|"Lying," Michelle? |
Michelle, have I ever given you cause to believe that I am a liar? Could it possibly be that I just didn't recall correctly the single minor detail that Peikoff's appearance at Laissez Faire Books wasn't for a book signing plus a talk, but just for a book signing? Why do you immediately leap to the conclusion that in failing to recall this truly trivial detail about an event that occurred well over two decades ago that I am lying?
Do you prefer to believe that I am a liar? If so, why?
I don't wish to respond with similar motivational inferences, but I'll leave the question of yours hanging in the air for you to deal with.
In any case, the issue you raise of "book signing" versus "talk" is a distinction without a difference. The big deal raised against David Kelley was not only over the fact that Laissez Faire Books was carrying the Barbara Branden book; it was also that his very appearance at Laissez Faire Books constituted a "sanction" of a libertarian group. Peter Schwartz made this quite explicit in his "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners" -- his opening salvo against David Kelley -- and also in his follow-up essay, "On Moral Sanctions." In the latter essay, here is how he makes his case to condemn Kelley's LFB appearance because of the group's libertarianism:
Thus, the "benefits" of speaking to Libertarian groups are as nonexistent as the "benefits" of exhibiting books at an Iranian fair. The Libertarian movement is not some innocuous debating club. It is a movement that embraces the advocates of child-molesting, the proponents of unilateral U.S. disarmament, the LSD-taking and bomb-throwing members of the New Left, the communist guerrillas in Central America and the baby-killing followers of Yassir Arafat. These views have all been accepted under the Libertarian umbrella (and remain accepted under it by everyone who still calls himself a Libertarian). It is these types of vermin that one is lifting into respectability whenever one sanctions Libertarianism—or whenever one maintains that ideas can be analyzed without being evaluated.Michelle, everything Schwartz says here about libertarianism and Laissez Faire Books was as true in 1982 when Peikoff spoke as it was when David Kelley spoke years later. In 1982 the LFB catalogue and bookstore contained not only books by Nathaniel Branden (#1 on Peikoff's "enemies" list), but also by Murray Rothbard and a host of anti-Objectivist anarchists, and even a number of explicitly anti-Objectivist books. Rothbard and his followers had long been venomous in their denunciations of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and the LFB Bookstore was filled with their works.
Does this restrict the options open to Objectivist speakers? Certainly. Objectivism is a restrictive philosophy...
IT IS PARTICULARLY HARMFUL to speak under the patronage of an organization that epitomizes Libertarianism, such as Laissez-Faire Books. This is a book store that is the major source of Libertarian literature in the world; it is a division of Libertarian Review, Inc.; its editor is a well-known Libertarian speaker and writer; it advertises itself as offering the largest selection of books on "liberty"—a term it defines according to the contradictory criteria of Libertarianism. (The fact that it carries Objectivist as well as Libertarian literature does not make it any less Libertarian. Such eclecticism is quintessential Libertarianism; the subjectivist, after all, does not abide by rigid standards. One of Libertarianism's goals is in fact to incorporate Objectivism into its "united front" ideology.)
...By speaking under the roof of an organization dedicated to purveying Libertarianism, one concedes that Libertarianism does in fact value liberty (and is simply confused about the proper means—i.e., Objectivism—by which to gain that end). Once that fatal concession is made, Libertarianism has obtained the basic moral sanction its survival requires.
The contradiction, then, is this: The handful of Libertarians who may be open to reason need to be told that Libertarianism as such is anti-liberty and that Libertarian organizations should be boycotted. But this cannot be conveyed via a talk which is itself sponsored by a Libertarian organization.
None of this was a secret prior to Peikoff's appearance. LFB catalogues had been widely circulated among libertarians and Objectivists for years, and it simply defies credibility to believe that Peikoff didn't know of the organization's nature and orientation, about which it was up-front and explicit.
Moreover, Schwartz's moral condemnation wasn't just directed against the act of speaking before such a group; it was directed against any public appearances under the auspices "of an organization that epitomizes Libertarianism, such as Laissez-Faire Books." How was Peikoff's book signing appearance at Laissez Faire Books -- a planned event promoted in advance -- any different, morally, from giving a talk? Didn't his merely being there as a featured, invited author at a public book signing constitute a "moral sanction" of Laissez Faire Books?
And to borrow Schwartz's metaphor, weren't the "benefits" of his book-selling appearance exactly analogous to the dubious "'benefits' of exhibiting books at an Iranian fair"?
Come on, Michelle, let's get serious, shall we? Schwartz was clearly condemning any public association with such groups, which, he said, "should be boycotted." Any moral distinction between "talk" and "book signing" is nonsense. In any case, Peikoff's book-signing event certainly wasn't a boycott, which is the only policy they claim is morally appropriate towards libertarian organs.
In fact, morally speaking, Kelley's appearance at LFB was far superior to Peikoff's. Why? Because the whole point of Kelley's talk was to explain to libertarians the importance of adopting Objectivism as their philosophical base. By contrast, Peikoff appeared as a special invited guest at a public event held under this same libertarian organization's auspices, but did not speak out: he did not attack libertarianism, or present the Objectivist alternative to libertarianism. Instead, all he did was sell his book, The Ominous Parallels, while remaining mute about his disagreements.
How should we interpret this? One ungenerous (though eminently justifiable) interpretation is that -- unlike Kelley -- Peikoff wasn't about to let his philosophy stand in the way of selling a few books, even to an "enemy" audience.
If David Kelley merits moral condemnation for directly confronting a group of libertarians with arguments about why they need Objectivism, then Leonard Peikoff deserves total scorn for showing up before the same libertarian group and remaining silent, just in order to rake in a few bucks.
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 6/29, 8:07am)
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 6/29, 8:17am)
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 6/29, 9:00am)