The Exploitation of Ayn Rand: a Comparison of the 1968 Statements of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden Regarding Their Break

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Sat, 2008-01-26 02:47

The following is an excerpt from The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. It is the bulk of Chapter 4, The Exploiters and the Exploited, with only a few modifications for publication here at Solo. Unfortunately, this includes the removal of the footnotes. For that, one must still repair to the text of PARC.

Ayn Rand’s endorsement of both Nathaniel and Barbara Branden had been a high one. Their closeness to Rand had given them a status within a subculture largely of their own creation which was equally high. Rand’s endorsement had made them sought-after teachers and Mr. Branden a sought-after therapist.

It is clear that in 1968 Rand did her utmost to remove that endorsement. Her repudiation of them, “To Whom It May Concern,” begins:

“This is to inform my readers and all those interested in Objectivism that Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden are no longer associated with me or with my philosophy.

“I have permanently broken all personal, professional and business association with them, and have withdrawn from them the permission to use my name in connection with their commercial, professional, intellectual and other activities.

“I hereby withdraw my endorsement of them and their future works and activities. I repudiate both of them, totally and permanently, as spokesmen for me or for Objectivism.”

Rand explains that it involved her exploitation at their hands and their growing departure from the principles of Objectivism. Rand tells us:

“For the past three years, I have observed a disturbing change in Nathaniel Branden’s intellectual attitude. It seemed to indicate his gradual departure from the principles of Objectivism, a tendency toward non-intellectual concerns, a lessening of interest in philosophical issues and in the Objectivist movement as such.”

Rand says that “[t]he clearest indication of this trend was Mr. Branden’s venture into the theater with his project to produce Barbara Branden’s stage adaptation of The Fountainhead.”

Despite Rand’s alleged capacity to rewrite the virtues of former friends out of existence following a break, Rand says that “Barbara Branden... had written a good adaptation...”

Rand relates her concern, however, that “this project seemed to become Mr. Branden’s central concern, taking up a major portion of his time, causing him to neglect his intellectual and business commitments. His attitude... can best be described as authority flaunting, unserious and, at times, undignified.”

Rand noted that Mr. Branden had begun to “default” on his responsibilities, citing as two examples, “the growing and lengthening delays in the writing of his articles for the magazine (I have at times been late with my own articles, but not chronically nor to such an extent) [and] his failure to rewrite the ‘Basic Principles of Objectivism’ course for his own organization, Nathaniel Branden Institute.”

With regard to The Objectivist, we are told, “We agreed that we would write an equal number of articles and receive an equal salary.” Rand asks readers to review recent issues and that they would find that she was writing an ever larger share of the articles.

This disturbing trend had been observable for at least three years, Rand says.

“During the past three years, my personal relationship with Mr. Branden was deteriorating in a puzzling manner: it was turning into a series of his constant demands on my time, constant pleas for advice, for help with his writing, for long discussions of his personal, philosophical and psychological problems.”

Rand depicts a troubled man whom she was doing her best to help. Until, that is, she began to detect hypocrisy and dishonesty.

“I was shocked to discover that he was consistently failing to apply to his own personal life and conduct, not only the fundamental philosophical principles of Objectivism, but also the psychological principles he himself had enunciated and had written and lectured about... he admitted that in many respects he was acting on the basis of unidentified feelings.”

And then, Rand writes, Branden “presented me with a written statement” so “offensive” to Rand that she says she broke her “personal” association with Branden, if not her professional one. (In Part II, we will see, in some detail, the exact nature of the deceptions revealed by Branden in that paper.)

Nonetheless, Rand tells us that she was “about to acquiesce” in Branden’s plans to resume lecturing, when Barbara Branden “suddenly confessed that Mr. Branden had been concealing from me certain ugly actions and irrational behavior in his private life, which were grossly contradictory to Objectivist morality and which she had known about for two years.”

Following the “shock” of discovering him capable of “conscious deception,” Rand began inquiring about the finances of The Objectivist and was then informed that Mr. Branden had arranged for NBI to borrow “almost the entire cash reserves” of The Objectivist in order to meet NBI’s rent at the Empire State Building. Rand had found out about the loan after the fact; occasional loans of this sort had been taken out before, but the unprecedented amount of the loan was not revealed to her until the time of her break with Branden.

Rand writes:

“The realization that Mr. Branden was exploiting me intellectually and professionally had been bad enough; that he should also attempt to exploit me financially was grotesquely shocking.”

As for Ms. Branden, her case, said Rand, was “far less complex and much more obvious.” Since it was she who had exposed Mr. Branden, at first, Rand says that she “gave her credit” for her belated honesty since Ms. Branden, too, had “seemed to be a victim of Mr. Branden’s policies.”

Rand notes that Mr. Branden apologized to the staff of NBI at its closing, admitting to them that “Miss Rand had given him a blank check on the use of her name and he had defaulted on his responsibility.”

Rand says that she then gave serious consideration to the idea of Ms. Branden running a lecture organization. Rand says that she was exceedingly reluctant because she was “not a teacher by profession and personal inclination” and that she never wanted to be the leader of “an organized movement.” Despite this, she gave Ms. Branden a hearing. “The plan did not offer any relevant factual material, but a projection (by unspecified method) of future profits to be earned... a business arrangement of so questionable a nature that I rejected it at once...”

It was the very next day that Rand heard that Ms. Branden had begun “to utter veiled threats and undefined accusations against me.” At her attorney’s advice, Rand authorized him to invite Ms. Branden to a meeting so that they could discuss the accusations she was making. However, Ms. Branden declined the invitation to explain herself.

Rand noted that the change in Ms. Branden’s attitude occurred immediately after the rejection of her business plan by Rand, who then asks the reader to “draw your conclusions about the cause and motive” of her behavior.

Rand concedes having made an “error of knowledge” with respect to her judgment of the Brandens, but suggested that the consequences of such an error “are never as hard to bear” as those of a breach of morality.

There is no question that Rand was not telling her readers everything. But it was also clear that this was intentional. Perhaps Rand was protecting the innocent, and much could rationally be considered not the public’s business, but Rand had certainly said enough to make clear that she had felt “exploited” by them.

In response, Nathaniel Branden begins:

“The charges and accusations stated by Miss Rand are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, either false or so misleading as to be false by implication. It is very unfortunate that Miss Rand chose to make a tragic, highly personal conflict between us the occasion of a public scandal, through the publication of her article; she has left me no choice but to make my response equally public.”

As an example of his reciprocating candidness, he states that the theater project “never took up more than a small portion of my time.” Branden even takes issue with the suggestion “that I was obliged to justify [to her] the disposition of my time and energies...”

Branden claims that “I never committed myself to writing an article per issue, nor would I have agreed to make such a commitment.” True, he had not begun the “total” rewrite of his course on Objectivism—which he planned to do “in 1969”—but he had been updating it all the time, he claims.

Branden notes what he calls Rand’s “astonishing lack of grace” in accusing him of professional exploitation in view of the enormous contribution his efforts made to Rand’s “career and the spread of her ideas.” The idea of Rand riding on his coattails is too rich an irony for serious comment.

He admits that Rand had “expressed apprehension” at the size of the Empire State Building lease and that NBI “required loans from time to time” from The Objectivist and even concedes that the loan in question was much larger than normal. He does not dispute that Rand found out about the loan after the fact, and he does not dispute Rand’s account of when she found out the exact amount of the loan. Branden merely says that he had done similar things in the past and that only part of the loan was for the rent. He says that Rand was wrong: the amount transferred was $22,500, not $25,000.

He denies that there was any “stipulation” between him and Rand (business partners in The Objectivist) that all decisions were to be “unanimous,” presumably implying that he was authorized to act entirely on his own. Branden then notes that he voluntarily signed over his interest in The Objectivist to Rand for absolutely nothing in return and that he would have been “entirely within my legal rights” to have demanded that The Objectivist be closed. Rand’s lawyers threatened him with a full investigation of his financial dealings and even a lawsuit to do so if he did not “sign immediately.” This made Mr. Branden feel “moral revulsion,” presumably his first pang of it thus far in his dealings with Rand.

Branden claims Rand was simply lying when she wrote that their relationship had deteriorated into “long discussions” of his “psychological problems” and “pleas for advice.” (In Part II, we will see that Rand was acting in almost an official capacity as his therapist.) He tells us that it was Rand who prolonged phone calls and it was Rand who was “constantly volunteer[ing] personal advice.” While it is true that Rand had been “of personal help” to him in the past, Branden says that he had helped her, too, during what he describes as Rand’s two-year post-Atlas Shrugged depression.

As Branden describes it, he “found [him]self” in an “agonizing personal dilemma which [he] saw no way to resolve.” He admits that he withheld “certain information about [his] personal life,” specifically his relationship with a young woman with whom he was in love. But he gives no suggestion why this should be of any concern to Rand.

The statement to which Rand had referred as “irrational” and “offensive” had been, according to Branden, “a tortured, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassed attempt” to make clear to Rand why he felt that the age distance between them “constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.”

Notice how Branden powerfully implies that he would never, could never, have such a relationship with Rand, and recall that Branden is here in the act of detailing Rand’s “astonishing lack of grace.” (Branden, of course, had an affair with Rand lasting almost fourteen years of their eighteen-year relationship together.)

Branden also writes that Rand was lying when she suggests that her discovery of Mr. Branden’s “falsehood” was the final cause of her break with Branden. In fact, writes Branden, the decision had actually been made a month earlier when Rand learned of Branden’s “present feelings” but before she learned of any deception.

As we shall see, the Brandens’ later statements contradict this and, indeed, many other of their assertions in 1968, and the comparison of the Brandens’ rolling admissions indicates not only how right Rand had been at the time, but also the nature of the Brandens’ continuing dishonesty on these topics.

Rand, of course, was not herself privy to Branden’s memoir, nor did she make further comment on Branden after “To Whom It May Concern” was published in 1968. There, Rand tells us that she “observed a disturbing change in Nathaniel Branden’s intellectual attitude,” which seemed to “indicate his gradual departure from the principles of Objectivism.” Rand says that this became increasingly clear to her during Branden’s attempt to produce a stage version of The Fountainhead.

In his “Answer to Ayn Rand,” Branden denied and ridiculed Rand’s charge of “intellectual drift.”

In retrospect, Rand appears to have been quite perceptive, for, in subsequent interviews and memoirs, Branden would himself chronicle what amounted to much more than mere “intellectual drift.”

In Judgment Day, Branden claims that even during his earliest conversations with Rand he felt “pushed along a particular path faster than I would have moved at my own speed.”

Branden does not report ever expressing this feeling to Rand or ever asking for clarification from Rand. Nor does Branden specify the issues about which he felt “pushed.” In his typically vague fashion, Branden just “felt pushed.”

Though he never specifies the issues involved at this stage, Branden’s discomfort was apparently intense. Branden reports that for “all of us” around Rand, “there was terrible violence done to our emotional life—the repression or suppression of any feeling that clashed with what an ideal Objectivist was supposed to experience, be it a sexual impulse, an artistic preference...”

Branden is obviously not qualified to speak for everyone else, but taking his self-report at face value, Branden was engaged in a pretty comprehensive deception of both himself and Rand—given the “terrible violence” that he admits he was doing to his own “emotional life.” His use of the word “suppression”—as opposed to “repression”—suggests that it was, at least in part, conscious deception.

Here, Branden’s story confronts a certain problem: to the extent that he held views contrary to Rand’s during his association with her, he was deceiving and exploiting her professionally, and such differences may partially account for his break with Rand—as Rand had said. And yet, to the extent that Branden claims to have come to these differences only after their separation, he really does look like a socially conditioned robot—the true “social metaphysician” he identified as one whose opinions will vary depending upon who his friends happen to be.

To a certain extent, Branden does his best to have it both ways.

In what looks like a naked attempt to avert the criticism of intellectual hypocrisy, Branden’s version of events usually does suggest that only after his break with Rand in 1968 did he begin to have significant disagreements with her ideas, or that he was only dimly aware of these differences—perhaps psychologically repressing them—until after the break.

Branden asserts at one point that the entire situation had put him into a “trance.”

Branden also suggests that the very success of NBI and The Objectivist had contributed to an “emotional disorientation.”

“Increasingly,” Branden tells us, “I saw to what extent my personality had become distorted through [my] association [with Rand].” And later he says, “Today I am convinced there are errors in [Rand’s] vision, elements that need to be changed, eliminated, modified, added or amplified...”

Nevertheless, before his break with Rand, intellectual differences were emerging of such scope that even Branden must relate them to us. There can be no doubt Branden’s interests were straying from Objectivism. Branden reports that during one conversation with Rand she openly wondered, “hypnosis, Koestler—what next? Extrasensory perception?” (In a speech made shortly after her death, Branden would, indeed, admonish Rand for being “closed minded” on the topics of ESP and telepathy, a criticism he fails to repeat in either version of his memoir.)

Although Branden was the one “excommunicated,” his “dissatisfaction” with Objectivists, he told Reason magazine in 1971, was “a gradual thing”—a mere three years after his break with Rand.

In that interview, Branden also admits that “[t]here are certain touches in her novels that bother me and I guess always bothered me, but in the past I did not pause to consider them, I did not think about them.”

For example, Branden told Reason that the character of Dominique in The Fountainhead is “completely unreal” as a “psychological portrait.”

In Atlas Shrugged, Galt’s refusal to inform Rearden that Dagny is not dead for a month, claims Branden, is “morally and psychologically... criminal.”

Branden also maintained that the character of Eddie Willers—to whom he once compared his secret, new mistress—is “very neurotic and pathetic.”

These are hardly “touches.”

As Objectivism’s leading advocate outside of Rand herself at the time, it must have occurred to him that it was his professional responsibility to mention such sharp differences to Rand herself. But, of course, that would have been biting the hand that was feeding him.

Branden asks us to believe that he largely repressed his true opinion that Rand’s protagonists were “unreal,” “morally criminal,” and “very pathetic” during all of his eighteen years with Rand, and that it all became suddenly clear to him within three years of his break with her. Improbable, at best.

If Ms. Branden deceptively smiled and nodded in discussions of her artistic preferences, Mr. Branden did so in discussions of Rand’s work itself.

When the Reason interviewer asserts that Rand had claimed that “one must accept all of [Objectivism’s] tenets or none of them,” Branden agrees and calls this “pretentious” and “grandiose nonsense.”

As usual, the only “nonsense” here turns out to be that Rand ever said such a thing; she did not.

Of course, Branden was very familiar with what Rand had actually said, which inferred a similar but importantly different meaning.

In his lectures on epistemology at NBI, Nathaniel Branden had spoken extensively about the importance of comprehensive integration to certainty itself, the vital role of system-building in philosophy, the necessity of attending to the hierarchical structure of knowledge, and the fundamentality of philosophical knowledge.

Indeed, Branden had once proclaimed that Rand’s powerful insight could, perhaps, best be seen in the manner in which she had integrated her various philosophical positions.

None of this could he bring himself to mention to Reason in 1971.

All of this was apparently already “grandiose nonsense.”

So, as early as 1971, Branden provides evidence that he had been involved in a widespread conscious deception of Rand about the state of his mind, not just his heart.

Branden suggests that—from the beginning—his relationship with Rand to a significant extent was self-denial maintained by self-deception. “In one sense,” he conceded to Reason, “I can say I was never really happy [among Objectivists].” And about Rand herself, Branden says that it was “hard” for him to “face the fact” that he “did not really like her in important respects.”

In his memoirs, Branden supplies additional evidence of the very intellectual drift which Rand had observed—and that this drift involved far more than he had told Reason.

Branden reports in Judgment Day that throughout his relationship with Rand he became increasingly concerned that she seemed “closed” to certain new interests of his. He could not understand why Rand seemed nonplused by the ideas of Arthur Koestler. It bothered him that Rand did not seem more than mildly interested in hypnosis or the physiological aspects of depression. He tried to explain “non-Darwinian” theories of evolution and, again, Rand seemed insufficiently interested to him.

Still more significant, Branden tells us that he was, from the first, “uncomfortable” with the first sentences of Rand’s “Introduction” to The Virtue of Selfishness, which was published in 1964 and which contains some of her most important essays. Branden suggests that Rand’s alleged “moralism” was already making him “uncomfortable” in 1964.

When Rand broke with John Hospers in 1962, Branden relates that he felt “thoroughly miserable” having to “read [Hospers] the riot act”; allegedly, Branden had disagreed with Rand over the severity of her reaction to Hospers’ unspecified criticisms—while never breathing a word to Rand or Hospers about such disagreement until after his break with Rand.

Such differences might be regarded as marginal if they were with someone else, but to be the silently held opinions of Rand’s intellectual heir suggests a widespread intellectual hypocrisy on Branden’s part.

Cumulatively, these differences amounted to at least a drift—if not an active steering—away from Rand and her ideas, but the biggest indication of Branden’s admittedly increasing intellectual separation from Rand rested, apparently, in his own field of psychology.

In Who Is Ayn Rand?, Branden credits Rand with profound insight into human psychology. Many of his essays in The Objectivist Newsletter and in The Objectivist do as well. Branden explained how Objectivism provides a means of reconciling the alleged conflict between morality and psychology, how it makes possible an objective standard of mental health, how its insights into the nature of volition, the cognitive causes of emotion and the central importance of self-esteem, productive work and romantic love are nothing short of revolutionary—and how they constitute the necessary basis of any future science of psychology.

This is strong praise, indeed, for Rand was by profession a novelist, screenwriter, and non-academic philosopher. It should be remembered that Rand had no academic or professional training in psychology. Branden himself did not suggest that Rand had presented an entire psychological theory, only that the heroes in her novels are models of certain aspects of mental health and that her philosophy provided fundamental insights into his own field.

In the Reason interview Branden recants his praise, saying that Rand did not offer much psychological insight at all:

“I did not realize this, or did not realize it fully, during the years of our association, but Miss Rand is very ignorant of human psychology. On certain occasions she admitted that to me. It was not unusual for her to declare, “Nathan, I don’t really understand anything about human psychology.” But I never realized the full implications of what she was acknowledging. In Who Is Ayn Rand?, I compliment her psychological acumen. I was wrong to do so. That was my own naïveté or blindness. I think Miss Rand’s lack of psychological understanding is a great liability to her... “

Although Branden claimed in 1971 that he did not “fully” realize Rand’s weakness here until after the split, in Judgment Day, published eighteen years later, he admits that his essay on psychology in Who Is Ayn Rand? was “by far the briefest, since I did not regard psychology as Rand’s strong point, and my compliments felt a bit stretched to me even then.”

Branden did not tell Reason what will become obvious in Part II, that for many years—up to the last days of his relationship with her—he quite literally used Rand as his personal psychotherapist.

Branden does not claim to have abandoned reason, volition or self-esteem as central tenets of his psychological theories. His substantive differences with Rand in 1971 appear to be over issues such as to what extent conscious and subconscious processes can be “kept separate.” (The invitation to psychologize shall be duly declined.)

These issues would hardly seem to a casual observer to be reasons to retract the whole of the earlier praise, which had comprehensive and fundamental philosophical gravity. What is interesting—apart from his obvious squirming over exactly when these differences became apparent to him—is the incredible contrast: In print, he goes from believing in a brilliantly insightful and revolutionary Rand in 1962 to having no intellectual disparity with Rand in 1968 to branding Rand painfully blind by 1971.

Even taking Branden’s assertions at face value, his intellectual differences with Rand were widespread and growing as early as 1962, ranging from psychological theory to the characters and plots in her novels to her dealings with other intellectuals—and he never mentioned any of these things to Rand.

Nonetheless, for several more years Branden continued in his role as Objectivism’s foremost champion.

Branden never mentioned to Rand that he felt his praise of her psychological insights “felt a bit stretched” to him. Nor did Branden disclose his growing “discomfort” with the “Introduction” to Rand’s major book on ethics. Nor did he tell Rand that his role in Hospers’ departure made him just “miserable.” Nor did he say to her face that he believed that she was “closed” to new ideas—or that psychology was (at the very least) not her “strong point.” When he felt “pushed” too fast along a certain path he never said “slow down.”

Instead, he said, “of course, Ayn,” and remained the one intellectual in her presence who seemed to her to be her most intellectually sympatico colleague.

All these conflicts, if not many more, were left to stew.

Branden cannot admit that it was ever a conscious disagreement while he was still with Rand, and, hence, he says his compliments “felt” a bit stretched, he was “miserable,” he was “uncomfortable,” he was “bothered,” etc., about each of these issues.

It must be remembered that Branden has since written extensively about what he calls “the art of living consciously.” This appears to be merely an outgrowth of Rand’s principle that “man is a being of self-made soul,” that each of us has the responsibility actively to introspect, honestly to identify our values, and to avoid acting on the basis of unidentified emotions. In short, to know conscientiously what we are doing when we are doing it. This was the moral and psychological doctrine he would become famous for articulating both during his years with Rand and subsequently.

At NBI, Branden would lecture students on the virtues of rationality and honesty—and on the self-destructive vice of evading them.

He advised that all aspects of our lives must be brought into the light of reason and that happiness and joy were possible to the man who thus pursued rational values. He spoke of the ongoing commitment required to apply these virtues to our actual life. The virtue of integrity was repeatedly stressed by Branden in his lectures—the need to practice what one preaches. Perhaps no psychologist in history has stressed these ideas so explicitly.

Rand’s claim—the claim he angrily denied in 1968—that Branden was not living up to his own teachings and that he was acting on the basis of “unidentified emotions” is precisely what Branden now makes a central theme in his memoirs.

But these were not just personal issues and did not relate only to his private relationship with Rand. They pertained to his intellectual and professional life.

If, as a lecturer on ethics and as a psycho-therapist, he was having these kinds of emotional conflicts—for several years—and was letting them go without the benefit of any conscious thought or discussion, then Branden was—by his own admission—guilty of widespread intellectual and moral evasions. (We will see in Part II this kind of “mental drift” displayed by Mr. Branden in regard to a number of other issues as well.)

For a mind such as Branden’s that dealt daily with such explicit conversation on the evil and self-destructiveness of such behavior, it seems more likely, however, that Branden was engaged in a more conscious deception of Rand regarding his positions on these issues, given not only his eloquence on the topic so soon after his break with Rand and the comprehensive nature of the unresolved “discomfort” he admits to having experienced, but also on the financial and professional dependence on Rand he had developed during this time.

In 1982, a few months after Rand’s death, Mr. Branden delivered a speech entitled “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand,” at the University of California at San Diego (at my invitation).

There, he detailed a still broader range of objections to Rand’s work—its subtle but pervasive encouragement of emotional repression, its lack of benevolence, its unspecified “gaps.”

The death of Rand in 1982 seems to account for Branden’s failure to disclose these differences earlier. How much further back all of these differences go can only be guessed. In his 1999 Liberty interview, Branden was asked when it was that he discovered the unspecified “gaps” in Objectivism which he now contends exist. Could it have been before 1968?

“No, no, before 1968 the most I ever had was a feeling of apprehension, or something is not quite... but no. It all happened in the years after 1968 when I was out of that world and kind of took it as one of my challenges to rethink everything, and ask myself, you know, what really satisfies me intellectually, and where I feel something is not right. All of that is post-1968. I wish it had been earlier.”

In light of his position at the time, Branden, of course, owed it to Rand to have done so much earlier—even ignoring the other implications of this kind of intellectual—and psychological—irresponsibility to himself.

As Rand’s spokesman and business partner, he had a moral obligation to Rand to think—at least once—about these things before the break.

And, of course, his self-serving account cannot be taken at face value. We are asked to believe that the “gradual thing” Branden had spoken of to Reason magazine in 1971 lasted less than three years.

Listening to Rand praise his essays and lectures, in which Branden himself could not yet express his true feelings, would have tipped off even the most self-deluded that his professional and intellectual life was just as much a fraud as his personal life. Branden admits in his memoir that he “felt like a fraud facing [his] own students,” because of his personal hypocrisy, at least.

But, it is also clear that Mr. Branden was dishonest about matters other than his love life and to many more people than his lovers. By his own admission he was giving Rand rhapsodic praise in his first book for something he did not think was her “strong point.” If he was so conscious of his growing doubts as to make the psychology chapter “by far the briefest,” then Branden was also conscious enough of the potential impact of these doubts on the content of his essay, as well as its length.

Branden was lying to his readers. Such was the intellectual respect Branden gave his public.

Rand, of course, he treated much worse. As long as Branden continued receiving Rand’s unmitigated endorsement, it was surely his ethical responsibility, according to the principles he still explicitly espoused, to be honest with Rand about even the smallest philosophical disagreement, much less the degree of “misery,” “bother,” “discomfort,” etc., he now admits it was causing him.

And not doing so can only be characterized as professional exploitation—whether accomplished by conscious deception or by systematic evasion.

The philosophy Branden had publicly advocated, taught, and detailed holds that honesty is a virtue of fundamental importance.

In Atlas Shrugged, Rand tells the reader through her hero, John Galt, that any attempt to gain a value through deception, be it love, fame or money, is immoral and self-defeating.

Such were the principles that he claimed to have shared with Rand, the principles he taught others.

If Branden knew that his new beliefs would upset Rand or cause a break with her, then for that very reason he owed her the truth—whether or not her reaction would be reasonable or unreasonable. And he could not help but know this.

Rand’s endorsement of him was her “spiritual property” and could not rightfully be taken from her by fraud, something Branden, of all the people on earth, knew more intimately than any other. His ongoing conduct to the contrary amounted to spiritual embezzlement.

We must also remember that Mr. Branden’s relationship with Rand was not merely intellectual; it was financial. Rand had no financial interest in NBI, but she and Branden were joint owners of The Objectivist, the magazine devoted to the dissemination of Rand’s philosophy. The magazine apparently turned a healthy profit.

Branden, it can be safely said, owed his career to Rand. It was with Rand’s literary agent and Rand’s publisher that he first signed contracts, presumably at Rand’s recommendation. It was Rand that had the international reputation as a novelist and an individualist philosopher. It was her work and her philosophy which had given Branden a subject to discuss at NBI and the frame of reference to his own work. It was her fame which established his fame, such as it is.

Branden’s own first book, Who Is Ayn Rand?, was the product of the generously long discussions he and his wife had tape-recorded with Rand.

The Nathaniel Branden Institute existed for the purpose of spreading Rand’s ideas.

The Objectivist magazine had the same purpose.

And, before the break, Branden’s reputation rested almost exclusively on the fact that Branden was Rand’s chief spokesman.

In denying that his dispute with Rand involved intellectual and professional exploitation on his part, Branden contends that Rand got benefits from the relationship, as well, such as his efforts through NBI and The Objectivist to promote her ideas, along with the admiration and love he had expressed to her.

Without NBI, he maintains, there would have been no “Objectivist Movement,” at least, the kind of “movement” that he confesses Ayn Rand never wanted.

But, especially in the face of multiple deceptions, that is not his call to make.

Branden blithely claims to have come to terms with what his “own rewards were for remaining with Rand,” but gives scant introspection to the degree to which he was professionally exploiting her, even as he reveals the evidence for this exploitation.

As for Branden’s motive in his professional deception of Rand, Branden gives several psychological justifications and excuses, but on this issue many of his statements regarding the matter Rand are rather revealing.

Branden admits that he was afraid that the entire structure he had built at NBI on Rand’s endorsement would be destroyed if he were to reveal the truth to Rand about his other affair. Recall that at this time Branden is married to Ms. Branden, having an affair with Rand which is known to their respective spouses, and having an affair with a third woman which both he and Ms. Branden are concealing from Rand.

He reports that during the years of his deception of Ayn Rand about his “private life,” at least, he “paced the floor of [his] office for countless hours, trying to think [his] way toward an alternative that would not result in the total collapse of the life I had built.”

Branden relates the following extraordinary account of a conversation he had with his former wife, in which they consider telling Rand the truth:

“There was a subtle note of hard, practical calculation behind [Ms. Branden’s] words, “Give up NBI? ... Give up everything we’ve created? ... How can you possibly do that? You can’t. You’d never respect yourself again.” I nodded in exhausted acquiescence; but my survivor-self contemplated Barbara as from a great distance, thinking: So. Well, well, well. We are all operators, it seems.” (emphasis added)

In other words, business considerations significantly played into Branden’s more than four-and-a-half years of deceiving Rand about his other, secret affair.

Although his income was destined to become even greater, promoting Rand’s ideas had provided him with a comfortable living. Branden notes the “hard, practical calculation” involved in Ms. Branden’s compact of dishonesty here, and the “countless hours” of thought and pacing which he gave these issues himself, none of which can be reconciled with his 1968 denials of financial wrongdoing.

Remarkably, Branden has long denied Rand’s accusation of financial exploitation and has mocked her specific allegations to that effect, and, yet, here he provides us with the details of his (and his former wife’s) very thought process as he nakedly chooses a course of exploitation.

Rand had specifically called into question both the lease at the Empire State Building, which Branden had pushed, as well as the transfer of money from The Objectivist to NBI in the form of “loan” in order to pay the rent on that lease.

In 1968, Branden conceded a good many of the facts Rand had alleged: that NBI “required loans from time to time” from The Objectivist; that Rand had expressed concern over the expense of the lease at the Empire State Building; that another, much larger than normal loan was then taken out, at least in part, to pay the rent on that lease. Nor did Branden contradict Rand’s statements regarding when and how she found out about this loan, i.e., after the fact.

In attempting to dispute Rand’s claim that the loan “represented the entire cash reserve of this magazine,” he actually admits its truth. He does not tell us what The Objectivist had in the bank at the time of the loan, but as of March 31, 1968, the amount was $17,434, he says. The amount of money transferred to NBI, he alleged, had only been $22,500, not the $25,000 Rand had claimed, and, of this, only $16,500 was “borrowed.”

Of course, the numbers cannot be verified by the author, but no matter how Mr. Branden slices it, the loan still required the depletion of most of the cash reserves of The Objectivist—as Rand had said. Rand’s only detectable potential error is, perhaps, having confused 22.5 with 25 thousands, but—given Branden’s own credibility issues—a “perhaps” is certainly required. Otherwise, all of Rand’s basic facts are confirmed by Branden.

Mr. Branden claims that the loan was repaid at his own instigation, but he also concedes that Rand did “put in a request for repayment, not knowing that I had already given instructions to that effect.”

Curiously, Branden does not then explain why he initiated repayment on his own so soon—if there was no impropriety with the original transaction.

In 1968, Branden contested Rand’s assertion that their “incorporation agreement” required their mutual agreement on all decisions, but in 1989—in another about face—he reveals that such was their oral agreement from the inception!

Still Branden completely ignores Rand’s reasonable—and, more important, legally correct—suggestion that, as co-owner of The Objectivist, Branden should have obtained Rand’s explicit agreement to such a loan before it happened.

Even assuming that most business decisions had been the exclusive concern of Mr. Branden, the loan was of an unprecedented size, as he concedes, and, therefore, required unprecedented treatment. Any such thought, however, Branden simply brushes aside calling Rand’s anger at his financial deception “controlling.”

It will become increasingly evident that it was Rand’s insistence on knowing the truth that the Brandens’ call “controlling” and “oppressive.”

Whether it was a little deception—like the surprise party—or a big one—like Branden’s intellectual fraud—the Brandens insist on their right to manipulate Rand with their lies. If Rand complains, they accuse her of being manipulative and “controlling.” Projection, smoke-screen, and avoidance, all in one increasingly familiar package.

Rand tells us that she did consent to the loan when she first learned of it a few months before her break with Branden, but that the amount of the loan remained undisclosed until the summer of 1968, in the midst of the break. These facts have never been disputed by the Brandens. This partial consent probably would have made any legal action against Branden for fraud difficult, but Rand had not accused Branden of an actionable crime, only of dubious business practices—in Rand’s words, “questionable policy.”

Morally, of course, Branden should have obtained Rand’s fully informed consent even if he was not also anticipating a break with Rand, as he now admits he was. In light of this additional fact, the loan was—morally if not legally—all the more fraudulent.

The essence of the financial exploitation involved in these transactions was not addressed by Mr. Branden in 1968. In 1989, with Rand now dead and her statement still standing as the final word on the subject, he finally gets around to it.

Less than a year before Branden’s break with Rand, NBI signed a lease at the Empire State Building—“the biggest financial commitment” Branden had ever made in his life. Branden was taking on such a responsibility even as he was contemplating the inevitability of a break with Rand, since this was precisely what he says he feared would happen if Rand ever found out about the various lies he had been telling her. Branden already felt, in his own words, that “his back was to the wall” because of the situation with Rand.

He quotes his ex-wife as saying at the time: “Are we crazy? Everything can explode at any minute! It’s only a matter of time until you have to tell Ayn the truth; we both know that. Wouldn’t it be better to tell her before signing the lease?”

Branden’s only response: “Eight thousand square feet in the Empire State Building to house all of our projects; I wanted that.” This is a strange attitude for a man who has “his back to the wall.”

In this context, “financial exploitation” seems a rather mild euphemism on Rand’s part. In any event, her focus on both the lease and the loan were apparently well justified.

The extent to which Branden actually verifies the facts behind Rand’s denunciation of him merely heightens the hypocrisy of the ridicule he heaped on that denunciation in 1968.

During an interview with Liberty magazine in 1990, Ms. Branden revealed that Rand had originally intended to write the introduction for Branden’s first book on psychology, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Ms. Branden tells us that when she began to plead with Branden to tell Rand “the truth,” Branden replied, “Just wait until she writes the introduction.”

Branden’s anxiety over getting that introduction from Rand has been confirmed by Joan Blumenthal, another member of Rand’s circle of friends.

There were, it seems, multiple layers of financial exploitation at least one of which Rand herself was wholly unaware.

In “To Whom It May Concern,” Rand had said that the production of Barbara Branden’s stage adaptation of The Fountainhead “seemed to become Mr. Branden’s central concern, taking up a major part of his time, causing him to neglect his intellectual and business commitments.” Rand suggests that this was chief among the reasons why Branden had become chronically late in delivering his articles for The Objectivist and another indication of his wavering commitments.

Branden takes issue with this, saying in 1968, of the theater project, “it never took up more than a small portion of my time.” He does not dispute—in 1968, 1989 or 1999—that he was “behind schedule,” or that he was becoming habitually late with his articles, or even that Rand was by then writing more than her share of articles.

Instead, Branden attacks a straw man. “I never committed myself to writing an article per issue...” he says. In her article, Rand had only asserted that their initial agreement was to write “an equal number of articles,” as they received an equal salary.

Branden simply claims that Rand was “often late with her articles, too.” (Something, of course, Rand had never denied.) Branden says that the reason for his tardiness was actually a result of “the theoretical complexities of the issues about which I was writing.” But in 1989, he adds, “I found it difficult to concentrate on my writing.”

Branden also now admits that “[o]f the various projects at NBI, none gave me as much pleasure” as NBI Theater, which Branden “had initiated” shortly before the break. Its first project was to be Ms. Branden’s stage adaptation of The Fountainhead. Branden reports that his new mistress, an actress, had “reawakened” an early love of the theater in him.

So, however much time he was actually devoting to it, NBI Theater had become his favorite activity, and another of Rand’s points against Branden appears to have been well taken—despite earlier denials.

In his 1968 “Answer,” Branden actually asserts that he had no responsibility whatever “to justify... the disposition of [his] time and energies” to his coeditor on The Objectivist, the founder of the philosophy he had dedicated his life to spread, and whose continued endorsement buttressed his livelihood. Branden conceded Rand’s point that he had not yet begun the planned “total” rewrite of his NBI course on Objectivism, though he conveniently responds that he had planned to do it “in 1969.”

Rand’s complaint regarding the course had included the observation that a major portion of the “Basic Principles” had by then been made available (and more affordably) in print. Even in the “updated” version which he sold on LP following the break, a substantial portion of the material appears to be (almost verbatim) what can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Branden’s “continuous updates” consisted primarily of added quotations from Rand’s newly available, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, which are also contained on these LPs. Otherwise, despite Branden’s claims to the contrary, his lecture material changed very little throughout the Sixties.

In 1968 Branden vigorously denied Rand’s assertion that their relationship “was turning into a series of constant demands on my time, constant pleas for advice, for help with his writing, for long discussions of his personal, professional and psychological problems.”

Branden has never disputed that he had certain personal and psychological problems. In 1968, however, Branden insisted that Rand had not spent all that much time with him on these issues, except, perhaps, for some telephone calls which Rand herself had dragged out. Branden conceded that Rand, his coeditor on The Objectivist, was “a more experienced and accomplished writer” and, therefore, had “a greater number of suggestions to offer” about the writing in their magazine. But that was it.

In 1989, Branden was a bit more forthcoming. Beginning at least as early as 1964, he tells us, he began to exhibit “erratic behavior with Ayn,” including an “elusiveness” and “coldness” which was “alternating, as always, with expressions of passionate devotion...” Branden admits during this period that it was he who sought out Rand’s advice and help with his deteriorating marriage. Branden even admits that he knew it was wrong “to solicit Ayn’s help with our marriage while withholding information” that he and his wife were both having other affairs!

Although it was Mr. Branden who had solicited Rand’s help, he now sees sinister motives behind the generous counseling and emotional support which Rand gave the Brandens’ troubled marriage during this time. In the new edition of his memoir, he suggests that Rand had tried to manipulate the situation for her own purposes. Although Rand did make “negative observations” about their marriage “from time to time,” her generous help now suggests to Branden that Rand was “keenly interested” in preserving the Brandens as a couple.

Ms. Branden was “safe,” formulates Branden, and Rand never had to worry about “another woman.” (Of course, there was “another woman” at that very time.)

This theory, of course, ignores the evidence that Rand had been a warmly supportive counselor to each of them long before the affair and, indeed, before the Brandens’ marriage. Both Brandens report that Rand’s supportive counseling had begun in California many years earlier.

Moreover, neither of them report that Rand’s attitudes towards them changed because of their legal separation in 1965.

Perhaps this is why, Branden says, “[i]t did not enter my mind” that Rand was being manipulative until decades later.

In 1999, Branden confessed to Liberty magazine that the thought had still not “entered his mind” when he published the first version of his memoir in 1989.

It turns out this theory was the suggestion of his third wife, Devers, and that upon first hearing it, Branden responded, “Jesus, you know something? I don’t know; I can’t prove whether it’s true or not, but it... it feels intuitively like—not that that would have been the only reason—but that would be quite like Ayn to have that as one of her considerations.”

It may come as a complete surprise to readers of his book that this is not a “claim of knowledge” by Branden, or that this is only a hypothesis or “partial” explanation of Rand’s behavior. In his book, Branden successfully hid all of these underlying qualifications that he admits in the interview.

One can only wonder how much else of his book, which otherwise seems to be a claim of knowledge, contains such uncredited “intuition.”

However, Ms. Branden does not repeat or suggest this herself in her own biography. It seems the thought never occurred to Ms. Branden, either.

In any event, it was Mr. Branden who solicited help from Rand as a marriage counselor, not Rand volunteering her services, as Branden has now made clear, again in contradiction to his 1968 assertions.

Branden now says that he consciously knew as early as 1964 that “the deception in the manipulation I was attempting was in conflict with my own convictions about human relationships.” Convictions? What is clear is that the convictions he refers to were Rand’s convictions, the ones he was preaching if not practicing.

As a therapist, at least, Branden must have been, even then, conscious of the simple truth that deceiving one’s chosen psychological counselor is inevitably self-defeating, if not self-mockery. Soliciting Ayn Rand’s help with his marriage while simultaneously concealing important facts about his (and his wife’s) romantic life can, therefore, only have been part of a sophisticated and deliberate effort to stall for time by deceiving Rand about the state of his mind and his relationships generally. It cannot have been part of any sincere effort by the famous psychotherapist to save his marriage. That much is certain.

Rand’s generous, unwittingly futile advice is now “manipulation,” according to Branden, when his own role in soliciting that help from someone he was deceiving is the only manipulation present here to an honest eye.

Branden’s memoir, in some respects, continuously reflects the trickery of an expert magician, causing the very thing he pretends is caused by something else, in this case, once again covering his own manipulation of Rand by accusing her of manipulation. Projection, smoke-screen, avoidance.

This was by no means the only psychological counseling, as it turns out, that Branden solicited from Rand in the period during which he was deceiving her on so many levels.

Ms. Branden describes conversations between Branden and Rand in the period before the break as follows: “He spoke vaguely of problems troubling him, of physical and emotional exhaustion, of depression, of being overworked, as Ayn tried conscientiously to listen and to help."

In Judgment Day, Branden describes his conversations with Rand in 1967 as follows: “At Ayn’s, we discussed my psycho-epistemology, my mysterious emotional repression, my difficulties with the triangle of Ayn, Frank and me, the question of my real values.” Branden even admits that he “had been complaining of depression a good deal” to Rand.

We shall see in Rand’s private journals (Part II) just how extensive this counseling had been. These confirm, however, one of Rand’s chief complaints to Branden, that he had, in fact, transformed their relationship into nothing but psychotherapy. Before she had learned of his four-year romantic deception of her, Rand would write in private journals that Branden’s “worst offense of all” consisted of his allowing the relationship to “drift” into “the last two years of myself as [his] psychotherapist.” She also makes quite clear in those notes that she communicated this complaint to Branden. Discussions of Branden’s psychology had involved more than a few prolonged phone calls, it seems.

Much of “To Whom It May Concern” was implicitly conceded by Branden in his 1968 response, “In Answer To Ayn Rand.” Most of the rest had simply to wait for the publication of Judgment Day for confirmation. But one could never have guessed the truth of Rand’s statement from Branden’s original response.

Contrary to Mr. Branden’s fierce denials, Rand’s accusations about his intellectual, professional and personal dishonesty and manipulation of her are largely validated—by Branden himself.

Perhaps the most dishonest (and ugliest) part of Nathaniel Branden’s 1968 response to Rand concerns his affair with her.

Rand’s references in her statement to professional and intellectual exploitation were just cover, he tells us. The “real” cause was kept secret by her: Branden had told Rand that their age difference “constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.”

No mention was made by Branden that for the previous fourteen years such an age difference had not been “an insuperable barrier” for him.

In effect, he suggested that Rand had “come on” to him and that he had been forced by his own emotional integrity to nobly refuse before any affair had begun. Preying upon the discretion of the wronged, he actually implied that Rand alone desired such a relationship, that he would have been incapable of it, and, perhaps, that he always regarded the very concept as irrational.

Rand, by contrast, had merely said that “Mr. Branden had been concealing from me certain ugly actions and irrational behavior in his private life, which were grossly contradictory to Objectivist morality...”—a statement that was true and discreet while necessarily explanatory.

But by the time of his memoirs, Branden would finally concede the nature of his personal deception of Rand. His affair with Rand had been commenced only at his instigation and, at Rand’s insistence, with the full knowledge and consent of their respective spouses. By the start of 1964 Branden had begun a new affair (with a married woman) which he kept secret from the woman’s husband at first, from Branden’s wife for two years, and from Rand for over four and half years.

During the course of this secret affair, his marriage with Barbara Branden now in shambles, Branden nonetheless refused to give his wife permission to have an affair of her own (with a married man), when she had the honesty to come forward with her own new interest. (This appears to have been the first instance of Ms. Branden’s up front disclosure of a desired affair, but certainly not her first affair in the course of her relationship with Branden.) Branden would continue for some time in this stance against Ms. Branden’s own affair while secretly commencing his own, according to Ms. Branden.

Ms. Branden says that it was “several months” after Branden’s affair with the other woman had already become sexual that Branden gave his consent, while Mr. Branden claims that it was only twelve or thirteen days. In any event, it was at least a year after his romantic feelings for the new woman were known to him, even if his account is to be credited. Today, after having been exposed by his first wife, Branden admits that such behavior was “ludicrous and unconscionable.”

When Branden did finally consent to Ms. Branden’s affair, he still did not reveal the truth of his own affair to her, Branden admits. Apparently it was not until after their formal separation that Branden finally told Ms. Branden of his new affair sometime near the end of 1966. Even then, he told her only that he was about to begin an affair with her, not that the affair was now more than two years old.

When Branden solicited Rand’s aid with his shattered marriage during the year 1965 and, probably, into 1966, he still did not disclose either his or his wife’s other affairs to Ms. Branden or Rand.

All the while, he continued teaching courses discussing the primacy of existence, the fundamental virtue of honesty, the evil of “counterfeiting reality,” the objectivity of knowledge, etc., etc.

Dishonesty had become a way of life for Branden. Ayn Rand’s philosophy, the very thing he was selling, made it impossible for him to deny, every minute of every waking hour.

When Branden’s ex-wife told him he should tell Rand the truth before initiating major new business commitments, Branden plunged ahead—even as he was feeling that he had his “back to the wall.”

Nor was it Branden who finally told the truth to Rand. Rather, he left this dirty work to his former wife. It is not clear that Branden himself would have ever told the truth to Rand.

Rand’s description in “To Whom It May Concern,” while it certainly did not reveal the affair to which she had been a party, had been a fair summary of Mr. Branden’s dishonesty in the less personal areas of their relationship. But it was also clear from Rand’s statement that something was missing, that Rand was holding back certain information which, it might well be said, was no one else’s business. In this sense, Rand’s statement was perfectly honest.

The same cannot be said of Branden’s 1968 statement, which was clearly intended to mislead the reader and to slander Rand in a miserably exploitative way.

In his memoir, Mr. Branden says that only when his relationship with Rand had been “reduced to long, drawn-out sessions made of nothing but pity, rage, guilt, and mutually [sic] inflicted pain,” and only after years of deceptively encouraging Rand’s feelings, did he finally tell Rand that—despite all of his earlier protests to her concerns that she would “always be a sexual being” to him—the age difference did, indeed, matter to him.

Because of Rand’s understandable sense of betrayal at this prolonged deception, the Brandens both agree that Rand contemplated denouncing Branden even then and began considering whether Ms. Branden might assume Mr. Branden’s professional position at the head of NBI and The Objectivist.

But Rand’s anger, it seems, did not prevent her from continuing to have business meetings with Branden. Her private journals reveal that they even continued to discuss Branden’s psychology, as we shall see.

Additionally, it is now conceded by both Brandens that Rand spoke of giving Branden another 'chance.'" Thus, the Brandens’ contention in 1968 that Rand had already decided to denounce him before she learned of the deception in his personal life is—once again—something squarely contradicted in both of the Brandens’ later accounts. Once again, their 1968 statement proves to be the actual series of “fabrications.”

The Brandens say that it was the prospect of Ms. Branden’s own financial windfall implied in Rand’s deliberations which motivated Ms. Branden to tell Rand about Mr. Branden’s affair. Branden probably could not have prevented this disclosure to Rand by his former wife, but he somehow still manages to give himself credit for acquiescing to Ms. Branden’s decision.

If this is all true, it may say something for Ms. Branden’s belated and partial honesty to Rand about Mr. Branden’s four and a half year old secret affair. Mr. Branden does, however, reveal that for two years Ms. Branden had explicitly agreed to help him keep his new affair a secret from Rand. He quotes Ms. Branden as agreeing with him “because you’re right, that would be the end of everything.” (We will also see, in Part II, the elaborate extent to which Ms. Branden would go in assisting Branden in this deception.)

Ms. Branden, possibly to her credit, could not, in the end, accept such a reward while still deceiving Rand, despite the financial motives that drove her previously. This is not something that can be said of Branden, even though it was his affair they were concealing.

Following Ms. Branden’s disclosure of that affair, Rand’s mind was made up—Branden was gone, the denunciation would come. Discussion of Ms. Branden’s possibly running NBI suddenly became even more serious. Ms. Branden quickly drew up a business plan.

Ms. Branden reports that Rand hardly looked at it before rejecting it. She quotes Rand as saying, “I can’t run a business, and I can’t let anyone else run it when it carries my name!”

This meant the liquidation of NBI.

The same afternoon that Ms. Branden’s plan had been rejected by Rand, Ms. Branden now admits that she began to tell friends of her “growing concern at Ayn’s reckless accusations and threats against Branden,” her concern for Rand’s “state of mind,” and her concern for Branden’s “professional destruction” by Rand. Even in 1968, Ms. Branden had admitted that she had openly worried that Rand’s attack on Mr. Branden “would compel him, in self-defense, to reveal information which would be painful and embarrassing to Miss Rand.” Ms. Branden does not mention this last in her biography, but what Rand had referred to as “veiled threats and accusations against” her by Ms. Branden are again seen to be based in fact, vindicating Rand’s account.

In “To Whom It May Concern,” Rand had observed that Ms. Branden began to take Mr. Branden’s side, as it were, only after her business plan had been rejected. Rand tells readers to draw their “own conclusions regarding Ms. Branden’s motives.”

The Brandens take issue with Rand’s questioning Ms. Branden’s motives. In their “Answer” to Rand, the Brandens insisted that it was Ms. Branden’s despair of financial gain while still deceiving Rand that had motivated her belated honesty.

Even if this is true, it does not contradict the possibility that Ms. Branden’s motivation for later siding with Mr. Branden was revenge for the loss of the windfall she had anticipated. After all, Ms. Branden had for two years deceived Rand, at least in part for financial reasons, and then suddenly signed her name to Mr. Branden’s highly deceptive version of these events in 1968.

Nor can Ms. Branden deny Rand’s account of the timing of Ms. Branden’s sudden switch to a defense of her ex-husband.

Such facts compel one to reconsider the assertion that Ms. Branden’s belated honesty was even the product of ethical considerations at all. Her revelations to Rand did have as their immediate effect the termination of any talk about “second chances” for Mr. Branden and conceivably could have put Ms. Branden in charge of her ex-husband’s former businesses. There is no reason to suppose that this was not part of Ms. Branden’s motive all along. It was, after all, only when Rand had put the kibosh on her own business plans that Ms. Branden turned. Ms. Branden tells us, in fact, that it was later that same day. And if Ms. Branden’s concern for Rand’s state of mind had been a sincere one, it certainly had not prevented her from proposing to make Rand her closest business associate earlier in the day.

Apparently, we can identify this day then as the day that the Brandens’ need to slander Rand’s psychology was born, and the day that their historical revisionism would begin.

Ms. Branden has kept insisting that her business plan had been solid and that Rand’s dismissal of this plan as a mere “projection” is indicative of her growing instability. Of course, it was just a “projection,” and the prospects for this projection relied as much on Ms. Branden’s now-tarnished trustworthiness as on sound business judgment. And without the draw of NBI’s “star” lecturer, Nathaniel Branden, Ms. Branden’s projections, which as she says were based on NBI’s past performance, were of little value. Nonetheless, Ms. Branden goes into some detail in her biography to justify the economic soundness of this plan.

It seems that Rand’s rejection of Ms. Branden’s business plan still smarts.

Nathaniel Branden’s own exploitation of Rand is far more complex and layered than Ms. Branden’s. Mr. Branden, as we have seen, is compelled to concede much of this himself. Perhaps this can be associated with his newly found desire to avoid calling anyone’s actions “immoral,” just “harmful,” as in the sentence, “I was harmful to Ayn Rand.” Therefore, the obfuscation of his own wrongdoing, however artfully done, is insufficient.

“Rand wronged me, too,” he spins by way of justification. Rand exploited Mr. Branden, both Brandens insist. In one of the most absurd examples of his distorted bias, Branden claims that Rand literally tried to “destroy him”: “‘You’ve got to understand,’ Barbara beseeched me, ‘that Ayn wants you dead!... Ayn wants you dead! That’s all that’s moving her now!’... Now I asked my brain to absorb the fact that the woman who had been my idol was plotting my annihilation.”

To justify this operatic assertion, Branden points to Rand’s published statement “To Whom It May Concern,” her efforts to get both her agent and her publisher to cancel their contracts with Branden, alleged efforts by Rand’s attorney to “blackmail” him when she improperly, in his view, took The Objectivist from him.

It probably need not be pointed out that Rand never tried to have Branden killed. Nor do the Brandens even try to substantiate this melodramatic claim. The allegation provides no insight into Rand, but, rather, it is the extent of the Brandens’ own paranoia that it serves to illuminate.

The phrase “plotting annihilation,” for example, in light of the actual evidence, takes Brandenian distortion to a new and intriguing level.

Rand’s only written references to the Brandens after the break were the aforementioned statement and a brief “p.s.” in a couple of books which still contained essays of Branden’s, to the effect that he was “no longer associated with” Rand or her philosophy. That’s it. Then, complete silence.

While Rand also removed Mr. Branden’s name from the dedication to Atlas Shrugged, this hardly amounts to “professional destruction.”

His essays—and his name—remained in Rand’s books, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal. The “annihilation” plot apparently missed this open shot, at least, in striking Mr. Branden out of existence.

Rand had thought the Brandens to be honest people. When she discovered that they were not, it might even be argued that Rand was morally obligated to take whatever steps that were necessary to remove her public endorsement, even as Rand continued to acknowledge, in some sense, the value of their previous work. If her endorsement had secured Branden his publisher and agent, Rand had every right to withdraw her endorsement as vigorously as she could, when she no longer believed Branden to be an ethical man.

Since there are other publishers in the world, Branden was somehow able to publish The Psychology of Self-Esteem in 1969, the year following the break. And he was somehow able to establish a psychotherapy clientele on the West Coast. (The “somehow” was by using NBI/The Objectivist mailing lists.) Even if it were simply his personal deception of her, Rand certainly had every right to do her utmost to remove the endorsement to her agent and publisher which had been so valuable to Branden.

Because Branden was late in delivering the book, Rand’s publisher was free to take her new recommendation, according to Branden. The agent, it seems, had no intention of dropping Branden and never did. Both were within their rights in making these decisions. (The publisher had every right to do so, if only to please one of its best-selling authors.)

Regardless of her right to withdraw her endorsement of Branden, was Rand ethically justified in doing so? In the face of Mr. Branden’s prolonged dishonesty and exploitation of Rand, as well as Rand’s personal responsibility for her public endorsement of him, it was not only understandable, but also, perhaps, morally necessary.

During the course of Branden’s ongoing efforts to obtain professional certification, Rand had written letters of recommendation for him to agencies like the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. It is true that, following their break, she wrote back with new letters simply withdrawing her previous recommendation. This was the apparent extent of Rand’s efforts toward Branden’s professional “destruction”—the withdrawal of her previous endorsements.

Branden, however, suggests that he was the one who had been financially exploited. He suggests darkly that his transfer to Rand of his ownership interest in The Objectivist involved “blackmail” and unfair pressure, if not actual coercion.

As co-owners of The Objectivist, Branden and Rand each had an arguable claim to the other’s copyrights to a great many substantive articles. The magazine was the chief voice of Rand’s philosophy. This, according to Branden, was a focal point of their legal problems in the midst of separation. Branden signed the transfer of ownership when the documents were first presented to him by Rand’s attorney. Wishing the spread of Objectivism to continue, Branden says, he was simply concerned about retaining the copyrights to all of his own articles, and via telephone Rand quickly gave him an oral agreement to the effect that Branden would be “treated fairly” with regard to his copyrights.

In his 1989 memoir, however, Branden does not mention any “treated fairly” proviso and now states forthrightly that he was told that his articles were “his own property.” Again, it is curious that the Brandens did not mention this in 1968, when it would have seriously helped Mr. Branden’s legal position, which was then supposedly still in question. It is likely that, once again, the Brandens are modifying the truth for their own ends. Branden also now adds that, despite this oral agreement, soon after the break he was claiming that Rand had “refused” to sign over the copyrights to his articles. Branden does not disclose why he started to make this accusation, but this may have simply been his way of demanding that Rand publicly acknowledge his right to his own articles.

According to Branden’s memoir, when he actually inquired of Rand’s attorney, Henry Mark Holzer, he was told that Rand had never refused, and Branden never makes clear from whom he got that idea in the first place. Branden says that Rand’s attorney did then try to impose certain conditions, among which were: Branden must keep the affair confidential, he must not “respond” to Rand’s forthcoming denunciation of Branden, and he must not accuse Rand’s lawyer (who, before the break, had acted as attorney for both of them) of acting unethically. Branden does not say, but he presumably had already made this accusation against the attorney privately, as he would certainly do publicly in his 1968 “Answer” to Rand.

While it is probably the case that Mr. Holzer’s joint representation of both Branden and Rand—and its sudden termination—should have disqualified him from any legal involvement in their conflict, only an attorney can be expected to be sensitive to this point in the midst of conflict, and Rand may have been poorly treated by her own attorney in this matter (assuming Branden’s assertion that Holzer had previously represented him separately is true.)

In that “Answer,” Branden did charge Holzer with shoddy ethics and, of course, he did respond to Rand. And, when Branden used his articles from The Objectivist to form the basis of his most important book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, published the following year, Rand took no legal action whatsoever.

There is thus no circumstantial corroboration that such “conditions” were ever imposed, and Mr. Holzer is apparently the only person now in position to confirm the truth of Branden’s account on this score. Even if it is an accurate account, Mr. Holzer’s interest in protecting his own license and reputation suggests that these “conditions” may have been the work of Mr. Holzer, if they are not the invention of Branden. Rand is not likely to have been the author of the attorney-ethics condition, at least. Rand may never have known of any of them, since the only “condition” in which Rand appears to have had a possible interest was Branden’s discretion about the affair.

Based upon existing evidence, there is no way to tell which may be true.

If such conditions were actually ever proposed, it further suggests the truth of the “treated fairly” proviso Branden originally reported in 1968. Arguably, such a proviso would have put Rand in a legal position to negotiate the release of Branden’s copyrights.

And if Rand had actually solicited Branden’s discretion through her attorney, this can only have been the opening bid in an attempt to negotiate their mutual silence. According to his own scenario, it is probable that Branden could have avoided “To Whom It May Concern,” despite his later complaints. It was Branden who necessitated the eventual exposure of his own comprehensive dishonesty.

Nor would soliciting such conditions have comprised a violation of Mr. Branden’s rights, much less an effort to “destroy” him, in any event. Even assuming that these conditions were made and that Rand herself was privy to them, Rand was simply asking for Branden’s agreement not to make a private matter public in the privacy interests of everyone concerned.

Branden refused.

The Brandens not only denied Rand’s charges, they did so dishonestly. The Brandens, already comfortable deceiving their readers, would reveal in the substance of their memoirs that everything Rand had initially said about the break and everything that they had initially denied about it was true. Yet they simultaneously insist that Rand’s 1968 statement, not their own, was the libel.

Mr. Branden’s original description in 1968 makes quite clear that the original transfer—assuming his own copyrights were retained—reflected his own explicit, considered and voluntary wishes at the time. It was not the result of inappropriate outside pressure. Yet, in his memoirs, he now suggests it was the product of duress.

In 1968, Branden says that he would have been within his legal rights to have demanded that The Objectivist terminate publication. Legally, this may have been true, but to have done so, of course, would have constituted an even greater spiritual theft from Rand, whose own efforts—sans the intellectual dishonesty—had also built that magazine.

According to Mr. Branden, it was his devotion to the ideas of Objectivism which had already made him, in his own words, “willing” for Rand to continue publishing the magazine named for her own philosophy. Scruples do not appear to have plagued the noted psychologist then or now, as he would cite this modicum of decency years later as evidence of his mistreatment.

In immediately signing over his whole interest in the magazine without financial compensation of any kind, Branden was clearly acknowledging a guilt that was obvious to all those involved at the time.

In 1968, to be sure, Branden had said that he had been threatened by Rand’s lawyer to sign immediately or that Rand “would demand a full investigation” of NBI’s financial dealings with The Objectivist—and even initiate a suit against Branden to do so. In 1968, this was the extent of the unfair pressure he was willing to allege.

“Exhausted,” he tells us, and with “a last vestige of sympathy for Miss Rand’s anxiety,” he signed.

Ms. Branden goes so far as to call this “his gift to Ayn.”

Branden does not mention in 1968, 1989 or 1999, what Rand’s private journals now make clear, namely that Branden had offered to sign The Objectivist over to Rand at least a month before their break, a suggestion which Rand—at the time—took as “offensive”!

As has been already observed, if Branden had not relinquished his position as coeditor of The Objectivist, or if he had used his technical copyright on any other articles in The Objectivist, he would have been morally, if not legally, guilty of an enormous intellectual theft. His position at the magazine had been maintained for years by deceiving his business partner—and the originator of the philosophy he professionally espoused.

Branden’s only “gift” to Rand was not to further amplify his own policy of intellectual, financial and emotional exploitation of her.

One can only imagine “what Howard Roark would have done” to Branden under such circumstances.

In 1989, Nathaniel Branden, for the first time, has added a much more sinister dimension to his accusations when he claimed that he was told by one of Rand’s representatives, “We had to talk Ayn out of wanting to send Bob Teague up here with us to make you sign.” Teague, it is reported, had a “brown belt in judo.”

But, if this story is true, then why did Branden fail to mention any of this in 1968? He was perfectly willing to suggest that he was being wrongly “pressured” in other ways to sign the transfer, to have an affair, etc.

Indeed, Branden was giving a rather complete list of Rand’s dastardly role in the break. He certainly accuses Rand of slander and blackmail in that document. Furthermore, he was even willing to reveal Rand’s part (if not his own) in wanting a romantic relationship. Why suppress just this? And why, if Branden was so willing to sign over his rights from the start, would Rand ever have felt tempted to “send Bob Teague?”

Ms. Branden, in her 1986 biography, neglected to include mention of this, as well, though it certainly would have added to the book’s cinematic potential.

According to Mr. Branden, his former wife was also in the room at the time. Why did Ms. Branden not choose to include this alarming occurrence?

And, of course, there is the formulation of this double-hearsay to contend with. We are to believe that Teague never was called because Rand had already been “talked out” of it. More precisely, Rand had been “talked out of wanting to” do it. This is a very fine piece of wording, but what is it supposed to mean?

Three steps removed from Rand herself, this allegation says nothing about Rand, even if Branden’s is a true report. But the prevailing evidence suggests that this is simply another of Branden’s many creative and conveniently unverifiable recollections.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the story is not likely to be true. Had Branden withheld “his gift to Rand,” he would have been asserting his control over Rand’s valuable intellectual property. He would have been continuing in a position which he had kept up by fraud for at least five years. He would have denied Rand—who had never once consciously lied to him—control over the official voice of her ideas, and Rand—once again—would have been the one victimized by Branden’s fraud.

Morally, Branden should have signed over his interest in The Objectivist years earlier. To have asked for monetary compensation for this, in the wake of years of systematic deception of Rand about so much, would have been the equivalent of theft, a kind of spiritual theft grievously hurtful to Rand. The transfer was perfectly voluntary and proper, Mr. Branden’s subsequent objections and lies notwithstanding.

Rand had acted as best as she could to withdraw her endorsement of the Brandens.

However, it is beyond hyperbole for the Brandens to suggest that Rand was attempting to “destroy” Branden. Rand may have tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Branden from slandering her. Branden’s subsequent lies soon vindicated this motivation in spades.

The Brandens were dishonest with Rand about nearly everything a person can be dishonest about, largely in order to maintain the good thing they had going at NBI. This dishonesty lasted for years.

The Brandens not only lied to Rand, they lied to their readers about their relationship with her, and their break in 1968—and then they lied about their lies. Ever since then, they have continued to lie in memoirs and biographies about their lies to their readers in 1968—calling Rand’s 1968 statement, not their own, “libelous.” This remarkably all-encompassing dishonesty is manifest even from the biographies themselves—and it is all the more apparent, as we shall continue to see, now that we have Rand’s journal entries from this same period.

When Rand began to find out about the Brandens’ dishonesty, she severed her personal and professional relationship with them. The Brandens would go on and on in their dishonest attack on Rand in the years to follow. After her 1968 statement, Rand’s public silence about the Brandens continued until her death.

One thing the Brandens got right—someone had been exploited. But it was not them.

( categories: )

Personal attack is used as a means of evasion

William Scott Scherk's picture

The Emperor is too busy or too lazy or too something to look up the thread in which he red-buttoned Rick Giles. Here is the thread "No one lives who insults the prophet," and here is the announcement, "The weasel . . . ":

... has been flushed down the loo. I've read enough.

My apologies for giving it the benefit of the doubt for way too long. Its history should have told me all I needed to know. This is a slimy little fuck with a deep streak of evil running through it. A slimy fuck that's no longer on SOLO.


Three questions for Mr. Valliant

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant continues to insist that, for some unstated period of time prior to April 1987, Leonard Peikoff was acknowledging that there had been an affair between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden.

Indeed, Mr. Valliant has trumpeted:

Recall that Campbell was previously forced to retract his claim that Peikoff or Schwartz had ever denied the Affair, as opposed to denying Ms. Branden's credibility in general.

All I actually did was acknowledge that I had no published evidence of Leonard Peikoff saying there was no Affair. (Robert Bidiinotto has reported what various people in Rand-land were saying to him, back when he wrote for The Intellectual Activist. But he cited no published statements—quite possibly because there never were any.)

What's more, for the sake of argument, I was content to go with the breathtaking sweep of claims by Peter Schwartz and Leonard Peikoff that damn near the entire contents of The Passion of Ayn Rand were arbitrary assertions.

As far as I can see, those declarations of arbitrariness pertained to assertions about the existence of the affair. When you indict someone's credibility to the extent that Mr. Schwartz did, and you make a particular reference to claims about what Ayn Rand was supposed to have done in secret... the implication would seem pretty clear.

Mr. Valiant denied that those declarations were meant to include the Affair—without explaining how he might know that they were not.

Since Mr. Valliant puts himself forward as the sole guardian of unsurpassable inside information, who better than he to dispel the mystery on this issue?

So here are the questions:

(1) Have you asked your mentor and sponsor, Leonard Peikoff, whether he ever denied reports of an affair between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden?

(2) Did Dr. Peikoff make any acknowledgement, prior to his Ford Hall Forum speech in April 1987, that there had been such an affair?

(3) If so, to whom did he acknowledge it, and when did he acknowledge it?

To use one of his modest self-descriptions, Mr. Valliant should have no trouble hitting these out of the park.

Robert Campbell

William Scott Scherk,

Elijah's picture

William Scott Scherk, following on from what Joe was saying on Tuesday... would you mind not dragging me into your strongly worded posts against James and Lindsay? 

Elitism, forever!

As I say ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... I cannot get my head around the existence of the Scherks of this world. It's way more than mere "conflict in Randland." It's honesty vs. fakery as a policy in life. Someone's just suggested to me privately that it's Rand vs Machiavelli, that it's this:

This may sound naïve. But - is our life ever to have any reality? Are we ever going to live on the level? Or is life always to be something else, something different from what it should be? A real life, simple and sincere, even naïve, is the only life where all the potential grandeur and beauty of human existence can be found. Are there real reasons for accepting the substitute, that which we have today?

vs. guile, deceit, ploys, strategies, mindgames, manipulations, bad faith as a virtue ... all the things that give the Scherks of this world wet dreams. My correspondent suggests I need to build a wall around myself to protect myself better from a world where "say what you mean and mean what you say" just doesn't get a look-in. I'll pass on that.

The Giles episode was an instance of gross bad faith (by no means the first from him) that anyone can see from the thread, which I can't be bothered looking up.

James says it all here:

In any event, I find that those who focus on personalities in order to avoid the substance of the discussion are never persuasive. Rarely will one's opponent concede error -- but the loser, the one with no substantive answer, will often resort to such distraction in dire straights. In the process, this type only exposes himself -- for all to see.

People can judge for themselves whether Linz has logic behind his passion -- or whether, like for some others, personal attack is used as a means of evasion.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


There's going to be conflict in Randland. Sometimes people attempt to patch things up, sometimes not. I have no idea about the Rick Giles case.

I think there's a place for proprietor run sites and there's a case where everyone owns their own blog like Livejournal. People should locate where they feel comfortable to speak most freely. That was what was at issue in the Linz/TAS Summer Seminar booting.

How open are our forums going to be? I don't and never will speak under censorship conditions anywhere.

TAS was founded on open debate. The Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party is going to speak there. Why not a few intolerant Objectivists?


Mr. Jerk

Chris Cathcart's picture

Sure, the site owner may castigate people when they disagree with him in certain ways, but how does that amount to a "party line" beyond the general site guidelines?

Simple question.


James S. Valliant's picture

No, really? To disagree with Linz, one risks being... "castigated"?!

He might actually call you names? No kidding?

You know, when Linz implied that I was a "lemming," I had an answer. So I gave it.

And, for Linz, it is clear that not all disputes involve this sort of passionate intensity. (Overstating a complaint about overstatement never works.)

In any event, I find that those who focus on personalities in order to avoid the substance of the discussion are never persuasive. Rarely will one's opponent concede error -- but the loser, the one with no substantive answer, will often resort to such distraction in dire straights. In the process, this type only exposes himself -- for all to see.

People can judge for themselves whether Linz has logic behind his passion -- or whether, like for some others, personal attack is used as a means of evasion.

And, I still don't see any "party line," however, or why you call it this.

Nor do I see how Linz's "bad faith" rule has been "arbitrary."

Is Linz to ban racists -- but not those who are dishonest in these very discussions?

And it does not appear that you even heard what Joe said about his absence.

Nor can Linz's comment be fairly said to have "drawn a veil" over anything.

Nor do I yet see why you impute Linz's language to me -- or why the same logic doesn't apply to you.

Nor do I see what this has to do with PARC.

Nor have you answered any of the pending questions.

Since you have not responded, may we take it that you concede the list of "errors" I noted?

"Sleaze, scum, 'axis of evil,' creep, maggots, gross bad faith"

William Scott Scherk's picture

On the issue of a party line at SOLO, and on the subsidiary issue of its presumed openness, and on the glory days of online objectivism . . .

I apologize to Joe Maurone for any untoward implication, especially for leaving the impression that he had been banned. With imperial aplomb the Emperor now dismisses Joe as a Flouncer, and pretends to not understand the reason for the departure (coddling Elijah the unracist).

How like Linz to draw the veil over some things. As for Phil, Giles and Elliot and Cathcart's aherence to the line promulgated by the Emperor, what happens when the party line is crossed? One either becomes unutterable scum, a flouncer, a hsiehkovian lemming, dem-scum, saddamite scum, scum scum scum, or one crosses the imperial arbitrary red line of rage to 'bad faith.'

Praise the party of the Emperor. Praise the oratorios and vocabulations of the Emperor. Applaud the proclamations. demonize the scummy sewer dwelling psychotic treasonous sinks of evil who counter the glorious doctrines.

I don't mean that SOLO is alone in a party line. The SOLO duchy and the RoR duchy and the OL duchy each have their version of the line, of course, but at no place is the red-button as well-thumbed or the non-party folks as excoriated as here . . .

James Heaps-Nelson, I must ask. I called out Emperor Michael Stuart Kelly as asshole (censorious ultimator) for jumping down your throat, one of a half-dozen who took the Emperor to task in the referent thread at OL in which you crossed the OL party line. You certainly don't explicitly rule out a return to active posting there, but to all intents and purposes you lodge here (I note in passing that Lindsay gives you a pass on your valuation of the Barbara Branden's speech on rage). How do you compare, in your mind, the inability to speak your mind at OL, with say, the inability of Rick Giles to speak his mind at SOLO?

Party lines are common in the O-world lists, from loyalty-oaths at HBL to the avowed ARIan guidelines at OO and the Forum.

Here at SOLO, it is what it is: be true to the Founder of the Duchy or be castigated. There is no comparison to the full fustigatory power of Lindsay's scum talk. There is a unique, piquant abandon to all the scumminess and wankery and mobbishness and caterwauling evil Brandeniosity in his rants.

Woe betide the man or woman who notes the threadbare raiment of the Duchess. Ask the 'departed/banned/moderated/invected folk' about the party line. I maintain that arbitrary personal pique informs the buttoneering.


James, thank you for your note about Durban House promotions. It's useful knowing that Durban did not make publication contingent on you or anyone ponying up for the kind of active efforts described by their exec below, the $25,000 plan. Too bad their promotional efforts have been so feeble.

Thank you too for including some cites in the new Mullah thread. No doubt I will continue scumming up the works over there.

With regard to the glory of the O-lists, it is signal to me the common denominator in the splits that commenced with the Rowlands/Perigo divorce which led to the Empire's duchification. The common cause of the diminution and cheapening of debate, its debasement into scummery mummery?


OL Fun

James S. Valliant's picture

Reidy asks on page 17 of the current discussion of PARC at OL:

"If nobody takes this book seriously, why are we all talking about it? 329 posts in 18 days works out to more than 18 a day.”

More recently, Ellen Stuttle actually says (explaining why she thinks Peikoff allowed the use of Rand’s notes in PARC):
"I suspect some getting even with Ayn Rand [by Peikoff] for her not having confided in him about the affair and for having had an affair at all with Nathaniel -- against whom Leonard, I feel sure, must have had his resentments as did the others in the Collective."

Then Phil says:
"Ellen, could you please stop psychologizing?

"In this case, not only against Peikoff, but quite a long list of other people.

"You are not inside the heads of a whole group of people and unable to catalog their secret resentments (unless they told you or you have quite a bit of other evidence besides a free-wheeling - and somewhat non-benevolent - ‘suspicion’.)"

Then Ms. Branden says:
"Phil, you are being extremely unfair. Ellen's statement is simple common sense, not 'psychologizing.' Leonard had every reason to believe that he was Rand's confidant -- and in many respects he was correct. Further, he had heard, long before The Passion of Ayn Rand was published, constant rumors about an affair between Rand and Nathaniel, rumors which he vigorously denounced; and even after Passion was published, he hotly denied there had been an affair. One doesn't have to be inside his head to think that when he learned Rand had not confided in him about a relationship that spanned fourteen years and had been central to her life, and that she had allowed him to defend her against what he believed were appalling accusations, he would feel both hurt and resentful. One has only to have a minimal understanding of human psychology.

"As for the resentment Leonard and other members of the Collective felt against Nathaniel, don't you think it's time you read Passion?

 Then Phil says:
"Barbara, I stand by my view for the following reasons [by the way, what might be psychologizing by someone distant from the scene like Ellen and taking everything at second or third hand, might not be for someone such as yourself, who has vastly more direct knowledge]:

"i) Ellen claims to know that Leornard would feel resentment, not toward Rand, but toward NB. If your argument proves anything it would be resentment against her, wouldn't it?

"ii) Even on that point - resentment toward AR: Someone's romantic relationships - especially one of this kind is *very* private, even from close friends. So, simple reflection and common sense on his part would seem to indicate that it is reasonable that she didn't tell him. And, thus, one would not have to feel resentful. **I** would certainly not feel resentful if the circumstances were exactly the same – so much for it being a universal of human psychology.

"iib) You said: 'she had allowed him to defend her against [the idea of a relationship['. But I don't think she had any choice without revealing the private relationship.

" iii) Ellen goes further than saying L was resentful toward NB, she says it would have to be true of a long list of people. Do all of them have a claim on her revealing her most intimate relationships? Does point #2 not enter into their thinking? Does E know that of all them?

"iv) Worst of all, Ellen claims knowledge not merely about the resentment, but about this: 'I suspect some getting even with Ayn Rand [by Peikoff] for her not having confided in him about the affair and for having had an affair at all with Nathaniel.'

"Getting even? What kind of mind would do that? And how does she know this which goes MUCH FURTHER than mere 'resentment'!!

">don't you think it's time you read Passion?

"Patience, please. Smiling I expect I due course. ( But then I'll have to read everything else - PARC, MYWAR, Facets of AR...... AAARGH!!!)"

Ms. Branden claims a denial of the Affair from Peikoff, and I have asked Campbell to provide the source or citation, but to no avail...

In any event, whatever this may appear to be, it ain't "psychologizing"!

One Important...

James S. Valliant's picture

... aspect of the current postings -- and the follow-up discussions -- is the wonderful way providing the text cuts down on the number of crude mischaracterizations of what PARC says and how it says it.

Readers have it in front of them and can check for themselves.


James S. Valliant's picture

Just great to hear that you're still glowin', you're still crowin', you're still goin' strong.

Thanks Joe!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I've just seen Scherk's full list, as quoted by Chris:

Gagnon, Elliot, Maurone, Gomez, Quintana, Giles,

Which shows just how dishonest Scherk is. Two of those, Giles and Elliot, *were* booted, and deservedly so, for gross bad faith (of the kind that would get Scherk hard and wet). Three others, Gagnon, Gomez and Quintana, are still here and not at all on bad terms with SOLO as far as I know, or with me. Two of them, Gagnon and Quintana, have posted quite recently. In addition, Jason Q Skypes me privately several times a week comparing notes on music.

Joe Maurone, for his part, has just posted, telling Scherk not to use him as a tool.

Never let the facts get in the way of schism-junkyism, eh, Scherk? No wonder you're so at home among maggots. Wotta creep! I really find it impossible to get my head around the existence of sleaze like you, or how you live with yourselves. You, Babs, Michael Kelly, Jim Peron et al ... scum. A true "axis of evil."

Flounced vs. bounced

Jmaurone's picture

  I just want it known for the record, since there seems to be some confusion, that I was not bounced from SOLO, that I left on my own. Linz called it flouncing; I wouldn't, but as Linz noted, he does not know my full reasoning, which went beyond events at SOLO, even if there were related triggers. I'll leave it at that. And since no one else does, either, they might want to refrain from using my leaving as a tool in this argument. Thank you.

Phyllis and Jerk

Chris Cathcart's picture

As I read more of the Jerk's postings, I get to this:

"In any case, do tell the departed/banned/moderated/invected folk about the SOLO openness. I am sure Phil Coates for example is still thrilling at the openness, not to mention Lindsay's former friends and/or associates Gagnon, Elliot, Maurone, Gomez, Quintana, Giles, etcetera . . ."

Phyllis probably is barred from posting here because one of the general guidelines for posting is good faith, and the owner of the site probably decided he had had enough of the bad faith stuff and the fact that it was so tedious and bandwidth-intensive. I seem to remember you getting booted for more or less the same silliness, but my goodness, you managed to make it back here and not be quite so loopy and a little more entertaining. Kinda like how Campbell's fruitcake stuff is all kinds of questionable on the good-faith front but easily worth the entertainment.

William Scott Jerk

Chris Cathcart's picture

Mr. Jerk, SOLO doesn't have a "party line" (beyond some general guidelines) as evidenced by your freely posting here without punishment for the stupid stuff you spout. Meanwhile, there is some stuff -- spelled out even in the general guidelines -- that's party-line over on OL, such as: "no Branden-bashing" (which would, as noted countless times previously, mean that Ayn Rand would not be welcome there were she alive).

I feel I should make a

Elijah's picture

I feel I should make a comment about this thread...

I am an 'interested observer' of what has been written, but please take into account there is an enormous amount to get through! ...therefore, when you chaps write 1000 word posts every few minutes, it rather leads to overload for interested people such as myself.

In other words, please, James, William, Robert, Lindsay et al - give [us] an opportunity to come up for air! 

Elitism, forever!


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I have to laugh at the idea of a party line here. I post at other sites, I do as I please. I don't totally understand the Sciabarra thing yet, but opposed Linz and James V when it happened. Where's the party line?

The only place where I couldn't ,in fact, say what I thought was OL.

My position on Chris S. is complicated. I largely agreed with Jim Lennox's initial negative review of the Russian Radical in the IOS Journal. I thought some of his criticisms of certain ARI practices were on target. If he had an ongoing problem with Diana, I wished he would have been up front with her. Just say it out in the open. Hell, people can still read my "frenzied denunciations" post in her False Objectivism collection.

People will usually find me very tolerant, but I dislike group blacklist tactics whether it comes from ARI, TAS or Nathaniel or Barbara. I am a true open forum advocate, that's why I'm here but also why I am TAS aligned, but now with reservations.


Branden's beads of sweat

Chris Cathcart's picture

One of my favorite lines from the conclusory section of PARC:

"One can almost see the beads of sweat gathering on Branden's forehead over the prospect of the release of Rand's journals." (p. 380)

Laughing out loud

(Of course, I have an alternative hypothesis: That Branden is a psychological fruitcake and got a thrill out of the idea of the journals revealing how much of a shit he was to Rand. "Hah, she fell for my 'sexual freeze' story, lock stock and barrel! Hee!")

Um ....

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I should clear this up, not for Scherk's benefit, since his agenda will not change come what may, but for anyone else who might not have followed all this too closely—Scherk holds Valliant accountable for my language because:

Here at SOLO, Sciabarra is reviled. That's the party line. The Emperor of SOLO refers to Scumbarra. He refers to Barbara Branden as lying bitch. That's the party line. You haven't chastized the Emperor for his language or his ideas with regard to the Brandens.

The fact that James hasn't "chastized" me for my language doesn't mean it should be attributed to him or that he's accountable for it!

And Scherk should get it right. I don't call BB a "lying bitch." I call her a "smearing, lying, low-life bitch." And I mean it! ... for reasons I have laid out often enough, for reasons that are self-evident from Babs's most recent (I think) lie-riddled diatribe against me during the Lynch-Linz Campaign, reasons Scherk routinely looks past since his sole focus is on the fact of epithets, not whether they are justified. But there is no "party line" in the sense of a requirement to agree with me about Babs or be booted. Clearly neither Campbell nor Scherk would be here if there were.

James mentions Gagnon and Maurone. The former hasn't walked; he cannot post as often as before for reasons I'm not at liberty to disclose, but they're not sinister, and we often have friendly private contact. Maurone walked for reasons I still haven't figured out ... but he flounced; he wasn't booted—and he knows he's welcome to return any time. Where "party line" comes into it I just don't know.

As for Sciabarra being "reviled"—again, there's no such "party line," and I would remind Scherk of my latest posting re Chris Sciabarra and ask him if "reviled" really captures it? This was addressed to Chris Cathcart:


You wonder why I'm easier on Chris Sciabarra than on Babs. It might well be that I ought not to be, but ... I got to know him during the golden period of our collaboration much better than Diana did, and "fundamentally immoral" just doesn't fit. He was a superb and conscientious assistant-editor of The Free Radical, helping me out for nothing (and he a celeb and all!). It was such a boon knowing one other person who not only knew his grammar and punctuation, but cared about them. Ditto punctuality. I always knew that he'd beat his deadlines by days if not weeks. His own writing for the magazine, free as it was of "Polish" (which he knew was forbidden in the FreeRad) was plain English at its finest, a thing of beauty. We had a relationship of warm affection and hot banter, notwithstanding that I'd lose my rag with him sometimes over his "Saddamy" or some other pomowanking tendency. Together we battled silly old Regi's homophobia at the time the "homonograph" came out, another fruit of our collaboration.

When we physically met for the first time, in 2003, it was as old friends already. After the obligatory Tour, we sat and listened to Mario, and he cried his eyes out. This was not faked for my benefit, it was true "value-swoon." He subsequently said, in our Desert Island Discs corner on the old SOLOHQ:

"I'd also probably add a greatest hits collection of Mario Lanza -- tracks chosen by Linz, of course -- but the point of being on a desert island is to be safe and sound from surging waters, and I'm afraid that listening to Mario tends to cause a flow of tears that might very well flood the island and endanger all human habitation."

I'm sure I saw the essence of the man, and it was noble, not rotten. However flabbergasted I was to see what he was saying behind my back, two years later, I thought it was an even worse betrayal of himself than of me. I live in hope that he'll get over the Brandens, get over academia, and put his exceptional mind to admirable use again. I want to see Sciabarra prevail over "Scumbarra." Clearly unlikely while he fraternises with the ilk of Campbell, I suppose, but as I say ... I live in hope. I see no comparable hope for Babs. She cannot admit a mistake, let alone wrongdoing.

Get that—the poster-girl for the anti-perfection brigade is perfect!

Scherk's Errors

James S. Valliant's picture

You have been doing a bit more than "participating" in these discussions -- and a bit less. No, you haven't discussed the substance of PARC, but you have issued strong opinions about how the books that you've not yet read will be treated by future historians, no less. So, yeah, you've been "shooting your mouth off," by my reckoning.

Also, you had posted below:

"As to your question about nice people who support PARC and who may disdain TAS, or ARI-tormentors who sidle to the Perigo/Valliant axis, recall I posited a 'normal reader' -- 'A normal reader unversed in Objectivish obsessions will reach for the biography and memoir, and use normal means of discounting bias.' By discounting bias, I mean the bias one would expect from the two expelled Objectivists."

Thus, what was one to conclude but that you regard these "nice people" as "abnormal" in some way -- that is, if you were attempting to answer the question in any way?

Forgive me for assuming that your "answer" was in some way a response to the "question" you claimed to be answering. So, then, let me ask again: what do you think of the folks who do not share your opinion of PARC -- those for whom it made a difference?

And what on earth do you mean by a "party line" at SOLO? There is so much that is disagreed about here, from voting for McCain to the Iraq war to the variations between Cathcart's, Linz's, my own, and now, say, Mr Heaps-Nelson's view on Sciabarra, to...

Have you "chastised" Campbell for his many defamations, errors and poor scholarship, etc. May I thus impute those to you?

And, no, I have never implied that Sciabarra's critique of PARC was anything less than honorable. I have explicitly said otherwise. Where do you get that nonsense?

Now, stop. This is the sort of evidence, the sort of error on your own part, which should have you questioning your own hypothesis that I treat PARC's critics as a collective. I do not. In fact, as readers of this thread have had a taste, the variations are somewhat astonishing!

No, it is your own "group think" that is exposed here, not mine.

You pull rubbish of this sort from thin air, and then complain about missing citations -- okay, find me a single misquotation in the posted material, and, in the words of Joan Rivers, we'll talk.

What I wrote is not "gibberish" but plain English, sir. The citations are even in your possession -- look them up yourself, that is, if your need is sincere -- or ask me about any.

This is called plain talk.

As usual, it seems that you don't like the responsibility of considering specifics.

What kind of game are trying to play?

Also, why do you assume I paid my publisher anything? I did not -- not a cent. None of the authors at Durban I know paid a cent, either. I have, however, heard of other PR deals like the ones you mention at other publishing houses, controversial though they may be. In my case, it never even came up at all, so... Those Left-of-Center literary types of a distinctly non-Objectivist sort at Durban really believed in PARC.

And, yes, SOLO is obviously by far the most open of the forums -- both in terms of the "rules" -- and in terms of its ideological reach. From Riggenbach to George Smith to Parille to Campbell to ARIians to defenders of Sciabarra to both TAS official statements and ARI press releases -- this site alone can boast the presence of them all.

While I do miss Joe M. and Gagnon, etc., for example, Campbell and Parille still manage to make it over here, so the "welcome mat" doesn't appear to have frightened off PARC's critics, at least. And some like Gagnon, will come back on occasion to chat.

Again, it is your own collective judgments which appear to be dubious.

And the location doesn't really matter: you can expose a flat error in Neil's attempted critique, for example, such as his analysis of the "here and now" stuff, but he will simply ignore you. I gave up on his site for that reason, as I made clear over there, too.

Your accusations will have to be specific and have the evidence to back them if they are to be taken seriously -- and not reflect badly on the accuser.

Why no notes in online PARC chapters . . .

William Scott Scherk's picture

JV: Mr. Scherk, you say that you've been shooting off your mouth without having read those books already?

I haven't yet read the Branden memoir or biography. I have been participating in this thread, in which we discuss PARC.

JV: Also, I don't use words like "sewer," or "scum-barra," etc., so I don't see why you use them in your dialogue with me. May I impute MSK's and Campbell's ideas and language to you because you post at OL?

Here at SOLO, Sciabarra is reviled. That's the party line. The Emperor of SOLO refers to Scumbarra. He refers to Barbara Branden as lying bitch. That's the party line. You haven't chastized the Emperor for his language or his ideas with regard to the Brandens. I am curious how your mind works. As I noted below, I understand that you feel you haven't met any honourable critiques of your book. I also understand that critiques are generally to be laid at the feet of "ugly trolls . . . or worse, Ellen Stuttle." In other words, it is your habit to view your critics as a collective, which fits in nicely with the party line of "O-lying" and "sewer dwellers" and so on. I will admit that you no longer refer to Dr Campbell as being insane or psychotic, leaving that to lesser members of your clade.

JV: Okay, so everyone who likes PARC is "abnormal"? That wasn't even slightly helpful. "Abnormal," in what way, oh, non-wielder-of-trash-talk?

Um, huh?

Whose words are indicated by the quoted "abnormal"? This is a defect of citation that I notice recurs in your book and in your various postings. Of course, "abnormal" is your choice. My actual phrase was cited in the post you may or may not be referring to. My opinion is that "normal readers unversed in Objectivish obsessions" who want to read about Ayn Rand the woman, will read both PAR and MYWAR first with a normal reader's understanding of the bias that is implicit in a memoir and biography penned by intimates. The context of course is that the Brandens were acquainted with Rand personally, unlike you. Since you repeatly point out that you did not write a biography, I am simply pointing out the obvious: readers who are not objectivists will reach for PAR and MYWAR before reaching for PARC.

JV: And, no, you have a copy of the book, I've seen the photo, so the citations should prove no problem for you. Should I hear a specific complaint about something, I will be happy to add the cite right into the posted text, as I have done with some of them already.

This is gibberish. At the top of this page is the note explaining that the text of the chapter is edited "with only a few modifications for publication here at Solo. Unfortunately, this includes the removal of the footnotes." Why you removed the notes is unknown, but it is indeed sloppy and unfortunate. It strips the context from many passages. For example, this passage:

Branden asserts at one point that the entire situation had put him into a

Branden also suggests that the very success of NBI and The Objectivist had
contributed to an “emotional disorientation.”

“Increasingly,” Branden tells us, “I saw to what extent my personality had
become distorted through [my] association [with Rand].” And later he says,
“Today I am convinced there are errors in [Rand’s] vision, elements that
need to be changed, eliminated, modified, added or amplified...”

Four quotes, zero cites. I only mean to point out to you, James, that removing the quotes is a disservice to your readers here.

JV: And, did you miss the positive Kirkus review and the kind words from Midwest Book Review? I'm also sorry that you missed the book signings at some Barnes & Nobles. ("Vanity press" books don't get into the stores, btw, nor are such publishers ever hailed as "best new imprint" in the trade mags.)

Mmmm**. Durban House is at best a 'subsidy house' (but see Writer Beware for a discussion) -- in that authors are required in some instances to front money for promotion. Of course you are in your rights to conceal any and all aspects of your contract with Durban -- but if you had to give money to Durban for promotion, you will understand that this is the norm for no publisher except a vanity house.

As for "best new imprint," given no reference I cannot comment. I do note the non-fabulous promotion Durban House has given your book by printing the entire content of their featured reviews, below.

JV: Yes, some other websites have done a good job, but SOLO is not only the most open forum but the place where you might find both PARC's critics and its supporters.

There's the rub, James. SOLO as 'the most open forum' is bumf. Consider the welcome given to 'critics' by the host (ranging from, oh, Scumbarra to sewer-dwellers, filth, lying bitches, etc). "Hi, you lying bitch, welcome!" "Hey, Ed Hudgins, you Brandenian scumsucker, come on over, buddy!"

In any case, do tell the departed/banned/moderated/invected folk about the SOLO openness. I am sure Phil Coates for example is still thrilling at the openness, not to mention Lindsay's former friends and/or associates Gagnon, Elliot, Maurone, Gomez, Quintana, Giles, etcetera . . .

JV: Some of the other sites you mention -- though positive to PARC and even having fine discussions of its issues -- do not present the chance for real engagement with its opponents that this topic deserves.

James, this is so feeble. My point was that you have spent over two years tirelessly defending your book against all comers, but demand that critics reiterate here any criticism, as if this place itself was the best forum. I am struck by your less than gracious withdrawal from discussion at places like Objectiblog.


** (redacted to add paragraphs missing in the original and to remove the writer's name. The speaker is John Lewis, mucky muck at Durban House, responding to an online critique)

After a short discussion, I asked [ . . . ] if he could do some of the usual things authors are expected to do, such as promoting his book through book-signing tours to key markets, talks to book clubs, libraries and civic organizations, attend book festivals, and writers’ conferences. He said because of his age he was unable to travel very far from Conroe, TX, the town where he lives.

I told him for his book to succeed it was essential for him to be able to promote it, and that Durban House would have to pass. He asked if there were any alternative ways he could get his book published, given the fact he was unable to provide physical promotional support. I told him since Durban House planned several books with western themes, we might be able to do a cooperative effort, or joint venture, giving him a 50% stake in his book, if it was accepted for publication by our editor-in-chief, Robert Middlemiss. I reemphasized that before we could move forward our editor-in-chief had to first agree his book would be a good match for Durban House.

Also, I explained if we moved forward this would be a comprehensive marketing strategy aimed at building a platform to introduce him to the book world in lieu of his ability to help market his book. A strategy that included: developing an author webpage; helping arrange television and radio talk show appearances, mailing hundreds of advance reading copies to primary and secondary reviewers, independent book stores, libraries, and foreign publishers; entering his title in appropriate contests; trade advertising; full color mailings twice a year to bookstores and libraries in the US; promoting his books yearly at the Book Expo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and London Book Fair, the largest book shows in the world.

I estimated such a campaign would cost around $25,000.00. We discussed how his joint venture contribution would be returned if the project got launched. Fifty percent of the wholesale cost (less reprint costs) would be paid back [ . . . ] on each of his books that were sold.

[ . . . ]

After three and a half years of selling books, Durban House has achieved some remarkable results. Among them are: international distribution; named by Booklist as one of the top four new mystery imprints; a Ben Franklin book of the year award, seven titles selected as finalists for book of the year awards, and numerous Booksense76 recommendations. Durban House writers have appeared on national and regional cable news programs, multiple regional and national radio and television shows related to books and travel. The company has had a dozen titles licensed for foreign rights. This kind of success could not have happened without total dedication from the Durban House staff, writers, and promotional people to achieve excellence. Hardly the track record of a vanity press.

It has never been a Durban House policy to accept books based on an author’s ability to provide promotional consideration. Every title considered for publication is carefully vetted for originality and consumer appeal. Once a title is accepted it goes through a comprehensive editing process, insuring the highest quality of writing before going to the printer



"For the serious students and supporters of Ayn Rand, and particularly those who try hard to live by her philosophy of Objectivism, this is a vital work. It is nothing short of a reference tool to be studied, perhaps a Bible... and most certainly a loadstone of inspiration and guidance to them as they look at their lives and try to live them well." -Robert W. Middlemiss, Editor-in-Chief, Durban House Books

"This is a brave book. And for the student of Objectivism, it offers an important and oft-overlooked voice. James Valliant is the first scholar to put the Brandens in their place..." -Jonathon Hoenig, Managing Member, Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC, and regular on Fox News Channel's "Cashin' In"

"It's Judgment Day for the Brandens." -Casey Fahy, author of The Bot Story

In the "heroic-capitalist" novelist's centenary year, prosecuting attorney Valliant skillfully cross-examines two previous biographers' accounts of her tumultuous love affair with a younger man... bringing to bear a persuasively close reading of internal contradictions and implausibilites in the Brandens' books and subsequent statements. The author also makes use of previously unpublished personal journals kept by Rand... deserves a place on the lengthening shelf of books about the influential Rand's accomplishments and character. Kirkus Reviews

This book is going to be the Objectivist sensation of the year. Autonomist

[from Durban House]


Bottom line with the stealth tactics described above: you're paying to be published. Don't fall for deceptive terminology, and don't be fooled by elaborate rationales. A publisher that requires you to lay out your own cash for ANYTHING, at ANY point in the publication process, is a vanity publisher. Period.

[from Writer Beware]

Campbell's Many Errors

James S. Valliant's picture

Campbell's bizarre claim that I haven't made the appropriate retraction ignores the fact that the text in the relevant chapter posted here at SOLO already has been changed -- and his refusal to understand me does not make what I said about it unclear.

The letter which might have corroborated that a meeting took place, a letter Ms. Branden mentioned, is not among Rand's letters at the Archive.

Rand preserved her letters, I saw them, and I cited a couple in PARC which had never been mentioned anywhere before.

It's absence made me dubious of such a meeting, though nothing else in PARC was reliant on this idea in any way.

A witness who knows that such a letter existed has now been reported to exist, although there was never any reason to suppose that such a witness could remember or would have seen this letter, much less reason to have asked about the possibility of such a witness to the letter.

However, on this basis, as readers of these threads know, I thanked Neil and changed the text. I said that, unlike the other changes, this was a true retraction. I stated, clearly and explicitly, that, in my opinion, I now believe such a meeting took place. I stated quite explicitly how my thinking was formed in the first place and why it had changed.

No dancing -- no dodging -- no evasion.

Rather, Campbell's solid "scholarship" evades and ignores (or just forgets?) what was clearly posted earlier. This does not stop him from making irresponsible accusations, however.

Now if he continues to deny that I made a clear retraction of this, when I did, what shall we think, Mr. Scherk? Wilfull dishonesty or psychosis?

Recall that Campbell was previously forced to retract his claim that Peikoff or Schwartz had ever denied the Affair, as opposed to denying Ms. Branden's credibility in general.

Now, once more, he repeats this allegation, knowing it to be false.

There seems to be no end to his fictions and evasions: PARC did not call Patrecia a "non-entity" -- it merely observes that this was how Branden presented her to Rand; PARC claims no certainty on the different theories and evidence it considers about O'Connor; Mr. Branden's own creepy admissions to getting "turned on" during violent quarrles and the rest of PARC's actual basis for it's "riff" on Branden must, of course, ever be evaded, etc.

Branden's wild accusations against Peikoff when he published Rand's literary and philosophical notes was one big indicator of his dread at the prospect of these notes being published. Another was his weird evaluation, in his memoir, of notes he simultaneously admits never having seen. "I don't know what's in 'em, but it's all a bunch of lies," sums it up fairly.

Good reason to think he feared their release, indeed.

And, of course, I have been perfectly consistent in my requirement that assertions of the Brandens be corroborated. "Hashed out"? Yes, I have thoroughly rebutted this bogus charge and there has been no reply to my rebuttal. Simply ignoring this rebuttal gives Campbell no warrant to repeat the charge, of course.

Then, again, when has Campbell ever provided a straight answer to my replies?

Such a heavy weight of errors as I have just observed will, of course, also be ignored by Campbell, but only a very sorry scholar can add up this many errors in an attack on another's "scholarship" and not even notice.

For example, he cannot actually demonstrate that I did not make a clear retraction, but this will have no impact on his making the accusation. No, he must go on believing it somehow...

If this mass of fiction and fantasy truly reflects his inner state -- it's called "denial."

Historical accuracy, again

Robert Campbell's picture

James H-N,

I'll respond to your statements as best I can. They look to me to be all over the place, however—which means I won't be making a habit of replying to this kind of material.

In the case you mention, James has already acknowledged his error.

Well, actually, Mr. Valliant hasn't acknowledged his error, because he doesn't seem to be able to decide what it was. His latest "response" just moves on to Story #7, or whatever the hell it is now.

He won't come out and admit that:

(a) There was a meeting between Ayn Rand and Barbara Branden in 1981
(b) He denied in print that such a meeting ever took place
(c) Prior to issuing his printed denial and his subsequent public dismissal, he didn't bother to ask the Archives whether there was any evidence of such a meeting (didn't ask his mentor and sponsor, either)

You've mentioned the doctrine of arbitrary assertion, which I disagree with Peikoff and James V on.

I didn't know that you did disagree with them on the doctrine. But, OK.

Note that the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion gives you no usable guidance on how to handle an assertion you suspect is arbitrary.

Mr. Valliant could cite the doctrine to excuse his failure to look into the story of the 1981 meeting.

But, then, Dr. Peikoff and Mr. Schwartz could (and did) cite the self-same doctrine to excuse their disinclination to look into anything in Barbara Branden's book that they were disinclined to believe. Up to and including her claim that Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden had had an affair.

Where does that leave us with the sheer mass of ugly speculation we encounter in the Branden biographies?

Do you effectively counter what you regard as a "sheer mass of ugly speculation" by throwing up a sheer mass of your own?

You know, as in Mr. Valliant's claims to know how cool Frank O'Connor was about his wife having an affair; or his willingness to present Patrecia Scott as a nonentity or a worthless person (because a jealous and insulted Ayn Rand so regarded her); or his lovely riff about Nathaniel Branden having the "soul of a rapist"?

Nathaniel was practically daring Peikoff to release the diary entries. Now we see what Rand was thinking at the time.

Why do you think that? You've made a number of different claims about NB's views vis-a-vis the diaries, without citing any sources.

As an aside, we could also apply some assiduous literature search criteria to Dr. Branden's own work.

You have to know that there are several issues here, not just one big package deal.

You've complained in the past that ARI doesn't cite him.

Authors affiliated with the Leonard Peikoff Institute have repeatedly refused to cite pre-1968 articles in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. These, as per Ayn Rand's own statement (quoted right in Mr. Valliant's chapter up-thread), are supposed to be canonical Objectivist publications! Most articles in those periodicals, including Rand's own, were light on scholarly apparatus.

If you are talking about post-1968 publications, I've yet to hear any ARIan complain about the lack of scholarly apparatus in these books and articles as a reason for not citing them. ARIans cite Rand all the time; they cite Leonard Peikoff (OPAR is not exactly brimming with citations, even of Rand). Etc. etc.

What about cites from Dr. Branden for psychological contemporaries in fields like transactional analysis (i.e. Eric Berne)and others?

I agree that there should have been more acknowledgment of some of Dr. Branden's colleagues in some of his books. Even, I should think, of his bête noire, Albert Ellis.

But... if Mr. Valliant suddenly now complains about the shortage of scholarly apparatus in Natheniel Branden's popular books on psychology, I'm confident that that will be a first.

Your post, by the way, fails to acknowledge that Mr. Valliant's book sports a bunch of footnotes. As well as an explicit statement that he will not take as credible any statement by the persons he is criticizing, unless it is corroborated by sources pleasing to himself. (As usual with Mr. Valliant, he doesn't consistently obey his own stricture... but that's been hashed over elsewhere.)

PARC gives the surface impression of scholarship.

Delivering the substance is another matter.

Robert Campbell

Realized Fears

James S. Valliant's picture

All of her anxiety about "distortion" seems to have involved the presentation of herself and Mr. Branden.

Campbell Just Ignores It

James S. Valliant's picture

If Campbell "respected the truth" himself, would he have omitted mention of the actual basis for PARC's skepticism about the meeting, i.e., the absence of the letter? (Recall that the new evidence is still not a witness to the meeting, but only to the existence of a letter which might have partially corroborated that such a meeting took place.)

That's a little fancy foot work.

If he respected the truth, would Campbell simply assume what the Archivist had and when he had it -- or what Peikoff knew or when he knew it -- or what was available to whom or when -- before launching into a thunderous and over-the-top attack on someone else's "scholarship"?

By implication, such things are irrelevant to him -- he knows the evil of his foes without the need for fact. Any explication of the facts is only "dodging and weaving."

Never mind the rank "dodging" he does right here -- and that the pile of unanswered questions and ignored replies grows ever bigger and bigger.

If he respected the truth, would he ignore the previous responses to his allegations on this very thread?

Despite such conduct, if Campbell would like to point out just what was evasive about any of these perfectly consistent replies of mine which he quotes, I would be happy to respond.

Movies from biographies . . .

William Scott Scherk's picture

James Heaps-Nelson asks "Who else has made a fictional movie out of a biography they wrote?"

This question implies that the PAR movie was fiction. It also implies that Barbara Branden made the movie. I don't know if you mean she wrote the script (she didn't)** or that she produced it (she didn't) or was involved in some other capacity (script-consultant, honorary whatever) that made it her movie.

-- an OL contributor reading this thread asked me to pass on some information and questions to you, James:

Would you please inform James Heaps-Nelson that Barbara did not write the script of the movie of Passion?

Jeez, does he have no idea how movies are made, and what's involved in film rights, and how little control the author of a book has over what's done with it in a film? [link]


Here is Barbara Branden as quoted from a Full Context interview in 1998:

Q: Were you afraid at first? Hollywood does such hatchet jobs….

Barbara: I wasn't afraid, I was terrified! It was impossible for me to have any sort of control over the final product. Unless your name is James Michener or an equivalent, you cannot possibly expect to have a say in what's done with your book. And usually, the writer of the original material is considered to be the least important person involved in the project, and is rarely even consulted. I know so many writers who have been miserably disappointed because of the — as you say — hatchet job that was done on their work. So you sell it, hold your breath, and wish desperately that you could spend the next year on the moon until the movie is made, shown, and forgotten.

Q: Were you afraid that they would do a hatchet job on it and all Objectivists would point their fingers at you and say "You ruined Ayn Rand and her movement forever!"

Barbara: No, it didn't stand that way in my mind. It wasn't an issue of what other people would think of the film, but of what I would think. Besides, it would take more than a bad film to ruin Ayn and her movement. My feeling was much more personal, and much more selfish: I didn't want my work to be distorted. But Ayn once told me something that I clutched as if it were a security blanket. She said that when she sold The Fountainhead to Warner Brothers, she was extremely worried about its fate, because Warner Brothers had the legal right to make any sort of movie they wanted to. She said that what kept her sane was the knowledge that the book existed, and that no one could alter or affect it. No film studio could do anything to the book. I learned that from her, and it kept me sane…most of the time.


** The screenplay is credited to Howard Korder and Mary Gallagher


James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Scherk, you say that you've been shooting off your mouth without having read those books already?


Also, I don't use words like "sewer," or "scum-barra," etc., so I don't see why you use them in your dialogue with me. May I impute MSK's and Campbell's ideas and language to you because you post at OL?

Okay, so everyone who likes PARC is "abnormal"? That wasn't even slightly helpful. "Abnormal," in what way, oh, non-wielder-of-trash-talk?

And, no, you have a copy of the book, I've seen the photo, so the citations should prove no problem for you. Should I hear a specific complaint about something, I will be happy to add the cite right into the posted text, as I have done with some of them already.

See, all you need do is to ask a substantive question in a post, or even just make a request for a specific citation, and I will be happy to provide the same.

And, did you miss the positive Kirkus review and the kind words from Midwest Book Review? I'm also sorry that you missed the book signings at some Barnes & Nobles. ("Vanity press" books don't get into the stores, btw, nor are such publishers ever hailed as "best new imprint" in the trade mags.)

Yes, some other websites have done a good job, but SOLO is not only the most open forum but the place where you might find both PARC's critics and its supporters. Some of the other sites you mention -- though positive to PARC and even having fine discussions of its issues -- do not present the chance for real engagement with its opponents that this topic deserves. OL simply will not permit the needed discussion to happen.


James S. Valliant's picture

That quotation is a real gem! Ms. Branden is struck by the injustice of the PAR film to Branden and to herself -- but depicting O'Connor being discovered passed-out drunk in a telephone booth in the 1950s presented no problem for her whatever!

That says it all.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I've been the first one to criticize ARI on issues of scholarship and citation and believe that was something Chris Sciabarra had exactly right. In the case you mention, James has already acknowledged his error.

You've mentioned the doctrine of arbitrary assertion, which I disagree with Peikoff and James V on.

Where does that leave us with the sheer mass of ugly speculation we encounter in the Branden biographies? Nathaniel was practically daring Peikoff to release the diary entries. Now we see what Rand was thinking at the time.

You're beginning to remind me of Marxist scholars who think they can get closer to the truth by burying themselves in the footnotes. Details are important, but often content, context and motivation are more important.

As an aside, we could also apply some assiduous literature search criteria to Dr. Branden's own work. You've complained in the past that ARI doesn't cite him. What about cites from Dr. Branden for psychological contemporaries in fields like transactional analysis (i.e. Eric Berne)and others?

I agree with you that ARI should get better about citation and we should be vigilant about that. Shouldn't we also be vigilant about the central claims someone makes regardless of the footnotes? Ayn Rand certainly lacked for footnotes and she certainly had worthwhile things to say.


Mr. Valliant's commitment to historical accuracy

Robert Campbell's picture

James H-N,

You say

However, James V and I agree on the importance of historical accuracy when it comes to Ayn Rand.

Are you sure about that?

Here are six different stories that Jim Valliant has told about Barbara Branden's 1981 meeting with Ayn Rand.

Story #1. Ayn Rand never met Barbara Branden again, after September 1968. Mr. Valliant's book, as published in February 2005, page 94. No citation was provided, nor was there any reference to consulting the Ayn Rand Archives.

Story #2. “He [Leonard Peikoff] read it all, he said, and told me that I would be 'amazed' at how accurately I 'got things,' if only I could read Rand's notes on Mr. Branden. He offered them to me, telling me to use as much of it as I liked. I was later given full access and permission to use any of the materials at the Ayn Rand Archive. No strings attached.” Rebirth of Reason, September 18, 2005.

Story #3. “No. There is no corroboration in any of Ayn Rand's notes or in any of the evidence from the Ayn Rand Archives that there was such a meeting as Barbara Branden describes later in their lives. That doesn't mean it was the case. It doesn't mean it wasn't the case.” Public appearance, Borders Bookstore, Orange, California, July 2006.

Story #4. “No one told me that there was no meeting — and there is no reason to suppose that anyone did.” Reply to Neil Parille, right here on SOLOPassion, March 2008.

Story #5. “Under the rules of the Archive, rules common for such collections, material is unavailable for use if it has already been assigned to some project such as the new ARI book which will contain this information. Thus, if the material even existed when I was using the Archive, it was not available for me to use — and not 'part of the Archive' accessible at the time. And, obviously, this is the unstated context of the prior statement — i.e, "the Archive" which is accessible to scholars.” SOLO Passion, May 20, 2008

Story #6. “[T]he Archivist himself read PARC and didn't notice this, but he was the very person responsible for providing this information to Parille …” SOLOPassion, May 30, 2008. (This last remark apparently refers to Jeff Britting. Mr. Valliant has not said when Mr. Britting read the book. Nor he has told us what Mr. Britting thought of the book, after he read it.)

Does a sincere scholar who puts a high value on historical accuracy do so little fact checking?

Or resort to so much dodging and weaving when it turns out that he hasn't done it?

Robert Campbell

Artistic Sensibilities

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

On reading BB's comments, it's likely that this movie was an attempt at expressing her creative sensibilities, but why use Ayn Rand for that? Why not tell or write another story?


Passion of Ayn Rand Movie

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Thanks for posting that. I hadn't seen it before. I still don't get it. Who else has made a fictional movie out of a biography they wrote? Of course I haven't used the words you use in your title.

Ask the principals at TAS if they endorse the movie...


BB (the evil lying bitch) on PAR (the movie)

William Scott Scherk's picture

JH-N asked about the Showtime movie Passion of Ayn Rand, if BB had commented on its truth or falsities. I don't know what all she may have added to the comment below, appended to her on-set appraisal of the filming in Toronto.

An Additional Note from Barbara Branden

April 15, 2000

My letter to John Hospers was written just after I had watched the filming of The Passion of Ayn Rand and before I saw the final, edited version. In certain ways, I was disappointed with what was done in the editing, in which I had no input.

The presentation of Nathaniel Branden was extremely unjust to him. Scenes had been shot that showed him in a more favorable light, but they ended up on the cutting room floor. What needed to be shown, and was not, was Nathaniel's brilliance, his dynamism, and his unwavering dedication to Objectivism. Had they been shown, they would radically have altered the portrait of him, and also would have made intelligible Ayn Rand's love for him. It is my understanding that the director felt that the film, as a dramatic story, needed a villain; and he elected Nathaniel. Further, Nathaniel was given an invented romance, with "Caroline," that bore no significant relationship to his actual romance with Patrecia Wynand (later Patrecia Branden) that precipitated his break with Ayn Rand.

And I will say, in my own defense, that I never was the "wimp" that I was portrayed as being. I was significantly more aggressive and forthright.

I hasten to say that the above was not the fault of Eric Stoltz or Julie Delpy, but predominantly the fault of the editing.

Nor did I like the fact that there were three sex scenes, when only one was required. The set was closed when they were filmed, so I did not see any part of them until the editing had been done. The scene between Helen-Ayn and Nathaniel-Eric was, I thought, both brilliant and powerful. Interestingly, it was included because Helen insisted on it, and she choreographed it; she rightly believed it was necessary to show dramatically that Ayn was not only an intellectual giant, but a woman of great sexual passion. At least one of the two scenes between Nathaniel-Erik and Caroline-Sybil was pointless and, much worse, they both were "cookie-cutter" sex scenes; that is, we have seen their equivalent dozens of times in every movie that has a sex scene.

I would like to have seen more of Ayn Rand's ideas presented in the film. Again, many of them vanished in the editing. However, I'm happy to say that enough was presented to intrigue people who had not read her books as well as many who had read them. I have been told by more than a hundred of the former, who saw the film at Sundance or other film festivals, or on television, or on video cassette, that they were fascinated by the ideas and intended reading Ayn Rand's books and my biography. To reach such people was the major reason that I had sold the rights to my book. The feedback I have received on the film has been overwhelmingly positive, (although there are some Objectivists who, predictably, seem ready to lynch me).

I want to tell visitors to this site about an event that will make clear why I so much admire Helen Mirren, not only as an actress but as a human being. At the Sundance Film Festival, where the movie was shown several times at different venues (and was sold out each time) the cast and one of the line producers and I went to the stage to answer questions at the end of each presentation. Helen Mirren was asked a question that seemed to imply that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite. Helen replied (I may not be quoting her exact words, but I am stating her exact meaning): "Oh no, never! She was never a hypocrite! Let me tell you my own view of Ayn Rand.

"Before the shooting of the film began, I read Barbara's book more than once, I read parts of Rand's Journals, and I watched every television interview with her that I could find. I am a socialist, so I do not agree with her politically. As for the rest of her philosophy, I am not sufficiently familiar with it to have an opinion. But as I read and watched and came to know her, I realized that I was encountering a woman of immense, overwhelming intelligence, a woman of astonishing charisma, a woman with a touching, childlike vulnerability. In the end, I came to love Ayn Rand."

When I said goodbye to Peter Fonda, I told him, tearfully, "Thank you for bringing Frank back to me for a while." And that is what he had done. Watching his performance during the filming and in the final version, I did not feel I was watching an actor but that I was watching Frank O'Connor, whom I had deeply loved. And as a man, Peter is like Frank in many ways: he has the same gentleness and kindness and the same touch of aristocracy, even the same body language.

One day on the set, the crew was racing around setting up the next scene that was to be filmed; there was a lot of noise and dragging about of props and general bustle. In the middle of the set, on a couch, Peter lay peacefully asleep, his body seemingly boneless. Then, when the director was ready, he leapt to his feet to give as remarkable a performance as I ever have seen. (Again, this was cut in the editing, and I cannot imagine why.)

In the scene between Frank and Ayn that followed, his assignment was to say one word, and to say it at two different times in the scene. The word was: "Well. . .." All of us watching him were hypnotized when he spoke. We would not have believed that paragraphs, indeed, a man's whole life and the suffering that had punctuated it, could be captured in the word: "Well. .."

I need not add how delighted I am that both Helen Mirren and Peter Fonda were nominated for almost every award possible, and won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award, respectively, for their performances.


WSS,I'd like to hear your

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I'd like to hear your comments after reading the biographies. I find myself asking: what was the purpose of the postmortem outing of Rand? Don't forget the Passion of Ayn Rand movie which is a complete fiction.

In her tender love for AR, Barbara had Rand up in lights on late night Showtime depicting something completely unreal. Has she issued a statement about what she thinks is true or false about that movie? In any case, why was it made? (Hint: the title of this thread pretty much sums it up.)


The importance of reiteration

William Scott Scherk's picture

The discussion which followed PARC was [ . . . ] to initiate dialogue and engagement on the topic of PAR and MYWAR/JD -- the very sort of engagement with substance from which you yourself refrain.

Okay, and you have been disappointed at the quality of engagement you have recieved, whether by He-Whore Scumbarra, or by the psychotic Robert Campbell or the odious and uninformed Neil Parile or the hideously stupid and biased and worthless others you have encountered. I get that you wish you could say that you have had worthy critics and interesting critiques. It's no doubt been a long couple of years for you, pounding the keyboard and holding high the standard.

Is this the best, foremost or only place to gather together in dialogue and engagement? Did the earlier excursions -- at Autonomist (overwhelmingly positive), SoloHQ (mixed), The Forum (positive), ObjectivismOnline (positive) -- do their bit to give you substantive engagement?

Do you view and cogitate critiques of PARC that emanate from the sewers -- or must those odiosities come here to be given your attention? By the sewers I mean Objectiblog, ARCHN, etc.

I also always wonder why you weren't able to take more ordinary steps to have your book reviewed. It is too bad that you have backed away from any and all forums where your critics are now habitually found, and have rarely (as far as I know) enjoined discussion in other places besides SoloHQ/RoR & SOLO & the Autonomist.

Be that as it may, what now, James? Let these threads stand as testimony to the fearsome mendacity and cowardice of PARC's critics? Or maybe time to publish another chapter here?

If the second is about to happen, can I ask that you don't excise the notes from your online reproduction? They are an integral part of PARC and allow critics and normal nice people to refer back to quoted passages and other important references. Without the references, both sewer dwellers and nice folk are unable to fully engage with the argument's supporting details.

As to your question about nice people who support PARC and who may disdain TAS, or ARI-tormentors who sidle to the Perigo/Valliant axis, recall I posited a 'normal reader' -- "A normal reader unversed in Objectivish obsessions will reach for the biography and memoir, and use normal means of discounting bias." By discounting bias, I mean the bias one would expect from the two expelled Objectivists.


James Heaps-Nelson asks of me: What of the central questions raised by James V? The missing context, the uncharitable interpretations. Do you really think this is more a province of PARC than of PAR or Judgment Day?

I don't understand the question, James. Give me an example of missing context and arguable interpretations. If you mean, does PARC have missing context and uncharitable interpretations, in my opinion, sure.

Also, what of NB's uncharitable assessment of others besides Ayn Rand in Judgment Day? His musings about Allan Blumenthal and others?

Let me read my just-arrived copies of MYWAR and PAR.


James V, I bet it's come as

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

I bet it's come as some news to you that the "cultists" march in lockstep. Bill Perry too, I suppose.

Ayn Rand deserved to have her side heard. Putting aside all her accomplishments, that would still be a matter of fairness. Where's the tolerance? I guess it doesn't apply in certain quarters to Ayn Rand.



James S. Valliant's picture

... Linz, surely this provides another chance for him to show us otherwise, if nothing else.

The inability to respond speaks for itself.

Central Questions

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


What of the central questions raised by James V? The missing context, the uncharitable interpretations. Do you really think this is more a province of PARC than of PAR or Judgment Day? Also, what of NB's uncharitable assessment of others besides Ayn Rand in Judgment Day? His musings about Allan Blumenthal and others?

I've asked the central questions to have them downplayed or pooh-poohed.

I do not agree with ARI on many issues and I expect that disagreement to continue. However, James V and I agree on the importance of historical accuracy when it comes to Ayn Rand.


James ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have the impression you entertained some hope that Mr. Scherk would react to PARC other than the way he has. If you did, dear boy, you were delusional, as I hope you now realise. Eye

Some will always have their spiritual home is that O-Lying swamp run by a pauper's Jerry Springer. With such creatures, PARC will never "resonate," as they say.


James S. Valliant's picture

The discussion which followed PARC was part of its purpose -- as I said from the start -- i.e., to initiate dialogue and engagement on the topic of PAR and MYWAR/JD -- the very sort of engagement with substance from which you yourself refrain.

The discussions at SOLO, at least, have been extremely productive in every way.

Unfortunately, the original SOLOHQ, where Ms. Branden used to "hold court," has been shattered into at least three new sites in the wake of these discussions.

The current postings and discussions have provided an opportunity for PARC's critics to discuss the book in depth, if they could -- to tear it to pieces, if they had the goods.

These discussions show precisely how unsuccessful their passionate and prolonged efforts have been -- and to what extreme lengths the critics will go in order to rationalize and justify what cannot be rationalized or justified.

These threads bear eloquent witness to the nature of the critics and their charges, as much as they do the actual topic of PARC.

This discussion of PAR had been called for by TAS founder, David Kelley, in Truth and Toleration, but, alas, his friends appear to suffered a change of heart for some reason.

Your own hopes are duly noted, as well as the absence of any basis for them, but may I ask what you think of those former TAS associates who have a sharply differing opinion of PARC from your own -- people for whom the book made a difference?


And what do you think of those who are able to discuss the actual substance of PARC -- and who try to justify their opinions rather than resorting to baseless characterizations?


I don't wish to burden your already over-taxed analytical skills, but you must have some theories about ARI critics who are now so critical of TAS.

Kicking filthy ass

William Scott Scherk's picture

What abundant cornucopias of opinion await the future historian, James, from the first blurb announcing PARC (on the Autonomist) to the first squabble on SoloHQ to this very thread. Not to mention concurrent ephemera at OL.

What would make them focus in on this thread, this post, that post, the last post, or anything in this series of reprints of your book chapters? What makes you think this thread is not just the latest clog in a long runnel of commentary? I understand you have invested a lot of time in internet discussions of your book, but the world is a big place.

Ultimately, I think PARC will be what it is, a clunkily written diatribe/bill of charges, published by an obscure vanity press. PAR and MYWAR are likely to endure, penned by principals in Rand's life. A normal reader unversed in Objectivish obsessions will reach for the biography and memoir, and use normal means of discounting bias.

SOLO will endure, perhaps, if only as curiosity wherein one reads of squalid, leprous pygmies, the sewer dwellers, and the Kick Ass Kommissars.


Rand and gays (and blind spots)

Chris Cathcart's picture

Rand's views on gays don't reflect too well on whatever mental processes she went through to arrive at her views there, but for making character judgments, I think we would need more context than what we have available. It would have been out of character for her to have consciously evaded. I think we'd have to know more about what would have led her to her conclusions on these things, particularly given that she had known some gay people herself.

I think that this is just to say that, in spite of her being a powerful thinker in so many ways and on so many levels, she had some blind spots here or there. One area where I think it could have been done better than what she did was in her polemics against other philosophers, a result of a misplaced reliance on her otherwise impressive skill at philosophical detection and slicing to the essence of some issues. (Yes, Kant got it disastrously wrong on centrally crucial points, but exactly how he did and why he did is not as simple as she made it out. And I think she simply got it wrong on at least one count with respect to Kant's ethics -- her claim that according to him an action where one receives a personal benefit loses its moral worth. Kant had some dangerously bad ideas, but ascribing the motives she ascribed to him were not warranted, considering he was an extreme psycho-epistemological rationalist who only saw square pegs and round holes bequethed to him by Hume and spent oodles of time trying to come up with a solution.)

It's telling, though, that a Campbell would take up Rand on a polemical blind spot -- her reference to Russell and number -- and turn it into a big deal morally. Her specifically-targeted polemics just aren't a big deal in her corpus of writings. I noticed that Gary Merrill in his internet-circulate comments on ITOE was preoccupied almost exclusively with the polemics as well. So polemics wasn't her strong suit, but her own ideas are distinctive enough that studious scholars should be able to come to pin down the major differences between her and other thinkers regardless. (Sorry, Fred Seddon, Kant was not an advocate of realist ontology, proper inductive conceptual understanding of particulars and causality in nature as an answer to Hume, or a teleologically-grounded ethics. So much for those square pegs and round holes.) Rand was right in her gut instincts that pretty much the whole of the history of philosophy, save for Aristotle, had screwed up badly.

Mr. Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

Let's see, Mr. Scherk, Ayn Rand, in all likelihood, will be the topic of considerable future attention from scholars -- that is, assuming no Dark Age is around the corner -- and, though it would be pleasant to believe that the Brandens' bios will become no more than minor footnotes in some dense tome for experts, I suspect that the very analyses you can read right here either will have to be recapitulated independently -- or, if reinventing the wheel doesn't sound too appealing, read in the original.

Let me suggest that future observers, like me, will be more concerned with the issues raised in PARC than, say, the current "personalities" at these websites (which seem to be your exclusive concern) -- and more distressed at her position on gays than the alleged "argument from intimidation" Campbell so frets over -- when attempting to evaluate Rand's life.

The prospect of people interested in Rand's life reading these discussions doesn't seem all that appealing to you for some reason.

Otherwise, what does your post have to do with the discussion at hand?

Who's poring and who's not

William Scott Scherk's picture

James Valliant suggests I would be surprised to know who is poring over his SOLO threads. Perhaps I would be. But I am unlikely to learn who these mysterious surprises are from James's utterances, so is it worth speculating?

Here are the two hilarious Perigo bits:

I'm sure [ . . . ] James knows he's writing for history. These exchanges will be among the material picked over by Rand scholars till kingdom come. [link]

[H]istory will be glad of these exchanges [link]

But just in case you are both right -- that some future historians will be a-poring and that unnamed big wigs keep an eye on developments here in node 4130, Hi there, future historian. In case your eyes glaze at the latest iteration of "Bitch Scumbarra Lying Pig Dog evul them folk," raging blowhard is Lindsay and sewer dwellers are devotees of the vile and dastardly ultra-evil sink of filth, Objectivist Living.


James ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I really doubt that Linz regards "all" those who might consider him a "raging blowhard" as "sewer dwellers."

Oh, but I do!

(I don't, of course, but I couldn't resist the flip answer. Stand by to see it taken seriously by the sewer-dwellers, whose morbid lack of humour is one of their attributes I neglected to list.)

Actually, I deem them to be sewer-dwellers for reasons already explained and which have nothing to do with me: their supercilious anti-heroism on principle, their frenetic ascribing of immorality to Rand when she was merely in error, their utter lack of scruple in smearing and misrepresenting those who disagree with them ... the Linz-lynching is a mere incidental, albeit a telling and eloquent one, perpetrated as it was by "tolerationists."


James S. Valliant's picture

Oh, dear fellow, you'd be quite surprised at who's already been "poring over" these discussions!

I really doubt that Linz regards "all" those who might consider him a "raging blowhard" as "sewer dwellers."

And, so, it's now "the raging blowhard" vs. "the Sewer Dwellers"!

So long as you're staying out that "sewer," Mr. Scherk, it's all right!

Squalid, leprous pygmies

William Scott Scherk's picture

The post by Lindsay takes my breath away. The idea that future historians will pore over exchanges on SOLO is ludicrous.

I have to laugh at the repetition of the lynching trope. Such is the world of Lindsay, wherein all who might find him at times a raging blowhard are sewer dwellers.


Res Ipse Loquitur

James S. Valliant's picture

Notice the obsession, the hysteria, the moralism, the psychologizing, the poor scholarship which ignores and invents as needed simply in order to demonize one's opponent as "the epitome of evil"...

Making minor changes to the posted chapters in a desire to avoid any possible mistaken impressions or interpretations -- and to omit what is truly unimportant -- proves to be no guidance to PARC's foes whatever. They persistently ignore the rest, even as they relentlessly dwell on things that I am perfectly willing to simply remove, convinced it is somehow revealing of the very essence of my motives!

A "weird" spectacle, indeed.

If Campbell wasn't just sooo "convinced" of the absolute evil of his intellectual opponents, how could he invent such conspiracy theories as the "TAS Takeover," or imagine my need to prove Rand "perfect," or ignore what I had said about WTL, etc., etc.?

Thus, David Kelley's "open" and "tolerant" crowd has collectively closed its eyes, ears and any voice of dissent -- the clang of the falling iron gate still echoes -- even as Campbell gives empty psychologizing a new definition -- even as MSK moralizes from fantasy projections of his Inhuman Enemies at his tightly regulated site. Others chime in with strained rationalizations for the worst behavior of the Brandens -- to whom TAS now appears totally enthralled.

One critic, Dennis Hardin, said of PARC: "After reading this book, I have a pretty good idea what intentional evil really looks like."

MSK praised this thought and chimed in "libel."

Mr. Branden's only assertion on the subject of PARC is nothing but an "argument from intimidation." Asked if he had read PARC, Branden replied: "No. What for? If a reader can't see what's insane about that book on his own, I doubt that help from me would accomplish much."

This is worse than any construction we can give Mr. Campbell's ITOE example, of course. (What say you, Mr. Campbell?)

And the hysteria hasn't noticeably abated since.

This is raw hatred at work -- and a hatred so utterly, utterly blind that it cannot see itself becoming the very thing it wildly accuses Rand of being.

Seriously ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In his obsessive, relentless quest to show Ayn Rand to be immoral, Prof. Campbell bears testament to the motives of his mentors and makes it easier for historians to sort truth from self-serving fiction. For the Brandens, the Campbells, the Parilles, the other gossiping subterraneans at O-Lying and all other such low-lifes, it's of overbearing importance to echo Wynand and insist that human beings of integrity do not exist, that all are on a par with them in their underground sewer, that everyone has his price (even if it's not as low as theirs). To this end they ascribe willful intent to honest mistakes, elevate the inconsequential to the cosmic, overlook the authentic super-heroism bespoken by Ayn Rand's real-life story ... and set out to smear her defenders as they smear her. Their panic and lynch-mobbery when one of her defenders is scheduled to speak on unrelated matters at an event they arrogantly consider theirs speaks volumes. They are squalid, leprous pygmies trying to infect the flesh of a giant. All of this is now much more clear than before. As I say, history will be glad of these exchanges.


James S. Valliant's picture

And enough cammies and C-4 for all of us!!

James ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm concerned these lengthy posts may be distracting you from our Plan B to take over TAS during the Summer Seminar. Did you get the map of Portland's stormwater drains?

That Missing Mirror...

James S. Valliant's picture

Unable, it seems, to address anything of substance that I have written, Prof. Campbell confesses that he is "still trying to make sense" of it.

This, unfortunately doesn't stop him from talking about it, of course.

Campbell writes: "Yep, Mr. Valliant has repeatedly denied believing in the moral perfection of Ayn Rand. But this is a hypocritical concession. In fact, it’s the grandaddy of all of his other hypocritical concessions."


"For there is no acknowledgment, anywhere in Mr. Valliant's book, of any 'moral lapses' on Ms. Rand's part. Instead, mighty efforts are expended, often relying on tenuous or specious reasoning, to refute any claim made by either Nathaniel or Barbara Branden that even hints at such a moral lapse. All Mr. Valliant will accept, in PARC, is the Peikovian-sanctioned observation that Ayn Rand got angry too easily—especially at her faithful servant, Leonard."

This is not a fair characterization of me, or even PARC, of course, so what's he really on about?

Consider: Ayn Rand was a law-abiding, tax-paying person. She was a remarkably honest writer and human being.

After a terrible professional struggle -- and unjust treatment by most of the intellectual establishment -- Rand overcame to triumph with The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Get the Big Picture, now, eclipsing all others -- how do we evaluate the woman?

There can be little doubt that her judgment must be questioned with regard to the Affair. There are many variables here which require information that we just do not possess, or for which we do not possess a reliable source -- and judgment on this issue, as PARC says, may never get close to certainty.

After Mr. Branden's 1968 lies to the world about this matter, with his own deception of Rand and his natural desire to cast this deception in as favorable a light to himself as possible, he cannot be trusted here. After Ms. Branden's endorsement of that 1968 statement, her failure to mention that "sex problem" of Branden's, or her own affairs, and her wild characterizations of these matters exclude her from being regarded as reliable here.

Why is this so difficult for some to admit?

It is hard to see Rand as manipulating anybody in the course of the events which followed, as Branden claims, for Branden himself admits to having been the "initiator" of the sexual relationship, and his own prolonged and complex deception of Rand paint him the manipulator here, to any honest eye, despite the age difference.

Campbell himself has admitted that Rand's break with the Brandens was "justified," as they had lied to her.

So, what exactly did Rand do that was so horribly wrong?

To find "immorality" in the life of Ayn Rand, one needs to look relatively hard.

Campbell demands that we do, so, okay.

The only problem is that Mr. Campbell also demands that one agree with him that Rand was engaged in an "argument from intimidation" in a certain section of ITOE -- or else! And, what's his other current example? The changes Rand made to We the Living. Her description of these changes, you see, was "dishonest" -- and you better "see"!

No -- seriously -- those are his examples!

Don't you see? It is absolutely urgent, vital -- imperative -- that any objective discussion of Rand include recognition of the immorality of Rand on these bases!

When I started to discuss the WTL example, Campbell didn't respond to my point at all, and maybe he's forgotten it, so I will simply repeat it here. For Rand to have been dishonest about these changes -- noting that she openly admitted to removing whole "paragraphs" of material she deemed "confusing" -- one would have to be able to determine that Rand had stated a clear philosophical position there which was contrary to her later views. But, I think, Rand said it best when she called the removed material "confusing." Whatever "forcing of fools" means in the original, it cannot involve the shedding of "blood," and must only allow people like Kira to "be left alone."

I have read the arguments here, and am certainly willing to hear Campbell's, if he's got one, but, let me suggest, that we will need some clarity as to her allegedly "original" position -- the very clarity that is not to be found on these points -- just as Rand had admitted.

Maybe he can address my response now, and not simply ignore it again, unnoticed, and not act -- once more -- as if nothing had been said at all.

No matter. In any event, his claim about WTL is a much worse charge than a possible "argument from intimidation" in her writing, I should think, and since this is the example that he keeps harping on, it must be his best.

But the topic was "admitting to the immorality of Ayn Rand." Does he really believe that these example sustain that thesis?

Why, one must wonder, is it so very, very important to him that anyone who writes about Rand's life confess Rand's "immorality" -- and on the precise grounds he suggests?

His demand for "agreement" is worse than anything Rand was accused of "demanding"!

If these are really the examples he wants to use, consider, then, how warped must be Prof. Campbell's perspective on the whole topic of Ayn Rand?

See, failing to agree with him on these two matters means that you are "a loon."

I had wanted to discuss Rand's breaks with people, for example, and I had listed most of them with the invitation for Campbell to provide "specifics," after he had implied that Rand should have "expressed regret" for these. I simply asked him to explain -- he gave no answer whatever.

Rather, he takes us to these two weighty concerns of his...

Forgive me, but I fail to see the urgent need from either to acknowledge "immorality" -- the very thing Campbell is demanding from it.

But, on this same "level" of things, for lack of a better word -- these very threads have seen me question Rand on the topic of homosexuality. I will repeat now that her failure to think this through was irresponsible (or, worse, if she had). Yes, she was born in 1905, but that did not stop her mind from soaring past the conventions of her day in other ways -- and, most crucially, I think, she actually knew gays. So, while she called it "immoral," I am afraid the only "immorality" I can find in the implications of Rand's ugly assertion is about Rand herself. No, indeed, this does not reflect well on Rand's character, in my view. And, like Campbell's examples, it is a matter of her expressed opinions.

I guess he missed my post on this, too, since Campbell can still claim that "outside the book" I will "accept—and has accepted—no further criticisms of Ayn Rand's character at all."

Surely, this ranks with the class of things which comprised his instant "examples" of Rand's alleged mendacity -- except, of course, that it is a genuine example of her irresponsibility -- and, in degree, much worse.

Will that suffice, Mr. Campbell?

Just watch him insist that accepting his examples is the sine qua non of objectivity regarding Rand -- "accept these or be called a cultist!"

Will he even read this -- or will it wash over him like so much else seemingly has?

Well, along with Campbell, I certainly invite readers to check out all of the discussions I've had about PARC on line -- these have been some of the best advertisements PARC has received, that's for sure.

Only a fevered imagination can explain why a willingness to attend or speak at TAS, despite having previously criticized the organization should demonstrate a conspiracy to take the bloody thing over -- and why Campbell won't permit himself to read or remember(?) something that doesn't fit into his world view -- and how he can return to a topic like the changes in WTL without acknowledging a word of what was previously said to him about it -- and so forth.

But what can explain this?

Campbell: "Mr. Valliant seems to think that because in his book he rejects criticisms of Ms. Rand's character and actions that were brought by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden in their books, he has thereby refuted, with prejudice, now and henceforward, any claims that have been or could be brought by others."

Within the past few days, and in these very discussions, I have denied his allegation that PARC somehow claims Rand's "perfection" by observing precisely that a refutation of the Brandens' criticisms hardly suffices to refute anybody else's.

Guess that didn't sink.

But, and here's the weird part, what could possibly have ever given him this idea?

Simply, the rejection of his assault on Rand's morality.

I cite my complaint against Rand for what she said about gays precisely to illustrate something. Okay, Campbell can see no intellectual value in Rand's alleged "argument from intimidation" like I can, but fine. However, even if Rand was being unfair to Old Bertie and any of his sympathizers -- the impact of this on some graduate student in philosophy is nothing compared to the impact that Rand's statement about the ethics and esthetics of homosexuality must have had on many innocent and maybe not-as-sophisticated fans of The Fountainhead.

The example I cite makes Campbell's vanish into nothing by comparison, if you ask me.

And I surely would give Rand more grief here than both of the Brandens combined ever did!

So, Campbell is saying, in effect: "Sure, you can say that Rand's position on homosexuality was morally irresponsible, but if you don't acknowledge MY complaints, you are cultist arguing for Rand's 'perfection.'"

If you don't agree with him about this "argument from intimidation" -- and if you should point out that the Brandens seem to have missed it, too, he writes: "Somehow, no one but 'the Brandens' is allowed to introduce any criticisms of Ayn Rand's character or actions"(!)

Was that why I mentioned the Brandens in this context? Hmm.

If his over-heated remarks are at an emotional pitch in excess of my own, never mind -- I have become "unravelled" -- and the source of my "unravelling" is the minor retraction made in PARC.

No retractions from Ms. Branden or Mr. Branden have ever been demanded by him -- and he will accuse me of making mountains out of molehills -- and still be so self-un-aware as to be able to let this escape his keyboard:

"So PARC construes the claim of a 1981 meeting as just another instance of Barbara Branden's lack of credibility, which Mr. Valliant imagines he has already definitively established.

"But there's more, I think.

"In Mr. Valliant's worldview, Ayn Rand is all good, and Barbara Branden is the epitome of evil.

"Therefore, once Ayn Rand had finally come around to recognize Barbara Branden as the epitome of evil, and 'irrevocably' cast her out of the fold (that was the published language), how could Ms. Rand, under any conditions, ever agree to meet with Ms. Branden?"

For PARC, according to Campbell, Rand is not only "all good," but Ms. Branden is "the epitome of evil"! Yes, that's right, the little picture next to "evil" in the dictionary!

Can this "scholar" point us to anything suggestive of this? Can he begin to prove this? Does he try?

Of course not.

But he can construct more towers of sheer fantasy like the dreaded "Conspiracy to Take Over TAS."

According to Campbell, the perspective of PARC is that Rand, you see, also believed Ms. Branden to be "the epitome of evil"!

Ask away where Campbell could have gotten this idea, too, but, see, Valliant must imagine BB so evil, and that Rand's view of her was so irredeemable, that it is simply inconceivable Rand should have ever agreed to meet with her again, even years later. No, in fact, he claims, "it would be catastrophically out of character, as Mr. Valliant construes such things."

Did he expect me to faint?

Quite the contrary. From her own notes, it is clear that Rand was very understanding of human context -- and the image of Rand these notes paint makes such a meeting very understandable -- that is, looking at things just from Rand's perspective.

From Ms. B.'s perspective, of course, it is still easy to see why she would want to tell us about it, too -- and for this very reason, the skeptical historian of the future will be cautious about accepting BB's account of that meeting's contents -- whether you can see this now or not, Mr. Campbell.

Of course, I have never regarded such a meeting as being inconceivable -- as I said of this in Orange County -- "this doesn't mean it didn't happen."

See how utterly inconceivable it was to my "world view"?

Campbell writes: "The item isn't nearly so unimportant as Mr. Valliant would like his audience to think."

Well, it is far less important than he thinks I think it to be, that's for sure!

The stunningly irresponsible behavior of issuing the kind of charges and accusations against me that he does -- without knowing what was in the Archive, or when, etc., etc. -- speaks to the quality of "scholar" Campbell is himself.

As I noted long ago, the evidence doesn't matter to him one little bit -- Campbell will morally denounce without knowing the answers to any of the questions he knows are required -- and, yet, get ever more strident as his bizarre claims evaporate in substance.

If the Archivist himself read PARC and didn't notice this, but he was the very person responsible for providing this information to Parille, does this give Campbell the slightest pause in his frenzy to denounce with a moralism and a psycholizing that would have made Rand blush?

Heck no!

Readers of PARC also know that I am aware of the criticisms of Rothbard, Tuccille and Walker, for example -- all of whom go far beyond the Brandens in their criticisms of Rand -- so Campbell's claim that I treat the Brandens as the exclusive guardians of any valid criticism is simply absurd.

Saying that the Brandens were in the best position to have provided the negative side of Rand's character, as PARC puts the same point elsewhere, is only to state obvious. In some ways, having known her so well, and then to have broken with her, put the Brandens in by far the best position to have delivered the biographical facts and details against her.

As PARC also makes clear, however, the Brandens are not the ones to turn to for any "interpretation" of such facts, either, so one can well imagine a "better case," in this sense, of course. Just my point about Rand's statement on gays is a superior "case" to any of the criticisms of the Brandens.

One of the purposes of PARC, as I have written on many occasions, was to inspire others who had known Rand to come forward with their accounts -- positive or negative. Few, if any, will have known Rand as well as the Brandens, but they will surely provide additional insight. I look forward to the many new witness accounts soon to be published by ARI.

Indeed, the most persuasive voices of criticism have been other than the Brandens' voices, in part, precisely because of the inherent credibility issues they face -- if nothing else, simply owing to their own biographies.

Campbell claims: "For instance, if 'the Brandens' are wrong or off-kilter on some things, they must be irredeemably unreliable on nearly everything..." according to PARC.

It becomes tiresome to observe -- again and again -- that PARC is aware that much truth is to be found in the Branden biographies -- it says so repeatedly -- and I've said so even more.

Just in terms of "smug evasion," Campbell has provided us with a record etched forever in cyberspace -- and he simply refuses to see how this makes his own accusations of "smug evasion" appear, standing right beside them.

As readers of these threads can see, the pressing need some have to find those "feet of clay" in Rand is one powerful force!

The strongbox in the dungeon

Robert Campbell's picture

I'm still trying to make sense of Mr. Valliant's bizarrely convoluted and utterly nonresponsive "arguments" on certain matters of interest.

I've come up with a new hypothesis to explain some of his thinking: the strongbox in the dungeon.

Before I get to that, though...

In “The Needed Looking Glass,” Mr. Valliant complains about me:

He repeats the repeatedly refuted dogma about PARC's desire to prove Rand a "goddess" without ever even addressing the responses to it.

Yep, Mr. Valliant has repeatedly denied believing in the moral perfection of Ayn Rand.

But this is a hypocritical concession. In fact, it’s the grandaddy of all of his other hypocritical concessions.

For there is no acknowledgment, anywhere in Mr. Valliant's book, of any "moral lapses" on Ms. Rand's part. Instead, mighty efforts are expended, often relying on tenuous or specious reasoning, to refute any claim made by either Nathaniel or Barbara Branden that even hints at such a moral lapse.

All Mr. Valliant will accept, in PARC, is the Peikovian-sanctioned observation that Ayn Rand got angry too easily—especially at her faithful servant, Leonard.

Now if Mr. Valliant had ventured no opinion about criticisms of Ayn Rand's character made outside "the Brandens'" books, we could stop right here.

But he hasn't, so I won't.

Outside the book, Mr. Valliant will accept—and has accepted—no further criticisms of Ayn Rand's character at all.

Since he denies his further denials, at least half the time, I will simply point you to the archives of SOLOHQ and of this board, plus the comments he has left on Neil Parille's ObjectiBlog.

If he has the chutzpah to insist that, for the nth time, I quote him back to himself, of course I will do that in a later post.

Anyhow, if you do a little reading in the archives, you will see how Mr. Valliant indignantly denied that Ayn Rand ever used an argument from intimidation; irritably dismissed all of the proffered examples of Randian arguments from intimidation; emitted his customary whoops of triumph (for some reason these have been more muted lately); then graciously accepted applause from his cheering section.

So Mr. Valliant also rejects, and frequently relies on bad arguments to refute, any and all claims of moral lapses on Ayn Rand's part, whenever they are brought by others.

An extremely odd pattern, for someone who does not presuppose Ms. Rand's moral perfection.

But here's the weird part...

Mr. Valliant seems to think that because in his book he rejects criticisms of Ms. Rand's character and actions that were brought by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden in their books, he has thereby refuted, with prejudice, now and henceforward, any claims that have been or could be brought by others.

Say what???

It's as though no one else may bring up an issue like Randian arguments from intimidation, because NB and BB didn't.

Somehow, no one but "the Brandens" is allowed to introduce any criticisms of Ayn Rand's character or actions.

That's where the strongbox will come in.

But first, let's address the matter that proximally prompted Mr. Valliant's unraveling. You know, the 1981 meeting between Ayn Rand and Barbara Branden—the one that Mr. Valliant was completely sure never happened.

As Neil Parille recently discovered, it turns out that the Ayn Rand Archives has documentary evidence of the meeting. And, wouldn't you know it, Mr. Valliant pretended that he done fact checking on the matter, finding no evidence of the meeting, when in fact he'd never bothered to do any.

Mr. Valliant has tangled up one hell of a nest of excuses (some of them expressed in language that would have given Immanuel Kant a headache). Here’s what it all comes down to: he was so sure there had never been such a meeting that he felt no need to check for evidence. He was so sure there would be no evidence that he gave false public assurances that he'd checked in the Archives and hadn't found any.

Mr. Valliant now pleads, as an excuse for his peccadillo:

Nor does PARC argue or even complain of Ms. Branden's lack of credibility — or anything else against her — from the item in the mistake found in PARC.

Well PARC declaims, with majestic sweep, that any statement by Barbara Branden about Ayn Rand, unless corroborated by sources pleasing to Mr. Valliant, is an arbitrary assertion. And arbitrary assertions, so Leonard Peikoff tells us and Jim Valliant reminds us, are to be dismissed out of hand.

So PARC construes the claim of a 1981 meeting as just another instance of Barbara Branden's lack of credibility, which Mr. Valliant imagines he has already definitively established.

But there's more, I think.

In Mr. Valliant's worldview, Ayn Rand is all good, and Barbara Branden is the epitome of evil.

Therefore, once Ayn Rand had finally come around to recognize Barbara Branden as the epitome of evil, and "irrevocably" cast her out of the fold (that was the published language), how could Ms. Rand, under any conditions, ever agree to meet with Ms. Branden?

It would be catastrophically out of character, as Mr. Valliant construes such things.

Hence, if my line of reasoning is valid, Mr. Valliant's lack of interest in looking for potential evidence of the 1981 meeting. He’d smugly assured himself that no such meeting could have taken place.

If Campbell's example of Rand's alleged manadacity [sic] is absent from PARC, the objectivity of the author is to be questioned — but not when that same example is left out by the Brandens?

OK, here's where the strongbox comes in.

Envision the following:

Anything that could be used to criticize Ayn Rand's character and actions has been hoarded away in an extra-special, remote, fortified location. Because that location is controlled by "the Brandens," i.e., Old Nick and his diabolical ex-consort, we’ll picture it as a grubby, rusty, but really hefty old strongbox, sitting in a dark corner of a dungeon.

Way down in the dungeon, the two master miscreants, meticulously adhering to strict security protocols and carrying powerful flashlights, gain access, unlock the box, sift gloatingly through its malicious and injurious contents, pick out the bits they know will inflict the most damage, then carry them back out so they can fling them at a gullible and unsuspecting public.

At the end of his chapter on “Rand and Non-Rand,” Mr. Valliant says:

The Brandens were close to Rand for eighteen years, and they have demonstrated every desire to criticize her on every possible count, no matter how tenuous, frivolous or fatuous. In short, this must be the very best case to be made against Ayn Rand.

Mr. Valliant seems oblivious to the likelihood that criticisms of Ayn Rand’s ideas will, in the end, have little to do with criticisms of Ayn Rand the person. But surely no one is in a position to know whether the “very best” case against Ayn Rand’s ideas has been presented yet. Meanwhile, most of Ayn Rand’s ideas have gotten no criticism from either of “the Brandens.”

So the “very best” case has to be against Ayn Rand the person.

And how dare anyone point to an incident, or make a criticism, not already stashed in the Brandens' strongbox? How can any sane human being come up with another incident, or make a different sort of criticism, not already specially selected, once and for all, by the two archfiends?

How dare anyone even draw a stronger conclusion from a particular incident or pattern than "the Brandens" have sought to do?

You know, like concluding, as I and many others have, that Ayn Rand actually lied about the philosophical significance of some of her editorial to changes to We the Living.

Barbara Branden merely complained, in The Passion of Ayn Rand (pp. 114-115), that Rand needed to explain the changes to her readers.

In his 1971 interview, Nathaniel Branden contented himself with noting the discrepancies between some of the words changed and Rand’s stated estimate of their philosophical significance, leaving it to the reader to decide whether Rand's estimate was candid or accurate.

So, Mr. Valliant appears to be insinuating, we aren’t allowed to argue that she lied. We can’t charge her with mendacity. It didn’t come out of the strongbox!

One extremely unimportant item in PARC is shown to be wrong, and the alleged factual irresponsibility of its author somehow utterly refutes everything else he might ever say — including the material for which his book actually argues?

The item isn't nearly so unimportant as Mr. Valliant would like his audience to think.

Mr. Valliant's lapse of scholarship, his unsubstantiated remarks about what was and wasn't in the Ayn Rand Archives, and his dodging and weaving once caught, can’t help but undermine his credibility.

The same applies to Mr. Valliant's correlative dodging and weaving, when it turns out that he never bothered to find out whether interviews in the Archives include any recollections of Ayn Rand telling the "typewriter story."

Only in Valliant-land, however, does weakened credibility on some issues equal "utter refutation" on all.

For instance, if "the Brandens" are wrong or off-kilter on some things, they must be irredeemably unreliable on nearly everything... Their books must be "monuments of dishonesty on a scale so profound as to literally render them worthless as historical documents" (Valliant's magnum opus, p. 6) and all of their assertions as yet unconfirmed by Mr. Valliant must be arbitrary (ibid., p. 173).

No wonder he’s worried. Will people start thinking that his book is a “monument of dishonesty”?

Really, though, it’s the strongbox notion that will take down the rest of his credibility, should it come to be more widely accepted as an explanation for Mr. Valliant's strange patterns of argument.

So perhaps Mr. Valliant can offer a better explanation for his manner of responding to criticisms of Ayn Rand’s character? You know, one that doesn’t make him look like a complete loon?

As matters now stand, he is in dire need of one.

Robert Campbell

Hmm, a parting troll

Chris Cathcart's picture

Sure, I don't mind having the last word.

Campbell trolled:

"So "Fact and Value" exemplifies the principles elucidated in that lecture course--except when it fails to exemplify them--if in fact it fails to exemplify them."

My point, of course, is that "Fact and Value" demonstrates sound understanding of Objectivist fundamentals, whether or not he might have been mistaken in particular application. Like I said, understanding doesn't guarantee infallibility.

The one example that jumps out at me: Are "academic Marxists" inherently dishonest? To determine the veracity of Peikoff's claim, one need only compare what he says about what they advocate, with what they in fact advocate and how they go about advocating it, how they deal with refutations of their positions, etc. Is Peikoff correct on the fundamental that trained adults who push ideas openly at war with reason and reality are to be considered to have evaded? Yes. Kelley even says he agrees on that, though the example he uses as applicable under this principle is that of a Nazi apologist, not necessarily that of an academic Marxist. A good number of Marxists and neo-Marxist revisionists have shifted in recent decades because the obvious ideas openly at war with reason and reality that were in Marx's original system were just too much for rational and honest people to bear. The Marxist assholes of the earlier part of the 20th century, the ones who folks like Mises and the other Austrians had to deal with, were more interested in ideology than the truth. That particularly odious breed has hopefully died off by now. So I'd have to get some more specifics from Peikoff as to whom he has in mind and what sorts of concretes would fall under his general labeling.

But how any of that affects the quality of his general understanding, you'd have to tell me, if you were inclined to stick around. His break over Kelley was over general understanding anyway. The different directions that their respective organizations have taken since that time are reflective of this. Kelley's has been reduced to being known as the KASSless Society for a reason.

gregster's picture

Haven't the research materials to get into this very entertaining and worthwhile argument. Campbell losing on points and motive. And from

Ms. Branden's unreliability, vs. Mr. Branden's dishonesty

Chris Cathcart's picture

There's a lot there to go through, but here's how I understand it:

Barbara says she relied on a story told by Fern Brown rather than on something she herself knew. Ms. Brown's story doesn't exactly make much sense given the other things Rand said about where she got her name, but this didn't bother Barbara too much when putting it into her biography. It just means that she'll put stuff into her biography without giving things much careful thought. That's not a lie per se. Just an example to add to the pile of unreliability and lack of credibility.

Mr. Branden, however, telling a story that this is what Rand herself had told him . . . well, we pretty much already know what about Branden's honesty regardless. There's every reason to believe that Rand never told him this, and that he's making it up, just like he routinely makes stuff up about her to suit his whims.

I went back and perused PARC and once again noted where Branden said (paraphrasing closely) that "knowing Ayn, she'll be feverishly rewriting the history of our affair in her notes." (More or less the kind of implied dare to Peikoff I mentioned in the other thread.) That pretty much tells you all you need to know about massive and ongoing dishonesty and injustice towards Rand.

You know, back when Victor Pross was plagiarizing left and right, leaving nuggets here and there for people to find, MSK made an observation about the kind of personality-type involved there -- that he was like some kind of klepto just silently daring people to catch him, not really showing any remorse once caught, but rather cackling to themselves. From Branden's various silent dares and being caught repeatedly with his hands in the cookie jar, it seems that he may take derive some kind of perverted glee from his dishonesty. He certainly seemed to derive some kind of glee upon being caught by Diana on her property after she told him he was no longer welcome, and throwing out his dishonest dare that "you'll be back, once you've had enough of Peikoff." My impression is that he gets his kicks from seeing just how far he can go in flouting his professed principles before he's caught once again. Making up massive mounds of evasive non-explanations for his "drift" in his lengthy conversations with Ayn? Sounds like he was just having a lot of fun seeing how far he could string her along, acting like a helpless, "sexually frozen," "autistic," "repressed" guy at the mercy of inexplicable forces.

I mean, c'mon. He had to have known that Rand was going to do no such thing as feverishly rewrite everything about their relationship to try and make sense of it in her mind. All the stuff from her journals revealing the actual discussions know exactly how things unfolded and that they were both in the end on the same page as to how it all went down -- that Rand was scrupulously calm and focused about his pseudo-problems, trying to make sense of the inexplicable before the explicable finally manifested, requiring no further analysis and no "rewrites." He wrote Rand a letter shortly before the final final break, saying he was going to get Allan Blumenthal to extensively help him out with his "problems." Great, after getting through with AR, he was going to put AB through more mounds of nonsense to "fix" problems that weren't there, all to keep up the appearances that there were real, deeply entrenched, slow-to-fix problems.

Anyway, it's all dishonesty, but is there a technical term for the kind of personality that gets kicks out of being an elaborate faker? From this vantage point, he shows signs of being quite a piece of work, pscyhologically. Whaddya wanna bet that when he plunged headlong into the unknown with the new NBI ventures and Empire State Building offices, with catastrophe looming, that he was getting a thrill? Whaddya wanna bet he read PARC and got a big kick out of it every time James Valliant caught him in an act of dishonesty? Maybe even chuckled when he got to the part about having the soul of a rapist -- "Heh, Jimmy boy, I may be a real shit, but you're kinda missing the mark there! I just like fucking around with people. The soul of a con artists, yeah, but of a rapist? Hee hee! Way to throw 'em off the scent and get 'em to focus on the extremity of your charge!"

The "Devers Branden and Ayn Rand" story? More of the same shit. Kinda just a like a troll, throwing out juicy stuff to get folks worked up.

Seems about the best explanation for his behavior over the years that I can come up with.

Ah, I think I have the word: Sociopath?

A moratorium

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Cathcart,

I figured either you would refuse to give a detailed answer—or you would give Dr. Peikoff top marks for everything on the list, because he's Dr. Peikoff and he gave the lectures.

You did the latter, which beats not answering. And you attached more explication than I'd expected.

But what does anyone do with this kind of comment?

"Fact and Value"? Great stuff, and let's also keep in context that Kelley was accusing Peikoff of straying from the lessons of Understanding Objectivism in application of Objectivist thought to moral judgment; I would agree with Kelley that if or wherever it strays from Understanding Objectivism, it's mis-applying the principles of Objectivism. Otherwise, apart from any real or imagined misapplications on some specifics, it rates a "7."

So "Fact and Value" exemplifies the principles elucidated in that lecture course--except when it fails to exemplify them--if in fact it fails to exemplify them.

Wow... we all needed enlightening about those possibilities.

Tell you what, Mr. Cathcart...

In due time, I'll check out Dr. Peikoff's lecture course.

When I have completed that course, I may have something to say to you on this forum.

Between now and then, I will not be responding to any of your comments at this site.

I won't be responding here. I won't be responding at OL. I won't be responding anywhere in cyberspace. You can howl in the wind, as far as I'm concerned.

There are two reasons for this:

(1) I've been addressing you by name, and you've been addressing me with epithets. I could throw your policy back at you--Hey, Asshole! Yo, Fuckwit! Whassup with the Idiot today? Though in keeping with some of the discourse on this site, it is just not my style.

(2) I will have had time, in a little while, to form a pretty good appreciation of Leonard Peikoff's course. Objectivism is not nearly so hard to understand as some people think.

And you will have had time, in a little while, to decide whether you want to give occasional attention to evidence and argument—or you want to keep right on talking out your fundamental aperture.

Robert Campbell

Name Redux

James S. Valliant's picture

Robert Campbell claims that I said that evidence had been "withheld" from me by the Archive. Of course, I said no such thing. No, I was aware of the rules, but they sure would not have stopped me from asking for something. And if I had asked for something, and had a good reason, it would have likely been provided to me. But I saw no reason to ask for such waivers.

As I have already indicated, though you'd never know it from Campbell's assertions, that the circumstances make clear that I had no reason even to ask if any witness statements on this minor point might have existed, much less any reason to have known in which interview it might have been found, even assuming that this interview existed at the time, and that it was in the possession of the Archive... The absence of the letter which might have corroborated Ms. Branden was the item referenced by me. The witness statement involved here does not corroborate the meeting, only the one-time existence of the absent letter.

Readers of my earlier response will be able to see the distortion Campbell is attempting here -- and just how strained his efforts have become.

No, Campbell actually asked me a series of questions designed to determine whether the Archives had this material at that time, or had reason to know of this material, or whether I asked if they did -- but only after he had denounced me on this score in the harshest terms possible.

Facts are irrelevant to Campbell's jihad.

Prof. Campbell writes:

"While working on his book, Dr. Gotthelf had access to the Ayn Rand Archives. In his book, he stated that whenever he used Barbara Branden's biography as a source, he double-checked the facts at said Archives.

"So what was in the Archives that led Dr. Gotthelf to conclude that the typewriter story was OK?"

This, of course, is a gross non-sequitur, since Gotthelf may have relied on the statement, coming from Fern Brown, and not Ms. Branden alone, as something not requiring such corroboration, or that he corroborated this directly with Brown.

Campbell's motto: accuse first, ask questions later.

But since Campbell has provided us with another "teaching moment," let's take full advantage, and reconsider here the story from Mr. Branden's book, the one which Ms. Branden has lately attempted to corroborate.

According to Mr. Branden, Rand told him that she invented her name "soon after" arriving in America.

In fact, she did not -- the name had already been chosen in Russia -- and we have the letters from Rand's Russian family (pre-dating any communication from Rand in America) to prove this.

Moreover, Rand could easily have told him the truth here without any impact whatever on her "cover story." Or, if she was going to add this extra lie as to when she came up with the name, why not say that she came up with it in Hollywood, as opposed to her first months in America when she lived with her Chicago relatives -- who might have recalled the real name printed on her typewriter?

It appears that Mr. Branden has Rand "discovering" the name at this point in history simply in order to confirm the impossible account from Fern Brown. It serves no other purpose in his own account, and, indeed, it represents a remarkable coincidence.

Since no such typewriter existed at the time Rand lived with Ms. Brown, Rand could not have even invented the story at this point, could she? Even the fiction here requires the machine.

Yet, both Branden and Ms. Brown agree on this impossible detail.

If, in fact, Rand had told Ms. Brown a version of the story about getting her name from a typewriter, Rand would not have included details that she knew Brown could disprove with her own memory. As indicated, what if Brown actually remembered the name that was really on Rand's 1926 machine? What if, as seems quite possible, Ms. Brown already knew the name "Rand" when the two were living together, since it was already known to her Russian family, as well?

Obviously, the details of Brown's eyewitness account involving Rand's "discovery" are not likely to have come from Rand at all, are they?

So, what a coincidence that Rand's private lie to Branden should agree with Ms. Brown's false memory of the matter -- and, in particular, agree about an impossibility (the "when") that was so unnecessary to Rand's "cover story."

Bear in mind that Ms. Brown does not claim to have ever heard this from Rand as a story at all.

Thus, her account cannot be regarded as corroboration for the fact that Rand was saying something like this. In fact, she recalls no conversation with Rand discussing the name's origins at any later point (when Rand might have actually been able to have invented it), or, indeed, at any point, from the evidence we are given. Such a conversation would indeed have been strange, if it covered something Brown had herself witnessed.

Yes, Ms. Brown reports seeing the "eureka" moment with her very own eyes. She describes Rand in Brown's home in 1926, sitting before a machine which could not have existed, but which Brown claims Rand had brought with her, suddenly deciding on her name from the name of the machine she was looking at.

Such an experience never happened. When Rand lived with Brown, no such device yet existed. Rand brought no such thing with her. And, in fact, she did not "get" the name from looking at such a machine. She did not "get" the name that year.

Moreover, Rand would never have later claimed to Brown something Brown would have known to be false with her own eyes and memory, i.e., this very falsehood.

No, we are asked to believe that Brown was later told something "like" this, but sharing none of its false details, by Rand herself, otherwise the whole thing is a mighty bizarre coincidence, wouldn't you say?

Then, if the Parille-Campbell's case is to be believed, Brown must have created for herself a fantasy-memory of the "eureka" moment and fit it retroactively back into the time when Rand had lived with her, complete with bright, vivid detail.

And, so, we are asked to believe that the lie which Rand told to Branden, then, "just happened" to conform to the fantasy-memory Brown invented about it -- for there is no reason why Rand should not have told Branden the truth about when she actually did come up the name (in Russia before ever living with Brown), or, at least, when she came up this version of her "cover story" (after living with Brown, and at some point after the machine actually existed.) So, why should Rand's "cover story" to Branden happen to lie with the very same impossible dating of the event as Ms. Brown's own fantasy-memory would reconstruct it with?

Let's just use Occam here: why would Rand have constructed a second "cover story" in the first place?

Rand already had told the press that her name was an "abbreviation" of her Russian name, and, in fact, it appears that she had selected out the "Roman-looking" letters from the Cyrillic spelling of her name, leaving the letters "A-Y-N-R-A-N-D." Without knowing the original name, it would have been almost impossible for the Soviet authorities to have deduced this from what she had said to the press, however -- and Rand appears to have been so confident in this story that she simply repeated it to the press -- even after allegedly telling the Brandens her second, new and improved "cover story."

Thus, we are asked to believe that Rand only used this "second" cover story privately, with a couple of her closest friends and her cousin, and, so, it was not a "cover story" at all, but something to be learned only after Rand's death(!)

We are asked to believe that Rand was unafraid of telling a lie to the Brandens that was so easily detectable -- by using her own previous statement to the press which flatly contradicted it.

We are asked to believe that she was still unafraid of detection even after telling this lie to her frineds, so she boldly contradicted it once more, and repeated the same darned thing she had told the press decades before.

We are asked to believe that Rand constructed a second story, even though she needed no such story, and already had one.

We are asked to believe that Rand's cousin had reconstructed in her head a fictitious memory of the very discovery of this at her home in Chicago in 1926 -- completely forgetting that Rand had told her something only "like" this at some later stage, but, coincidentally (and fortunately for her), setting the discovery at the very same time that Rand would tell Branden it had happened(!)

We are asked to believe that it is merely accidental that Ms. Branden failed to report in PAR that Rand herself had confirmed Ms. Brown's account.

We are asked to believe that it is merely accidental that Ms. Branden's first public report of this occurred only after Branden's own "eyewitness account" had been challenged -- along with her own witness, Ms. Brown's account.

And if Ms. Branden added her own baseless fiction to the tale -- namely, that Rand's Russian family never learned Rand's new name -- this should cause us no concern, I guess. Worrying about what possible source Ms. Branden could have had for this extra fiction is presumably unwarranted, as well.

No, the private account of Rand telling the Brandens, in confidence, a second and unnecessary "cover story" -- which was, of course, never used as a "cover story" and which shared with other "cover stories" only the quality of also being a lie -- a lie which Rand retained the documentary evidence to contradict -- a lie which Rand had contradicted with the truth to the press on repeated occasions -- and a lie which so coincidentally agreed with Brown's impossible fantasy reconstruction of its "discovery."


Backed into a corner, the Brandens must ask us to believe all of these things, rather than the much simpler truth that they were caught in a lie.

We now know that Rand could not have actually selected her name from any typewriter's name -- and that she could not have selected in her name "soon after coming to America," either, though this impossibility is to be found both in Brown's "vision" and Rand's alleged lie about it.

When Branden invented his tale of having heard this from Rand, we did not know any of this, yet.

Branden has Rand telling him that she selected the name "soon after" coming to America, just as Ms. Brown would have it, in a purely gratuitous lie that coincidentally confirmed Ms. Brown fiction -- in an episode resembling the miracle of the Septuigent!

That the story is merely false is not the issue, but, rather, that it is:

1. An alleged "second" cover story that was never used with the press;

2. A cover story Rand only ever used with trusted friends, if Branden is to be believed;

3. A wholly unnecessary "cover story," since Rand repeated only the first even after the second's alleged invention;

4. A story which coincidentally sets the time of the name's "discovery" erroneously, unnecessarily, but identically to that of Ms. Brown's invented fantasy-experience of its discovery;

5. A story Ms. Branden does not confirm until after Branden made his own claim, despite the natural opportunity to have done so in her book;

and, perhaps most significantly,

6. A lie Rand allegedly told which flatly contradicted something she had previously told the press before allegedly telling the Brandens otherwise -- and, then, after telling them, as well -- in statements apparently not known to the Brandens.

These last sort of lies are not ones normally ever told: when one tells the press something, and it gets printed -- especially if it is the truth -- one is not likely to say something that one knows flatly contradicts this to others. Should such a lame lie ever be told, it is not likely that the teller would simply give the same (true) account all over again after having just told the lie to others.

On the other hand, a dishonest witness, when challenged, will often seek corroboration from another source, only to get that source backed into claiming the impossible.

No, we have exactly two witnesses for the claim that Rand ever said such a thing, both of them biased: Ms. Branden's post-PAR assertions attempting to confirm the impossible account of her book's eyewitness, and Mr. Branden, eager to confirm his own claim to having heard this from Rand.

Well, Dr. Meltdown

Chris Cathcart's picture

So you're just trolling. Thanks for that.

The best, simple answer is that Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism is first-rate stuff as a guide to thinking like an Objectivist. The rest is just in application to specific content employing this first-rate method. So the chances that the applications, coming from a guy who's first-handedly presented a first-rate guide, are at "7" level are really damned good, and that if there are errors in their presentation, they are minor and insignificant, not something that demonstrates a failure to grasp the proper thinking methods. Which is to say: understanding does not produce infallibility.

For instance, I disagree with Peikoff's specific formulation in OPAR -- distinct in formulation from his '76 lecture course -- that an arbitrary statement is neither true nor false. But it's really a minor and insignificant point of disagreement; his epistemological point about the cognitive status of the arbitrary is clear enough and in line with the '76 course. So he's not error-free, but understanding Objectivism doesn't guarantee that. All that's important is that Peikoff has a firm, keen grasp of how to think and approach a topic philosophically as an Objectivist like Ayn Rand herself would.

So what do I think about OPAR, for example? Amongst book presentations, as far as I'm aware it's the most valuable non-fiction presentation of Ayn Rand's philosophy we have so far. It's coming from a guy who understands the philosophy as well as anyone living. For demonstrating an understanding of the philosophy, it rates a "7." "Fact and Value"? Great stuff, and let's also keep in context that Kelley was accusing Peikoff of straying from the lessons of Understanding Objectivism in application of Objectivist thought to moral judgment; I would agree with Kelley that if or wherever it strays from Understanding Objectivism, it's mis-applying the principles of Objectivism. Otherwise, apart from any real or imagined misapplications on some specifics, it rates a "7." "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand"? It's a brief intellectual memoir, and so what? What's your point? No reason to think it's not a "7" considering its focus is on how Rand understood ideas to have fundamental importance to life. Ominous Parallels? There's a lot of historical interpretation going on but again, so what, what's the point? Again, a major effort to make sense of historical events by applying a first-rate understanding of the role ideas in life to a major historical event. Dunno how right he got it, but his orientation of approach rates a "7." "Analytic-Synthetic"? Great stuff, prime example of applying Objectivist method to attack broken-thinking tendencies, so it gets a "7."

There, I stated criteria and supplied context for regarding the applied works of Leonard Peikoff, from the vantage point of understanding Objectivism, as "7"-worthy. You know, context, the thing that Chris Sciabarra is always saying is crucial to grasping a subject. Anyone who understands Objectivism (as Chris does, all Polish and interpretive lenses aside) knows that Peikoff's grasp is first-rate.

BTW, are you ever gonna get around to explaining yourself when accusing Diana of regarding anyone who doesn't accept the "Leonard Peikoff Institute line" as automatically dishonest, in addition to your other wild-eyed hypotheses, sweeping generalizations, and whatever other ejaculations?

Is Mr. Cathcart unwilling to apply his deep knowledge?

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Cathcart,

I asked you a serious question.

If you are refusing to answer it, say so.

But if you possess the deep understanding of Leonard Peikoff's 1983 course that you claim for yourself, what on earth is preventing you?

For that matter, how could it take more than about two minutes for you to append a brief answer?

And why on earth should your willingness to rate various of Leonard Peikoff's publications be influenced in any way by your notions of my likes and dislikes?

I, after all, exhibit nothing but misunderstanding and "broken" thinking, so my evaluations can hardly be of any moment to you.

The question is what you, as a certified possessor of fully integrated, deep knowledge of Objectivism, consider to exhibit the marks of the correct approach.

Is it possible that you have not been certified as a possessor of fully integrated, deep knowledge of Objectivism after all, and fear that your ratings might reveal this unsatisfactory condition to another reader who has in fact attained it?

Surely you can't be afraid of any critical remarks emanating from persons like me, who weren't there when such deep knowledge was being dispensed, or failed to correctly receive it when it was.

Or did you have to swear an oath to keep your deep knowledge secret, lest it pass into the hands of the unworthy?

Robert Campbell

PS. Endorsement by Ayn Rand is not the relevant criterion here, unless you believe that every article endorsed by Ayn Rand is the product of equally deep and integrated understanding. Besides, what you claim as your touchstone and lodestar, an unpublished lecture course called Understanding Objectivism, postdates Ayn Rand's death.

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Robert Campbell's picture

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A curious troll

Chris Cathcart's picture

Mr. Persistent Meltdown says that he's quite familiar with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical and so he has some idea how certain things he doesn't care much for rates from that perspective. In actuality, given all the stuff about Rand's revolt against dualism in AR:TRR, how might Peikoff's "Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" essay not fare less than, oh, a 7? (Heck, on an even better measure of "proper understanding of Objectivism," how about the fact that Peikoff's essay was granted Rand's personal endorsement and canonizaation?) Better yet, Mr. Meltdown, why not ask the author of AR:TRR himself where on the 1-7 scale he would place the very course in question, Understanding Objectivism? Better yet, how bout asking if there's almost a direct line of descendency from UO to the message that AR:TRR was struggling to get out in the face of being weighed down by all the Polish?

What's funny in all this is that anyone who's listened to UO (as well as some other Peikoff courses -- in particular, his advanced seminar course on OPAR given ca. 1990) would tell you that these courses are most impressive as a tour guide to advanced, indepth understanding. And Mr. Meltdown seems oblivious to this.

Leonard Peikoff and "Understanding Objectivism"

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Cathcart,

Down-thread a bit, you made some strong claims about the central importance of Leonard Peikoff's 1983 lecture series, Understanding Objectivism.

Since you have obviously mastered the content of these lectures, which you consider crucial to Objectivism, I'm curious how you rate the degree to which Leonard Peikoff himself has exemplified a fully integrated understanding of this content in various of his published works.

On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 stands for "extremely poorly," 4 stands for "fair-to-middlin'," and 7 stands for "extremely well," how would you rate each of the following for the degree to which it exemplifies a correct understanding of Objectivism, as per that 1983 lecture series?

"The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" (1967)
The Ominous Parallels (1982)
"My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand" (1987)
"Fact and Value" (1989)
Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1991)

I am quite familiar with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (as well as the remainder of Chris Sciabarra's trilogy), so I have some idea how they would rate from that perspective.

Robert Campbell

Mr. Valliant and the typewriter story

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant has denied that Ayn Rand derived her pen name from the brand name of a typewriter.

No problem there—the typewriter story is now known to be incorrect. When Ayn Rand arrived in the United States, in 1926, there were as yet no Remington Rand typewriters. The pen name comes, instead, from the way parts of "Alissa Rozenbaum" look in cursive Cyrillic.

But the actual origin of the name was not known, even to Rand experts of high erudition, until a few years ago.

Back in 1986, Ms. Branden erroneously put the typewriter story in her biography. As recently as 2000, Alan Gotthelf published a short book, On Ayn Rand, which repeated the typewriter story as fact.

I presume that nothing I have said so far will be contested, even in present company. (Though with Mr. Cathcart, one never knows Sad)

Mr. Valliant goes further, however. He insists that Ayn Rand never said she got her pen name from the brand name of a typewriter.

He further claims that Nathaniel and Barbara Branden both knew this, but falsely pretended that Ayn Rand had told them the story anyway. "It seems that both of the Brandens may have been sold a bill of goods by Cousin Fern [Brown] and then each did a bit of embellishing on their own" (PARC, p. 14).

That the typewriter story is false is not in question.

That it was not widely known to be false until quite recently is also not in question.

What is in question is whether there is documentary evidence of Ayn Rand telling the story.

While working on his book, Dr. Gotthelf had access to the Ayn Rand Archives. In his book, he stated that whenever he used Barbara Branden's biography as a source, he double-checked the facts at said Archives.

So what was in the Archives that led Dr. Gotthelf to conclude that the typewriter story was OK?

In a comment he left on Neil Parille's Objectiblog back in July 2006, Mr. Valliant proclaimed

I happen to know that there is absolutely no material at the "Ayn Rand Archives" able to support your implication here that Gotthelf HAD such material about Rand's name -- I had access to all of these same materials.

In light of the recent revelation about information in the Archives confirming Barbara Branden's 1981 meeting with Ayn Rand, inquiring minds want to know:

Did Mr. Valliant, in fact, know what he claimed to know about what was there when Alan Gotthelf was doing his research?

For instance, had Mr. Valliant bothered to ask the Archives folks whether interview material indicated that Ayn Rand had told a version of the typewriter story to anyone?

Or, as per his recent cock-and-bull story, was potentially relevant material being withheld from him, because his personal sponsorship by Leonard Peikoff couldn't bring him access to it?

Robert Campbell

PS. If Rand did circulate the typewriter story, I would be the last person to blame her for it. It was prudent to keep her birth name under wraps when she still had relatives living under the thumb of Soviet Communism. And when no one in her Inner Circle read or spoke Russian, such a cover story could have been quite effective.

The Needed Looking Glass

James S. Valliant's picture

We read in PARC about the depth and complexities of Branden's manipulation of Rand with his invented "sex problem," among other things -- perhaps providing the context for one of the Brandens' ugliest accusations against Rand -- and Campbell tosses this off as almost nothing.

No, there is no distortion here, is there?

He repeats the repeatedly refuted dogma about PARC's desire to prove Rand a "goddess" without ever even addressing the responses to it.

It is PARC which emphasizes the importance of fact -- and the absence of fact to support Ms. Branden's wild claims.

Nor does PARC argue or even complain of Ms. Branden's lack of credibility -- or anything else against her -- from the item in the mistake found in PARC.

The lack of self-awareness on display here is rather astonishing.

Are Parille's -- and Campbell's -- efforts in attempting to discredit PARC worthless because they don't address every aspect of Rand's life, but only point out alleged problems in some book?

This, of course, would be a shoddy, simple-minded and itself worthless argument.

The "looking glass" needed here is just of the standard issue variety.

If Campbell's example of Rand's alleged manadacity is absent from PARC, the objectivity of the author is to be questioned -- but not when that same example is left out by the Brandens?

One extremely unimportant item in PARC is shown to be wrong, and the alleged factual irresponsibility of its author somehow utterly refutes everything else he might ever say -- including the material for which his book actually argues?

In that case, what are we to make of the many, many more errors found in Ms. Branden's book -- one that assumed the responsibility of claiming to be a biography?

The inferences made in PARC are not so convoluted and stretched as the ones Campbell makes here about PARC -- and Campbell is actually guilty of what he and his friends accuse PARC of doing with such errors in a book!

Somebody get the man a real looking glass.

Mr. Valliant has a Humpty Dumpty moment

Robert Campbell's picture

The reader must marvel at Mr. Valliant's latest.

Any attempt to net it out, with charts or summaries or paraphrases, will only make it look more sensible than it really is. There's no choice but to begin with a stretch, raw and unpasteurized:

The last time I reminded you, Mr. Campbell, that PARC is not a biography was in response to your claim that objectivity required consideration of your example of an alleged argument from authority [I've actually said, argument from intimidation] about "Old Bertie." At the time, I reminded you that neither Branden had treated this, either. This was meant as no criticism of them. I simply doubt that an objective biography really must address your argument -- that is, even if PARC had been a biography.

In your "scholarly" opinion, does objective scholarship about Rand's life require a consideration of your example?

One must wonder about your judgment with respect to these matters.

It ought to be simple. Yet Mr. Valliant manages to make twist over convolution out of it.

Do facts about Ayn Rand's character and actions matter?

Or do they not?

If the facts do matter, it shouldn't matter one hoot in hell whether either of "the Brandens" has brought them up in print.

But it will matter whether Ayn Rand produced any arguments from intimidation, since she published an article about said "arguments," describing them in some detail—and morally condemning anyone who ever resorts to them.

Whereas if the facts don't matter, refuting anyone who criticizes Ayn Rand's character becomes a waste of effort. Such "critics" can merely be written off for having a bad attitude, or not being worshipful, or something. (You know, kind of like Leonard Peikoff and Peter Schwartz did, lo these many years ago.) Which, in turn, will render a book like Mr. Valliant's completely superfluous.

Mr. Valliant could have argued that his book is only about what "the Brandens" said; therefore, when evidence from sources besides their books and other public utterances is presented, let the chips fall wherever they may concerning AR's character and actions.

But he has never actually done this. All the way back in 2005, he and his claque were stoutly insisting that Ayn Rand never produced an argument from intimidation. Her nasty remark about Bertie Russell, in the pages of monograph on concepts, just proved that she was admirably fired up, or something. Mr. Valliant never could explain what she was mad at Bertie about, because the passage in question didn't bother to provide that information (and, wouldn't you know it, not providing it is one mark of an argument from intimidation). He still can't. (It isn't even that hard to find out, for Galt's sake.)

Anyhow, the argument that the book is only about what "the Brandens" said won't extricate Mr. Valliant from some of his latest embarrassments.

Mr. Valliant wrote off Barbara Branden's claim to have met with Ayn Rand in 1981 as an arbitrary assertion.

He publicly proclaimed in July 2006 that there was no documentary evidence in the Ayn Rand Archives to substantiate her assertion, so its status as arbitrary would have to be reaffirmed.

Problem is, he'd had access to the Archives while finishing his book, probably afterward, too ... and he never bothered to ask.

So he has taken refuge in attributing meanings to his 2006 statement that are plainly not there: he was just talking about Barbara Branden's 1981 letter to Ayn Rand, you see, and Neil Parille, having duly exercised his highly developed powers of telepathy, already knew Mr. Valliant's hidden intention.

He has taken refuge in a cock and bull story about how Cynthia Peikoff's reminiscences were off-limits to him, because they were reserved for another project. Yeah, right, he got access to the Archives for an undertaking personally sponsored by Dr. Sylvan Leonard Peikoff—and they weren't going to show him such material.

Indeed, since Mr. Valliant's mentor and sponsor was married to Cynthia Peikoff in 1981 (and later credited her for locating evidence of Ayn Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden...), he might have remembered a little something about said meeting between AR and BB. So, did Mr. Valliant ask Leonard Peikoff whether he recalled such a meeting?

Apparently, he didn't even bother to do that.

When it comes to anything resembling scholarship on the subject at hand, Mr. Valliant is an abject failure. To use Michael Stuart Kelly's word, he has shown the world that he is a complete bonehead.

The rest of Mr. Valliant's message invites me, in his customary hypocritical language, to begin cleansing the taints from my endangered soul, by joining him in a ritual curse against the Serpent in the Garden.

I'll say, one more time, what I've said ever since I began my exchanges with Mr. Valliant:

Nathaniel Branden treated Ayn Rand badly. Some of that he promptly admitted doing; the rest he eventually admitted doing. Ayn Rand's journals provide a few further yukky details.

It doesn't follow that he has horns and a tail, emits a sulfurous odor wherever he goes, or needed to take "Nathaniel Branden" so he could hide his birth name of Lucifer D. Satan.

Nor does it follow that, on account of someone else's bad acts toward her, we are logically compelled to conclude that Ayn Rand was a goddess in human form.

Mr. Valliant's latest meltdown is irresistibly reminiscent of a passage in Through the Looking Glass:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Robert Campbell

Robert,I view James V's

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I view James V's book as a prosecutor's brief. We've heard from Barbara and Nathaniel, now we hear from Rand's journal entries and James V's analysis of the collated evidence.

Barbara and Nathaniel put this ball in play with their biographies. If you argue that Peikoff should have provided the journal entries whole and in toto at the time Passion of Ayn Rand was published, I think James V. might agree with you.

I agree with you that a fair and balanced presentation of Barbara and Nathaniel's lives would include much more than the material in PARC. But we are not talking about that. We are talking about the conduct of Nathaniel and Barbara with respect to Rand and the Objectivist movement.This is especially material since their reminiscences are going to be part of the historical record of Objectivism.


See No Evil

James S. Valliant's picture

The last time I reminded you, Mr. Campbell, that PARC is not a biography was in response to your claim that objectivity required consideration of your example of an alleged argument from authority about "Old Bertie." At the time, I reminded you that neither Branden had treated this, either. This was meant as no criticism of them. I simply doubt that an objective biography really must address your argument -- that is, even if PARC had been a biography.

In your "scholarly" opinion, does objective scholarship about Rand's life require a consideration of your example?

One must wonder about your judgment with respect to these matters.

You are provided with detailed rebuttals to Parille's "scholarship" which you simply ignore -- but this appears to have no impact on your blanket endorsement of his efforts.

You are presented with actual arguments from PARC which you seemingly refuse to contemplate.

You are given fair responses to your own non-PARC-related tangents which you consistently just evade, even as you cry out accusations of evasion(!)

You are shown how you yourself appear to go beyond either of the Brandens in the accusations you level against Rand -- and simply move along as if nothing had been posted when asked to back them up.

These threads here at SOLO speak volumes about your own standards of "scholarship," and certainly reflect upon the journal you help to edit.

PARC's demonstration that Branden's exploitation amounted to a prolonged spiritual rape of Rand clearly bothers you, but it also seems to be something else you care not to address directly.

What he did was terrible -- somewhat worse than a mere "BSing" of Rand, I would say.

I am afraid that a "fair and balanced" opinion of Mr. Branden's behavior toward Rand is quite a negative one.

No, he's not the "essence of evil," but, yes, he deceived, manipulated and emotionally tortured Rand for years -- and then he lied to the world about it, over and over again.

I realize that saying this about Nathaniel might be a hard thing for you, personally, to do.

But it's the truth.

Mr. Campbell.

Olivia's picture

Finally, I think you'll find that most of us in Rand-land who talk about Ayn Rand's flaws are doing so merely in order to refute the Rand-worshippers.

Exactly... and just why do you need to refute Rand-worshippers so badly? That is the question.

I unashamedly worship Ayn Rand... not because she was flawless, but because she was a heroine of unsurpassable rarity.

To worship someone means to hold them adoringly in high regard or to revere them - and more than any other person, she deserves that from those who admire and love her work.

Heroes and heroines in the philosophical realm are so utterly scarce in this world. It is bad form to crap on such people and constantly highlight their foibles - in fact it's downright base as well as being a hallmark of mediocrity to do so.

If you have to refute the "Rand-worshippers," I suggest your crowd find another way to do it other than diminishing Rand herself. She was, after all, an honourable human being, so honour her!

Where are you going to get fair and balanced?

Robert Campbell's picture

Jim H-N,

I do not believe that The Passion of Ayn Rand is nearly so light and fluffy as you say, nor so inclined toward the lurid. I don't even consider Judgment Day to be in the same league as your hypothetical Kitty Kellyization of Richard Feynman.

I do take your wider point that other biographies of Rand badly need to be written, with other emphases, from other points of view.

With any luck, Anne Heller's will be the first of these.

Do you think, by the way, that Mr. Valliant's book is fair or balanced?

Would you recommend his book to a non-Randian who is kind of wondering about this Ayn Rand person?

Mr. Valliant, of course, claims that PARC is not a biography of Ayn Rand—particularly when another lapse in his scholarship is being exposed.

Robert Campbell


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Robert C, you wrote:

I think you have it backwards.

Outside of Rand-land, there are people who hate everything that Ayn Rand stood for—so they hate her while they're at it.

But here in Rand-land, the key question is not the one you asked.

Rather, the question is why some people find it important to prove that Ayn Rand was: flawless, spotless, morally perfect, Roarkian.

I've been aware of some of Ayn Rand's faults for more than 35 years. I never worried that my life would lose its meaning if she wasn't perfect. I never feared that all of her good ideas would go straight down the crapper if she didn't turn out to be John Galt in female form.

Why should anyone fear these things? You obviously don't think that your life would lose its meaning if Richard Feynman turned out not to be morally perfect. I haven't noticed you worrying that his contributions to physics will go down the crapper if he wasn't another John Galt. What's different about Ayn Rand?

The difference is, of course, that Feynman has had balanced, fair biographies and documentaries that chronicle his life. Let's consider what could have happened. Someone could have written a biography with significant portions detailing his various philanderings, his frat party exploits, copious citations from his fluff books like Surely You're Joking...,a depiction of how he spent too many hours at Los Alamos and not enough at the bedside of his dying wife and various less than stellar moments during his private life. Even if all the foregoing were shown to be demonstrably true, that would be a terrible biography and not an accurate, balanced one. I would show appropriate incredulity and outrage if that were the case.

No, my world would not fall apart if Rand was found to be less than perfect and I don't fear learning negative things about her. I went a long time believing much of what was related in the Branden biographies. The problem is that these biographies are filled with unsupported assertions and have never been subject to cross-examination. If the brutal truth has to come out, it should be the truth and it should have a supplied and appropriate context.

I think many sophisticated readers can read biographies such as James Gleick's biography of Feynman and Thomas Reeves' biography of Joseph McCarthy and see by comparison where the Branden biographies fall down. That doesn't mean that many terrific people and many people I greatly respect don't laud the Branden biographies. All the more reason to introduce counterbalancing examination and testimony.



James S. Valliant's picture

I am afraid that here you're going to have to be more clear, Mr. Campbell.

Law "enforcers" can be a very good thing -- or a very bad thing -- of course, depending on the law and how they carry out its execution.

But "enforcer" in this context has a scary, if nebulous aura, but not much by way of specifics.

Are you saying that Rand should not have been concerned with the misrepresentation of her ideas -- under the NBI banner?

Or with commercial exploitation of her name?

What, specifically, are you saying that Rand was asking Branden to do that you just seem to "know" was somehow nefarious?

Should any "club" using Rand's name have gotten her endorsement or NBI's, in your view? Should any standards have been employed at all?

What exactly do you mean -- and please be specific?

Boy, and you just "know" what Peikoff thinks and feels, again, don't you?

You write: "Ayn Rand never expressed regret in print for kicking anyone out of her circle, or out of her movement."

Okay, and once more, some specifics are the urgent necessity -- who should Rand have remained friends with but didn't?

You have used the word "justified" with regard to the Branden Break yourself, the Holzers and the Blumenthals left her, and Rothbard was an anarchist, and I still don't know what was said in the "riot act" read to Hospers by Branden...

Once you have identified who the "wronged" person was, please tell me -- exactly -- how that person was "wronged."

And, still, doesn't this contradict what you wrote earlier: "So, no, AR didn't owe anyone a permanent position in her life, or in any organized activities of hers"?

Is asking for the facts behind darkly ominous words like "enforcer" -- a demand to see Rand as "perfect"?

Is asking for the specifics behind your implicit criticism of Rand for her "breaks" -- an obsession with Rand as a "Goddess"?

Or, are you seeking the reassurance that Rand was really a rotten person?

"Proving Perfection"

James S. Valliant's picture

Demonstrating that the Branden biographies are fundamentally flawed, that their criticisms of Rand are off base, questioning their credibility and objectivity -- and all of these things put together -- does not show Rand's "perfection."

How could they?

PARC never set out to "prove" any such thing -- if that was the goal, I sure went about it in a funny way -- and PARC never argues for, or claims, or even implies Rand's "perfection."

PARC explicitly says that Rand was a human being who made mistakes and possessed a human psychology with all that this implies. It overtly yearns for an objective biography.

And, obviously, Rand's "perfection" follows from nothing that PARC actually does say.

No, the seeming need on display here is the need to tear down Rand.

Recall that Campbell had earlier accused Rand of taking "active" steps to conceal the affair, implying overt lies of some kind.

I've never heard of such overt lies being told by Rand, and neither of the Brandens reports any.

So, I asked him, in good faith, what those "active" steps were exactly, apart from just not telling.

No answer.

I do not need or desire to prove Rand's "perfection" -- I just insist on justice -- i.e., for the foundation for the negative claims, suggestions and innuendo. Give us the basis for the claim and let us make up our own minds.

That's all.

So, Prof. Campbell, what were those "active" measures at deception of which you accuse Rand? Or, is this something which you find comforting for some reason?

Ms. Branden can claim that Rand was like an "Inquistor" using torture, "fire" and "the rack."

Is questioning her argument really to be equated with an obsession to prove Rand "perfect"?

I have already asked, and will ask Mr. Campbell, again, the following:

In 1968, Nathaniel Branden published to the world his "Answer" to Ayn Rand. In this "Answer," Branden strongly denied Rand's assertion that their relationship had "deteriorated into long discussions of his personal, philosophical and psychological problems."

He strongly suggests that such counseling was neither serious nor extensive.
In fact, he complains that it was Rand who had "volunteered" such advice -- in direct contradiction to the statement in his memoirs in which he admits to having "solicited" Rand's advice -- and, as her notes make clear, was in fact the case.

Can you describe this as anything other than a deception of his own readers?

Once more, straight question -- no answer.

Mr. Branden still claims that this 1968 statement was nothing but the truth and that Rand had defamed him!

Is questioning his credibility here really to be equated with a psychological need for Rand to be seen as "spotless"?

Sure, Mr. Campbell can say that he believes Rand's flaws to be minor -- but look at what he is defending...

Who's the "needy" one?

Can you imagine what Campbell's friends would have said about Rand if she had psychologized people she didn't know in the manner that Campbell just did?

He just "knows" that Peikoff "needs" Rand to be perfect.

He just "knows" -- whatever PARC actually says -- that I do, too.

Are we given any "proof" of these things?

Of course, not.

I suppose that there must be someone out there with a "psychological need" to show that Rand was "perfect," in Campbell's sense, the poor soul.

But I also know from first-hand experience that there are some who have a "psychological need" to tear down men of achievement.

This seems to be more in play, right now.

More professorial poppycock and piffle!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Mr. Valliant's ally, Mr. Perigo, is a whole different story. Does Mr. Perigo personally need to believe that Ayn Rand was perfect? He appears to have gotten along fine for years without expressing such an overt need, so I tend to doubt it.

As explained ad tedium, I don't believe Ayn Rand was perfect in the sense of flawless or infallible; I believe she was "perfect" in the sense that she lived by her principles and never consciously breached them.

Mr. Perigo came to appreciate Mr. Valliant's book and worshipful attitudes toward Ayn Rand when Barbara Branden endorsed the "Drooling Beast" essay.

I came to appreciate Mr. Valliant's book when I read it.

Had Ms. Branden not personally rejected Mr. Perigo and humiliated him in public, I doubt Mr. Perigo would be giving Mr. Valliant the time of day, some three years after PARC was published.

More of your and Babs's bullshit psychologising, Professor. Ms. Branden didn't humiliate me; she cheapened and humiliated herself by being party to that squalid atrocity, just as she cheapened and humiliated herself by repeating even worse smears recently. Being the object of her disgusting behaviour certainly helps sharpen my appreciation of the truth of PARC, I'll grant you.

So, Professor: any progress with "unfortunate and sub-optimal"? Or is that just another smear you're content to let go uncorrected?

Nathaniel Branden's insufficient zeal as an enforcer

Robert Campbell's picture

Chapters III and VI of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics are titled "Mullah Rand?" and "School or Cult?" Neither of them has been reproduced on this board yet. In essence, they are Mr. Valliant's attempt to prove two assertions:

(a) There was never any cult of Ayn Rand

(b) The cult was all Nathaniel Branden's fault

To say that there are problems with these chapters is an understatement.

While rereading "To Whom It May Concern" in preparation for my comments on Mr. Valliant's "exploitation" thesis, I came across a most interesting passage, which somehow Mr. Valliant has never seen fit to reference.

Given its role in Ayn Rand's public indictment of Nathaniel Branden, I think it might be relevant here:

NBI […] was intended as a purely educational organization, but it did not function fully as such, and, at times, it became professionally embarrassing to me. It led to the constant trouble and responsibility of worrying about the activities and the verbal misrepresentations of some of its students, the constant reports about NBI imitators, i.e., unauthorized, self-appointed lecturers on "the philosophy of Ayn Rand," who, having apparently discovered that that name has commercial value, postured around as spokesmen for me. Originally, Mr. Branden was to protect me from that sort of thing; but in recent years, he ignored and neglected it—and, in certain peculiar instances, he even seems to have encouraged some dubious "Ayn Rand Clubs. (The Objectivist, May 1968, p. 6)

Yep, you got it—Ayn Rand not only expected Nathaniel Branden to be her "enforcer," she blamed him for not being zealous enough. He didn't shut down enough Ayn Rand Clubs!

Mr. Valliant's efforts to relieve Ayn Rand of responsibility for the "enforcement" have never been very persuasive.

He has had to ignore such practices as canceling subscriptions to The Objectivist (a practice that Rand continued for the three years that remained to the journal after Nathaniel Branden gave up his share of it).

Or public pronouncements to the effect that only Ayn Rand, and a handful of persons designated by her, are Objectivists, and everyone else is a "student of Objectivism." (Mr. Valliant never directly acknowledges that announcement. Then he turns around and refers to Nathaniel Branden and all of the other published authors in Rand's periodicals as "students of Objectivism"—just there, I suppose, on Rand's sufferance. I'll bet his mentor and sponsor isn't entirely thrilled with this remark...)

Ayn Rand never expressed regret in print for kicking anyone out of her circle, or out of her movement. I've yet to see a single statement attributed to Rand expressing such regret; Mr. Valliant has never come up with any. So it's really difficult to conclude that Nathaniel Branden's grilling and riot-act-reading and door-showing were done without her knowledge or consent.

Robert Campbell


Lindsay Perigo's picture

The OL crowd is going on about the objective requirement for cognitive identification to precede moral judgment, not vice versa.

Wotta breakthrough!! Stop the presses! Sound the trumpets! Text Peikoff!! Cognition should precede evaluation! Wotta stunning new insight! This never occurred to anyone before!! Smiling

Yeah, shame they don't learn to practise what they preach.

Why is it so important to prove that Ayn Rand was perfect?

Robert Campbell's picture

Jim H-N,

[...] I'll ask a question that's been nagging at me for some time: Why is it so important for some people to find fault with Ayn Rand? I mean it's not like we've got anybody currently in the movement who has discovered the secrets to nuclear energy or something. Who benefits? It's not like we won't go out and run our lives as we see fit away from the discussion board. Most of us have reasonably successful careers and relationships.

Why the attempt [to] pull her down? There should be some good evidence, but all I see is conflicting testimony and video and audio performances in which she is terrific.

I think you have it backwards.

Outside of Rand-land, there are people who hate everything that Ayn Rand stood for—so they hate her while they're at it.

But here in Rand-land, the key question is not the one you asked.

Rather, the question is why some people find it important to prove that Ayn Rand was: flawless, spotless, morally perfect, Roarkian.

I've been aware of some of Ayn Rand's faults for more than 35 years. I never worried that my life would lose its meaning if she wasn't perfect. I never feared that all of her good ideas would go straight down the crapper if she didn't turn out to be John Galt in female form.

Why should anyone fear these things? You obviously don't think that your life would lose its meaning if Richard Feynman turned out not to be morally perfect. I haven't noticed you worrying that his contributions to physics will go down the crapper if he wasn't another John Galt. What's different about Ayn Rand?

Those aligned with the Leonard Peikoff Institute seem to need to believe that Ayn Rand was perfect because their petty panjandrum needs to believe it himself. What's more, their panjandrum needs to believe that all of his rivals for the succession were eliminated because they failed to meet Ayn Rand's standards. It's not as through anyone ever left or got the boot because Ayn Rand failed to meet their standards; it's not as though Rand's legacy could stand on its own without Dr. Peikoff and his ham-handed efforts to maintain an orthodoxy.

Mr. Valliant is a disciple of said panjandrum. Without Leonard Peikoff's sponsorship, Mr. Valliant would have no Part II, and no published book, just a big long rant against "the Brandens" on a buddy's website. Nor would the Ayn Rand Institute be selling that book.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Valliant is sincere in his zealotry. But authentic imperviousness to reason is not a positive trait.

Mr. Valliant's ally, Mr. Perigo, is a whole different story. Does Mr. Perigo personally need to believe that Ayn Rand was perfect? He appears to have gotten along fine for years without expressing such an overt need, so I tend to doubt it. Mr. Perigo came to appreciate Mr. Valliant's book and worshipful attitudes toward Ayn Rand when Barbara Branden endorsed the "Drooling Beast" essay. Had Ms. Branden not personally rejected Mr. Perigo and humiliated him in public, I doubt Mr. Perigo would be giving Mr. Valliant the time of day, some three years after PARC was published.

If you want to know what motivates Mr. Perigo, take any of his diatribes against "Rand-diminishers," replace the name "Rand" with the name "Perigo," and you'll have the essence of it.

Mr. Perigo can draw a little audience in Rand-land if he castigates Rand-diminishers.

If he were to go on instead against Perigo-diminishers, he'd be lucky to get the attention of three people and a dog.

Let me add that some people who worship Rand seem to feel that if they carry out their devotions with sufficient fervor, and tear into the non-worshippers with sufficient ferocity, some of that spotlessness and Roarkhood will rub off on them.

I don't think that's where good moral character or heroic achievement comes from. Fervor and ferocity don't make adequate substitutes.

Finally, I think you'll find that most of us in Rand-land who talk about Ayn Rand's flaws are doing so merely in order to refute the Rand-worshippers.

I don't care for the agenda of the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals. They seek a monopoly over Rand scholarship; they erase people who have fallen out of favor with them from the historical record; they promote obscurantism in the sciences; and they're doing their damnedest to turn Objectivism into a rinky-dink religion.

I certainly don't care for Mr. Perigo's agenda, which seems largely based on personal prejudices and a desire for revenge on everyone who has failed to put loyalty to Mr. Perigo above all other values.

When such actors stop promoting the worship of Ayn Rand, I'll happily stop talking about her (rather sparse) bad actions, or her occasional less than wonderful traits of personality. Her ideas and her literary achievement are far more interesting.

Robert Campbell

PS. If you are worried about "the Brandens" as sources on Rand, reread her published work, listen to her Q&A sessions on tape—and consult the testimony of people like Allan Blumenthal and Robert Hessen, who knew her and were never good friends of Nathaniel or Barbara Branden. Mr. Valliant goes nuts whenever anyone cites sources not dependent on "the Brandens," precisely because they so readily discredit his thesis.


Chris Cathcart's picture

The OL crowd is going on about the objective requirement for cognitive identification to precede moral judgment, not vice versa. It's great advice, and it'd be lovely to see them all practice it there on the whole PARC thingy. Eye

Oh my, Heaps!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Cognitive-normative malfunction?! That sounds pretty serious. Is it contagious? Will you have to be quarantined? Is there something you can take for it? Is it operable? Is it life-threatening? Is it as horrible as Brandroidism?

Linz, I've made the mistake

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I've made the mistake of reading some threads over there Smiling. They've diagnosed me with cognitive/normative malfunction. Too bad it has nothing to do with my favorite cognac. More to do with my thalamus. I'll have to see if Antonio Damasio has something to say about that. I could send the Portuguese version over to MSK for a translation Smiling Smile.


Effing disgusting

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The import of the following by Campbell escaped me until I thought about just what "presumptive evidence" means:

Is there enough evidence to establish that Frank O'Connor was an alcoholic? If the story about rows of empty liquor bottles in his studio is accurate, there's presumptive evidence that he had a drinking problem. I'd like to see, in detail, all of the evidence about his drinking (with chronology firmly established).

Now, presumptive evidence is "evidence that is treated as sufficient for a guilty verdict unless contradicted and outweighed by presentation of rebuttal evidence." Campbell goes on to say no adequate rebuttal has been forthcoming. So Frank is "guilty" of having a "drinking problem" on the strength of those empty liquor bottles. Again, a simpleton could see the inadequacy of such evidence for making such a case, but a professor in this instance cannot. Perhaps the professor just wants to believe Frank had a drinking problem because Babs said he did and it would bolster his and Babs's attempts to diminish Rand?

As for "I'd like to see, in detail, all of the evidence about his drinking (with chronology firmly established)," I'd like to respond with something I know Frank would never say but in my view is the only proper response to such presumptuous, busy-body, sticky-beak, oafish, puffed-up pomposity: "Professor, mind your own fucking business ... and go fuck yourself while you're about it."


Lindsay Perigo's picture

I thought you extricated yourself from the swamp? Don't tell me you jumped back in? If you did, you're certifiable. Smiling

My stances on these issues

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

My stances on these issues make my life so much easier too, don't they? Smiling The truth is that despite detesting Nathaniel and Barbara's biographies, I desperately wanted them to be true, because of what it would mean about Nathaniel and Barbara if they weren't. My vision of Rand was substantially postiive either way, but is more positive after PARC.



James S. Valliant's picture

Your desperate need to worship the Goddess Rand was clear the day you started attending TAS conferences, wasn't it?

Your hidden ARI/"Branden-bashing" agenda has been so obvious that I wondered how MSK ever let you post at OL in the first place!

Your support for "open system" stuff has been a ruse, as anyone can see!

Now that you mention it, I really wish that all of us who agree with any aspect of PARC could get into total lock-step -- it would make MSK's task so much easier!

As anyone can read with his own eyes, your wild claims and over-the-top approach speak for themselves, you nutter! Smiling


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


When you first encountered me on these boards, did you find me desperately seeking to find Rand as a heroine? It was only when reluctantly reading your book that I realized that Rand was innocent in her dealings with Nathaniel and Barbara.


And Personal Attack...

James S. Valliant's picture

... remains the focus.

Disagreement and methodology

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Over on OL, MSK is musing about my "errors". Has he considered that we might have a genuine disagreement about this issue? I think we probably also have disagreements about methodology of argument. He finds my arguments to be sloppy. I find his arguments to be nitpicky, verbose and nonessentialized. To each his own Smiling.


Oh gimme a break!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

When I wrote to several top people at TAS, encouraging them to reverse their decision to invite Mr. Perigo as a speaker, I made no reference to his drinking. I made reference to his bad character, his near-constant recourse to abusive language, and his obvious hankering to restore esthetic policing to the Objectivist world. I also reminded them of his open and long-standing despisal of both them and their organization.

I'd put my character up against yours any time, Prof. Campbell. Near-constant recourse to abusive language? You mean I call people like you what they are, with evidence supplied. Restore esthetic policing to the Objectivist world? I urge Objectivists to discover and proclaim the objective superiority of Romantic music. Where's the "policing" in that? More evidence-challenged smears, Professor. Found the bit where I defend "unfortunate and sub-optimal" yet? Not too busy policing other people's seminars, I trust?

Heaps ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Why is it so important for some people to find fault with Ayn Rand? I mean it's not like we've got anybody currently in the movement who has discovered the secrets to nuclear energy or something. Who benefits? It's not like we won't go out and run our lives as we see fit away from the discussion board. Most of us have reasonably successful careers and relationships.

You have to ask those to whom it's important to find fault with her.Smiling Like Campbell.

You might ask him, as well, where's the evidence that I defended "unfortunate and sub-optimal" and that I go to O-Lying, as he claimed yesterday in his effort to smear me as a liar and a hypocrite. I've not succeeded in getting answers.

Integrity is the key. It's important, desperately so, to these folk who don't have it to show that Ayn Rand didn't have it either. Hell, it's even important for them to show that I don't have it. It's important to these entities to show that integrity is impossible, thereby letting themselves off the hook.

My Objectivity :-)

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

My objectivity is being questioned over on OL. I guess now I'm not objective when it comes to PARC, but reasonable when it comes to everything else. Well, that's a couple steps up from being called a liar.

The thing is, I've never claimed to be right about everything. I also don't worry if my heroes turn out, in fact, to have feet of clay. It's their life, not mine, and I'm not responsible for it. Also, I've never lacked for heroes. In the sciences and mathematics, fortunately, there are many. Anyone who's gotten to work through Einstein's General and Special Theories of relativity, Maxwell equations in eletrodynamics, advanced math of several different flavors doesn't lack for heroes.

My major boyhood hero, along with Rand was Richard Feynman, but he died my junior year of high school so I never got to meet him. But my biggest boyhood influence was my uncle Keith, who took me up in the control tower at Fermilab at age 6. Looking out over the massive particle accelerator. I asked what they did with that thing and he answered: we discover secrets of the universe. I got to visit SLAC out at Stanford with its various facilities, but Fermilab stuck in my mind. I went to the World Book Encyclopedia and tried to learn all there was to know about particle physics.

Fast forward to eighth grade where we had this program in school with special Saturday classes where they brought in scientists and humanities experts and had special sessions with the students and Bernie Malamud had come from Fermilab. I went up to him and tried to talk about particle physics.

I knew all the names of the exotic particles and which quarks made up the baryons and what particles mediated the different forces except I hadn't read about eletromagnetism. So we were talking about all these different particles and how much energy was required to produce them in a collision. So finally I asked him what the force-carrying particle of the electromagnetic force was and he looked at me quizzically and said: the photon. I'd never been so emabarrassed, but it brought a point home. There's a difference between coffee table conversation and really knowing something.It's always a good idea to be open to when you are wrong or don't know something.

I don't have a lot of time for this topic so I'll ask a question that's been nagging at me for some time: Why is it so important for some people to find fault with Ayn Rand? I mean it's not like we've got anybody currently in the movement who has discovered the secrets to nuclear energy or something. Who benefits? It's not like we won't go out and run our lives as we see fit away from the discussion board. Most of us have reasonably successful careers and relationships.

Why the attempt pull her down? There should be some good evidence, but all I see is conflicting testimony and video and audio performances in which she is terrific.


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