Mullah Rand? [More PARC!]

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Tue, 2008-06-03 19:17

More PARC!

The following is Chapter 3 of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. Once more, citations have been omitted while certain "Footnote" material has been folded into the text itself. In addition, the discussion of the Smith break has been expanded, that of the Blumenthal break changed for clarity and in order to include material not then available, and the description of Rand's appearance on the Phil Donahue Show has been augmented slightly.

Mullah Rand?

Both Nathaniel and Barbara Branden concede that Ayn Rand did not “rule” the Objectivist movement by force or threats of force. Rand’s “authoritarian” nature revealed itself in harsh words and the avoidance of certain adversaries.

Scary stuff.

If the Brandens’ characterizations are to be believed, however, comparisons to the medieval church, perhaps even to Stalin, are appropriate. Indeed, it is their assertions in this regard that have provided the main foundation for this often repeated characterization.

Given the Brandens’ demonstrated penchant for drawing conclusions from nearly non-existent evidence, one should view with considerable skepticism the portrait they draw of the “Authoritarian” Ayn Rand of the many “Purges,” the moralizer and psychologizer. This is especially true, since both Brandens regard themselves as the very persons most seriously victimized by the Authoritarian Rand.

Ms. Branden relates the visit Rand once paid to Taliesen East, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture. The legendary architect had become an admirer of The Fountainhead. Wright wrote Rand a letter in praise of the novel, kept the book on his nightstand and recommended it to his students—almost every one of whom read it, according to Ms. Branden. Wright later designed a home for Rand that was never built.

Rand described Taliesen to her friends as a “feudal establishment.” She felt “the buildings were magnificent” but the school itself repressive. Rand was “startled” to learn that Wright's students who lived at Taliesen had to pay for the privilege of being servants as well as students in a somewhat monastic existence. They took communal meals, with Wright and his guests on a raised dais eating a better menu than the serf-students below.

Rand complained:

"Almost all his students seemed like emotional, out-of-focus hero-worshippers. Anything he said was right, there was an atmosphere of worshipful, awed obedience. When [Wright] and I began to argue about something, the students were against me instantly; they bared their teeth that I was disagreeing with the master. They showed me some of their work, which was badly imitative of Wright. What was tragic was that he did not want any of that...."

Ms. Branden notes what she believes are the parallels between Wright and Rand here. Ms. Branden says that “it was clear to her listeners that [Rand] was describing, unknowingly, conflicting aspects of her own attitude: the emotional need and demand for total agreement always at war with the equal, simultaneous longing for an independent response.”

What is clear from her own comments is that Rand's conscious attitude toward such authoritarianism (if that's what it should be called) was quite negative.

It is also clear that the Objectivist movement, at its worst, including its manifestation in NBI (the Nathaniel Branden Institute), never required Rand's students to wait on her, nor were they ever put into a monastic setting with communal meals, much less a raised dais and separate menus. In all these ways, at least, Rand compares very favorably with Wright, and Ms. Branden's example has something of the opposite effect it was meant to have.

In none of her writings, of course, did Rand ever make a “demand for total agreement.” In private, Rand disliked even the idea of having “followers.”

“I don't like the personal adulation or any of the ‘fan’ atmosphere,” Branden quotes her as saying.

Nonetheless, the Brandens insist that Rand required “absolute agreement” from her students. But, here, the Brandens raise the white flag and admit their total lack of evidence, which does not stop them, however, from making the accusation.

Ms. Branden, for example, says that Rand “made it implicitly clear that any criticism of her was an act of treason to reason and morality.” (emphasis added)

Nathaniel Branden asserts that there were certain "implicit premises" which were somehow “transmitted” to the students at NBI, and among these were the beliefs that a “good Objectivist” admires and condemns whatever Rand admired and condemned, and that Rand was the “supreme arbiter of what was rational, moral, or appropriate to man's life on earth.”

Both use the term “implicit,” presumably to convey the fact that these dictums were never explicitly stated, as they were surely never stated in print or on tape by Rand or any of her associates. Mr. Branden even tells us that among these unspoken premises was the stipulation that “it is best not to say these things explicitly...”

In other words, no one ever said these things, including Rand herself.

Despite Branden’s “best not to say openly” remark, Jerome Tuccille actually cites Branden as his source for the proposition that to remain in Rand’s favor one was required to “believe and state openly” the most bizarre of these premises. This is a good example of Tuccille’s methodology and shoddy scholarship when discussing Rand, and it is but one example of how the Brandens’ dubious histories are used and built upon in still more dubious ways (see Tuccille, Alan Shrugged, pp. 73-74.) In fairness to Tuccille, it must be acknowledged that many of his errors stem from his extensive (and uncritical) reliance on both Rothbard and the Brandens. However, given the repeated stress placed on the “implicit” nature of these demands in both Brandens’ books and the sheer number of other Branden-like contradictions in Tuccille’s histories of Rand, one suspects that a hostile dishonesty—comparable to the Brandens’—is at work.

Still Branden is able to assert that what “Rand made overpoweringly clear to us was that the ultimate test and proof of one's idealism were one's loyalty to her work and to her personally.” (emphasis added) What Branden seems unable to make even slightly clear to his readers is how Rand did so—at least, he does not cite for us statements or actions which even suggest Rand communicated this.

Now, it is certainly true that the periodicals which Rand and Mr. Branden edited did nothing but praise Rand and criticize her ideological opponents. To the simple-minded, perhaps, this is cause to conclude all of these alleged “implicit premises.” But Rand herself reminded her readers, quite explicitly and on more than one occasion, that no human being is either omniscient or infallible.

It should also be remembered that it was the Brandens themselves who were singing Rand's praises the loudest in those days. Are they now confessing that they were, in fact, that simple-minded?

There is a single occasion where Nathaniel Branden alleges in contradiction to his otherwise consistent use of the word “implicit” that Rand did privately reveal to him her expectation that she be her circle’s “highest loyalty so far as other people are concerned, if it ever comes to a conflict.” What exactly this was supposed to mean is left to the various imaginations of Branden’s readers.

From his own description, this was said to Branden alone and in private, and, therefore, we have no unbiased corroboration. With Branden as our only witness, we require such corroboration.

Given the scant factual information which the Brandens are willing to provide for any of their claims, it is not hard to imagine that Branden would feel the need to amplify the evidence a little here.

Branden is also oddly echoing a similar claim made to Reason in 1971, but–in sharp contrast to his later accounts–Branden then alleged that this “demand for loyalty” was made “during an argument,” and that it explicitly pertained only to his relationships with Ms. Branden and Rand and potential “conflicts” among those personal relationships. Whether his marriage was already falling apart yet or not was not revealed, and, of course, Rand’s actual words were not reported.

Moreover, as reported in his memoir, the statement is highly improbable. Branden has here put the prediction of a future “conflict” with members of her circle into Rand’s mind, which does not seem likely. Branden quotes Rand as saying in 1961 that she believed a future dispute—at least between the two of them—to be “hardly likely,” when the suggestion was first made in legal planning for The Objectivist Newsletter. None of the context is given: where, when, in response to what, etc. Just, “Rand, just once, said this to me privately—although she said and wrote the opposite lots of other times.” To use Rand's own words, “hardly likely.”

Consider what we know Rand actually did say about having “followers”:

"I never wanted and do not now want to be the leader of a 'movement.' I do approve of a philosophical or intellectual movement, in the sense of a growing trend among a number of independent individuals sharing the same ideas. But an organized movement is a different matter. NBI was not quite either; it was intended as a purely educational organization, but it did not function fully as such, and, at times, it became a professional embarrassment to me."

Mr. Branden even tells us that Rand was dubious about NBI’s prospects from the beginning and that NBI was named after Branden, rather than Rand or Objectivism, precisely in order to establish “a certain distance” between Rand and that organization.

Such attitudes are not easily reconciled with a single statement that Branden claims Rand once made to him privately.

In an introductory note preceding his book, Branden says that when he reproduces a conversation, “I am not suggesting that all the words reported are verbatim,” although he is confident, he says, that he was faithful to “the spirit and mood of the occasion.” This is simply insufficient, given Branden’s predilection for ax-grinding and contradiction.

As we shall see in Part II, Rand’s private journals demonstrate that—far from “demanding” such “loyalty” from anyone, including Branden—Rand was actually appalled by the fact that Branden himself seemed to require her “sanction” for all of his decisions, including those involving his sex life.

Despite the Brandens' assertions to the contrary, Rand did have certain profound insights into how the human mind works outside of pure “theory,” but, in the Brandens' view, Rand was a “psychologizer,” one who uses psychological rationalizations to condemn unfairly other persons or their ideas, a practice that was identified by Ayn Rand and one she explicitly condemned in her essay, “The Psychology of ‘Psychologizing.’”

The Brandens would never “psychologize,” of course.

On many occasions in her writing, and it is to be believed in her private life, Rand did ascribe psychological motives to her adversaries. But, as with her moral judgments, Rand could provide specific reasons, indeed, an entire philosophical framework, to justify her conclusions. Nor could she have been more forthright in expressing them.

Both of the Brandens, in fact, praise Rand's psychological insight in other contexts–and they quote others giving Rand such praise, as well. Bennett Cerf's account of George Axelrod, who wrote the screenplay for the 1962 film version of The Manchurian Candidate, saying of Rand, “She knows me better after five hours than my analyst does after five years," At Random, p. 250, and Mr. Branden's own report that he “marveled at [Rand's] insight” into masculine psychology, are only two examples.

The Brandens’ principal evidence for Rand the Psychological Inquisitor, as opposed to Rand the Constant Moralizer, are the so-called “trials”—of which we are given but one example between them.

Ms. Branden tells us that a young student of Objectivism was having “personal problems in her romantic relationship” with another young Objectivist. No other details on the “problems” are given. Whether the girl was in therapy or with whom is not mentioned. The circumstances of her life are not related.

But, we are told, noted psychologist Nathaniel Branden “called her in for a discussion of her psychology.” The Brandens, the two young students, along with O'Connor and Rand, were present. Ms. Branden indicates that “[s]uch evenings were becoming commonplace in Ayn’s dealings.”

Whether or not “group-therapy” is even a psychologically valid technique, if Ayn Rand were truly the genius the Brandens still claim that she was, then who would not have paid dearly to take part in a small group therapy session which included Rand—provided, of course, that the psychologist conducting it was trustworthy.

Anyone who has observed group therapy can attest that the group sometimes has to come down on an individual pretty hard. It is said that this is part of the power of “group” as a therapeutic technique. It is also sometimes all too easy to be too hard on the individual being “grouped.” It is always a difficult line for even the best-trained clinician to draw.

Ms. Branden says that while “Ayn exhibited a lack of human empathy that was astonishing...,” it was Nathaniel who “conducted” the discussion. It was Branden who delivered the merciless verdict, which apparently included a diagnosis of “social metaphysics,” but, if he would make a good point, Rand would occasionally chuckle or clap.

This is all the information we are provided about what was said that night. Based on this one example, Ms. Branden would have us believe that psychology was a weapon which Rand used “as an inquisitor might use fire and the rack.”

To judge Rand from even the single case Ms. Branden presents, however, is impossible, given the tiny amount of information that is provided. What was said, what was “chuckled at,” how actually sensitive this unnamed girl was that night, how did her problems turn out, etc.? All these questions need to be answered before any judgment by Ms. Branden's reader—all of us who were not present—can be made of Rand's behavior. Of course, all of these questions remain unanswered by Ms. Branden.

Ms. Branden was herself present, and these details could have been supplied. We must, therefore, ask why they were left out.

In any event, without such details, this anecdote is nearly useless to the historian; given Ms. Branden’s lack of credibility on so many other issues, the reader may well demand that she supply more than her own summary conclusion.

If it is unfair to characterize this “discussion” as “group-therapy” from the information provided, then it is equally unfair to call it a “trial,” as Ms. Branden does. Apparently, the only “verdict” was Mr. Branden’s diagnosis. After the discussion, the girl wrote a paper about her state of mind. She was clearly experiencing distressingly low self-esteem, although, again, all the specifics are left out.

One thing is clear: the girl was not sent to Siberia.

Even taking the unwarranted step of assuming the truth of this information, it seems that the worst to be said of Rand is that she “astonished” Ms. Branden one evening by her “lack of empathy.” This consisted of clapping and chuckling during a discussion of someone's psychology being conducted by Mr. Branden. From this, one can hardly leap to the conclusion that Rand used psychology “like a torturer uses the rack.” The facts she has presented as her evidence simply do not warrant the opinions Ms. Branden would have us draw from them. It must be emphasized that, for some odd reason, this is the only specific example of such a “trial” that either of the Brandens mentions. We are simply told that there were others.

Nathaniel Branden admits: “I looked for alternative ways to reassure Ayn of my devotion. I became her ‘enforcer.’ If someone in our group did something to offend Ayn, or the ‘cause’... I would invite that person to lunch and in a quiet but deadly voice I would inform him or her of the nature of the transgression.”

Branden not only reveals that these meetings were his idea, he also tells us that only if the offense was “big enough” would others, presumably sometimes including Rand, even be involved. He does not say that Rand even knew about any of these private discussions, and he almost certainly would have told us if she had known of these. In other words, as Rand’s self-appointed “enforcer,” Branden was acting, without Rand’s knowledge, to create a culture of conformity which he would later blame Rand for creating.

Such “trials,” Branden claims, could involve charges of “gossiping” about another close associate of Rand’s, or “being friendly” with a critic of Rand. But, of course, no examples are provided, nor are we entrusted with any of the details regarding these instances, even assuming that Branden is referring to actual events.

Did the “gossip” amount to slander or merely a rude invasion of privacy? Just who was the critic of Rand—and just how “friendly” did the person become with him or her?

Omitting these details and distinctions, Branden suggests that the very idea of questioning what someone says about other people—or with whom someone is friendly—is authoritarian in itself. By implication, he suggests that Rand should have had no problem with a teacher of her ideas getting married to a Nazi or Communist, or with one member of her circle falsely accusing another of child molesting. Without the specifics we can only assume that Rand would be criticized just the same.

But, of course, this assumes that Mr. Branden is telling the truth about these things. Telling us so little may simply mean that there is very little to tell.

Branden does tell us that Ms. Branden “sometimes played the role of Lord High Executioner herself,” whatever that concretely means, an idea that readers of Ms. Branden's own biography will find surprising. (Even "Lord Chamberlain" seems a stretch, given the evidence we are provided.)

Since the Brandens both chose the very same “trial” to present, it must represent their strongest case—otherwise, we must also ask how they happened to choose the same lonely example. In light of the extensive counseling Rand provided the Brandens themselves over the years (just how extensive is made clear in Part II) it is curious that no example or detail of such torment could be produced from any of these sessions.

As we have observed, the accounts of this single “trial” obviously lack any of the relevant data to make a fair assessment of even that situation. If absolutely no one was willing, decades later, to waive whatever therapy-privilege might be involved in order to be named, much less interviewed about these “trials,” at least one of the Brandens should say so. If they never tried, they should tell us that, too. “Well, you just had to be there” is insufficient for the historian. With only their conclusions to go on, we are left actually knowing no more than before we read their books.

Notice, too, it was Nathaniel Branden that “called” the discussion and “conducted it,” and that such meetings were his idea in the first place. It was he who delivered the “diagnoses.” This, at least, is credible, as neither of the Brandens suggests that Rand would ever have conducted such a group discussion of anyone’s psychology at her own instigation. And, if it got out of hand, surely, it was Branden’s—the trained therapist's—job to correct the situation.

Which brings us to Nathaniel Branden's curiously different account of that evening. Of course, it is different only in its conclusory description, for the only additional detail he provides is the name of one of the young people involved. (Apparently, the privacy or legal privileges of the people involved are no concern to Branden.) That's it.

As Barbara Branden herself observed, in Branden's version it is no “discussion” of someone's psychology—it is a meeting convened by Branden to hear ethical “charges.” These are even less specific than Ms. Branden's psychological issues, which were at least suggested to have involved “social metaphysics.”

It seems that, as the “prosecutor” in these meetings, as well as a psychotherapist, Branden realizes that if these meetings were, indeed, psychological in nature, then any mental anguish caused is principally the result of his own “professional” conduct. If they were an indistinguishable mixture of the two, it casts Branden in no better professional light.

As Branden is fond of pointing out, Rand repeatedly disclaimed any specialized knowledge of—or interest in—clinical psychology.

From the combined evidence of both Brandens, it is quite impossible to say which characterization of these meetings is more accurate—or that these meetings (or even just the one referred to) were somehow inappropriate. They (more accurately, it) may or may not have been.

In interviews published since the release of The Passion of Ayn Rand, Ms. Branden has not added new examples or details, but she has somewhat augmented the picture of Branden as “persecutor”—with Rand largely on the sidelines even in this single instance. Ms. Branden now suggests that, rather than wielding excessive “control” over the situation, if anything, Rand gave Branden too much latitude.

Of course, most large, private organizations have a protocol for “in-house” disciplinary proceedings and often a code of ethical standards governing the membership. Upon an allegation of code violations, some kind of informal hearing is usually part of the "due process" that is believed to be necessary to ensure fairness to all concerned.

NBI and The Objectivist had both employees and management. Presumably, they had internal rules, including, thanks to Rand herself, an entire code of ethics. (Regulations need not be posted in the lunchroom.)

Were any of these “trials” proceedings of this sort? It is impossible to say from the Branden account. The Brandens seem to imply that, since an ethical judgment is being made in the context of an informal hearing, this is somehow in itself proof of a Stalinist show-trial or “kangaroo court.” (All you attorneys can stop laughing now.)

Unfortunately, neither of the Brandens reveals the actual nature of their complaint. Is it: A) The very fact of such meetings; B) The ethical and/or psychological standards Mr. Branden used at such meetings; C) The way Mr. Branden conducted the meetings; or, D) The way Rand chuckled at one of them? These issues are all so blurred that the reader cannot tell. Perhaps the Brandens are simply organizational anarchists. We don’t know, and they never tell us.

But defining these issues is the necessary precondition before any determination can be made that some line had been crossed. Otherwise, it is impossible to say whether something inappropriate was going on at this meeting or not.

The only certainty is that the Brandens are more eager to imply that the Objectivist movement, with Rand’s tacit approval, had gotten out of hand than they are capable of substantiating their own claim.

What they reveal without intending to is that Mr. Branden's behavior, if anyone's at all, was by far the worst.

Branden says that “Ayn and I caused a great deal of guilt and suffering.” But he still seems not to have come to terms with the extent of the specific blame he, as opposed to Rand, might have had in the suffering of others. Although he called these meetings, “prosecuted” them and “delivered the verdicts,” and although Rand was apparently most times not even present, he was just being Rand’s “enforcer,” a role that she had never asked him to assume and the particulars of which she was kept largely unaware.

Mr. Branden even admits that, compared to him, Rand “was often the freest in communicating positive feelings toward her friends; in some moods she was kinder and more emotionally expressive than anyone else in our group.” He does not appear to recognize the implications of this for his own arguments.

As indicated, this single example of such a “trial” hardly proves that Rand used psychological theories to torture people—or moral theories to persecute people. Everyone present was an adult, who was there voluntarily; of that there is no dispute.

And, if this was the extreme—perhaps astonishing—case of Ayn Rand's “lack of empathy” with her students, then, on balance, the woman looks to have been a saint.

* * * * * * * *

Another indication, the Brandens tell us, that Rand was a psychological tormentor is the extent to which a number of Rand's students found themselves repressing their “true selves,” in order to live up to the alleged ideals of Objectivism.

Ms. Branden relates that once she mentioned to Rand that she liked to look at the mountains and ocean. Rand asked why, and Ms. Branden explained that their changelessness gave her a sense of peace. Rand noted that she preferred “man made” things like skyscrapers and suggested that the preference for nature over man stems from a tragic “dust in the wind” sense of life. Although Ms. Branden knew “that some part of what [Rand] said was true,” she felt uncomfortable at the discussion of her own psychology.

Another evening, Ms. Branden relates, she expressed an admiration for novelist Thomas Wolfe, about whom Rand had very definite opinions. “With devastating logic... [Rand] demonstrated Wolfe's shortcomings with regard to precisely the elements of fiction I had agreed were essential.”

Both of these events occurred quite early in her relationship with Rand.

Ms. Branden reports, however, that she was never able “to tear out of myself my passionate response to Thomas Wolfe's novels.” Instead, she says, she learned to repress her true artistic tastes and, indeed, many of her natural emotions. What she told Rand was “I agree”; what her heart told herself was, “But I don't!” In plain English: she lied to Rand about her feelings.

Ms. Branden claims that Rand later began to demand agreement “even in areas of subjective preference,” if not explicitly, then implicitly. Nathaniel Branden confirms that from the very beginning of his relationship with Rand, it was clear that Rand attached a deep significance to a person's aesthetic tastes.

If someone expressed an artistic value not shared by Rand, she might actually say things like: “not my kind of person,” or “not my sense of life.” Rand even once said of a student who enjoyed Mozart and Beethoven, “That's why there will always be a wall between us. Our souls are essentially different.”

The fascist implications speak for themselves.

Both Brandens tell us that many of Rand's students found themselves becoming comprehensive emotional repressors, smothering their “true selves” in an effort to be properly “Objectivist.”

If so, was this Rand's fault? If, as they say, they knew from the outset that Rand attached significance to these matters, then was it not for them to be honest about their own feelings, rather than smile and nod their agreement? Whatever psychological label they place on it, the effect on Rand was dishonesty. If they deceived themselves, they surely also—by their own admission—systematically deceived Rand, as well.

Notice, too, that, as in the case of the Mozart lover, such differences did not cause a “break.” They apparently did not even cause the moral condemnation for which Rand was allegedly famous. According to the Brandens' own reports, the only quoted reaction Rand had was one of personal dislike, “not my kind of person,” and such. it is also worth noting that such a spiritual “wall” did not prevent Rand from designating Leonard Peikoff, a lover of jazz music, her heir. Why did the Brandens feel the need to repress? Simply in order to be regarded by Rand as “one of her kind of people” and in order to claim to Rand that they shared with her a certain spiritual affinity.

This cannot be ascribed to any “authoritarian” tendencies of Rand, but rather to the dishonest and sycophantic tendencies of the Brandens.

An entirely different account of how Rand approached esthetic differences is given by Mary Ann Sures in her memoir, Facets of Ayn Rand. Mrs. Sures relates that she liked a certain painting by Cezanne but “couldn't put [her] finger” on what she liked about it. So she asked Rand, who she knew definitely did not like Cezanne. Mrs. Sures tells us that this is what happened:

"[Rand] asked me if I could tell her why I liked it. I don't remember all that I said. I recall talking about two things: the secluded, peaceful setting, and the sharp contrast between the sunlight and shade in the painting—what [Rand] called 'stylized sunlight.' [Rand] said she could understand why I was responding to that aspect of it...

"The value of that discussion was her stress on the importance of understanding the reasons behind artistic preferences. Doing so puts you in touch with yourself, and you identify your basic values in the process."

So, as the Brandens and their friends were suppressing their true selves in order to impress Rand as being “her kind of person,” Mrs. Sures, not trying to impress, was actually discovering her true self—and not resenting Rand in the process.

Leonard Peikoff insightfully refers to those former associates of Rand who “chafed under the necessity of suppressing their real sel[ves] in order to keep up the pretense of intellectual passion.”

Ms. Branden states the obvious when she frankly admits “we could've said: ‘Enough!’ and walked away.” The Brandens' credibility as witnesses against Rand the Authoritarian would have been greatly enhanced if they had done so. Instead of the Brandens' leaving Rand with the exasperated comment, “I can't take all this moralizing and this implicit demand for absolute agreement,” it was the Brandens who were both shown the door by Rand. It was Rand who chose not to “oppress” the Brandens, anymore.

Another of the terrible psychological weapons in Rand’s arsenal was praise, and here we can see Rand at her most cruel, it seems.

Ms. Branden reports that Rand once told her that she expected “world shaking achievements... miracles” from Ms. Branden and that she was convinced that Ms. Branden was “going to be a great writer.”

Ms. Branden says that no one, “not even Ayn,” could have seen a “great” writer from what she had shown Rand. This is surely true, but does Ms. Branden now resent the generous encouragement she was being given by a famous writer?

Nathaniel Branden recalls that Rand once described him as John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, “except for a few blemishes.” He actually blames Rand’s obviously unrealistic view of him for the “erratic behavior [he exhibited] with Ayn during this period.”

And Edith Efron, an associate of Branden in those days, agrees that he was “murdered by flattery,” that is, he was a social metaphysician (one whose beliefs and values are determined, not by one’s own judgment, but by that of others) as the noted psychologist—who helped to articulate this term—might have diagnosed himself.

Rand’s opinion was clearly in error, but Branden himself was in a better position to know just how much Rand was mistaken here. It was his responsibility to correct Rand in this matter rather than to continue what he knew to be a fraud for several more years, as he did, and then, after her death, to characterize her unconsciousness of certain personal facts as “appalling.”

Efron also calls Branden a “con man.”

Rand is attacked not just because she denounced people so harshly but also because she praised them so effusively. This kind of polar reaction was true for all Rand’s values—not just people—and it is, therefore, unfair to regard this as a kind of conscious manipulation, as Efron implies.

It seems that Rand just can’t win.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The principal evidence which Ms. Branden can produce that Rand ever made any “implicit demand” for total agreement consists of the so-called “purges” of certain close associates, those occasions when Rand terminated her association with a friend or student for ethical or ideological reasons. The Brandens, themselves, of course, fall into this category.

While it is true that most people will rarely, if ever, consciously terminate a relationship on the grounds of ethics or, more accurately, rarely label it in that fashion, people will frequently break up over insults, lies, infidelities, slights to one’s dignity, and generally losing one’s respect for the other person. Without the philosophically explicit concepts to which Rand related everything in her life, this is called “human nature,” and it is not usually compared to Stalin’s behavior, no matter how harshly it is verbalized.

Another chief difference was that Rand made her reasons clear, and left no doubt in those concerned as to the cause of the break. And it was a clear break. There was no cruel snubbing, no cowardly backstabbing, no secretive blacklisting. In this sense, Rand gave those she passionately disagreed with the respect of an explanation of her reasons and a complete context to her position, something quite uncommon.

Ayn Rand was a philosopher. And she was a philosopher who believed that philosophy mattered to life on earth—from art and politics to the most prosaic and everyday concerns. Rand strove for integrity, and so she applied her thinking to everything in her life.

Rand was, in particular, a moralist. Her philosophy, in large part, explicates a new system of ethics. In her writing and lecturing, and, certainly, in her private life, Rand was given to making moral judgments. The gusto with which Rand judged people was certainly no greater than many of the writers of our morally-relativistic age. For example, Norman Mailer’s and Susan Sontag’s condemnations of America in the wake of 9-11, because they are on the left of the spectrum, are not regarded as moralistic or intolerant.

In any event, Rand, at least in print, always gave the specific reasons for her judgments, which could often, at first blush, appear harsh. Her clarity, though, gave every reader the option to accept or reject these judgments for themselves.

Moral judgment is a complex business with any code of ethics, and Ayn Rand had just articulated a revolutionary new code. Rand was acutely aware of the necessity to pass moral judgments only on the voluntary actions of those who actually had a choice. She realized that a person’s emotions are outside of the person’s direct volitional control, and they are, thus, outside of the province of moral condemnation or praise. In her books, Rand made it a moral principle to distinguish between “errors of knowledge” and “breaches of morality.” In principle, only conscious evil and willful evasion actually merited Rand’s angry denunciation. And, in many cases, passing judgments can be a difficult matter, requiring information about an individual’s particular context of knowledge and circumstances, as Rand repeatedly acknowledges.

A passage from Rand’s private notes to herself eloquently expresses her approach to moral judgment in this respect, here in the context of her growing doubts about Nathaniel Branden:

"If I know that I cannot accept his present attitude, why don’t I break with him now? Because I do not understand his attitude. Because I must first understand."

For Rand, understanding was the sine qua non of ethical evaluation.

Rand also understood the absurdity of any attempt to force a mind. She argued that force and mind were opposites. Thinking, she believed, was a capacity only possessed by an individual. Each of us must think for ourselves and not yield our judgment to anyone or anything, even if, like Howard Roark, the hero of The Fountainhead, we must stand alone against the entire world.

Rand was articulating a new philosophy, one that was being continually misrepresented by the media in what both of the Brandens acknowledge were grossly unfair ways. In one of the great moments of journalistic mendacity, The National Review, for example, reviewing Atlas Shrugged, compared Rand’s ideas to Nazism, when, of course, Rand was a passionate advocate of freedom and herself a refugee from totalitarianism. Rand was justifiably concerned with giving the media any cause to be right, and she took great care with respect to her ideological endorsements.

There were unauthorized attempts to use the names of the heroes of Rand’s novels in commercial projects, and a few of Rand’s former students, most notably Murray Rothbard, began advocating anarchism as a political doctrine. Under such circumstances, it was hardly paranoid on Rand’s part to explicitly announce who did and did not have her sanction, who could speak for Rand and who was only “a student of Objectivism,” whatever resentments this might engender.

Such resentment is curious in itself. If Rand really was a monster—or if Rand was just wrong about something—then why resent Rand for calling the relationship off? Accept the fact, vive la difference, and move on. Even, perhaps, be grateful.

When Rand broke with someone, she usually did it privately, as with the Rothbard faction—the sole exception (apart from the Brandens) being the brief note in The Objectivist which informed readers that Edith Efron was no longer associated with Rand or Objectivism in 1967. Rand thereafter declined further comment. Only the case of the Brandens’ would cause Rand to write an extensive piece, which we will consider in chapter four. But then, the Brandens, too, were not to be heard about again, apart from a brief “Legal Notice” regarding the later marketing of the Brandens’ NBI courses.

It should be repeated that Rand could have significant personal or ideological differences with someone she had known and still praise that person’s work. When she ended a relationship, it did not always end with any kind of formal “break.” Ms. Branden herself says that John Chamberlain, Henry Hazlitt, William Mullendore and Albert Mannheimer are just some of those with whom Rand’s deteriorating relationships are better described as “losing contact” but remaining on friendly terms with them. In all of these cases and others, if a writer was involved, Ms. Branden acknowledges that Rand continued to praise and recommend their books, whatever her past differences with these people had been, for the rest of her life.

Nathaniel Branden agrees that although Rand had become estranged from Isabel Paterson, with whom she had been quite close, this “in no way diminished Ayn’s appreciation of [Paterson's] book.” On the other hand, Rand’s disillusionment with Mannheimer, Branden concedes, did not “occasion a permanent rift.” He points out that Rand could admire an artist’s skill even while having profound objections to his philosophy—and even if she disliked the work, as in the case of Tolstoy and others. He observes that Rand, quite explicitly, did not seek ideological agreement from her business associates, such as her publisher. He points out that, even during the heyday of the “movement,” Rand was quite capable of a friendship with composer and music critic Deems Taylor, “without requiring that he be a convert.”

As many others have observed, it was only with closer intellectual associates, those to whom Rand had given a higher ideological endorsement, that “official” breaks happened—and for perfectly understandable reasons.

The Brandens both assert that Rand was “constantly moralizing.” But the moral judgments which most concern the Brandens, and the ones, they say, that reveal the most about Rand, are the ones Rand passed on the people she knew best, starting with the Brandens themselves.

“Ayn was often warm and generous with her friends, generous with her concern, her time, and her attention. But when, in her view, a line had been crossed, when she saw an action as unjust to her, or as intellectually dishonest, or as morally wrong, she became an avenging angel and the relationship ended in a burst of rage.” Several people “crossed that line,” among her students and later intellectual associates.

Professor Murray Rothbard, Edith Efron and Professor John Hospers all “suffered” such “excommunications” in the years while the Brandens were still with Rand. Mr. Branden, of course, tells us that he participated in each of these.

Then came the break with the Brandens themselves. Several others would follow them.

The proceeding years saw the emergence of the Libertarian Party, which Rand denounced from the outset for many reasons, including its lack of a philosophical base, indeed, its apparent contempt for philosophy as such, and its alliances with anarchists, foreign policy appeasers and various other questionable persons. Many of Rand’s former students and exponents now found a home there, completing their own journeys away from “orthodox Objectivism.” Hospers became that Party’s first presidential candidate and Rothbard its most ardent propagandist.

The Brandens, along with many others, believe that Rand was intolerant and “close-minded” because she denounced the Libertarian Party. To them this Party’s domestic platform seems to be so close to Rand’s own views that her failure to endorse it can only be construed as overly suspicious, perhaps even authoritarian. Rand’s failure to endorse (or even read) the writings of former associates, and others, whose work appears related to Rand’s own work—if not actually based on it—strikes Ms. Branden as “perhaps the clearest” evidence of Rand’s “underlying despair and pessimism.”

But whoever Ms. Branden believes should have gotten it, Rand held her endorsement, her “sanction,” dear.

Unlike Libertarians, Rand could not make common-cause with anarchists and those who would unilaterally disarm America. Nor could Rand continue to endorse the work of people she personally knew to be dishonest—like the Brandens. Nor would Rand cozy up to the close colleagues of such people. In all these ways Rand certainly had a “closed mind.” She was an intellectual individualist, not a fellow traveler.

These “differences” are not so trivial as the critics suppose. They were certainly not trivial to Rand. But, rather than simply disagreeing with Rand over, say, the importance of systematic honesty in forming political and intellectual alliances, they accuse Rand of “intolerance.”

Owing so much to her, Libertarian disappointment over Rand’s failure to endorse their efforts is understandable. Predictable accusations that Rand was “closed-minded,” “suspicious” and “authoritarian,” from the same quarter nonetheless still seem childishly petulant (and rather ironic), coming from the party of so-called “individualists.”

Precisely what kind of “individualist” is it who would feel compelled to swallow all of her principles and convictions in order to be considered “open minded”—or who must join the crowd in order to avoid the risk of being called “intolerant”?

Murray Rothbard, apart from being an anarchist, was clearly using ideas he got from Rand in scholarly articles without crediting his own source for the material, and he continued to do so throughout his career.

In his own defense, Professor Rothbard would dig up an isolated point from some previous philosopher, usually very obscure, who had said something similar to Rand on a topic such as free will—but Rothbard’s own first source for the point was invariably (and quite obviously) Rand.

Under the all-pervasive influence of two giants such as Rand and Mises, Rothbard’s anarchism almost strikes one as a form of desperate self-assertion.

From Rand’s philosophical perspective, either his anarchism or his plagiarism would each and together seem to justify her break with Rothbard.

While Rand would publish nothing explicitly directed to this "break," Rothbard did publish a bitter, darkly humorous attack on Rand and her circle. When the author asked Professor Rothbard about this essay in 1982, he frankly indicated that his “Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult” was “highly fictionalized.” For example, no one was ever “excommunicated” from Rand's circle for not liking the music of Rachmaninoff as Rand did, as he had alleged. Rothbard was himself explicitly aware of the dishonesty of his attack.

Professor John Hospers, according to the Brandens, was taken to task for certain “sarcastic” and “professorial” criticisms of Rand in a classroom setting, although, once again, neither of the Brandens chooses to relate any of the specifics. Although still unable to provide the relevant details, Hospers himself was more forthcoming, although hardly satisfying.

In a 1990 memoir published in Liberty magazine, Hospers said that he was being "if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical” of Rand, but he was still no more obliging than the Brandens had been about the content of that challenge. However, eight years later, Hospers admitted that it had included certain “mild criticisms” of Objectivism.

In that 1998 article, Hospers, a specialist in esthetics, recalled being “publicly” critical of Rand’s view that every work of art conveys a “sense of life” (i.e., that art expresses some view of reality, a “metaphysics,” even if that view is conveyed in purely emotional terms and held only subconsciously—even by the artist himself.) Apparently, Hospers had also maintained that “what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use” to convey it (i.e., that our understanding of metaphysics— reality—“depends on” language.)

Hospers conceded that these were topics which he had been discussing with Rand for some time—indeed, from their first meetings—and that he knew that such a “linguistic” approach to ideas was fundamentally abhorrent to Rand. Hospers also says that he remains mystified as to specifically what had triggered Rand’s reaction. He tells us, “I never discovered what there was about my remarks that made her ‘go ballistic.’” We are, thus, still left almost entirely in the dark as to Rand’s perspective on this event.

Hospers does not give us the smallest clue as to what Branden might have found “sarcastic.”

The relevant details cannot be such a mystery to the Brandens, for it was Mr. Branden himself who proceeded to “read the riot act” to Hospers according to Branden’s own account. (Of course, neither Hospers nor Branden provide us with any of the specifics of that “riot act”—which might at least have provided some insight into Rand’s position at the time—Hospers does not even mention Branden’s complaints.) Mr. Branden’s total failure to provide any of the actual content of the issues involved in her break with Hospers is another glaring instance of Branden suppressing important evidence.

From the published portions of their correspondence, what is clear is that Ayn Rand and John Hospers had profound differences in the field of epistemology regarding all of its most basic questions. With methodological approaches at such variance, it is not surprising that they eventually separated. This is especially predictable, given the enormous importance which Rand attached to epistemological issues. They are no less than the fundamental preconditions of further thought or discussion, in Rand's view.

Unfortunately, we may never know the specifics behind their break.

As for Efron, neither of the Brandens says they can even remember why they split with her at all. Branden merely relates his own distress at Efron's “anger and sarcasm”—but leaves it there.

However, Mr. Branden was no more specific about the details of the break with Ms. Efron–even in 1971, although he was then claiming no inability to remember (see “Break Free,” Reason, p. 14.) The most detail on the cause of Efron’s departure with Rand has so far been suggested by Tuccille, who mentions only a personal and “biting remark” Efron had made about Rand—and within earshot of Rand. We are still not given the content or nature of this personal insult, or its surrounding context (see Tuccille, Alan Shrugged, p. 73.)

It seems that the clarity of the Brandens’ memory depends upon how friendly they later were with the individuals involved, for while Ms. Branden later reconciled with Hospers and Efron, as Branden later did with Hospers, neither were ever associated with Rothbard again. But, from the historian’s perspective, all the key evidence is entirely lacking in the Brandens’ accounts of the Efron and Hospers cases. (Unfortunately, Rand’s private journal entries throw no additional light on these issues, either.)

Hospers and the Brandens all stop at the observation that intellectual views could cause moral indignation on Rand’s part, if she knew the person’s context of knowledge, the context which informed the person’s behavior. This seems to them overly moralistic on the face of it. But not to Rand.

According to Objectivism, believing something is an act of will—assenting to logic and evidence is a moral decision. Going “out of focus” or evading is all too common, but it can be volitionally corrected. An intellectual position can, therefore, be immoral if it is a product of such evasion.

To determine in any particular case whether someone’s belief in false ideas stems from a moral failure or not, of course, requires knowledge about the person involved. What does the person know—e.g., has a communist lived in a cave for the last century or is he aware of the slaughter of millions and the enslavement of millions more under the various experiments with communism? In common parlance, should the person “know better?”

There is no point continuing a conversation with someone who cannot or will not acknowledge reality—as opposed to someone who is willing but struggling.

With Rothbard, the case is clear: intellectual larceny and anarchism. With Hospers and Efron, the missing details, never offered, are obviously crucial.

As usual, the Brandens’ failure to recollect or to be specific is telling. They both dismiss any actual reasons Rand might have had for such a break, and chalk it up to Rand’s unfair and authoritarian nature, the same nature that “persecuted” them. They assume that the policy of breaking with someone in a permanent way is in itself somehow authoritarian. “My gosh, for purely ideological reasons?”

Of course, it is not, and the reasonableness of such an action depends upon all of the circumstances—the very circumstances left out of the Brandens’ accounts. They do not let the reader judge for himself, and it is specifics that are essential for us to make any final judgment regarding Rand’s alleged “implicit demands for absolute agreement,” much less hypocrisy on Rand’s part. We should not have to take the Brandens and their friends on faith.

As indicated, both Brandens seem to assume that such a “break” constitutes some form of persecution. Ayn Rand does not want to see you anymore, and, therefore, your rights have been violated. Rand may have had more to give and/or receive from these relationships, but she surely did not have to accept the exchange on any terms other than her own. And, according to Objectivism, this is not for anyone but her to determine.

Ms. Branden complains that “however much [Rand] previously had projected love and affection, one was always potentially on trial with her. At any time, an action, an emotion, a conviction that she deemed irrational, could result in an explosion of anger,” and that one “teetered constantly on the edge of moral depravity.”

However overstated, though, such is the nature of human volition. No matter how good someone has been in the past, he is still capable of bad behavior. No matter how bad, he is still capable of a good deed. It is true that people get into habits, develop character, such that you can begin to predict someone you know well. But even then, you can be surprised.

And you can also be deceived.

Nathaniel Branden writes that when someone had done something to displease Rand, “it was as if all history and context vanished... She gave her unconditional acceptance to no one.” In Ms. Branden's words, “Rand retroactively demoted” or “rewrote” the history of a friendship that had gone sour. One can only wonder if Nathaniel Branden ever grasps the irony of his own literal rewrite of his former friends.

But when you discover that a friend has systematically deceived you—for example, when he misleads you into thinking that he is something he is not—a total reevaluation is in order. By the Brandens’ accounts, it seems, Rand could never have been wrong about a person’s character, as she surely was wrong about the Brandens. Any new or corrected opinion must be a dishonest, retroactive “demoting.”

So, although the Brandens concede that Rand’s original opinion of them was way too high, they also bitterly complain when Rand corrects that view. History has been rewritten, in other words, if I'm no longer John Galt.

In addition, Nathaniel Branden seems to have forgotten that “unconditional love” is a contradiction to the entire ethics of Objectivism. Branden’s apparent rejection of so fundamental a point requires a better account than he gives of it.

Following the Brandens’ departure, to which we will turn our attention in the next chapter, there were several more “breaks,” among which were: Allan and Joan Blumenthal, Erika and Henry Mark Holzer, Philip and Kay Nolte Smith.

In many of these cases, it is clear that profound intellectual differences were emerging between Rand and the person involved, but it does not appear that those differences were the proximate cause of the split with Rand.

For example, Henry Holzer, an attorney and legal scholar, has forthrightly endorsed the conservative “strict interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution, like Robert Bork. In contrast, according to several of her associates, Rand endorsed a more expansive view of the unenumerated rights, such as abortion. Allan Blumenthal, a psychiatrist, has asserted that literally “all of Objectivism” was the product of Rand’s efforts to cope with her own psychology. He thus appears to have endorsed a form of psychological determinism—entirely rejecting, it seems, the possibility of objective cognition, a rather fundamental tenet of Objectivism.

Such differences, while they certainly would have justified Rand in breaking with these men—if only to defend and protect the integrity of Objectivism—do not appear to have been decisive. Indeed, it was not Rand who ended the relationship with either of them, but, rather, it was they who left Rand.

Despite the fact that Ms. Branden herself relates the Blumenthals' account, most writers dependent on The Passion of Ayn Rand nonetheless suggest that it was Rand who had initiated these breaks. In his recent history of the libertarian movement, Brian Doherty, citing Ms. Branden, flatly states that Rand "kicked out of her life" all but two of her original "Collective"–Greenspan and Peikoff. (See, Radicals for Capitalism, p.232.)

However, these last can hardly be called “excommunications,” yet, somehow, they are still evidence, in Ms. Branden's view, of Rand's intolerance. Perhaps this is why such historians have been led astray.

In lectures and interviews, both the Blumenthals and the Holzers have endorsed the portrait drawn by Ms. Branden of Rand the Authoritarian. This has not deterred the Blumenthals from their own policy of ostracizing Nathaniel Branden (who is Dr. Blumenthal’s first cousin)—in 1996, they severed all association with an organization which had invited Branden to speak. And Professor Holzer, at least in the Sixties, is described by Branden as having a particularly zealous approach to Objectivism and “a style that made even Ayn appear tame by comparison.”

Intolerance, it seems, is everywhere.

As for the Smiths, their story is curiously absent from Ms. Branden’s account, just as the Holzers's is not to be found.

In the 1970s the Smiths produced an off-Broadway revival of Rand’s play, Penthouse Legend. When the play had been originally produced under the title, The Night of January 16th, about forty years previously, Rand had waged a difficult and emotional battle to keep her dialogue intact. This history was well known to the Smiths.

Presumably, they also knew that Rand had convinced Jack Warner himself to order Gary Cooper to deliver each word of Rand’s screenplay for The Fountainhead. Rand had even threatened to dissociate herself from the production if The Fountainhead was not shot exactly as written. According to one exaggerated account, Rand threatened to "blow up the studio"–imitating the novel's hero.

Such a famous reputation might be counted on to provide caution to those who would take liberties with this author's text. Not so with Kay Nolte Smith and her husband, who, in an act exhibiting unbelievably reckless judgment, changed the dialogue in their production of Penthouse Legend without authorization from Rand. Knowing Rand's history had left no inkling that Rand herself might wish to be consulted on any change in her poetic language. That the new production was intended to be, in effect, "the author's cut"–a correction of that painful history–did not suggest to them that they first ask Rand about it, either. In such an instance of systematic and personal betrayal, a break was at least understandably in order, simply on the basis of their callous indifference to Rand's personal history, if not to her artistic integrity–however minor the changes.

While Ms. Branden relates the story of the play’s production and the role of the Smiths on that production, we are told nothing about the actual causes of this break. We are told that Rand broke with them—“how typical of Ayn”—but we are not given the benefit of Rand’s side.

Ms. Branden is almost as adept at suppressing evidence as she is at creating it ex nihilo.

It should come as no surprise that this list of “former” Rand-associates, Rothbard, Efron, Hospers, the Blumenthals, the Holzers and the Smiths, while they may not have gotten along with one another afterwards, all helped to contribute to Ms. Branden's biography, as her “Acknowledgments” indicate.

Understandably, those who remained friendly with Rand did not make themselves available for Ms. Branden to interview.

All those with whom Rand had a “break” share precisely the same bias and precisely the same interest in presenting Rand as an “authoritarian” as do the Brandens. Ms. Branden’s book appears to have been the receptacle for all the stories most likely to demonstrate Rand’s alleged injustices to each of them individually and collectively, but none that might explain Rand's side.

Thus, the information sources used by Ms. Branden share a distinct perspective on Rand. Rather than mitigating the effect of the author's personal bias, their contributions merely magnify it.

While most of these individuals have themselves given talks or have been interviewed about their relationships with Rand, none of them appears able (or willing) to provide any facts or details that cannot also be found in Ms. Branden’s biography, apart from two or three new anecdotes.

Even the missing anecdotes appear to have been weighed carefully for possible inclusion before being omitted. The Passion of Ayn Rand seems to represent their collective “best shot” at Rand.

Those anecdotes, however, are interesting, not in what they reveal about Rand so much as what they reveal about Rand's critics and the similarity of their perspectives.

Kay Nolte Smith relates that she once hosted a New Year's Eve Party to which Rand and her husband were invited. Smith decided that they should play the party game where the guests are challenged to identify their fellow guests from baby pictures. Smith recalls the exaggerated concern Rand expressed for the photo of her husband—it was apparently the only baby picture of him that she possessed.

According to Smith, Rand expressed a worry that the picture would be damaged in duplication, that Smith might be robbed, and even that Smith could be hit by a taxi crossing the street with it. Smith's conclusion: “[Rand] really was paranoid about practical reality.”

The familiar Brandenian diagnosis does not necessarily fit the evidence here, and perhaps this is why even Ms. Branden did not share the experience—or Mrs. Smith’s conclusion—with her readers.

Such a diagnosis might be plausible within a pattern of similar behavior in other matters, but Rand's alleged alienation from “practical reality” is a rather forced explanation of Rand’s fear for the photo. It is more easily explained by her intense romantic attachment to her husband, of whom she possessed only one irreplaceable baby photo. A different mentality might actually be touched by the story. But, of course, any psychological “explanations” here are merely guesses. Mrs. Smith’s guesses are guesses of the identical sort that the Brandens have published, even if they don’t quite fit.

Edith Efron recalls that Rand once launched into “a thunderous tirade” during a door-to-door magazine pitch. “Do you expect me to finance them after the slime they’ve printed about me?”

Rand had a definite set of negative epithets (whim-worshiper, etc.). The word “slime” is not a word Rand commonly used, indeed, used more than once or twice in her vast corpus of writings. This uncharacteristic language casts intrinsic doubt on the accuracy of Efron’s account. Moreover, the story does not reveal the “insanity” that Efron suggests, even if it is credible. Many might have acted the same way.

As previously noted, Rand was being compared in those days to the Nazis by America’s foremost conservative magazine, The National Review. Rand’s overreaction may have had an undeserved effect on the magazine salesmen, but Rand certainly had an honest gripe against many magazines. In my view, door-to-door solicitors must surely be prepared for a lot worse.

The same distorting pettiness and ax-grinding which the Brandens have perfected to an art can be detected in Miss Efron’s case, as well.

This is the kind of evidence that we are given for the alleged madness and "intolerance" in Rand's treatment of others–and, once more, the information fails to match the characterizations of it.

Does the sheer number of Rand’s personal breaks in itself indicate that Rand was too judgmental? It is important to recall that Rand's breaks with her “non Objectivist” associates did not involve permanent “excommunications” nor the total rejection of their work. As previously indicated, only those who might themselves be confused with Rand or her ideas drew such denunciations. Even then, it was rare for Rand to publish comment about it.

The answer seems to be that many of Rand’s radical ideas and methodology could not be easily grasped even by some of her brightest students, and that Rand strove hard not to be confused with those with whom she had developed philosophical disagreements.

* * * * * * * * * * *

By far the Brandens’ strongest case, at least their best documented case, for Rand the Intellectual Tyrant—believe it or not—involves Rand’s occasionally harsh answers during question-and-answer periods following a lecture. The Brandens not only provide examples, they provide different examples in some detail. Moreover, these events were witnessed by others. Readers of the Branden biographies will appreciate that this is a remarkably rare alignment of factors, and—to give credit where it is due—this is the first instance where we have at least the suggestion of credibility.

Ms. Branden concedes: “In the first years of the lectures, Ayn’s appearance at question periods was an event eagerly anticipated by the students. She was usually courteous, considerate, and painstaking in her response if a question seemed to her valid and intelligent; the students recognized the enormous compliment to them which her attitude projected, her assumption that they required and would respond only to a rational argument.”

And Mr. Branden, after acknowledging that Rand's presence was “enormously helpful” to the early success of NBI, reluctantly admits: “There were, of course, question-and-answer sessions when Ayn was warm, friendly, benevolent, charming. Once, when a student apologized for the naiveté of some question, she told him encouragingly, ‘There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.’”

In Rand’s view, there were, however, dishonest questions.

Mr. Branden says: “In the question periods following my lectures, she often became angry with any question she felt should not have been asked, perhaps because it had been answered in Atlas Shrugged, or perhaps because she believed that any honest person would figure it out for himself. Most of our students seemed to love her; but sometimes she could be terrifying.”

Ms. Branden continues: “But if [Rand] did not believe the question to be valid and intelligent, she was scathing in her denunciation; her anger, she would insist, was rationally justified moral indignation. A young man asked: ‘How can you expect everyone to be rational and to arrive at correct philosophical conclusions, if they have not been taught rationality and have not been exposed to a philosophy of reason?’ Ayn exploded, ‘I did it myself! No one taught me how to think!’ The student later said to his friends, ‘How can she have it both ways? How can she consider herself a great innovator, yet insist that everyone should arrive at the conclusions she did?’”

It is possible that the questioner had not grasped that Rand's morality does not require the understanding of complex or innovative ideas in order for a person to be judged as being moral. Rand believed that everyone—not just intellectual giants—could absorb the virtues of rationality, and honesty, and a respect for the rights of others.

Of course, every great discoverer of knowledge, from Aristotle to Newton, had every right “to expect that everyone should arrive” at his improved conclusions, even though he was also a “great innovator”—he was right. It was the discoverer's contemporaries who should have demonstrated patience, not the innovators.

It is more likely that the questioner did understand all of these things and was simply balking at Rand’s claim to have actually discovered a fully rational code of ethics. The hostility apparent in the follow-up question also suggests the hostility latent in the first inquiry. Did the questioner really expect to be answered?

Sensing this potential dishonesty in the question, Rand reacted with emotion.

As we have previously seen, Rand did not regard her achievement as resulting from her unusual intelligence, but her unusual honesty. And while Rand was convinced of her own historical significance, she did not go around calling herself “a great innovator.” This modesty was precisely the cause of her indignation.

Ms. Branden herself believes that Rand’s behavior in this regard is among the very gravest charges against her. She says that “[i]t was the question period... that gradually became the arena in which Ayn was especially bewildering and damaging to her students” as she would become, in Ms. Branden’s words, “enraged by an innocent questioner” and “lash out furiously at the hapless questioner.”

If this was “the arena” in which Rand was especially damaging to her students, then the notion that Rand was an intellectual authoritarian seems quite farfetched.

And, while Rand’s response was angry and sharp, the provided case is not an example of Rand being “enraged” or “lashing out” at “the hapless” at all. Ms. Branden cites the wife of Ludwig von Mises expressing her agreement that Rand was too harsh in her responses to students and tells us that Rand was gradually phased out of the question periods at NBI for this reason. Rand did, however, continue to answer questions following lectures—both her own and Leonard Peikoff’s—for several years to come.

Ms. Branden’s tendency for exaggeration is made clear from her descriptions of other Rand appearances. A good example is Rand’s first appearance on The Phil Donahue Show, and of this, on pages 391 and 392, Ms. Branden writes:

"It was a disaster. A young woman in the audience asked a question which made it clear that she thought her former admiration for Rand’s work had been an aberration of youth—and Ayn, offended and insulted, pounced angrily, shouting at the girl; a substantial part of the show was devoted to their exchange." (emphasis added)

Fortunately, the videotape of this appearance is still available through The Ayn Rand Bookstore.

The person Ms. Branden calls "a girl” was clearly an adult. The “girl” started to ask a question about ITT's allegedly monopolistic control over "everything," but interrupted herself to say, “Fifteen years ago, I was impressed with your books, and I sort of thought your philosophy was proper. Today, I am more educated, and I find that if a company—”

Without “shouting,” Rand interrupted, “This is what I don't answer.”

To which Donahue replied, “Wait a minute, you haven't heard the question yet—”

Rand: “She's already estimated her position on my work—incidentally, displaying the quality of her brain. If today she says she is ‘more educated’ than...”

“Girl”: “I am more educated than I was fifteen years ago, before I went to college, before I read the newspapers...”

Rand: “I am not interested in your biography, in the context...” (At which the audience audibly moaned.)

The “girl” then proceeded to assert that in a free market “ITT and Nazi Germany” are somehow able to do "whatever they damn well please" because “ITT owns everything.”

When Donahue called upon the now silent Rand “to contribute,” she offered to answer the question if only someone else would ask it, saying, “I will not answer anyone who is impolite.” This elicited audience laughter.

Rand explained: “I do not sanction impoliteness, and I am not a victim of hippies.” (More laughter.) “That's where it started, this dropping of politeness in manners.”

Failing to see the insult implied by the question, Donahue took the position that Rand was equating any disagreement with impoliteness and proceeded to praise the questioner.

Going to commercial, Donahue cried out to Rand, “Don't be so sensitive!”

Rand called back, “I am going to be—I intend to be!”

In response to a later question asking how a woman “as intelligent” as Rand could be “so emotional in her approach,” Rand's response was calm and insightful:

“I did not come here to be judged. I came here to answer questions. A question asked in the following form: ‘I used to agree with you, but now that I am more educated, I don't,’ is an insult which I cannot sanction. I am not interested in the woman's history. She didn't have to begin it that way, and that's what I want to register my protest against.”

In total, the exchange could not have accounted for 10% of the show's time.

The fact that Donahue was blind to the gratuitous ad hominem within a question about ITT is not surprising. It is less understandable how Rand's comment about “the quality” of the questioner's brain should be taken as insult but not the “more educated” crack. It is a strange “one-way” street on which Donahue directed traffic.

In any event, Rand did not “shout” at “a girl,” but only refused to answer the condescending question of a grown woman. The appearance was not such a “disaster” as to prevent Rand from being invited back the following year. That appearance cannot boast even this type of minor “moment.”

Even more to her credit—and despite the obvious temptations—Rand is not said to have ever exploded at Phil Donahue or any other interviewer.

There were occasions when Rand could regret the intensity of her responses, according to Mr. Branden

"I recall an incident in which a man with a thick Hungarian accent began his question, 'In his speech, Galt contends that—' He never got any further because Ayn exploded. 'Galt does not contend,' she shouted, 'if you have read Atlas Shrugged, if you profess to be an admirer of mine, then you should know that Galt does not "strive," "debate," "argue," or "contend."' The man looked stricken. He pleaded, 'But Miss Rand, all I meant was—' Ayn thundered back at him, 'If you wish to speak to me, first learn to remember to whom and about what you are speaking!' Ayn was obsessed with clarity and precision ... but I did not feel sympathy for the passion in this instance; I thought it totally misapplied. The man sunk into his chair, embarrassed and defeated... Later when we were alone, I pointed out that the man had a foreign accent and probably was not aware of the nuances of meaning contained in the word 'contend.' 'I never thought of that,' Ayn replied, with a look of astonished, childlike innocence."

Rand quickly added, however, that she could not promise that it would not happen again.

Nor was this an isolated case, according to Branden. “Sometimes, Ayn would apologize for her outbursts.” In another context, Branden unwittingly sheds some light:

"[Rand] was convinced that ideas ruled the world and, consciously or subconsciously, ruled the life of every individual... Ideas mattered to her. No one could understand her who did not understand her conviction concerning the supreme importance of philosophy. If, for example, she heard a statement to the effect that man had no right to exist for his own sake, but exists only to serve society, or the state, or the race, or the planet—or if she heard a statement to the effect that reason is impotent to know reality, or that all value judgments are ultimately arbitrary, or that notions of good and evil are merely expressions of subjective emotion—she saw, concretely and specifically, the oceans of human blood that were spilled as a consequence of such beliefs—she saw Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia—and she reacted accordingly."

It is revealing that this observation is made in the context of observing that this “conviction concerning the importance of ideas could lend [Rand] enormous patience in intellectual discussions.”

Rand saw the error of moral relativism—and the moral cowardice that it implies. She realized that America's resolve and determination were sapped by such ideas. When anthropologists and historians come to a stage where they can no longer criticize the Aztec practice of human sacrifice, Rand knew something fatal had gone wrong.

As a prophylactic, Rand threw every ounce of her justifiable “intolerance”—every sincere ethical judgment she could muster—into the promiscuously “tolerant” culture she perceived around her.

The Brandens’ real problem with Rand is her moral (they would say “moralistic”) perspective. Just as Nathaniel Branden prefers “beneficial” and “harmful” to “good” and “bad” these days, so he reveals his distaste for most of Rand's ethical judgments.

Branden takes issue with Rand's approach in the “Introduction” to The Virtue of Selfishness. Rand states that she had been asked why she used the word “selfish” to denote virtue when many people might be alienated by it. “For the reason that makes you afraid of it,” was her response.

Branden asks, “What is accomplished by sounding a note of abusiveness on the first page?”

For anyone familiar with Rand's work, the answer is so apparent that Branden can only be intentionally omitting it. Rand is asking her readers for considerable moral courage to question the moral consensus of their age. She is asking them to join her in taking a position that has been stigmatized as evil itself.

And, if there is no word in the English language for the rational, principled pursuit of one's actual long-term interests, then isn't something being insidiously defined out of existence in the process? To anyone but the most spineless, Rand's approach can only be appreciated for its clarity.

Branden says this is merely a “mild version” of the same attitude Rand brought to the question periods. What he and his former wife actually object to is the field of ethics, the subject about which one might expect them to be most uncomfortable—given the revelations to come.

Leonard Peikoff has conceded that Rand's anger was sometimes “not justified,” and Peikoff admits that he was sometimes angered by this himself. However, he adds: “... I never saw her hold an unadmitted grudge. Her anger never festered unexpressed or turned into devious, brooding hatred. It was an immediate, open storm of indignant protest—then it was over. In this respect, she was the easiest person in the world to know and to deal with.”

And attorney Charles Sures has said, “[Rand's] expressions of anger were not the outbursts of someone run by wild and uncontrolled emotions. She didn't use anger to intimidate people, as bullies do. When she got angry it was precisely because she was a thinker and an evaluator who was certain of her convictions.” Sures agrees with Peikoff that Rand did not “simmer and stew”—she “came to an immediate boil”—and that “the anger didn't last. It was over almost as soon as it began.”

When asked about Rand's anger, Mary Ann Sures has said:

"One of the things I miss most [about Rand] is what we’ve been talking about—her anger and righteous indignation, and what it came from. I miss knowing that there is someone in the world who always speaks out, unequivocally, against irrationality and injustice, and who not only denounces evil but who defends the good. She was mankind's intellectual guardian, a soldier in the battle of ideas. Her banner was always flying high. When she died, someone made the following comment: now anger has gone out of the world. And I thought, it’s true, and it’s the world's loss, and mine."

To which Charles added, “And mine.”

It should also come as no surprise that nearly all of those who do not miss Rand’s anger are now also admirers of Ms. Branden's biography, for Ms. Branden’s tale of Rand the Repressive, Moralizing Monster is one to which all of these people can comfortably repair.

But, precisely to the extent that they have endorsed Ms. Branden's deeply flawed account, they are subject to an identical critique of their own distorted objectivity.

Pleasant or unpleasant, according to Objectivism, it is morally necessary to make appropriate ethical judgments of others. If this is what the Brandens and their friends now dispute, then they no longer believe in the basics of Rand’s ethics and should say so far more plainly, rather than accuse Rand of hypocrisy.

It is the Brandens’ responsibility as Rand biographers to provide us with all the significant examples of Rand’s unjust or inappropriate moral assessments. The examples must include enough information for their readers to pass their own judgment. Otherwise, we have nothing on which to base our agreement or disagreement, except the Brandens’ credibility and judgment—which we have seen, and will continue to see, is simply too suspect to provide a credible basis.

We have seen that each of the Brandens will distort and exaggerate the evidence, and that they have repeatedly suppressed vital evidence, and even that they will employ creativity in recollecting it. Both exhibit internal confusions and numerous self-contradictions. The only consistencies are the passionate biases that emanate from their own personal experiences. These factors all combine to render their biographical efforts useless to the serious historian.

As alleged “victims” of Rand’s “moralism,” they are hardly in a position to demand that we rely only upon their credibility and judgment when it comes to that alleged “moralism.” Yet, this is precisely what they do demand, and precisely what many of Rand’s critics have done.

One thing is certain, Ayn Rand is not for the morally squeamish. For those of us who believe that it is distortion not to identify values along with facts—those of us who get bored with so-called “serious” academic works on philosophy and politics—Rand is a welcome relief. When Rand complains of America's having “to apologize to any naked savage anywhere on the globe,” and you—like Branden—are “bothered,” then Rand is not for you.

Rand herself was a woman of certainty and absolute convictions, and she was a moralist. Rand was capable of fierce denunciations and even misplaced anger. However, she cannot, from the evidence provided by her detractors, be regarded as an intellectual tyrant.

[Interested readers are directed to the next chapter.]


( categories: )

Valliant replied;

gregster's picture

I will save all the "news" for the book, but it's full of really wonderful insights! Thanks for the kind words.

Jim

That was it

gregster's picture

Did Valliant provide any details on what the non-edited transcript said? Did he say when PARC 2.0 will be out?

NP

I've PM'd him for anything he may wish to add.

Janet

gregster's picture

What is god's name is the matter with this place?

That was very funny for me.

This entire blow up is sick

seymourblogger's picture

I'm out of this trash. And I am being jumped for Nietzsche, Rand and post modern thinking which repudiates hermeneutics of which polemics is a part.

If you are reading this Barbara, don't. And thank you for all you taught me in Phila in 1960-62. A huge difference in my life. janet abbey

Stop. You are an embarrassment to yourself

seymourblogger's picture

Don't do this. It's not smart, it's not intelligent, and it's very inappropriate. You made yourself look like a fool. But what do I know. I am only trying to make Rand far more radical than even she dreamed of being.

BB was an excellent teacher. That's all I know about her. I am not interested in anything else and I never wanted to know so much about her as she told in her book. She embarrassed herself too.

Who could possibly read that piece of trash

seymourblogger's picture

I find it impossible to imagine that he could have come here and posted that. It's all gossip and innuendo.

Actually I find Sciabarra's book excellent. And I like Burns for what it is. Packed full of info. and Heller is very good and an excellent writer. What is god's name is the matter with this place?

Greg

Neil Parille's picture

Did Valliant provide any details on what the non-edited transcript said? Did he say when PARC 2.0 will be out?

NP

NEWS

gregster's picture

Mr Valliant comments two hours ago after visiting The Ayn Rand Archives "Today, I was reading the full transcript of Scott McConnell's terrific interview with Eloise Huggins for an updated edition of PARC!!"

Yes, Mr. Scherk, We Do...

James S. Valliant's picture

... and I was working on just that when I was laid low. The next chapter has by far the most changes, however, since Ms. Branden has made the most post-PARC statements on the issue of O'Connor's allegedly excessive drinking which is discussed in that chapter -- along with the topic we are now discussing.

Give me a few days, as my schedule in various other ways has been severely backed-up.

Rand's critics who have used Ms. Branden's text should take note that PARC's critics, in so many ways, argue that her portrait of Rand is not nearly so harsh as someone like me makes it out to be...

(btw, WSS, thanks for being such a decent chap about my illness and such, both here and at OL.)

Chapter by chapter, we destroy the lies

William Scott Scherk's picture

James, glad to see you back on the ice. How about another chapter for discussion?

WSS

Mr. Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

May I direct you to my reply to Mr. Parille over here?

The claim that the O'Connor marriage is alleged to have been a fraud is amply demonstrated by Neil himself.

Neil's MO is obvious to anyone who takes the time to read his replies, and the lack thereof, to my responses -- and, over at the most recent post of his, we have another case where a clear error of his has been observed. It will be interesting to see if he will acknowledge it. (Just how he knows I betrayed any "confidence" is quite beyond me.)

In any event, an alleged demonization of the Brandens is not a factor in any of this, and your own excessive language, which cannot be found in PARC ("unmoored to actual references"?), is an example only of your own hyperbolic tendencies.

For example, PARC cites Ms. B. as claiming that Rand's view of O'Connor was wildly exaggerated on pp.157-158 of PARC -- and p. 88, for example, of PAR -- and, there, PARC also acknowledges Ms. Branden's assertion of their sincere and intense feelings for one another.

I have my own disagreements with Rand, so I would have no problem accepting the notion that her ideas on romantic love may have been inadequate or wrong -- that is, if this had actually been demonstrated. Regrettably, as you can read in PARC, Ms. B. has misrepresented Rand's ideas on the subject.

Rand's notes from the period of her break with Branden demonstrate just how profoundly he misunderstood what it meant to be an "Objectivist Hero." It's hard to imagine Ms. Branden's understanding of the matter, then or now, to be any better.

I'll say this much...

Matty Orchard's picture

Campbell,

I haven't read PAR, and I haven't read PARC. Quite frankly I don't care much about the subject. I find Objectivism interesting but I'm not an Objectivist and I don't care about Ayn Rands private life. I have read this thread casually and have not gotten involved because of what I have stated above. I will say this though...

I know Linz and I have spent time with him in person. Linz paints you as a liar.

You and Mrs. Branden paint Lindsay as a rambling drunk.

I know for a fact he is no such thing so on that I have to give him the benefit of the doubt when he calls you a liar.

That's probably all,

Matty.

Curses...

Robert's picture

Agent Campbell has unraveled SPECTRE's latest devious plan. Best call Enrst Stavro Valliant and execute phase 4 immediately.

Muhahahaha!

The good professor has missed his true calling. He could have made a fortune writing scripts for Get Smart!

Wow!

Lance's picture

Contrary to the impression that Mr. Perigo sought to create, Dr. Sciabarra would have been better off parting ways with him several years earlier. Would he? Why? It is fair to say that their friendship had long been under considerable strain. Is it? Why?

By early 2006, how many times had Mr. Perigo demanded a public show of loyalty from Dr. Sciabarra, and been rebuffed? I don't know. How many? How often had Dr. Sciabarra complained to his friends about Mr. Perigo? I don't know. How often? How often, and to whom, was Mr. Perigo complaining about Dr. Sciabarra? I don't know. How often and to whom? What grounds, if any, still remained for Chris Sciabarra to trust Lindsay Perigo? (Oh, I forgot. Mr. Perigo wants us to believe that everyone ought to trust him, because he would never ever do anything underhanded.)

When you want to lie, paint a picture, or make accusations without any evidence - just put them forward as rhetorical questions.

Example:

By 2008 how many banks had Robert Campbell robbed? How many little old ladies had he run down in his car? How many times has he lied? What grounds, if any, still remain for us to take this paranoid conspiracy theorist seriously? (Oh, I forgot. Mr. Campbell wants us to believe that everyone ought to trust him, because he would never ever rob banks, run down little old ladies or cook up some crack pot conspiracy theory.)

Of course that is not actually an accusation of Mr Campbell being a granny killing, bank robbing, compulsive lying, conspiracy crack pot. I have no evidence for, at least, the former charges. I was just asking. Certainly paints a picture of him though, however inaccurate certain parts are, doesn't it?

After repeating a chunk from Chris Sciabarra’s private email to Joe Maurone (April 6, 2006),

"Perigo sanctioned it [the publication of “Drooling Beast” on SOLOHQ]—for the express purpose of rallying his troops, and attacking JK and BB, and marginalizing them at SOLO. He told me so. Because he got sick and tired of their lectures on his style of argumentation. It was a set up, plain and simple."

Mr. Perigo indignantly insisted:

I told him no such thing.

Except for the “plain and simple” part (which could be taken to mean that Mr. Perigo had no other motive for letting the article through), is there any reason to doubt that Mr. Perigo told him such a thing?

Again, rather than a straightforward accusation, that you can't back up, we get another rhetorical question. You utter worm!

And now for a play straight out of MSK's book of dirty tricks:

Why has Mr. Perigo vehemently and incessantly denied setting a trap for Barbara Branden by publishing the “Drooling Beast” article, when you need only read his very public essay, “This Boy’s Not for Turning” (August 7, 2005) to see what he was really thinking?

http://solohq.solopassion.com/Articles/Perigo/This_Boys_Not_For_Turning....

Two weeks ago, after one of these explosions, Barbara Branden said she was leaving SOLO on account of it, notwithstanding that it was one that I apologised for. It seemed to me at this point that in light of such a high-profile departure, I ought to take stock and ask what these periodic eruptions were achieving other than the loss of revered contributors. I had already promised Barbara that ... well, she seems to think I promised there would be no more eruptions at all; I believe I promised to take care that there would be no unjustified attacks on individuals of the kind I had unleashed on Michael Newberry when he advanced an idea that I found unspeakably odious. In any event, Barbara felt I had broken my promise and damaged SOLO in the process. So she was leaving (how this would help SOLO was not made clear), and I decided to take time out. I told everyone here that I would be absenting myself for a fortnight while I did some soul-searching and, possibly, fence-mending.

No sooner had I announced this than Barbara’s close friend James Kilbourne, another revered contributor, submitted for publication his now-infamous article, Drooling Beast, in which he posited that my explosions were caused by alcohol and claimed point-blank that I was an alcoholic. He said that he too, would be leaving (how his leaving would help SOLO, or me with my "alcoholism," was, again, not made clear). […]

I truly figured that the abomination would be read by fewer people if it were published than if it weren’t, given what I had come to view as the Branden/Kilbourne fixation on making me over on my own turf. They would simply distribute the calumny informally, along with the juicy preface, "Here’s what Linz wouldn’t allow you to see on SOLOHQ"—a preface that would lend credence to the slander. So I authorised Andrew to publish.

Note the italicized [Lance: Branden/Kilbourne & They] phrases in the last paragraph…

It was James Kilbourne’s article. But Mr. Perigo was convinced that Barbara Branden was behind it—and that she was prepared to circulate it privately to Mr. Perigo’s detriment, should he decide not to publish it.

Yet in his post of May 18, 2006, Mr. Perigo wouldn’t quit insisting:

Privately I had said to Chris:

“If I’d refused to publish, James & BB would have continued their whispering campaign off line, sending the article privately to all & sundry & saying, ‘Here is the truth Perigo wouldn't publish’. And in the eyes of its recipients, my non publishing would have lent their claims credence. As well, it showed the true nature of James’ & BB’s ‘love & concern.’ She, of course, had already alluded to my ‘problem’ with her comment about badgering me to join the civilised & the sober.”

Now, it would seem Chris, who accepted this explanation at the time, was seizing upon the sentiment in just the last sentence above, along with post publication comments I made to him on the phone about being glad Brandbourne’s noses had been rubbed in it, in asserting to Joe behind my back, many months later, that publication had been a “set up, plain and simple,” even though he knew it was not—and could not have been. Certainly, that's how he justified himself to me when I confronted him with his back stabbing. Of course I was mad at Brandbourne, and of course I was delighted their filth had backfired on them, but how the hell could I have known in advance that it would?!

Mr. Perigo damn well would have known it in advance, because he didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.

What Mr. Perigo is so vehemently objecting to is an obviously true statement about what he was up to.

This is classic MSK and it looks like Campbell has picked up a few tricks. Make an accusation and say "here's the evidence", then present something entirely inconsistent with the accusation then repeat the original accusation.

Prof ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm surprised someone of your erudition doesn't appear to know that rhetorical questions don't constitute arguments any more than merely asserting something makes it so, especially when it flies in the face of the evidence. I doubt that anyone is reading your apologia for the liars and smearers in whose company you are so at home, but I'll take the time to deal with one matter anyway:

Simply asserting, "What Mr. Perigo is so vehemently objecting to is an obviously true statement about what he was up to," re my objecting to Sciabarra's behind-my-back claim that my publishing Drooling Beast was a "set-up," doesn't make it so. This may astonish you, Prof, but I know why I published DB. You don't, and your fevered conspiracy theories are as far removed from reality as ever. It was for the reasons I stated at the time, as for instance in my instructions to then-editor of the SOLOHQ board, Andrew Bissell to post the thing, which instructions you conveniently omit when quoting This Boy's Not For Turning. This is my e-mail responding to Andrew's statement that I owed it to James Kilbourne to publish Drooling Beast:

He [James Kilbourne] thinks everyone's an alcoholic because of Sergio. And if one denies it, one is in denial. One can't win. I like my wine. Always will. Doesn't make me an alcoholic. How the hell do I hold down a television job, run a magazine & oversee SOLO while being an alcoholic? James should drink a little more himself & quit being so precious. Robert Winefield got it right—treasure the gems, ignore the turds, & get on with it. All this agonising & handwringing just amazes me. There's clearly a cultural thing here. In NZ we do exactly as Winefield says. There's rambunctious rough-&-tumble & folk don't go crying into corners. So many Americans are just pathetic sissies. I don't owe James a thing. But publish the crap anyway. If we don't, they'll spread it around that I suppressed an article telling "the truth" about me. [Bold added]

Quite straightforward, really, Prof. I know it doesn't fulfill the need you have for some labrynthian machinations to have been going on, but the truth in this instance is boringly simple. Maybe one day it'll sink in that just because you, Prof, operate in a seething cauldron of scheming, plotting and conniving, it doesn't follow that everyone else does. I certainly don't.

For the first time, though, I am given pause by one thing you say: that it was you who persuaded Babs that my publishing DB was a set-up. Perhaps you persuaded Sciabarra as well? Perhaps they are both more innocent than I realised, and were led astray by your stirring of the pot? This is a genuine question, not a rhetorical one.

Your attempt to prove a "set-up" here is threadbare. Such an attempt must demonstrate that I could have known in advance that Drooling Beast would backfire on Brandbourne. Merely asserting, "Mr. Perigo damn well would have known it in advance, because he didn’t just fall off a turnip truck," doesn't cut it, I'm afraid, though I'm flattered by your attribution of such prescience to me.

Mr. Perigo’s Attachment to “Dialectical Dishonesty” Part II

Robert Campbell's picture

Lindsay Perigo wants to keep imagining, and wants to keep his readers imagining, that there is some credible content to the charges made by Diana Hsieh in her public denunciation of Chris Sciabarra, which was unleashed on this site under his sponsorship.

In Part I, I reviewed the content of Ms. Hsieh’s epic denunciation.

There turned out not to be a whole lot.

Indeed, the criticisms of Ms. Hsieh’s conduct that she so roundly condemned appear, without exception, to have been eminently merited. She chose to become Rand-land’s answer to Comrade Sonia.

It ought to be counted a mystery how anyone ever bought the charges in that piece—except out of partisanship, or wishful thinking, or a deeply mistaken regard for Ms. Hsieh’s truthfulness and her ability to deliver in the future all of the evidence that she pretended to be holding back in the present.

But we are in Rand-land, where some people are always letting themselves get caught up in some kind of craziness.

And there is more to review. The single charge that obviously meant the most to Lindsay Perigo—the accusation that Chris Sciabarra had lied about Mr. Perigo at the behest of Barbara Branden—was just announced by Ms. Hsieh, who then, somehow, suddenly found herself at a loss for words.

So we’ll have to turn to Mr. Perigo’s contribution to the collaborative effort.

On receipt of the baton from Ms. Hsieh, Mr. Perigo crocodilically lamented (http://www.solopassion.com/nod... and scroll down):

There were blow-ups, to be sure, but never something that a phone-call couldn't, and didn't, fix. Though our friendship finally cooled, it remained a friendship—and I can't describe the shock, therefore, of seeing what he was saying about me behind my back, on matters about which he knew better. What followed my confronting him served only to pretty well obliterate any chance of salvaging the situation. Trust between us was to all intents and purposes irreparably damaged.

Contrary to the impression that Mr. Perigo sought to create, Dr. Sciabarra would have been better off parting ways with him several years earlier. It is fair to say that their friendship had long been under considerable strain.

By early 2006, how many times had Mr. Perigo demanded a public show of loyalty from Dr. Sciabarra, and been rebuffed? How often had Dr. Sciabarra complained to his friends about Mr. Perigo? How often, and to whom, was Mr. Perigo complaining about Dr. Sciabarra? What grounds, if any, still remained for Chris Sciabarra to trust Lindsay Perigo? (Oh, I forgot. Mr. Perigo wants us to believe that everyone ought to trust him, because he would never ever do anything underhanded.)

It was in a post on Phil Coates’ “Questions for Diana” thread (May 18, 2006) that Mr. Perigo gave his most detailed case against Dr. Sciabarra (and did his most extensive quoting from private emails).

See http://www.solopassion.com/nod... 8626
and note the usual caveats about inadequate linking.

After repeating a chunk from Chris Sciabarra’s private email to Joe Maurone (April 6, 2006),

"Perigo sanctioned it [the publication of “Drooling Beast” on SOLOHQ]—for the express purpose of rallying his troops, and attacking JK and BB, and marginalizing them at SOLO. He told me so. Because he got sick and tired of their lectures on his style of argumentation. It was a set up, plain and simple."

Mr. Perigo indignantly insisted:

I told him no such thing.

Except for the “plain and simple” part (which could be taken to mean that Mr. Perigo had no other motive for letting the article through), is there any reason to doubt that Mr. Perigo told him such a thing?

Mr. Perigo continued, in a strikingly disingenuous vein:

My decision to publish was not and could not have been a "set up" since I had absolutely no way of knowing how folk would react.

For all I knew there might have been a chorus of “That explains everything. Do as he says and get treatment, you drooling beast!” Nor could I have known that Barbara, who supposedly had left SOLO at this point, would jump on the thread and endorse the article.

Why has Mr. Perigo vehemently and incessantly denied setting a trap for Barbara Branden by publishing the “Drooling Beast” article, when you need only read his very public essay, “This Boy’s Not for Turning” (August 7, 2005) to see what he was really thinking?

http://solohq.solopassion.com/...

Two weeks ago, after one of these explosions, Barbara Branden said she was leaving SOLO on account of it, notwithstanding that it was one that I apologised for. It seemed to me at this point that in light of such a high-profile departure, I ought to take stock and ask what these periodic eruptions were achieving other than the loss of revered contributors. I had already promised Barbara that ... well, she seems to think I promised there would be no more eruptions at all; I believe I promised to take care that there would be no unjustified attacks on individuals of the kind I had unleashed on Michael Newberry when he advanced an idea that I found unspeakably odious. In any event, Barbara felt I had broken my promise and damaged SOLO in the process. So she was leaving (how this would help SOLO was not made clear), and I decided to take time out. I told everyone here that I would be absenting myself for a fortnight while I did some soul-searching and, possibly, fence-mending.

No sooner had I announced this than Barbara’s close friend James Kilbourne, another revered contributor, submitted for publication his now-infamous article, Drooling Beast, in which he posited that my explosions were caused by alcohol and claimed point-blank that I was an alcoholic. He said that he too, would be leaving (how his leaving would help SOLO, or me with my "alcoholism," was, again, not made clear). […]

I truly figured that the abomination would be read by fewer people if it were published than if it weren’t, given what I had come to view as the Branden/Kilbourne fixation on making me over on my own turf. They would simply distribute the calumny informally, along with the juicy preface, "Here’s what Linz wouldn’t allow you to see on SOLOHQ"—a preface that would lend credence to the slander. So I authorised Andrew to publish.

Note the italicized phrases in the last paragraph…

It was James Kilbourne’s article. But Mr. Perigo was convinced that Barbara Branden was behind it—and that she was prepared to circulate it privately to Mr. Perigo’s detriment, should he decide not to publish it.

Yet in his post of May 18, 2006, Mr. Perigo wouldn’t quit insisting:

Privately I had said to Chris:

“If I’d refused to publish, James & BB would have continued their whispering campaign off line, sending the article privately to all & sundry & saying, ‘Here is the truth Perigo wouldn't publish’. And in the eyes of its recipients, my non publishing would have lent their claims credence. As well, it showed the true nature of James’ & BB’s ‘love & concern.’ She, of course, had already alluded to my ‘problem’ with her comment about badgering me to join the civilised & the sober.”

Now, it would seem Chris, who accepted this explanation at the time, was seizing upon the sentiment in just the last sentence above, along with post publication comments I made to him on the phone about being glad Brandbourne’s noses had been rubbed in it, in asserting to Joe behind my back, many months later, that publication had been a “set up, plain and simple,” even though he knew it was not—and could not have been. Certainly, that's how he justified himself to me when I confronted him with his back stabbing. Of course I was mad at Brandbourne, and of course I was delighted their filth had backfired on them, but how the hell could I have known in advance that it would?!

Mr. Perigo damn well would have known it in advance, because he didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.

What Mr. Perigo is so vehemently objecting to is an obviously true statement about what he was up to.

In the same May 18 post, Mr. Perigo, quoting another chunk of private email, leveled a second charge:

Whatever room for doubt there may be re the set up allegation, however, there is none with respect to the following. In the Comrade Sonia e mail to Joe, Chris had also defended Barbara's apologetics for Jim Peron:

“Barbara is fully aware of Peron’s problems... what she objected to was the fact that Perigo got into bed with a Christian fundamentalist organization to get Peron tossed out of New Zealand with no due process. That man lost his home and his lover, and never had a chance to defend himself. And whatever problems he has—he never molested a kid. At most, he was guilty of writing about his experiences with an older man, and covering it up in later years. He may have allowed NAMBLA literature in his store at one time but that's hardly a reason to dispossess somebody of their home and life, without giving that person a chance to defend themselves in a court of law.”

I’ve put my italics around “the fact that,” for reasons that shall become apparent.

For Mr. Perigo refused to accept the foregoing paragraph from a private email as an account of Barbara Branden’s view of l’affaire Peron.

He insisted that it was an account of Chris Sciabarra’s own view of l’affaire (and, therefore, an exercise in duplicity).

Why?

He [i.e., Chris Sciabarra, in a private email to Lindsay Perigo] responded (and this, to my mind, is the "smoking gun" that proves lying):

“Please read my email. I was explaining to Joe what BARBARA objected to, not what I objected to. READ THE EMAIL. That whole paragraph begins with ‘what she objected to...’”

Yes it does. And Chris stops at “What she objected to.” He neglects to add “was the fact that.” The FACT that. Not “her perception that.” The FACT that Perigo got into bed with, etc.. When I pressed Chris on this, he said the expression “the fact that” is a “Brooklyn colloquialism” that somehow means that what follows is not necessarily intended as a statement of fact. Yeah, right.

There’s clearly no question in this instance that Chris was knowingly stating as fact, behind my back, something he knew to be false. When confronted, he compounded his wrongdoing with this “Brooklyn colloquialism” fudge.

This matter of American English usage would be laughably trivial, had Mr. Perigo not sought to use it to destroy a former friend’s reputation.

Now I know that the Perigonian claque is going to greet my linguistic terminology with epithets specially warmed up for the occasion, but under these circumstances it can’t be helped.

In many dialects of American English, including Brooklynese, “the fact that” is used … non-factively. A construction is being used “non-factively” when there is no presupposition that the clause following the construction states a truth. In other words, it’s OK in these dialects to use “the fact that” interchangeably with “the perception that”—or with “that,” plain and simple.

Got it?

Some of my students at Clemson—and not many natives of Brooklyn find their way to the Upstate of South Carolina—also use “the fact that” non-factively. My own dialect allows only factive uses. More to the point, I don’t think that the non-factive use makes for the best writing. But it’s part of their dialect, just as “I might should oughta get it at the bookstore” or “Could you mash 5 for me?” [i.e., could you press the button for the 5th floor] are part of other American dialects.

Only a man bent on revenge at all costs would try to pillory a former friend over a tiny detail of American dialect variation.

Now, finally, let’s take a look at Mr. Valliant’s contribution to the joint effort.

This would be an extremely short section, were Mr. Perigo telling the truth. For Mr. Perigo has wanted us to believe that Jim Valliant was not a collaborator in “Dialectical Dishonesty.”

What really happened is that Mr. Valliant chimed right in on the original comment thread, later becoming a key participant in “Questions for Diana.”

First, what Mr. Valliant had to say after he took the baton.

Again, the linking function is screwed up, so try
http://www.solopassion.com/nod... and scroll, just not so far this time:

Chris Sciabarra has accused Linz of a “set up” — yes, he said that Linz “set up” Ms. Branden pure and simple — in the ‘Drooling Beast’ matter in his email to Joe. Now, how Linz would know that BB would even post on the thread still has me scratching my head, but to spread false accusations against a former friend to a mutual friend is wrong — pure and simple. It does not matter to me if this was an isolated case: Chris is spreading BB's warped version of things. One he knows cannot be true.

This, we are now in a position to conclude, is horsepucky and bullhockey.

We’ve seen how Mr. Perigo was able to predict, with high reliability, that Barbara Branden was going to post on SOLOHQ in support of her friend James Kilbourne’s piece. It would have come as a giant shock in Mr. Perigo’s life if she hadn’t.

So Mr. Valliant, in claiming the contrary, is either surpassing his many other formidable acts of boneheadedness—or he is brazenly lying.

Mr. Perigo obviously intended to nail Barbara Branden to the wall. He let his friends and associates know it, in no uncertain terms. Dr. Sciabarra was telling the truth about Mr. Perigo’s intentions. Anywhere but in Mr. Perigo’s vicinity, that would be credited as a sufficient defense.

And in asserting that Barbara Branden put Chris Sciabarra up to anything that he said on this topic, Mr. Valliant is telling a flagrant untruth.

Barbara Branden did not realize, at first, how Mr. Perigo had set her up. She had to be told by others. One of those others was me. And, obviously, I wasn’t the first in line.

Anyone who is tempted to take Mr. Valliant seriously on this issue merely needs to reread “This Boy’s Not for Turning.”

Second, Mr. Valliant charged Dr. Sciabarra with duplicity on a subject dear to Mr. Valliant’s heart.


Only this wasn't an isolated case. I was distressed to learn that last year, in September, I believe, Chris was emailing Linz to urge him to shut down the debate on PARC — out of regard for BB's age, no less — at a time when he was telling me he wanted the PARC debate to go on...

Mr. Valliant has now left a richly documented documented trail of Vallliantciting® and Valliantquoating®, exacerbated by frequent outbreaks of reading disorder.

Here, however, Mr. Valliant was not misciting, misquoting, or misreading.

He was engaging in the practice that Ayn Rand once called “a particularly vicious form of lying.” (Unless, of course, Mr. Valliant had been fed his half-truths by Mr. Perigo, and was foolish enough to swallow them.)

Back in September 2005, Chris Sciabarra told me that he'd complained to Lindsay Perigo, then still supposedly a friend of his, about the turn that SOLOHQ had taken. There had been two solid months of one thread after another, some with hundreds of posts, blaming everything that had ever gone wrong in Rand-land on Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. At one point, he said he “ranted” to Mr. Perigo, foolishly asking that the threads in question be shut down—but promptly thought better of it and backed off the request, which in any case Mr. Perigo was in no position to grant.

That’s it. There was no Sciabarran campaign to close down discussions of Mr. Valliant’s opus.

(Not so incidentally, Joe Rowlands, who to my knowledge has never been a fan of either Nathaniel or Barbara Branden, apparently got sick of the same trend at SOLOHQ. Two months later, he would dissolve his partnership with Mr. Perigo.)

Either Mr. Perigo chose to keep Mr. Valliant in the dark about his exchanges with Dr. Sciabarra back in September 2005—or he clued Mr. Valliant in, and Mr. Valliant served his own purposes by choosing not to mention most of what he knew about them.

Whether one of them is lying, or both, Mr. Perigo and Mr. Valliant will surely be glad to enlighten us.

Mr. Valliant was certainly willing to engage in duplicitous behavior on other occasions.

Anyone who has read PARC carefully will have learned that he has few rivals when it comes to gross public hypocrisy.

So no one should be surprised by declarations like the following:

This political “behind-the-back” stuff I find revolting. This “confidentiality” is supposed to “protect” the innocent — not provide cover to spread lies.

Oh, really?

Mr. Valliant’s post of May 5, 2006, in which he assembled his case for the purported benefit of Phil Coates, declared that

As of April 7, I was still engaged in correspondence with Chris — at that time, it concerned my complaints about Campbell's baseless public insults of ARI scholars — and me — and their implications for the sincerity of JARS' "invitation" to those same scholars — including me.

Mr. Valliant’s May 5 post is at

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

but you may have to search for it manually on Mr. Coates’ “Questions for Diana” thread.

(Note, by the way, how Mr. Valliant once again counted himself an “ARI scholar,” when he usually vehemently denies representing the Ayn Rand Institute—and is unlikely to be considered a scholar by any of those with whom he so desperately seeks to affiliate himself.)

Mr. Valliant claimed on May 5 that he was not supplied with Chris Sciabarra’s private email to Joe Maurone for another two or three days. But Mr. Valliant was already well plugged in by April 7, so the statement is quite likely another lie. Even if Mr. Valliant’s timeline is accurate, he knew all about that private email by April 11.

In a phone conversation with Dr. Sciabarra on that date, Mr. Valliant claimed that

I further stated my increasing distress at the accusations of the “fear” and “intimidation” experienced by ARI scholars as the sole reason for their not publishing in JARS. This seemed to me a giant calumny, in light of the information that I was getting from Diana on the matter.

Note the passage I’ve put in italics.

With characteristic precision, Mr. Valliant turned alleged fear on the part of ARI scholars into the only reason that Dr. Sciabarra thought they wouldn’t publish in JARS. Even Ms. Hsieh never went that far.

Much more significantly, he was admittedly being fed private emails by Diana Hsieh, and was seeking to extract further information that could be used against Chris Sciabarra. (Was Mr. Valliant also feeding Ms. Hsieh private emails? Given his level of involvement in the joint venture, was there any reason for him not to?)

As his surviving comments on Notablog attest, Mr. Valliant was trying to lure Chris Sciabarra back onto SOLOPassion, on April 9 and 10, 2006.

Was he merely doing this to foster constructive dialogue between Dr. Sciabarra and that great guiding light of the Ayn Rand Institute, Mike Mazza?

He actually resorted to that feeble pretext, before he gave up.

Meanwhile, neither of his own “behind-the-back” courses of action seems to have revolted Mr. Valliant in the slightest.

Back for a moment now to Mr. Valliant’s earlier post. He said of Chris Sciabarra’s alleged skullduggery:

This was all part of my own decision not to publish in JARS.

If this statement is as credible as the foregoing, it might buy you a cup of coffee when supplemented with $1.95.

Only Mr. Valliant can tell us, if he ever cares to speak the truth, how publishing in JARS would have displeased Mr. Perigo—and how he had been freshly reminded that it would be a career-limiting move, over at the Ayn Rand Institute.

Mr. Vallliant, too, could turn crocodilic:

As it is for Linz and Diana, this is very sad and painful matter for me.

Au contraire, back then it was a matter for gloating.

If not the occasion for ushering in a New Objectivist World Order…

Mr. Perigo signed off on several of his posts during this period with “Whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on!”

Mr. Valliant no doubt envisioned that he, too, was going on to greater things.

Two years later, the gloating has fallen silent.

How would Mr. Perigo like it, were everyone who used to correspond with him to publicly release an assortment of the nasty, backstabbing comments he has made about others? Or of the gossip he has been pleased to pass around behind the scenes? Or just of everything he has ever emailed while venting? Every one of those folks is far more fastidious than Mr. Perigo will ever be, and far less prone to stoop to such tactics.

Yet through his participation in “Dialectical Dishonesty,” Mr. Perigo has forfeited any moral defense he would otherwise have been entitled to, against such public displays of dirty laundry.

Which is why Mr. Perigo ought to be thankful that I am posting on SOLOP, and not any of the individuals that he has repeatedly demanded report here for sliming. I do not possess any personal emails from him.

The same goes for Mr. Valliant. I have no personal emails from him, either.

PS. While Messrs. Perigo and Valliant keep right on pretending that “Dialectical Dishonesty” was in no way a payback for failure to praise Mr. Valliant’s book, an erstwhile member of Ms. Hsieh’s claque saw matters more clearly. Here’s Boaz Simovici, laying it on the line:

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

If Chris Sciabarra has cultivated the above-reproach persona of a public intellectual while privately lying about and smearing those who clearly deserved better, he himself deserves to be "outed" in exactly this public a manner. One simply can't have it both ways. As far as I'm concerned, however, his lack of intellectual honesty was already on full display in his question-begging, rambling review of PARC.

Mr. Perigo’s Attachment to “Dialectical Dishonesty” Part I

Robert Campbell's picture

Lindsay Perigo wants to keep imagining, and wants to keep his readers imagining, that there is some credible content to the charges made by Diana Hsieh in her public denunciation of Chris Sciabarra, which was unleashed on this site under his sponsorship.

Anyone who has the stomach for this kind of production can read it here:

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

Of course, those who at any time lent their endorsement to Ms. Hsieh’s denunciation should be required to reread it, over and over.

Expending 50% more words than I was allotted for the book chapter I just finished—and fully 3 1/2 times as many words as I’ve used here—Ms. Hsieh made 4 claims.

(1) Chris Sciabarra didn’t know as many people with Ayn Rand Institute affiliations as he said he did, and misrepresented the motivations of those he did know. He improperly claimed that some ARI scholars were willing to correspond with him, but were afraid lest their correspondence with him become known to colleagues or superiors.

(2) Chris Sciabarra pressured Diana Hsieh and Joe Maurone to defend his work on the basis of nothing besides residual personal loyalty.

I'll quote the next one verbatim, because every word of it deserves close attention:

(3) I've discovered that Chris now smears me as a turncoat and dogmatist in private correspondence with others, despite recent assurances to me of his persistent "fond feelings for our past friendship." He grossly misrepresents my views on homosexuality and scholarship. He wrongly implies that I've violated my promise to refrain from public criticism of him and his work. He's even called me "the veritable Comrade Sonia of Objectivism." Even worse, he does all that while holding me to silence about him through my promise, even though I offered that consideration based upon the illusion of friendship.

Finally:

(4) Chris Sciabarra “willingly smear[ed] his old friend Linz Perigo by accusing him of grave moral wrongs — behind Linz's back,” and willfully lied in defense of bad acts by Barbara Branden.

Let’s start with (1).

Unless she was wiretapping him, or performing remote data collection via spyware, Ms. Hsieh had no way to know how many persons with ARI affiliations corresponded with Dr. Sciabarra, or what the tone of said correspondence was like.

Nonetheless, she asserted she knew that (a) no ARI-affiliated scholar was really interested in publishing in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and (b) no ARI-affiliated scholar could ever be afraid that his or her contacts with Dr. Sciabarra, or possible interest in publishing in JARS, being publicly revealed.

So how many ARI scholars had Ms. Hsieh spoken to about these matters, in April 2006? How inclined were any of them to be frank with her about such a topic? Ms. Hsieh proclaimed that “his only story about a particular scholar, told repeatedly to me, consisted almost entirely of baseless distortions and outright fabrications.”

If the person in question did not in fact correspond with Dr. Sciabarra—or did correspond with Dr. Sciabarra but never expressed fear of retribution from superiors and colleagues at ARI for such corresponding—why did Ms. Hsieh not name the scholar?

If correspondence with Dr. Sciabarra was not the sort of activity that could get an ARIan in trouble—why the secrecy?

Surely naming the scholar would have allowed readers of Ms. Hsieh's piece to judge the truth of her assertions for themselves.

And if ARI operates as Ms. Hsieh has kept shouting that it does, there would have been no repercussions for the scholar. Only Dr. Sciabarra’s reputation would have been harmed—hardly an outcome that would perturb Ms. Hsieh.

Ms. Hsieh went on to emphasize how various intellectuals with past or present ARI affiliations gave bad reviews to Chris Sciabarra’s books: Robert Mayhew, Robert Tracinski, John Ridpath, James Lennox. Observing her regular custom of not naming her ARIan contacts, Ms. Hsieh continued...

More generally, I’ve certainly heard ARI scholars express grave reservations about the poor scholarly standards of JARS and Chris' other works on Ayn Rand. Of course, not every article in JARS is an embarrassment, but many are — and others merely aspire to mediocrity.

Ms. Hsieh did not give any of her own reasons for these negative evaluations. Nor did she tell us any of her unnamed sources’ reasons.

All she did was insist that Chris Sciabarra's books are bad, and that JARS is full of embarrassing articles. Such as? She even maintained that The Russian Radical (a book that she had read only half of, and never "reread" as she told Chris Sciabarra she would need to do) is full of "arbitrary assertions." Such as?

In contrast, the explicit commitment of ARI scholars to high quality scholarship on Objectivism yields anthologies like Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living and Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem with consistently good to great essays. As far as I can see, such ARI scholars have nothing to gain by publishing in a journal with poor editorial standards - and so they don't.

In other words, books and chapters written by ARI scholars are really good because ARI scholars publish really good books and chapters.

QED—right?

Again, 12,600 words gave Ms. Hsieh no room for a single example or a solitary reason.

But her drift was clear. ARIan scholars definitely ought to think highly of their colleagues’ work, and ought to think ill of Chris Sciabarra's work. They ought to think ill of JARS, too.

Now, if the view propounded by Ms. Hsieh is as widespread within ARI as she wanted her readers to believe, wouldn't an ARI scholar who corresponded with Chris Sciabarra—about whose work all ought to think ill—prefer not to advertise this activity to other ARIans?

Except, she had previously insisted, no ARI scholar would feel any need to keep contacts with Dr. Sciabarra private.

Did anyone notice the inconsistency?

Now for (2):

The notion that Chris Sciabarra wanted Ms. Hsieh to defend his work “on faith” stems from a couple of episodes during Ms. Hsieh’s noisy public conversion to ARIanism. The process stretched from October 2003 through August 2004, but April 2004 was particularly tumultuous. Ms. Hsieh had left The Objectivist Center, which many who knew her figured she would do, and were supportive about. But, contrary to the advice of many of her friends, she had insisted on publicly denouncing David Kelley in the bargain.

She had also taken her first public step toward denouncing Nathaniel Branden, by announcing that she was no longer his webmaster. At the time, Ms. Hsieh lied to her friends with TOC connections, telling them that resigning as Dr. Branden’s webmaster did not imply or foreshadow further action against him.

Those who want to understand what Ms. Hsieh was up to, in April 2004, should keep in mind that Ms. Hsieh is an enthusiastic presser of the red button. The roster of persons banned from commenting on NoodleFood must by now have passed 100. It includes many who are prominent in Rand-land. Since Leonard Peikoff's fatwa to vote Democratic was handed down in October 2006, it has even come to include ARIans who publicly opposed the fatwa. But during 2004 and 2005, I know of no commenter in good odor with ARI who was ever banned from NoodleFood, no matter how puerile or obnoxious the comments were.

It should also be kept in mind that on realigning herself with ARI, Ms. Hsieh started allowing a few of her ARIan sponsors and contacts to post multiple anonymous comments (a privilege that, to my knowledge, was never extended to anyone else). In general, Ms. Hsieh’s transition to ARI involved planning ahead that she did not disclose to persons not already affiliated with that organization, and, at times, outright lies to non-ARIans about her intentions.

So here is what the "Mysterious Stranger" about whom Chris Sciabarra was complaining wrote about his work:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-...

These sorts of leaps are so pervasive and extreme, that the work [Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical] does not qualify as a piece of scholarship at all. It is pure arbitrary conjecture, decorated with footnotes and references that establish nothing. Is it any wonder that ARI scholars don't take this work seriously enough to address in print. The book is so sub-par that it is an embarrassment to those of us who want to do serious scholarship on Rand in an academic context. To engage in debate with Sciabarra would be to legitimize his work — to say, in effect, “This is real scholarship and is now a part of the literature on this subject.” But his work is not scholarship, it’s arbitrary musing, and it should be treated as such. I can only see one reason for a legitimate scholar to mention it at all, which is to make it clear that he doesn’t regard Sciabarra's prattling as part of the intellectual project with which he is engaged.

Now simply saying that one does not take Sciabarra seriously as a scholar, or dismissing him out of hand, does not constitute an argument from intimidation. It’s on par with ignoring the readings of Madame Cleo and saying that it is irrational to regard her as a legitimate source of information about the future. If a policy of ignoring and demeaning this sort of material was intellectually illegitimate, then every expert in every field would be required to address every bit of garbage published by every two bit crackpot, and this would go on without end. (Especially since the crackpots would post responses to every criticism on their blogs, and the intellectuals then would be required to address these responses as well.)

Ms. Hsieh got urgent communications from several people, including me. We all asked who the hell “Mysterious Stranger” was, and how she could countenance the utter derogatory crap that MS was dishing out.

She refused to identify Mysterious Stranger. She refused to identify “Noumenal Self” (another one of her favored commenters, who distinguished himself around this same time by throwing Chris Sciabarra off his blog and erasing Dr. Sciabarra’s comment—after Dr. Sciabarra asked him one polite question). She claimed to have nothing but respect for either of these individuals, about whom she would not allow anything else to be known except their ARI affiliations.

My friendship with Ms. Hsieh nearly ended right then, as did Dr. Sciabarra’s. In retrospect, all of her former companions in iniquity should have parted ways with her right then, without allowing time for future developments. For it was Ms. Hsieh who wanted the people she was letting her new-found allies spit on to remain her friends, on faith.

For instance, I had to apologize to Ms. Hsieh for publicly suggesting that her denunciation of David Kelley provided evidence of his shortcomings as a manager and as a mentor—but hardly constituted proof that Dr. Kelley was therefore in the grip of a corrupt philosophy, or that he had (in my words) “chucked objectivity.” (Ms. Hsieh was already signaling her support for Leonard Peikoff’s entire excommunication of Dr. Kelley, by recapitulating all of the charges from “Fact and Value.”) She angrily threatened to end our friendship if I didn’t instantly retract that remark.

By far the best course of action would have been to let it all go right there.

Besides, it could not have been her long-term plan to keep Dr. Sciabarra as a friend. If she respected Mysterious Stranger and Noumenal Self, and they transparently thought of Chris Sciabarra as a “two bit crackpot,” she was going to have to choose.

Most of her public proclamations during this period were strikingly devoid of actual intellectual content. (The same was true of her private pleas, to the friends she was planning to abandon.) The contentlessness was still painfully apparent when she tried to justify her conduct, two years later:

Also, although I didn't re-read The Russian Radical, I read some of Chris' internet writings and reflected upon our personal communications. That made clear enough his explicit embrace of subjectivism, indulgence in arbitrary speculation, and toleration of moral evils. After much thought, I also realized the great danger of his lax standards of scholarship, particularly in his editing of JARS.

Again, no examples. Again, no reasons. Were there ever any?

I parted ways with Ms. Hsieh in August 2004, after her private denunciation of Barbara and Nathaniel Branden was followed, as she had announced it would be, by a public denunciation. She had demanded (in May) that I never comment on NoodleFood again, on pain of being instantly banned. She had indignantly denied, on more than one occasion, that she would end up denouncing old friends, or that she would change course from expressing skepticism about some of Leonard Peikoff’s published work to expressing unreserved praise for virtually everything he wrote or uttered. In other words, she had told more lies.

Some way to treat an old friend, huh?

I truly wish Chris Sciabarra had told her to take a hike by that time. Ms. Hsieh was gunning for him. Her nasty blog entry on “Poisoning the Well” (from August 2005) was aimed at him by implication, as members of her ARIan claque were meant to understand, and obviously did. Her weird promise, made when Dr. Sciabarra complained about that piece, to refrain from further public blasts at him, was foolish. She has admitted its foolishness; what she has failed to admit was its falseness. Ms. Hsieh never had the slightest intention of keeping it.

One of her preconditions, the reader will note, was ... that Dr. Sciabarra never comment on NoodleFood, on pain of being instantly banned and publicly denounced:

I do request that you continue your current policy of not posting replies to criticisms in my comments.

Some way to treat an old friend, huh?

Now for (3).

Ms. Hsieh based nearly all of this complaint on a private email from Chris Sciabarra to Joe Maurone on April 6, 2006. This email was promptly passed by Mr. Maurone to her, to Lindsay Perigo, and to James Valliant. (So much for the claim that these individuals were not working together.)

She did not bother to explain how long she and Mr. Maurone had been collaborating (I would guess they had been doing so for a month, if not longer). She did not mention Mr. Maurone’s participation in the takedown of Regi Firehammer, which took place on the very same day as the email from which she quoted. She did not bother to explain what information she had passed to Joe Maurone by this time—for instance, whether she had provided him with private emails from Chris Sciabarra. She did not say whether she had encouraged Mr. Maurone to solicit an email response from Dr. Sciabarra that she and others could then employ against him. Nor did she say anything about the past relationship between Mr. Maurone and Dr. Sciabarra.

So what, when all is said and done, were the truly awful things that Chris Sciabarra had to say about her?

• She had turned against him and against nearly everything that he stood for.

Well, come to think of it, she had.

• She had become a dogmatist.

Well, anyone who practices serial public denunciations of alleged heretics (David Kelley, Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, coming next, Chris Sciabarra), refers to all of her former friends who persist in criticizing the Ayn Rand Institute as “transparently dishonest,” and proudly quotes Ayn Rand’s 1980 remark as to how one must be 100% Objectivist, or founder in a swamp of irrationality, certainly qualifies as a dogmatist.

• She rejected “virtually all non-ARI scholarship.”

Well, with the exception of David Kelley’s book The Evidence of the Senses, she had rejected all Rand scholarship from which ARI currently withheld its imprimatur. She had rejected her own book chapter in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, not because of any concrete fault she could identify in it, but because it had been published in a book edited by Chris Sciabarra, which had been given a negative review by an individual affiliated with ARI. She also lied about her essay in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand hurting her prospects for acceptance in a graduate philosophy program.

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

In most philosophy departments, I would strongly doubt that publishing in JARS would be helpful for tenure and/or promotion. In fact, I think it would often still be positively harmful. (I suspect that my own essay in the Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand probably hurt my application to graduate school, preventing me from entering the Ph.D program immediately — although that didn't matter in the long run.)

Ms. Hsieh did believe, probably correctly, that her chapter in Feminist Interpretations had drawn negative attention from a faculty member at the University of Colorado. What she neglected to mention was that the professor, about whom she complained bitterly to me, was a socialist feminist philosopher. She sought to create a misleading impression that the chapter made her look bad to the analytic philosophers who, in fact, dominate that department.

By April 2006, Diana Hsieh had repeatedly voiced her rejection of nonARIan scholarship in public. She never missed an opportunity to trumpet the superiority of ARI scholarship, even when she had not yet read the books that she was praising. She claimed to be critical of some ARI material but refused to identify any of it in public, lest “enemies of Objectivism” get wind of it.

• She was a born-again homophobe.

Well, before Ms. Hsieh apparently decided that she needed to get right with Leonard Peikoff (on an ostensibly “non-philosophical” subject, meaning that her obedience wasn’t a necessary condition for orthodoxy), she had never said this:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-...

I never heard her say anything remotely like “unfortunate and suboptimal” during the years that I knew her. I never heard her make one negative comment about homosexuality.

Yet, most amazingly, neither Mr. Maurone nor Mr. Perigo ever pressed her on this issue. Apparently taking down an old friend was too urgent a priority for them.

• She was Rand-land’s answer to Comrade Sonia.

Well, considering that she trampled right over a bunch of friends and mentors in order to gain entry to the Ayn Rand Institute, planned her trampling well in advance, and lied to many of friends for strategic purposes, it’s not too hard to see where Chris Sciabarra was coming from. What is surprising is that Dr. Sciabarra didn’t call her “Comrade Sonia” until April 2006, instead of identifying her as such in April 2004.

Frankly, I think Chris Sciabarra accepted way too much crap from Diana Hsieh for way too long.

Everything he said, when he finally got sick of all the crap, was appropriate and on target.

Incidentally, here is one of Ms. Hsieh’s contenders for the chutzpah prize:

Now that I am no longer bound by my prior offer of consideration to Chris, I am free to criticize his work as I see fit. I have no particular commentaries planned at present, although I've found a few items of potential interest in the course of writing this post. I still plan to do a careful reading of The Russian Radical at some point, so that I might finally come to a proper assessment of it.

Yeah, sure.

Has Ms. Hsieh ever finished her first reading of The Russian Radical? I suspect that Leonard Peikoff’s next book will have been published, sold, and remaindered before any such critique sees the light of day.

After all, having shaken herself free of a tainted association with an “enemy of Objectivism,” Ms. Hsieh will experience no obstructions to her advancement within ARI on account of never having read an entire book by Dr. Sciabarra, and never offering a genuine critique of a single article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Another contender:

Since my departure from TOC, I've explained and defended the changes in my views on NoodleFood — with facts and arguments, not appeals to authority. And more recently, I've done the same in the rough and tumble of SoloPassion, even while my critics hide in less demanding forums like "Objectivist Living" and "Rebirth of Reason."

So how long has Ms. Hsieh been absent from this forum? Would she ever have spent two minutes on it, without assurances of support of Mr. Perigo and Mr. Valliant, and the regular assistance of the noisy claque that she imported?

And who wields the red button at NoodleFood?

Ms. Hsieh’s frequent protestations of great courage and independence of thought are plainly phony. Indeed, they are offensive to reason. She has made those protestations most loudly and frequently since she began crafting her plan to join the Ayn Rand Institute, while compiling a track record that displays a good deal of cunning and ruthlessness, but little that could be recognized as courage or independence.

Still another contender:

Before I present the evidence, I would like to offer to clear the air of Chris Sciabarra's numerous lies, many of which are probably still unknown to me. I will answer any polite e-mail inquiries about the veracity of Chris' claims about me. I will set the record straight, documenting the facts whenever possible. As for Chris' claims about various ARI scholars, I'd be happy to say what I do know -- and in some cases, to inquire further. To respond fairly, I must see exact quotes from Chris' e-mails, in context and dated. To prevent the further spread of unjust lies, please e-mail those quotes to me privately rather than posting them as comments. ("The person who repeats an insult is the person who insults me.") Also, since I would very much like to know the reach and substance of Chris' whispers, I'd appreciate forwards even from those who now entirely disbelieve Chris' claims. (Absent contrary instructions, I will presume that I may post quotes from Chris without naming the source, so that I can set the record straight in public if necessary.)

This public solicitation of private dirt on Chris Sciabarra netted … nothing. For the second denunciation that Ms. Hsieh implied was going to be built on these new revelations has never materialized.

Yet somehow Mr. Perigo, a year and a half after his own rift with Ms. Hsieh, still wants everyone to believe that her charges against Chris Sciabarra are true and pertinent?

The charges were fraudulent from the git-go.

Their clear function was to free Ms. Hsieh of a politically inexpedient association from her past, opening a path up into the hierarchy at the Ayn Rand Institute. Now entrenching Diana Hsieh in a position of authority at ARI is project that Diana Hsieh obviously deems of great positive value. But it is highly doubtful that Mr. Perigo ever put much stock in it—and he has absolutely nothing to gain from it in July 2008.

Oh yeah, finally, charge (4).

Oops, 12,600 words weren’t enough…

Ms. Hsieh handed most of this one off to Lindsay Perigo, who also still wants everyone to believe that “Dialectical Dishonesty” was not a collaborative effort.

Without signaling her intent to do so, she handed the rest of it off to Jim Valliant, who also still wants everyone to believe that “Dialectical Dishonesty” was not a collaborative effort.

Mr. Perigo and Mr. Valliant’s contributions to the collaborative effort will be the topic of Part II.

Oh dear!

Kasper's picture

"Which makes me wonder—has Lindsay Perigo actually read PARC?"
"Or is he expecting those few who have actually read it, and are willing to defend what they have read, to do his work for him?"

Why persist in criticizing Mr. Valliant's book?

Robert Campbell's picture

The paramount reason is that unsavory individuals, chief among them Lindsay Perigo and Jim Valliant, have tried to use The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics to settle personal scores and blaze paths to power for themselves.

Ayn Rand does not need the kind of defense they purport to provide. They, however, need a cover for their personal agenda, and some people are still willing to accept their cover story.

Among the damage they have inflicted, in their vain efforts to raise themselves to positions of eminence in Rand-land, is the gross public takedown of Chris Sciabarra that was featured on this site two years ago.

I've noticed, by the way, that Mr. Perigo recently expressed extreme personal distaste for the labor of defending PARC in detail against its critics. Meanwhile, he has denounced those who privately praised the book as cowards—unless they show up on his site and publicly defend the book on his behalf.

Which makes me wonder—has Lindsay Perigo actually read PARC?

Or is he expecting those few who have actually read it, and are willing to defend what they have read, to do his work for him?

Robert Campbell

Indeed!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

For such a poorly researched book, myopically fixated on Rand's imperfect perfections (or is that perfect imperfections), and the Brandens' multitudinous sins, you are making inordinate efforts against Valliant?

This "scholar" can't even distinguish between perfection and infallibility, even after the distinction has been pointed out to him patiently and repeatedly. This "scholar" aligns himself with a proven liar and smear-merchant in a blatantly partisan campaign against one of history's truly heroic figures, Ayn Rand. This "scholar" shuts down speakers with whom he disagrees. "Objectivity"?! Gimme a break. As I've said before, this "scholar" is not a scholar's anus.

R Campbell

gregster's picture

"because PARC will have been autopsied, embalmed, and interred."

For such a poorly researched book, myopically fixated on Rand's imperfect perfections (or is that perfect imperfections), and the Brandens' multitudinous sins, you are making inordinate efforts against Valliant?

Has Mr. Kulak contracted reading disorder?

Robert Campbell's picture

I really hope that Jim Valliant's reading disorder isn't communicable.

But once again I have to wonder.

Mr. Kulak keeps issuing this demand:

You are twisting what I am driving at. I never came into this debate defending James's book. I came into it demanding to know why you spend so much time into Rands imperfections. For the 3rd time, you still have not answered me. Forget about the fucking book for a second and address my point please! I am not interested in the book at this point in time of the debate.

But Mr. Kulak's demand makes absolutely no sense, for reasons I've repeatedly explained.

I've made an issue of Ayn Rand's imperfections because Mr. Valliant's book falsely maintains that she had none.

Subsequently, Mr. Valliant and various of his allies have spent 3 1/2 years repeatedly insisting that

• Ayn Rand had no imperfections
• His book never claimed that she had no imperfections

When I am done talking about Mr. Valliant's book, I will have little future occasion to refer to any of Ayn Rand's imperfections.

And since there is hardly any credibility still adhering to Mr. Valliant's book, I look forward to not needing to bring up Ayn Rand's imperfections for a long while, because PARC will have been autopsied, embalmed, and interred.

I also want to know why you lie about James's and Lindsay's evaluation or obsession of Ayn's moral perfection?

Did anyone ever teach Mr. Kulak about the impropriety of asking loaded questions?

Either that, or someone taught him, but he likes to ask them anyway.

I am responding to him here, but given Mr. Kulak's repeated indulgence in talking out his fundamental aperture, I will not reply to any of his future posts on this site.

So, for the record:

Mr. Valliant obviously believes in the moral perfection of Ayn Rand (not to mention her MRI-like powers of psychoepistemological diagnosis). Mr. Valliant is the one who argues in bad faith, sometimes claiming that Ayn Rand was morally perfect and so is his sidekick Casey Fahy, but more often claiming that he doesn't believe that Ayn Rand was morally perfect, and pretending to wonder why anyone would ever think he did.

This is why, for instance, I referred Mr. Kulak to a long endnote on p. 405 of Mr. Valliant's book. Here on SOLOPassion, Mr. Valliant once attributed Ayn Rand's condemnation of homosexuality to a moral flaw of hers. In his book, he works overtime to get her off the hook for condemning homosexuality, just as his aspirational colleagues at the Ayn Rand Institute typically do.

As for Mr. Perigo, I don't think he really does believe in Ayn Rand's moral perfection. My point in asking him when he developed an obsession with that issue was as follows: before July 2005 he gave no signs of believing in her moral perfection, yet after July 2005 he became a ferocious champion of Mr. Valliant's book, which is an unacknowledged brief for Ayn Rand's moral perfection.

Here's what I really think:

Mr. Perigo pretended to convert to the religion of Ayn Rand and began championing Mr. Valliant's book because Barbara Branden had diminished him, and he could use the book as a weapon against her, along with anyone he could portray as an ally of hers.

Mr. Perigo genuinely detests Barbara Branden, and can only work himself up into a weak simulacrum of loathing Nathaniel Branden, because Barbara rejected him personally and Nathaniel did not. Mr. Valliant, by contrast, hates both of TheBrandens.

Remember, whenever Mr. Perigo rails against Rand-diminishers, he really means Perigo-diminishers.

Robert Campbell

Mr Campbell

Kasper's picture

Having to ask you the same thing 3 times on one page is a bit ridiculous. If you don't want to answer then say so. Changing the subject, without addressing the task, just looks like your avoiding the question due to the discomfort of having to answer it.

The 1981 Meeting

Neil Parille's picture

Mr. Perigo,

You dodged my question:

"As I said before, Barbara Branden doesn't speculate that Rand had paranoid symptoms, doesn't hint that Rand was neurotic about the name issue, doesn't claim that Rand's marriage was a fraud, doesn't conceal the fact that Dr. Blumenthal left Rand, etc. Do you really think that these are trivial mistakes?"

James claims that Branden's biography is a pack of lies. If that's true, then people who knew Rand (such as Binswanger and Gotthelf) might be expected to support his book. (Of course, they might have a low opinion of his book due to Valliantquoats and Valliancites.)

As far as Britting goes, James says he read the book. Given that he is familiar with hundreds of hours of interviews with people who knew Rand, I'm curious what he thinks of James' conclusions.

-NEIL

Ha, Kasper!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for candid answers to your questions. Candour is not the Brandroids' strong suit, as we've just seen demonstrated yet again. In my last post, I said, among other things:

Most importantly, they [Rand's journals, as quoted in PARC] reveal the enormity and wretchedness of the Brandens' deceit of her, since as we read them we know what is actually going on and what it is she is trying so painstakingly to fathom. Such deceit is far from trivial, but it doesn't register on Campbell's moral radar since, as has become very clear in these debates, he doesn't have one. Observe that Babs's tissue of lies about *me* doesn't perturb him in the least either.

Note, "Brandens' deceit," plural: deceit practised by both Brandens.

Now note the side-step and the red herring in Campbell's response to you:

In the course of asking Lindsay Perigo so many questions, maybe you can ask him this one: Nathaniel Branden, by virtually everyone's account, treated Ayn Rand worse than Barbara Branden did. Mr. Perigo constantly rails and rages against Barbara Branden. Nathaniel Branden, on the other hand, is hardly on his radar screen. Why?

Now, "rails and rages" actually means, "points out awkward facts I'd rather evade, such as Babs's penchant for lying and smearing." In her last mini-bio of me, Babs kinda abandoned her normal subtle "stiletto" approach because she was so utterly desperate to get me dumped from the TAS speakers' line-up that any old blatant calumny would do. Campbell was equally desperate, and uttered no protest at the depths to which she stooped. Evidently he doesn't like to be reminded of either fact.

All things being equal, though, "stiletto" is Babs's preferred modus operandi, which makes her a much more effective Rand-diminisher than Nathaniel. Everyone who read it knows Nathan's original memoir was an undisguisedly bitter and twisted attempt at a hatchet job. Babs knew it, too, and after she and Nathan made up after years of estrangement and competing to cash in on Ayn's corpse, apparently figured they'd better get their stories straight, and stiletto-ised Nathan's unsubtle hatchet. Judgment Day became the kinder, gentler, My Years With Ayn Rand or whatever it's called now. I note that Campbell doesn't urge you to read it, though. He'd prefer you to read Babs's book, Passion, because it remains a much more effective diminution job. It would still be possible for unsuspecting newbies, unfamiliar with PARC—or Babs's recent behaviour—not to realise that that's what it actually is: an exercise in diminution. But read it you should.

Then, strangely, Neil Parille asks me:

"What does the archivist at the ARI think of Valliant's book? What does Harry Binswanger or Allan Gotthelf think about it?"

How the hell would I know, and why would I care?

The ARI archivist, Jeff Britting, showed me and Casey round the ARI knowing our association with James, I presume, but he didn't say anything about PARC. Does Neil know something the rest of us don't?

Binswanger is one of those Randroids who believes the very existence of the Brandens should never be acknowledged, and any evidence of it should be erased, so why would I care about his opinion? But again, if Neil knows something we don't, I hope he shares.

Robert

Kasper's picture

It is you who makes an analysis on Mr Valliants book, not me. I can vouch for its validity when I put the lovely disclaimer of "if" what the Branden's are reported as having done is true.
"If" the Branden's have lied, fabricated and projected their problems on Ayn in their novels then this book is important.
I never evaluated the compilation of literature, I simply said it was there.
I have not asserted the quality or defended Mr Valliant's book. So why do you continue to propose that falsity. I have simply said that based on an "if" then it would be important.

You are twisting what I am driving at. I never came into this debate defending James's book. I came into it demanding to know why you spend so much time into Rands imperfections. For the 3rd time, you still have not answered me. Forget about the fucking book for a second and address my point please! I am not interested in the book at this point in time of the debate.
I also want to know why you lie about James's and Lindsay's evaluation or obsession of Ayn's moral perfection?

Judging the validity of a book that one has not read

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Kulak,

I refrained from making any public comment on James Valliant's book until I had read the whole thing, carefully.

Meanwhile, I don't know what happened to your sense of intellectual responsibility. For here you are, making confident assertions about a book that you have not read.

I have stayed at Olivia's on occasion and flicked through some of the pages of James' book. I can see that James has compiled the literature on the subject, and that the "pettiness" is actually "evidence" for Barbara's inconsistencies. On their own they mean nothing, however, combined they invalidate Barbara's accounts of Ayn which consequently invalidates her review of Ayn's character.

In other words, you have no bloody idea whether Mr. Valliant's compilation of "the literature on the subject" is worth anything.

And you won't, until, at a minimum, you read his book and The Passion of Ayn Rand, by Barbara Branden.

If you don't read Ms. Branden's book, you'll have no idea whether Mr. Valliant is quoting it accurately (sometimes he doesn't) or correctly representing its meaning (often he misrepresents it).

Reading My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden is also advisable, though less of Mr. Valliant's case depends on his interpretation of that book.


I have not read the book and will not defend its internal validity. However, its external validity (its importance) is strong if what the Branden's appear to be doing is true.

Since you haven't read Mr. Valliant's book, which purports to be the definitive case against "The Brandens," how can you evaluate its validity—external, internal, or any other kind?

Virtually no one outside of Rand-land has read Mr. Valliant's book. That is just as well, because the likely impact of his book on non-Randians would be to convince them that all Randians are nutty cultists.

Mr. Valliant used to claim that the purpose of his book was to clear the way for a discussion of Ayn Rand's ideas on their merits, without commentary about her personal life getting in the way, but his book has had no such impact, and Mr. Valliant appears to have virtually no real interest in evaluating Ms. Rand's ideas on their merits.

What's more, Mr. Valliant has been publicly defending his book for nearly three and a half years. During all this time, Mr. Valliant has regularly insisted that (1) his book is not a brief for the moral perfection of Ayn Rand; and (2) that no criticism of Ayn Rand's character or actions is valid.

In the course of asking Lindsay Perigo so many questions, maybe you can ask him this one:

Nathaniel Branden, by virtually everyone's account, treated Ayn Rand worse than Barbara Branden did.

Mr. Perigo constantly rails and rages against Barbara Branden. Nathaniel Branden, on the other hand, is hardly on his radar screen.

Why?

Meanwhile, you need to read Mr. Valliant's book and Ms. Branden's book, if you expect anyone to take your claims about either of them seriously.

Do you recall what Ayn Rand said about the importance of first-hand knowledge?

Robert Campbell

The 1981 Meeting

Neil Parille's picture

Mr. Perigo,

If the 1981 meeting were the only problem (or one of just a few problems) in Valliant's opus, then it wouldn't be a big deal.

The fact is that all the examples of misrepresentations that I've pointed out in PARC concern the very thing that Valliant uses in his attempt to undermine the Brandens' books.

As I said before, Barbara Branden doesn't speculate that Rand had paranoid symptoms, doesn't hint that Rand was neurotic about the name issue, doesn't claim that Rand's marriage was a fraud, doesn't conceal the fact that Dr. Blumenthal left Rand, etc. Do you really think that these are trivial mistakes?

So when Mr. Valliant says that he had access to the entire Rand Archives, but somehow missed the evidence of the 1981 meeting, readers are entitled to ask how dilligent he was in his expose.

In fact, people who knew Rand, including Dr. Hessen and Erika Holzer, have said that Barbara Branden's biography is accurate. What does the archivist at the ARI think of Valliant's book? What does Harry Binswanger or Allan Gotthelf think about it?

-NEIL

Before anyone cuts in

Kasper's picture

My admiration of Mr Perigo is non synonymous with deeming him to be morally perfect. Kidding or not, lets not have anyone continue mis guided.

OK

PhilipD's picture

 Now I am confused.

 

Should I obsess about Perigo's moral perfection- a la Kasper ;) 

Or, Rand's moral imperfection-a la Campbell?

 

It's all too much for me; but step up to the plate Robert, I know you can handle them both. 

 

 

"The ultimate result of shielding men from folly is to fill the world with fools."

-Herbert Spencer 

Lindsay - what more do you want?

Kasper's picture

"Would you care to comment on Prof. Campbell's assertion that I have an "obsession" with Ayn Rand's "moral perfection"?

No, I have not heard you raise the subject and have seen that you have refuted those accusations time and again. I have done so too. Also having met you and establishing a view on your character know that you do not see Rand as being morally perfect. The message has been sent time and a dozen on this thread and as I have said before, IT WILL NOT SINK IN because the premises of Mr Campbell will not change.
I don't know what more you want me to do. Mr Campbell is insistent, and hell bent on accusing you and James of lying. He does this by so obviously lying to prove his point that I thought it was now inherently obvious that he is smearing for the sake of smearing.

Robert, the state of your integrity and character has been fully revealed on this site. Your attention to smearing good people and heroes, your attitude to worship in general and your lying and distorted analysis of what people write is what Lindsay refers to as scum. Rightly so!

*I have made comment on Mr Campbells assertion that you were obsessed with Rands moral perfection on Saturday 12/07/08 -12 00:17
* I have also commented on Mr Campbells unfounded accusations towards your speech on Vallients book release which was met with silence from him. Thursday 26/06/08 07:16
* I highlighted the many people on this thread who presume to tell you what you can and cannot say and in so doing waged my protest. Thursday 26/06/08 10:26
* I then pointed my question to Mr Campbell as to why he spends so much time (showing his enthusiasm for the subject) on proving Rands imperfections. This resulted in the question being thrown back at me without answering me first.
*I also attacked Mr Campbells view that hero worship was improper, and defended you on your "hero worship and its enemies thread" when Mr Campbell falsely accused you of demanding worship for your self, when talking about worship in general.

I am not pulling my hair out on people like this Lindsay. It isn't worth it. I know you to be a man of integrity, you posses a high caliber of character and are probably the most integrated person I have met, so far. Reason and passion.
I think it is obvious by now that I hold you in very high regard however, sadly I understand that some others do not.

Kasper ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Since you're here on this thread, and since you've met me in person now several times, would you care to comment on Prof. Campbell's assertion that I have an "obsession" with Ayn Rand's "moral perfection"? Have you ever heard me raise the subject? Obsessing about anyone's "moral perfection" would be about the most boring thing I could think of.

Where Rand is concerned, I repeat, I assume she was "perfect" in the sense of always being true to her convictions based on what I know of her (the "trust" factor that Philip Duck invokes) and in the absence of any compelling evidence that she knowingly breached them. Campbell's ostensible examples don't come close.

Campbell would have us believe that Rand was prone to rationalise on the basis of the vested interests of her emotions, and indeed it behoves us to remember Oscar Wilde's observation that very often moral indignation is simply jealousy with a halo. But Rand's journals show her to be on the alert for just such a failing in herself. Most importantly, they reveal the enormity and wretchedness of the Brandens' deceit of her, since as we read them we know what is actually going on and what it is she is trying so painstakingly to fathom. Such deceit is far from trivial, but it doesn't register on Campbell's moral radar since, as has become very clear in these debates, he doesn't have one. Observe that Babs's tissue of lies about me doesn't perturb him in the least either. Someone quoted the presiding cockroach at O-Lying as saying all standards have gone out the window there ... and he never said a truer word.

I've no intention of being drawn into the Campbellian suckhole where bad-faith Rand-diminishers pick away at every conjunction and every preposition in an attempt to play "Gotcha!" over some such numbingly, genuinely trivial matter as James's error over the last Rand/Babs meeting. We have important—nay, urgent—things like the battle for reason and freedom to obsess over. In that battle, I for one worship Rand as heroic and inspirational. Campbell says it's not appropriate for humans to worship anyone, even as he worships in the Church of the Brandens. 'Nuff said.

Or maybe not. Here's something apposite from Scott DeSalvo on the Veitch thread:

Some day, those at OL will, with any hope, wake up and realize that fingers pass over only so many keys in a lifetime, and we each have only so many words, and hours in our lives, and that we never get them back. Maybe then, they will get away from the negativity and realize that it is their own lives that should concern them, and that bagging groceries by day and smearing people on the internet because of an irrational vendetta with every free minute is not a productive use of their time.

I've no problem with anyone bagging groceries for a living, but bagging greatness for a pastime is another matter.

Robert

Kasper's picture

I have asked Mr Perigo that very question. He said that if it weren't for all the inconsistencies and smearing that the Branden's have apparently engaged in, then he too would understand my question, which was what you are asking. Mr Perigo went further to say that the fact that Rand was so brutally betrayed and that the dishonesty of Barbara's assertions about Rand which effectively smeared Ayn is what makes this issue so important. I have stayed at Olivia's on occasion and flicked through some of the pages of James' book. I can see that James has compiled the literature on the subject, and that the "pettiness" is actually "evidence" for Barbara's inconsistencies. On their own they mean nothing, however, combined they invalidate Barbara's accounts of Ayn which consequently invalidates her review of Ayn's character.

I have not read the book and will not defend its internal validity. However, its external validity (its importance) is strong if what the Branden's appear to be doing is true.

My pettiness remark about you is not that you attack James' book (go for it if you want to) but that you spend enormous amounts of time into illuminating Ayn's imperfections which may or may not exist. There is certainly a "so what" factor about Ayn's inappropriate expression of anger or her attitudes to homosexuality.

Added: So please do not leave this unanswered. All we ask is why? Why? When faced with such gigantic, heroic, achievements, you wish to spend time on the little, petty, inconsequentials?

Petty inconsequentials

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Kulak,

You're directing your questions to the wrong people.

All we ask is why? Why? When faced with such gigantic, heroic, achievements, you wish to spend time on the little, petty, inconsequentials?

It is Jim Valliant who wrote a 433 page book about little, petty inconsequentials—one after another. He found malevolent intent in a surprise party—and you think I'm being petty?

It is Lindsay Perigo who seized on Mr. Valliant's opus as a weapon to brandish against Barbara Branden, and against many of the others in Rand-land who have rejected him.

You should be asking Mr. Valliant and Mr. Perigo why, instead of focusing on Atlas Shrugged or on "The Objectivist Ethics," they are fixated on the profound insights they imagine are contained in "To Whom It May Concern."

Incidentally, have you read Mr. Valliant's book yet?

If you have, you should compare what he says in note 7 on page 405 with his more recent statements in this forum on Ayn Rand's view of homosexuality.

You might be tempted to conclude, as I sometimes have been, that Mr. Valliant has not read his own book.

Robert Campbell

Robert

PhilipD's picture

 

 If you can put aside your claque comments for just a moment, here is how I would answer your questions below if they were put to me.

 

"Is Mr. Perigo in the habit of assuming that other people have morally sound convictions, and live by them? That they must commit some "glaring immorality" before the thought of their moral imperfection even crosses his mind?

To put it mildly, he seems to take most people's gross moral imperfection for granted.

So what makes Ayn Rand different, from his point of view?"

 

I am re-reading much of Hemingway at the moment and the following quote of his seems apt:

"The way to learn if someone is trustworthy is to trust him."

 

So having read, absorbed and analysed much of Rand I have learnt to trust her and therefore there is simply no need for thoughts of her moral imperfection to cross my mind. Why would they, why should they? And most certainly, because of that trust I do not share  your desire to actually dig for the imperfections.

 

Now let me turn that approach to yourself. When reading your first utterances (or in meeting anyone for the first time) I do so with an open mind. However, after a short time as your Rand-Perigo-Valliant motives became clear any such trust disappeared and I do take your moral imperfection for granted. That's not to say that I won't read any further posts with objectivity, but I am going to be deeply, deeply suspicious of what you have to say.

 

So, I give the benefit of the doubt when I can. And the greater the person the more benefit I am going to give- because they have earned it.

 

 

"The ultimate result of shielding men from folly is to fill the world with fools."

-Herbert Spencer 

Evidence and argument, or bullying and repetition

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Perigo continues to deny his ongoing obsession with the moral perfection of Ayn Rand.

In the absence of any glaring immorality on Rand's part I never think about the matter. I assume she lived by her convictions and if ever she fell short it was unintentional and inadvertent.

Is Mr. Perigo in the habit of assuming that other people have morally sound convictions, and live by them? That they must commit some "glaring immorality" before the thought of their moral imperfection even crosses his mind?

To put it mildly, he seems to take most people's gross moral imperfection for granted.

So what makes Ayn Rand different, from his point of view?

All I've said is that if one is going to claim she was morally imperfect one would have to show her knowingly breaching her convictions. I've asked for an example of same. None has been forthcoming.

A number of examples have been forthcoming. Mr. Perigo just doesn't want to accept them.

You know, Ms. Rand thought that arguments from intimidation were always wrong and always deliberate, yet she occasionally indulged in one. Several examples have been on the table for nearly three years now, going back to the SOLOHQ era. One I haven't previously cited appears in the second last paragraph of "To Whom It May Concern":

[Objectivism] is a dangerous philosophy to play with or accept half-way; it will stifle the mind that attempts to do so. In this respect, Objectivism, like reality, is its own avenger. (page eight of the original publication)

Stated explanation: None, really.

Unstated implication: You'd better be 100% with Ayn Rand, or you'll be in deep shit.

Ms. Rand thought that lying was wrong, but lied to the public when she denied that any of her changes to We the Living were philosophically significant, when she proclaimed that "No one helped me," and when she led all but three other people to believe that she was happily and monogamously married to Frank O'Connor.

Ms. Rand thought that telling half-truths was a "particularly vicious form of lying," but what is her essay "To Whom It May Concern," except a tissue of half-truths? The emotional burden of the piece can be summed up as "The son of a bitch dared to string me along and jilt me!," but the stated charges against Nathaniel Branden wander all over, never touching on what actually led Ayn Rand to give him the boot.

Ignoring the evidence, Mr. Perigo continues:

I've also asked you guys why you're obsessed with her being imperfect. The answer seems to be, "Well, she just had to be!"

Uh, no. People who conclude that Ayn Rand was imperfect generally note the available evidence that she occasionally did things that, by her stated principles, were morally wrong. That, at least, is how I arrived at this conclusion. I doubt that this thought process is any way unusual.

Producing evidence is what Neil Parille, and William Scott Scherk, and a bunch of other people, including myself, have been doing on and off for the last three years.

It might just as well never have happened.

For Mr. Perigo, like his ally Mr. Valliant, is fast in the grip of an a priori commitment.

If you're going to worship Ayn Rand, you at least ought to join Leonard Peikoff in confessing that you're nonobjective, and you're proud. Respect for facts is not what drives converts to the religion of Ayn Rand.

Mr. Perigo complains,

Something is puzzling me, Prof. It's how you frequently post something with brazen disregard for answers that have already been given to the points you're posting. And you're a scholar and all.

Precisely because I'm a scholar and all, I expect "answers" to be supported by reliable evidence and sound arguments. Merely repeating a statement, louder and louder, and accompanying it with varied insults and efforts at intimidation, doesn't make it any more credible to me. Quite the contrary.

What I still can't fathom is how people who claim to subscribe to a rational philosophy could think that bullying and repetition will convince anyone.

Robert Campbell

Hardy

gregster's picture

"Huh? Are you saying there's something wrong with comparing the Branden's books with what Valliant attributes to them"

No. Many positives may come from this. I am just disheartened by your:

""loadstone", spelled in just that way, appears on the back cover. Is that actually true? If so, it does seem like a reason to think the publisher doesn't have editors go over it carefully, and James Valliant really ought to let Ellen Stuttle function as his benefactor by heeding her advice to have a professional editor go over things he writes to avoid such embarrassments"

That's all. Comparting almost works though.

Linz, It's the kind of thing

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Linz,

It's the kind of thing that I find hilarious. To me open debate is open debate. I argued the other side of this, had the issue decided against me and actually went to the Seminar. Who is open and who is closed?

Jim

Mr Campbell

Kasper's picture

We have had admitance from Lindsay and James that Rand was not perfect countless times. Issue such as
1) Appropriateness of expressed anger
2) Homosexuality
3) Made Mistakes.
Have you read the credo? "We acknowledge that Ayn Rand made mistakes (and should not be expected not to have), that she didn’t answer every question that could be asked (and should not have been expected to), that she was wrong about some matters of considerable existential moment, such as homosexuality (which matter we have already addressed)"

To highlight the issue more clearly its about the volume of time and attention you spend to persuade others of Rands imperfections.
Actions do tell alot about a human being. Yours tend to be overly focused on her faults.
All we ask is why? Why? When faced with such gigantic, heroic, achievements, you wish to spend time on the little, petty, inconsequentials?

Heaps ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You say to Campbell:

You're the one who just posted a huge page of unproven suppositions and played a part in keeping Lindsay from speaking to a seminar that neither you nor Barbara nor Nathaniel nor any of their staunch supporters attended.
I'll come out and say it. I think that's the kind of rinky dink thing ARI would have done in 1989 or in the early '90's.

Extraordinary, isn't it? As I think you observed previously, all that kerfuffle just to deny others the chance to hear me!

I wonder what TAS thinks about all these folk who demand the removal of speakers they disapprove of, have their demands satisfied ... and then do a no-show?! Folk for whom the point really is to blackball Perigo, not support TAS!

I think Greg was commenting

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I think Greg was commenting on the fact that you had a typo in your post.

Jim

I don't understand Gregster's comment

Michael Hardy's picture

I wrote:

> I haven't yet carefully comparted the

> Brandens' books with what Valliant

> attributes to them.

 

Gregster replied:

> If you do get around to "comparting" them,

> I won't care for your level of erudition.

 

Huh? Are you saying there's something wrong with comparing the Branden's books with what Valliant attributes to them to see whether Valliant is fairly reporting what they said?

The Ayn Rand Cult, vermin, and the Two Objectivisms

William Scott Scherk's picture

Thanks to Neil for mentioning Richard Lawrence's review of The Ayn Rand Cult (at the Objectivist Reference Centre). It's hard to beat the careful verbal spanking Walker received from Chris Sciabarra in 1999 -- with special attention paid to the sloppiness, exaggeration, scholarly clubfootedness and general one-eyed bias Sciabarra finds in Walker's book.

New readers of the PARC threads here at SOLO may find it a useful introduction to themes of dominance and submission in the topic under discussion here, the chapter Mullah Rand.

-- My best wishes to James Valliant, who may be under the weather; hope to see him well and back here soon in fighting form.

Here's an excerpt from the Sciabarra review for those who don't have fits of orthodox vapours reading him:

[Walker's] strategy of argument-by-quotation fails since it relies on the views of individuals who are used as foils to one another. Peikoff, the Brandens, Kelley, Childs, Kay Nolte Smith, the Blumenthals, and so many others become missiles of mutually assured destruction. And since Walker questions the integrity of many of these individuals, his MAD strategy leaves one wondering: Why on earth should one believe anyone’s assessments? If Objectivists and ex-Objectivists are such vermin, why accept the validity of any of their evaluations of the Rand "cult"—or of each other? One cannot consistently impugn the characters of people whose testimony is required in order to make one’s case. Such an approach does not work well in a court of law—or in the court of public opinion, which is Walker’s ultimate target.

In that court, Objectivism will prevail only if it transcends those cult-like elements with which it has been associated and which Walker criticizes appropriately. In the battle of the two "Objectivisms," victory belongs to those who seek neither dominance nor submission, but only a better understanding of the status quo in their valiant efforts to change it.

WSS

Linz, I think Robert also

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Linz,

I think Robert also wrote something about SOLO withering. It seems OK to me.

Jim

Prof Campbell ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The thought that you are in charge of young minds is frightening when one reads something as delusional as:

It would be more to the point were Mr. Perigo to explain why he is obssessed. Obsessed with proving Ayn Rand's moral perfection— or at least bullying everyone within earshot into assenting to it. Particularly since Mr. Perigo did not give public vent to that obsession, prior to July of 2005.

I never raised the issue; you and Mr. Parille did. You claimed that PARC's purpose was to prove Ayn Rand's perfection/moral perfection. In the absence of any glaring immorality on Rand's part I never think about the matter. I assume she lived by her convictions and if ever she fell short it was unintentional and inadvertent. Pretty much what even Babs allows in my interview with her, actually. All I've said is that if one is going to claim she was morally imperfect one would have to show her knowingly breaching her convictions. I've asked for an example of same. None has been forthcoming. I've also asked you guys why you're obsessed with her being imperfect. The answer seems to be, "Well, she just had to be!" In which case you must now show an instance of willful dishonesty on her part, or acknowledge that you've been confusing perfection with infallibility.

Something is puzzling me, Prof. It's how you frequently post something with brazen disregard for answers that have already been given to the points you're posting. And you're a scholar and all.

In any event, here's my previous post, again, repeated in the hope that you might answer it this time with something more than a silly allegation about a non-existent "obsession" of mine (bold added):

_____________________________________

I'm glad you're according your own conspiracy theories the status of mere "hypotheses" now. That does show an improvement in perspective, while the entertainment value is undimmed.

I can't speak for the other parties you mention and I certainly wasn't part of anything they got up to on Diana's blog. But I'm confused. Hitherto you've insisted I was in on Dialectical Dishonesty from the start. I, who know the truth, have told you that the article was well underway before I got to hear of it. Now, you seem to be holding it against me that I knew about it a few days in advance of publication. Well of course I effing did!! But there was no Plan A, Plan B or any other such machinations of your feverish devising.

I have an idea, Professor. I'm alarmed to think of all the time it must be taking you to track down evidence of conspiracies that I can already tell you didn't exist. Instead of wasting your time chasing fantasies, why don't you focus on the content of Dialectical Dishonesty, not fret about who knew about it and when? The best (only?) effort to defend Chris's behaviour was made, as I recall, by Phil Coates, who quickly got shot down in flames by your buddy Fred Weiss. Perhaps you could do better, given that Chris has chosen not to put his own case forward? I for one could forego the entertainment afforded by your conspiracies (especially since it threatens the stability of my internal organs) in favour of that.

Then again, I have another idea. I note that on another thread you have finally used the words "Ayn Rand" and "heroic" in the same sentence. I presume you and I could agree that she was "heroic" in what she achieved for herself and for the cause of reason and freedom? Then why not spend a little more time in the same cause and a little less on this mission to prove that Ayn Rand wasn't "morally perfect"? Why is this so obsessively important to you? I have asked you to furnish an instance of where she knowingly breached her convictions, and, unless I've missed it, you haven't supplied one. But still you harp on and on about it and claim that the object of Valliant's book is to prove Rand's ... well, you alternate and equivocate between simple "perfection" and "moral perfection." Either way, the claim is false. Is that seriously a good use of your time?

Neil, I'm trying to

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Neil,

I'm trying to understand your focus in the world of Rand. You write essays criticizing Rand's view of evolution, OK. You write LONG pieces dealing with Valliant's book, fine. Where is the balance? Do you really not find anything worth defending in her work? If so, why deal with her as a philosopher at all?

Jim

Mr. Heaps-Nelson

Neil Parille's picture

"Let me see if I have this right. A flawed book such as The Ayn Rand Cult deserves little mention, books which portray Rand in negative light and have significant problems like PAR, Judgment Day and MYWAR should be treated with kid gloves, but a cross-examination of them should be excoriated. I think I'm getting the picture."

I don't think I get your point.

I don't have the time to write critiques of all the books I disagree with. I do think there are problems with the Branden books, although they are not nearly as severe as with TARC and PARC.

Given that Valliant's book had gotten so much attention since it was published (and its flaws are even greater than Walker's) I decided to spend my time on that one. In addition, good critiques of TARC had already been written (see Richard Lawrence's site for some), but I think my angle on PARC was new.

You could just as well blame Valliant for not publishing a critique of Walker's book. It would make as much sense as what you are apparently saying.

In addition, I have never excorriated a cross-examination of the Branden books. I do have a problem when someone such as Valliant claims to critique their works, but misquotes and misrepresents what they say (a fact which I don't think is in dispute given how many examples of ValliantQuotes have been produced by me and others).

Let me see if I have this

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Let me see if I have this right. A flawed book such as The Ayn Rand Cult deserves little mention, books which portray Rand in negative light and have significant problems like PAR, Judgment Day and MYWAR should be treated with kid gloves, but a cross-examination of them should be excoriated. I think I'm getting the picture.

Jim

The Ayn Rand Cult

Neil Parille's picture

Mr. Heaps-Nelson,

I think your comparison is misplaced. Everyone I know believes that The Ayn Rand Cult is a flawed book and should be used cautiously.

The Branden books were used by Walker to support his description of Rand, which makes a discussion of Valliant's claims vis-a-vis the Brandens more important.

-NEIL

WSS,You have the timeline

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

WSS,

You have the timeline wrong. Much of this PARC criticism happened before James Valliant posted the chapters online.
However, the biases are showing. The Ayn Rand Cult should have received the same kind of treatment but didn't.

Of course PARC should be scrutinized, as is happening. However, you didn't answer the rest of my post which is part and parcel of the problem. What is the interest the Barbara Branden and her allies have in keeping Lindsay from speaking at the Summer Seminar that they themselves don't even attend. They've complained about that kind of censorship in others and now they engage in it.

BTW, I was disappointed not to see you at the Seminar. Just a hop, skip and a jump from BC.

Jim

Forensic reporting and its rebuttal

William Scott Scherk's picture

James Heaps-Nelson asks of Robert Campbell: Also, why the continual campaign against PARC and only PARC? Why not a campaign against Jeff Walker's Ayn Rand Cult?

I can't speak for Robert, but I think the question is misplaced. James Valliant has placed the redacted chapters of PARC here for a clearly stated reason (and one you, JHN, have underlined: to give "the Brandens . . . a chance for them or their partisans to rebut his central claims." You further stated that it's best "to get the forensic report that goes with the exhumations" (exhumations referring, I believe, to the Branden books).

In which case, the so-called forensic report needs to be scrutinized. Unless you believe that such scrutiny is the work of an evul cabal of sewer-dwellers, scum, and squalid, leprous pygmies . . .

The Case Against the Brandens is the subtitle of PARC. James and Lindsay invite criticism of the chapters here republished.

Please have another look at my earlier post with regard to James' misrepresentation of the fraud and shambles of the O'Connor marriage.

WSS

Robert,You're the one who

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Robert,

You're the one who just posted a huge page of unproven suppositions and played a part in keeping Lindsay from speaking to a seminar that neither you nor Barbara nor Nathaniel nor any of their staunch supporters attended.

I'll come out and say it. I think that's the kind of rinky dink thing ARI would have done in 1989 or in the early '90's.

I've had my doubts about the Chris Sciabarra thing and even now think it was way over the top. Even if it was true, that piece was a bad idea in an open forum. It leaves people wondering if the same thing might happen to them over something innocuous.

However, I'm beginning to wonder why this thing has so much in the way of legs? I mean probably the only people who took that attack piece as much more than Diana's spleen venting were ARI affiliated and a few independents. Chris has never liked ARI anyway so what's the lingering issue?

Also, why the continual campaign against PARC and only PARC? Why not a campaign against Jeff Walker's Ayn Rand Cult? It's the same type of polemical book in the opposite direction. I haven't seen Neil Parille or you with huge blogs and critical commentary over that one.

Jim

Mr. Perigo's obsession

Robert Campbell's picture

It would be more to the point were Mr. Perigo to explain why he is obssessed.

Obsessed with proving Ayn Rand's moral perfection— or at least bullying everyone within earshot into assenting to it.

Particularly since Mr. Perigo did not give public vent to that obsession, prior to July of 2005.

Robert Campbell

TheBrandens: "O'Connor marriage a fraud & a shambles"?

William Scott Scherk's picture

James Valliant suggests Barbara Branden described the O'Connor marriage as "something of a fraud from the start." In PARC, the suggestion is sharper: PAR claims the marriage was "an empty fraud." And in the preceding post the claim is repeated: "it is suggested that the fraud was wearing thin" (suggested by whom? The passive construction leaves this to implication: lying fabricating demon Barbara).

This is a misprepresentation of Barbara Branden's reporting of the marriage. It's this kind of clubfooted, bloated claim -- unmoored to actual references -- that makes PARC unreliable in parts.

If, as James asserts, PARC gives evidence that there was no trouble in the marriage during the writing of Atlas Shrugged, no doubt he can give us some cites . . .

James asks "when did Ms. Branden ever say that the marriage become honest or solid thereafter?"

Since PAR did not assert that the marriage was a fraud and shambles, the question is misplaced. When the actual words of the biography (and memoir) are consulted, we doubt not TheBrandens™' understanding of the O'Connor marriage, but James Valliant's. Here is a prosecutor with an idée fixe -- this rigid insistence that TheBrandens™ are liars and frauds blinds him to the actual details of their reminiscences. It is a sad thing that prosecutor is so unsighted; in making TheBrandens™ a caricature, he also reduces Rand and her husband and her life to a cartoon version.

This is the sadness and waste I feel when I see the ARI-blessed cartoon of Rand's relationships found in PARC. The wretched writing and tendentious, posturing constructions are a symptom of a larger, systematic error: it is more important to be true to a cartoon Rand than to be fair and just and reflect reality honestly.

This is the depressing effect of demonizing TheBrandens™ -- nothing can be learned about the downside of Objectivism, because there is no downside to Objectivism, and anyone who says that there is a downside is a liar, a sewer-dweller or scum. In this sense, Valliant's grim cartoon has done damage to the cause he loves.

Here are two excerpts from TheBrandens™' books, in each case full passages surrounding the truncated quotes served up in PARC (the context is California, when young Barbara Weidman and young Nathan Blumenthal had become friends of the O'Connors, during Rand's early struggle to compose Atlas Shrugged). I underline the meagre portions reproduced by the prosecutor in support of his caricature:

PAR: The people who knew Ayn and Frank often puzzled over the question of what had drawn and held her to him. Frank projected a sympathy, a wordless understanding, a kindness that was as essential a part of him as the color of his eyes, which touched his friends deeply; but they could not understand why these qualities were of value to Ayn—whose stated values of intellectuality, of ambition, of energy, of commitment, were alien to the values Frank possessed. It was impossible to doubt the reality of her love. It was evident in her constant need for her presence, in the compliments she continually paid to his appearance and his character, in the softness in her eyes when she looked at him, in a kind of hovering concern for his physical well-being. "Frank is my rock," she would say. "He always knows my context. He reacts just as I do, to people and to events. He always knows what I'm feeling and what things mean to me. He's never once let me down."

Occasionally, she would grow irritated with him, and they appeared to have little to say to each other. But none of their friends suspected the extent to which their relationship was troubled. A number of years later, Ayn was to admit that during this period the friction between them and their lack of intellectual communication had come to so frustrate her that she had seriously considered divorce. She had decided to put the issure out of her mind until Atlas Shrugged was completed. By then, she had changed her mind. It seems unlikely that she would have divorced Frank under any circumstances, however hard and long she had considered it; her need of him was too great; the place he filled, the place of nonthreatening lover and companion, was too vital to ever be abandoned.

MYWAR: "Frank believed in me. he saw who I was and what I would become when no one else did, when we were both young and struggling and had nothing," Ayn told us. "We have the same sense of life. But Frank is too disgusted with people to share what he is with the world."

Frank would listen silently to such statements, almost as still as the painting on the wall. If he was not "disgusted" with Ayn, Barbara, or me, I found myself wondering why he was so silent during out meetings. He had great natural dignity and considerable charm and always projected enormous benevolence, and I felt much affection for him. Yet I found his lack of ambition incomprehensible, given that he was Ayn Rand's husband. For another man, operating the ranch would have been a perfectly legitimate occupation. But when Ayn spoke of work and career, she spoke of changing the world, of having an impact on history. "I could never love anyone who was not a hero," she said. Literally, a hero meant someone with moral virtue high above the average, but in the contexts in which she used the term, it also usually connoted someone with a range of vision and ambition far beyond anything Frank suggested. I recognized that there was something between them that I did not understand.

Yet I made no particular effort to know Frank, which I now badly regret. I would ask an occasional question about his ranch activities or admire the beautiful peacocks he raised or observe that he looked a little tired. But within moments, my attention swung back to Ayn. She was a great light that illuminated anyone in her purview and that left the rest of the world in shadows. She and Frank seemed to regard this state of affairs as natural. Most people I saw at the ranch treated Frank as I did. He was the man who wasn't quite there.

At this time, I had absolutely no intimation of trouble between Ayn and Frank. Much later, Ayn told me that those years on the ranch had been bad for them. They were quarreling a great deal. She was bothered by his passivity and lack of intellectuality. Then she confided in me that in the entire history of their relationship, he had never once initiated sex; it was always she who began it. After that, she said, everything went fine; he was involved and uninhibited. But is was not difficult to imagine how that would leave her feeling. Then, there was the plain fact of their enormous intellectual differences—not merely the issue of intelligence but also differences in how their minds worked. She understood only pure, linear, sequential reasoning; he was almost totally intuitive. Although he could appreciate her cognitive style, she was never really comfortable with his. She said that she had been thinking of divorce but wanted to to wait until the novel was finished, because she dreaded the interruption of her work. Work came before everything. And yet, years later, she told me that she could not live without him. He was, in his own sad way, her rock.

WSS

Ah, Prof. Campbell ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm glad you're according your own conspiracy theories the status of mere "hypotheses" now. That does show an improvement in perspective, while the entertainment value is undimmed.

I can't speak for the other parties you mention and I certainly wasn't part of anything they got up to on Diana's blog. But I'm confused. Hitherto you've insisted I was in on Dialectical Dishonesty from the start. I, who know the truth, have told you that the article was well underway before I got to hear of it. Now, you seem to be holding it against me that I knew about it a few days in advance of publication. Well of course I effing did!! But there was no Plan A, Plan B or any other such machinations of your feverish devising.

I have an idea, Professor. I'm alarmed to think of all the time it must be taking you to track down evidence of conspiracies that I can already tell you didn't exist. Instead of wasting your time chasing fantasies, why don't you focus on the content of Dialectical Dishonesty, not fret about who knew about it and when? The best (only?) effort to defend Chris's behaviour was made, as I recall, by Phil Coates, who quickly got shot down in flames by your buddy Fred Weiss. Perhaps you could do better, given that Chris has chosen not to put his own case forward? I for one could forego the entertainment afforded by your conspiracies (especially since it threatens the stability of my internal organs) in favour of that.

Then again, I have another idea. I note that on another thread you have finally used the words "Ayn Rand" and "heroic" in the same sentence. I presume you and I could agree that she was "heroic" in what she achieved for herself and for the cause of reason and freedom? Then why not spend a little more time in the same cause and a little less on this mission to prove that Ayn Rand wasn't "morally perfect"? Why is this so obsessively important to you? I have asked you to furnish an instance of where she knowingly breached her convictions, and, unless I've missed it, you haven't supplied one. But still you harp on and on about it and claim that the object of Valliant's book is to prove Rand's ... well, you alternate and equivocate between simple "perfection" and "moral perfection." Either way, the claim is false. Is that seriously a good use of your time?

Mr. Perigo's professed distaste for intrigue, Part II

Robert Campbell's picture

The most interesting part of the effort to take down Chris Sciabarra was the initial preparations, which took place during March 2006 and the first week of April.

"If walls could talk..." No one outside the small group of principals will ever know exactly how it went down, unless one of them decides to testify against the others.

Nonetheless, there is sufficient evidence from public sources to indicate that the effort was well under way, nearly three weeks before Diana Hsieh's "Dialectical Dishonesty" was released on April 25 of that year.

The coordinated denunciation of Regi Firehammer, during the night of April 6 and on into the wee hours of April 7, shows James Valliant, Joe Maurone, Diana Hsieh, two of Ms. Hsieh's ARIan flunkies (Mike Mazza and Boaz Simovici), and Mr. Valliant's flunky-in-chief (Casey Fahy) working smoothly together:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-...

The choice of target (an old adversary of Lindsay Perigo's) and the rhetoric used by Mr. Valliant on the occasion ("Pheel phree") made it eminently clear that he was doing what he needed to prove his bona fides and secure Mr. Perigo's ongoing participation in the project.

Within three days after the Firehammer takedown, Messrs. Perigo and Valliant were publicly on the move against Chris Sciabarra. Meanwhile Messrs. Valliant, Perigo, and Maurone, along with Ms. Hsieh, were working overtime to dig up dirt on him privately.

Mr. Perigo issued his first public threat against Chris Sciabarra on April 10, 2006.

The link is

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

but the actual post doesn't come up in my browser, and probably won't in some other people's.

So here is the text of "Omission," italics added to paragraph 4:

Robert-you wrote:

A true believer is a person who gives his or her allegiance to an ideology and its authority figures such a high place in his her hierarchy of values that it interferes with independent thinking and judgment and, more generally, with living a good or flourishing life that is suited to that individual. In consequence, a true believer feels personally threatened, on a deep level, by questions about that ideology-or challenges to the ideology and to those persons whose pronouncements are deemed authoritative by adherents of the ideology. (The classic source on true believers is Eric Hoffer's book.)

A Randroid is a true believer who gives Objectivism and Ayn Rand (perhaps in combination with secondary authority figures) an overly high place in his or her hierarchy of values, etc.

You left out "Brandroid." A Brandroid is a true believer who gives anti-Objectivism & the Brandens (perhaps in combination with secondary authority figures) an overly high place in his or her hierarchy of values, etc.

Brandroids excuse, promote and practise the ignoble (new, staggering instances of which by one secondary authority figure I have become privately aware of today); they condemn all judgement (because they fear it) except negative judgement of the noble (because they practise it). And they camouflage their studied amoralism with psychobabble and phony love.

Randroids are a problem; Brandroids are a disease.

Meawhile, on April 9, Chris Sciabarra announced the completion of the Spring 2006 issue of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, reiterating his policy of no longer posting on sites in Rand-land and libertarian-land other than his own.

http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sc...

Nearly all of the participants were there to wish Dr. Sciabarra well.

But Jim Valliant had other goals in mind.

Mr. Valliant's first post said nothing about JARS (for which, it would become clear soon enough, he'd never had any genuine regard). Instead, he tried to coax Chris Sciabarra into participating on SOLOPassion:

It strikes me as a great pity that you must decline the chance for a truly unprecedented dialogue.

For so long I've heard complaints about how ARI scholars won't engage the folks from TOC, JARS, etc. This accusation no longer sticks with me. Over at SOLOPassion ARI scholars are talking to everyone and about everything-and giving each a fair chance for such engagement. Issues that have been festering for too long are being discussed for the first time-by everyone, except, unfortunately, you.

I am very sorry that your schedule makes your participation in this unprecedented moment impossible.

Since, by his own admission, Mr. Valliant had just decided to withdraw his previous offer to submit a manuscript for publication in JARS, this was, um, insincere.

Indeed, it was complete crap. As Dr. Sciabarra would soon point out in response, the only person active on SOLOPassion who (sort of) qualified as an "ARI scholar" was Diana Hsieh.

Mr. Valliant ratcheted up a little:

How 'bout we TRY instead of bitching that the other side won't talk?

JARS would be better served if it had someone willing to engage its critics as ARI scholars appear willing to engage over at SOLOPassion. I'll leave it to readers of that site to see if what I am saying is true.

while offering preposterous inducements, such as the delights of engaging with a hitherto uncelebrated ARI scholar:

Does Mike Mazza count?

and using up the last of his short supply of soft soap:

This whole list is blazing a trail that opens an unprecedented chance for dialogue, one that could show others that the water is just fine, that it's time to come on in!

Dr. Sciabarra politely declined the invitation one last time, and Mr. Valliant disappeared for a week.

My hypothesis: When Mr. Perigo, Ms. Hsieh, and Mr. Valliant figured how to proceed, their Plan A was to lure Chris Sciabarra on to SOLO Passion, so they could ambush him and take their turns sliming him.

It flopped. Mr. Valliant had by this time lost the ability to be persuasive in his "good cop" mode, and Chris Sciabarra was genuinely uninterested in participating on SOLOP under any circumstances.

To continue with the hypothesis:

Since Dr. Sciabarra was not inclined to report for a proper sliming, he would have to be taken down in absentia. So Ms. Hsieh plugged along on a lengthy denunciatory essay, of the sort previously made infamous by "To Whom It May Concern" and "Fact and Value." The other participants fed her material.

On April 17, Mr. Valliant suddenly reappeared on Notablog. Now he was in "bad cop" mode, ready to press his demand that I be fired from my Associate Editor position, for Mightily Offending James Stephens Valliant:

These are some of the things that the associate editor of JARS has recently written about me at SOLOPassion:

By the 17th, obviously, Plan B was fully operational.

It's interesting, by the way, how on this one occasion Mr. Valliant accurately quoted me saying, "Mr. Valliant's book ... , in my opinion ... has a lot to do with the ARI true believer mentality. PARC shares with official ARI publications the presupposition that Ayn Rand never did anything wrong and had no character traits that might merit criticism."

But what he kept saying, both at Notablog and SOLOP, was that I had accused him of having a "cult mentality."

Ah, now I know. I was being Valliantquoated®.

As Plan B approached completion, things got ugly.

Those inclined to give credence to Mr. Perigo's self-mythologizing should review the post of April 23, in which he licks his chops in anticipation of "Dialectical Dishonesty." That epic of denunciation was less than 48 hours away.

The link is

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

Again, some people's browsers won't bring them all the way there.

So here is the full text of "Oh my!":

Scratch a Brandroid & you find ... well, a Brandroid. The veneer of "niceness" & civility falls away. The obsessive focus on anger, whereby the only thing that arouses a semblance of a moral sense in these creatures is the spectacle of someone getting angry (with never the remotest curiosity as to *why* the person got angry), gives way to ... why, anger!! Campbell's Brandenian slip is not only showing, it's billowing.

Now, Mr. Campbell, for your information, Barbara Branden *is* a lying bitch, as well as a *smearing* bitch; Barbara Branden *did* promote Namblaphilia by defending a proven Namblaphile; & Joe Rowlands *was* guilty of fraud (if not theft). These are all documented facts. They bespeak shortcomings that arouse in you not a flicker of distaste, merely a concern that one mustn't ever show anger about them (or anything else except anger). The fact that you are so comfortable in the bosom of so low a life-form as Michael Kelly is testament to your amoralism. And of course, there are certain other matters that will see the light of day in the very near future. If I'm not mistaken, your side just upped the ante. It'll rue the day.

This is an historic time for Objectivism. It's not a meltdown, but a shakedown. And boy, there will be some shakin' goin' on.

As Jason says, Mr. Campbell, you're welcome to stick around. We're not going to give you the satisfaction of banning you. But you've declared war, & war is what you & your ilk will get.

The reader will be hard-pressed to find a purer expression of spitting meanness or gloating malice. Neither is exactly a heroic quality.

Mr. Perigo imagined that by unleashing Ms. Hsieh's denunciation, he would not just obtain direct revenge on a former friend and collaborator, plus vicarious revenge on the friends and supporters of that former friend. He was sure that he was going to redefine the boundaries of Rand-land, driving hordes of his enemies out of it forever, securing victory for his little tribe and the power and influence that only a conquering chieftain can wield.

Two years later, it hasn't worked out that way.

It isn't going to.

Two years later, Mr. Perigo has lost the brief chance he had to be welcome at the Ayn Rand Institute. He will never be welcome again at The Atlas Society. Two sites run by people he drove away, RoR and OL, are doing well while SOLOP withers. Without the interest generated by posters to whom he so generously refers as "scum," his own site would run out of visitors. As soon as the "scum" get motivated to leave, his dwindling band of acolytes will face the attractive choice of being banned in some Perigonian fit of pique, or sticking around for regular doses of Perigonian abuse.

Now that his urgent summons to defend Mr. Valliant's book has been met with a predictably feeble response, Mr. Perigo gets to decide whether to join Mr. Valliant in ignominy—or to quarrel with his last remaining ally from March-April 2006, and face it all on his own.

Robert Campbell

Please...

James S. Valliant's picture

Forgive my prolonged absence. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend to this thread (or others) for a few days, so please bear with me.

The assertion still being made that everything within quotation marks must be a quotation is not something worth revisiting is it? The change has been made, right?

As Ms. Branden describes it, Mr. Scherk, the O'Connor marriage was something of a fraud from the start -- built as it was on Rand's fantasy-like projection of a hero who embodied her distinctive values, not the reality of O'Connor, if we are to believe her. By the 1940s, it is suggested that the fraud was wearing thin -- Rand was allegedly becoming frustrated with a lack of intellectual communication. Of course, there is evidence which contradicts this portrait of a troubled marriage in the 1940s or a lack of intellectual communication -- as PARC notes. In any case, when did Ms. Branden ever say that the marriage become honest or solid thereafter? She implies that the friction had settled -- but does she ever suggest that the O'Connor marriage "got real"? (As PARC also makes quite clear, the nature of the relationship between the O'Connors carried a element of mystery for the Brandens -- note the title of the chapter.)

However, these things are better discussed in the next chapter to be posted, and, with thanks for your patience, I promise, it's coming soon.

Hardly Hardy

gregster's picture

""loadstone", spelled in just that way, appears on the back cover. Is that actually true?"

I haven't yet carefully comparted the Brandens' books with what Valliant attributes to them.

If you do get around to "comparting" them, I won't care for your level of erudition.

Loadstone

Casey's picture

is an acceptable variant of lodestone. Look it up.

Back to PARC

Michael Hardy's picture

AS I said, I came back to this site after not looking at it for two years because this discussion of PARC was mentioned on another site.  Unfortunately I don't have my copy of PARC with me, but I see it mentioned in that other forum that the word "loadstone", spelled in just that way, appears on the back cover.  Is that actually true?  If so, it does seem like a reason to think the publisher doesn't have editors go over it carefully, and James Valliant really ought to let Ellen Stuttle function as his benefactor by heeding her advice to have a professional editor go over things he writes to avoid such embarrassments.

 (If anyone has a copy in front of them: Is that actually true or just a scurrilous rumor from partisans?)

Lions and zebras and verbs, oh my!

Michael Hardy's picture

> Maybe you can find some infelicities

> that don't involve zebras and
lions

> and verbs madly copulating in German

> in the text at the top of
the page -- the

> chapter Mullah Rand.

 

Well, here's one in your own posting that DOES involve those three species, but not necessarily in German.  In order to make your locution fit into the music from The Wizard of Oz, you really need to mention the lions __before__ the zebras.

 

 

 

 

Copulative verbs

William Scott Scherk's picture

Mike Hardy, thanks for the ramblings. Maybe you can find some infelicities that don't involve zebras and lions and verbs madly copulating in German in the text at the top of the page -- the chapter Mullah Rand.

WSS

Correct, picayune and not primary

Michael Hardy's picture

I don't think I actually want to claim the proud title of "Style Commissar" or "Grammar Nazi" when several signs of my haste in typing are so conspicuous.

The reason I'm giving on ly "picayune and not primary" critics of James Valliant's book is that at this time I'm not really interested in what is right or wrong with his book as a whole.   I've actually read less than the whole thing and I haven't yet carefully comparted the Brandens' books with what Valliant attributes to them.  Maybe someday I will; maybe not.

 However, and important lesson on a different important (indeed, MORE improtant) topic comes up: Grammar is primarily descriptive and only secondarily normative.

Lately I've been relearning German after my knowledge of that language had atrophied for a long time.  After posting my comments on Valliant's book, I posted some thoughts to a different forum on what I've been learning.   Here is an excerpt to illustrate therole of descriptive grammar, with the punch line explicitly so labeled at the end:

BEGIN EXCERPT

So I'm going to do some
comparisons and contrasts
between the ways the English
language treats the active and
passive voices, and the different
ways in which the German language
treats them.

"The dog sees the man."

"The man is seen [by the dog]."

The first sentence is in the
active voice and the second in
the passive voice.

In either English or German, a
sentence with a transitive verb
with a direct object may be
transformed in this way, from
active to passive.

In English, the auxiliary verb
is "be"; in German, it is _not_
"sein" ("be"), but "werden"
(which in other context is
tranlated as "become". This
verb "werden" is also used to
form the future tense in German
just as "will" is used in
English. But "will" in English
is a defective verb, whereas
"werden" in German has a full
conjugation. I don't think the
German language has any defective
verbs, but tell me if I've missed
those.)

In both English and German, some
transitive verbs may in some cases
have both direct and indirect
objects.

In English, not only the direct
object, but also the indirect
object, may become the subject
of the verb when a passive
transformation is done. Thus
_three_ forms:

"He gave me the book."

"The book was given to me."

"I was given the book."

But in German, the third form
is impossible.

In German, some intransitive
verbs (although only two or
three dozen, I think) and some
copulative verbs can have
indirect objects. In English,
that is impossible. For example
in "He gave me the book" or
"He bought me the book", the
pronoun "me" means "to or for me".
But you can't say "Wednesday was
me a very hectic day", expecting
"me" to be construed as "to or
for me", but in German you can.

In English, even the object
of a preposition can in some
instances be transformed into
the subject of a sentence by
a passive transformation.
For example:

"We look upon this as an error."

"This is looked upon as an error
[by us]."

That is impossible in German.

In some cases in English, that
can be done even when the verb
is intransitive:

"I will take care of the matter."

"The matter will be taken care of
[by me]."

Also impossible in German.

But in some cases this doesn't
work as well:

"We ate lunch at this table."

"This table was eaten lunch at
[by us]."

In neither English nor German
can the predicate nominative
after a copulative verb become
the subject through a passive
transformation:

"The zebra fell victim to the lion."

"Victim was fallen by the zebra
to the lion."

That's obviously not English.

("Fall" is being used here as a
copulative verb. So if you thought
"be" and "become" are the only
copulative verbs, think again.)

FIRST PUNCH LINE: Grammar is
primarily descriptive and only
secondarily normative.

SECOND PUNCH LINE:

 END EXCERPT

 

Correct, picayune and not primary

William Scott Scherk's picture

Style Commissar Mike Hardy makes a small point about a passage in PARC (p 152). He notes correctly that the voice used in Barbara Branden's passage, below, was not an instance of the passive voice. If it had been, the passage will have read, "it was admitted."

One good reason for not using the passive voice is that passive constructions lack explicit reference to the actor -- it is a weak and often unclear manner of describing vigourous actions.† In this case, the actor is clearly specified: Rand was to admit.

That said, I think it is picayune to harry our prosecutor for this minor error while there are other signal errors on the same page -- errors that much more broadly indicate systemic flaws in description of its target texts, errors that signal that the bill of charges against TheBrandens™ is oft inflated and sometimes invented.

For example, on the same page as the quote from PAR, PARC asserts that TheBrandens™ claim that "the O'Connors' marriage was an empty fraud."

Another example, TheBrandens™ tell us that the O'Connors' marriage "was a shambles from the forties onward."

(is there a reference to a single passage in either book to illustrate these particular charges? No. One must accept on faith that Valliant has fairly represented what has been said about the marriage)

This is not by any manner the picture of the marriage related by either Nathaniel or Barbara Branden. In fact, on the same page PARC cites, Ms Branden writes movingly of the qualities of Rand's love for Frank.

Is it fair to state that TheBrandens™ both described the O'Connors' marriage as a shambles or an empty fraud?

No. To note that there were troubled times for the marriage during a part of the writing of Atlas Shrugged is one thing. To call the marriage a shambles or a fraud is another thing. PARC grossly misrepresents the memoir and the biography in this instance.

This is one of the reasons that some of us 'sewer-dwellers' consider that whatever the value of PARC (as noted by Sciabarra), that its claims are bloated, its language extreme and its claims often inaccurate. A reader of PARC who does not and has not read PAR or MYWAR is at a disadvantage: is PARC accurate overall in depicting the Branden biography and memoir?

No.

Are the rampant and incorrigible infelicities of language the primary reason to critique PARC?

No.

WSS

_____________

† from UNC Writing Guide page on passive voice

[from PARC, chapter five, Something Between Them He Did Not Understand]

She writes that "none of their friends suspected the extent to which the [O'Connors'] relationship was troubled. A number of years later, Ayn was to admit that during this period the friction between them and their lack of intellectual communication had come to so frustrate her that she seriously considered divorce." (64) Once again, Rand's actual words are not used, just Ms. Branden's. Even ignoring its unverifiable nature, it appears to contradict the evidence of any actual witness. And, once again, Ms. Branden strangely opts for the passive voice, Rand, "was to admit." (At this point, one is tempted to call it the "passive-aggressive" voice).

I haven't read this forum

Michael Hardy's picture

I haven't read this forum in a couple of years. Some discussion of it elsewhere prompted me to look in and see for myself what's going on. James Valliant wrote:

 

"it actually does not purport to be a verbatim quotation of the sentence, but of the words used"

 

This is a new one to me. I've never heard of quotation marks being construed that way. Ellen Stuttle is a professional editor and I think she knows this topic.

 

I certainly wouldn't want to condemn PARC on the following basis, but I came across something in it two years ago that shocked me, and I exchanged a bit of email with James Valliant about it. It is a passage where he quotes from Barbara Branden's book where she said Ayn Rand "was to admit later" that something-or-other. Then he claims that's in instance of the passive voice, and goes on to draw conclusions about Barbara Branden's psychology.

 

Now let's recall from 7th grade what the passive voice is.

 

"The dog sees the book." ---> "The book is seen [by the dog]."

"A zebra ate grass." ---> "Grass was eaten [by the zebra]."

"I forgot that idea." ---> "That idea was forgotten [by me]."

"God created the world." ---> "The world was created [by God]."

 

In each of these pairs, the first sentence is in the active voice and the second in the passive voice. ONLY when a sentence with a transitive verb is transformed in this way, the object of that transitive verb becoming the subject of the verb in the transformed sentence, the past participle of the original verb appearing in the new sentence---ONLY then do we have the passive voice.

 

Anyone who claims the phrase "was to admit later" is an instance of the passive voice flunks that question on a grammar test in 7th grade.

 

Although it's not at all surprising that a lawyer is ignorant of what 7th-graders are expected to learn about grammar, seeing a lawyer draw inferences about someone's psychology based on their grammar and messing it up in a way that would normally cause 7th-graders to flunk was shocking. I said so in an email to James Valliant two years ago.

 

In his reply he said I'd called something "shocking for a 7th-grader", and put quotation marks around it.

 

I would not consider a 7th-grader flunking a grammar test shocking. I did consider an lawyer publicly commenting in that way on someone's grammar while getting it so wrong that he'd flunk a question on a test administered to 7th-graders shocking. So does this use of quotation marks preserve the meaning while permuting the words? Clearly it does neither.

 

So, Mr. Valliant: Ellen Stuttle is your benefactor. Let her help you. -- Mike Hardy

 

At Least...

James S. Valliant's picture

... he was fairly interpreting your intended meaning... Smiling

I'm gratified ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... at your proficiency in the Linzisms, James. A-plus, even if you did omit "Hsiekovian." Eye An F-minus for Scherk, of course.

Full Context

James S. Valliant's picture

Incomplete and unfair, Mr. Scherk. It's like this:

"Pomowanker = postmodern jerk-off. Identifiable by, among other things, a self-indulgent propensity for Polish (q.v.) and weasel-words, for prefacing anything remotely resembling an opinion with 'I'm not sure that' or 'It could be argued that,' for never stating an opinion outright but insinuating by sneering irony that it's not intellectually respectable or defensible actually to hold an opinion on anything, much less a positive opinion. Nihilism in academic drag. Closely related to Polish."

"Pusball = pomowanker."

"Polish = the incomprehensible gibberish of Chris Sciabarra when he's writing for an academic audience. The principle of Polish is: why use one short word when one hundred long ones will suffice?! The premise of Polish is that everything is bewilderingly, intractably complex. The upshot of Polish is: paralysis. Exactly what its Brandroid (q.v.) practitioners intend."

"Brandroids = worshippers at the various shrines to Nathan and Barbara. Sycophants who exhibit precisely the same blind devotion to the Brandens that the Brandens ascribe to Randroids when it comes to Rand. Committed to moral equivalence and/or outright moral inversion and the avoidance of moral judgment, except moral judgment against anger. Anger in the Brandroid lexicon is not merely the biggest sin (except when it's their own) but the only sin. Brandroids readily look past the lying, smearing and opportunistic gold-digging of their icons."

Possibly related concepts:

"Weasel-words (not original to me) = saccharin euphemising, such as The Kassless Society's apologia for the name-change on the grounds that "Atlas" is less "intimidating" than "Objectivist." Weasel-worders, among many other sins, treat Objectivism as the philosophy that dare not speak its name.

"The world is perishing from an orgy of weasel-words = A paraphrase of Rand/Roark's 'The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.' Self-explanatory."

Just to be clear.

The Emperor's New Glossary

William Scott Scherk's picture

Perhaps Emperor Perigo will forgive my mixing up Linzisms.

According to the glossary provided, pomowanker means postmodern jerk-off, a nihilist in academic drag, who writes in incomprehensible Polish, and who uses sneering irony instead of forthright opinion. Pomowanker is of course equivalent to pusball.

I would have been more accurate to use 'pomowanking pusball' as a paraphrase for the Emperor's locution, scumbag being a pallid cognate of pusball.

Yes, the Emperor knows why Hospers was dropped cold by Rand. And he has made it clear that Hospers should have known better than to be a sneering pusball to Rand in academia, no matter what kind of pussy he was otherwise.

We must presume that the Emperor knows how to tell a squalid leprous pygmy from a garden-variety scumbag or a Saddamite cocksucker, a common scumbarra from a Hsiekoffian lemming.

I regret the error.

WSS

Um ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Scherk: (I exclude the maunderings of our Emperor, who asserts that Hospers was a pomowanking scumbag and deserved to be drop-kicked out of Rand's orbit)

Now let's see what I actually said:

Tragic, isn't it? Not to do what you so most want to do. Of course he knew how he'd pissed her off. By being a smart-ass pomowanker, "cool" in academia but detestable to Ayn, in critiquing her presentation. But I suspect those "piercing eyes" would have looked on him fondly again had he mustered the bottle to ring on her doorbell.

Hospers came to SOLOC 4 at Newport Beach in 2006. He did a q&a with Babs. Post-SOLOC, he, Babs, Kilbourne and I had dinner at Kilbourne's house where I was staying. He did me the honour of complimenting me on the humour in my SOLOC presentation. That would have been lost on Babs and Kilbourne. He's a sweetheart ... but steeped in the "it all depends on what you mean by 'is'" way of looking at issues. Burning with moral passion he is not. "Analytic philosophy" bullshit that drove Rand up the wall.

I'm struggling to see "scumbag" in there, or indeed to infer it thence. Or to infer "deserved to be drop-kicked out of Rand's orbit" from "but I suspect those 'piercing eyes' would have looked at him fondly again..."

Gee, and these civil, scholarly folk are so fastidious about quoting accurately.

Then again, I guess the distortion, however gross, is OK, since it's not in quote marks.

Mr. Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

Thank you very much for both the seriousness and civility of your last post.

First, let me ask how familiar you are with Rand's epistemology and esthetic theory, Mr. Scherk. You seem not to appreciate that, for Rand, "sense of life" is all about metaphysics.

You deny that Hospers "suggest[ed] metaphysics depends on language" -- that he only claimed "that what we say about sense of life depends on emotive language. He simply noted that Rand 'didn’t take much to the idea of emotive language.'"

But to talk "sense of life" is to talk metaphysics. For example, a belief in volition -- for Rand, a "metaphysical" position -- shapes an artist's "sense of life." If what we say about human volition and its value-implications in any way "depends" on "the language we use to characterize it," then we are saying that metaphysics does, too.

It is the value judgments we make about the fundamental nature of reality which create our "sense of life," according to Rand -- and these can be solidly objective. The source of our esthetic emotions is being identified here -- both our metaphysics and our evaluation of it generate the relevant emotions, according to Rand. Indeed, a dependency of "sense of life" on "emotive language" would be a giant and senseless logical circle for Rand. One need not be an adherent of a particular school of epistemology to have been influenced by the kind of subjectivism this claim suggests. Hospers says that "most" of the terms we use to describe art are "primarily subjective." This, for him, brings us to a full stop. Well, Rand showed the source of such emotions, and the use of subjective language is not, for her, a dead end or a "given" that we must simply accept.

Any approach suggesting that it was, yes, would have been fundamentally abhorrent to her.

The premises of Hospers' "speculation" -- his "givens" -- are surely being "maintained" by him. And, if his "speculation" was presented to Rand as a mere question or open hypothesis, how could she have perceived it as a difference between them? "I speculated..." doesn't yet tell us how it was presented to Rand, only his inner state of certainty. This is the sense in which "maintained" was used.

Not knowing why you want the material anyone can scroll down on this very thread to find is unclear to me, but what I said to Mr. Hutching in the post I linked to below began:

"For you, Mr. Hutching, the very idea that the Hospers break might have been an innocent misunderstanding on the part of both is utterly out of the question and barred from any consideration whatever. And that reason has nothing to do with the evidence, does it?

"Rand may have misunderstood Hospers, but not vice versa -- never, no way, no how.

"Doesn't that seem fair?"

Not knowing your purpose, I'm not sure what to add, but what else do you need?

In any event, those four are the sort of possibilities I can think of -- perhaps you can think of others, and perhaps I could have formulated each better -- but the extensive material you provide (much of it repetitively) excludes none of them yet.

Perspective

James S. Valliant's picture

Well, I can't control the good folks at Wikipedia, of course, but can we now recognize the near-zero impact of this and get back to something real?

Why did Rand break with John Hospers?

William Scott Scherk's picture

I am happy to have added further context to the Rand/Hospers relationship, and I thank James for recommending that those interested read as much of the context as they can.

Some people not allied to the case against TheBrandens™ may examine the context provided, understand the setting and expectations of the Harvard presentation, read Hospers' interviews and memoirs, refer to the letters of Ayn Rand, examine both PAR and MYWAR for their rendering, and take away from it what they can.

These folks may not be 'enemies of PARC,' and might agree with James that there is simply not enough information to choose among the possibilities (I exclude the maunderings of our Emperor, who asserts that Hospers was a pomowanking scumbag and deserved to be drop-kicked out of Rand's orbit)

Perhaps we can agree that somewhere, somehow, the ineluctable mystery of why Rand broke with Hospers can be solved -- if not to James Valliant's satisfaction . . .

For convenience to readers, I again offer pertinent excerpts from what Hospers wrote in Full Context in 1998 and in Liberty 1990, below, but first I want to examine the text from PARC:

PARC: In that 1998 article, Hospers, a specialist in esthetics, recalled being “publicly” critical of Rand’s view that every work of art conveys a “sense of life” (i.e., that art expresses some view of reality, a “metaphysics,” even if that view is conveyed in purely emotional terms and held only subconsciously—even by the artist himself.) Apparently, Hospers had also maintained that “what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use” to convey it (i.e., that our understanding of metaphysics— reality—“depends on” language.)

Hospers conceded that these were topics which he had been discussing with Rand for some time—indeed, from their first meetings—and that he knew that such a “linguistic” approach to ideas was fundamentally abhorrent to Rand. Hospers also says that he remains mystified as to specifically what had triggered Rand’s reaction.

Let's examine these contentions in detail, noting that the only valliantquoat® herein is "what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use."

PARC's first paragraph reports a Hospers "'publicly' critical of Rand’s view that every work of art conveys a 'sense of life.'"

Hospers wrote that he "wondered publicly about whether every work of art (even mediocre ones) carries with it a sense of life; I mentioned Ayn’s own example of Dinesen (fine writing, but an awful sense of life); I speculated about whether to any extent what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use to characterize it ('emotive meaning' again)."

PARC continues: "Apparently, Hospers had also maintained that “what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use” to convey it (i.e., that our understanding of metaphysics— reality—“depends on” language.)"

This was not what Hospers wrote in relation to 'emotive meaning' (see below) nor did he suggest metaphysics depends on language -- he speculated (not maintained) to what extent what we say about sense of life depends on emotive language. He simply noted that Rand "didn’t take much to the idea of emotive language."

PARC further contends that Hospers "knew that such a 'linguistic' approach to ideas was fundamentally abhorrent to Rand." This does not fairly represent what Hospers wrote.

Does Hospers really 'concede' anything about his “linguistic” approach to ideas? No. No matter the sneer quotes. Did he concede that his approach to evaluating fiction's sense of life was fundamentally abhorrent to Rand? Have a look at the full text of Hospers' memoir -- you won't find evidence of the Crown's confident assertion on this count.

Rand may indeed have rejected the no-longer-regnant philosophy of the Logical Positivists, but there is no concession by Hospers that his remarks conformed to this.

(James, in my browser, Firefox, the link to your comment about mutual misunderstanding doesn't work. I suspect that the comment is found on a second page. If you have the time or inclination, can you fetch up a passage that we can use as a search term? -- or paraphrase or expand your thoughts on a possible mutual misunderstanding?

Did I get the four possibilities reasonably correct? Are there other possiblities that need be considered?)

-- one other not-necessarily cogent question: when you were given access to Rand's journals, was there any material by Rand that mentioned the break with Hospers (or any of the breaks that you mention in Mullah Rand)?

WSS

___________________

Memoir - Conversations With Ayn Rand by John Hospers
Liberty, Volume 4, Number 1 - September 1990, pp. 52

When I was authorized by the American Society for Aesthetics to ask Ayn to give a twenty-minute talk at their annual meeting, which would take place this time in Boston the last weekend of October 1962, I passed on the offer to her at once. She accepted, with the provision that I be her commentator (all papers were required to be followed by a response from a commentator). She thought that I would understand her views better than those who had no previous acquaintance with them. I consented.

And so it was that on the last Friday night of October 1962, she gave her newly-written paper "Art and Sense of Life" (now included in The Romantic Manifesto) [*]. In general I agreed with it; but a commentator cannot simply say "That was a fine paper" and then sit down. He must say things, if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical. I did this--I spoke from brief notes and have only a limited recollection of the points I made. (Perhaps I repressed it because of what happened shortly thereafter.) I was trying to bring out certain implications of her talk. I did not intend to be nasty. My fellow professors at the conference thought I had been very gentle with her. But when Ayn responded in great anger, I could see that she thought I had betrayed her. She lashed out savagely, something I had seen her do before but never with me as the target. Her savagery sowed the seeds of her own destruction with that audience.

When her colleague Nathaniel Branden and I had a walk in the hall immediately following this exchange, there was no hint of the excommunication to come. But after the evening's events were concluded, and by previous invitation I went to Ayn and her husband Frank's suite in the hotel, I saw that I was being snubbed by everyone from Ayn on down. The word had gone out that I was to be (in Amish terminology) "shunned." Frank smiled at me, as if in pain, but he was the only one. When I sensed this, I went back to my room. I was now officially excommunicated. I had not so much as been informed in advance. It was all over. In the wink of an eye.

Memories of Ayn Rand, by John Hospers
Full Context, Volume 10, (#9) MAY 1998

Was I an objectivist about literature? she wondered. (I hadn’t heard the term "objectivist" before as describing her philosophy.) Yes, I said, the features referred to are objective—the structural tightness, the complexity of thought and characterization. But different people pick out different combinations of features, depending on what they like, and this is the subjective aspect. Some readers prefer the tightness of Greek tragedies, others will accept the more "sprawling" nature of some of Shakespeare’s plots in order to get the depth of characterization he provides, and the cascading metaphors which provide a unique intensity to the dramatic experience.

Most of the terms we used to characterize art, I said, are primarily subjective: sometimes they describe our experience, more often they do not describe experience but evoke it (we call these "emotive words"): "sad" is an emotion-word, "bastard" is an emotive word. A work of art, we say, is moving, interesting; powerful; subtle; boring.... How many of these terms describe the work, and which either describe the experience or are calculated to evoke an experience in the reader? Mostly the latter, I suggested—the grammatical form may suggest otherwise ("The play is charming" resembles in form "The play has three acts") but this fact should not mislead us. Ayn didn’t take much to the idea of emotive language; perhaps it was perceived as a threat to objectivity of judgment—but her remarks about many writers and philosophers surely included quite a bit of emotive language.

[ . . . ]

As program chairman for the American Society for Aesthetics, I invited her, against the counsel of most of my colleagues in the Society, to give a talk. She consented, provided that I who understood her ideas would be her commentator. By tradition, commentators make criticisms. Mine, I thought, were mild as criticisms go. I wondered publicly about whether every work of art (even mediocre ones) carries with it a sense of life; I mentioned Ayn’s own example of Dinesen (fine writing, but an awful sense of life); I speculated about whether to any extent what we say about sense of life depends on the language we use to characterize it ("emotive meaning" again).

I saw something wrong when I noticed that her remarks in response were icy, sarcastic, even insulting. I never discovered what there was about my remarks that made her "go ballistic." Apparently I had betrayed her, and I had done so publicly, when an academic audience already presumed critical of her might have been turned her way. There was no doubt that she felt deeply hurt. At the party in her room afterward, she would not speak to me, nor would anyone else: word had gone out that I was to be "shunned." I never saw her again.

[ . . . ]

What had I done? Maybe there had been a stridency in my voice that I wasn’t aware of, to prove something to my professional colleagues in the audience. Doubtless she wanted a public vindication, and I, one of the few intellectuals she had taken into her confidence, had shafted her—after she had invested in me so much time and effort.

Mr. Valliant's retreat

Robert Campbell's picture

Well, finally....

Does this mean that Mr. Valliant will now abandon his desperately improvised doctrine of Vallianquoting®?

Or can we expect him to revive it the next time he is caught misquoting someone?

Robert Campbell

Changed

James S. Valliant's picture

The sentence about Hospers in question has been changed simply in order to avoid the controversy.

Now what?

The Transparent Campbell

PhilipD's picture

 

So Campbell now wants a Rand list of moral and philosophical  flaws. Just ten chief ones mind you.

Campbell, having trawled through Mullah Rand, your motives seem obvious enough to me; a hellbent desire to pull down a great because she is great. And this all done by a mass of dull sludge that squirms and worms from one bitter point to another as you constantly ask and repeat questions without actually answering the difficult ones put to you.

And the value of the List? Hell, if you can convince yourself that Rand had ten flaws then I guess you can feel a little better about your sorry little self.

 

 

"The ultimate result of shielding men from folly is to fill the world with fools."

-Herbert Spencer 

Scum in their death throes

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I suspect this bizzo about quote marks was their last desperate throw of the dice. Campbell gets trounced again and comes back with a lengthy resurrection of his gratuitous assertions, aka lies, on the Sciabarra matter. I do believe the skunks have run out of squirt.

Campbell and JARS

James S. Valliant's picture

I am neither an "asset" nor a "liability" to anyone -- including ARI -- since I speak only for myself.

But you confess an effort -- pathetically weak -- to cover the previously observed fact that with every post and every conspiracy fiction you invent, you become an ever greater and greater liability to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

This is otherwise just another silly distraction -- and one that we have repeatedly covered before -- only with more bizarre invention of the sort already eviscerating your credibility.

Worse even than an obsession with a typo.

Mr. Perigo's supposed distaste for intrigue

Robert Campbell's picture

I was amused, a while back, to see how Mr. Perigo continues to dissemble about his role in producing and promoting a 12,600 word denunciation of Chris Sciabarra.

Piously, Mr. Perigo intones:

I didn't orchestrate the Sciabarra expose, carefully or otherwise. It was all Diana's own work, and was well underway before I got to hear about it. Around the time she apprised me of it, Diana also informed me of e-mails about me from Sciabarra to a third party, who turned out to be Joe Maurone, which confirmed his, Chris's, propensity for lying and backstabbing. The nature of those e-mails lent credence to Diana's contention about the nature of Chris, and I had no hesitation in agreeing to let her post "Dialectical Dishonesty" on SOLO as well as her own site. But I most certainly did not "orchestrate" it, Babs's Linz-obsessed delusions notwithstanding.

No contribution at all from Mr. Perigo—not even providing private e-mails to Ms. Hsieh for use in her denunciatory epic?

When, according to Mr. Perigo, did Ms. Hsieh begin crafting her opus?

When did she "apprise" him of the (drafted? nearly completed? complete?) production?

And how come Mr. Perigo's ally, Mr. Valliant, has entirely vanished from this account?

Did Mr. Valliant not also provide e-mails for denunciatory purposes?

Did he not "apprise" Mr. Perigo—and Ms. Hsieh—of his activities?

Diana Hsieh's preparations for launching her screed appear to have begun in March 2006, when she became a regular on SOLOPassion.

On April 6 of that year, Regi Firehammer, an old adversary of Mr. Perigo's, suddenly appeared on Ms. Hsieh's blog, trying to post a comment.

Since Ms. Hsieh takes great pride in banning people from her site, the comment thread remains extant at

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-...

Perhaps Mr. Valliant can explain how he and his sidekick Mr. Fahy happened to show up right around the same time as Mr. Maurone and two of Ms. Hsieh's minor-league ARIan protégés.

Or how he ended up throwing Mr. Perigo's own eccentric brand of derogatory rhetoric at Mr. Firehammer:

Pheel phree to burn the jacket and put PARC in one of those brown paper-bag covers that we used to make for school textbooks. You can draw nice art of your own on it, too.

This couldn't have been a dry run for "Dialectical Dishonesty," could it?

Nawwwwwww.....

I've just been reviewing the correspondence from that time, and it's clear that Diana's motive in writing DD was dismay and disgust at having been deceived by Chris, who'd been trying to preempt any discovery of his deceit by invoking confidentiality. Nothing to do with Chris's review of PARC, though Campbell will persist with his delusions about that, no doubt.

More horsepucky and bullhockey from Mr. Perigo.

Ms. Hsieh's primary motive was not Chris Sciabarra's failure to endorse PARC. She needed to rip a few companions from her iniquitous past in order to complete her spiritual delousing and gain admission to the Leonard Peikoff, er, Ayn Rand Institute. Dr. Sciabarra was a high-value target; the principals at ARI had never forgiven him for publishing Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Ms. Hsieh had been working herself up to denounce for former mentor for 2 years by this time. Of course, his failure to endorse Mr. Valliant's book was, in her mind, further proof of his dishonesty—but publishing his own books, editing his journal, and failing to swear fealty to ARI were already "proofs" of dishonesty.

Mr. Valliant was sore at Dr. Sciabarra for not endorsing his book. But he was also eager to please Mr. Perigo, whose platform he needed, and to stay on the right side of the principals at ARI.

Mr. Perigo couldn't forgive Mr. Sciabarra for failing several tests of loyalty: not championing the war in Iraq; not denouncing Barbara Branden in the wake of "Drooling Beast"; not endorsing Mr. Valliant's book after Mr. Perigo embraced it as the ultimate weapon against Ms. Branden. Their relationship was under severe strain well before Mr. Perigo joined in with Ms. Hsieh, Mr. Valliant, Mr. Maurone, and some of Ms. Hsieh's flunkies to rip Dr. Sciabarra.

Ms. Hsieh and her flunkies have long since stomped off, and Mr. Maurone rarely shows up on this site any more. Out of the original crew, only Mr. Valliant and Mr. Fahy remain.

It is interesting to go back and read "Dialectical Dishonesty" and assess how many of the concrete accusations made there against Dr. Sciabarra still matter to Mr. Perigo today. Is Mr. Perigo still exercised over the charge that some who are affiliated with ARI are afraid of being punished for associating with the "wrong" people? I can see Mr. Valliant working himself into high dudgeon over that... but Mr. Perigo?

By contrast, the charge of association with Barbara Branden is still alive and kicking. Now there's something that Messrs. Perigo and Valliant can agree on...

My analysis of the intrigues that were going on in April 2006 has held up pretty well, I think.

You can read it here:

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

I should add that it ran two days before "Dialectical Dishonesty."

In retrospect, I was wrong about two things:

(1) I now believe that Ms. Hsieh is more likely to cut her ARIan mentors off at the knees than they are to cut her off at the knees. Getting Mr. Perigo and Mr. Maurone not to challenge her born-again homophobia was quite a feat. They'd better watch out over in Irvine.

(2) Mr. Valliant and Mr. Perigo nearly fell out a couple of times, but their alliance continues. They may well keep circling the bowl together, aboard the SS Valliantquoat®.

I do think that the part about the top people at ARI wanting to preserve their deniability was on target.

With every passing day, Mr. Valliant becomes a greater liability to them.

Will they torpedo the SS Valliantquoat®? Or just stand quietly by, while it sails down the crapper?

Robert Campbell

The SS Campbell Has Hit Bottom

James S. Valliant's picture

Oh, dear!!

Anti-scholar Robert Campbell -- inventor of fiction after elaborate fiction -- victim of psycho-epistemological "meltdown" after "meltdown" -- would rather ignore an accepted procedure than admit error -- and has once more questioned my "scholarship." Quelle disastre! Although he cites no authority, and simultaneously ignores my examples and arguments, this has somehow caused nothing short of a total "foundering" over a doctrine I have allegedly invented -- and, yet, so craftily got the folks at Wikipedia to arrange elaborate cover for!

I believe that this is called "projection."

And observe just how badly this is needed by some, and ask yourself why.

Keep chewin'!

SS Valliantquoat® in danger of foundering

Robert Campbell's picture

Since Mr. Valliant would rather invent bogus procedures for quoting people's words than admit his failure to follow the procedures that everyone accepts, I once again draw the reader's attention to my statement, a few posts downthread:

James Valliant in his "Mullah Rand," right up above here : "In a 1990 memoir published in Liberty magazine, Hospers said that he was merely being 'challengingly exegetical if not openly critical of Rand'..."

Hospers actually said: "... a commentator cannot simply say 'That was a fine paper' and then sit down. He must say things, if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical. I did this..." (emphasis added)

You don't put quotation marks around an entire phrase or sentence from an author's text, unless the text in question actually says those exact words in that exact order.

Capisce?

It is embarrassing to have to admit misquoting someone. (And Hospers is far from the only one to suffer misquotation at the hands of Mr. Valliant.)

But inventing a phony procedure of valliantquoating®, and citing random irrelevant fragments from various sources that patently don't support his phony procedure, is going to cause Mr. Valliant a hell of a lot more pain than admitting that he misquoted.

Mr. Valliant is sailing the SS Valliantquoat® straight down the crapper.

So is Mr. Perigo, unless he very quickly gets enough sense to jump ship.

Robert Campbell

Clauses for

Kasper's picture

Clauses for clauses.
Quotation for quotation.
Bracketing for Bracketing.
Peskiness for the sake of Peskiness.

Dear God! Has James out done you all? Have you lost? Have you got the balls to say so?

Here's Wiki..

James S. Valliant's picture

From Wikipedia on quotation marks signaling "unusual usage," as opposed to quotation, direct or otherwise:

"People use quotation marks in this way to:
▪ indicate descriptive but unusual, colloquial, folksy words or phrases
▪ indicate descriptive but startling, humorous, or metaphoric words or phrases
▪ distance the writer from the terminology in question so as not to be associated with it. For example, to indicate that a quoted word is not official terminology, or that a quoted phrase pre-supposes things that the author does not necessarily agree with.
▪ indicate special terminology that should be identified for accuracy's sake as someone else's terminology, for example if a term (particularly a controversial term) pre-dates the writer or represents the views of someone else, perhaps without judgement (contrast this neutrally-distancing quoting to the negative use of scare quotes)" (emphasis added)

They cite to The Chicago Manual of Style which cautions against overuse.

If "challengingly exegetical" is not "unusual usage," I don't know what could be.

If this is the bone you really want to chew -- have at it!

One Expert

James S. Valliant's picture

"You can also use brackets around part of a word to indicate necessary changes in its form. So, for instance, you might write, 'In his brilliant Guide to Grammar and Style, Lynch provides sage advice on "us[ing] brackets around part of a word."'

"Some house styles call for brackets to indicate changes of upper- and lowercase letters at the beginning of a quotation: '[L]ike this.' I don't like it — it clutters a page — but I don't get to make the call, except in things I edit."

And that's with a purportedly exact quotation, which, of course, must be exact.

For example.

Rigidity is indicative of something, I once heard...

Good God in Heaven!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ms. Stuttle extricates herself from the swamp-ooze for just long enough to do a drive-by and fire off a supposedly fatal shot at James:

Whether you're accused of misquoting by Mr. Scherk or not: You DID misquote. To have correctly quoted, you would have written "sharpen[ing]," the brackets indicating that you had changed what you were quoting.

Dear Galt! These people lie, smear, obfuscate, embrace Namplaphiles, attack greatness and close down speakers they don't like, routinely and without scruple. But they rouse themselves to righteous fury over "sharpened" vs. "sharpen[ing]."

Scholars? They're not scholars' anuses. A style manual for James? How about a decency manual for these sick-fuck low-lifes?!

Note, Stuttle, your post is unmolested. That's the way we do business here—openly, without fear of dissent or debate. This is not Brandroidia.

Stuttle

James S. Valliant's picture

First: warmest of welcomes, Ms Stuttle.

The two phrases, "if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical," and "merely being 'challengingly exegetical, if not openly critical,'" both say the same thing. Reversing the order of the two clauses does not alter the meaning one little bit -- neither yet suggest that he was being "openly critical" -- both overtly deny it to the same extent.

Plain English: The first says that he was "at least" challengingly exegetical -- the second, in fact, says that he was "merely" challengingly exegetical. Both equally say "if not openly critical" to precisely the same extent, denotatively. Connotatively, the second is the softer.

If anything, PARC's version is suggests "open criticism" less than the original, not more "sharply."

Take this: "The claim was that Joe was merely "a bad man, if not a monster."

Now this: "He must have been, if not a monster, at least a bad man."

Both say that he was a bad man -- both stop short of calling him a monster. The first says he was "merely" a bad man. The second says he was "at least" a bad man -- maybe more.

This is the text as it currently reads above:

"In a 1990 memoir published in Liberty magazine, Hospers said that he was merely being 'challengingly exegetical if not openly critical'..."

Now, this would be the "corrected" text:

"In a 1990 memoir published in Liberty magazine, Hospers said that he was being “if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical'..."

Which suggests "openly critical" more? The "at least" or the "merely"? It is the second which would distort Hospers' opinion, in my view.

In any event, the sentence is mine and the placement of quotation marks was merely to indicate the language used. Thus, he "said that," rather than "he said..."

Take the following: a boy declares, "Really, sir, under the circumstances that night, I did the very best I could!"

Describing it later, someone writes: "The boy said of that night that he did 'the very best he could under the circumstances.'"

This is a fair and accurate description.

And the description is that of the describer -- the sentence is his -- and his use of quotation marks merely indicated the language the boy had used and did not purport to be an exact quotation at all.

Within a sentence, a quotation, of course, may be changed -- the use of brackets indicates an addition, and the use of ellipses indicates an omission -- and the rule is simply to stay as close to the original as possible when reproducing language within a sentence of your own, signaling any omissions and additions. If neither an omission nor an addition has taken place, then neither indication is appropriate. However, the most important rule is to attribute language which is not the product of the author's own devising. Merely reversing the order of clauses without attribution would be plagiarism.

In our case, absent the two terms, "merely" (not placed in quotes) and "at least," they say the same thing.

Now that you have added more empty pseudo-scholarly bluster to this nonsense, please tell us who has had a "career ruined" over precisely such a use of quotation marks.

If it's so handy to your knowledge, why not cite the rules yourself?

But your focus is telling, and for that we must thank you.

Valliant misquoting

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I don't have facility at using the response features on this site, and don't want to spend the time acquiring that facility. This is a once-only reply here to James Valliant. I hope the post will show without garbling. I'll repost it on OL in case it doesn't appear correctly here.

There has been no "sharpening" whatever of the language. It says the same thing. Quite reverse of a "sharpening" has taken place -- the response has added "merely" all on his own, outside of the quotation marks. (And notice how I have used the word "sharpening" not "sharpened," Scherk's original form of the word, and still felt obliged to put it in quotation marks. I will, no doubt, presently be accused of "misquoting" Mr. Scherk.)

Whether you're accused of misquoting by Mr. Scherk or not: You DID misquote. To have correctly quoted, you would have written "sharpen[ing]," the brackets indicating that you had changed what you were quoting.

I recommend serious studying of a manual of style.

As to the difference in meaning between:

Hospers says: "[A] commentator... must say things, if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical. I did this..."

The response: "Hospers said that he was merely being 'challengingly exegetical, if not openly critical.'"

The second -- your rendering -- indicates that he bordered into being "openly critical." His original wording indicates that he stayed short of the line of bordering into that. You have changed the meaning of what the man wrote.

Nor is it an "argument from authority" to inform you that your quoting procedures don't cut it by any scholarly -- or even general publishing -- standards. People's careers get ruined over the sort of thing you're doing, and trying to defend.

Ellen

Scherk

James S. Valliant's picture

Scherk's fear of professors who might agree with me speaks volumes, doesn't it?

Sight unseen -- "dolts."

Notice who first leveled the empty accusation -- with the bluster of any good argument from authority -- but now I'm the self-appointed "arbiter" of language?

As I said, it was during my discussion with Brendan Hutching, especially here, that I pointed out to him that he was treating the idea of a mutual misunderstanding as being "inconceivable."

"Rectitude"? Of course.

Hospers says: "[A] commentator... must say things, if not openly critical, at least challengingly exegetical. I did this..."

The response: "Hospers said that he was merely being 'challengingly exegetical, if not openly critical.'"

There has been no "sharpening" whatever of the language. It says the same thing. Quite reverse of a "sharpening" has taken place -- the response has added "merely" all on his own, outside of the quotation marks. (And notice how I have used the word "sharpening" not "sharpened," Scherk's original form of the word, and still felt obliged to put it in quotation marks. I will, no doubt, presently be accused of "misquoting" Mr. Scherk.)

I knew he'd throw in the towel soon about Hospers -- but without demonstrating that it was Rand's unjust anger that was all to blame must be somewhat disappointing.

Is your focus, then, going to be 100% on the silly distractions from now on, Mr. Scherk?

Mr Misquoat the Objectivist Arbiter of Correct English Usage

William Scott Scherk's picture

I must thank James Valliant for letting us know the only approved correct and proper Objectivist way to view the Hospers break. He finds four possibilities (I valliantquoat® here, subtly enhancing the wording to make James' words more accurate than his actual unadorned locutions).

Incidentally, for readers actually interested in a further valliantquoat®, here our defender of accuracy in English utters this dicta: "re-ordered wording is standard practice [in quotes] so long as the meaning is undistorted [ . . . ] (Indeed, I got high grades from professors doing just this with their own words, both as an undergraduate and as graduate student.)

Hmmm. An undergraduate at New York University and a grad student at University of San Diego?

And if we look at NYU and USD's usage notes on quotations, will we learn to quoat or to quote?

Hospers Break Possibilities

1) "This discussion entertains the possibility that Rand was wrong"

2) "I entertained the possibility that it was a mutual misunderstanding."

3) "Hospers, without knowing it, said something Rand justifiably saw as crossing one of her well reasoned 'lines.'"

4) "Hospers did say something rude, nasty or unfair."

I will ask James to point out to the list where he entertained option 2, mutual misunderstanding.

Re: misquoatations, now we know that if James puts more than one word in quotations and attributes it to another person, he reserves himself the right to 'sharpen' the other person's words, and to allow the 'sharpened' quotations to stand as if they were verbatim.

This is dodgy.

I think James knows that this is dodgy, very dodgy. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a few phone calls to a few campuses tomorrow, to see if he can find some unthinking dolt of a professor to ratify his woeful misunderstanding of proper quotation. I am dismayed that James would insist upon his rectitude; it is unseemly and inexplicable that he would stand his ground here.

Be that as it may, we seem to have said all that is possible in regard to the Hospers break.

WSS

Campbell

James S. Valliant's picture

Take the following statement:

"Despite claims to contrary, I do sometimes whistle. In fact, as my critic once saw for himself, while walking down a Paris street in May, I was happily whistling a merry tune."

A critic might fairly respond with the following:

"No, I never once saw him 'happily whistling a merry tune while walking down a Paris street in May.'"

What was placed inside the (inner) quotation marks reorders the words, to be sure, but the critic has retained both the words and the meaning exactly. In such a context, it actually does not purport to be a verbatim quotation of the sentence, but of the words used.

One wonders how many books Campbell's actually read.

It's perfectly simple.

If a sentence (or paragraph) is quoted, it is verbatim.

However, if a word or phrase is placed in quotation marks, it may or may not even be a quotation at all. It may only be signaling a technical word or phrase. If it is a phrase within a sentence, and the words and meaning are both retained from the source, they may be placed in quotation marks to indicate this, even if the clauses have been reordered.

Now, rather than admit straightforwardly that there was no distortion of the source -- as readers can see for themselves -- notice what is being focused on here.

Campbell is not even citing "rules" -- he is copping an attitude of outrage. Pure pseudo-scholarly bluster.

In fact, the main rule here is to "Be careful of using another person’s distinct phrasing without quotation marks" in order to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism. Indeed, to have merely reordered the clauses without providing quotation marks would have been a form of plagiarism.

The source is available to one and all -- and the source was cited.

The sentence was my own.

Campbell's been "nuking the fridge" quite a bit of late, and the fraying edges are showing.

But if this is his pathetic excuse to dismiss everything in PARC or that I might ever say, imagine just how desperate he is to do that!

His quest to discredit PARC is obviously that desperate and petty, that bereft of substance.

[I almost forgot to add, as has become my habit on such occasions, this is an editor at The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, ladies and gents.]

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