Dialectical Dishonesty

DianaHsieh's picture
Submitted by DianaHsieh on Wed, 2006-04-26 00:57

Chris Matthew Sciabarra is best known as the "dialectical libertarian" scholar of Ayn Rand's philosophy. He is the editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS), the author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and the co-editor of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand. For many years, Chris was also a friend of mine, a rare source of support and encouragement. He particularly invited me to submit a proposal for Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, an essay that ultimately became my first professional publication. He wrote a letter of recommendation for my application to CU Boulder's graduate program in philosophy. He enthusiastically supported my work. He generously offered me professional advice. We spoke repeatedly on the phone about my overwhelming unhappiness with The Objectivist Center (TOC), often at great length. At least in private, he supported my eventual disassociation from that organization, albeit with some reservations about my so thoroughly burning my bridges. All in all, I have well over 400 personal e-mails between us in my archive. We spoke on the phone probably around 15 times but never managed to meet in person. After my February 2004 disassociation from TOC, however, Chris and I became increasingly estranged. We formally parted ways in August 2005 on apparently cordial terms. At that time, I told him I would not publicly attack him or his work out of consideration for our past friendship.

I can no longer in good conscience abide by that promise, nor do I regard myself obliged to do so. The consideration I offered Chris was based upon nothing real, merely upon the illusion of his friendship. In recent weeks, I discovered that this man I respected and trusted as a friend routinely deceived and manipulated me on matters of critical importance -- and that he's done the same to others. Now he whispers flagrant lies and unjust insults about me behind my back. The truth about Chris Sciabarra is far worse -- and far more painful to me -- than I ever imagined possible. In summary:

(1) I've discovered that while we were friends Chris routinely told me false stories about scholars associated with the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). He exaggerated his limited contacts with them to create the illusion of private endorsement of him and his work on Objectivism. He impugned their integrity and independence by claiming them to be cowed by fear of ARI. Chris told these tales to at least some people other than me; I fear he's spread them far and wide. He always emphasized the need for confidentiality, saying that he didn't wish to create trouble for the scholars in question. In fact, that demand for confidentiality concealed and protected his lies by obliging his listeners to not investigate the facts for themselves.

(2) I've realized that Chris exerted substantial pressure upon me to publicly defend his work on faith as a condition of our friendship. He equated his work with his character, such that any relationship required sanction of his writings on Ayn Rand. He did that even while wrongly claiming that I would be under great pressure from the Ayn Rand Institute and its supporters to disassociate myself from him. He's also pressured at least one other person in similar fashion.

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

(4) I've discovered that Chris distorts facts well-established by public and private records to excuse and defend blatant acts of dishonest injustice by Barbara Branden. His version of events is often the exact opposite of what he knows to be the case. In the process, he willingly smears his old friend Linz Perigo by accusing him of grave moral wrongs -- behind Linz's back. When confronted, Chris attempted to conceal those lies with more lies.

These discoveries were heartbreaking for me, more so than I can tell. Although I've long suspected that Chris was less than fully honest with me, I never expected anything like this magnitude of manipulative dishonesty. From what I've seen, nothing he says or writes can be trusted, not even the most innocuous claims. He pursues his own hidden agenda in all communications, without regard for the facts.

I never wanted to write this kind of post; I never imagined that I'd be obliged to do so. Even with all I know now, I regard it as an unwelcome, unpleasant chore. Yet I see too clearly that Chris' scheming lies depend upon "confidential" whispers in quiet corners. If I remained silent, I would be protecting his deceptions from well-deserved and long-overdue exposure. He could then circulate even more unjust lies about me, as well as about people I admire and respect, to even more people -- with impunity. My silence would allow Chris to trash my reputation, even while pretending to be above reproach himself. That would be intolerable. Since I do not know the extent of Chris's lies about me, my only effective defense is public disclosure of the facts known to me.

To prove my case, I must quote from private e-mails between Chris and myself -- and I do so without hesitation. Chris conducts dishonest whispering campaigns against unsuspecting people via private communications. He hides his unjust lies from public scrutiny by demanding confidentiality from his listeners -- often while violating the very confidentiality promised to the person he's smearing with those lies. Chris Sciabarra does not use confidentiality to shield honest and frank discussions between friends, but as a sword with which to stab good people in the back. That kind of confidence is not to be respected -- however much Chris will protest my supposed betrayal of him with this post.

This post, despite its great length, does not exhaustively document all the evidence I've amassed against Chris, merely that which I regard as essential. It establishes beyond any reasonable doubt Chris' dishonesty about those associated with ARI and manipulation of those associated with him. Lindsay Perigo will have his own comments about the lies Chris spreads about him, all of which I've personally verified against public discussions and private e-mails.

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

So let me begin with Chris' private smears of ARI scholars. But first, let me I warn you, this post is long.

Over the course of our friendship, particularly around the time of my February 2004 disassociation from The Objectivist Center, Chris Sciabarra told me various unseemly stories about scholars affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute scholars (i.e. writers, speakers, and teachers, henceforth "ARI scholars"). For example, in the course of our December 2002 discussion of TOC's failure to support students and scholars, Chris wrote:

    And more importantly, ARI now has lots of money that it bestows on scholars---who suck up to them, and who refuse to do business with the outside world for fear of losing proprietary interest. I am in discussions with SEVERAL ARI scholars who might contribute to JARS at some point, and who are PETRIFIED of being cut off. There has to be another way to promote Rand scholarship without making prostitutes of scholars (December 13th, 2002).

A year-and-some later, Chris claimed that "a number of ARI-affiliated scholars are now ~talking~ to me about potential contributions to the journal" (April 8th, 2004). (Just to be clear on the timeline, Chris cannot be referring to Andy Bernstein's brief reply to a review of his Cliffs Notes in either of these comments, since that was published earlier, in the Spring 2002 issue of JARS.)

So according to Chris, ARI scholars are dependent cowards who sell their integrity for the money bestowed upon them by ARI, and probably also for access to the Archives. They are intellectual "prostitutes." That's why they refuse to publish in his journal -- at least so far.

Just upon small acquaintance with the work and character of ARI scholars, I realized the absurdity and injustice of these grave moral accusations. Certainly, some scholars receive grants from ARI to write books, teach classes, conduct seminars, and the like -- but that's no reason whatsoever to doubt their integrity. Moreover, none that I know "suck up" to ARI, nor "refuse to do business with the outside world," nor cave to pressure "for fear of losing proprietary interest." In fact, I've seen no evidence whatsoever that ARI exerts any such pressure at all. From all that I've seen, significant disagreements are resolved by rational argument over time -- with all people free to exercise their right of disassociation.

Certainly, Chris never presented me with any concrete evidence that ARI scholars are cowardly slaves to the purse-strings of ARI -- nor do I think he has such evidence. Yet he broadly indicts dozens of ARI-affiliated scholars. I recently confirmed that his only story about a particular scholar, told repeatedly to me, consisted almost entirely of baseless distortions and outright fabrications. And obviously, despite his claim that multiple ARI scholars were talking to him about "potential contributions" to JARS, nothing whatsoever has materialized in the two years since, nor do I think anything ever will.

When making these blanket accusations of cowardice, Chris was well-aware of the serious complaints about his work on the grounds of poor scholarship from various ARI scholars. For example, Robert Mayhew objected to the poor scholarship of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand in a short 1999 review, as did Robert Tracinksi in his short note in the December 1998 issue of The Intellectual Activist. Chris posted summaries of both of these reviews on his web site -- and even wrote replies to them. Similarly, John Ridpath wrote a strongly negative review of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical in 1996, again noted by Chris. More generally, I've certainly heard ARI scholars express grave reservations about the poor scholarly standards of JARS and Chris' other works on Ayn Rand. Of course, not every article in JARS is an embarrassment, but many are -- and others merely aspire to mediocrity. Such mixed quality is the natural outcome of Chris' explicit commitment to allowing people to say whatever they please in the journal, even at the price of basic scholarly standards like accuracy, fairness, and civility. On a deeper level, it's the only possible outcome of his explicitly subjectivist approach to the interpretation of Objectivism. In contrast, the explicit commitment of ARI scholars to high quality scholarship on Objectivism yields anthologies like Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living and Essays on Ayn Rand's Anthem with consistently good to great essays. As far as I can see, such ARI scholars have nothing to gain by publishing in a journal with poor editorial standards -- and so they don't.

Undoubtedly, Chris ought to accurately report the reasons why ARI-affiliated scholars do not publish in JARS -- or say nothing at all. To instead falsely impugn the moral character of these scholars -- many of whom he does not even know -- is a grave injustice. It's also another good reason for them to refuse to associate with Chris in any way, shape, or form.

Chris offered further unjust criticisms of "ARI people" in an April 2004 e-mail to me. In the course of raising worries about our friendship in light of my increasingly friendly relations with some few ARI supporters, he wrote:

    I do think that you are going to be pressured to distance yourself from me...

    I'm not saying you are going to have to "choose" --- because, unlike these ARI people, ~I~ actually ~do~ live by what I preach: that it is possible to interface with many different people coming from many different intellectual traditions. ~I~ will ~never~ ask you to choose, because I don't believe that one needs to ghetto-ize oneself.

    But it is clear to me that the ARIans don't believe this; they won't even interface with people who ~might~ be considered "fellow travelers" (let alone Marxists or, uh, dialecticians). They will demand a choice from you; ~if~ you decide that the status of "heretic" does not require a choice from you, great. But if you want to be even closer to them, a choice will be demanded of you that will compel you to forfeit your heretic status---and, I fear, your relationship with me. (April 15th, 2004)

I won't dignify the accusation that "ARI people" fail to live up to their ideals with a reply, particularly given that no principle of Objectivism mandates interaction with anyone. More importantly, Chris grossly misrepresents the facts in claiming that unnamed "ARIians... won't even interface with people who ~might~ be considered 'fellow travelers'." That's flat wrong, as the past programs of the Ayn Rand Society readily show. And Chris knows that -- as well as countless other examples of friendly scholarly interaction, including the ever-growing list of mainstream academic publications by ARI scholars. In my acquaintance with various ARI scholars, I've only seen individuals exercise their own judgment about their scholarly contacts -- based upon ordinary considerations like prior acquaintance, mutual interests, depth of knowledge, intellectual honesty, and moral character. Certainly, that's my approach -- and that why I'm on friendly terms with some anarchist libertarians, but not some ARI Objectivists. To be selective in one's scholarly exchanges is to exercise good judgment, not "to ghetto-ize oneself." And if Chris fails to meet others' standards, that's his problem.

As for the claim in the above e-mail that I would pressured by "ARI people" to sacrifice my relationship with Chris, I'll address that point later. (I wanted to keep the comments about those "ARI people" in context.) Still, I may as well mention, for the record, that I've never been pressured by anyone associated with ARI to do or say anything about Chris Sciabarra -- ever. And anyone who suspects that I might cave to such pressure doesn't know me at all.

Notably, Chris did not merely unjustly smear ARI scholars, he also actively sought their sanction, inventing it when not forthcoming. In a May 2004 e-mail to me, he wrote:

    ...I have always prided myself on the fact that even my ~critics~, left or right, have praised the ~careful~ quality of my scholarship (even Jim Lennox couldn't deny ~that~, for the most part). ... [Various "ARIans"] have asked follow-up questions about my historical research for their own research projects. These are things I don't discuss in public, out of respect for the privacy of the people who have written to me (and I tell you all of this, confidentially). These people may disagree fundamentally with my theses, but that disagreement is not borne of disrespect for ~me~ (May 4th, 2004).

In fact, strong criticisms of Chris' shoddy scholarship are common in both ARI and TOC circles, particularly regarding his arbitrary speculations in The Russian Radical. In particular, Jim Lennox's devastatingly negative review of The Russian Radical contained nothing like praise for "the ~careful~ quality of [Chris'] scholarship" -- only a few sentences about "exhaustively referenced" source material. However, good scholarship demands far more than wide acquaintance with and proper citation of relevant sources. The essence of good scholarship is deep understanding of the material, well-justified interpretations of texts, and conclusions solidly grounded in facts. The basic focus of Dr. Lennox's review is the failure of The Russian Radical on those substantive points of good scholarship. Furthermore, asking polite "follow-up questions about... historical research" doesn't necessarily imply respect for the scholar in question: such questions might seek to determine the strength of the evidence supporting a dubious claim, for example.

As for any ARI scholars who've conversed with Chris in a friendly way, I certainly don't think that wrong. Still, I suspect they would not have done so if they knew of Chris' habit of touting of that private correspondence as a sanction of his scholarship and character even while smearing them.

Finally, Chris sent to me this comment in an April 2004 e-mail in the course of our discussions about whether ARI would pressure me to disassociate myself from him:

    BTW, just between us: I get regular mail from ARIans. None of them has been willing to say, publicly, that they correspond with me. ... Interestingly, here is one email I got from somebody seeking to work at ARI (I've been very shy about releasing names... and the more I think about it, the less inclined I am to release them... I just feel a little "unclean" doing that, when I do pledge confidence):

    ===[begin quoted text by Chris' correspondent]

    I have not read your book on AR yet, although as I am sure you have intuited I might have problems accepting the basic thesis. But your article on music won me over to your person, anyway. You're not so bad! The trouble is I tend to agree with ARI on most things, and one day I hope to work there. So I hope they don't notice that I dealt with you. That'll kill my one way of ever getting the job.

    ===[end quoted text by Chris' correspondent]

    So, clearly, different people have different ways of interpreting how ARI might or might not react to people connected to me. Remember that at one time they actually threatened a Canadian college group that if they published an interview of me in their campus newspaper, they would stop sending them funds. And that group pulled the interview to continue receiving ARI money.

    Anyway, these stories: I got a million of em. Smiling (April 15th, 2004)

Unfortunately, I accepted these claims as-is, merely saying, "Ah, yes cowardice. I am familiar with that vice. :-/" Chris agreed with that assessment, saying "It's not the worst of vices, I suppose, but it does make me wonder just how much ~worse~ it is that they talk about me in ~private~. Hehe" (April 16th, 2004).

This example is quite unusual in one respect: Chris forwarded me the actual text of the relevant e-mail. Most of the time, if not all but this once, he merely summarized the supposed correspondence -- often inventing, distorting, and exaggerating in the process, I've discovered. In retrospect, the fact that Chris' only qualms about passing on this correspondence to me concerned "releasing names," the absence of similar quotes from the ARI scholars discussed in his other e-mails is quite telling. From what I've seen (and not seen), he has no such damning e-mails to quote. Also, Chris did mention particular names to me on occasion, so even that wasn't a genuine concern for him.

In this case, Chris could safely take advantage of the poor judgment of this correspondent, probably some mostly-clueless undergraduate. Of course, the ill-informed opinion of such a person says nothing about the facts about ARI's response to friendly association with Chris. That's why Chris speaks in purely subjectivist terms of "different ways of interpreting how ARI might or might not react to people connected to me." As for supposed incident with the "Canadian college group," I know nothing of the particulars. However, as a matter of principle, ARI should not fund campus clubs committed to promoting its detractors (or their "dialectical" interpretations of Objectivism). To do so would be sanction of the victim. (As Paul noted, Planned Parenthood similarly should withdraw its funds from a supposedly pro-choice campus group publishing interviews with people damaging to their cause, such as opponents of legal abortion or advocates of infanticide.)

Chris' e-mails on these topics do exhibit a certain devious pattern. He often omits the names of the ARI scholar(Drunk under discussion, usually claiming worries about the very confidentiality he's violating. So anyone who believes his stories will look upon all ARI scholars with suspicion, not knowing the identity of the person(Drunk guilty of the alleged moral crimes. By not naming names, Chris also prevents his listeners from checking the facts for themselves. Not knowing the identity of the accused, they cannot make proper inquiries, nor alert the accused to the story. Moreover, even when Chris does name names, he suggests that the person in question was just one example of a larger pattern. In such cases, he also forbids investigation of the facts by binding his listeners to the very confidentiality he's just broken.

Chris concealed many of his dishonest smears of ARI scholars from public exposure for years by such methods. In general, he presents a public image wholly inconsistent with his private actions. In public, he pretends to be above reproach, unjustly maligned by his critics, and friendly with the ARI scholars he genuinely hopes might someday contribute to JARS. In private, he describes those very scholars as "prostitutes" fearful of the wrath of ARI who isolate themselves from wider academic debates and demand blind loyalty from others. Chris adopted this same dual personality with particular ARI scholars. For example, he publicly thanked Allan Gotthelf in the acknowledgements of The Russian Radical in generous terms, writing that "though Professor Gotthelf strongly disagrees with my arguments concerning the sources and dialectical character of Ayn Rand's thought [based upon a reading of an earlier draft], my final presentation benefited nonetheless from his helpful criticism" (xiii). Yet in private correspondence with me, he rarely missed an opportunity to bitterly complain about those same critical comments and to insult Dr. Gotthelf himself (January 3rd, 2003; January 30th, 2003; April 26th, 2004; May 2nd, 2004).

In a April 2004 NoodleFood comment, Chris claimed "you will never find, in my work, a vicious ~personal~ attack on ~anybody~ in the orthodoxy" (April 26th, 2004). That may well be true of his published writings, but that discretion only makes his vicious personal attacks of those same people in private all the worse, since whispered lies cannot be publicly refuted. In short, the public appearance of Chris Sciabarra bears little relationship to the private reality.

Moreover, as we've already seen, many of Chris' stories about ARI scholars seek to give a false impression of endorsement of him and his work. Perhaps the most striking example of that unjust appropriation of sanction was done in public, by thanking "Leonard Peikoff... and the Estate of Ayn Rand for timely correspondence on several issues of historical and legal significance to the current project" in the acknowledgements of The Russian Radical (xi). (To be clear, the Estate wholly separate from ARI.) When I asked Leonard Peikoff about this matter, he said that his only reply to Chris Sciabarra's inquiry consisted of a terse letter saying that he does not cooperate with biographers of Ayn Rand unknown to him due to unpleasant past experiences. Obviously, "No, I won't help you," doesn't constitute "timely correspondence on several issues of historical and legal significance" by any stretch of the imagination. Dr. Peikoff resents the implication that he endorsed The Russian Radical in any way -- and rightly so.

Amazingly enough, Chris attempted to conceal this lie with more (and contradictory) lies. John Ridpath's January 1996 review of The Russian Radical in The Intellectual Activist is followed by a note that "The claim made by promoters of this book that it benefited from 'cooperation' by Leonard Peikoff is false: his correspondence with the author consisted of a single short, polite, dismissive letter" (21). (I'm not entirely sure of the source of the "cooperation" claim, but it's probably this review for Laissez Faire Books in which Jim Powell says: "While doing research, Sciabarra got cooperation from both [Leonard Peikoff and David Kelley]--proof, if you need it, that he developed important findings which transcended differences among Objectivists.") In an article entitled "Investigation: The Search for Ayn Rand's Russian Roots" published in the October 1999 issue of Liberty, Chris replied to the comment in TIA:

    Contrary to the public assertions of John Ridpath (Intellectual Activist, January 1996), that Peikoff's response was 'dismissive,' I received what I believed to be a promise from the Estate. Peikoff explained that the Estate was compiling Rand's biographical data and that if anything relevant turned up with regard to the Lossky-Rand connection, he would notify me. Hardly dismissive. I remained hopeful.

Not only is that yet another fabrication, but "No, I can't help you now but maybe later" still wouldn't constitute "timely correspondence on several issues of historical and legal significance"! Given the seriousness of the accusation, it's telling that Chris has never produced the correspondence that would so easily prove his claim. Since this lie was so public, I'm not surprised that I've heard it cited by ARI scholars as yet another good reason to scrupulously avoid any and all contact with Chris Sciabarra.

If Chris Sciabarra would lie about such matters in his published works, I do not think that any of his work can be trusted, including his purely historical research on Ayn Rand.

Once I confirmed Chris' unjust and dishonest smears of various ARI scholars, I expected him to lie about me too. Yet that particular discovery caught me off-guard -- and sent me reeling. To understand why, I need to explain a bit about my seemingly civil parting of ways with Chris. This history will also substantiate my claim that Chris exerted great pressure upon me to defend his work on faith.

In April 2004, just a few months after my disassociation from TOC, I considered my friendship with Chris Sciabarra be beyond doubt. Yet Chris repeatedly raised questions about my regard for him.

That April, ARI student "Noumenal Self" (NS) wrote a a lengthy blog post positively commenting upon my departure from TOC. At the end, he said, "maybe soon she'll turn a similar critical eye to the works of a certain NYU-based dialectical scholar she continues to regard as a friend." After I merely thanked him for that post, Chris wrote me a long, worried e-mail. He began, "Please forgive my insecurities... but I am a terribly honest person---and I prefer to get things off my chest ~immediately~ rather than have them fester inside" (April 15th, 2005). He then detailed his worries (already quoted above) that I would be "pressured to distance [myself] from [him]" by ARI (April 15th, 2005). He closed by saying, "so you'll forgive me if I am suddenly lacking confidence about the choices you may end up making" (April 15th, 2005).

Even today, I regard Noumenal Self's comment as an (innocently) inappropriate remark. Still, in retrospect, I'm struck by the fact that he did not pressure me to abandon Chris as a friend, but only encouraged me to critically examine Chris' work. Yet even that was deeply worrisome to Chris, probably because he feared the likely results of any such examination. However, I didn't notice that at the time. I replied to Chris immediately, reassuring him that I'd "forgotten all about [Noumenal Self's] swipe at you," and apologized for the oversight, saying "surely my lack of response [on that point] gave you reason to worry!" (April 15th, 2004). I then said:

    The idea that my friendship with you should be up for grabs is completely absurd. In fact, it's quite offensive. You have been a stellar friend over the past year, particularly as regards my unhappiness with TOC. I really ought to blog something on that, because it's important for people on all sides to know that my personal relationships are not a function of philosophic agreement.

    Of course, if someone reveals themselves to be dishonest, that's another matter. And some people's responses to my departure from TOC have solidified my impressions of them as unserious about Objectivism, e.g. [name omitted]. Such lack of seriousness is not necessarily dishonest, although I do then quickly lose interest in philosophical debate and discussion. But I've never seen anything like that from you... and certainly don't expect to ever do so! (April 15th, 2004)

I also told Chris that "other than the swipe by [Noumenal Self], I have not been subjected to any pressure to distance myself from you" (April 15th, 2004). I noted that all I'd heard from my one ARI correspondent was that I was under no obligation to break off old friendships absent some evidence of immorality (April 15th, 2004).

In response, Chris explicitly assured me of his honesty, saying "Well, wipe that [question of dishonesty] out of your mind. With me: what you see is what you get. No hidden meanings, no hidden motives. It's out there for all to see" (April 15th, 2004). (Oh, the irony!) A few days later, I strongly defended my friendship with Chris Sciabarra (and Robert Campbell) in my Friends and Philosophy blog post.

In this flurry of correspondence, I was perfectly up-front with Chris about my new hesitancy about publishing in JARS -- and my reasons for doing so. I mentioned that my ARI correspondent "raised some interesting questions about the legitimacy and long-run effectiveness of your strategy of friendly engagement with academia. I'll want to think about that some more before I decide to publish in JARS" (April 15th, 2004). (To be clear, I wasn't suspicious of all "friendly engagement with academia," but only with Chris' promiscuous, indiscriminate variety thereof. Also, at this time, I didn't think that his strategy was necessarily wrong, but merely that I wished to follow a different path.) I was also substantially worried by Chris' comment in a phone conversation that he willingly published at least one attempted defense of Objectivism in JARS that he knew substantially misrepresented Ayn Rand's ideas and methods. (Such false defenses of Objectivism turn the philosophy into an easily-dismissed strawman.) Although we discussed the question of effective cultural change for a few e-mails thereafter, Chris didn't seem too concerned about my reluctance to publish in his journal.

Chris was also well-aware of my increasingly negative views of Nathaniel Branden. In late January, when I retired as Nathaniel Branden's webmaster, Chris asked me: "Is this a decision independent of pressures you've been receiving from ARI-affiliated individuals?" (January 31st, 2004). Without challenging the loaded question (unfortunately), I told Chris that I'd been meaning to step down for about a year, that Branden was a difficult client in various respects, that I wasn't "much of a fan of [his] work," and that I had "qualms about his moral character" based upon conversations with a trustworthy TOC supporter (January 31st, 2004). As for the last, I said: "I'm particularly concerned about his apparent capacity to put on a good facade, his love of idiotic worshipful admirers, his failure to take adequate responsibility for his very damaging exercise of power during the NBI days, and so on. I don't think him to be the devil incarnate, but I do suspect that his character is basically mixed." (January 31st, 2004). In response, Chris defended his earlier work as "essential" but criticized his later work as having "a lot more re-treading and some questionable propositions" (February 1st, 2004). Chris praised Branden's courage for revealing so many of his own failings in Judgment Day, as well as noted his personal appreciation for "the level of... compassion and empathy" Branden showed him "in an up-close and personal way" (February 1st, 2004). In short, Chris only defended Nathaniel Branden as intellectually and morally mixed.

On April 28th, I wrote him about Nathaniel's essay "Who is an Objectivist?". (Chris posted that essay to the NoodleFood comments under Nathaniel's name at Nathaniel's request.) I said:

    I must say, it is a dumb article. The arguments (or really, random unsupported opinions) are way below the intellectual level at which the discussion must and usually does operate. It's quite embarrassing to him, I think. In any case, I'm glad you posted it, since it is relevant (April 28th, 2004).

Chris merely said, "I thought it very relevant, regardless" in reply (April 28th, 2004). When I spoke to Chris over the phone sometime after re-reading Nathaniel's essay "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand," I told him flat-out that I thought Branden's criticisms of Objectivism were not just wrong, but dishonest and inexcusable given his knowledge of the philosophy. Chris offered no counter-argument or defense of Branden; he did not even openly disagree with me. He merely spoke of his personal debt to Nathaniel -- as if that overrode all other concerns. That was a big warning flag for me, as was Chris' blatant advocacy of postmodernish subjectivism about the interpretation of Objectivism in the NoodleFood comments.

Around this time, I started feeling caught in the middle of a firefight between two warring camps. Yet in retrospect, my position with respect to each side was very different. The ARI scholar with whom I was corresponding did not urge me to disown honest friends, squelch discussion on NoodleFood, blindly agree with him, or anything of the sort. All he asked of me was serious consideration of the arguments he offered, when I had time to reconsider the relevant source material for myself. I was more than happy to do that. In contrast, Chris demanded blind loyalty from me, as the e-mails below will show. Although Chris claimed that I would be pressured by "ARI people" to distance myself from him, the only person exerting pressure upon me was Chris Sciabarra himself.

The major troubles began in late April 2004, when Chris e-mailed me to harshly condemn the "Mysterious Stranger" criticizing his work in the NoodleFood comments. He called that Mysterious Stranger a "son of a bitch," speculated about his identity, and finally asserted "the fact that he's not willing to publicly tell us who he is only proves what a coward he is" (April 26th, 2005). When Chris pressed me for a response to these venomous comments, I said:

    Well, I must admit to being at something of a loss about what to say. Since I know and respect the "Mysterious Stranger," including his/her good reasons for remaining anonymous, I really didn't want to get into the middle of anything so personal, nor reveal his/her identity. I'm trying to stay focused on the philosophical firefight... and keep my friendships safe and away from the front lines. That's not always easy, unfortunately. Sad (April 28th, 2004).

In reply, Chris offered some more substantive objections to the comments of the "Mysterious Stranger," as well as his reasons for his angry remarks. He said that, "I respect your critical distance from all this [i.e. the debates about The Russian Radical" (April 28th, 2004). He explained that he was "just venting": "I just wanted to convey to you, as a friend, that I'm ~disgusted~ with that approach to my work" (April 28th, 2004). Still, he reassured me, "I appreciate your wanting to remain neutral, and don't expect you to take sides" (April 28th, 2004). (In fact, I didn't want "to remain neutral"; I wanted the time to properly judge the philosophic issues for myself, separate from questions of friendship.) A few days later, Chris apologized for his earlier "lack of civility" (May 2nd, 2004). He also said, "Our ~friendship~ means more to me than the intellectual matters that may unite us----or divide us. That doesn't mean, however, that intellectual matters don't have implications for the character of our friendship, and so, I'll send you further comments on the things that have been on my mind for the last week" (May 2nd, 2004).

Those further comments, sent two days later, were less than welcome. (They were also quite lengthy: almost 1500 words. I'll just quote the most critical portions.) Chris began by saying that he was "uneasy" about our prior exchange about the "Mysterious Stranger" (or MS) (May 4th, 2004). He then explained:

    You claim to "know and respect" MS. But the attack that MS made on my work was no mere disagreement with this or that ~aspect~ of RUSSIAN RADICAL, or even a larger articulated disagreement with my historiographical or philosophical approach. It was a wholesale ~dismissal~ of me and my approach as ~trash~. He/she said, in effect, that nobody should take any of it seriously.

    ...The fact that your blog became a forum for MS's dismissals, however, and that you have expressed knowledge of and respect for MS, has given me pause. ... I'm starting to wonder... if your knowledge and respect for MS has translated into a similar ~disrespect~ for my work, wholesale. ... I don't know if you can remotely imagine my disappointment if I were to discover that you too disrespect my ~scholarship~, or that you now regard my work, and therefore ~me~, as a "crackpot" like "Madame Cleo."

    I take very seriously the Objectivist view of productive work as central to one's life. In many respects, my work ~is~ my life. I can handle ~any~ kind of spirited disagreement with my work; but I cannot "sanction" the viewpoint that my work, as such, is "beyond the pale." ...I stand by the integrity of my work and the integrity of my conclusions. And those who would indict that ~integrity~ indict ~me~ as a "scholar" and as an "historian," and thereby indict my character as a person. Understand: Disagreement is ~not~ the issue. It's got to do with an evaluation of ~me~ that, in essence, charges me with intellectual charlatanism, intellectual ~dishonesty~ (as in "leaping to favored conclusions in defiance of the need for evidence: i.e. an epistemology of arbitrary assertions").

    Now, of course, ~you~ are not the person making the charge. ~You~ are my friend, not Mysterious Stranger. Still: Your regard for MS leads me to wonder about your feelings concerning me and my work. ... I hate speculating about this---and I don't wish to disrespect ~you~ by doing so ... but I needed to just let you know that I'm in a no-man's-land right now, concerning this issue.

    Disagreement does not pain me, Diana. Doubting that you value me ... does. (May 4th, 2004)

When writing this e-mail, Chris was well-aware that I was in no position to judge his work on its merits -- for good or for ill. He knew that I wished to re-read The Russian Radical, but that I hadn't yet done so, since I was overwhelmed with other concerns. In fact, just a few days before, I explicitly told him, "I'm sure that we'll have much to talk about when I get around to re-reading RR!" (April 29th, 2004). (I'd actually not read all of The Russian Radical originally, just about half of it.) Despite all that, Chris suggests that I might already regard his work as dishonest trash. Why? Only because I'd informed him of my general respect for a person who expressed that opinion in the NoodleFood comments.

Chris' whole line of reasoning is well beyond bizarre. Obviously scholars and works must be judged based upon actual merits or lack thereof, not supposed personal loyalties to "Mysterious Strangers" or anyone else. The latter method of evaluation would be so non-objective -- and so thoroughly unjust -- that to even suggest it as a possibility is offensive.

Yet Chris does reveal himself in that suggestion. He explicitly equates himself with his work: the "integrity of [his] conclusions" is his "character as a person" -- that's why any strong criticism of his work (e.g. the "arbitrariness" charge) is an indictment of him as a person. Fundamental but honest mistakes are not an option -- that's why he's wholly unconcerned with my first-hand assessment of The Russian Radical -- or lack thereof. Chris never mentions my need to re-read it because he regards such as unnecessary. He expects me to endorse and defend his work simply on the basis of my personal regard for him. If I do not, then I'm betraying him -- even though I publicly defended my friendship with him in the strongest possible terms just a few weeks earlier. So while Chris might say that "disagreement doesn't pain me," clearly friendship with him requires substantial endorsement of his work on Objectivism.

Amazingly, Chris publicly expressed the very opposite sentiments in a NoodleFood comment just a few days before. (I only discovered this discrepancy a few days ago.) In those comments, Chris wrote:

    And you will never find, in my work, a vicious ~personal~ attack on ~anybody~ in the orthodoxy. I just come from a very different school of thought, where criticism of a person's ~ideas~ do not ~necessarily~ translate into criticism of a ~person~. (Usually, we don't have enough knowledge to even make those logical jumps...) People can be mistaken. Not everyone we disagree with is dishonest and corrupt.

    I admit when I've been unclear, and even when I've been mistaken. And through the criticisms that have been hurled my way, I think I've immeasurably clarified my own positions, my own thoughts, on subjects dear to my heart, like dialectics. I'm not ~afraid~ of critics.

In public, Chris claimed that he evaluates people separately from their ideas due to the possibility of honest error. In private, Chris demanded that I blindly defend his work as an expression of loyalty to him as a person. In public, Chris claimed to welcome criticisms, even those "hurled" at him. In private, Chris is furious about the Mysterious Stranger's criticisms of his work posted to the NoodleFood comments. Once again, Chris' public persona does not match his private actions.

As an aside, Chris' bizarre worries in this e-mail to me do make some sense in retrospect, but only as a form of projection from his own psychology. They reflect his choice to elevate personal loyalty to Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden above all the well-established facts about their vile misdeeds. That emphasis on personal loyalty is evident in Chris' comments to me about his personal debt to Nathaniel Branden (mentioned earlier), his lies about Linz Perigo to protect Barbara Branden, his context-dropping review of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, and his recent attacks upon me (discussed later).

In short, contrary to his earlier assurances, Chris did ask me take sides in the substantive debates about The Russian Radical -- on blind faith. At the time, I didn't clearly see Chris' dirty tricks for what they were. Yet I was wholly unwilling to endorse his work based upon our friendship alone. That wasn't even an option for me.

Chris and I spoke on the phone about this e-mail, so I have no record of what was said. Although I don't clearly recall the particulars of that conversation, I expect I told him my general view at the time, namely that his worries were groundless, since I would not judge his work one way or the other until I examined it myself. He could not have been satisfied by that.

Although that phone call was friendly, Chris and I didn't correspond again until August 2005 -- over a year later. That was a welcome respite, since I was weary of his demands of me. Moreover, by about June 2004, I'd grown thoroughly skeptical of all the nasty stories about ARI I'd heard over the years -- including those Chris told me. I knew first-hand that my experiences with ARI (including its staff, scholars, and supporters) bore little resemblance to those "reports" -- and that I should ignore all I'd heard so as to judge properly for myself. While I had no conclusive proof that Chris intentionally deceived me, I strongly suspected so. His stories were just too thoroughly wrong to be honest misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Also, although I didn't re-read The Russian Radical, I read some of Chris' internet writings and reflected upon our personal communications. That made clear enough his explicit embrace of subjectivism, indulgence in arbitrary speculation, and toleration of moral evils. After much thought, I also realized the great danger of his lax standards of scholarship, particularly in his editing of JARS. At that point, our friendship was effectively over, even if not yet officially so. Still, I had no ironclad proof of his dishonesty with me, so I felt some gratitude to the help he'd offered me in the past.

My views on proper standards of scholarship on Objectivism were so thoroughly changed by mid-2005 that I decided I very much needed to publicly distance myself from my essay in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand. So in late July 2005, I posted Poisoning the Well. Toward the end of that post, I considered the general problem of pseudo-scholarship on Objectivism, mentioning my own Feminist Interpretations essay as an example. In the post, I deliberately avoided any reference to Chris Sciabarra: I didn't wish to stab him in the back for the very help he'd offered me with that essay, nor open any debate with him. I also suggested that some producers of "pseudo-scholarship" might be in over their heads, as I was. I wrote:

    Unfortunately, the philosophic style of this article [discussed above] is not an anomaly. Too much published on Ayn Rand in recent years has all the illusion of scholarly inquiry without any of its substance. It is pseudo-scholarship: it substitutes superficial understanding, invented controversy, and detached cynicism for the clarity, depth, and care of good study. (Certainly, my own essay in the Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand anthology betrays far too much of that kind of pseudo-scholarship. Given my skewed standards at the time, the fact that I very much wanted to write a fine essay had little bearing upon the quality of the work I produced.)

    The serious study of Ayn Rand's work -- in and out of academia -- is only in its nascent stages. If stillborn, our culture is doomed. (So the stakes are high, to say the least!) Whether Ayn Rand's ideas take hold in academia and the wider culture or not will largely will largely depend upon the work produced in the next few decades. That work will consist of a relatively small number of influential publications produced by a relatively small number of scholars and intellectuals. So at this point, and for many years to come, even a few pseudo-scholars pose a grave danger, as do those who tolerate them. After all, today's intellectuals would love nothing more than to be able to dismiss Objectivism by means of strawmen erected by its supposed defenders. (Oh, what a sad time that would be!) Such is why promoting the highest standards of objectivity in scholarship on Ayn Rand and Objectivism is not just important, but of particular pressing importance at present. It's not just some academic game: it's literally life and death.

I was as gentle as I could be, while still saying what I needed to say about Objectivist scholarship in general and my own work in particular.

Shortly thereafter, in early August 2005, Chris wrote me a lengthy e-mail (over 1000 words) asking where we stood. He began by expressing a hope that a note from him wouldn't "be met with shock and horror" (August 10th, 2005). (That's more than a bit melodramatic!) He suggested that my good relations with various libertarians might mean I'd "still be friendly toward [him]"; he quoted some text from my Friends and Philosophy post; and he observed that I'd dropped his "Notablog" from my blogroll (August 10th, 2005). He then said: "So, I'm not quite sure 'where we stand'" (August 10th, 2005). He explained that, although we were still friends when we last spoke in May 2004, he'd decided to let me go my own way for my own sake. I've decided to quote a substantial portion of those comments, so as to make clear the substantial affection Chris still claimed to have for me, despite our great differences.

    I've never been into making "public" statements to counter those who have sought to eviscerate me over such things as my stance on the war in Iraq or Ayn Rand's intellectual beginnings. For deeply personal reasons, I have opted out of those kinds of venomous exchanges. I just can't bring myself to become a part of that kind of Internet culture, and I am far more apt to work out differences privately than I am publicly. Indeed, I have refrained from ever commenting on anything you've written, and, out of respect for the friendship we had (have?), I've not criticized you publicly--believing that every person needs to find their own way.

    You might describe my philosophy over this last year or so as: "If you love somebody, set them free..." Perhaps "love" might be a little strong... but I'm half-Sicilian and half-Greek, so you'll forgive me.

    I just didn't want to become an obstacle to your own intellectual adventure, and reasoned that it would be best to leave you alone, to adopt a "laissez-faire" attitude and to set you free from any constant engagement by me over this or that issue, or your evaluations of various people whom I still consider friends (Robert, the Brandens, etc.). Indeed, if I stopped corresponding with people who were not on speaking terms with one another, I'd soon find myself speaking to ... myself. ...

    I still remember, with fondness, the conversations we had over the years, and while you've flown the coop, and have chosen not to write to your "Mother" again... I'm still proud to have been a part of your upbringing: to have facilitated the publication of your first professionally published article, to have provided you with references and/or recommendations, to have been there for you when you were going through tough times.

    I can't deny that I'm deeply disappointed by some of the stances you've taken; I can't deny that I'm not hurt, on some level, by your dismissal of your own work under my gentle editorial guidance, as "pseudo-scholarship." But I try not to take it personally, and I readily accept the principles you enunciated in "Friends and Philosophy."

    I may not be an "Objectivist" (call me a "Randian" or a "post-Randian" or just Chris), and I don't wish to presume for a moment that you still have any fondness toward me. But I am curious how you feel.

    I ask only because I do see that discussions of "Sciabarra" have been augmented at Noodlefood... but that you've not said anything one way or the other. And that's okay. You're not obliged to say anything publicly.

    That's why this is a ~personal and confidential~ email to you, not a public statement. However you feel toward me, please know that in my heart, I will always wish you well (August 10th, 2005).

Chris then closed with, "All my best, ~always~..." (August 10th, 2005).

When I received this e-mail, I had very strong doubts about Chris' good character, particularly his honesty with me. However, I had no conclusive proof of deception, mostly just "stomach feelings" combined with the knowledge that his many misrepresentations were so very unlikely to be all innocent mistakes. Absent that definitive proof of deception, Chris' recollections of past friendship and expressions of present goodwill effectively aroused feelings of gratitude and loyalty in me. Still, I clearly knew that I wished nothing further to do with him. So a few days later, I replied:

    I am glad that you wrote me, as you have every reason to wonder where you stand with me these days.

    I bear you no ill will. In fact, I'm still very grateful for all the support and encouragement you offered me in years past. (I'm not happy with some of the results, particularly my FIOAR essay, but that's a separate matter.) You really helped me through some tough times.

    However, I don't think that we have much common ground these days. I strongly disagree with your approach to Objectivist scholarship, particularly your embrace of subjectivism in interpretation and your tolerance for incompetent if not dishonest criticisms. (That's obviously my characterization, not yours.) I regard that as deeply destructive of the philosophy at the core of my life and career. For your part, you strongly disagree with many of the positions that I've taken, including concerning friends of yours. With such large obstacles, I see no possibility of productive friendship between us.

    Just so you know, I have no plans to blog anything negative about you or your work on NoodleFood. (I've already said all that I need to say about my own FIOAR essay.) Your past generosity toward me has earned you that consideration. (The same applies to both [former friend] and [former friend], with one small exception.)

    As you've noticed, I do permit both criticisms and defenses of your work in the comments. I try to squash any nasty personal attacks, although I cannot guarantee to notice them all. (I was appalled by the recent "bedwetting" comment about [former friend]. If you ever get hate mail inspired by my blog comments instead [sic: again], let me know that I can say something horrible about the people who do it.) After this round of discussion dies out, I'll probably by less tolerant of digressions from the topic at hand to your work.

    I do request that you continue your current policy of not posting replies to criticisms in my comments. I don't think that kind of debate is good for anyone, and your multitude of published writings can speak for themselves. Also I'm concerned that such a debate would require me to publicly note my strong objections to your work. Out of loyalty to our past friendship, I'd rather not do that (August 15th, 2005).

I closed by wishing Chris "the best of health" (August 15th, 2005).

Until this very post, I've scrupulously upheld my end of the bargain, even when it pained me to do so. For example, I very much wanted to say some choice words about Chris' context-dropping review of Jim Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, but I held my tongue. I did recently state my reasons for not publishing in JARS in a recent post to a SoloPassion thread because Robert Campbell (the Associate Editor of JARS) seriously misrepresented the nature, timing, and reasons for my initial doubts about doing so. I needed to set the record straight -- and so I did, as briefly as possible. Even in private discussions with friends, I said little about Chris Sciabarra or his work until I confirmed his systematic dishonesty with me just recently.

In retrospect, my promise to refrain from public criticism of Chris' work was a mistake. He was not a genuine friend to me, so he warranted no special consideration. However, given what I knew at the time, I was caught in a lose-lose situation. Without conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, I certainly did not wish to imply anything untoward about the character of a man I once valued as a good friend. Yet Chris' May 2004 e-mail, in which he questioned my regard for him based upon bizarre inferences from my respect for the critical "Mysterious Stranger," clearly showed that he would take any serious criticism of his work as an assault upon his character. I did not wish to tiptoe around such sensibilities, only to be unjustly accused of personal betrayal. Still, I think I ought to have publicly commented upon Chris' writings on Objectivism as I saw fit, then allowed the chips to fall as they may. I certainly ought not have promised Chris otherwise, as I did. Ultimately, even my stony silence wasn't enough for Chris. Although I held to my promise, Chris bitterly complains that I betrayed and attacked him, as seen in the e-mail below. I suspect that Chris would have been satisfied by nothing less than public praise for The Russian Radical and the suppression of any criticism thereof in the NoodleFood comments. If I wouldn't do that, I was of no value to him.

Only a few weeks ago did I confirm that Chris repeatedly lied to me while we were supposedly friends by portraying another person in an unwarranted and unjust light. That alone was enough to void my prior promise to him. Then, just a few days later, Joe Maurone kindly e-mailed me to inquire about the veracity of Chris' recent comments to him about me. (Joe was already skeptical of the claims, but wished to hear my side.) After some discussion of the facts, he forwarded me the relevant sections of Chris' April 2006 e-mail. Before I quote and discuss Chris' comments about me, I need to set some context.

First, Joe Maurone and I had a bit of history unknown to me until I read the e-mail from Chris. In September 2004, I wrote a NoodleFood post mocking an essay that interpreted Objectivism through a Jungian lens. As far as I recall, I didn't know that Joe was author of the article, nor that a companion essay was published in the Spring 2002 issue of JARS. In September 2005, Joe posted a clear statement disowning that work due to reading The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. (As I told Joe, I now wish I'd said more of substance in my blog post.)

Second, Chris' e-mail comments to Joe about me were largely in response to Joe's moderate defense of me on SoloPassion. On April 4th, 2006 Joe posted this brief comment to a thread on TOC's relationship with Barbara Branden: "I've noticed quite a few comments like Kenny's [i.e. here] that seem to be setting up traps trying to trip up people like Diana and expose them as dogmatic personas...seems to be a shameful tactic coming from those who are supposed to be in favor of a tolerant exchange of ideas in a non-judgemental manner..."

Two days later, Chris wrote to Joe (in part):

    Finally... I'm a bit puzzled by your apparent defense of Diana Hsieh.

    Do you have any clue just how Diana has turned against me and everything I stand for? (I realize she once attacked you... but since you virtually disowned the essay for which you were attacked, I guess the slate is "clean" now...)

    But this woman---to whom I was once a mentor (she called me "Mother")---has turned on me; she attacks me, my journal, and regularly leaves her forum open for even more brutal attacks on me than the ones she herself has committed to writing. (She's assured me that "out of respect for our past friendship"... she won't rip me to pieces. Small consolation, that.) (April 6th, 2006).

Chris claims that I've attacked him and his work in writing, yet for all his venomous language, he does not cite a single example. That's because he has none to cite. As already noted, I did not mention Chris or JARS in my blog entry on pseudo-scholarship, even though that was posted before my promise. More recently, I only applied those criticisms to JARS because Robert Campbell publicly misrepresented the facts. Even if I owed Chris a massive debt of gratitude, that would not oblige me to remain silent while his friends misrepresent my views. And even in that post, I still did not mention Chris, nor accuse him of any moral wrong. (When Robert Campbell recently accused me of the same kind of attacks, he argued that because I didn't object to NoodleFood comments critical of Chris' work, I must have approved of them. As I said in reply, that's "nothing more than a pathetic and bizarre attempt to put someone else's words in my mouth." Somehow, I don't suppose he thinks I also approved of the defenses of Chris' work posted in those same NoodleFood comments because I failed to object to them.)

Despite the accusation of attacks, Chris seems to (sort of) acknowledge that I've adhered to my promise in the very next sentence. Yet in so doing, he misrepresents it ("she won't rip me to pieces") and denigrates it ("Small consolation, that"). Certainly, if Chris had ever told me that he thought of my onerous promise as "small consolation" for my supposed betrayal of him, I would have been happy to withdraw it.

As for the NoodleFood comments, I've seen critical and even snide comments about Chris' work on occasion, but never any "brutal attacks on [Chris]." For example, Chris wrote me in December 2005 to complain about this comment by Fred Weiss. In the course of that brief exchange, Chris asked: "Aside from the fact that Weiss is engaging in smear tactics by claiming that I support 'Hegelian Dialectics,' is referring to my journal as the 'Journal of Ayn Rand Sludge' acceptable at Noodlefood?" (December 1st, 2005). I replied: "It's not something that I would encourage, but I don't regard it as anything more than a colorful expression of his judgment of JARS. That's not on the same order as attacking you for being a homosexual or the like, as we discussed earlier" (December 1st, 2005). Neither Fred's NoodleFood comment nor any others could be honestly described as a "brutal attack" upon Chris.

In short, Chris has no rational grounds upon which to accuse me of attacking him or his work -- yet he does so anyway, behind my back.

In his e-mail to Joe, Chris continues:

    But, all this aside: To defend Diana the way you do (http://www.solopassion.com/node/796: "I've noticed quite a few comments like Kenny's that seem to be setting up traps trying to trip up people like Diana and expose them as dogmatic personas...seems to be a shameful tactic coming from those who are supposed to be in favor of a tolerant exchange of ideas in a non-judgemental manner...") ... let me tell you. She ~is~ a dogmatist. She wasn't always a dogmatist, but she has become one. She rejects virtually ~all~ non-ARI scholarship and has become the veritable Comrade Sonia of Objectivism. (And for the record, she has even attacked homosexuality as "sub-optimal"... which is a polite way of saying "immoral" and "disgusting"... at least Ayn Rand was ~honest~ about it.) (April 6th, 2006).

Chris asserts that I'm "a dogmatist," even "the veritable Comrade Sonia of Objectivism." Calling me "Comrade Sonia" -- equating me with the thuggish communist from We the Living -- is too ridiculous for comment. The charges of dogmatism and dishonesty aren't quite so shocking, but still wholly unsupportable. Since my departure from TOC, I've explained and defended the changes in my views on NoodleFood -- with facts and arguments, not appeals to authority. And more recently, I've done the same in the rough and tumble of SoloPassion, even while my critics hide in less demanding forums like "Objectivist Living" and "Rebirth of Reason." Since Chris has no actual evidence of my dogmatism, he flatly misrepresents my views on both scholarship and homosexuality to create the illusion of evidence. By doing so in private, he might have prevented me from correcting the record.

I certainly do not "reject... virtually ~all~ non-ARI scholarship" -- and Chris has no basis for attributing such a view to me. I judge the quality of works on Objectivism (and all other topics) individually, not by institutional affiliation. Certainly, I have seen a much greater commitment to good scholarship from ARI and its affiliated scholars, both in thought and action. That's why I've focused on reading those works, rather than JARS and the like. Of course, that pattern is not universal: I've seen some bad work from ARI scholars and some good work from non-ARI scholars. I've certainly been willing to praise non-ARI works when I think them of good quality -- and I will continue to do so. (I said more on this topic on SoloPassion when Robert Campbell accused me of the same view.)

Far less excusable is Chris' claim that I've "even attacked homosexuality as 'sub-optimal'... which is a polite way of saying 'immoral' and 'disgusting'... at least Ayn Rand was ~honest~ about it." That makes me really, really angry. Chris knows damned well that I do not regard homosexuality as immoral. In fact, he lifted that word "sub-optimal" out of the very sentence of a NoodleFood comment in which I say, "I do not think any case can be made that a loving homosexual relationship is immoral." Let me state my views even more clearly than I did in that comment: I do not regard homosexuality as immoral or disgusting in the slightest, I do not think homosexuals ought to try to become heterosexual, and I think of and treat homosexuals just the same as heterosexuals. If I ever hear an Objectivist claim or do otherwise, they'd be sure to get an earful from me. And Chris knows that -- yet he claims behind my back that I'm dishonestly concealing my real views on the matter.

At first, I wondered why Chris would cite my views on homosexuality (or rather his misrepresentation thereof) as evidence of dogmatism. Then I recalled that he claims ARI circles to be fraught with homophobia. (I've heard that reported from two sources, but I have no direct quote from Chris.) So Chris' idea is that I'm a dogmatist because I'm now toeing the anti-gay line of ARI. In fact, no such ARI line exists -- and if it did, I would not toe it! Surely, some few ARI supporters are anti-gay, as happens in almost any group. Still, I've never seen any expression of that, just heard one report thereof. Leonard Peikoff certainly does not regard homosexuality as "immoral" or "disgusting" -- as anyone can verify themselves by listening to Love, Sex and Romance. Moreover, several highly respected ARI speakers are openly gay. In short, ARI is not anti-gay, nor am I.

Once I realized that Chris was attempting to falsely portray "ARI people" as homophobic, I began to wonder whether his claims about receiving homophobic hate mail from critics was also a fabrication. In August 2005, he told me:

    But while you were away [in the Grand Canyon, in May 2004], and in the wake of all the unpleasantness that had transpired on your blog at the time (something which you noted upon your return, and asked the commentators to clean up in the future), I had begun receiving awful email. The emails might be described as vile, "homophobic," and personally threatening (so much so that I had to inform NYU)--and it was all clearly informed by the dialogue that had taken place on your blog. I never blamed you or your blog for the hate mail, but I just got so disgusted and upset, and swore I'd not post to your blog anymore to open myself up to either public or private abuse or ridicule (August 10th, 2005).

The not-quite-stated implication seems to be that some of the ARI supporters reading about and perhaps even posting in those spring debates with Chris on NoodleFood then wrote him "vile, 'homophobic,' and personally threatening" e-mails. Certainly, that's the same impression given by Barbara Branden's publicly circulated letter on the matter. (Ms. Branden further suggests that some people attacked Chris for his homosexuality in public criticisms of his work. I never saw anything of the sort, not even in the highly acrimonious debates in the NoodleFood comments.) At the time, the whole story struck me as bizarre, but I didn't imagine that Chris would fabricate it. Now I have good reason to be far more suspicious. I've inquired with other people, including close friends of Chris at the time: they heard the same story I did, but never saw any of the actual hate mail. To be clear, I'm not saying that the story is definitely a fabrication; I simply don't know that. However, I do regard it as highly suspicious: First, it contradicts what I know of ARI supporters in general and of Chris' critics in particular. Second, it very conveniently serves his general claim that ARI is a hotbed of homophobia. And third, Chris has shown himself willing to lie when it suits his agenda.

Returning once more to Chris' letter to Joe, Chris concludes his remarks about me by saying:

    Look: I know you don't want to have any serious disagreements with me, and I'm not putting our friendship on the line. But I can't deny that all of this is making me very uncomfortable; seeing you cozying up with people who view ~me~ as corrupt and evil makes me a bit apprehensive. I guess I'm just wondering when the next shoe will drop... I honestly don't think I can take a public denunciation from somebody I genuinely care about, after having been dumped on by every Tom, Dick, and Harry for years on end (April 6th, 2006).

Notably, Joe did not defend me in any strong way on SoloPassion, but merely objected to the underhanded argumentative tactics of my opponents in debate. (Of course, I sincerely appreciate that!) Yet even that is worrisome "cozying" according to Chris, just as my respect for the critical "Mysterious Stranger" raised doubts about my regard for him. Even worse, Chris does not respect Joe's independence by presenting him with the facts, then allowing him to draw his own conclusions. Chris doesn't say, "Joe, I think you should know these facts about Diana, since I think you're wrong to think well of her." Instead, he wants Joe to agree with his unsubstantiated assertions (and lies) about me. True to form, Chris made clear in subsequent correspondence that Joe's unwillingness to discuss and agree upon these matters required them to go their separate ways. So in fact, Chris was "putting [his] friendship [with Joe] on the line" in this e-mail. He applied the very same kind of undue pressure to Joe for blind personal loyalty that he once used against me, just with more force and less subtly.

I have seen more of this particular e-mail than I quoted above, but the rest concerns Chris' dishonest and unjust accusations against Linz Perigo. As I've indicated, that's for Linz to discuss. Without a doubt, Chris's lies about Linz in this e-mail to Joe are far worse than those about me.

As one might imagine, I was extremely distressed to read Chris' comments about me in his e-mail to Joe. (How could I have ever trusted that man as a friend?!?) They are particularly offensive in light of his persistent professions of goodwill toward me long after our friendship ended. Just a few months ago, in the e-mail objecting to Fred Weiss' comments about JARS, Chris claimed to "still have fond feelings for our past friendship that will never deteriorate" (December 1st, 2005). Yet a few months later, without any change between us, he's lying about me in the most insulting terms behind my back.

Even more recently, in response to the discussion about JARS on SoloPassion, Chris made the following remarks about me in a blog post:

    Second, with regard to Diana Hsieh's criticisms of JARS: Over time, it has become very clear to readers that I have had some very serious disagreements with Diana, someone to whom I once acted as a mentor of sorts. Diana is now participating regularly at SOLO-Passion; she also runs the Noodlefood blog. Diana remarked at SOLO that she had promised not to comment "on The Russian Radical or the scholarship in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies ... steer[ing] clear of such criticisms out of consideration for [her] past friendship [with me]." But I think anybody with half a brain could see the fundamental differences that have emerged between Diana and me on many, many significant questions. As my mother used to say: You'd have to be deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid not to know where those differences lie. Diana and I do not have to spend hours upon hours doing a point-counterpoint in order to articulate those differences.

As Chris says, the "fundamental differences" between us "on many, many significant questions" are fairly obvious. However, my views on important particulars, such his "dialectical" interpretation of Ayn Rand, are not at all obvious to bystanders. Moreover, I did not choose to remain silent about those particulars because I regarded them as unworthy of discussion, but out of concern to honor my prior friendship. Chris knows that. He also knows that our friendship was based upon his deceptions and manipulations. He knows that he's been whispering unjust lies about me behind my back. Yet he's content to keep me bound and gagged by my promise to him. A semi-honorable man would have released me from that promise in this blog post, so that we could duke out our differences in the open. Then again, a man with genuine confidence in the value of his work would not have accepted that promise in the first place.

Now that I am no longer bound by my prior offer of consideration to Chris, I am free to criticize his work as I see fit. I have no particular commentaries planned at present, although I've found a few items of potential interest in the course of writing this post. I still plan to do a careful reading of The Russian Radical at some point, so that I might finally come to a proper assessment of it. As always, I am committed to evaluating Chris' work objectively -- meaning based upon its merits and faults, not upon any deductions from my knowledge of the author. As always, Chris is welcome to respond to anything I write on his own Notablog or other forums -- but not in the NoodleFood comments.

In summary: In light of all the evidence I've amassed in recent weeks, I must judge Chris Matthew Sciabarra to be a fundamentally immoral person. He has proven himself to be an habitual liar. He whispers nasty insults and false rumors about good people behind their backs. He falsely claims they sanction his work and character. He demands blind loyalty from his friends. He demands confidences that he does not respect. That is not the conduct of a good man.

For those of you only familiar with the seemingly honest, above-the-board Chris Sciabarra, you might find it difficult to believe him capable of the conduct I've described. You might feel overwhelmed by all the facts I've presented in this post. That's perfectly understandable: I only came to my conclusions about this man I once trusted and respected as a friend after two years of suspicions, then weeks of investigation -- and I often felt overwhelmed by my discoveries. So if you have questions, please do e-mail me, as I'd like to set the record straight where I can. And you might wish to e-mail this post to anyone inclined to take Chris at his word. Those who have trusted Chris' claims based upon pretense of upright moral character -- as I once did -- must now think twice.

Ultimately, all that I ask is that you consider the evidence I've presented, investigate the facts for yourself, and then act accordingly.

( categories: )

Still just blows my mind.

Landon Erp's picture

Point taken Adam. Still just blows my mind.


Inking is sexy.


Which Nathaniel Branden's "own?"

AdamReed's picture

Landon - you write, "I think that's one of the first times I've ever seen someone effectivly denounce their own actions."

Exactly how would the concept of "his own" apply to someone who makes up another "sub-personality" for himself whenever he feels like he wants another one?


Landon Erp's picture

That is the funniest thing I have ever read. I think that's one of the first times I've ever seen someone effectivly denounce their own actions.


Inking is sexy.


Mick re Homosexuality

mcohen's picture

Mick wrote on Sun, 2006-05-21 09:23:

Joe, you know Chris has written about Nathaniel Branden's silly views on homosexuality. I think all three (Rand, Peikoff, Branden) were the product of the times on the issue. Mike, apparently Peikoff has grown on the issue of homosexuality, good for him.

Then one may wonder if Branden was talking about himself in his endorsement of "Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation." This is what he wrote:

Chris Sciabarra's discussion of homosexuality and the moralistic, unreasoning rage unleashed against it--and against Dr. Sciabarra--by a small number of self-appointed guardians of the 'one true Objectivist faith' almost make it embarrassing to admit that one has any past or present association with Objectivism. The booklet is an expose of cultism at its most hysterical.

(The URL is: http://rebirthofreason.com/Sto...)


Casey's picture

So during the NBI days, Tibor was snubbed and blackballed by Nathaniel Branden, was surprised to find Rand's warmth and approachability, and realized his own inappropriate behavior got him in trouble with her.

Now, after becoming a friend of Nathaniel, he reports that it was really when RAND was in charge that he was treated shabbily and it's no longer his fault for badgering her as though he had some claim to Rand's free labor -- nope, suddenly that self-confessed transgression is further proof that SHE was a bitch.

And now, because he commented on SOLO, he finds himself blackballed again by his good pal, Nathan.

Thanks for turning over that rock. I just have to shake my head. I shouldn't be surprised anymore at the hypocrisy and damnable dishonesty that you find whenever defenses of the Brandens are offered. They seem to corrupt EVERYONE and it's a damn shame.

Tedious, perhaps, definitely necessary

atlascott's picture

"Infinite petty personality discussions are highly destructive and overwhelmingly tedious."

More destructive than failing to identify the truth, and defend personal integrity?  Isn't those sorts of thing PRECISELY what Ayn wrote MUST beidentfiied and defended?

Does this underscore the danger of forcing a meaning upon a word?

Craig ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Very well spotted, Sir.

I fear you got it all too accurately here:

So there we are. Ayn Rand: warm and wonderful in one dimension, bitch on wheels in another. Tibor Machan: T1 and T2, each in his own dimension. Simple. Otherwise we must accept a philosopher, one guy, talking out of both sides of his mouth.

The "otherwise" bit.

Prohibited websites, bitches, and multiple dimensions

Craig Ceely's picture

James Valliant has turned over a number of rocks, and has thereby exposed what was underneath them. I thank him for pointing out something I had missed.

I now think there are two Tibor Machans, inhabiting parallel universes and describing, truthfully, two different courses of events with Ayn Rand and her circle in the 1960s. I really do.

One of them (T1?) wrote this article, styling himself Tibor Machan, in which he describes attending some Nathaniel Branden Institute lectures in the very early 60s. You really should read his words: Nathaniel Branden was "terribly aloof and snide," and, at a later lecture, T1 says his questions "weren't exactly welcomed, which puzzled me." Puzzles me, too, since he never explains how he knew this. But anyway, he went on to be "blackballed." Nathaniel Branden, we are told on page xii of his 1999 book Ayn Rand, declared him persona non grata. The book, you should know, is attributed to "Tibor Machan." No indication as to whether it was written by T1 or T2, or in which dimension it was published.

But anyway, in the fall of 1962 T1 describes a "wonderful experience." That is, he meets Ayn Rand. "What would stick in my mind," T1 writes, "was how warm, calming, sensible and friendly Rand was. She showed none of the prickly traits I would hear about later....There was no badgering or finger-wagging."

Note the characterizations here, drawn from first-hand experience: Branden is aloof and snide and doesn't welcome questions, and he "blackballed" Machan -- sorry, T1. Rand was warm and friendly and meeting her was "wonderful." She also displayed "none of the prickly traits I would hear about later." Note that as well: hear about. Not "witness." Not "suffer from."

That's the story as of August 13, 2003, and as partly backed up in his (their?) book on Rand. Hold that thought.

On January 21 in this very thread, "Tibor Machan" wrote, "I had a chat about this with someone who was in the fold back then and he says BB actually was too nice to Rand in her book and Rand was a bitch during that time and that all these attempst to whitewash her nasty temper and personality is wishful thinking, whistling in the dark. Given how I was treated by that bunch when she was in full command, I tend to agree." Simple textual analysis tells us that this must be another Tibor Machan, which we'll give the appellation T2, as the Rand description -- second-hand as it is -- doesn't match the earlier one given by T1.

Is it possible at a glance to know which Tibor Machan one is reading, and when? I don't know. But they must be separate entities. I mean, if we were to assume that T1 and T2 were the same person, then we'd be in the position of accepting that Nathaniel Branden was snide and aloof and uninterested in his own students, blackballed Machan and declared him persona non grata, and then became one of Machan's friends. But note that if we accept this set of assumptions, Ayn Rand is even weirder: she is warm and wonderful and writes Machan a wonderful letter, and the only difficulty between them, ever, was a silly tiff which was Machan's own fault anyway, and only after her death does Rand become a fearsome, autocratic figure. Odd, all of it.

Nope. That's far too absurd. Occam's Razor argues in favor of the T1/T2 hypothesis: T1 meets an aloof, snide Branden but a warm, wonderful Ayn Rand, and whatever slight falling out they have is mostly his fault anyway -- and then Branden blackballs him. He got lucky, though, T1 did: T2's Ayn Rand was a bitch with a nasty temper and the whole rough treatment he got from the Wild Bunch (pardon, "that bunch") was all Ayn Rand's fault, 'cause, you know, she was in "full command." Although...well, T2 got lucky, too, really, because he only heard about this monstrous Ayn Rand from a chat with someone else.

So there we are. Ayn Rand: warm and wonderful in one dimension, bitch on wheels in another. Tibor Machan: T1 and T2, each in his own dimension. Simple. Otherwise we must accept a philosopher, one guy, talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Rational moral discrimination

Casey's picture

is completely justified. That is not the issue at hand, however, and I agree with Jim here. TOC and the Brandens have made a cottage industry out of morally denouncing moral denunciation even when it is done openly and for clearly stated reasons. So, when they or their friendlies like Chris Sciabarra repair to underhanded, clandestine whisper campaigns to smear opponents or to blackballing as in the case of Nathaniel Branden re: Tibor Machan and the rest of his friends, while stonewalling any discussion about the issues involved, they commit HYPOCRISY at best, and take it a step further by demanding unthinking and irrational loyalty, as well, since they refuse to offer any reasons for completely ignoring these people/websites/books/issues. Indeed, a moratorium on Rand's life and PARC has been issued by TOC, and, apparently a moratorium on SOLO has been issued by the Brandens, respectively, with no defense, argument or reason other than the sudden virtue of ignoring these issues and blind loyalty. Meanwhile they continue to latch onto the considerably more honest and decidely not hypocritical examples of such actions taken by Rand or ARI as sins of totalitarian proportions.

Physicians, heal thyselves.

BTW (to Chris Cathcart) how does it feel to be blacklisted by a TOC person for making one reasonable comment in opposition over at Rebirth of Reason?

But Does That Shoe Fit Him?

James S. Valliant's picture


Don't get me wrong -- I believe in the "sanction of the victim" principle, myself. But imagine the response if this were the news: Peikoff has "sent the word out" that he doesn't like a certain website, and would not take kindly to folks posting over there. An old friend of his does continue to post there. Peikoff then refuses to speak with him after learning of his continued posting.

Excommunication? Blacklisting? Stalinist "purge"? Moral intolerance? "Closed-minded" to criticism?

Now, suppose that the old friend soon thereafter stops posting at that site, mentioning some other, (and in this case) dubious reasons.

Fear? Intimidation? "Stalinism" times ten? (See Sciabarra's' assertions to this effect about others.)

Can't you hear it all now?

The point is...

Casey's picture

Intolerance is everywhere, Ethan. But it constitutes hypocrisy when it comes from those sympathetic to the Brandens and TOC, and when it is accordingly conducted in silence and secret.

Let's see

eg's picture

The bottom line: It is difficult.

Shoe on the other foot?

ethan_dawe's picture

First, let me say this: I'm making no comment on the substance of the arguments made in various thread against various people. My post is not an endorsement of one side or the other. I'm merely commenting on the similarity with Tibor's leaving and an earlier situation.

Let me say it again:

I'm making no comment on the substance of the arguments made in various thread against various people. My post is not an endorsement of one side or the other.

This situation with Tibor and Nathanial Branden reminds me of a similar situation not too long ago. Ed younkins was posting article on SOLOHQ and The Autonomist(TA). Linz asked Ed to not post to TA as well as SOLOHQ, as Regi Firehammer, the owner of TA was posting many attacks on SOLOHQ and Linz.

At that time I posted a long defense of Linz and SOLOHQ request to Ed to forgo dual publication. It can be read here: http://usabig.com/wowbbforums/...

Now we have a situation that is similar with NB asking Tibor not to post articles to SOLOP for similar reasons. While debate of the issues in this case is worthwhile in some ways, I certainly think NB is within his rights to ask friends not to sanction a site that is essentially saying terrible things about him. So, from that perspective, I wouldn't bother holding this situation up as a point of ridicule and argument.

Index of Prohibited Websites?

James S. Valliant's picture

Tibor Machan attacked the entire project of PARC:

"I am really tired of even knowing that so many people revel in this kind of discussion. Where is substance? Where are good ideas? Where is what really matters? I had a chat about this with someone who was in the fold back then and he says BB actually was too nice to Rand in her book and Rand was a bitch during that time and that all these attempst to whitewash her nasty temper and personality is wishful thinking, whistling in the dark. Given how I was treated by that bunch when she was in full command, I tend to agree. But I don't really care -- what bothers me is to see Solopassion become a tabloid."

Rand was "a bitch" and I am "whitewashing" this fact.

My response:

"Dr. Machan,
You had no problem, then, when the Brandens focused on the same topics? Just when they get criticized about their work on these topics do these topics become "off limits"? No problem with the "tabloid" Ms. Branden's book became on cable television? Even as you implicitly endorse Ms. Branden's work, do you now give it more than an uncritical nod by throwing your weight into the assault on any critical analysis of it? Surely, even if it were only their biases and persepctives at play, this critical attention would be necessary. But don't be taken in by the criticis -- read PARC for yourself -- at least before taking sides. PARC is about a lot more than an affair -- as are the Brandens' books. Until you've read it, you cannot know who might be whistling in the dark here, sir, and about what. This is one of the very few places that will even permit a critical dialogue on the Brandens' biographical works at all -- and demand has been pent up for so long."

I asked him to read it before "taking sides." I did not insult him, as he insulted Rand and me (without reading my book) -- and THAT is what he regards as a personal "attack" worthy of leaving SOLO over?

I am fascinated by the report that the Brandens sent out word to their friends earlier this year about not posting here at SOLO.

Was this about the same time that Chris said he wouldn't be posting much over here?


Casey's picture

It's not all that classy to wade into a thread about a book you have not read and which is getting thousands of hits and announcing to everyone that they're wallowing in tabloid affairs. And that anyway, Barbara Branden was right, and too timid in her inferences about Rand.

That is, he not only 1) had not read the book he called "tabloid" but 2) was also trying to shut down others' discussion of it by insulting their interest, and 3) declared that Barbara Branden was right about the same issues.

I guess it's see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, the full compliment of blindfold, earplugs and kazoo, when it comes to the Brandens!

sour gwapes

Mike_M's picture

ARI scholars probably don't cite Machan and Campbell (and the other favorites of the anti-ARI crowd) because they don't see their work as worth citing. That's a big blow to the ol' ego, ain’t it? Much easier to complain about a fictitious conspiracy of partisanship than to confront the fact that a lot of people just don't like your work. And of course postulating conspiracy theories only further ghettoizes them and their work. Wouldn’t the world run a lot smoother if Professor Smith could just cite whoever she wants (or doesn’t want) while everyone just does his own thing?

Fresh faces

Craig Ceely's picture

Now, Fred, this is just a personal observation, but...but...

Back in The Day (late 70s), Dr. Machan actually was my favorite columnist in Reason. I actually sympathized with his Nozick complaint (which was, basically, that while Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia defended a minimal state both against a huge, Bismarckian-Rooseveltian Welfare State and against Rothbardian anarchocapitalism, its arguments were incomplete, whereas his own Human Rights and Human Liberties was not). No, I did, I really did.

The Gotthelf thing, Fred...well, I dunno. I've never heard anyone claim that academic favor is fair. But Gotthelf's been doing his Aristotle thing and his Rand thing since the early 60s. And Machan isn't a cofounder of the Ayn Rand Society, whereas Gotthelf did that.

But the Smith thing is new to me, so thanks for mentioning it. And including Robert Campbell's name is sauce on the steak, so thanks for that, too!

I do regard this as sad. It's a decline for Dr. Machan, who has done better.

Oh, his latest, Craig, is

Fred Weiss's picture

Oh, his latest, Craig, is whining that Tara Smith is getting more attention than he is. I think Robert Campbell also joined in, so they had a fine little howl together.

Gee, he's written all these books that nobody reads or thinks very much of and here comes along this bright, fresh face from Texas who gets published by one of the most prestigious university presses. Life just ain't fair.

In the late 70s, Tibor

Craig Ceely's picture

In the late 70s, Tibor Machan bitched that Robert Nozick got more attention than he did. A while back, he was bitching that Allan Gotthelf got more attention than he did.

And now we see him responding to -- to what, precisely? To the Brandens' wishes?

Hooray, I say, for Professors Nozick and Gotthelf.


Mike_M's picture

In light of Craig Ceely's findings in his "Piling On" articles and Jim Valliant's finding in PARC, I am appalled at the Brandens' Stalinistic attempts to re-write history. Now Linz gives us details about their recent authoritarian attempts to intimidate intellectuals who would dare sanction dissenters! This should also be condemned. Well, at least anyone who is outraged at ARI for “Stalinism” should be mad. Well, at least anyone who is outraged at ARI for “Stalinism” and is willing to consistently apply the same standards to their friends should be mad. I am, of course, using the metaphorical senses of "Stalinistic" and "authoritarian."

New Twist

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As everyone who is paying attention knows, we've been encouraging folk to use their personal blog option when making article-type submissions to this board. That way, whatever is submitted goes up straight away, unmoderated. If it's bad, there are several Supreme Beings of SOLO who are empowered to delete it, moderate it, remove it from the front page, whatever ... though it would be Jason or me who made the decision. The blog option is recommended specifically as an alternative to the article option. If the latter is used, the article goes automatically into moderation, awaiting approval. Just now I've been Instant-Messaging with Julian, & we checked in to the article queue—first time either of us had done so for some time. There we found the following, from Tibor, posted on May 10:

Please do not post my essays on Solo Passions any longer. I want nothing to do with all this bashing of Chris Sciabarra, et al.
Tibor R. Machan

Since Tibor clearly wanted that published, I'm publishing it now.

Tibor apparently removed himself from SOLO at the same time—his posts all now appear in the name of "Removed." Unaware of this, on May 13, I endeavoured to post one of Tibor's articles that had come to me, as they all do, via e-mail. That's when the system told me this user had been removed. I contacted Tibor & asked if he'd removed himself & if so, why? He confirmed that he had, saying he wanted to stay away from all boards that gave space to the internecine wars, & that he was sorry to hear what had happened between me & Chris (he did not give this as his reason for departing). When I remonstrated that he allows his articles to be posted on RoR, which also airs discussion of the internecine issues (from the perspective of the side Tibor actually is on, of course) he volunteered the further information that the Brandens had asked him & others not to post on SOLO some time ago. He had initially refused to comply, & been "blackballed" by Nathan as a consequence. It's Tibor I'm referring to in my post here on May 15:

All of that said, I learned something fascinating today that possibly explains why the TOCians have fled to safe territory such as the TOC frord board, where they're in no danger of being challenged by these awful ARIans running rampant on SOLO. Evidently in the not-too-distant past, Nathaniel & Barbara sent out a message to various people (separate from and prior to Smearer-in-Chief's exhortations to that effect on Objectivist Lying) asking them not to post here. One person who refused to comply was then told by Nathaniel not to speak to him again. Of course, Nathan is entirely within his rights, but observe the screechings from the Brandroid "tolerationists" when a Binswanger behaves in that way. In any event, those wanting to remain friends with NB have been given the message: it's conditional on not posting on SOLO.

Tibor added that he didn't bow to the "blackballing" but did in fact stop posting his articles (though not objecting when I did) after he got called names by James Valliant. I checked this with James & Casey, & the nearest we can find to "name-calling" are these two posts, one from each of them, in response to Tibor's saying that there was too much of this kind of "tabloid" thing on SOLO (in response to Cresswell's PARC review) & he'd heard that Rand had in fact been let off lightly by BB because she, Rand, was much more of a "bitch" than came out in the book—

Casey: The nature of the objections to Peter's review is smoking gun evidence of just how much damage the Brandens have done. People like Jon Letendre, and even, alas, Tibor Machan, regard Rand as a hypocrite deserving of what the Brandens did, and no more should be said about the matter. Move on. Letendre sees fit to compare Rand to a child molester. Hong seems to disregard whole sections of PARC that deal specifically with the nature of the Brandens' dishonesty, their self-serving self-contradictions, etc., and ascribes their grossly unfounded and contradictory attacks on Rand as their honest impressions even when their own impressions elsewhere completely contradict their ugly pot-shots. Ciro feels justified in reducing what was a love affair in Rand's mind to ass-spanking. This is the Branden legacy, not James Valliant's. To step in NOW and start some kind of pseudo-principled campaign against Valliant is, frankly, disgusting. All of these people, including most of all the Brandens, owe much to Rand -- but apparently not even the time of day when it comes to considering her side of a story that besmirched her after her death. I hope you all feel proud of your high-minded principles here, your sudden refusal to dip into tabloid subjects, your willingness to let Rand rot with your seedy impressions of her intact. But don't presume to impose your "principles" on others who are at least interested enough to read the evidence in Rand's favor. Have the grace to take your dainty, condescending self-righteousness to another thread; it appeared too long after the Brandens started this smut-fest for me to take seriously.

James: Dr. Machan, You had no problem, then, when the Brandens focused on the same topics? Just when they get criticized about their work on these topics do these topics become "off limits"? No problem with the "tabloid" Ms. Branden's book became on cable television? Even as you implicitly endorse Ms. Branden's work, do you now give it more than an uncritical nod by throwing your weight into the assault on any critical analysis of it? Surely, even if it were only their biases and persepctives at play, this critical attention would be necessary. But don't be taken in by the criticis -- read PARC for yourself -- at least before taking sides... PARC is about a lot more than an affair -- as are the Brandens' books. Until you've read it, you cannot know who might be whistling in the dark here, sir, and about what. This is one of the very few places that will even permit a critical dialogue on the Brandens' biographical works at all -- and demand has been pent up for so long.

Hardly cause to dissociate from SOLO, I would have thought, if the pursuit of truth & justice, rather than staying in favour with the Brandens, was one's intent.

As a matter of interest, when I asked Tibor if he was back in favour since he now had removed himself from SOLO, he said he didn't know since he hadn't been back in touch with Nathan about it.

Interesting world the "tolerationists" inhabit. Smiling



Then again, on an orthogonal point...

Rowlf's picture

~~ Maybe discussing the 'cause' of Heterosexuality may shed some light on the whole subject of sexual-orientations...in humans. After all, there's more 'evidence' (if not 'proofs') to have established and studied, given the empirically established statistical occurrences. The cause of Heterosexuality has rarely been discussed, especially in the context of questions on Homosexuality. Maybe it's time to see if there's some connections re 'causality' in all of this.

~~ Then again, discussing any aspect of either subject (or, ahem, who said what when about which) may itself be irrelevent to the original subject of this thread. Ie: maybe this whole discussion of gender-preferences belongs on a separate thread?


Tom ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I don't think you've understood me correctly or followed the discussion properly. I'm not the one saying Diana's view ("sub-optimal") is tantamount to "immoral." Chris did that in his Comrade Sonia e-mail. But I do think "sub-optimal" is not much of an improvement, for the reasons I outlined. Now, Diana might care to clarify but I'm pretty certain that by "sub-optimal" she doesn't have in mind societal restrictions on the expression of homosexual love that don't apply to straights. I believe she means, as Peikoff certainly does, that intrinsically—in & of itself—homosexuality is less than ideal. And of course, as soon as you put it that way, the flaw in that view becomes obvious.

I should add, in case it's not already obvious, that while I think her view is ... er, sub-optimal ... it's abundantly clear to me that Diana does not exhibit a trace of homophobia, which is why Sciabarra's conflation of her view with "immoral" was vicious. He knows she's not a homophobe, but it suited his devious, Branden-driven agenda to smear her that way. Confidentially, of course.

And of course one can say "of course." Just means "easily demonstrable by reason." Of course Peikoff's theory is nonsense.


Of course?

TRowland's picture

Nothing is complete nonsense "of course". There is always a reason that some idea is nonsense or not.

Linz, Re: your comments of 5/20/06

TRowland's picture

I'm catching up with the thread so haven't read what has come after your post on homosexuality, so this may be covered already. I don't think there is any polite way to say "you've got your head up your ass" so I'll just say it: "you've got your head up your ass" about this issue. The problems I have with your post are:

1. It isn't an argument. And the antidote is, hopefully, your essay which I will read.

2. I've heard it before, but not in this context, regarding the fact that I have been a musician until recently and still find it difficult to think of myself in any other way. When I take the position that playing the piano is not an inborn talent (an instinct) I do not mean that there are no inborn traits that facilitate playing the piano (including genetic factors). What I mean is that the manifestation of those traits in the specific choice to play the piano is ultimately the product of more than those genetic factors, including sense of life factors, and is ultimately an act of choice (which does not, in Objectivism, mean causeless). I wish with all my soul that someone had had the courage to say that my choice of a concert career was "sub-optimal" and "unfortunate." I might not have paid any attention, I might have said "but that's what I was made to be," but I would not have thought that they were saying 'immoral' or that they were being condescending.

3. I have a step-child and a birth child who are gay. Both of them were in hetrosexual relationships and have children from those relationships. They were very unhappy. They are now happier (one in a very good relationship, one not). That the one in a relationship has limited -- and mostly private -- opportunities to display the love and affection that they feel (our home being a hotbed of PDA) is certainly sub-optimal. But saying that implies nothing like "immoral."

On a parallel point

Chris Cathcart's picture

In the history of the now-ruled-un-Constitutional sodomy laws, whenever the sodomy laws were passed or enforced, they virtually never were enforced in the case of lezbos. Nor is it even apparent that the anti-sodomites had women prominently in mind in passing those laws.


Chris Cathcart's picture

The Origin of Homosexuality
Peikoff does state that homosexuality is abnormal. He does not seem to mean this in the statistical sense of the word as in "this trait occurs in a minority of individuals in the species." He does seem to mean that it is not a natural characteristic.
He says that he thinks that homosexuality originates early in childhood as a child is developing his or her sense of self and that the ideas around sexuality result from values and ideas very deeply ingrained in the individual's consciousness. The example he gives is that of an intellectual young male being shunned by more brutish males early in life for his thoughtful nature and growing up missing and anxious for the company of males that he admires which is translated into sexual desire by the time he reaches his teen years. Peikoff does not seem to greet homosexuality with any contempt or pity, but in spite of it being perfectly innocent and not the result of evasion, delusion, or faking reality, it is still a sort of "malformation" of the consciousness.
He says that he does not believe it is curable at this point in time and implies that there is little point in most individuals attempting to be cured.

Funny how all this talk about unfortunateness, suboptimality, abnormalcy, malfunctioning, etc., and the early Rand/Branden discussions, and discussions about the, ahem, aberrancy of homosexuality generally, seem almost always to assume that it's male homosexuality being talked about. But it all sounds rather silly if the same kind of reasoning and discussion is applied to lezbos or to everyone's favorite orientation, bi-fem. There, the implicit or explicit assumption seems rather to be that lezzers, especially bi-fem ones, have reached a higher stage of development, more in sync with the beauty that nature hath intended. It's those male homos that one must avert one's eyes from and theorize about.

On the infallible arbiter of these matters, the Howard Stern show, male gayness is more a source of humor than anything. Fred the sound effects man is currently making much use here and there of a timely "He's a faaag!", from a recent episode of the Sopranos I think.

Same for Stanley Kubrick films, when gay characters are depicted or homosexuality is referenced. Sgt. Hartmann (Full Metal Jacket) telling his recruits that they puff on peters, or the two men (Barry Lyndon) bathing in the pond and chatting blissfully while Barry escapes from the army, or head prison guard (Clockwork Orange) asking Alex if he is or ever has been a homosexual, while looking in the direction of Alex's package. Or Alan Cumming's very affected performance as the desk clerk in Eyes Wide Shut. Or the guy in the bear suit performing fellatio on a tuxedoed gent in The Shining. (HAL of 2001, I take it, is asexual, but I couldn't be certain about that.)


JoeM's picture

They're the voices in my head. They sing backup. Eye

Yes, Mick, but Nathaniel

JoeM's picture

Yes, Mick, but Nathaniel Branden was still of the mindset that he could help homosexuals change with therapy.

"Now in therapy, if someone comes to me and insists that he or she genuinely wants to change from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation, sometimes I am able to help, without judging the client's choice, one way or the other. However, if a homosexual wishes to work on other problems and does not raise the issue of sexual orientation as an issue, I do not try to change his or her mind."


Adam Buker's picture

Is that head voice or chest voice? Sticking out tongue


Re: Peikoff on Sex

mcohen's picture

The radio show ran 1995-1999. The show on homosexuality is not offered for sale on ARB and is not excerpted on LP website. The LSR talk was given 1998 or 1999 and is sold on ARB.


Mick Russell's picture

Joe, you know Chris has written about Nathaniel Branden's silly views on homosexuality. I think all three (Rand, Peikoff, Branden) were the product of the times on the issue.

Mike, apparently Peikoff has grown on the issue of homosexuality, good for him.

Peikoff on Sex

Mike_M's picture

Which came first, his radio show on homosexuality or his talk on Love Sex and Romance? I listened to the love/sex/romance lecture, but not the radio show. If memory serves, in LSR he said that he was once of the opinion that homosexuality had a biological cause, but was later convinced that the cause was psychological.

Giuseppe Maurone!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Still working on that high C. Still stuck on the vibrato of a suboptimal and unfortunate B flat.

Don't worry about it. My B-flat is immoral and disgusting.

Giuseppe Maurone!

JoeM's picture

It IS a great operatic name, isn't it? Eye
Still working on that high C. Still stuck on the vibrato of a suboptimal and unfortunate B flat.

Michelle ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I don't see why Peikoff's account on the origins of homosexuality excludes the possiblity of inborn sexual tendencies, or other inborn tendencies.

His whole account is an attempt to escape the possibility of "inborn." From memory, it all comes out when he takes a call from a guy saying it *is* inborn.

Giuseppe Maurone!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Now Linz, would you say that headbanging caterwaulers are "suboptimal and unfortunate", but not immoral?

They are sub-animal AND immoral, & *I* am unfortunate even with my ear-plugs in.

Already granted

Lindsay Perigo's picture


But I also think that latching onto Diana's description to claim that she believes homosexuality to be disgusting and immoral is malevolent in a way that Diana's description was not.

As I'd already said:

...granting Chris' spinning of it to Joe to be a bad-faith manouevre and a smear ...

The Brandroids want to make "sub-optimal" the issue & deflect attention from their lying, smearing sub-minimal moral status. That's why, as I said, I haven't pursued the issue while Diana is hosing the maggots out of the yard.


Inborn tendencies

mcohen's picture

I know that, you, thankfully, seem to know that ... but listen to Leonard's radio show on homosex & ask yourself if he knows that!

I don't see why Peikoff's account on the origins of homosexuality excludes the possiblity of inborn sexual tendencies, or other inborn tendencies.

Red Herring

JoeM's picture

I am not worried about Diana's opinion of homosexuality because I do not see her campaigning against it, nor did Rand to a serious extent. It's an issue that is seriously being blown out of proportion as far as Diana is concerned. She's not trying to change anyone, or even offering or suggesting it, the same way that Nathaniel Branden does in his practice.
It was wrong for Chris to use this as an argument against my defending her because it had NOTHING to do with the topic. Again, he only used that to play on my own orientation. He came out just as strongly against NB in the monograph, but doesn't try to convince people not to listen to Branden on the basis of Branden's views on sexuality.

It was a desperate attempt on Chris's part to shut down discussion with those of the ARI persuasion that he was smearing in private. If Diana has a different view on homosexuality than I do, I don't see her attempting to change me. But we've already seen Chris makes excuses for the Branden's on their worst day. We've seen him open doors to openly hostile enemies of Objectivism who regard the philosophy as ridiculous. Yet Diana is to be shunned for her view that homosexuality may not allow an individual to be optimal. I can disagree with this without blowing it out of proportion. It's hardly a pink triangle branded on my arm, my skin is thicker than that.

Now Linz, would you say that headbanging caterwaulers are "suboptimal and unfortunate", but not immoral? Eye


Casey's picture

I thought it was important to discuss the fact that there is a benevolent way words like that could be used. Granted, it is defined thusly in a fairly useless way, as it implies a kind of Platonic ideal that individuals deviate from at their own peril. Not that it is analagous, but I've finally met the woman I love at the age of 43. It would have been fortunate and optimal to have met her at 17 in a general sense, but it hardly matters to ME. I'm not complaining, or even slightly sensitive about the fact that is suboptimal in that particular way. We joke about it. There are particular ways that virtually any relationship could be regarded as suboptimal or unfortunate. It is unfortunate and suboptimal, for example, that Ayn Rand did not meet a man who was both Frank and Nathaniel (a better version) at the same time -- in other words, John Galt. So even though I think the general description does not matter at all to individuals and their own specific identity, it still acknowledges something that is true in a general sense, though the observation is of dubious usefulness. I will read your essay on the subject, Linz -- I agree that the psychological reductio by Peikoff is off base. But I also think that latching onto Diana's description to claim that she believes homosexuality to be disgusting and immoral is malevolent in a way that Diana's description was not.

And ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm indebted to Michelle for posting that summation of Leonard's theory. The theory is complete nonsense, of course.

Fred ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Tabula rasa only pertains to *ideas*, i.e. that we are not born with any specific ideas. It says nothing whatever on the subject of whether homosexuality is or is not inborn.

I know that, you, thankfully, seem to know that ... but listen to Leonard's radio show on homosex & ask yourself if he knows that!

The reason Randroids resist "inborn" is that they're terrified they'll be in violation of tabula rasa &—shock, horror—bring the whole Objectivist edifice tumbling down.

And Randroids should look out—Brandroids who used to be Randroids use this as a legitimate stick to beat Randroids with.


Re: Without letting ARI off the hook

mcohen's picture

Here is a summary of what Leonard Peikoff said on homosexuality in his 1999 talk on "Love, Sex, and Romance:"

The Origin of Homosexuality
Peikoff does state that homosexuality is abnormal. He does not seem to mean this in the statistical sense of the word as in "this trait occurs in a minority of individuals in the species." He does seem to mean that it is not a natural characteristic.
He says that he thinks that homosexuality originates early in childhood as a child is developing his or her sense of self and that the ideas around sexuality result from values and ideas very deeply ingrained in the individual's consciousness. The example he gives is that of an intellectual young male being shunned by more brutish males early in life for his thoughtful nature and growing up missing and anxious for the company of males that he admires which is translated into sexual desire by the time he reaches his teen years. Peikoff does not seem to greet homosexuality with any contempt or pity, but in spite of it being perfectly innocent and not the result of evasion, delusion, or faking reality, it is still a sort of "malformation" of the consciousness.
He says that he does not believe it is curable at this point in time and implies that there is little point in most individuals attempting to be cured.

(Source link: http://treygivens.mu.nu/archiv...)

Linz, WTF are you talking

Fred Weiss's picture

Linz, WTF are you talking about?

"Tabula rasa" is not equivalent to "nothing is inborn".

Tabula rasa only pertains to *ideas*, i.e. that we are not born with any specific ideas. It says nothing whatever on the subject of whether homosexuality is or is not inborn.

Without letting ARI off the

JoeM's picture

Without letting ARI off the hook, I just think it was convenient for Diana's detractors to forget about Nathaniel Branden's similar response to homosexuality. (To her credit, Barbara does not think that way.)

Casey ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I've registered my disagreement with "unfortunate and sub-optimal" without making a big issue of it at this time when Diana is hosing maggots out of the yard and doesn't need the distraction. But let me say that, granting Chris' spinning of it to Joe to be a bad-faith manouevre and a smear, I regard "unfortunate and sub-optimal" as little better than Rand's "immoral and disgusting." It's condescending beyond words. If someone were to say to my face, "Oh your poor thing, you're so unfortunate & sub-optimal, but don't worry, I know you can't help it so you can make the most of a bad thing with my blessing," I'd feel like punching his lights out. If I'm not mistaken it's Leonard Peikoff who is the author of this revised take from the orthodoxy, which they've adopted without acknowledging that Rand's views on the matter (prudently omitted from 'Ayn Rand Answers' in favour of a more reasonable response on a different occasion) were a disgrace. This is an instance where cultism does indeed come into play. Rand comes before reality. The reality appears increasingly to be what common sense folk have always suspected—homosexuality is inborn. Rand is taken to mean by the orthodoxy that *nothing* is inborn ('tabula rasa' for these silly creatures, who forget that "rational animal" includes "animal," is more than just cognitive), so there has to be some other explanation for homosexuality than "innate." So they come up with this convoluted garbage about early childhood derailments that produce a "sub-optimal" orientation that is nonetheless so ingrained by the time one is aware of it that one may as well go with the flow. It's not honest, it's not scientific, it's not true and in no way is it defensible.

Just so you know, if we do get to focus on this (again) when the current hullabaloo has died down, what to expect from moi.

See my essay, Romance & Rationalism, for more heresy! Smiling


Adam, insightful comments,

Casey's picture

But I've heard lots of things from homosexual friends to the same effect along the "who would choose to be gay?" line, (backed up with all the suboptimal social conditions). There are a lot of objective measurements that easily include the categories of "unfortunate" and "suboptimal" for homosexuality, which are mostly to be ascribed to society's prejudices. If procreating together as an option is included in the menu of coupling, then homosexuality by that definition is "sub-optimal" -- until science gets around to that, too. Eye

Anyway, there are honest reasons, completely unbigoted, to choose words like "suboptimal" and "unfortunate" given the culture we are living in and certain facts of reality -- for instance if we simply measure homosexual relationships against heterosexual procreation. It is unfortunate that homosexuals are not able to experience that kind of bond through mutual offspring together (yet science is attending to this unfortunate shortcoming to better suit mankind's needs -- Yay capitalism!). Socially, you can't freely kiss in public just anywhere as if you were in a musical -- a decidedly suboptimal condition for a lot of gay men.

But these are only the most general kinds of assessments. They are not personal judgements, as Chris Sciabarra should have known. If anything, they are refreshingly precise and honest. I do not think they are fair pronouncements on the sense of life or state of affairs of any homosexual person and I don't think they were meant to be that. In a way, they seem to reflect a straight person's angst and sympathy for what a gay person must go through. The word "suboptimal" implies a choice better made the other way. What does this mean? It may only refer to the fact that certain choices made at early moments in self-discovery are more advantagous than others later on, for the societal and biological reasons mentioned. From a parent's perspective it is in certain real respects fortunate and optimal if your child is heterosexual. Your child could still be a drug addict and a suicide case and if he were homosexual might have been a happy and productive human being, so this measurement is in reality ridiculous. But there are general senses in which heterosexuality can be seen to be a "fortunate" and "optimal" identity. Nobody ever said homosexuality was easy.

So to latch onto these words of Diana's, from a sentence in which she specifically stated that she did not consider homosexuality a moral issue and believed that gay love was morally justified, and claim that she really believes that gay love is immoral and disgusting, is a hateful act of appalling backstabbing. Imagine if someone did that to you after you had been so honest and forthright and fair about your thoughts on an explosive issue.

I can see why Diana was incensed by this betrayal.

And the fact that this kind of attack was used for the purpose it was used against Joe is even more icky.

"unfortunate and suboptimal"

AdamReed's picture

Coming back to that spin...

Reading "unfortunate and suboptimal," a Randian would ask, "unfortunate for whom? Suboptimal for what?" Keeping in mind that Diana is a healthy heterosexual woman, who can doubt that she meant it as a compliment to a population of handsome but unfortunately and suboptimally unavailable men? If a healthy heterosexual male told you that it was "unfortunate and suboptimal" that some women are Lesbians, how likely is it that you would not understand his sentiment? Is it really possible that someone of Sciabarra's intelligence could innocently just drop context like that, and then ascribe to Diana the exact opposite of her meaning?

As for "Camrade Sonia," in the book camrade Sonia was an opportunistic sociopath. Diana was just someone re-learning the faculty of moral judgement, and like anyone learning or re-learning a useful skill, practicing that skill when opportunity happened. Sciabarra, in his right mind, would know the difference.

I don't see any way it could have been anything other than dishonesty. I still hope that it was just a temporary fit of dishonesty, but dishonesty it clearly was.

You of all people though

Fred Weiss's picture

You of all people though should be sympathetic to her situation, given the abuse she has had to endure in the last couple of years. She's not exactly the "most popular girl in school" at least in relation to her former classmates.

So, even if it were true that she's a little "hair-trigger", you should understand why.

Incidentally, I have also noticed that Diana is equally "hair-trigger" in apologizing and correcting herself when she realizes that she may have been mistaken in a given instance. I assume you have noticed that as well.

My point was about her hair

PhilipC's picture

My point was about her hair trigger tendency to use the term -- even to accuse evasion or in the Oist sense.

The one self-contained post shows her in the very act of doing this.

That's it.

Phil, Fred, I can loan you a

Mike_M's picture


Fred, I can loan you a dictionary in which the word dishonest is defined.

But you must leave a security deposit.

A dictionary probably has an inadequate definition of "dishonest." Being that Diana is an Objectivist, I'd say it’s a safe bet that Diana has the Objectivist definition of dishonesty in mind. The one about evasion, intentionally going out of focus, putting our feelings before facts. You know, the one any non-Objectivist would be puzzled by or more likely outright reject. Will accused Diana of making up excuses for not dealing with his criticism. In other words, evading. Now if you look farther down the thread, you'll see that Will didn't mean to accuse Diana of dishonesty, despite his word choice, and that the two worked things out. So keep in mind that when an Objectivist accuses someone of dishonesty, he is probably using the unique Objectivist definition.

> At the very least you'd

PhilipC's picture

> At the very least you'd have to concede that it was highly insulting.

I'd go with insulting or patronizing or belittling. But glancing further it looks likes she does that as well.

So how would you define what

Fred Weiss's picture

So how would you define what he did?

At the very least you'd have to concede that it was highly insulting.

Fred, I can loan you a

PhilipC's picture

Fred, I can loan you a dictionary in which the word dishonest is defined.

But you must leave a security deposit.

Oh, come on, Phil, it is

Fred Weiss's picture

Oh, come on, Phil, it is blatantly dishonest. He is charging that the only reason Diana is not responding is because it is "difficult and inconvenient" or "wearying" or because she is "not feeling up to it".

And furthermore he is doing it in her own house.

Diana's dishonesty reflex

PhilipC's picture

I was just following the Salmieri thread further and saw this:

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 12:43:12 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
Will, you wrote: "I understand it is sometimes difficult and inconvenient to address competent criticism from intellectual peers, and that the thought of doing so may be wearying and without 'sufficient interest' to motivate a well-reasoned reply. If you are not feeling up to it, then I'm sure we'll all understand."

Since you have now stooped [to] this patronizing **accusation of dishonesty**, if you wish to futher comment on these matters, you must do so [so] elsewhere...Alternatively, you could choose to apologize...I hate for such an ending to 13 years of friendly, if occasional, conversation. [emphasis added]

DMBH is quick here to exaggerate the above sentence to a statement accusing her of dishonesty.

(Which if it were true might be a reason for breaking off relations.)

This is reinforces my point on "Questions for Diana" that she is likely to use the strongest possible term or subtly oversate (in this case not very subtly) when she is angry or offended or when someone crosses the line in heated debate.

> I wish that Chris and his

PhilipC's picture

> I wish that Chris and his associates would stop attacking men (and women) and stick to their ideas.

Jim, he's just out to get you clearly because you have a bad haircut. Smiling

More seriously, though, I don't know how representative the emails are...but he seems to be prone to making the same mistake I criticized.

There's blame on both sides. The only person who doesn't share the blame is me, and that's because everyone knows I'm perfect (well, maybe a tiny tiny, tiny bit arrogant and patronizing....as Mike pointed out.)


James S. Valliant's picture

Exactly, Phil! I wish that Chris and his associates would stop attacking men (and women) and stick to their ideas.

Ideas, not People

PhilipC's picture

I just read the strong and thoughtful argument against Chris's "dialectics" by GS (Greg Salmieri?) in the 8/5/05 NoodleFood comments.

This is the kind of debate I wish people were focusing more on rather than character assassinating the individual who holds the ideas. I have much skepticism about Chris Sciabarra's ideas and approach, but haven't actually read JARS or RR. Based on the quality of the anti-Chris posts and other things I've read in the last few years, however, I don't at all trust his critics to give an accurate or objective interpretation of the intellectual material.

I hope that future threads and articles on these matters will exist and will be more fair-minded, objective, and with long -quotes- in context of the ideas being criticized [one thing that GS probably should have done in his summer 2005 comment].

At any rate, I'm now stuck in this thread (and the other one I created) and have to finish what I started before I can scrub this muck off with a wire brush, take a shower, and recharge my batteries for more intellectual matters.

Attack The Idea, Not the Man.

(I specifically hope the inflammatory and "up close and personal" Diana Mertz Brickell Hsieh is NOT the one to lead the charge against Chris's *ideas* or *approach* to spreading Objectivism. While DMBH has a good mind, she too often seems constitutionally unable to separate her own history, bitternesses, and personal vendettas from a reasoned intellectual approach which fairly represents her many opponents' actual views.)

Re nature of 'evidence' in mere discussions

Rowlf's picture


~~ Here I was giving things 'a day' and expecting meteor-impacts from what I was sure was going to be falsely interpreted as an accusation by moi...and you're the responder (as I specifically requested.)

~~ I have read it, but will re-read your comments; apparently you think I missed something there.

~~ As an aside, though I argue that verbal arguments, especially re "J'Accuse!", per se (including letters/blogging/etc) as being 'evidence' of nothing beyond the assertions therein, and the writer's acceptance of any quotings they do as their view of 'enough evidence' (such as PAR, JD, Diana's noted Blog-Post re CS) for their accusations, ntl, counter-accusations of...whatever (such as your PARC, or Phil Coates' questions) re obvious inconsistencies/contradictions, or possible/hypothetical misinterpretations, of the initiator...do not fall quite into that category of 'possibly arbitrary'-from-a-reader's-pov. Maybe I'll learn more upon re-reading.

~~ Thanx for the response.



James S. Valliant's picture

I don't know if this answers you at all, but I have some related comments on Phil's "Questions for Diana" thread.

Condescending.Some weeks

PhilipC's picture


Some weeks back Diana and others on her side of this came up with the arrogant and condescending term "charity refutation", so I turned it around for effect, saying I was giving them a charity refutation of their arguments.

'Evidence'...and...Claims to possessing 'evidence'

Rowlf's picture

~~ Speaking as one who has been attempting to keep up with all these "J'Accuse" arguments re who's doing how horrible a wrong to whom (at this point I need a 3-D matrix-chart re accusers, accused, and allegations), yet one who has had no personal face-to-face interaction with any of the participants, and also yet feels ('thinks'?) some place is needed for this 'anonymous' (practically speaking) reader to make some 'judgement' about whomever in terms of their...arguments...being solid, insufficient, or whatever re their points about immorality, dishonesty, exaggeration, etc, I add my personal view...again.

~~ Much (maybe too?) has been argued as to those 'questioning' Diana's and Linz' and Valliant's and Marone's arguments as being based in 'arbitrariness' and therefore really showing NO 'evidence' (er, 'proof') for considering such questions as anything more than being hypothetically (ergo, 'arbitrarily')-based.

~~ I here argue that the original "J'Accuse" arguments, AS PRESENTED IN THESE FORUMS, are themselves arbitrarily given. We're starting off with an arbitrary claim. (Boy, I can see the Hellfire coming now.)

~~ Yes, the evidence, or proof, may be possessed by the "J'Accuse"rs. Logically, however, their claim to possessing it has as much rational standing, here in cyber-space, as their original "J'Accuse" claims; and we know what rational standing an accusation has...by itself. Who can give a rational argument against that?

~~ Few of us have actually seen the alleged 'evidence' (much less 'proof')...itself. We've all merely read the (ahem) EDITED or paraphrased versions of what others have claimed was an accurate quoting...and, I stress here: the CLAIMED accurate and correct interpretations thereof, including accurate and correct arguments FOR those very interpretations!

~~ NOTE: I am not alledging that the argued claims against Chris S.'s e-m's/phone-calls/etc are themselves inherently 'arbitrary' or even false. --- I am alledging that those of us here in cyber-space not privy to the ACTUAL 'evidence' are judging, yes, JUDGING, accusers and questioners...on no 'evidence' beyond arbitrarily-picked, hearsay-accepted...feelings.

~~ I'd be most interested in what James Valliant, who knows about prosecutorial procedures...and what 'evidence' is properly, rationally, all about, would have to say about these thoughts of mine re how the apparently interested cyber-jury in this blog is handling the arguments...and, their now-established views of what 'evidence' consists of (beyond an accusation and a claim to quoting accurately a reason for the accusation.)



P.S: Jack Bauer: If you're out there, I think I'll need some back-up here.

Brant ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Most of the time I think you're a wishy-washy flip-flopper, some of the time I think you're a downright flake ... & every so often you hit the spot with a one-liner that cracks me up so much I can forgive all the rest (almost). This:

the nuance was between the trigger pulls, when he smiled

was one such moment. That was truly, supremely funny. Thank you! Smiling


I stand corrected

Chris Cathcart's picture

"the nuance was between the trigger pulls, when he smiled."

Yes, okay, so it was nuanced. Just don't tell Linz that.


eg's picture

the nuance was between the trigger pulls, when he smiled.



Craig Ceely's picture

Chris, I shall endeavor to provoke a more nuanced response...

I don't find "bang bang" to

Chris Cathcart's picture

I don't find "bang bang" to be a very nuanced reaction. Get more sophisticated, dammit!



Craig Ceely's picture

At least it wasn't rapier wit.

Bang, bang!

Lindsay Perigo's picture



Craig Ceely's picture

(Not quite the Challenge of the Day, but...)

Phil & Phalsies ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz, first of all I don't wear falsies, my tits are natural.

They may not be false, but they're definitely not natural, either. Especially that third one.

Secondly, I'm not saying one can't be vigorous and passionate and exact. I'm saying something slightly different.

Nuance, nuance, nuance!

As soon as anyone says "nuance" I reach for my gun. I learned from my years with Sciabarra that it's usually the prelude to, or rationalisation of, Polish.


Linz, first of all I don't

PhilipC's picture

Linz, first of all I don't wear falsies, my tits are natural.

Secondly, I'm not saying one can't be vigorous and passionate and exact. I'm saying something slightly different.

Nuance, nuance, nuance!

Ah, Phil ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz and his KASS notwithsanding, anger seldom improves precise thought. It's more likely to spur one to fight or flight, instant reaction, vigorous rather than exact statement.

You have a vigor/exactness dichotomy! That's another of those falsies!

These are serious grounds for excommunication.


(Thought I'd better put the smiley there—can't be too careful right now.)

> the quality of your

PhilipC's picture

> the quality of your discourse on the ROR forum, which I must say is far greater than what you've demonstrated here [Boaz]

That's interesting. I hadn't thought about it. But I think I'm a lot more focused or better or capable of greater precision when I'm not angry or defensive or being attacked by four or five people on every statement or when I sense that I'm in the presence of friends. (By the way, that would be true of Chris and of most of us as well in these wider debates....)

Linz and his KASS notwithsanding, anger seldom improves precise thought. It's more likely to spur one to fight or flight, instant reaction, vigorous rather than exact statement.

Boaz and others,I'm not

PhilipC's picture

Boaz and others,

I'm not finished yet. I started with Socratic questions and always plannned to wrap up with longer substantive posts on the Questions thread.

I'm still working out the last several. My summary and Peikoff posts were a beginning, I think.

Patience is a virtue.

Phil -

Boaz the Boor's picture

That was partly my way of saying "good-bye" to this argument. Judging by the quality of your discourse on the ROR forum, which I must say is far greater than what you've demonstrated here -- I liked what you had to say about the Google "changing the subject via language" issue -- I suspect that you were never really philosophically committed to this exchange. That's unfortunate.

> Phil...hasn't any

PhilipC's picture

> Phil...hasn't any case...he'll make sure we all do what we do best, which is look like crazed animals... [Boaz]


ARS meetings

Chris Cathcart's picture

Those are also a good sign, though the most value for those comes from their contents being recorded in some easily-accessible format. That's been one of the downsides to so much good stuff, like Understanding Objectivism not recorded in some print/electronic format for ready public chewing. On occasion, you do have papers delivered there published in print format -- and the only place that this has been done, as far as I know right off, is in the pages of JARS. (None in electronic format that I know of.)


TRowland's picture

In reply to your re-post, I think what's going on here is a learning curve, the issue being "how do we deal with the academic community where a certain amount of hostility runs in both directions and of which we would like to be a part?" ARI and its precursers haven't always known a good answer to that question (error of knowledge, note). Besides the methods you listed, I would also name the Ayn Rand Society of the APA, Eastern Division. Its very existance argues for the willingness of ARi scholars to engage those who question or disagree with aspects of Objectivism. My own hope is that recorded lectures will more and more be converted into indexed books. Tara Smith's new book is a big step in the right direction.

Best Case? (Tom)

Boaz the Boor's picture


"BTW, "all the relevant information isn't necessarily out there" is presented without naming any such information that is both missing and that, if present, would lead to a conclusion other than the one Diana reaches. I count such statments as arbitrary"

I wasn't clear about the point I was making there, not in view of the interpretation of it (fully justified) that you ran with.

*Some* information which isn't contained in Diana's essay can be helpful in evaluating her claims and evidence. Phil, for example, hasn't read RR. Since RR actually reflects on Chris Sciabarra -- the particular, concrete, living, organic Chris Sciabarra (and not some platonic form of CMS that *could* be ranting this or *could* be venting that or ga ga gooey) -- it's the sort of thing that could shed light on what he actually means by what he actually says. Is it strictly necessary? No. Similarly, some inside knowledge on the "scores" of scholars that are branded as squeamish, cloistered intellectual hybrids of Peikoff and less-than-Peikoff would also help in understanding why some of CMS' ravings (public and private) are not only false, but *very* false - *impossibly* false - *laughably* false. (Ludicrous Speed, GO!!!)

I didn't say anything was "missing" from her post.

"So now we have the 4-point summery, which, in turn has been questioned. And still we have no case made -- no formal 'con' in this 'debate'. Why is Phil reluctant just to present his formal objections to Diana's original piece? If you can point me to a such a statement which names his case and argues for it I will gladly withdraw the claim and start arguing with Phil about those things which I disagree with (I've already done that to some extent). I repeat, there ain't no heat."

Phil hasn't made a case because he hasn't any case. Yet. When he gets a case, he'll make sure we all do what we do best, which is look like crazed animals to those who haven't been studying Objectivism for the last 15 years because they've been too busy denouncing (denouncing!!) the Rand-worship of those who haven't been paying any attention to them, all the while proclaiming without a trace of irony that they have "better things to do."

HPO - a fully non-partisan hellhole

Chris Cathcart's picture

Hey, BTW, if there really is an issue about venturing over to "the other guy's" hellhole, you guys can always duel it out in the open, wild-west, 100-acre-sandbox hellhole that is HPO. Just keep in mind, though, that the current HPO regulars (myself and Fred Weiss excluded) are blissfully oblivious to all this riftin' and shakin' goin' on in these corners of the internets, and might not know at first what hit 'em. But the, uh, neutral ground is there.

But hey, if all else fails . . .

[full-on British accent a must here]

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, you may fight it out with fists, if you choose. We will form a square for that purpose."

[cut to square]

"Gentlemen, step this way, please! Both shake hands. Shake hands. Take your stance. No biting, kicking, or scratching; the last man to remain standing is the winner! Gentlemen, commence fighting . . . now!"

Quality Defense Of Sciabarra

JoeM's picture

Since we're talking about being tired of slander...here's a class-act quote from Mr. Nice Guy Roger Bissell regarding Diana:

"Also, speaking of "reptilian" behavior, if I didn't know (?) that she [Diana] and Paul were off mountaineering in the Rockies, I'd suspect her of being linked to the three deaths in Florida this past week."

That's the kind of sense of life you get at Objectivist Living. Who's gone "So-low" now?

Hey Linz, you're a satire on yourself :-)

Chris Cathcart's picture

Actually, this whole soap-opera drama of verbal shots lobbed over double fences has become something of a satire in itself. Maybe if I get in the right kind of mood I'll sign up at OL and stir things up there. I'm already halfway there, having just signed up to RoR to post to a lezbo thread. All OL need do is start up a good lezbo discussion, and I'm there, dudes. Ah, the lezbos. In NZ, are they lezboz? Smiling

Even just for the mere soap-opera humor value of it, here's your friend-turned-traitor's (you have such a long list of them, so I'll give you that many guesses as to whom) words on OL:

"It seems that the attacks on Chris are -- to coin a phrase -- the straw that broke the camel's back. There have simply been too many about-faces by both Perigo and Hseih.; they both operate revolving doors of friends and enemies; one needs a program to keep track from week to week of who suddenly is false friend and who suddenly is rehabilitated enemy. Perigo's list of "beloved friends" turned "evil" traitors is even longer than Hseih's, who was not easy to outdo. To those who remember his extravagant praise of almost every one of those he now attacks (he calls Joe Rowlands, for instance, a liar, a deceiver, a fraud and a thief -- but once, very recently: "He will have a place of honour in Objectivist history. He is living proof that the heroes in Ayn Rand’s novels not only can exist, but do exist.. . Joe Rowlands, I salute you!" ), his equally extravagant denunciations have become ludicrous. The satires that have been posted about his actions have been very funny, but no one can match the master: Lindsay has become a satire on himself."

Just keep it up, Linz! I'm hearing from hither and yonder about vibes of yet another schism brewing, if you keep it up about the detrimentality of BS culture right here in the hellhole of hardcore ARIanism that SOLO has now become. How can the Perigo-Hsieh alliance last much longer? We've got a cliffhanger ending here, folks! We have to tune into next week's episode when Hsieh returns from vacation, and as we know, a week is all it takes for alliances to shift. Denounce her in self-satiric terms for her position on homosexuality already, will ya? Well, not now. Next week, I mean.

I'm torn here between which of two scenarios I prefer: people working out their issues face-to-face, as Linz is inviting people to come over and do, or the sheer continued humor-value of the verbal lobs. "Over on that hellhole of liars and scoundrels, traitor X said this; well, since I know traitor X is reading this, here's what I've got to say about that...." And so on. For adding to that fun with this very post, I plead guilty.

(In the better-things-to-do department: "Now back to your regularly scheduled lezboz." Dagny-on-Dominique action, anyone?)

ADDENDUM: A new feature of the soap-opera lobbing is the series of mutual challenges: "I don't have to go over to that hellhole in order to have him say it to my face, he can come right over to this one." No one ventures from their respective hellholes, of course.

(And goddammit, Linz, don't go drooling beast on me and end up deleting this post!)

P.S. Oh, BTW, hi there, CNA!

The basic gist/abstract of my now-missing post

Chris Cathcart's picture

The basic point was that I was commenting on Linz's desire to see an open and happy agreement with him that such progress is being made when BS culture is abandoned. I remarked at some length that some progress is being showed (Smith, Bernstein), but plenty of work remains to be done, and that involves a more full embrace of open yet objective engagement with the non-ARI-scholarship community, acknowledging and integrating their contributions, or demonstrating their shortcomings, where appropriate for each. Familiarity amongst all Rand scholars with such works as Liberty and Nature is urged, and I even offer to start up a L&N discussion thread if there's enough interest. We're just now finally starting to see promising signs from the ARI group of what the "first generation" had already started back in the early '70s in the pages of The Personalist (and outgrowths from such, e.g., the founding of the journal Social Philosophy and Policy) but which the "orthodox" crowd never took part in. I then did a listing, in rough order of importance (based on publishing records, my general estimate of work quality, etc.), of the Rand scholars doing top-notch work with which the general Rand-scholarship community should be familiar and ready/willing to engage, including: Mack, T. Smith, Dougs, Peikoff, Reisman, Kelley, Binswanger, Hunt, R. Long, Sciabarra, Machan, Bernstein, G. Smith, and [undercover HPO regular]. Aversion to JARS should not be a barrier to at least being familiar with works of such authors that appear there -- indeed, that keeping up on Rand scholarship should involve knowing what's going on there, and that discussion of these authors' ideas needn't even be confined to print-published format since internet archiving of online discussions similarly preserves idea exchange, hint hint Eye.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Sorry Chris, I seem to have fucked up royally. I deleted the post of mine that appeared in Fred's name, without realising that all replies to it would vanish as well. If you made a copy, just re-post. Otherwise you have my permission to shoot me.

Well now a post shows back up

Chris Cathcart's picture

Now the posting by Linz that I was commenting on appears to have shown back up again, only adding further to the confusion.

The irony is that in that posting now not appearing, I was remarking at one point on how internet discussions in places like this get archived for public viewing any number of years later.


posts missing

Chris Cathcart's picture

Fred write:
Chris, as I mentioned in my post which Linz deleted, Yaron was not at ARI during the Reisman affair.

Yep, I went back and checked, and you said it in a way that I had misinterpreted.

Speaking of posts getting deleted, I put in some time on a semi-lengthy posting relating to abandonment of "BS culture" and it seems to have up and gone! (My posting, along with the one by Linz that I was more or less directly commenting on.) What's going on?

Fred ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I deleted that accidental juxtaposing just to avoid confusion. The version under my own name disappeared with it. Just for the record, here is the message to which you are replying:


Fred—you asked:

P.S.: Is our esteemed Comrade Leader still obsessing about "The Gary Hull Letter"? I don't suppose there is something he could take to help him get over it. But I suppose that's as likely as you getting over "The Great Rothbard typewriter over Peikoff's head Story or "The Great Andy Bernstein JARS Incident".

The question does no credit to your case, Fred. I presented the Hull letter not because I was/am obsessed with it, but as direct personal evidence of the BS culture at work. Had I simply presented a conclusion without supporting evidence you would have been the first to accuse me of making arbitrary, unsubstantiated assertions. (My good friend Comrade Valliant would have been the second!) I raised it again because, conspicuously & significantly, no ARIan has had the balls to address it.

Naturally I have much more evidence than just that, some off which I've discussed in the past, Fred, before your arrival. What I find fascinating right now is that what I've been saying has obviously, from messages I've been receiving privately, struck a chord with ARIans delighted to see the stultifying, stifling stolidness of the past being broken down & hoping like hell the process will continue, as do I. It's not that they're anti-ARI by a long shot; quite the reverse. It *is* that they recognise the noxious influence of those responsible for the BS culture & are relieved to see that influence waning. What scares me is that such folk still wouldn't feel safe saying such things publicly.


PS—Fred, I trust you can at least acknowledge one can have these hopes & fears re ARI without it meaning one is a TOCian Brandroid. Please see my challenge to Ed Hudgins.

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