joining me in undoing the incivility in the movement that he himself has too frequently helped to foster.

Jeez! Should I stop beating my wife at the same time, Ed?

This, of course, means being civil in the content of any speech at TAS and in behavior at any TAS event.

And when have you known me not to be?

But the challenge goes further. If all the energy and—yes—passion that has gone into internecine battles among Objectivists were expended instead on developing and promoting the philosophy in a constructive way, we would be much further along than we are today. Therefore I would like Lindsay to commit to this wider goal of building an open and civil Objectivist movement and to start it with SOLO-Passion, the forum for so much ill-will. I want to hear some proposals.

Well, that’s too bad, Ed, because I’m not going to make any. For one thing, it’s my forum; for another, it’s already the most “open” forum there is within Objectivism, by a country mile. Precisely because it’s so open I can’t guarantee it will always be civil (nor do I owe you or anyone such a guarantee), but I say again, any incivility usually begins with the moral equivalence/civility crowd.

You say:

No, I do not expect him [me] to withhold honest criticisms about ideas he considers mistaken. I do not expect him to become less of the colorful character that he is. I do not expect him to feign friendship with individuals with whom he has had personal fallings-out. I do not expect that he will make up with Nathaniel Branden and Barabara Branden, Sciabarra or others from whom he is estranged, nor is it my purpose to get in the middle of such relationships. Rather, it is my purpose to influence the direction of the movement—and that is where Lindsay’s help, and everybody else’s, can be useful.

Well, I want to influence the direction of the movement too. I believe one of the things some Objectivists have done to themselves, tragically, is deliberately to become less of the colorful characters they are for fear of being branded “subjectivists.” I believe this to be a big reason there are so many “roids” across the movement. This terrible self-mortification was addressed by Rand herself in her essay inspired by the fellow who liked ballet music, and was going to be/will be one of the themes of my Objectivism talk. I want to see a movement where natural flamboyance and rational exuberance are not considered odd if not downright immoral. Are we on the same page here?

If to achieve our goals we must make changes to any of our programs and activities, we will do so. We’re committed to ruthless self-examination, and open to constructive criticism. To those ends, I await a constructive public response and commitment from Lindsay, which will help us determine whether his talk at the 2008 Summer Seminar will be consistent with our mission and purposes.

Ed, I am not going to tailor my comments or actions to a lynch mob, and neither should you. You had already determined that my talk was consistent with your mission and purposes. What's changed, apart from the baying of hyenas?

You have my response in the foregoing.

Your call.

Linz

Ed

James S. Valliant's picture

Well, Dr. H.. is this a serious proposal to try to deal with incivility -- and, obviously, all of its regular sources among TAS lecturers -- or was this just some way of backing out with Linz?

TAS

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ed-

I've always supported the innovative approach to Objectivism promoted by TAS. Especially in areas of philosophy of science and cognitive science there has to be a fusion of Objectivists, content experts and people who are both to make progress. Likewise, I think it's important to seek constructive dialogue and be open to what people have to say.

However, during the course of a decade or so with your organization, people are going to come to have opinions and judgments about people in the movement. That doesn't mean we can't all come to the conference and for the most part, get along for a week.

In the interest of harmony, it really is TAS that must decide whether it will focus on philosophical issues or become an off-color beauty pageant about the history of Objectivism. During my time at TAS, I've seen mostly the former and some of the latter. I'm hopeful. I'm especially hopeful, given Linz's invitation that TAS can end most of the historical and movement analysis with some semblance of balance on these issues. I know that given some of the Objectivist positions on sanction this isn't always easy. However, for the purposes of maintaining objectivity it is important.

Thank you for your thoughts and clarifications regarding TAS's mission and I look forward to a terrific Summer Seminar.

Jim

OK...

Robert's picture

I will.

But you understand my reticence, even though I've only superficially examined the MYWAR, JD, PAR mess. The topic makes me want to vomit.

If for nothing else, one more PARC book sale will drive Campbell et al. further round the bend... Evil

*cough* shameless promotion

Lance's picture

And don't forget you can order PARC from Amazon here

Robert,

Casey's picture

Yes, it is fully footnoted and presents all the evidence.

I hope you do read it.

Casey

Civility--Good For Thee, But Not For Me

Michael Moeller's picture

TAS's stance on civility reminds me of the old saying about "tolerant" liberals--i.e. they tolerate everyone except those who disagree with them.

Linz has ostracized a number of Objectivists because of his behavior, fair enough. Yet, Barbara and Nathaniel Branden have ostracized an overwhelming majority of the Objectivist movement because of their behavior and this was of no concern to TAS?

The allegations of libel and slander by the Brandens towards Rand is of no consequence to an organization dedicated to her philosophy?

The mere facade of "civility" gives them a free pass to the "open forum"? And yes, it is a facade. After all, comparing the psychology of untold other Objectivists to the psychology of suicide bombers, as Barabara did, lacks any inkling of civility. The same talk that had contradictions you could drive a truck through, Ed found "thoughtful, reasoned, impressive, and civil".

And the trend continues. Inviting Linz to speak is compared to inviting Goebbels or Hitler to speak, or giving Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize, yet Ed remains silent about that. He only takes note of Linz's response, which, while harsh, is deserved given the nature of the comparison. It seems that justice, and the proportionality principle that is so essential to moral judgment, gets lost within the double standards of civility advocates.

If TAS is truly dedicated to an open forum, then perhaps they should take a lesson from the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court generally refuses to issue preliminary injunctions on speech, even when it involves potentially unprotected speech such as libel. After all, how can one ascertain if it is indeed libel until the speech has disseminated? Wouldn't you be potentially censoring something that could turn out to be protected speech? How are they able to judge Linz's speeches as unworthy or uncivil until they have been given? Wouldn't they be preemtively rejecting a speech as uncivil or unworthy before it is even given? How do they know how the speech will turn out?

Did his past speeches provide cause for rejection? No, but...er...civility on internet forums and all that.

Furthermore, couldn't TAS end any future controversy about Linz by allowing him to speak and judging him according to the speech given? Ed was skeptical about Barbara's speech, but changed his mind after the speech was given. Yet, this same potential for Linz's speech does not occur to Ed?

As low of a regard as I have for Barbara, I am glad she gave her speech. It illuminated her flaws on moral judgment and allowed for counter arguments to poke holes in the contradictions (not hard to do). One would think that many opposing Linz would relish the same opportunity--it is the marketplace of ideas, after all.

God damn it Casey...

Robert's picture

You're just trying to sucker me into reading PARC with posts like this aren't you? Smiling

Answer me this: Is PARC internally consistent? Will I have to read PAR first? I couldn't stomach more than 15 minutes of PAR the movie...

<<redacted>>

essxjay's picture

<<redacted>>

There is, actually

Casey's picture

an opportunity for an olive branch here. But it won't come about by telling one side to stop defending itself.

Are Bill Perry, Michelle Cohen, Linz, (and another chap who bowed out from lecturing last year because of the Brandens), plus the Blumenthals, and Diana Hsieh all to be chastised, too? They all left in large part because of the Brandens. It's a high price that's being paid to them, at the direct expense of Ayn Rand, who is, after all, the progenitor of the ideas TAS embraces.

Blaming one side for rancor for challenging the Brandens' orthodoxy after the damage they have done to the cause of Objectivism over the last four decades (most of my life) certainly sweeps under the rug the main issue and source of the trouble. If the Brandens had not run the kind of cultlike movement they did in the '60s, exploiting Rand in the process, and defaming her after it all blew apart, who knows how far the ideas would have spread and been taken seriously? If they had not published after her death the kind of sensational view of Rand publishers were eager to pay for in the '80s, who knows what kind of reputation Rand would have now, and how much further along her ideas would have gone? These two are responsible in many ways for the split between Kelley and ARI that resulted in TOC in the first place. And that wound has been festering ever since and continues to split those who admire Rand and those who stick with the Brandens, for very serious reasons.

I'm afraid you can't have your Rand and Brandens, too. Those who stick with the Brandens have to stick with their portrait of Rand, which is nothing if not a testimonial to the impracticality of her philosophy at its very root. That can't be denied. Moral perfection they claim is impossible -- she's the proof! That goes to the very heart of Rand's whole message -- that divine standards of omniscient morality are false justifications for slandering mankind, that man can be judged only on what is knowable to his rational mind, that knowledge is possible, reason is efficacious, happiness possible between rational and honest men. No matter how wrapped in Barbara's beatific smiles of love for Rand, at the base is a spiteful sneer, and one which would besmirch the fact that this woman was not just a mediocre, mottled woman with the usual "human" flaws, but a paragon of achievement, an amazing, nearly unprecedented example of the highest hopes promised by her philosophy.

They, the Brandens, have robbed a generation or two now of seeing that clearly. They have postponed progress on all fronts during most of my life. That is not something that could or should be simply buried and set aside, with a kick in the butt for ever mentioning it or defending the proposition while under a barrage of attacks.

An olive branch in this context would look like this: We will not hold against you a schism that has gone on long before this and has a different source entirely that has led to years of acrimonious dispute. We welcome you to speak.

Yes...

Robert's picture

keep obfuscating Scherk. It's brilliant theater. Why, are you even posting here anyway? You should be emailing Hudgins directly to convince him to fire Linz.

If Hudgins doesn't like Linz or thinks him unworthy, let him say so in plain language!. This is no olive branch. It's a thinly veiled attempt to induce Linz to voluntarily pull out.

Why bother? It's a private TAS event, they have every right to bar anyone for any reason they want. They should exercise that right and stop playing silly games.

And should Linz change his spots, who is to say that that will suffice? Hudgins hasn't delineated the standard by which he measures civility -- so how can they be met? Assuming that anyone seriously wants Linz to change his spots. A doubtful proposition at best.

Presumably Linz is permitted to get uncivil in some instances. And what of the Free Radical? An exponent of robust debate much like its founder. The Libertarianz also? How about his occasional NZ radio appearances -- Are all of these to be subject to the Hudgins Reformation?

So WSS, your time would be better spent lobbying TAS to get off the fence and make a decision.

Keep it up, Scherk

Casey's picture

You're serving a good purpose.

Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

Only Campbell has been channeling any plots lately, but a challenge which includes the ridiculous assumption of a one-way incivility is very different from calling on someone to live up to his own stated standards.

Tête à tête sans préjugés

William Scott Scherk's picture

Phil Howison finds fault with Ed Hudgins: "I'm disappointed. Whether Lindsay decides one way or another, it is utterly unreasonable to send an invite, then unilaterally put conditions on it after the invite has been accepted."

Lindsay and Ed had likely planned a little tête à tête some time ago, since the thread A Challenge to Ed Hudgins, no?

Lindsay's note of 'without prejudice' goes both ways, you all. If Lindsay can list which are his conditions, thus may Ed and the Kickassless Society, no?

With regard to Jim and lapdog, Ed is looking their way, surely. As famed discovers of ugly trolls, psychotic campbells, and other perfidious plots and terrors. As freakshow on the midway of online Objectivism. As object lessons in unkickasslessness.

Sunny Days Ahead for SOLO!

WSS

Agreed

Phil Howison's picture

I think Robert puts it best: "this is the method by which TAS can reverse their decision without appearing to reverse their decision."

I'm disappointed. Whether Lindsay decides one way or another, it is utterly unreasonable to send an invite, then unilaterally put conditions on it after the invite has been accepted - especially when those conditions involve Lindsay's actions not on TAS property, but on his own website.

If I had to guess...

Robert's picture

... the conference organizer overstepped his brief. And this is the method by which TAS can reverse their decision without appearing to reverse their decision.

Set conditions that you know the errant speaker will never meet and allow him to leave in a huff. That way you maintain the illusion that your organization is 'inclusive.'

IMHO, it's bullshit. If Hudgins just stated that, as CEO he has ultimate say in the matter and refused Linz because he's said some nasty things about TAS boosters, I'd have more respect for the guy and the organization.

But as it stands right now...

In any event it's up to Linz. Whatever he decides is fine by me for it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg (as Jefferson once said).

Yeah

James S. Valliant's picture

Linz is the opposite of a thug from Iran, and Hudgins is no President of Columbia U., but you gotta wonder in both cases -- if the guy's so bad, why invite him in the first place?

Back-handed "civility"?

mckeever's picture

Just a few points:

1. I disagree with your characterization of the Kelley-Peikoff (and Schwartz) matter. You state that "...they further claimed that Kelley was immorally “sanctioning” that [libertarian] dishonesty simply by addressing the group". Implying an inconsistency, you state "Brook stayed on and attended a meeting put on by the conservative Heritage Foundation. I congratulated Brook on this new openness...". The two events are not comparable.

Libertarianism proposes that it is "axiomatic" that no person should initiate coercive physical force. Libertarianism proposes that, such non-aggression being an axiom, there is no metaphysical, epistemological, or ethical justification for such non-aggression. In truth, libertarianism's motive for presenting non-initiation of coercion as an axiom is this: to obviate differences of opinion about metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical matters, in the hope that people who disagree on such matters will be able to join together into a single organization seeking "liberty". However, asserting that metaphysical, epistemological and ethical matters are irrelevant to the pursuit of "liberty", libertarianism jettisons the possibility of defending the call for freedom with a reasoned argument. Without a reasoned argument, the ultimate implication of the inherently anti-intellectual movement called libertarianism is that it ultimately seeks to win freedom by means of coercion: with ballots or with bullets. Coercion being antithetical to reason, libertarianism is antithetical to reason, yet reason (the heart of Objectivism) is the very thing that gives rise to freedom. Libertarianism, therefore, is anti-freedom. And, though it is a self-defeating, still-born movement, libertarianism bills itself as the voice of freedom. The only possible effect of this is that libertarianism serves as a vocal bit of evidence for the falsehood that freedom is not rationally defensible.

Enter person with a high-profile in Objectivist circles (David Kelley) to speak at an explicitly libertarian function. Two notable effects:

(a) libertarians view Objectivism as "one of many possible arguments for liberty" (and view Objectivists as "one kind" of libertarian); and

(b) onlookers are left with the false impression that libertarianism is not an anti-intellectual movement, that libertarianism is a movement founded in reality and reason, and that it is a movement that opposes coercion; a de facto anti-reason, anti-freedom movement is given the unearned benefit of a veneer of Objectivism's pro-reason, pro-freedom reputation.

Such a talk is an Objectivist sanctioning of an anti-intellectual movement that, being anti-intellectual and anti-philosophical, actually works to undermine freedom.

Now, compare that to conservativism. Unlike libertarianism's proponents, conservatives do not claim to be advocates of freedom per se. Instead, they advocate "conservativism": a vague, ambiguous, almost meaningless term, and one that does not even pretend to have an unwavering commitment to individual freedom. In fact, conservativism has no unwavering commitment to anything in particular. "Conservative" today is more a reference to a political party than to a philosophy of any sort. Unlike libertarianism, conservativism does not propose the existence of a non-aggression "axiom", and conservative organizations generally do not regard metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics as being irrelevant to politics or government decision-making. Many conservatives are quite uninformed about philosophy, but few if any take the libertarian position that the non-initiation of coercive physical force is axiomatic and that, as a consequence, government and politicians can ignore issues of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. In short, conservativism is arguably un-intellectual or un-philosophical, but it does not share libertarianism's anti-intellectual, anti-philosophical strategy/bent/committment.

For Dr. Brook to speak with a conservative group (if that is what he did), accordingly, does not imply that conservatives share Objectivism's commitment to reality, reason, rational selfishness, consent/freedom, or capitalism. There is nothing, in such a meeting, to suggest that the meeting is a coming together of people dedicated to reason or to individual freedom. To speak to a group of people who have flawed metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, or politics is not the same as speaking to a group of people who regard a political concept as axiomatic and who implicitly or explicitly deny the relevance of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics altogether in respect of government.

Moreover, I note that you have blurred this distinction in your post. You state: "I pointed out to him that it was for this very sort of thing—addressing “enemy” conservative and libertarian groups—that ARI denounced David Kelley." David Kelley was not denounced for addressing a conservative group. Moreover, note that Dr. Peikoff's arguments in "Fact and Value" had little if anything to do with the issue of libertarianism per se, instead focusing on a deeply philosophical flaw that he had discovered in David Kelley's philosophy. It was Peter Schwartz who condemned libertarianism, and the sanctioning of it.

For those interested, I've done a video on the Peikoff-Kelley matter: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=...

2. I have not spent a lot of time on Objectivist discussion boards, so I cannot comment on any of the allegations about past incivilities, etc.. However, I must say that your post was littered with incivilities of the very sort you seemed to be complaining about. The approach of the letter was somewhat in the manner of a "Pardon me, but your a jerk, and I mean that with all due respect". In fact, your post reminded me of a scene from a particularly vulgar movie:
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=...

3. All of which is submitted in the most civil, up-with-people, 'can't we all just get along?' sort of way.

Lie and the world lies with you.

Tell the truth, and the world lies about you.

-Oscar Wilde

Speaking of Bait and Switch...

Robert's picture

In accepting the invitation, Linz stated "OK, that's a yes. Provided it's understood this is without prejudice."

He went on to say:

"I shan't be picking fights (other
than with altruists, statists and mystics, of course) but I won't shrink from one either."

That apparently was sufficient for TAS's appointed conference organizer but not for Dr Hudgins:

"Therefore I would like Lindsay to commit to this wider goal of building an open and civil Objectivist movement and to start it with SOLO-Passion, the forum for so much ill-will. I want to hear some proposals."

Proposal (1)

Linz surrenders all ownership of SOLO-Passion to Dr Hudgins and TAS forthwith. TAS can then banish all SOLO-Passion's errant insolent children to the outer rim of philosophical hell at their leisure.

Is that what you had in mind?

Proposal (2)

Linz sees this fait accompli and proposes that you put it somewhere anatomically uncivil for presumptively requesting that Linz change the way he runs his own house as a condition of his speaking at your party.

Is that what you had in mind?

______________

As James and Casey have pointed out, Linz & SOLO-Passion is not the root of all, or most, or even a large proportion of the gauche behavior in objectivism.

In actual fact I am!

And I would appreciate you laying the blame where the blame belongs -- with those adult individuals who instigate the behavior that so wrinkles your nose.

Go generate a hit list of irascible bastards and ban them from your club. But don't pretend that making Linz's banning these types from his club is going to do a damn thing for objectivism.

Need I point out that removing the forum where uncivil people congregate in will not reform them. It merely makes them go elsewhere? Take a look at OL if you don't believe me.

Principal's Office

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

Anybody else here feel like we just got sent to the principal's office Smiling?

Jim

Mr. Hudgins,

Casey's picture

Mr. Hudgins,

Two years ago, my friend James Valliant published a book that answered a long-standing request by your side of the Objectivist divide written by David Kelley himself, to wit, that the Barbara Branden biography of Ayn Rand should be argued instead of simply dismissed without comment.

Instead of being argued, or even read, this book was dismissed by Robert Bidinnotto as garbage suitable only for a trash can.

The mudslide of invective that followed, on the old SOLO, was a shocking thing to behold considering this was happening within Objectivist circles, and it came primarily from the TOC/TAS side of the divide.

This is well-documented right here in the archives of SOLOPASSION for all to see, including the rank hatred of Rand, the sickening calumnies flung at her, the moral denunciations and ridicule, all by people who had not and had no intention of reading the book. This is all a matter of record. I doubt, sir, that you have read that book even two years on.

Though several people intimately associated with TAS did read the book and left your organization as a result of your refusal to argue, engage or even read it, you proceeded to invite both of the Brandens to speak. This is also a matter of record.

It is your refusal to acknowledge the arrival of what David Kelley reasonably requested that led to the split of various objectivist message boards. Since that time, the book's author has been subjected to an endless stream of abuse and fraudulent criticism, the book has been dubbed "insane" by Nathaniel Branden, demonstrably false objections regarding Rand's pen-name have been issued by Barbara Branden, among further justifications for her suggesting Rand's husband abused alcohol, and continued smearing of ARI has accompanied this smear campaign against Rand, PARC, its author and those who gave PARC a fair reading and were persuaded by its exhaustively researched conclusions. All of this in the most uncivil and insulting terms possible -- starting with Mr. Bidinnotto of TAS.

Considering the vituperations at O-L, where accusations ranging from Linz sending prostitutes on nefarious missions to concocting schemes to inflate web traffic statistics have been flying over the course of the last week, to branding James Heaps-Nelson a "Branden-hater" and a "liar" amidst other deranged rantings, it is remarkable that you would single out SOLOPASSION for such redress simply for defending itself from this tidal wave of muck. You would call those who point out the muck "muck-rakers" apparently, as though they should simply let it pile up around them without comment, while defending those who are pouring it down. Now we even have Robert Campbell speculating that there may be a clandestine scheme of Linz, James Valliant, and even myself to take over your organization -- a notion I took to be a joke until it proved serious -- and I see you have nothing but praise for this gentleman, as well, while in the same breath condemning the immaturity and uncivility of the posters on this site. Robert Campbell has also stated quite clearly that he believes that the objectivity of any Rand biographer requires a belief that she committed significantly immoral acts -- an odd prerequisite for a group founded on that philosopher's life work, don't you think?

Well, one doesn't know quite what to say. I hope that some healing can occur, but I think that the wounds the Brandens have inflicted, starting back in the '60s and right up to today, are what must be addressed first. Avoiding the issue was wrong for ARI, and it is wrong now for TAS. Until their wounds are treated, I fear this movement will always move, forwards at best, sideways or backwards at worst, with a limp. When TAS openly confronts the destruction of Rand and Objectivism wrought by the Brandens' dishonest post-mortem of Rand, as ARI has already done, the clear path to reconciliation will emerge. But probably not entirely before then. With all due respect,

Casey Fahy

Civility

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

Boy that year went by quick. I'll try not to make a habit of it though Smiling We're in the middle of a ramp and building new versions of the computers everyone's using right now and simply don't have time. However, I will put up a carrot. If Linz is invited, I will bring my fiddle for a PSS and give a PSS on neuroscience. I also think civility is a requirement for a conference where people are up close and personal.

I think there's a hidden subtext to all of this that is missed. There are those of us who want to see Ayn Rand's banner flown high without apology or qualification. Given all that she accomplished, she deserves that much. I agree with the need for civility and in the main, most will find me a practitioner of it. I was impressed by the selection on Linz as a speaker because it upholds the principle of free and open inquiry on which TAS was founded. However, civility in the service of the destruction or diminishment of our mostly deeply cherished values is not a virtue. That is the dilemma we face and it is not always an easy balance to strike.

Jim

Dr. Hudgins

James S. Valliant's picture

Here's a challenge, Dr. Hudgins: concede the incivility of (1.) the treatment Jim received at OL (where the Linz-equivalent called him a liar, which occasioned general name-calling), and (2.) the bizarre and "fratricidal" nature of Prof. Campbell's, er... speculations about Linz and myself on the thread I recommended.

(This site -- where you have just posted -- is called "SLOP" over there, or hadn't you noticed?)

Pure Hate Is Okay, However...

James S. Valliant's picture

That ObjectivistLiving.com is not identified as a source of incivility is absurd, and clearly indicates a rather massive blind spot.

Just ask Jim Heaps-Nelson.

Or, better still, take a look at the distinguished Robert Campbell's posts either here (try this one, "Batten Down the Hatches") or at OL.

Unless, of course, "incivility" is merely code for "has been critical of the Brandens."

"Truth and toleration" seems to be a somewhat one-sided business.

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