Rebirth of Reason


Daily Linz 11 - Phor the Record
by Lindsay Perigo

Readers will be aware that I occasionally have phun with “Phirehammer’s Phunny Pharm”—Regi Firehammer’s site that Joe Rowlands christened SOLORejects.com, since its phour or phive participants are embittered ex-SOLOists in permanent grievance mode. (The ‘ph’s of course are an allusion to the crusade by one of its writers, the inadvertently comedic, selph-styled filosofer, Mr. Stolyarov, to substitute ‘f’ for ‘ph’ wherever it occurs.) Its readership is miniscule, but leaps several hundredphold—literally, according to the inphormation displayed on the site itselph—phor its anti-SOLO threads, ov which there’s usually at least one active at any given time. With that in mind, I want to treat seriously certain claims being made there about me personally, just in case SOLOists who are reading them are inclined to lend them any credence. In this spirit ov seriousness, normal spelling will now resume.

They have a beef against me because I changed my mind about James Valliant’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, without at the same time saying, “Regi was right about the Brandens all along.” Here’s Firehammer himself:

“There is one very interesting aspect of that post of Perigo's. While he still found space to insult this site, he couldn't manage to mention that what he is just now getting around to understanding, I understood and promoted over six months ago. I do understand it is hard to admit one is wrong.”

It’s not hard for me to admit I’m wrong. It’s not the most enjoyable thing in life, to be sure, but it would be far harder to continue to be wrong knowing I was wrong. I was wrong about the Valliant book. I realised that when I read it. I had started to realise it before I read it, because I had recently been a victim of precisely the kind of conduct part of it described, and because of the testimony of others who had already read it. One post in particular on the Ayn Rand Smeared Again thread pulled me up with a start (Lance Moore, a youngster with no axe to grind, Post 77):

“I’m on page 120 of Valliant's book and it's fantastic. It's not a legal brief at all. He lays out the claims of Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and Barbara Branden and let's the reader decide who is committed to the truth. Rand was the Branden's meal ticket. They lied to her (over a period of years) to hang on to that meal ticket. Valliant's book demonstrates this without a shadow of a doubt. Read it without prejudice. Ayn Rand was exploited by the Brandens. Note: I previously recommended Barbara Branden's book. After reading what Rand said I find myself questioning Barbara's motives.”

I then read the book, and I too found myself questioning Barbara’s motives—particularly since its depiction of the weakness of Barbara’s claim that Ayn Rand’s husband was an alcoholic read like a pre-run of her endorsement on SOLO of the proposition that I am an alcoholic (see her friend James Kilbourne’s Drooling Beast). But as far as the Firehammerites are concerned, pique at the latter is and can be the only possible motive behind my about-face on PARC. Here’s Cass:

“Nobody criticised Perigo for 'changing  his mind'.  I criticised him for his attacks on this site from behing [sic] the wall of his controlled little kingdom. What came up here about Perigos [sic] changed stance on PARC and James Valliant was that he only 'changed' towards both after Barbara Branden did the same 'alcoholic smear job' on him she did on Frank O'Conner [sic]. Which is mindless and subjectivist, but his choice and who cares?”

I’m wondering what special powers Cass possesses that she can divine my motives more clearly than I? For the record, with or without Drooling Beast, I would have read the book in light of the things being said about it on SOLO by the likes of Lance Moore. Anyone who revisits the aforementioned thread will see that. As it happened, the “alcoholic” smear against me was an additional exhibit in which I had a strong personal (as opposed to “mindless and subjectivist”) interest, but I would have changed my mind without it. Mr. Valliant’s case is a strong one, and it certainly predates and doesn’t rest upon Drooling Beast. (He and Casey Fahy watched that drama unfold with incredulity, wondering if Barbara was perversely trying to give them more ammunition!)

According to Cass, however, my mind-change was not merely “mindless and subjectivist” but an example of “blatant cowardice” as well. Why? Because I chided Valliant for allowing his book to be promoted on such a “phlaky” site “from behind the wall of [my] little kingdom”:

“This thread was headed up with the word ‘Cowardice’.  It refers to the matter of people using a public forum, with a potentially world wide readership, to insult, lie about, ans [sic] verbally abuse people who [sic] they have prevented from being able to defend themselves - at that forum. It's not surprising that a group which follows the Brandenesque version of pseudo-Objectivism should do this.”

We prevented their being able to defend themselves? By Cass’s and Regi’s own admission, they went out of their way to get themselves banned. This they did by means of smutty allusions to Nathaniel Branden. They recorded more than once their glee when they were banned (forgive me for not supplying links, but I resent having to spend any time on this, let alone the time it would take to track those ones down). Having succeeded in their objective, they now complain that they’re prevented from defending themselves? I am a “coward” for granting them their wish? Does an old adage about cake come to mind here?

So why didn’t I say, “Regi was right about the Brandens all along” at the same time as I changed my mind on the Valliant book? Well, for one thing, it just didn’t occur to me. The issue between me and Regi was never the Brandens. He queered his pitch with me, as it were, when he flip-flopped back and forth on the issue of whether being actively homosexual was immoral. He further queered it when he claimed to have been banned from speaking on the subject when he had not. Chris Sciabarra had written a wrap-up essay in the ongoing debate between him and Regi, said that it was his last word on the matter and requested there be no posts about it—on that thread. I asked that his wish be respected while making clear that the subject could still be discussed on other threads (there were several on homosexuality at that time). That does not constitute the banning of a topic, and Regi was displaying gross bad faith. All of this is on the record for anyone who cares to check it.

Second, I was not and am not inclined to take Regi seriously on any matter because of a creepy e-mail I received from him at the time of his eventual banning. As you will see, he encouraged me to publish it, so I’m not betraying a confidence or releasing private e-mail improperly. I didn’t release it back then because even I didn’t want to make Regi look as bad as his own e-mail does:

Hi Linz,

First of all, I want you to know I am not upset with you. I have enjoyed our relationship, whether you have or not.

I'm sending this note so you will know something that will help you make the right choice in deciding how to respond to all this.

Dear Barbara Branden has been corresponding with me about some of the late issues on SOLO. That correspondence contains some very interesting facts about those issues. For some reason or another, Barbara is terrified I will make that correspondence between us public. Quite frankly, I see nothing in it to be alarmed about, but I do not wish to upset anyone unduly and have sworn not to publish that correspondence. I did place one condition on that promise, however. I told her, so long as no more lies were told about me, I would not publish it.

Now you are free to do whatever you choose, Linz, but if you spread any more of your lies about me you will make your friend and ally very unhappy.

Oh, by the way, I will decide whether what you say is a lie or not. For example, if you choose to make this email public, which I give you permission and even encourage you to do, but leave some part of it out, I will consider that a lie. So be careful, my friend, for the sake of our mutual friend.

Reginald Firehammer

For “lies” read: “criticisms.” I do not lie about anyone. The attempt at blackmail-by-e-mail was unmistakable. It made my flesh crawl. Giving kudos to someone capable of something so sleazy is never going to be high on my list of priorities, especially in a context when he’s not uppermost in my mind.

Further, just what was Regi supposed to have been right about, concerning the Brandens? The smutty allusions to Nathaniel’s pants? There’s nothing like that in the Valliant book. What was old news in PARC was just that. Old news, pre-Firehammer. What was new in it was just that also, original to PARC—to the best of my recollection I’d never heard any of it from Regi.

In short, the matter of whether Regi was or was not right all along required no comment from me. It was irrelevant.

The meatiest beef they have with me would appear to be this (Regi again):

“And for the record, I do not think anyone here has ever called Perigo a ‘monster’ even though ‘perigo’ does mean ‘danger’ in Portugese [sic]. I have absolutely no complaints about SOLO as a forum, and all my criticism of Perigo has been that he promotes a pholosophy [sic], in the name of Objectivism, which is not consistent with the principles of Objectivism. I have no objection to his promoting his views or his philosophy, and think he ought to. My only objection is that he calls it Objectivism, just as the Branden's [sic] promoted their anti-objectivist ideas as Objectivism. In fact, even though Perigo has repudiated the Brandens, his philosophy is essentiallhy [sic] identical with theirs. While he may have come out against the individuals who promoted that false philosophy, he has not repudiated the philosophy, which is subjectivist and hedonist in nature, and rests on all the unscientific antiphilosophical principles of psychology tauted [sic] by Nathaniel, particularly the freudian [sic]pseudo-concept of the subconscious.”

Frankly, I’ve no idea what Regi is talking about. When I wrote my article, Of Fundamentals and Fidelity, outlining what I considered the essentials of Objectivism, he posted in agreement with it. I’ve not departed from it—how can I suddenly be an anti-philosophical, subjectivist hedonist? It’s true that I disagree with Ayn Rand on certain matters not essential to Objectivism, and I’ve never concealed that. So what? It’s true that I’m a great advocate of pleasure, as any Objectivist should be—but not mindless, self-destructive pleasure. And my views on Nathaniel’s “principles of psychology” are probably closer to Regi’s than Nathaniel’s, though I can’t be sure since, as I’ve stated elsewhere, I’ve never read any of Nathaniel’s psychology books. In any event, I’ve no hesitation in pronouncing this “subjectivist hedonist” business nonsense.

I normally enjoy writing my Daily Linzes. I have not enjoyed writing this one. Normally anything I say about the pholk on Regi’s site is a piss-take, to which they seem incapable of reacting humorously. But certain seriously misleading things are being repeated and repeated there that bear serious rebuttal—which I have now, reluctantly, furnished.

Mr. Firehammer might take this opportunity to acknowledge he’s been wrong, but I’m not holding my breath. The important thing for me is that I’ve said my piece.

For the record.
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