The Nature of Poison

Casey's picture
Submitted by Casey on Tue, 2006-02-21 01:37

When my friend, James Valliant, had his book sent to the publishers, the galleys completed and the jacket copy and cover decided upon, I expected to have only limited involvement thereafter. A review posted at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, a response to some flagrantly erroneous articles that recycled lies about Ayn Rand that the Brandens told—that was about the extent of the contribution I anticipated after the book was out there for all the world to see and read.

However, I was surprised by the nature of the posts that were slamming the book before it was published at the old SOLOHQ site, where Barbara Branden herself held court, considering this was a site comprising individuals who claimed to admire Rand, or at least her novels and ideas.

There was a certain imperious and gratuitous sneer that characterized the kind of attacks that were being launched on PARC, with an assumption that Ayn Rand's shoddy character was a given and could be abused with any level of crass insult and derogatory condescension. Any bitter and poisonous remark about her character was acceptable in the course of undermining the book before it had ever appeared. The ugliest accusations of hypocrisy, smuttiness, lust, and cruelty, and even lunacy, were tossed out about Rand's character with chuckles and snickers, raspberries and hisses.

All the while, Barbara Branden never interceded, indeed presided, silently, over this display. That's when it occurred to me that the Brandens carry with them something that is so well documented in PARC. They're smug and superior and see the worst kind of arbitrary character assassination as a valid tool of their trade. They deal in flattery and smears, both equally baseless, both self-serving. They flattered Rand with absolute agreement about everything in her amazingly original and lonely mind, offering her intellectual loneliness something Nathaniel Branden identified as psychological "visibility," even though that visibility, for Rand, was an illusion that he and Barbara used to win her friendship and endorsement. They flatter those who contribute to smearing Rand with the most grandiose pseudo-Randian language, and turn on them with muck-raking viciousness the moment they learn of any danger of disagreement in those followers.

Barbara’s friend and loyal supporter Lindsay Perigo stuck by her when PARC was announced and published, advising her not to take it so seriously, to just ignore it. She had always been leery of Perigo’s tendency to moral outrage, however—moral righteousness was not something either Branden felt comfortable around since their break with Rand, even though before the break they were both extreme practitioners and even though they are de facto bare-knuckled practitioners of moral condemnation to this day. For a quick and ready example of this duplicity, here is a quote from Nathaniel Branden on the subject of moral judgment in the Free Radical interview with him conducted by Alec Mouhibian:

NB: Now, there are some people who are so clearly evil (e.g., Saddam Hussein) that we can’t imagine anything mitigating their horror. But even there, I’ve come to feel the following: if there is a mad animal running around, eating people, I may have to shoot him. I don’t think: “Oh, you rotten bad dog, you.” There’s nothing you can do except shoot him. But the Saddams are only a small minority. Take the Middle East suicide bombers—especially the very young people. God knows, if I had the opportunity, I’d kill them without any hesitation. But I also know, as a psychologist, that they were raised in a culture in a world I can’t even conceive of. They were propagandized about the glory of martyrdom since the age of five. Whereas Leonard Peikoff might be hell-bent on calling every one of them evil, I wouldn’t. They may or may not be. All I know is: in action, one kills them, rather than getting killed by them. Lots of times, we don’t know the ultimate truth about a person. And here’s the point: we don’t need to know.

AM: So when you do judge people, does it basically come down to the age-old criteria of honesty, decency, etc.?

NB: Yeah. Lying, breaches of integrity—those are immoral. But I try to keep judgments of that kind to a minimum. And it’s pretty natural in me by now, to focus on the behavior.

No doubt anyone who reads PARC will understand Nathaniel Branden’s new focus, and they wouldn’t be wrong to substitute the word “focus” for “evasion,” either.

Compare this stance with this set of remarks later in the same interview. The interviewer has asked Branden about romantic relationships and how they have a larger range than Rand or objective understanding could ever cover:

NB: When you’re talking about long-term romantic love, as I did when lecturing for NBI, much more of who we are comes into play. But if you just focus on the sexual, the bar is lower. And that’s perfectly fine. For a certain period of time, in a certain context, it could be a wonderful, happy experience. I don’t believe that if a relationship doesn’t last forever it’s a failure. I remember a friend of mine, who was 42, met a girl who was 17 or 18 years old. And they had a great romance that lasted about a year. And they remained very good friends afterward—it just wasn’t the end of the game for either of them. You see, these are some really complicated issues.

AM: That’s where I’m getting at. It just seems absurd to believe that all of the mysteries of attraction are objectively explicable.

NB: Well Rand wasn’t entirely consistent on what she thought about these subjects. I remember once being in her apartment when Leonard was there. He had acquired a new girlfriend and Ayn asked him: is it a romance, or is it an affair, or is it an enjoyable sexual encounter? I don’t remember the words verbatim, but she gave him a choice of three. She also said it in a way that implied that any answer was acceptable. And Leonard almost fell off the sofa in shock. He said, “You mean you would approve?” Ayn said, “Why not?” Anybody who had read her books would also have fainted. You’re shocked, aren’t you?

AM: I am.

NB: So if ever I were to publish that story, the forces of evil would say it’s one more example of what a liar Nathaniel Branden is. But it happened. So there’s a lot of confusion about sexuality among Objectivists.

Yes, and that confusion started with Branden, according to Rand’s journal entries in PARC.

There are many interesting things about this exchange in the Free Radical interview. Readers of PARC, of course, know that it was Rand who had to explain to Branden that an 18-year-old girl of the right spirit could make a fine sexual match for a man Branden’s age (in his late 30s at the time), a notion that he found inappropriate, and she also suggested that he have an affair with a young Emma Peel-like woman to get his groove back, and that he should not view his marriage with Barbara as some kind of failure even if it was over. She was much less uptight about achieving some end-all ideal in romantic relationships than Branden was—she called this tendency in Branden a mistaken desire for a “Kantian-stylized universe,” which Nathaniel Branden instantly agreed with, telling Rand that she was “onto something” about his psychology.

Of course, he could have been lying to her about this since he was lying to her about the entire pretense of his psychological status during these requested psychological sessions that Rand grew so tired of. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that Branden now presents this as shocking and something the forces of evil (ARI?) would find outrageous for him to say about Rand. This is a pure case of projection—everyone will find this shocking about Rand? Not me, and I didn’t have to know her to understand that she was not a Puritan, that she held sex as a great value, and at the same time that it shouldn’t be turned into something random and valueless since we are more than animals. But that doesn’t automatically mean that sex with someone who is not your ultimate absolute lifelong ideal is bad. That kind of “Kantian-stylized” viewpoint did not occur to me (or Rand) from her position on sex and value. On the contrary, this was Rand’s specific diagnosis of Branden!

Note also, of course, that while Branden doesn’t think suicide bombers can be called evil per se, those who call him a liar comprise “the forces of evil.” Both of the Brandens’ comments are riddled with such moral pot-shots, even while they present compartmentalized arguments against moral judgment.

So it is not so unpredictable that Barbara Branden would complain about Lindsay Perigo’s tendency for moral outrage, which she did nearly from the beginning of their relationship. Yet it was less predictable that when events transpired that prompted Perigo to read PARC, Barbara Branden immediately announced that she had long suspected he would be heading toward the ARI camp!

For an exhibit of moralizing, rage, and naked, vicious threats all in one package, I will present quotes from Barbara Branden later in this article that were recently posted on a fan’s website. But this literally hairpin moral judgment by Barbara Branden about Perigo reminds me of the day Rand broke with her. That morning she was proposing to take over NBI (after telling Rand about Nathaniel’s dishonesty) and looking forward to forging a new and stronger business alliance with Rand after ruining Nathan’s chances of that. (This fact is an insight into the line Nathaniel recorded from his mind when Barbara, months earlier, had committed to lying to Rand about Nathaniel’s ongoing affair with an actress who had also been soliciting psychotherapy sessions with Rand during this period.) After Barbara had made her proposal and Rand had rejected it, Barbara Branden THAT VERY DAY began calling Rand insane and irrational. She has, arguably, made a living off it ever since.

It reminds me of the day months earlier when Barbara discussed with Nathaniel the need to keep deceiving Rand to hang on to NBI, and he thought, “We are all operators, it seems.” Nathan wrote this line into the first edition of his book, but excised it from the second. The second edition was prepared with Barbara's collaboration!

The fact that the Brandens were motivated to keep feeding Rand their slavish agreement by something other than Rand's supposedly oppressive personality is obvious from the dividends they sought and received from her. Rand wielded no stick that they could not walk away from, but she offered a carrot they did not wish to give up. It was Rand who pulled the carrot away, and it was then that they condemned her. If it was the stick they feared, they should have thanked her.

Recently on the website of one of the Brandens’ most ardent loyalists, one of her admirers mentioned that Julie Delpy, the actress who played Barbara Branden in the movie based on her book, was far too delicate and vulnerable. The real Barbara Branden was much tougher. Barbara Branden chimed in that she was, indeed, no wimp, and the filmmakers had gotten that wrong. I believe her. In fact, the whole tortured portrait she paints of a confused, bewildered and dominated young woman enthralled by the power of Ayn Rand does not ring true in the slightest. Barbara Branden is a vicious streetfighter, willing to lie and cheat to get what she wanted and to backstab and vilify her victim as soon as she found her out and ended their relationship.

The fact that the Brandens continued their profound dishonesty to Rand, revealed in their own books about their relationship with her, until it shrouded nearly all of their differences, personal lives, and business dealings, is chronicled in PARC—this was the art of flattery that they had perfected during the first careers they made off of Rand’s genius. Then came the break, when Rand finally saw through their elaborate and highly motivated misrepresentations, and the Brandens flipped the switch of their dishonesty to smears instead of flattery with great alacrity, proving equally creative (and mawkish) in this task. They even audaciously adopted all the critiques of their own ruthless tactics while milking the Rand cash cow at NBI in their very attacks against Rand herself. In the process they claim that their exuberant statements about Rand in their mutual pre-break book, aptly titled “Who Is Ayn Rand?”, were exaggerations and not to be trusted. And their smears were to be as fraudulent as their praise, and drawing on the same practiced talent.

I can't help but think when I see the grandiose vilification of Rand by the Brandens and their cult-like crew that the whole cult stigma that attached to Rand, even the whole reputation for contemptuous condescension and dismissal that Rand would inherit, came really from the Brandens, who preternaturally continue these practices, with the same resultant constituency of fans, today. Could it be that these ambitious young opportunists grafted their aggressive flatter-and-attack cronyism onto Rand herself during this activist stage that she claimed to dislike so much? Was she delivering what they encouraged? Pre-Branden and post-Branden statements by Rand would have to be compared to answer such a question. One is left seriously wondering, however, considering the works of Rand and the legacy of her entire relationship, NBI included, with the Brandens. Knowing the big picture only heightens the irony of Frank O'Connor's alleged prescient warning to his wife that Branden was “no damn good!"

And what of the "Affair"? It is freely described in the Brandens' presence as Ayn Rand's opportunistic sexual harassment of a loyal soldier exploited for his slavish devotion to her ideas, despite the nature of those ideas. But, after seeing all of the facts revealed in PARC, what was going on feels more like a clever young man's manipulation of a naturally lonely genius whose innocent sense of life rendered her particularly vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.

What PARC proves about the statements made by the Brandens in their “Answer to Ayn Rand” is that they were lies from start to finish. Branden lied about the fact that Rand had become his acting psycho-therapist, he lied when suggesting he was not focusing his time on NBI theater, he lied that Rand was lying about his financial dealings, and he lied that he had not had any ideological drift from Objectivism. And, worst of all, after a 14-year affair with Rand, Branden started the myth of a horny old Rand hitting on him in some tawdry scene of sexual harassment, and his noble sacrifice of everything in order to rebuff her unwanted advances.

Rand did not mention the affair at all in her statement and only referenced a dishonest essay Branden had written to justify his sexual rejection of her on purely “physicalist” grounds while attempting to tie in his theory to Objectivist principles. That paper has never been produced by Nathaniel Branden and the Estate of Ayn Rand reports having no copy of it, notably. There were so many other breaches of integrity and lies concerning the fraudulent psychological sessions, the promises, every utterance during those discussions, business dealings, writing commitments, etc., that there was hardly any need to drag their private relations into the public eye, since it had ended years earlier and since Rand’s own desire to continue it had equally become unthinkable to her at that point, as is revealed in PARC. By this time any desire to resume a sexual affair with Nathaniel Branden, despite all the leading on and promises and the lies that she had already found out about, had been tortured out of Rand, as is revealed by her contemporaneous journals. Far from thinking of him sexually, she had started to suspect he was dishonest and possibly evil prior to the final revelation of his dishonesty by Barbara Branden.
Nathaniel Branden, on the other hand, who claims that he was always the aggressor in his sexual relationship with Rand (because he thought that was what she “required” from a man, not because he felt like it), went ahead and mentioned the affair anyway in his “Answer to Ayn Rand” ... well, he half-mentions it, thus:

In writing the above [Rand’s statement about why she was splitting with the Brandens, which makes no reference to their affair], Miss Rand has given me the right to name that which I infinitely would have preferred to leave unnamed, out of respect for her privacy. I am obliged to report what was in that written paper of mine, in the name of justice and of self-defense. That written statement was an effort, not to terminate my relationship with Miss Rand, but to save it, in some mutually acceptable form. It was a tortured, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassed attempt to make clear to her why I felt that an age distance between us of twenty-five years constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.

And that is how Branden dramatically ENDS his 1968 statement, by referring to the affair, which no one would assume was an affair based on this statement! We used to reserve the word “cad” for this kind of dishonorable romantic behavior.

Now, observe how this poster, Mike Lee, twists the motivations of the Brandens’ statements and posthumously-published books into a desire to protect Ayn Rand. This was posted in Nathaniel Branden’s own chat-room [Comments added]:

It's stunning to hear people say that the Brandens were waiting for Rand to die so they could hatchet her without her responding. That's the stupidest thing I've heard all month. And in my job, I hear a lot of stupid things that have nothing to do with Objectivism.

Rand lied, publicly, egregiously, viciously about the 1968 debacle. Both Brandens were a class act in their responses. They did everything possible to keep Ayn's dirty little secret, at great cost to themselves. What would have happened had the Brandens told the truth then?

Objectivism would have died then. It would have been the undisputed laughing stock champion of the world. All the O-O boobs who hate the Brandens owe their dreary Objectivist identities to the sacrifice of the Brandens in not exposing Ayn's lies. (By the way, you idiots, they didn't do it for you, but for the 99% of people who read Atlas Shrugged and are moved and changed by it and that you anathematize.)

Let's make no mistake: Rand LIED. Gimme an L, gimme an I, gimme an E, gimme a D, LIED. I've got a copy of her public renunciation and the Brandens' responses and all are pathetic. Rand because she was a big fat horrible chicken liar and the Brandens because they protected her. Along with pathetic, the Brandens were heroic. I can't imagine myself exercising the self-control, the renunciation of richly earned revenge, the parsing, tuning, shading, hiding, editing, pacing back and forth, and compassion that suffused their responses.

Good on you both, what an amazing thing under such pressure to separate the thinker from the thoughts and to protect the thoughts from public ridicule no matter what the thinker had done to you.

The Brandens had it in their power at that moment to destroy Objectivism, and they had every reason to, and they didn't. Say thank you, you O-O dipshits.

Talk about grace under pressure, the Branden responses to Rand's screech were archetypally [sic] graceful. Something for the rest of us to keep in the back of our minds in case we are ever so unfortunate as to come under similar pressure.

Think through this scary alternate history scenario: Rand noisily, publicly and in writing denounces NB, vaguely hinting at horrible moral defects, implying he's been embezzling or worse. Branden, instead of denying only to the ridiculous charges she made publicly, responds that the real reason she's so mad is that she and I have been having an affair for many years, conducted with the cooperation (or co-optation) of our spouses, and I've been trying to disentangle from it for several years now without provoking just this kind of explosion.

Imagine the newspaper stories, gleefully printing side by side shots of Ayn and NB's hot new girlfriend. Imagine the humiliation of their respective spouses, who I'm sure would also have been featured side-by-side in every paper.

Now imagine Rand's response to all this: does she keep lying and deny the affair? Does she admit it and thus reveal that her previous denunciation was somewhat, shall we say, less than candid?

Any way she turned, Rand's response qua Rand would have only made things worse, much worse. [Strangely, he notes the clever blackmail inherent in the Brandens’ charges but credits them for honesty and caring about Objectivism instead of Rand.] She would have strafed her own credibility and then bombed the rubble. Can you imagine her having to go out in public and deal with this? She was no Howard Roark when it came to ignoring public shaming (otherwise, she would have told the truth in the first place, wouldn't she?).

Imagine all the interviews with former and current members of her coterie. The reporters digging around, the "scholarly" articles hooting that Objectivism was, like we all said, just a silly fad run by amoral hedonists. Imagine this going on in an atmosphere of the mores of 1968--remember, this was pre-Joy of Sex, pre-Stonewall, pre-Harrad Experiment, pre-Open Marriage.

Without reasonable doubt, had the Brandens not bitten their tongues till the blood flowed, Rand would be known today as the kooky cult leader who got caught sleeping with her young protégé and made their spouses watch it all.

Contrast that scenario with the one that really happened: The Branden books were published after a couple of decades of cooling off. With Rand dead, there wasn't much sport in baiting and trashing her -- in fact, doing so would have been in bad taste. Ortho-Objectivists were mortified at the revelations, but everyone else came away liking Rand better than before. Suddenly, it all made sense. She no longer seemed so inhuman, intolerant and inscrutable. She seemed tortured and driven by her own demons and blind spots. [Yay! Interestingly it was Wendy McElroy, in her review of PARC, who said “Her actions are now understandable and no longer inexplicably vicious.” Apparently, there are different standards of understandability!]

Let's not forget: Rand is the one who went public with this. [Incredible!] You can make a case that the Brandens' books were a debt owed to intellectual history to make sense of a puzzling and weird event that everyone who ever watches CSI knows didn't add up the way that Rand and the Brandens initially told it.

Let's also not forget: ever since then, both Brandens have led very respectable and productive lives. I think they've both demonstrated they can think interesting thoughts without Rand pulling their strings, and from the way Rand described them, everyone should have been expecting them to end up in jail.

I have no special insight into exactly why the Brandens zipped their lips for so long. Perhaps their motives weren't as noble as I've surmised. But probably they were. Neither Branden is short of brain cells or unable to think 3 chess moves ahead. So, yeah, I think they took one for the team. [Wow. They took one for Team Rand, don’tcha know!]

What an ironic victory for Barbara and Nathaniel. Since it was their discretion that kept Rand on the bestseller lists. [Yep. That’s what he said, folks.]

I think Nathan rocks. His books, his work, his candor have all greatly enriched my life. I'm so glad he exists. He's publicly, obviously, admittedly, not perfect. And that hasn't stopped him from doing great work, making amazing contributions, like his mentor, God rest her sad, beautiful soul.

--Mike Lee

Michael Stuart Kelly, for his part, was so impressed by these statements that he decided to reprint them at the afore-mentioned website. Roger Bissell, for his part, claimed he wished that they could be printed in a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Yes, after one has read PARC and understands how horrendous these misrepresentations are one can hardly catch one's breath. It seems designed to evoke outrage—that is how precisely and utterly opposed to the facts this statement is.

The idea that the truth could have hurt Rand’s reputation any worse than his disgusting assertion about Rand’s LUST in 1968, or that the Brandens’ motives was to protect either Rand or Objectivism, is preposterous. The revealing of the full truth would have only exposed the nature of Branden’s 4 ½ year deception of Rand. What he said was designed to reveal as much about Rand as possible and as little about his own deception as possible. And for all this Brandenite’s blather about Rand’s “lying” in that 1968 statement, he cannot point to a single false statement by Rand. PARC proves that there is nothing to point at in Rand’s statement that is false.

But now, I think it is important to view the first direct and real response to PARC that has appeared in publication from either of the Brandens, posted just a few days ago. It is a perfect illustration of the working parts of the Branden M.O. and why one can’t rely on the Brandens’ commitment to truth as a primary motivation for any of their representations of Ayn Rand.

This is Barbara Branden’s reply to Ellen Stuttle, a person who was present at some of the NBI events during the 1960s and who psychologizes to an alarming extent about Rand (while denouncing her for psychologizing) and blames Rand for not being astute enough in the field of psychology to decipher what was really going on with Nathaniel Branden (even though the brilliant psychologist was spinning elaborately sophisticated psychological smokescreens designed to prolong his own professional livelihood during these phony psychological sessions that she blames RAND for not seeing through. Yes! And note that during this time, Branden’s actress girlfriend, who was having the secret 4 ½-year affair with Branden was requesting similar sessions with her).

BB: Ellen, I agree with you about Rand's lack of psychological insight, and that her psychologizing tended to be philosophical. And as you probably know, she would in principle have agreed with you, too: she often said that she didn't understand people, that she could never be a psychologist, and that she had no patience with psychology; often, she communicated contempt for people who had psychological problems. Of course, she would not have agreed with you that her psychological analysis of Nathaniel, as it finally evolved, was defective. Although, when all was said and done, she was much more comfortable with the concepts of "good" and "evil" than with concepts from the realm of psychology. When I last saw her in New York, in 1981, it was in terms of his "evil" that she discussed Nathaniel.

I wish with all my heart that her journal entries in the Valliant book had never been published. I shudder at the thought of what an objective (probably not Objectivist) psychologist who approached them cold would make of them. They are both tragic and twisted; they show Rand at her best and her worst -- her best in her desperate determination to understand, her worst in what they reveal about her own psychology, her profound repression, and her manner of dealing with and attempting to understand people And it is the worst that is predominant in these entries. If Leonard truly wanted to protect her, he would never have made them available to Valliant. But I suppose his hatred of Nathaniel and me was stronger than any protectiveness for Ayn that he might feel. Or, perhaps, he truly does not understand what these entries reveal.

And in fact, I doubt that he is truly motivated by concern for Ayn. I have long believed that he has a love-hate relationship with her memory, as he had with the reality of her when she was alive. I say this for many reasons, but the major reason is the following: If one sells one's soul to someone, one can never forgive that person. We can neither forgive nor fully love someone whom we feel has forced us to wipe our self out of existence in her name. Of all the people around Ayn, Leonard was always the most dependent; he scarcely dared to think a thought unless he knew that she would approve of it -- and it's not an accident that it took him twelve years to write The Ominous Parallels. Apart from Ayn's constant demands for substantial changes, she would have been sitting in his mind as he tried to write, a silent editor of every word he put on paper, paralyzing him.

I remember once that he came to me with a problem, as he often did, knowing that I would not report our discussion -- (which I never did, until now, when all my concern for him has vanished with the viciousness of the attacks on me which he has sanctioned and probably promoted.) He was very upset that evening, and he said: "When I watch television, or see a play, or read a book, or listen to music, I feel nothing at all; I have no emotional reaction, I'm dead inside, because I don't know what I should feel." This is the kind of thing I meant when I said that Ayn lived inside his mind.

And his praise of her went too far. Granted, we all bought into the "Ayn Rand is beyond reproach" theory -- although one or two of us had significant doubts of this at times -- but Leonard bought it wholly, no matter what her demands or her furies. In his mind, she was perfect; and if ever he didn't understand the form her perfection sometimes took, the fault had to be his. This kind of adulation, like his intellectual and emotional subordination, represented a danger to his positive feelings for her.

Again, I remember a day when it was reported to me that he had said: "If Barbara told me to take out her garbage, I would feel it was an honor." I shivered when I heard this, and I thought: Don't turn your back on this man.

I will add something that may shock you. I believe Leonard is aware of his ambivalence; it is a secret he keeps from everyone else, but not from himself. And it drives him, in some kind of pathetic attempt at atonement, to greater and greater orthodoxy. Such are the real reasons for his hatred of Nathaniel and me: he knows that we know too much about him; he knows that we know him.

I’m just glad that Leonard Peikoff is alive and not having this kind of thing pissed on his grave as did Rand. The absurdity of Peikoff, the man who resisted every idea of Rand until it actually made sense to him and not until it answered all other alternatives persuasively, was the man “ruined” by the kind of conformity the Brandens practiced to their own dubiously-confessed spiritual ruin is such a parody of projection it hardly needs pointing out.

And surely ARI, Rand, or Peikoff have never engaged in such vicious “psychologizing” as this display by Barbara Branden. She has long traded in such low-rent accusations against Peikoff and others, and it is noteworthy that neither Peikoff nor Valliant has ever engaged in this kind of psychological theorizing and condemnation about Ms. Branden.

Of course, the kind of suppression of evidence Barbara Branden calls for here in order to model a certain image of Ayn Rand is exactly what ARI has been accused of doing for many years without a shred of evidence to support this claim. And it is this kind of behavior that she is ADVOCATING. It’s also interesting to note that she is terrified by the material, just as PARC demonstrates that Mr. Branden is terrified by this material. In fact, she concedes that the notes are damaging for her and Nathaniel as she surmises that Peikoff’s motives were hatred for them over protectiveness for Ayn. Interesting that protectiveness for Ayn is for her a stronger motive suddenly than the truth. In effect, she concedes the basic thesis of PARC, in that her accounts are less than devoted to objective truth—they are shaped, motivated, made into something other than truth.

It is also notable that both Barbara Branden and Robert Bidinotto have just recently made threats of personal (read: unverifiable) evidence that they “could” reveal about their opponents, as though this were any form of answer to any part of this matter.

But there is an even more important point to be made about this remarkable post by Barbara Branden. However outrageous it is for her to claim that she is the one on Rand’s side and that Peikoff and ARI are the ones hurting Ayn Rand, I say again that it is very revealing, as well. She is claiming, now, that her account was an attempt to CENSOR the truth about Ayn Rand, that Peikoff and company are letting the damaging truth out, and that the records of this truth should have never seen the light of day. This, after claiming that her previous biographical effort, “Who Is Ayn Rand?” was hagiography and should not be considered an accurate representation but that her second attempt should be considered the truth. Now…?

The question now is: how many times does one choose to trust this woman’s version of the truth after she admits that she altered, censored and mitigated both of the versions she has given? She has just claimed, in her statement of only a few days ago, that she suppressed evidence and that ARI and Peikoff SHOULD HAVE suppressed evidence, as well! What credibility as a source of objective reporting does she have left?

Are we supposed to trust her about the smears? Are we supposed to trust her about the praise?

The truth is, Ayn Rand could have been much worse than what Barbara Branden has represented and we would still not be able to consider her a reliable source on the matter at this point. Truth is clearly not the primary goal of Barbara Branden’s statements about Ayn Rand, and she does not even weigh her comments about her by that standard, at all, and is offended at ARI for even accidentally adhering to that standard by releasing her journal notes on this issue to the public.

And, as for the site that published Mike Lee’s statement and to which Barbara Branden is an active contributor, she is on the record as raving: “I'm very happy about Michael's Objectivist Living site. It's a pleasure to find a place on the Internet where I won't be called names. I hope I'll see you there often.”

There’s something to be said about what association means and what association can be said to constitute endorsement.

Such can now be said about the nature of the associations of the Brandens: these are the comments about Ayn Rand that they host, promote, and even inspire by their presence.

I’ll leave to others what they choose to associate with, but I would suggest that they read PARC if they admire Ayn Rand.


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Perspective

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

The Brandens spread distortion -- and on matters of substance -- as we've agreed, I think. To help the spread of such distortion is pretty bad. Your case for ARI's "authoritarianism" is still so poorly defined, it's impossible for me to even compare the two as you do. Even so, since I don't see the need for thinkers to be affiliated with a single organization, and since a diversity of independent thinking about Rand really does exist, I have a hard time imagining what could be more damaging than endorsing and furthering Branden distortions.

Any debate can get ugly. From what you say, TOC seems to be making a very special exception for the Brandens' sensitivities. Of course, there are the personal friendships and histories to consider...

Suspicious?

sjw's picture

Michael,

I like you am suspicious that the policy of excluding explosive topics is wrong, but I don't see a reason to be suspicious of TOC for having it. I think if they did allow PARC-like lectures, they'd also allow rebuttals (again, because I think they'd rather give people the facts and let them decide), and I think it's reasonable to think that that kind of thing can only get uglier and uglier and without much benefit to anyone.

I think the moral cost of attempting to be authoritative and therefore authoritarian and stifling independence and creativity (like ARI does) is a lot higher than the moral cost of inviting the Brandens. I think a lot of those who defend ARI *want* to be told what to think, and ARI serves that market well. On the other hand, I think a lot those going to TOC want to decide for themselves, and here TOC I'd guess does an OK job, but it's legitimate to ask whether their restrictive policy (but comparatively a lot looser than ARI's) is consistent with this vision or not.

Oh, and while you're criticizing organizations for having unwritten policies with unspoken rationales, don't forget to mention ARI--you want to get a lecture approved there and you have to go through secret proceedings and have your stuff judged not only by content but yourself judged morally (again, against unwritten policies and undisclosed rationales).

PS: Please get a sense of taste. Nothing TOC is doing is comparable to child porn, and that kind of example isn't needed to get your point across.

Ok Shayne

Michael Moeller's picture

Shayne,

When I said I made an "invalid assumption", that was a retraction. And Shayne, you don't need to write a book to explain, just be more specific regarding who/what a particular point refers to. Otherwise, you will go around in circles and continue to wonder why nobody has addressed your points.

Secondly, a questionable policy is "suspicious" when there is not much reasoning behind it--basically saying "this is our policy" and nothing more, especially in regards to a very controversial topic. I am not trying to give a "sermon", I am just looking for answers to *legitimate* questions.

I would not expect that TOC answers questions under moral intimidation, nor should they. But they seem to be flying on autopilot through a warzone. I agree about facilitating intellectual exchange--up to a point. You have to ask on what terms you do this? Specifically, what is the moral cost? The market may demand a lot of things, like child porn, but that does mean you capitulate to those demands.

Michael

Huh!

sjw's picture

Michael,

I agree--you shouldn't make a response if you don't understand what you are responding too--but you did and you didn't retract it as far as I saw. I agree that I don't fully concretize every one of my claims--if I did then I'd be writing an article not having a discussion. I expect when a *reasonable* person doesn't get what I mean, they'll usually ask. And you did, eventually, which is about 100X better than typical. Or at least typical as I have been perceiving it in this thread.

I find the beginning of your second paragraph confusing. How is having a "questionable policy" deserving of suspicion?

I think their policy is open to question for the reasons you state. But there's another perspective. I don't want TOC making my value judgments for me. Rather, I want them to facilitate intellectual exchange, even if it means including some people who I regard as idiots or as viciously immoral. I take it that if the Objectivist market did not demand the Brandens, then TOC would not provide them. From this perspective, it's the audience that needs the sermon, not TOC. Of course, you're not going to be able to give this sermon at TOC--but you should be able to give a lecture arguing about why you ought to be able to, and maybe you'd change their minds and they'd let you give the sermon.

In the meantime, you can give the sermon here, as Linz has a more open policy than TOC.

~~ After reading enough of

Rowlf's picture

~~ After reading enough of other O'ist 'schisms', 'splits', basic-conflicts, etc, I've come to wish that some kind of ritual-'duel' (advocated in an earlier post) to, somehow, 'settle' things one way or another (as Achilles said in TROY, "Imagine a king who fights his own battles...wouldn't that be a sight?") rather than all this neverending Hatfield-McCoys' supporters-arguing in a mobius-strip of who can out "J'accuse" the other...would occur.

~~ If I may, I suggest a 'civilized' style of duel; indeed, I suggest one befitting the very verbose verbiage orientation of all participants.

~~ Each 'side' picks out their presumably relevent books/sources (sorta down the line of the 'pen', or 'quote' is mightier-than-the-sword/pistol/slingshot idea here), be such as Judgement Day (abridged or original), Fountainhead, blog entries, etc, and...the deciding factor(!)...whoever is the-last-one-standing in the meadow after turn-based quoting at each other...wins. --- Maybe then we can all...move on.

LLAP Laughing out loud

P.S: Oh, yeah...there is the tricky part about who's 'representing' which side of a conflict. Well, clearly there's Lindsay on one side in this latest one...and...hmmm. A prob with "no-show's" is that 'default' isn't a winning-settlement here; it's merely a prevaricating and procrastinating postponement of the inevitability of the conflict. --- This means that, unfortunately so far, we all have to await the ending of the 'SILENCE' that not only has become a bit deafening, but is even drowning out what apparently 'good' arguments had been given...in 2 (no less) 'separate' books.

Huh?

Michael Moeller's picture

Shayne,

Ok on the "concrete-bound" bit. After I responded, I realized that I might be operating on an invalid assumption about what you said, which is WHY I asked for further clarification, Shayne. I can't make a response if I don't know precisely what I am responding to. You seem to have the habit of making tangential points without saying *specifically* who/what you are referring to. Perhaps I should have asked you to clarify from the beginning what you meant by "concrete-bound behavior" and who/what that was in reference to--but perhaps you need to bring greater precision to some of your points.

This last post of yours leaves me with some questions. Before you said TOC had a "questionable policy", now TOC is "pegged wrong" and there is nothing to be "suspicious" about? Which is it? You don't find it "suspicious" that an organization dedicated to AR's philosophy gives a microphone and audience to two people who allegedly slandered her? You don't find it "suspicious" that somebody like Barbara Branden continues to launch attacks on AR and her reputation, but TOC has no problem giving her the green light to make speeches on their premises so long as she doesn't air her dirty laundry in their presence? What kind of "policy reasons" justify that? Certainly sounds "suspicious" to me.

Michael

Shayne,

Casey's picture

Buzz off. You're not fooling anybody.

We'll see

sjw's picture

Linz: I think you have missed it--sure, both sides have dished out their share of insults, but only one side has also dished out reason too, my side.

I think you've pegged Bidinotto wrong. He's no Branden apologist, in spite of some historical praise he's given (I think it was bad judgment on his part to give it). And neither am I, though I'm sure that Valliant and crew will soon be accusing me. No wait, I think they already did, but it's hard to keep track of all of their sundry distortions and outright misrepresentations (I'd say "lies"--except that I believe them to be so incompetent that they didn't do it on purpose). In any case--I hitch my wagon to no one's star. I'll follow the truth as I see it, through my own eyes, wherever it leads.

I also think you've pegged TOC wrong--I think they do what they do for policy reasons, not out of loyalty to the Brandens, and I think your suspiciousness of them is unwarranted. I see no reason to be suspicious of anyone except PARColytes, and that's because they've demonstrated repeatedly that they don't deal in terms of reason. Even if slowly, I recognize irrationality when I see it, and I've seen it up close with the Valliant lot.

I think you've made a mistake, but I made the same mistake and it took talking to Valliant and crew up close for me to see it. You've said that I'm being influenced by Bidinotto, but the fact is, I wasn't even speaking with him until after I started seeing the PARColytes for what they are. They were the first ones to convince me of their true nature.

Oh, Shayne!!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I can't say I sanction the ethics behind it, but you've certainly got a winning strategy: If you can't out-reason your opponent, then you just wear him down with an insidious litany of context-dropping, evasions, repetitions, personal insults, missing the point, empty and vicious sarcasm, ...

I must have missed all that. But you do a pretty good line of insult yourself, Shayne, as has been noted on one or two previous occasions.

As I said before--I've now got a lot of sympathy for why Bidinotto left the field, and you know, I'm right behind him. Casey, James, Holly--I'm done responding to you.
It's not like I'm on intimate terms with PARColytes or with TOCers, but let me tell you, from what I have seen of the respective behaviors of these groups of people in the forums and in offline email, I'd be very happy to be associated with the likes of Bidinotto. You guys have helped convinced me of one thing: That I should go to a TOC conference and check them out.

Bidinotto is an apologist for Barbara Branden. Doesn't square with his peerless pursuit of anarcho-Saddamites & being right on other matters generally, but that's his problem. You shouldn't hitch your wagon to his star on this one.

And for the record, although I'm behind Linz in his critical stance toward the Brandens and his questioning of TOC, I now think he's made a terrible error in opting for a Valliant book-signing event instead of giving a lecture for TOC.

They who've lined up fairly & squarely behind lying, manipulative smearers & gold-diggers? They who made it plain I should shut my mouth about this if I still wanted to lecture there? Not bloody likely!

Bye...

sjw's picture

I can't say I sanction the ethics behind it, but you've certainly got a winning strategy: If you can't out-reason your opponent, then you just wear him down with an insidious litany of context-dropping, evasions, repetitions, personal insults, missing the point, empty and vicious sarcasm, ...

As I said before--I've now got a lot of sympathy for why Bidinotto left the field, and you know, I'm right behind him. Casey, James, Holly--I'm done responding to you.

It's not like I'm on intimate terms with PARColytes or with TOCers, but let me tell you, from what I have seen of the respective behaviors of these groups of people in the forums and in offline email, I'd be very happy to be associated with the likes of Bidinotto. You guys have helped convinced me of one thing: That I should go to a TOC conference and check them out.

And for the record, although I'm behind Linz in his critical stance toward the Brandens and his questioning of TOC, I now think he's made a terrible error in opting for a Valliant book-signing event instead of giving a lecture for TOC.

HOLD THE PRESSES!!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ed Hudgins is online again. Got something for us today, Ed? Come on, you can do it! Smiling

Just a Twitch?

Holly Valliant's picture

Oh, dear, we're not "sloppy" this time, are we? Say it ain't so! You and Rand fighting the lonely battle out there? No one said that mental state shouldn't impact our treatment of criminals, and no one has implied any determinism, yet, apart from the growing inevitability of your capacity to avoid a point. That's just a "sloppy" response, Shayne. Even an accidental twitch, that causes harm to others, can be legally enjoined, if not imprisoned, I am reliably told, and thank goodness. (In your world, we just learn to live with on-going harms?) But, is that what the defense of TOC is reduced to? Inviting the Brandens was an involuntary twitch, a sheer accident, whose harm was simply unforeseeable? That is what strikes me as determinism.

Sloppy people

sjw's picture

Holly: Ayn Rand has also been "misunderstood by so many people." I guess I'm in good company, though I don't find it particularly inspiring to find such sloppy thinking among so many Objectivists.

Legal theory

sjw's picture

James: I don't know if I buy any kind of insanity plea.

Your categories aren't exhaustive. Sometimes, harm is caused from pure accident or from excusable lack of knowledge, in which case the state of mind of the "criminal" is essential if justice is to prevail. It's not justice to throw somebody in prison for something they couldn't have reasonably been expected to prevent.

Odd that an Objectivist would toss out state of mind and only consider effects. That'd be more of a determinism point of view not Objectivist I think.

You first

sjw's picture

Michael: I asked you what you were talking about first. Now instead of clarifying you ask what I meant. Well if you didn't know what I meant then what exactly were you responding to?

I will clarify one thing: I never intended to imply that you were engaged in concrete-bound behavior, in fact I was thinking the opposite of you at the time.

Gosh, Shayne...

Holly Valliant's picture

... it must be awful to be so misunderstood by so many people.

So...

James S. Valliant's picture

Yes, Shayne, and even those found "not guilty by reason of insanity" are not let loose upon the streets.

In that case, can we get back to my point? Whether it's negligence (gross or otherwise), specific intent, malice, or insanity, we cannot stop the execution of necessary consequences, precisely in order to prevent further harm -- even in the case of TOC.

Be Specific

Michael Moeller's picture

Shayne,

Perhaps it bears no relationship to what you said because you haven't made a succinct point. Please, be specific. What exactly have I said that constitutes "concrete-bound behavior"? I believe my last lengthy post was primarily about AR's personal life being worthy of discussion--was that "harping on the Brandens"?

Michael

OK now we disagree

sjw's picture

Michael: First of all, I said concrete bound "behavior" not "mentality". Second of all, it looks like you just want to sidestep the point, your response bears no discernable relationship to what I said. Concretes undercutting floating abstractions has to do with activism for organizational change how? Or is it that you wish to assert that harping on the Brandens IS a rational argument about the policy?

Here we go again

sjw's picture

Here we go again with the bizarre distortions and strawmen, the only difference is now Adam's piling his along with Holly (and I'm sure Casey and James will be joining in soon).

I specifically cited negligence as one class of punishable acts--a man who negligently kills deserves to be punished, whether he specifically intended to or not--and Adam responds as if I hadn't. I am certainly not claiming that just because "you didn't mean to" doesn't mean you don't deserve punishment, and I'm certainly not claiming that gross negligence shouldn't earn punishment equal to intentional criminal behavior (gross negligence can be tantamount to intentional destruction).

I'm leaning toward pistols...

Casey's picture

Since Shayne tends to shoot from the hip.

Very Scary

Holly Valliant's picture

Thank goodness we don't have to wait for Shayne to be convinced of someone's "intent" before the American system of justice -- the real one -- takes action!

Two Points, Shayne

Michael Moeller's picture

Shayne,

Well, I am glad we agree, at least on some things. Couple of points, however. First, a concrete-bound mentality cannot see beyond the range of the moment--he is not able to integrate to higher levels of abstraction. This is different than using a concrete to undercut a floating abstraction. If you see the difference, then please spare me the lectures.

Secondly, I used principles to show what was wrong with the policy and why AR's private life was important. I don't think it takes a genius or a deep, philosophical discourse to see what course of action to take.

Michael

See pp 130-135

AdamReed's picture

Shayne, I'm surprised that you couldn't find Valliant's survey of Objectivist sexual ethics in chapter V of PARC. It is on pages 130-135, and makes up most of that chapter's introductory section.

As for criminal justice: yes, the current American system is based on intrinsicist punishement of the criminal's intentions - punishment on the basis of intentions being a contribution from Christian primacy of consciousness. Valliant has the Objectivist take on criminal justice right: to provide optimal protection to the criminals' victims (the people whose self-interest is properly served by a rational system of criminal justice) one must consider dangerousness rather than intent. A man whose recklessness, or depraved indifference, toward another man's life results in the death of the other is just as dangerous to my life as one who kills intentionally - and so by the criterion of justice as an aspect of acting in one's rational self-interest, the criminal ought to be dealt with according to his dangerousness (as demonstrated by the objective consequences of his actions) and not merely his intention.

Oh Brother

Michael Moeller's picture

Adam,

Seriously, I had enough on SOLOHQ regarding this topic, nor is this the appropriate place to rehash crime and punishment. So to keep it brief, nowhere does he endorse intrinsicism. As a matter of fact, he specifically refutes any notion of justice being a principle of the thing--i.e. Kantian retribution. So why do you keep harping on this point? AR did not comment much on the topic (see "Objective Law"), but it is not much of a leap to see she falls in the camp of moral retribution.

In my world, Adam, you give credit where credit is due--and Mr. Bindinotto deserves it for his work here.

Michael

Re: Long Standing Policy

mcohen's picture

I certainly agree with Casey that TOC's association with the Brandens ties the organization to the Brandens' smearing of Rand as a person. I can add that the NPR program on Rand's Centennial last year included Ed Hudgins and Ms. Branden, among others. Hudgins did not flinch when Ms. Branden painted the ususal grim picture of Rand's life and her adverse effect on people.

Nonsense Adam

sjw's picture

You want to see a warped theory of justice then look no further than James Valliant, who in a different thread put forth the notion that he doesn't care about intent, he just cares about the results, and regardless of intent he's going to punish just the same. Thankfully that's not the American system--it *matters* if you meant to kill someone, were negligent, or whether it was a freak accident.

You claim Valliant presents the "real" Objectivist case on sexual ethics, and that's only true in the sense that there is no real Objectivist case, we just don't know what the ethics are that govern what happened in the affair. Bob Bidinotto thinks he knows but hasn't given us a good argument--but that's not necessarily intrinsicism.

I don't know about Bob's other work in detail so I can't comment on the veracity of your attacks on him there, but I suspect them to be of the same low quality.

Michael

sjw's picture

Again, I agree with you. And that's saying something--I usually have something to argue with for people on both sides of this issue.

RE the policy: I definitely agree that it's not good enough that it's been "long-standing". But the way to criticize an organizational policy is to criticize it philosophically and provide an alternative policy, not just keep pointing at an instance of what it applies to and waxing moralistic. This is concrete-bound behavior, the exact opposite of what should typify an Objectivist activist. It would be like trying to change the income tax law by citing only the case of John Smith who lost his house and trying to drum up a lot of religious indignation and fervor, while ignoring the principle of individual rights and alternative methods of taxation.

On Bob Bindinotto

AdamReed's picture

MM,

You write that Bidinotto "has done some great work, particularly in regards to environmentalism, crime and punishment, and against the anarcho-capitalists." But on environmentalism, and against the anarcho-capitalists, Bidinotto's work has been in the nature of laborious discovery of the obvious. On crime and punishment, Bidinotto's position comes straight from intrinsicist theories of justice - and stands in direct conflict with the Objectivist grounding of just action in rational self-interest. From the hints he has given so far, it looks like he is also taking an intrinsicist position on sexual ethics, and this intrinsicist position on sexual ethics will be the "principled foundation" of his forthcoming talk at the TOC Summer Seminar. James Valliant has presented the real Objectivist case on sexual ethics in chapter 5 of PARC, and it will be interesting to find out how Bidinotto is going to evade it, as he almost certainly will. (Of course, I'll take that back if Bidinotto comes around to the Objectivist position. I hope that eventually he will, but I am not holding my breath.)

YES!!!

Michael Moeller's picture

I am glad I am not the only one who likes a good, old-fashioned deathmatch. There is one problem with the duel, however, James H-N might get caught in the crossfire. Brant might too, depending on the day of the week.

Michael

On Bob Bindinotto

Michael Moeller's picture

I have to side with Shayne on this one. It must be noted that Mr. Bindinotto has not gone around excusing the Brandens' behavior nor has he sung their praises. He did make the comment about PAR, so perhaps that deserves an answer.

But a little perspective needs to be kept here. Mr. Bindinotto has not spoken extensively on the subject so it is difficult to know precisely where he stands. Too many inferences are being made, especially in regard to TOC policies. EVEN IF he is on the wrong side of this issue, I don't think it is cause to cast him down with cockroaches like MSK. I don't think one can doubt his knowledge of Objectivism nor his ability to apply it. He has done some great work, particularly in regards to environmentalism, crime and punishment, and against the anarcho-capitalists. Viewed in that light, I think one should hold off making character judgments until he speaks more on the subject.

Michael

Ok Shayne

Michael Moeller's picture

I understand your point. I think David Kelley's earlier comment on PAR deserves some evaluation, but I am unaware of TOC's programs so perhaps they have been consistent application of the policy and not hypocritical. And I hope was not misunderstood by Michelle, I was not arguing whether or not this was a "long-standing" policy.

My point was that holding to a policy because it is "long-standing" does not cut it. Afterall, some Muslim countries have a "long-standing" policy on stoning to death female adulterers, that does not make it just. I think TOC needs a serious reevaluation on whether their policy is right and just.

Whether they like it or not, PARC has changed the evidentiary landscape and people are going to reevaluate accordingly, including the decision to invite the Brandens to speak at SS. For the life of me, I can't figure out why they would stay wedded to a stodgy old policy, especially when it concerns the alleged slander of the very person's whose philosophy they are dedicated to.

I also reject the notion that if somebody is interested in AR's private life, they are motivated by a tabloid-like fascination. There are many motives at work here, most completely valid. The first and most obvious, of course, is justice concerning the reputation and legacy of a dead genius who is no longer here to defend herself.

Obviously, the question of whether Objectivism is flawed is a separate question from whether or not AR lived her life according to those principles--i.e. did she practice what she preached. However, whether or not she did IS profoundly important. One of AR's main ideas was that there is not a dichotomy between the ideal and the real, that the best is achievable here on earth. To examine whether she lived up to her own princples provides a concretization of the rightness of those principles--it provides a profound sort of spiritual/emotional fuel for those wanting to see success in action. This is particularly important for the young who come to Objectivism with a certain amount of uncertainty. So, to those who are so quick dismiss her personal life as unworthy of discussion--check your premises!!

Shayne, I hope you are right that they are open to these types of intellectual criticisms, and I hope they respond. And while I am on the topic of criticism, I have one more to offer. I was looking through the list of topics for SS, and it occurred to me that they should do a better job of integrating current events. Take, for instance, the torture controversy at Gitmo; this is a ready-made topic for one of their lecturers. Here is the talk:

Objectivism and Torture: Lectures on "Civil" Discourse by Phil Coates

Not only is this a timely lecture, but with a noninvasive and effective torture technique like that, it is sure to sell like hotcakes among the various defense department agencies.

Michael

California and pistols ...

Duncan Bayne's picture

From Packing.org:

Contrary to popular belief, CCW permits are in fact issued within the State of California. The decision is made by appointed city law enforcement or elected county law enforcement. Cities generally defer the decision to the County Sheriff; therefore, the chance of issuance varies from county to county, and from elected Sheriff to elected Sheriff. Keep that in mind when you vote.

The most recent records released by the California Department of Justice (2003) indicate that there are a total of 45,120 current CCW permits within the state. Individual counties are listed below in the locality section.

Doesn't say anything about duelling being illegal ... must be the bloody kill-joy Feds at work Eye

Arm Wrestle

sjw's picture

I'm gonna wimp out and opt for the arm-wrestle. But I'll warn Casey: I've been doing a bit of the Mentzer program this winter Eye

Second That!

Holly Valliant's picture

Linz,

My adorable husband informs me that pistols are legal in California, provided one is properly licensed and doesn't have a prior felony conviction. Dueling is, however, a legal problem. We just need to find a remote field...

I say pistols at dawn -- I'm Casey's second!

Meanwhile, Shayne can explain just why it is TOC refuses to discuss issues of substance.

Yeah!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I can see it now. Their respect cheerleaders would be yelling:

(At Shayne) "Bidinotto poodle! TOC-worshipper! PARC-denier!"

(At Casey) "Zero credibility! Waste of space! Rand-idolator!"

Hahahaha! Bring it on!!! Smiling

Love it!! :-) Attn Holly!!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Michael Moeller wrote:

Speaking of Burr and Hamilton, I think the showdown between Shayne and Casey is going to end in a duel. Now THAT would be an Objectivist event worth attending.

Holly, this is a MUST feature of our event! Since pistols are probably verboten in the land of the free, & I'm not really anxious to lose Casey OR Shayne at this point, why don't we make it an arm-wrestle?! Smiling

TOC

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I saw Ed Hudgins online here a few minutes ago. I thought maybe a post would be forthcoming. Then he disappeared. I guess I thought wrong. Smiling

Come on, Ed, you can do it!

Jesus

sjw's picture

I mean, Casey: "I thought you were referring to the Bidinotto lecture about this subject that you keep praising a priori though it has not yet appeared anywhere."

All I ever praised--and I have made this quite clear--was the SUBJECT of the talk. I EXPLICITLY didn't praise the lecture, as I haven't seen the content (and I've said this before).

Again--you can't keep track of the most basic facts, even though they are repeatedly pointed out to you--zero credibility.

But, thanks for the congrats!

Casey...

sjw's picture

"She's referring to the fact that you accept their misrepresentation of PARC as merely about personal issues. It is not. As has been said many times now, with many examples."

Well now *you're* not only misrepresenting my view (I never said that and don't think it), but I think Bidinotto's and TOC's as well (as far as I know, they never said that and don't think it).

This is why you guys have zero credibility with me, you can't even get basic facts straight, let alone arguments.

Michael

sjw's picture

Michael: The "long-standing policy" point is specifically in answer to the PARColites' accusation of TOC hypocrisy, something Casey dedicated an entire article to and continues to believe in spite of the facts.

I agree with you on the other points. It's one thing to have a questionable policy--it's an entirely different thing to not be open to questioning it. Of course, the PARColites aren't doing that, they're just hammering away on the Branden thing. As far as *I* know, TOC is quite open to *intellectual* criticisms on its policies. And if *I* were to pick something to hammer on TOC about on THIS site, my first choice would be about Linz getting booted from the SS for being critical of them.

Shayne,

Casey's picture

She's referring to the fact that you accept their misrepresentation of PARC as merely about personal issues. It is not. As has been said many times now, with many examples.

Out of patience

sjw's picture

Holly, here you go again: "You can blindly and uncritically accept the Branden/Bidinotto mischaracterization of PARC".

For the life of me, I don't even know what you are alleging here. What's this mischaracterization of PARC that I've blindly and uncritically accepted? All this time I thought we were talking about implications of PARC for TOC not characterizing PARC.

Or is it maybe that you're so fixated on PARC that you illogically see any critical response in the vicinity to be an attack on PARC?

Shayne,

Casey's picture

I thought you were referring to the Bidinotto lecture about this subject that you keep praising a priori though it has not yet appeared anywhere. If you were referring to the "We won't talk about personal issues" thing he said, then I would weigh that Bidinotto comment, and his recurrent "Amen" chorus to the notion of avoiding Rand's personal life as an issue, to his own glowing blurb that was printed on the jacket of the very Barbara Branden book in question, "The Passion of Ayn Rand."

And I would argue that the fact that Barbara was invited by TOC to speak SHORTLY AFTER the even more dreadfully dishonest and smearing film version of her book aired, far from being evidence that TOC separates this issue from their association with the Brandens, actually connects TOC to the issue in a way that they should be quite embarrassed to deny.

Really, Shayne, that long-standing policy argument is pretty weak in light of their now long-standing embrace of the Brandens, and their tributory embrace of them at this year's Summer Seminar, especially.

Congratulations on the announcement Linz made, though, BTW.

Casey

P.S. Michael -- no pistols at dawn, I hope.

Re: Long Standing Policy

mcohen's picture

In 1999, TOC invited Ms. Branden to be the keynote speaker at their 10th anniversary celebration. It was shortly after the release of the Showtime movie made after her book. There were concerns and protests from TOC members about the impropriety of inviting her in view of the movie's negative portrayal of Rand and of her philosophy. The defense offered by TOC was that Ms. Branden was not going to talk about the movie in her keynote address. Their current policy of avoiding the issue of Brandens' attacks on Rand and her philosophy is certainly not new.

Burr and Hamilton

Michael Moeller's picture

Speaking of Burr and Hamilton, I think the showdown between Shayne and Casey is going to end in a duel. Now THAT would be an Objectivist event worth attending.
Michael

Long-standing Policy?

Michael Moeller's picture

Shayne,

I am not sure I follow your line of reasoning. Are you saying that because TOC has a "long-standing" policy of not discussing AR's private life it is A-ok to bring in the Brandens to discuss other topics?

Quite frankly, I think there are some *legitimate* questions that need to be answered here in regards to their policy. And the onus is on TOC to answer them. What kind of policy is that anyway? I mean, supposedly TOC is dedicated to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, yet they have no qualms about AR's legacy being thrown to the wolves? Furthermore, they give the wolves a stage, a microphone, and an audience to howl at the moon about the behavior of other Objectivists? If you had an institute dedicated to a thinker, would you give a platform to somebody who allegedly slandered that thinker after their death?

And let's be straight, there has been NO response from TOC on this matter. Fine, but they should realize that as time keeps moving forward and their silence grows and they continue to invite the Brandens, it has more than the appearance of impropriety. "Long-standing" or not, they need to evaluate whether it is a *just* policy.

Michael

Patience?

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Test YOUR patience? You can blindly and uncritically accept the Branden/Bidinotto mischaracterization of PARC, and all of its implications, refuse to acknowledge any evidence to the contrary, refuse to respond to whole arguments, and, then, when others show you the patience of Job, despite your endless and pointless personal insults, you complain about patience-testing? You have mastered the art of projection.

Shayne

eg's picture

Shayne, the principle is "The sanction of the victim."

She Left

eg's picture

And such is that.

Sigh....

sjw's picture

You guys really test my patience. "Holly was not misleading"? Bull. You completely ignored what I said. Or are you claiming that the Brandens *are* invited to discuss their biographies? It looks like a cover to you? Well sorry, but paranoia isn't an argument. You think it's dumb? Well that's not an argument either. Where's the argument for ostracizing TOC? Nowhere. Just where you guys keep going.

And Casey--we've been over it again and again. It's beyond belief that you can lose track of the basic issues here. James seems to get the policy point I was referring to, maybe he can fill you in, I'm tired.

Not Me

Holly Valliant's picture

Linz,

You're right: this would be the perfect forum to discuss things.

Who IS afraid of them?

You Pay Them

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Holly was not misleading. Once more, it's their whole interpretation of Objectivism that's dubious. PARC is about more than Rand's "private life." Even if this were so, and even if this is a long-standing policy -- it's dumb. And, it simply looks like cover to me.

What argument are you talking about?

Casey's picture

I haven't seen anything that resembles the highly principled policy statement you have been alluding to. What are you talking about anyway?

Your arbitrary claim that the founder of TOC's statement about the issue of Barbara Branden's book is dubious and irrelevant does not make it either dubious or irrelevant, my friend. It's the 900-lb. gorilla sitting on top of Bidinotto's unhatched chicken.

The very fact that the Brandens were then embraced by TOC and brought in to speak on behalf of Objectivism at TOC events follows directly from Kelley's attitude about the subject.

Casey's chickens

sjw's picture

I didn't say that Bidinotto's got a good argument, I merely said that the SUBJECT was the right one. So you get "first things first". And get your facts straight while you're at it--they're your chickens not mine.

Your allegations about Kelley's policies are dubious and worse, irrelevant. TOC didn't establish this policy on a whim and just for PARC, it's long-standing. Or do you have a list of past TOC lectures that cover the subject of PARC? Because if you do, then I'm all on your side. Oh, you don't? Didn't think so. Because if you did you'd have advertised it loudly enough already now wouldn't you? Silly me.

Shayne, don't you know...

Casey's picture

that both Brandens, like Bidinotto, have announced their intention NOT to respond to PARC? Barbara has made a few exceptions to her stated rule, but this is what both have stated publicly.

Shayne & Holly ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Shayne - how do you mean "create a talk"? For delivery where? They're not likely to reinvite me to the SS to deliver it!! Smiling

Holly - I have no problem giving the Brandens a microphone here. I constantly faulted them for their silence. It's noteworthy that Barbara has broken that silence only at Cockroach Corner, where she knows everyone will genuflect.

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Brandens?

sjw's picture

On the contrary, the best way to stop the spread of their lies is in fact to GIVE them the microphone--assuming they'll be discussing PARC.

Your comment here is misleading: The Brandens are not invited to discuss the matters in PARC without rebuttal, they are in fact discussing related principles at a higher level, which you guys are free to do too at TOC, assuming you're capable of it.

First things first, Shayne.

Casey's picture

Bidinotto hasn't presented anything on this issue other than insults and evasive maneuvers. You're counting a chicken before it's hatched.

And TOC's founder had no such policy -- Kelley excoriated ARI for NOT debating PARC.

So I don't know where you get this "long-standing policy" stuff from. I think you're trying to put the ball in Linz's court or in all of those outside of TOC. The ball is clearly in TOC's court, and we're still waiting.

Spreading Lies and Distortion

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

If Branden lies and distortions are a given, why give them a microphone at all? To spread more? Without permitting rebuttal? Not on my dime. And not in the name of Objectivism!

Yes you have

sjw's picture

And I R E P U D I A T E you for doing so Eye

Seriously though, TOC has had a long-standing policy against the kind of material in PARC. So it's simple: Create a talk arguing with their policy. Bidinotto has created one defending it. That's the way these things should work, fundamentally, TOC is on the right method.

Now, if you create such a talk and they don't allow it, I'm all in on the bashing.

Shayne ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The Brandens are free to come here any time. I've made that clear repeatedly.

Invite the Brandens

sjw's picture

Actually, I think Linz should invite the Brandens--to come here and explain themselves. The rules are: they have to address the points raised in PARC.

TOC or ARI could do the same and I'd come to see their rebuttal, the value of open and rational debate trumps putting a few dollars in the Branden's pockets (but if they don't meet the rules then they should never be invited again--because they broke the rules not because of pseudo-Objectivist prudes).

Not been there

sjw's picture

Holly: The Branden lies & distortions are a given. I already went one further than that below and agreed they were downright harmful, that they've given moral support to Objectivism's enemies.

But poison? It's only poisonous if you'll eat anything offered. I'd feel quiet safe sitting in on one of their lectures. No doubt it'd be poisonous to some, I only have a peripheral concern for suckers. So my main concern in sitting in on one of their lectures is that I'd be putting money in their pockets. And that's a real concern.

So we've "been there done that" on the above. But the issue with TOC is entirely different. Let's see your syllogism for that. Because with your reply, you just made my point: All you have here is: "Brandens bad (and again we get the gratuitous triple underscores, highlighting, and exclaimation marks, just in case someone missed this point). TOC invites Brandens. TOC bad, QED."

Been There, Done That

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

The Brandens have promoted a twisted view of Rand and her philosophy. One can only assume that this view of Objectivism will color what they will say about both subjects in July. Witness the discussion of 'the Branden critique' below. We seem to have been there and done that quite a few times recently. They cannot be trusted on substance. They are selling an image of Rand and her ideas that Objectivism will be living down for a century if this is not corrected now. Even if you don't think that these invitations give them the TOC Seal of Approval, what they say is likely to be poison. When they discuss Rand or "bounce off" of their priceless experience with Rand, they are always grinding an axe that distorts Rand's message. You can particpate in that distortion if you like, but others are not being moralistic Randroids here. These are former TOC folks, remember?

Sarcasm isn't an argument

sjw's picture

But I wouldn't know it given your mostly vacuous use of it Holly. It's not that I object to sarcasm, it's empty sarcasm that's the problem. For instance, if it were me arguing your position, I'd have at a minimum supplied the proper syllogism to stand for all the argument for ostracizing TOC... But it occurs to me that if you put your argument in syllogistic form, you might just realize how empty it is (in spite of Casey's evidently limitless ability to generate words about this subject), so I can see why you'd avoid doing it.

And to answer your question, no one said that of course, it's my own abstraction from all of your endless words. Again, I invite you to supply the proper abstraction if mine's wrong.

The playing field is open

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Michelle,

In my opinion both organizations do not yet do enough to bring in outside talent. At least TOC tries. A couple of the best conferences that I ever attended were put on by Virginia Postrel, then of the Reason Foundation. These Dynamic Visions conferences in 1999 and 2000 included some of the best content I've seen at conferences anywhere. Unfortunately that organization has gone downhill quite quickly.

Eric Raymond gave a terrific lecture on open source software, Michael Schrage gave a terrific talk on rapid prototyping, Bob Zubrin gave a talk on his Mars direct plan, Gregory Stock gave a talk of human germline genetic engineering, Neil Gershenson(sp?) from MIT's media labs gave a talk on wearable computing, and Virginia Postrel gave a talk on her own book, The Future and its Enemies.

All of these people are people that Peter Schwartz would find unacceptable and yet they are the embodiment of Objectivist virtues and a fertile area for possible growth of the Objectivist movement. I found most of the people there quite receptive to Rand's ideas.

Jim

James H-N,>The playing

mcohen's picture

James H-N,

"The playing field is open. Why doesn't ARI invite some of this talent to speak at their seminars?"

I can certainly understand if ARI rather not invite those who speak at TOC, in view of TOC's smearing of ARI and their endorsement of the Brandens.

-- Michelle

Re: Making your views known

mcohen's picture

James H-N,

It's been ten years since Branden was first invited to speak at IOS, and nine years since both Brandens were invited to the "Atlas and the World" event in DC. Since then, many former and current TOC members made their views about the Brandens known very clearly, some by leaving. TOC chose to ignore these views. Good luck to you.

Michelle

I agree James

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Lindsay,

I agree that TOC's actions in regards to the Brandens are unfortunate. Jackie Hazelton of Arizona Objectivists is having a discussion on PARC on March 18th. I will be moved out there in time to join that discussion. Right now I'm going to air my views with those local TOC-associated club leaders who are sympathetic and try to get some movement on the issue.

Jim

Twilight Zone-ism

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

That's it, Shayne, you got me! That's the very syllogism at play! QED! How could I have missed it? (Who did say that, btw?) What insight!

What's it worth then?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

It's worth making my own views heard loud and clear. The day may come when I reach a crisis of conscience over showing up to an event with the Brandens, but that day hasn't come yet for me.

Jim

Intrinsicism

sjw's picture

Holly: It seems "mere rationalization" to you because you're being a intrinsicist about it. To you, this is all self-evident, not needing any principled defense--PARC proved the case against the Brandens, therefore it proves the case against TOC (even though it said zilch about movements in general), QED. Classic intrinsicism.

The weirdly ironic thing about it is that PARC seems written on the premise that the case against the Brandens is NOT self-evident, and has in fact persuaded the very people who used to be subject to the same kind of ARI zealotry that PARC thumpers are now engaged in. If your attitude about TOC were right then PARC should never have been written in the first place. PARC-thumpers want to have their PARC and eat it too.

Huh?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

No, I agree that many people choose to try to change each organization from within. Each person then has to ask themselves which organization they think is worth changing or strike out on their own. You and I obviously have a difference of opinion on which organization is worth changing.

Jim

What's It Worth Then?

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Let me make myself perfectly clear.

My scruples are such that I could never associate with TOC in any way -- precisely because it provides assistance to the Brandens in the name of "Objectivism." The damage from this far exceeds any "snottiness" that has ever been alleged against ARI, and the world is still benefiting from the work of George Reisman.

I deeply respect others who share my position despite a former affiliation with TOC. Mr. Branden's cousin, Dr. Blumenthal left TOC after it first invited Branden to speak.

This is indeed "intolerance." This is also a matter of conscience. It is also a matter of substantive, philosophical principles, Objectivist principles, already well articulated.

This does not mean, however, that I refuse to engage others, like yourself, who do still associate with TOC. It may not be worth leaving in your eyes, but what IS it worth? A complaint, a letter, a private word? Is everything just fine with you -- given what I think is your opinion of the Branden biographies?

Quine

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Michelle,

Fair enough. Point taken.

Jim

Work being done

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Michelle,

The playing field is open. Why doesn't ARI invite some of this talent to speak at their seminars?

Jim

Re: Work being done

mcohen's picture

James H-N

You wrote: "In my experience in scientific and technical circles, however, people tend to think that the Brandens issue is secondary to the philosophical work that gets done and progress on the interface between science, psychology and philosophy."

But the work is done outside of TOC, by speakers who bring their knowledge and talent to the Summer Seminars.

Re: Quine

mcohen's picture

James H.N. -

I pointed out the course on Quine in this year's ARI seminar because you indicated that for those interested in the philosophy of science, only TOC has anything to offer. Here is the description of the course on Quine:

The late W. V. Quine was one of the most influential American philosophers of the 20th century, and the story of his philosophy is in many ways the story of 20th-century "analytic" philosophy. This course will survey and evaluate central points of Quine's philosophy.

Inspired by Bertrand Russell and mentored by Rudolf Carnap, Quine was steeped in the early tradition of logical positivism and linguistic analysis. But, in time, Quine came to reject central tenets of the analytic tradition. His critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction and the empiricist criterion of meaning were instrumental in dethroning the orthodoxy of logical positivism, ushering in a new era of "naturalism" in philosophy that persists to this day.

Although Quine portrayed himself as a defender of science and objectivity, his basic philosophic premises imply a skepticism more like contemporary postmodernism than Quine was willing to admit. Understanding this will help explain why even the best of today's philosophers remain under the sway of ideas that are at odds with science and reason.

-- Michelle

Still In Orbit

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

"Contempt" for "principles" Bidinotto hasn't shared with us yet? However, since everyone already knows what Bidinotto's conclusion will be -- i.e., "those folks leaving TOC over this issue are wrong" -- it does seem to be a mere rationalization for a policy that pre-dated any of these innovative "principles."

What "case" are the TOC "thumpers" making? (Can you even see the insult here?) TOC is wrong to endorse and promote the Brandens while simultaneously permitting only ONE side of an issue -- so substantive an issue that they're losing lecturers over it -- to be even be heard.

Huh?

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Even if I were to stipulate to this alleged "insularity and snottiness" on ARI's part (I'll have to take your word for it) this "choice" is hardly an exclusive one. One can work to change either, both, or start a whole new group -- right? TOC or ARI -- as is -- take 'em or leave 'em?

I agree James ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... about the "insularity & snottiness" of the ARI being harmful. But I've also come to the view, for reasons anyone here knows, that TOC's "involvement with the Brandens" is far more pernicious than I first realised. And they are now rubbing our noses in it. The Brandens, of all people, to talk about "Objectivist community," under TOC's auspices?! Those lying, conniving, back-stabbing smearers talking about "community"? Gimme a break!

TOC's behaviour these past few weeks has been unprincipled & cowardly. "Bad faith" writ large.

Spread of Objectivism

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Casey,

I think the general insularity and snottiness of ARI as influenced by Peikoff, Binswanger, and Schwartz has had much more to do with retarding the growth of Objectivism than the Branden biographies and TOC's involvement with the Brandens. Each of these issues is a strong negative for each of the respective largest institutions of Objectivism. People make their own choices about which of these two problems is worse.

Jim

Well,

Casey's picture

Actually I was referring to Michelle, Lindsay and Greg Perkins, all of whom cited TOC's blind endorsement of the Brandens as reason for leaving. Michelle has stated right here at this site that PARC and TOC's endorsement of the Brandens was the tipping point for her.

I was not referring to my experience here. I'm referring to the fact that TOC's Branden endorsement gives a pass to those outside of Objectivism to still trade in the false claims of the Brandens when referring to Rand. If both ARI and TOC repudiated the Brandens' lies, it would be much harder for these myths to continue circulating. While TOC holds out and invites the Brandens to their functions, outside commentators can conclude that even within Objectivist circles the Brandens' accounts are still held to be valid, so bombs away. TOC is not just refusing to comment, which is bad enough, they are continuing to hold the Brandens up as representatives of Rand's ideas in good standing among those who admire Rand.

Subjectivism

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Shayne,

I obviously don't think TOC should be ostracized and condemned and I think there are solid objective reasons to support them Smiling.I gauge my level interaction based on whether I like what they are doing at any given time. I think not circumscribing what the Brandens talk about vis-a-vis Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement is a definite negative. However, I think what they are doing in philosophy of science, cognitive science and psychology is an enormous positive.

My take is that there are valid personal preferences for why some people might prefer ARI to TOC. I don't think that is subjective, but it is individual, specific and context-driven.

Jim

Independents

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Shayne,

I agree with your assessment. There have been times when the TOC programs have been a little soft, 2002-2003 come to mind, but the last three years have seen very strong programs and I think the trend is a very positive one.

I also agree with you that they should not have dealt with Lindsay in the manner they did. That smacks of behavior more typical of ARI.

I've had experiences with Darryl Wright(ARI) and I only have positive things to say about him. He was a terrific teacher in college. I also attended club meetings with Gary Hull and Linda Reardan (when she was still aligned with ARI) and I learned a lot from them. However, ARI has institutional issues surrounding intellectual freedom, independence and open inquiry that still need to be addressed.

Jim

Subjectivism

sjw's picture

Jim: Either TOC should be condemned and ostracized or they shouldn't; it's not a matter of personal preference.

In order to know that, we need more than the PARC-thumpers' thumping it and pointing to TOC and repeating "you invited the Brandens" over and over. The one legitimate point the PARC thumpers have is that the Brandens have done a lot to give moral support to Objectivism's enemies. Just watch whatever part of Barbara's movie you can stomach and you can see that. The moral support and the harm it can cause is real; the basic questioning of TOC for inviting the Brandens is legitimate.

However the PARC thumpers have really dropped the ball when it comes to building a solid case here. They're spending far too much time foaming and not enough time reasoning. Further, they hold contempt for Bidinotto's attempt to raise the discussion to the level of principles--and that's a nail in their coffin as far as I'm concerned. When it comes right down to it, it's really just the same old ARI behavior all over again. So ironically and tragically, PARC has so far only been used to further cement these destructive patterns into the Objectivist movement.

Well

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Casey,

I'm assuming by the three speakers TOC, you mean Diana Hsieh, Michelle Fram-Cohen and Lindsay Perigo? Diana and Michelle found that they liked ARI better. I have no issue with that. Lindsay stated his reasons for bowing out of the Summer Seminar and I thought they were reasonable.

I'm not arguing for the Brandens, they were in the wrong. In my experience in scientific and technical circles,however, people tend to think that the Brandens issue is secondary to the philosophical work that gets done and progress on the interface between science, psychology and philosophy.

You've obviously had a different experience in the literary arena and that affects your priorities.

Jim

Independents

sjw's picture

Jim,

You wrote: "I think there are Objectivists who do better on the ARI side and I think there are Objectivists who are more comfortable on the TOC side and there are some who prefer to be independent."

As an "independent" I can tell you that *I* don't prefer to be that way! Really I wish ARI would be more accepting of independence. Seems that independence is the most difficult thing for a lot of Objectivists to swallow--ironically enough.

Of course, I've never given TOC a chance, maybe I'd like TOC. I defintitely like the scientific side of things, and greatly prefer at least the idea behind Bidinotto's talk to the incessant and repetitive TOC-bashing that's been going on here. As far as I'm concerned, TOC has really only done one thing that's obviously wrong: give Linz a "shut up or don't come" ultimatum.

Religion

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Glenn,

TOC doesn't respect religion. It respects and allows individual people to learn more about the Objectivist philosophy while realizing that they may not accept the philosophy in one huge gulp.

Jim

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