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.

( categories: )

Beam Me Up, Scotty

sjw's picture

Holly: If James had written a philosophical work I'm nearly 100% certain TOC would gladly have him present it. Indeed, I suggested to him that he give us the principles by which we could condemn or sanction TOC--but as I recently discovered, it looks like Robert Bidinotto's beat him to it--he's in fact offering just such a lecture on these principles James finds so hard to enunciate. I wish I could be there to see it, it promises to be interesting (though having not heard it I'm not vouching for it--but at least Bidinotto is going to the level of principles, it's far, far more than I can say for you guys).

PARC is primarily about Rand's "private life" (Hello!?!). And like anything else, there's philosophic discussion to be had about it. But PARC is not a philosophic work, nor would it seem that James is particularly good at philosophy (Hello!?!).

Keep shouting about TOC's evasion, whim, blindness, credibility--as long as you refuse to state and validate your principles, you're nothing more than a religious zealot as far as I'm concerned. One who happens to have gotten an issue here and there right, but beyond that, is rather clueless.

Earth, Here

Holly Valliant's picture


Great progress was made from our last roundabout, whether or not you made any from it, personally. Just the assertion that PARC is only about Rand's "private life" implies something about its seriousness. (Hello!?!) Your blindness here is the only "distortion." Your failure to see the obvious implication of TOC's evasion also makes me unconcerned about your assessments of anyone else's "credibility." Twist all you like, TOC's "official" position cannot logically be to evade serious philosophical issues about Objectivism out of personal whim. If it is, then TOC is much worse than anyone imagined.

Value presupposes Valuer

sjw's picture

Linz: PARC isn't a value in and of itself. It's primarily valuable if you've been duped by the Brandens into buying into their corruptions of Objectivism and psychologizing about Ayn Rand. I had *thought* it was also valuable in that it represented a proper way of dealing with these controversial issues--in the open--but I am not so sure anymore that it meant that to Valliant and I'm now dubious about what value I initially thought I was seeing. It's possible I read the book too hastily, precisely because I was not so much in need of being convinced by it. Indeed, I read rather quickly through Valliant's comments and more slowly through Rand's notes because just watching her think is valuable.

I don't know whether Ed thinks the issue itself is serious or not, but evidently *he* doesn't regard it as very important for himself to read, maybe that's because he already thinks highly of Ayn Rand and hasn't bought into the Branden garbage, but you'd have to ask him. Since I don't know him I can't speculate.

Shayne ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

On the old SOLOHQ, on November 22, TOC's Exec Dir wrote this about PARC, to Robert Campbell:

Robert -- Great to have you back posting on SOLO! How are you doing? Very thoughtful analysis of the Valient/Rand book. I've only glanced at it since I'm more interested in the ideas rather than personality issues, but I'll give the AR entries a read.

That doesn't bespeak a belief that the book raises serious issues, especially since Ed has said nothing since. Did he "give the AR entries a read"? If so, what were his conclusions?

Truth vs. Sloppiness

sjw's picture

Holly: I've already been round and round with you guys about TOC and as far as I'm concerned you've got zero credibility with me about them--so I don't care to debate with you about it and that's not what my response was about.

I am not a TOC supporter myself, but if there's one thing I can't tolerate it's baseless, fact-distorting accusations against ANYONE--TOC, ARI, Peikoff, Kelley, or (heaven help me) you.

Very serious

Lindsay Perigo's picture


Based on a good deal of data, self-disclosed and otherwise, Rand diagnosed Branden as one who held Objectivism like a religion, as an intrinsicist and a rationalist with, as Casey observes, a "Kantian stylized universe." Ms. Speicher's observations are hardly surprising. Invariably, Branden imputes his own confusions to Rand herself, despite his personal knowledge to the contrary.

Indeed. And given that intrinsicist/rationalist religiosity is the mark of a Randroid, this underscores the accuracy of my proposed slogan: Brandenians Are Randroids! (It also undercores that my quip to Shayne earlier about Mormons is no mere quip!) The irony of this is just beginning to sink in with me.


Very Well

Holly Valliant's picture

I'm sorry, Shayne, this was a simple (and, maybe too generous, you're right) inference from what they say they DO talk about.

So, is it your position that TOC acknowledges that there are serious issues, but they refuse to discuss them anyway?

You wait a minute

sjw's picture

Who at TOC has ever said that there are no serious issues involved?

Quotes please.


Holly Valliant's picture

Hey, wait a minute! Didn't you guys get the TOC memo? PARC is just about Rand's "private life," and there are no "serious" issues involved! Geez, hadn't we cleared that up already?

Very Serious

James S. Valliant's picture


Based on a good deal of data, self-disclosed and otherwise, Rand diagnosed Branden as one who held Objectivism like a religion, as an intrinsicist and a rationalist with, as Casey observes, a "Kantian stylized universe." Ms. Speicher's observations are hardly surprising. Invariably, Branden imputes his own confusions to Rand herself, despite his personal knowledge to the contrary.

Getting serious again ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Diana has linked to Casey's article here on her blog. Among the comments subsequently posted was this, by Betsy Speicher:

RT wrote:

"An interesting point Casey raises is to what extent the *Brandens* were responsible for any "cult-like" atmosphere that might have existed in Objectivism.

"I suspect they were *entirely* responsible."

I was there and you're right. I attended the NBI lectures and was active in Objectivist-related political groups. Although I really wanted to like Branden, because Ayn Rand valued him, I couldn't. I didn't like the way he treated people -- especially curious, independent, and outspoken people -- and the weird people he encouraged.

I remember one lecture when I asked something (I no longer remember what) in the Q + A. Branden looked down at me disdainfully. He was in the process of saying he wouldn't dignify my question with an answer when Miss Rand, who was sharing the podium with him that night, physically put her hand out in front of him and stopped him in mid-sentence. "That's a very GOOD question," she declared and then proceeded to answer it.

There was that group of people that hung around Branden, and he loved it. He would brag about his exploits at the Playboy Mansion, show off his Gucci loafers, drop names of celebrities he knew and they would eat it all up. They also demonstrated their loyalty to Branden by imitating his disdainful air and arrogant swaggers and by distancing themselves from and / or attacking anyone he didn't seem to like. One night after a lecture, out of the blue, a "Brandroid" ring leader came up to me and loudly announced in front of a group of 8 - 10 of her friends that "The trouble with you, Betsy, is that you ask too many questions and you smile too much."

Now, the way the Brandens tell it, it was Rand who was "arrogant and disdainful" and they who took their cue from her, albeit trying to temper her excesses.

Compare this to the Brandens' portrait of Rand as an advocate of repression versus Rand's journal entries in PARC where she's wondering how she might get Nathaniel to DErepress.

The evidence mounts that they have been trying all these years to blame Rand for things for which they were responsible and characteristics which were/are in fact their own.

I still think BB's response here to a spot-on post by Glenn Heppard said it all. On the face of it, it sounds like classic Rand. At least, classic Rand-the-way-the-Brandens-painted-her. But it's Barbara, in 2005, and this is entirely her own work. Instead of addressing Glenn's points, each one of which was entirely valid, she sniffed:

Glenn, do you really suppose that I would engage in a discussion with someone who begins it by accusing me of evading, being driven by my emotions, and ignoring evidence?In future, you might spare yourself the effort of announcing your beliefs to me, for fear of learning the exact value I find in them. This is my last communication with you.

I can see a new T-Shirt slogan here: "Brandenians Are Randroids!"



Lindsay Perigo's picture

He doesn't know the half of it.

Neither do you, Quintana.



Jason Quintana's picture

Come on Valliant we don't want the outside world to know what goes on in SOLO's inner circles.....

Don't Forget...

James S. Valliant's picture

Now, now, you guys are acting like babies have no value whatever -- when you know we need them for the Satanic rituals.


Robert's picture

Why bother? If the kid is crying, smelly & in the woods, wild animals will do the job for you!

Objectivists! Always doing things the hard way!

Shayne ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You wrote:

Linz: "I fully expect the title of Michael’s next article to be Ayn the Altruist, with content to match."
I once knew a Mormon who thought he liked Ayn Rand and thought that she was essentially Mormon ...

Problem is, so do many Objectivists!

On baby starvation

Andrew Bissell's picture

Leaving a baby to starve would be gross negligence. It should be killed immediately to rid the world of its crying, diaper-fouling presence.

I have a high opinion of Ed Thompson ...

Duncan Bayne's picture

... and his position on this issue has just raised that position even higher. Well stated, Ed.


Robert's picture


Or feeding starving

Jason Quintana's picture

Or feeding starving children...

I gave up on MSK and his

Robert's picture

I gave up on MSK and his posts early on.

The reason wasn't philosophical but physical. I couldn't be bothered swimming through the excess verbage, LOL!, DAYAMM, and Col. Sanders impersonations. The fact that you all could do so is a tribute to your intestinal fortitude.

Given that the Objectivist Living consists almost entirely of long MSK posts, it begs the question: how does MSK make a living? Has he found a way to eat HTML code and pay the rent with blog-rolls?

We are talking about a man who racked up ~thirteen thousand~ Atlas points on SOLOHQ. Seriously, doesn't the guy sleep? Imagine if he put that much effort into curing Cancer or inventing cold fusion...

What he has posted is a

John M Newnham's picture

What he has posted is a backpedalling, revisionist travesty. For those that have the stomache, read the thread in question, follow the river of his dishonesty, then if you aren't puking, read some of the other threads on which he has held forth. You will find he is very consistent.

My name is John, and yes I am an asshole:)

Supplicants may present

John M Newnham's picture

Supplicants may present offerings at The Branden Temple (ObjectivistLiving), and service times are posted.

"The Thread"

Jason Quintana's picture

The arguement was never about the obligation to take care of our own
kids. That was stipulated early on. Parents of course do have a chosen obligation. Esentially it started with a very simple argument by Ed Thompson stating that he isn't responsible for all of the world's starving children.

He said :

"If a billion unproductive folks had another 7 billion children,
effectively doubling the Earth's population -- would these newborns
"deserve" aid? What if these unproductive folks went "all-out" and had
14 billion kids, would this quadrupling of the population place an
unchosen obligation on the "producers" living on this planet?"

MSK jumped in and began making statements like :

"Decent people pitch in, help clean up the mess and move on. The all-or-nothing dudes prefer to split hairs on whether rights are inherent to man's nature and simply pretend that emergencies do not exist. They have any number of rationalizations to cover this up, too, like diverting the issue of emergencies to "rights" when the concept is not exactly appropriate to that context."

But of course the discussion was not about decency. It was about the problem of unchosen obligations and individual rights. We told MSK over and over again that we agree that it is decent to help people in bad situations but that government enforced obligations to help are clear violations of individual rights.

And this is the exact arguement that MSK took up. He wants laws setup requiring such charitable acts. After a few more posts debunking his argument he broke out with the starving baby in the woods scenario and then proceeded to call everyone who said : "Yes, I would feed the baby but I wouldn't support the idea of forcing other people to do it." an advocate of murder and baby starvation. Several people got pissed off about this and began denouncing MSK, who proceeded to make the same basic argument and accusation over and over again with various slippery twists and turns.

In the end his argument was "since children have a right to life, then your failure to feed them when they are starving is a violation of those rights and you are responsible for their death".

This went on for several days and hundreds of posts and in the end he smeared several of his best buddies on the site -- calling them advocates of child murder for not agreeing with his plan for (supposidly Objectivist compatible) government imposed obligations.

- Jason


Lindsay Perigo's picture

From reading that one would certainly think you were all a bunch of assholes. He's definitely in full-blown martyr mode right now. But I know from experience how he can twist & convolute. Is he arguing for laws prosecuting folk who refrain from feeding a starving child? Any starving child? One's own starving child (when, unless one is starving oneself & unable to access food, there's certainly a default on the obligation one took on when bringing the child into the world)? Is he simply calling for debate on the issue? It's hard to tell from what he's posted on his site, & I suspect it would be even harder to tell if I went to the orginal thread, which I have neither the time nor inclination for.


Jason Quintana's picture

(I really need to use spell check today)

A spectacle to behold...

Casey's picture

MSK runs off at the mouth so profusely and recklessly it's like watching a machine gun at the end of a Water Wiggle. After 10,000 bullets fly into everyone around him, one of them nicks the target of conversation and he proclaims himself a master marksman who wonders why everyone is cursing him and running for cover. Simply amazing. (Here's a link to Whammo's Water Wiggle for those who are unfamiliar with the reference:

I had to look

Jason Quintana's picture

Yes, MSK couldn't give it up. He decided to take it to his own website. He also changed the parameters of the discussion in his discription of it so that the people reading it on his website believe that the discussion was primarily about the decency of helping starving children.  He follows this up by again claiming that there is a need for laws punishing cold hearted Objectivists who refuse to feed them.

And of course Michael is the heroic defender of them -- especially those multitudes of them left starving in forests being allowed to die by cold hearted Objectivists -- an argumentative diversion that he himself invented half way through the original thread so that he could accuse us of being heartless advocates of murder.

Obviously none of us ever argued against the decency of helping starving children and we reminded him of this over and over and over again from the very outset of the discussion. The rest of his post is just typical MSK mush.  In any event, here are more smears from MSK over on the website I will call "Michael's LA LA Land" :


- Jason

"Sister Rand"

sjw's picture

Linz: "I fully expect the title of Michael’s next article to be called Ayn the Altruist, with content to match."

I once knew a Mormon who thought he liked Ayn Rand and thought that she was essentially Mormon, to the point that he even taught out of "Virtue of Selfishness" in Sunday School and called her "Sister Rand".

And he could give you all sorts of parallels too, e.g., Rand hates Original Sin, so does Mormonism; Rand likes productivity and honesty, so does Mormonism, blah, blah, blah, "I'm a clueless fool", blah blah.

Like MSK, he could go on and on and on about what Rand allegedly thought and about his "insights" into it. Funny thing was, when I brought up the subject of Objectivist epistemology and the Mormon parallels to *that*, he shut right up and never talked to me about Rand again.

Objectivism is primarily about method--if you don't get that, you just don't get it.

Jason Q!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You said, of MSK:

He entered the thread essentially advocating altruism and positive rights. ...

I had to laugh. In my essay attacking his ghastly cheek-turning number, months ago, I said:

Michael wants to do his bit in ushering in the age of the soft-sell and bringing an end to religion-“bashing.” (Disagree with him and you’re a pretend “kick-ass intellectual.” There he goes again!) Well, if he were advocating clarity without dogmatism, KASS without hysteria, reasonableness without appeasement, I would agree with him. But as far as I can tell, he’s pitching for an Objectivism that is New-Aged to the point where it is not only unrecognisable as Objectivism, but is antithetical to it. His Brandenian slip is showing.
I fully expect the title of Michael’s next article to be Ayn the Altruist, with content to match.

Now, I expect grovelling genuflection to my prescience! Smiling

Baby-starvers? Disgraceful! I can't speak for the folk on RoR, but we don't starve babies here on SOLO. We drown 'em.

Seriously, I wonder what on earth he ever thought he was doing. In any event, Ms Branden has surely found a home at his place.


House Cleaning

Kenny's picture

Brant, it needs to be done some time. Better late than never. I am in process of doing mine, albeit privately.

Jesus H. Christ

eg's picture

Take that!


Kenny's picture

You said that you don't recognize your own opinions from Casey's garbled synopses. Casy said

"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)."

These, I think, are your comments on MSK's site that Casy was referring to

"She constructs an entire edifice of "explanation" in those July 4 notes to herself, an edifice which I'd describe as being more in the nature of philosophic invention than of psychological "detection." (Granted, she makes a few perceptive points, but the total explanatory edifice she builds is artifical.)

"But she's being denied major facts," the response might be made. Yes, she is. And, yes, as she says several times she suspects, there is something conscious operative in Nathaniel's problems. He's lying to her; he's actually having an affair with Patrecia, and has been having an affair with Patrecia for several years. But I submit that had Ayn been astute at detecting psychological signs, she'd have had enough evidence from her "stomach feelings" within the first few months of Nathaniel's and Patrecia's affair to discern what was going on. He's clearly been talking about Patrecia to Ayn often; there's even been some form of "Patrecia break" between Nathaniel and Ayn (the details of which aren't specified). And she's had opportunity to observe Patrecia and Nathaniel together -- hence to pick up the "vibrations" between them. Geez, I picked up the "vibrations" -- the body language -- between Ayn and Nathaniel on a public -- a very public -- occasion (the only time I saw the two of them together) years before the Split. (The occasion was her MacCormack Place speech in fall of '63; I was sitting in the front row a couple seats to the right of the podium facing the podium. And I was watching specifically for the body language, since I already had suspicions of a romantic involvement between the two of them.) How much more opportunity did Ayn have for observing Patrecia and Nathaniel together? Why didn't she see? (Reading her journal entries, I kept feeling the desire to reach back through time and to say to her, "Where are your eyes, woman?! Open those large eyes of yours and look!") I feel that, supposing I had never heard of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden before reading the journal entries, supposing I was reading them as my first knowledge of the persons involved, I would suspect just from details she reports that what Nathaniel was consciously hiding from her was an affair-in-progress with the young woman in the scene. Ayn comes across to me naive."

Casy's comments on your post seem more than fair, perhaps even kind, to me.


eg's picture

Thanks for the link.

MSK is Finished

Jason Quintana's picture

After that outragous and disgraceful thread MSK is finished in Objectivist circles. I don't think he'll ever be accepted in an Objectivist group again.

He entered the thread esstially advocating altruism and positive rights. All of his arguments were destroyed very early on. Sensing this he spent about a week trying to squirm and twist the discussion to a point in which he could call a bunch of us who wouldn't let him smuggle contradictory and irrational ideas into Objectivism advocates of baby starvation. Several of those smeared in this fashion were among MSK's best friends on that website. He called us supporters of murder! And he did this over and over again.

Any ounce of respect or good will I might have had due to some pleasant exchanges I had with MSK in the past are gone. I advise those you of who think that the MSK bashers go overboard to spend a half an hour and read that entire thread. It is easily the worst display of dishonesty and malicous Objectivist bashing I have ever seen on any of these message forums.

- Jason

Why Indeed

James S. Valliant's picture


Mr. Branden was lying about much more than an affair -- he was hiding his growing intellectual differences with Rand, and he and Ms. Branden were lying about even their esthetic tastes! At first -- before Branden's efforts to convince Rand that she was a nobody who could mean nothing to him -- Rand liked Patrecia, we are told. In fact, Rand did suggest an affair for Branden, a suggestion the Brandens chose not to share with us. No, Branden was lying about the very nature of his soul. Patrecia was just the most visible symptom of this deception.

The Brandens believed that they needed Rand's enthusiastic endorsement to keep "what they built." (What "they had built" with Rand's ideas, from Rand's audience, and on Rand's endorsement.)

That's why.


Casey's picture

You said you believe the Brandens about Rand because they lied to her. The reasoning being: Why would they have lied if she wasn't what they claimed she was?

Plain enough?

Go read it, folks. Here's the link:


You ask, "So what do they [Valliant and Fahy] see as the motive? Lying for the sake of lying?" No, and that's what I answered.

OK, Brant,

Casey's picture

Here's the link:

It's the same kind of thing I dealt with from him too many times, and he wound up getting four people to request being pulled off the member list of his site today as a result. I couldn't help but think, "Well, now you folks know how it feels."

I appreciate your long history with the Brandens and that it cost a lot to break away. I think the commentary on this issue at a site where they are present encourages the worst kind of fawning dishonesty and the kind of smudging of reality that lets the Brandens off the hook. And there's no reason to let them off the hook when they continue to preside over that stuff, inspire it, encourage it.

There are two ways to deal with yourself after you have done really rotten things to someone you benefited from -- you can condemn moral anger as such or you can get morally angry AT YOURSELF (so other people don't have to). At least the latter is a step back toward a moral universe.

It's too bad, but I'm convinced the Brandens are incorrigible. I suppose they wouldn't have done what they did if they were accustomed to getting morally angry at themselves. They're too ruthless for that. They're hiding from PARC like vampires from daylight, and it's simply disgusting when they have so much to account for. Instead they continue to disaparage Objectivism, psychologize opponents, "reveal" more unreliable dirt about Rand, and all the while pose as representatives of her philosophy. You don't have to be an Objectivist to be nauseated by it: they don't just lack integrity, they throw it away with both hands and then look for high-fives from the mob. They appeal to the lowest common denominator in the crowd while Rand appealed to the highest in the individual. Why they even call themselves Objectivists is anyone's guess. But hey -- it's a living.

To Anyone Interested...

Ellen Stuttle's picture reading what I actually said on MSK's list, I recommend doing just that. You needn't subscribe to the list to read the posts there. I don't recognize my own opinions from Casey's garbled synopses.

Ellen Stuttle


eg's picture

I didn't read his "baby killers" post and have no intention of trying to find it over there. I take your word for that. But I really would appreciate a reference so I can go read it; only Roger Bissel posts more than MSK does. I was confirming the accuracy of some of Dr. Hessen's remarks. I broke with Barbara Branden late last year. Some of Ellen Stuttle's observations were quite good. I'm going back to reread them for the psychologizing parts. As for my feelings generally for the Brandens: I go back nearly 35 years with them in the last incarnation, 42 overall if we ignore a 3 1/2 year break and I know I'll never be able to flush all that they meant to me away. Pardon me if I don't have the strength to condemn them to Objectivist hell, however deserving. As for MSK, I don't think he is "evil" or "mentally ill" as someone who posts here thinks he might be, but he certainly is an emotionalist which helps explain much of the shit he got into as a young man and whom Linz praised his autobio about that and published in his magazine.



Casey's picture

I guess I don't know where you're coming from. I see you ingratiating yourself to MSK on that other forum you post at, the one with Barbara Branden, regardless of his vile logic-twisting and name-calling, the latest example being his branding a bunch of perfectly reasonable folks over at RoR "baby killers," then you come here and say something that sounds rather despondent about cannibalizing Rand and other things and now you're taking a stand against Perigo for saying that you ride the fence? Well, whatever. I won't waste the time writing posts you consider unreasonable, even though you seemed to agree with everything I stated in response to Ellen Stuttle, who you didn't seem to disagree with over at the other site... OK, whatever, I guess.

? Casey ?

eg's picture

I was hoping that the very narrow sense I used "cannibal" would be obvious, which was a positive and moral one. It was easy enough to take the reins and run away with the rider. I condemn Nathaniel Branden for all the lying he did to Ayn Rand and for continuing significant misrepresentations after the break. I condemn Barbara Branden for the same. I condemn Leonard Peikoff (and Ayn Rand) for demanding he and Ayn Rand be taken on faith and then for not coming right out and addressing Barbara's biography as such at the time of publication instead of letting the Brandens get the defaulted high ground position for all these years and for his using Ayn Rand's name (ARI) to state stupid(?)/mediocre(?)/brillant(?) positions on current events implying he was speaking for that genius. Give her credit; she didn't want that. I condemn Lindsay Perigo for incessant name calling. I condemn myself for letting anybody get the impression I am wishy-washy.

Can we now get back to reason? I am willing to pass on reasonable considering the nature of this forum.



Lindsay Perigo's picture

That was wasted on Brant, I'm sure, who switches camps on a daily basis and appears to have no moral compass whatsoever (meaning he's really in the Branden camp). But it was magnificent! Tiger, tiger, burning bright!!!! Bravo!


Casey's picture

I can tell you, as someone who has finished four novels, that the more serious the novel, the more empty and uncertain of the world you have just given that novel to you feel. Some of my books, the one's that deal with the most serious issues, may never see the light of day -- the publishing world is more monochromatic than it has been in the realm of fiction for quite some time now. Feeling depressed after pouring years of your best thought and most passionate expression into a work as complex as a novel is quite normal, but even moreso when the ideas expressed are not mainstream and are doomed to be dismissed in the crassest political terms by less creative people who cleave to some stultifying party line. So, when I think of how she must have felt after writing that novel, well...

As for what the Brandens "identified" about Rand, I don't give them the credit you do there. I always knew that any philosophy needs to be "open" in one respect, and that is in the actual living of life. Philosophy is not the purpose of life -- life is the purpose of philosophy. Likewise, morality is not the purpose of life -- life is the purpose of morality. The Brandens cannibalized Rand, and wasted her life, to better themselves for a short-term and materialistic gain, and lied about their true selves to do it. I don't view gaining values honestly from another person as cannibalism. No. That is too much a case of throwing up one's hands to discover the Brandens were sharks and saying "Well, we're all sharks, I guess." No. The reason for honesty and integrity in the living of life is precisely so that we do not try to gain the world at the expense of our souls. The Brandens have to live with the results of treating philosophy and morality as dispensible, as something that could be gotten around with a shortcut in obtaining a purely materialistic goal. They gave up Rand's spirit to gnaw on her bones. They resorted to cannibalism, and they deserve to live with the fact that they squandered their professed values in return for profits.

I note that Ellen Stuttle is now claiming that the only reason the Brandens lied to Rand is that she would have ended everything they built. What a curious case of putting the cart before the horse. Repeatedly, Rand defines a total break with Branden as meaning a continuation of only their business relationship. She never removed his writings from the Objectivist canon, for example. His work was not the issue. After concealing so much from her and making her engage in a years-long charade of psychological counseling, taxing her brain to work on an entirely phony diversionary tactic, the Brandens needed to tell the world there was really a completely different reason she broke all ties with them -- and used the affair to put up a sensational smokescreen (and, later, to sell books), and painted a portrait of Rand that would make this stick and make them look like victims. The reason Branden lied, to everyone, including his wife for a couple of years(!!) about his affair with Patrecia was that he did not feel it would reflect well upon himself. Instead of saying, damn it, she is important to me and I don't care what Rand thinks, he chose to cover it up and lead Rand on at the same time. Rand certainly was not uptight about sex -- she obviously didn't mind his marriage to Barbara and suggested that he have an affair with a young woman (this last something neither Branden saw fit to mention in their biographies, tellingly -- it wouldn't have fit the portrait they were drawing of her). Rand even wonders in her notes why Branden seems to require her approval over his love life.

It was his relationship with Patrecia that he felt she would object to, not affairs as such, so much so that he denigrated Patrecia to Rand as his inferior, and as someone he felt sorry for. Why did he think that about Patrecia? Ask Branden! HE turned it into a smutty secret that he lied to Rand and Barbara about. It was obvious that Rand did not object to affairs -- she had had one with Branden! He was afraid to show Rand his true soul as reflected in his attraction to Patrecia.

To pin the lying on Rand's intolerance and jealousy is an amazing perversion. To pin her subsequent reaction to all the years of deception on HER unreasonableness is beyond comprehension. What Branden was afraid to reveal to Rand was the true nature of his soul, that his values were not what he preached from the pulpit of NBI to his great personal profit. He had given up those values, if he ever really had them, long before losing NBI. THAT is what he was hiding from Rand, in the cruellest possible way, for one reason alone: his income. When he tells Barbara to hold off telling Rand about Patrecia until Rand has written the forward for his book, it all becomes very plain what is going on. It became plain to Rand as well. At that point it was much more than just an affair and a need for a personal break and became a need for a professional break.

That neither of the Brandens has ever owned up to this after all these years says one thing: they don't believe their own souls are worth redeeming. They chose the money, and the royalties, and Rand be damned. They spit on the philosophy. They'll speak at a summer seminar of Objectivists and be treated as dignitaries while trashing her reputation and undermining her convictions -- and give up their own souls in the process. They've made their choice, and in the bargain have given up passionate commitment to truth and ethics and ideas -- they disdain such passion now. They'll sneer at those have not given those things up, but I'd rather be on this side of that sneer than theirs.

Don't conclude that "we're all cannibals now," Brant. Don't let them win that kind of victory. I hope PARC stops that kind of thing more than any other benefit it may give to those who read it.

I Wonder

eg's picture

I truth, but we don't go back to the behavior.


Kenny's picture

Passion is frowned upon, in political parties as well as certain Objectivist circles, in the name of "toleration" and a "big tent". My experience is that toleration soon gives way to the selling out of the principles that the organisation is supposed to stand for and promote. I wish I had a dollar or pound for every time I have heard ideology denounced as "dogma" in the last two or three years.

Rand stood up for her philosophy and principles. There comes a point when toleration of those who "don't get it" is futile and one has to move on and look elsewhere. If Rand was rude to certain individuals, so what? She was not obliged to live her life for the sake of theirs.


eg's picture

I didn't know.

Back Then

eg's picture

Mike Lee thinks the newspapers and other media in the late 60s would have screemed aloud in glee and destroyed Objectivism if the word of the Rand/Branden affair had gotten out. I was there then; I doubt anyone other than Nora Ephron or Albert Ellis would have said much, the rest being silence with the possible exception of a New York gossip columnist or two.


Indeed, Shayne ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I don't disagree. If I over-emphasise the passion it's because Objectivists notoriously *under*-emphasise it. Every time I meet one of those archetypical uptight Randroid-types, I want to scream. I treat the reason side as a given, understood, taken as read. I guess it doesn't hurt to remind me to mention it once in a while. Smiling

Passion vs. Reason

sjw's picture

Linz: I think it's clear that with Rand, important things must be "studied and calculated", *and* passionately valued. Rand stands position on reason vs. emotion is clear: emotion is subordinate; reason has primacy; and *both* are essential to human life.

Calling Rand a passionate valuer is true--but it is not the whole truth. She was the *the* example of the exquisite synthesis of a severely rational, rigorous, scientific mind devoted to the most careful consideration of the facts, using those facts systematically, validating at each step her progression to the most abstract of theories; combined with a passion for life equal to this kind of mind.

I don't expect that you'd disagree of course, but I do think you tend to over-emphasize the passion side whereas I think Rand exemplified perfection (every single paragraph of Atlas Shrugged bears the mark of this perfection--the passionate valuer working to excruciatingly exacting rational standards).

Sense of life ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The more I read and experience the more I become convinced that the Brandens just didn't get it that Rand was a passionate valuer. They observed it and described it, to be sure, but didn't get it. Souls that are ablaze are not for them. Blazing passion is uncouth. Anger in particular is out (except theirs). Style is more important than content (as though there's a dichotomy), and passion is just not their style. Everything must be studied & calculated. Casey's description, "smug & superior" is it, exactly. Disagreement with them is to be treated with snotty disdain. There's no authenticity, just contrivance. Festiveness and spontaneity are alien, to be preached, perhaps, but not practised—one wouldn't want to create the wrong impression in this crimped, puritanical world, now would one?

One of Barbara's fans once said she'd been transformed, or had transformed herself, from "ice queen" to "roaring lioness." I never saw that transformation.

None of this would matter if it weren't the basis for diminishing people who are passionate valuers. Then the matter becomes not just a personality issue but a philosophical one. Then it becomes very difficult for us all to "just get along."


The "Pangloss" Premise

Michael Moeller's picture

Let me first coalesce some examples before I get to what I call The "Pangloss" premise. When Mike Lee first offered that piece of excrement in defense of the Brandens on NB's Yahoo list, I asked him how his conclusions compared with what Rand said on certain matters, such as the age issue, the business relationship, etc. His response, word-for-word, was: "I don't know, and I don't care". Such is the intellectual rigor with which the non-judgmentalists form their judgments.

The further not-so-subtle absurdity of his position was not only are the Brandens' moral characters not in question, but rather they are moral heroes!! They had within their grasp, he claims, the power to destroy Rand and make her a "laughing stock". However, thanks to the good graces of the Brandens, Rand's ideas were allowed to flourish. The implication being that without the benevolence of the Brandens, her ideas would never have stood on their own and Objectivism would have instead been a "silly fad run by amoral hedonists". One also wonders how to reconcile the "grace" of the Brandens with their accounts that Mike Lee even admits exposes Rand's "humanness" of being "tortured and driven by demons".

In a separate and related matter, the conceptual acid tank plastered with smiley faces (aka Roger Bissell) kindly shares with us one of his "epiphanies" in the Cockroach Corner website (i.e. Objectivist Living):

"I think that, strange as it may sound at first hearing, the terrorists and some of the Randroids associated with ARI have a lot in common on the psychological level. It does not show up in their epistemology. It shows up in their metaphysics. They view other people who disagree with them as "the enemy," as a hostile element and a threat that must be wiped out, one way or another."

It seems Roger's "non-judgmental awareness" leads him to the conclusion that the Objectivists who do not accept his "brand" of Objectivism are on a level comparable to "terrorists". Heaven forbide that anybody dare say that Objectivism is what it is and dispute that his compatible-conditional-teleological-free-will-o-value-determinism is explicitly and directly rejected by what Rand said. "What's wrong with you" he says, "are you some kind of 'intolerant terrorist'?"--all in the name of non-judgmentalism.

Another curious phenomena, the anti-psychologizers who lament and denounce anybody questioning the Brandens' motives, then proceed to perform a complete psychological workup of Ayn Rand. "Look at her motives and demon-driven psychological state", they say--all in the name of anti-psychologizing.

What is missing in this whole scenario? The subjectivist-Objectivists complete revulsion regarding the facts, whether it be the facts of Ayn Rand's life, the facts of what Objectivism is and is not, or the facts surrounding what both the Brandens and Rand have said and their respective psychological states.

They operate under the "Pangloss" premise. Like Pangloss, the facts shatter their every illusion, the anti-conceptual virus that rots their brains is exposed by every logical argument--yet, with an unwavering boldness, they still hold hard and fast that theirs is "the best of all possible worlds".



Kenny's picture

Casy, despite having not had the opportunity to read PAR and PARC, my instinct is to agree with you.

I also posted a section of BB's reply to Ellen Stuttle on Linz's TOC seminar thread. It is clear that she and Ellen have read PARC in detail. They use the diary entries to attack Rand and Peikoff vitriolically. Tellingly, they do not state anything about the content of the diary entries - there is no attempt at refutation.

As Barbara is now commenting on PARC (and considers the diary content to be significant), we should expect at least a review or detailed comment from Bob Bidinotto or other TOC staffers. It is certainly a topic she should be willing to address at the TOC Summer Seminar.

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