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The Passion of the Critics of Ayn Rand's Critics
I was angry about this book, but now that I'm reading it, I'm finding it more pathetic, exposing many flaws with the Peikovian approach to Objectivism. For that reason, it deserves to be discussed.
First, the back cover quotes the Editor-in-Chief of the book's publisher; "For the serious students and supporters of Ayn Rand, and particularly those who try hard to live by her philosophy of Objectivism, this is a vital work. It is nothing short of a reference tool to be studied, perhaps a Bible..."
How often do you have to go to your publisher for a book review? In addition to the review from his assistant, there is also a lovely review from Kirkus Reviews. A quick google on Kirkus brought up this article:
Now, I'll give Mr. Valliant the benefit of the doubt that he was still getting his review from the honest part of Kirkus. However here is a great review I found that Mr. Valliant certainly didn't pay for.
David Brown is one of the contributing bloggers at dailypundit.com
...One debunking chapter, "Less Than Zero," expends ink on the question of how Rand picked the name "Rand" (she had been born Alice Rosenbaum); it apparently wasn't based on the typewriter, contrary to what Barbara Branden suggests in her biography. Well, assuming that Barbara Branden credited testimony she should not have credited, could this simply be an innocent mistake?
Oh no, not when it comes to the Brandens, for heaven's sake. No, it must be a sign of Barbara Branden's general dishonesty: "Dishonesty is apparent not merely from the Brandens' general approach," writes Valliant, "but from countless smaller ones. As a case in point, we are treated to an unnecessary fabrication concerning how Rand chose her name. While it is a minor point, it is an ominous foreshadowing of the dishonesty of the Brandens' main theses." I would say that this passage itself constitutes an ominous foreshadowing, of the prosecutorial nitpicking that is the hallmark of this obtuse book...
My own intial reaction to the book is much the same. Why the focus on minutiae? It's clear to me that Valliant is using 'witness techniques' to damage credibility. He uses minor inconsistencies to be able to just say, "They're dishonest" knowing that most won't want to plow through fights over how big of a roll Leonard Peikoff should have played in Barbara's book. Conveniently, this attempt to make blanket judgments fits perfectly with Peikovians who can only point to "Fact and Value" to explain what's wrong with David Kelley. Now they will just point to this book instead of honestly discussing what happened with Rand & the Brandens.
Here are just a few choice excerpts:
Between and within both authors' biographies of Ayn Rand and even between differing editions of those biographies, are obvious contradictions and distortions that demonstrate that neither author has achieved the objectivity necessary to depict Rand in a reliable way. Their mission, therefore, strikes the reader as one of vengeance and tastes of financial exploitation.
Weren't you on here complaining about the arbitrary, Mr. Valliant?
In fact, reiterating the same examples (on whether Rand experienced anti-semitism) suggests a coordinated story, for we must remember that Branden suffers from the same highly biased position to his subject as his ex-wife does. Although long-estranged afterwards, in the immediate wake of their break with Rand in 1968 they did, in fact coordinate their responses to Rand (In Response to Ayn Rand)
Is Mr Valliant suggesting that the Brandens decided after their break with Rand (or perhaps before) that they would keep their story straight on how Rand repressed feelings of anti-semitism as a means of discrediting her or as part of their plan to financially exploit her? Absurd.
So if their stories don't match exactly, they're proven liars, and if their stories are the same, they must be coordinating their lies.
That's not very objective, Mr. Valliant.
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