Rebirth of Reason


Hold Your Horses!
by Casey Fahy

When "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" was released, Branden fans said that, although the film did mention Nathaniel Branden, NBI, and even Ayn Rand's affair with him, the treatment of these things was insufficient. The "Hardcores" were "covering it up," those damn cultists! There "should have been more" to properly reflect Mr. Branden's importance in her life and work.

Now, when a book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics," comes out—assumed to be the "official" product of ARI—and presents a detailed response to the Brandens, it is suddenly, sight unseen, unworthy of even a single read.

Make sense?

There are critics who complain that the "Hardcore Randians" ignore the work of those Libertarians whose own thinking is said to be closely related to Objectivism, and who, they believe, have contributed to the discussion about those ideas. But when someone sympathetic to Ayn Rand, such as James Valliant, actually does cite and consider a great number of Rand's Libertarian critics, friends of the Brandens then declare that they won't even read his book! One person even posted a note saying that she would storm out of any Ayn Rand club meeting the minute someone produced a copy of the book—and, of course, let the record show this was posted before the book's release!

Can you imagine what these same people would have said if such a statement had come from the mouth of a "hardcore" Objectivist?

Many who claim to admire Rand will become livid when the credibility of the Brandens is questioned. Of course, the Brandens have already been given the silent nod to question Rand's credibility, and—sight-unseen—post wild assertions that the Ayn Rand Institute and Valliant have suppressed the important entries from the book! (Word of advice: you might want to wait until the book is actually out to make such claims. It hurts your future credibility on the topic, I suspect.)

Who's trying to maintain a "cult," again?

The repeated claim that this book represents the "official" position of the Ayn Rand Institute is particularly amusing to me. When Valliant, a good friend of mine, wrote Part I of the book, he knew that the Ayn Rand Institute took a dim view of even mentioning the Brandens. When he published that part, on my own website, we both believed that doing so would jeopardize what relationship he had had with Leonard Peikoff. I can personally vouch for the fact that Jim did not consult with Peikoff or anyone else associated with ARI about the content of his book—at all, ever. As proof of this, when Dr. Peikoff did make Rand's papers available to him, Peikoff told Jim that his first reaction to the very idea of the project was, and I quote, "Am I gonna have to pick a fight with Valliant now?" And, it was reading those original essays alone that convinced Peikoff to make Rand's notes available. Period.

The idea that the book speaks for anyone but Mr. Valliant is totally wrong, but, of course, this does not stop those who are hell-bent on finding a conspiracy out there among the "orthodox." (This kind of paranoia has been exhibited by the Brandens for many years, as readers of the book will discover.)

There have been those (associates of the Brandens!) who question the publication of Ayn Rand's private notes as a kind of invasion of her privacy. The argument goes that if Rand had wanted these to be published, she would have published them in her lifetime. Indeed, many have claimed, starting with Nathaniel Branden himself, that Peikoff is simply finding creative ways of "converting Rand's legacy into personal cash" in publishing this material. Such a statement causes me, at least, to wonder what exactly Branden wants kept hidden. Not even curious? Really?

But, it seems, the power of Mr. Branden's cult can get folks tied into logical pretzels without knowing it.

This may come as a shock to some alleged admirers of Objectivism, but this journal material is actually valuable to scholars. There can be no argument here. Also, Rand left no special instructions in her will or anywhere else about not publishing this material. She just gave it to Leonard Peikoff. She could have destroyed it, or, like her own character Henry Cameron in "The Fountainhead," she could have asked Peikoff to destroy it.

She did not.

Thank goodness that she did not. We have gained considerable insight into Rand's life—and her ideas, and her art—from the publication of this stuff!

Before Valliant's book, the journal material that was published was pretty impersonal—literary and philosophical material—and not a thing embarrassing to Miss Rand could be found. How, I always wondered, could this have constituted an "invasion of Rand's privacy"?

Then, more recently, I was given the opportunity to see Rand's notes on the Brandens, helping Mr. Valliant with his book, and, again, nothing embarrassing—at least, not to Ayn Rand—could be found. No, she comes off just splendidly in these notes, and, frankly, nothing too personal is revealed about her even here—at least, none of it for the first time...

Now, who would the first to reveal it have been, again? Oh, yeah: it was the Brandens who had revealed to all the world, for the first time, and in detail, all of the most salacious things about Rand's life in their own published biographies and memoirs. For the Brandens' friends to complain about "privacy" takes some nerve. (Readers of "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" will note all of the classically Brandenian features of this attack, including projection.)

All that the book does is give Rand's response to them following their invasion of her privacy–if anybody's privacy has indeed been invaded! But one wonders whose privacy the Brandens are most concerned about.

Aren't these complaints just thinly veiled attempts to make the Brandens the sole authorities on these matters? The Cult of the Brandens is far more intolerantly book-burning and dogmatic than Rand's alleged cult ever was: denouncing this book—and Rand's own contemporaneous notes—as a pack of lies before they are even published.

Finally, and for the record, once more, Peikoff has firmly refused Valliant's offer of any royalty or fee of any kind for the publication of these notes. So much for his alleged "converting of Rand's legacy into cash."

Sensing panic?

Do you know what's really going on, here? The Brandens know what this material proves about their own published claims and are in a panic to discredit it and Mr. Valliant. It's ugly—and we both knew it would be.

They will at least have to change their script, however: Jim does not regard himself as a guardian or an expositor of Objectivism or all of the ideas that Ayn Rand taught. He is not a philosopher by profession or a spokesman for anyone but himself.

All of that aside, this book should be read before it is judged—as should Rand's own words on this matter. They speak for themselves.

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