Very good article. It is proper to put Nathaniel Branden's comments in the perspective of his profession, which is psychologist and psychiatrist, not philosopher. His goals are different (how to achieve mental health) and his approach must be appropriate to such goals if he is to be a competent - and great - one.
Similar to what I mentioned to another poster in an offline e-mail in discussing one of his own comments, many statements like the one from the Talmud:
A hero is one who knows how to make a friend out of an enemy
provokes controversy simply because of degree (context), not because it is true or false. As a rule of thumb for personal conduct, it is a great one for self-checking that all the alternatives have been exhausted, or that there is a clear and present danger, before engaging in hostility. (A true hero checks facts before hostility.) As a definition (of hero), it is horrible.
The question always boils down to context. Since context is usually implicit, one person says something like that in one context (rule of thumb) and another interprets in another (definition). Instant conflict.
Such underlying context-shifting is built into sayings like that and it is one of the reasons religions have their staying power, but also it is one of the things that makes them become rejected and why so many new religions crop up all the time.
One thing I have to give Ms. Hsieh, however. She does not make any implicit context in her condemnation of Nathaniel Branden. She makes her context of hostility extremely clear. In a response to a comment by Adam Reed on her article (which prompted your own article), she states:
However, I do not think that Nathaniel Branden, a highly intelligent man well-trained in Objectivism, has "missed" anything. He is willfully, deliberately obfuscating. That's really, really important -- since it's what makes him evil rather than merely mistaken. He is deliberately attempting to distort and undermine a philosophy that he knows to be true and good.Is Mr. Branden trying to "distort and undermine a philosophy" or is he trying to be a psychologist and psychiatrist? I think your article is very important for making that issue clear.
No amount of mental gymnastics, rationalizations or long-winded salvos like what Ms. Hsieh engages in ever will produce evil where evil does not exist. Such attempts merely distort reality.