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This Boy's Not For Turning
—Scott DeSalvo, SOLOHQ, August 5, 2005
It’s no secret that I have a temper. What Barry Kayton called my "Krakatoa impersonations" have wrought carnage on this site often enough. Usually, when the smoke clears and the dead and the wounded have been identified I remain convinced of the rightness of my fury and am intransigent. Sometimes I can see that I have been unjust, and am repentant. (On some of those occasions, I subsequently realise my penitence has been driven more by concern over the carnage than by a genuine conviction that I have wronged anyone.)
Two weeks ago, after one of these explosions, Barbara Branden said she was leaving SOLO on account of it, notwithstanding that it was one that I apologised for. It seemed to me at this point that in light of such a high-profile departure, I ought to take stock and ask what these periodic eruptions were achieving other than the loss of revered contributors. I had already promised Barbara that ... well, she seems to think I promised there would be no more eruptions at all; I believe I promised to take care that there would be no unjustified attacks on individuals of the kind I had unleashed on Michael Newberry when he advanced an idea that I found unspeakably odious. In any event, Barbara felt I had broken my promise and damaged SOLO in the process. So she was leaving (how this would help SOLO was not made clear), and I decided to take time out. I told everyone here that I would be absenting myself for a fortnight while I did some soul-searching and, possibly, fence-mending.
No sooner had I announced this than Barbara’s close friend James Kilbourne, another revered contributor, submitted for publication his now-infamous article, Drooling Beast, in which he posited that my explosions were caused by alcohol and claimed point-blank that I was an alcoholic. He said that he too, would be leaving (how his leaving would help SOLO, or me with my "alcoholism," was, again, not made clear).
People ask why I allowed such a thing to be published. The answer is contained in my response to SOLOHQ Editor Andrew Bissell when he drew the article to my attention and asked what he should do with it (Andrew at that stage had already heard a similar story from a nasty smear-monger at TOC, and told me he thought I "owed" it to James to publish):
Wotta lotta hogwash. He [James] thinks everyone's an alcoholic because of Sergio. And if one denies it, one is in denial. One can't win. I like my wine. Always will. Doesn't make me an alcoholic. How the hell do I hold down a television job, run a magazine & oversee SOLO while being an alcoholic? James should drink a little more himself & quit being so precious. Robert Winefield got it right—treasure the gems, ignore the turds, & get on with it. All this agonising & handwringing just amazes me. There's clearly a cultural thing here. In NZ we do exactly as Winefield says. There's rambunctious rough-&-tumble & folk don't go crying into corners. So many Americans are just pathetic sissies. I don't owe James a thing. But publish the crap anyway. If we don't, they'll spread it around that I suppressed an article telling "the truth" about me.
I truly figured that the abomination would be read by fewer people if it were published than if it weren’t, given what I had come to view as the Branden/Kilbourne fixation on making me over on my own turf. They would simply distribute the calumny informally, along with the juicy preface, "Here’s what Linz wouldn’t allow you to see on SOLOHQ"—a preface that would lend credence to the slander. So I authorised Andrew to publish. The rest is history.
Returning, then, from my sabbatical after even more turbulence than that which prompted it, what do I wish to say?
First, I have nothing to say on the subject of my "alcoholism." Friends who know me far better than James or Barbara have already rebutted the charge, eloquently and unequivocally, and I thank them for it. Psychobabblers will dismiss these friends as "enablers"; they are actually true comrades who saw a value being defiled by a smear ... and told the truth.
I do have this to say, however, on a related matter—that of my privacy, and privacy in general. My drinking habits are no one else’s business. In answer to anyone who claims the right to monitor, regulate or publicise this or any other aspect of my private life, I can do no better than invoke that estimable colloquialism, "Go fuck yourself!" Drooling Beast was an impertinent, pompous, presumptuous obscenity—unfathomably incongruous in the context of James's other contributions—that has been widely condemned as such. The fact that it was done as part of a badgering campaign "to bring me into the world of the sober and civilised"—when civilisation is the march toward privacy—meant it was a double-whammy own-goal for the perpetrators.
I have this to say on the matter of people who choose to register their disapproval of me by leaving SOLO: What on earth do they think that achieves? They all love what SOLO represents, and they love participating on SOLOHQ. How does it serve their interests or SOLO’s to flounce off because they disagree with, disapprove of or actively dislike the founder? There is much more to SOLO than Linz, including them! Ed Hudgins put the point very nicely on the Drooling Beast thread:
For whatever it's worth, I think it's unfortunate and unnecessary for Barbara and James to exit this forum. Let's say there's a room of 1,700 individuals, most of whom you love talking with and listening to. Sure, there are a few folks might not like, you might find boring or you might find to be a royal pain in the butt when they start going on about certain things in certain ways. Does it make sense to refuse to enter that room, to miss the interesting and enlightening exchanges with most of the 1,700 folks because of a few that you find it tough to stomach? No! Just ignore their conversations. Don't stand in the corner where they're holding forth. Ignore them. Or deal with them only on a select basis on select topics.
As an aside, I have found myself wondering, these past two weeks, whether the knee-jerk recourse to flouncing off is a Pavlovian response wrought by years of Peikovian conditioning. Does it go like this: Dissent in the traditional ARI culture has inexorably meant excommunication ... but if a dissenter is not excommunicated, he feels impelled to self-excommunicate, because estrangement is the only possible outcome of disagreement??!! Is it possible that the folk who quail, wail and walk at the first sign of conflict are acting out, and thereby sanctioning, this Peikovian model, without realising it, simply because that’s all they’ve ever known? Can it be that they just can’t accommodate the spectacle of the transparent airing of differences, even differences with the leadership (SOLO), as opposed to expulsion (ARI) or the vapid pretence that everyone gets along all the time and there are never any differences (TOC)? There’s a "Syndrome" here for sure. I’ll leave it for someone else to analyse and name.
The most tiresomely predictable thing that happens during any of these commotions is that sundry sanctimonious tut-tutters flutter down from their lofty heights, well above any suggestion of a fray, and unctuate about how terrible it is that folk are squabbling, and that there is—horreurs!—acrimony on the board. This, they assure us, spells the end of SOLO and the collapse of the cosmos. These paragons reprise their usual routine of how there must be stricter censorship, more excommunications, etc.. Well, the wisest words on this matter were written by Andrew Bissell in Post 80 on the Drooling Beast thread:
I am puzzled by what seems to be a widespread misconception—among Objectivists, no less—that a prerequisite for the success of an online discussion forum is the total absence of acrimony, and even more, the suppression of expressions of such emotions by moderators. Now, if such an expression really is irrational, it ought to be called into question, and its author called to account (as Lindsay was on the "Lessons Learned" thread, prompting his immediate and unreserved apology). But dealing with it by having an appointed vanguard comb threads for posts that violate some necessarily-vague definition of acrimony would be to treat posters like children, a policy that SOLOists should rightly resent (and one that, ironically, Robert himself suggests). The *truly* adult response to such conflicts has been elucidated by Robert Davison: if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. ...
I just can't seem to square the statements of those who say they want to hang out in greener pastures with their propensity to come on threads like this just to cluck their tongues at it. If you think the whole thing is worthless, why spend time and keystrokes wallowing in it? I could understand this frustration if this article had short-circuited other healthy discussions on SOLO. But I don't see that it has, nor do I see any reason why it should have.
Andrew reminded us of Joe Rowlands’ explication of our moderating policy:
Not everyone is going to be happy. There will always be people who dislike certain conversations. There will be people who don't like another participant. There will be people who don't like someone's writing style. There will always be complaints. It's a fact of life. We don't try to fix it. This site is huge. There are tons of topics to pick from, and you can start your own. So when you get bored with a thread, stop reading it. And better yet, start your own that you do find interesting. We give people an opportunity here, not a guarantee of happy results. ... Principle Six says that we should promote self-governance by the participants. It's preferable for the people actually participating to work out any issues themselves, instead of having to rely on the moderators. You can see this in action all the time. When someone is unjust in attacking another person, other participants come to the defense. When someone is boring and long-winded, people mention it to them or just stop responding to them. If a thread is going off-course, participants take it to a new and dedicated thread, or ask that others do.
So much for the prissy prattlings demanding stricter censorship. Part of the very success and uniqueness of the SOLO Forum lies in the chatroom-speed with which one’s posts go up, once one is through the initial period of moderation by which we try to weed out trolls. That’s the way it’s going to stay.
Finally, to the subject of my anger, and anger in general. I’ve said all this before, but I’ve learned that the Linz-bashers are very bad at paying attention, so I’ll repeat it here. This is an excerpt from my SOLOC 2 presentation, The Elixir of Youth, repeated at TOC-Vancouver:
The connection between conviction & passion is obvious enough to us SOLOists—we who stand for rational exuberance—as is the connection between lack of conviction & lack of passion. Here’s a swamp song that works on the cause via the effect. Intense passion is the effect of profound conviction. This song says that intense passion is improper, unseemly, bad form, or, in modern parlance, "uncool." "Hot" is "uncool." "Cool"—neither hot nor cold—is "cool." By implication, the best way to avoid the embarrassment of intense passion is to eschew its cause—profound conviction. So if you find yourself starting to believe in something, abandon it quickly, before you make a fool of yourself!
Take anger, for instance. We all recognise that idealists are prone to anger when their ideals are affronted, because their ideals are affronted. We used to have the expression, "angry young men" specifically to denote idealists. Theses days, it is very "uncool" indeed to get angry, just as it is to hold the strong convictions that might lead to anger. Indeed, even on the SOLO Forum I detect the mentality that says the single most important thing in life is never to get angry & most certainly never to show it. To display anger is the greatest sin. Never mind the reason for your anger—just don’t get angry!! To which I say: Bollocks! Show me the man without anger & I’ll show you a man without conviction. Show me the man without anger & I’ll show you a jellyfish.
Now I’m not here advocating that one should run amok with one’s anger, or any other emotion. I have spoken many times of the line between passion & hysteria—a line I would admit to having crossed a few times. I’m saying—try by all means to keep your mind in charge of it, but in response to that voice from the swamp that says, "Stay cool" or "Hang loose" or whatever, be proud of your anger when there’s good reason for it. When there’s good reason for it, not to feel & show anger would be reason to be ashamed! Ditto any other emotion.
Do not be afraid to fuel your emotions with profound convictions; do not be afraid to convey your convictions with intense emotion.
Listen to these magnificent words from the 19th century anti-slavery campaigner, Frederick Douglass:
Those who profess to favour freedom, & deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder & lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters.
Ponder this: a review of the SOLOHQ web site on Free-Market.net Homepage of the Week, Oct 31, 2002—an exultant discovery of Objectivists who had abandoned the Mr Spock view of how their philosophy should be practised:
Ordinarily I wouldn't wade through the literature of an Objectivist organization. That's not because I think Rand was wrong, it's just that I find most Objectivist literature to be a bit, well, dry. But the SOLO website drew me in and kept me there. ... they proudly proclaim that reason and passion are not contradictory but complementary. If only we can get that point across to all the deadpan Randroids out there. Even as I fundamentally agree with Objectivism, I never got excited about the philosophy. Thankfully, Sense of Life Objectivists provides excellent insight into the philosophy without the tedium that hamstrings other Objectivist organizations. A passionate amen to that!
Ponder this, from Facets of Ayn Rand, by Mary Ann & Charles Sures:
Charles: I’d like to add two points here. One is that her expressions of anger were the exception, not the rule. Two, they were often followed by applause from the audience—because the listeners were inspired by hearing someone speaking up for & defending what was right & good. They had heard, over & over again, mealy-mouthed speakers afraid to take a position—or suggesting that there were always two sides to a question—or that nothing is black & white. To have been subjected to these attitudes from childhood on up, & then to hear Ayn Rand take a firm position & defend it with conviction—this was cause for cheering. The audience response was not only to the content of her ideas, but to the manner of expressing them. She was medicine for the soul.
Mary Ann: All those adults who taught us never to get angry, or if we did, not to express it, to hide our emotions when we were offended or felt we were being treated unjustly, to remain calm, to maintain an even keel, for God’s sake don’t blow up, no matter what—these people didn’t do us any favours by urging us to suppress, to live like glazed, non-reacting creatures.
Charles: When she got angry, it was precisely because she was a thinker & an evaluator who was certain of her convictions. She judged something as right or wrong, good or evil—& she responded accordingly. She didn’t simmer & stew; she came to an immediate boil. Her thinking was not hampered & slowed down by chronic doubt, & her emotions were not suppressed or muted by it either. Moreover, her emotions never distorted or clouded her thinking. And the anger didn’t last. It was over almost as soon as it began.
Mary Ann: I miss knowing that there is someone in the world who always speaks out, unequivocally, against irrationality & injustice, & who not only denounces evil but defends the good. She was mankind’s intellectual guardian, a soldier in the battle of ideas. Her banner was always flying high. When she died, someone made the following comment: now anger has gone out of the world. And I thought, it’s true. And it’s the world’s loss. And mine.
Ponder all of the above, I say, &, when next incandescent at the unspeakable deeds of terrorist maggots, at the spewings of their apologists & appeasers, at the amplified jungle cacophony of musical terrorists such as rap "artists," at the sneering nihilism of the latest postmodern "painting," etc., qua Objectivist & qua decent human being, salute yourself for feeling that way—& for the thinking that led you to feel that way.
In the recent debate, the Linz-bashers have cast the argument in terms of civility vs. rage. Well, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater:
Civility in the face of evil is no virtue; rage in the face of nihilism is no vice.
On this matter, this boy’s not for turning. Yes, he’ll redouble his efforts not to cross the line between passion and hysteria, and to make sure his targets are deserving, but he won’t be renouncing his passion. Pomowankerism, Namblaphilia, Islamo-fascism, anarcho-Saddamy, headbanging caterwauling ... all these and other wilful, filthy irrationalities will continue to incur his wrath.
But that is only a small part of the story ...
The way the Linz-bashers tell it, you’d think anger was the only emotion I ever expressed. A perusal of my contributions to this site easily gives the lie to that. My most recent article, Go Well, Chris Lewis, is a case in point—a heartfelt tribute to a real-life hero and friend at this time of a milestone in his life. I note that the Linz-bashers had absolutely nothing to say about that when it was posted. It belied them. It belied the mean-spirited, wowserish, self-righteous crusade of SOLO’s very own, anomalous, in-house version of the Californian Christian Temperance Union!
As it happens, I too have reached a milestone in my life. Holmes, the television programme for which I have been Political Editor for the past eight months, has been canned, leaving me jobless. I shall be spending more time, not less, on SOLO. The sabbatical is well and truly over. Devotees of KASS (Kick-Ass), rejoice! Devotees of KASS (Kiss-Ass), lament!
I want to thank all who stood by me publicly during this turbulent time. Justice mandates that I cite in particular Derek McGovern, whose singular steadfastness I have yet to figure out how to repay. And I want to single out Andrew Bissell also. The sordid smallness of Drooling Beast meant a baptism-by-fire for him in his new role of SOLOHQ Editor. He handled it heroically. In his case, I have figured out how to repay him: I’m giving him the penultimate word!
I don't see Lindsay toning down his style to suit his critics anytime soon, nor do I think he should. This means there will probably be others who become unhappy with something he writes, maybe enough to leave SOLO completely. But I don't want SOLO to become just another bloodless debating society, and I think that's where some of these calls for Lindsay to just get along (or be made to get along) are headed.
Bless you, Brother Bissell—and rest assured:
It ain’t gonna happen.
I will not let my fire go out—or allow anyone to extinguish it—"spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all."
The total passion for the total height shall burn more fiercely than ever.
We Objectivists, whether SOLOists or not, have a world to win. The triumph of reason and freedom. That's a make-over worth crusading for. That's what's important. Let's get on with it.
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