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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:11amSanction this postReply
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Great article, Lindsay.



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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 1:19amSanction this postReply
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Linz, this is really good. Bravo.



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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 3:27amSanction this postReply
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I have no desire to rehash my trashing of Valliant's book. Nor, for obvious reasons, do I have a desire to debate it without being paid at least six figures in advance. Nor do I have a desire to debate the characters of the people involved, as that is an entirely futile task. But a few fundamentals have to be stated.

First, my position on one of the characters involved. I know Barbara Branden well enough by now to know her character is unimpeachable and the sincerity of her motives is thorough. Linz knows this too--a knowledge which he now confines to "stomach feelings" but which I think are far more rationality-based than that--just as he knows that Barbara only "sanctioned" Drooling Beast because she thought that Linz, by virtue of publishing it, agreed with it. That's her publicly and privately stated position and that's a fact, regardless of the rest of the great big emotional convoluted complex fight which I have no desire to resuscitate.

Having said that, there is a more fundamental point, which has nothing to do with personal character-defense but rather objective fact. The fundamental contradiction of Valliant's book is that it relies on the Brandens being *enemies* of Ayn Rand, when they are quite conspicuously glowing champions of her. Any objective reader of Barbara's biography has recognized it as a critical admiration -- erring, if at all, on the side of the latter. This fact is unalterable, whether you agree with the criticism or not.

Similarly, Valliant's claim to importance relies on the immediately-false assumption that without the Branden biographies, Ayn Rand would've been sainted by the Catholic Church before Mother Teresa even had the chance. 

Despite a whole lot, the biggest flaw of Valliant's book, manifested in almost every line, is intellectual. Valliant had a chance to objectively present Rand's perspective of the big break by printing her entire journals on the matter with minimal editing -- something which would have been interesting and important to at least some. But that would've made Rand a self-defendant, placing Valliant in the far less-glamorous role of mere editor, rather than heroic and daring prosecutor who should forever be worshiped for rescuing the reputation of poor weak pitiful helpless Rand. 

Instead, Valliant turned his book into a ruthless and unscrupulous character assassination. Before publication, Fahy and Valliant came on SOLO and accused the Brandens of launching a "book-burning crusade" to "silence" the book. A grave accusation made with zero evidence and against all fact, as neither Branden made a single public comment on the book pre-publication. (Barbara wrote a self-defense on SOLO which didn't even mention the Valliant book.) All for the sake of hype. At the same time, Valliant publicly revelled in the demented excretions of the certifiably loony Autonomist crowd.      

No amount of current backtracking can erase those sleazy and revealing actions from my memory. This book, too sadly, was more about inflating the author's self-importance than showing the world what Ayn Rand had to say.

I write this as my last word on the subject, even though I dread that the time I spent doing so will be among the first things I regret on my deathbed.

Alec  




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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 4:13amSanction this postReply
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Alec wrote:

First, my position on one of the characters involved. I know Barbara Branden well enough by now to know her character is unimpeachable and the sincerity of her motives is thorough. Linz knows this too--a knowledge which he now confines to "stomach feelings" but which I think are far more rationality-based than that--just as he knows that Barbara only "sanctioned" Drooling Beast because she thought that Linz, by virtue of publishing it, agreed with it. That's her publicly and privately stated position and that's a fact, regardless of the rest of the great big emotional convoluted complex fight which I have no desire to resuscitate.

Alec, if you don't mind, I will speak for what I know, since only I can know what that is. I certainly didn't authorise you to do so. Even if Barbara sanctioned Drooling Beast for the reason you state, she's had ample opportunity to realise she was wrong to do so, & retract.

My conscious knowledge at this point tells me the sincerity of Barbara's motives is non-existent. My "stomach feelings" tell me this cannot be. But stomach feelings notoriously take a while to catch up with new knowledge.

I already remonstrated with Valliant for going on the Phirehammer phruitloop site. He probably had no idea at the time how phlaky it was. Doesn't alter the fact that Valliant has reminded us of, as I already put it, "a litany of unconscionable deceits." It's all there, chapter and verse. Easy to do a hit-and-run, as you've done here: defend the indefensible and then disappear. Just makes your string-pullers look worse. Let them come on and defend themselves. The Brandens can do that. They're alive. Ayn wasn't when they did their number on her.

Linz



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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 4:48amSanction this postReply
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Linz, the only value you cited in this book is that it reminds us of what we already know and what has already been admitted by the Brandens. Maybe you felt like being reminded only because of your recent emotional squabble with Barbara -- you certainly had not a spec of interest in reading the book before that. Months before you even considered looking at it, I stated specific points of the book's self-invalidation, as I have stated fundamental points in the post above, as well as a raw lie that was spread on this very site.

The fact is that Valliant's book is not about "reminding" us. It's about indicting the Brandens as vicious lying scumbags and "psychological rapists" and invalidating everything they've said, while making a mockery of Ayn Rand by not allowing her to speak for herself. I've made all the fundamental refutations of the thesis and the method; the numerous specific ones have been made (and will be made) by reviewers.

All I defended in the post above was the personal character of Barbara. So when you say I'm merely "defending the indefensible," all your saying is that Barbara's character is indefensible. Back to your personal squabbles, which seem to be more important to you here than anything. Or at least important enough for you to overlook the brazen lack of scruples and rationality, as described in my post and others, for the mere "value" of an incidental reminder of what's already been admitted! Sorry, but we have a difference of values here, and the relevant values have been dealt with.

Alec





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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 5:41amSanction this postReply
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Alec, I really like you a lot. I once defended you here (from the OPPOSITE side of the debate, mind you!) against some vicious, anarcho-libertarians -- though being a minarcho-libertarian myself. I saw them mischaracterize you and I screamed bloody murder. Please, please remember this best instance of my behavior toward you -- as you read my criticisms of what it is that you have had to say here, now, in this thread ...


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Linz, the only value you cited in this book is that it reminds us of what we already know and what has already been admitted by the Brandens.
=============

That's not quite right, Alec. There is the value of publishing appropriate rebuttal -- even if it's 20 years late. This is a value to the cause of ideas, which are supposed to spread through populations. That's what ideas do, that's what ideas are for. To argue against the value of the book because YOU (and several others) "already know" these things -- is extremely myopic, and even a tad narcissistic.


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Maybe you felt like being reminded only because of your recent emotional squabble with Barbara -- you certainly had not a spec of interest in reading the book before that.
=============

Again, this point ignores the truth about the first point -- and, for shits & giggles, introduces the ugly head of motive, in place of (instead of) arguing the idea. While attacks on motives often count -- they don't substitute, or pinch-hit, for REAL argument. To assume that, is fallacious.


=============
It's about indicting the Brandens as vicious lying scumbags and "psychological rapists" and invalidating everything they've said, while making a mockery of Ayn Rand by not allowing her to speak for herself.
=============

This first part is where I must grudgingly hold my tongue (as I have not yet read this book). For now, let me say this:

I disagree with you, Alec, when you say that Valliant should've simply published Rand's notes in total and verbatim. The same could've been said for Barbara's book, no? I find this to be a hypocritical argument. And another thing, you really seem to be taking an altruistic position -- when you say that Valliant should selflessly publish dry history without the twin personal benefits of creating something (with his writing skill) and reaping benefits for what he has created. That's what egoists do, Alec (and this point -- about the inherent rightness of self-productivity -- seems to be lost in your words here).


=============
Back to your personal squabbles, which seem to be more important to you here than anything. Or at least important enough for you to overlook the brazen lack of scruples and rationality ...
=============

See above.


Alec, I hope that I haven't here destroyed future relations with you. I will be what I am, and love what I love -- and thinking hard to find both truth and value (and judging to the best of my ability), IS what I love. When I do what I love -- I find myself in disagreement with you; and I won't be ashamed of that, or even hold my tongue about it.

Meant with respect (as one thinker to another),

Ed



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Post 6

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 6:26amSanction this postReply
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Linz,

I have to read this book myself, but your review reeks of justice. Absolutely fantastic!

Ethan




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Post 7

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 6:54amSanction this postReply
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Linz:

Excellent review. I'll pick it up and read it for myself.

One of the big things that struck me about the whole Affair is the idea that a husband a wife agreed to let a third party carry on a romantic and sexual affair. And that the third party, also married, agreed to clandestine use of Branden--not open, obvious exultation and love, but secret and deceitful. And that all parties agreed to lie about it. And that, then, one of the parties had ANOTHER affair and lied about it.

The whole thing is a polluted, rotten web of deceit and bizarre behavior. All parties pissed on their integrity. At least Ayn had the decency of getting PERMISSION from all parties for her affair, as strange as the whole matter was. Branden did not. My impression is economics was the reason.

N. Branden reads rather like an egotistical New Age crackpot. I know nothing of Barbara other than her love of airs of propriety, and her involvement in all of the above and Drooling Beast. That, I think, is all I need to know.



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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 9:26amSanction this postReply
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Great article, Linz.

Nevertheless, I hope the day comes when the philosophy of objectivism is divorced from the personal lives of its early pioneers.

While I enjoy reading biographical info about great mathematicians, I study their works with appropriate detachment. I listen to Wagner's music and put aside his screwy views. I see movies without thinking of the often idiotic views of its actors (Jane Fonda comes to mind here).

One day, people will hopefully read objectivist literature without dwelling on the life of Rand.




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Post 9

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 8:35amSanction this postReply
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Linz, speaking of what an "honest" Barbara Branden would have sounded like: "The reason we deceived Ayn Rand was that she was our meal-ticket and we figured she'd cut us off if we told her the truth."

Based on my own experiences as a Student of Objectivism at NBI in NYC before the Break, I thought Barbara Branden was deeply concerned about the Objectivist movement and the tens of thousands involved with the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy. I'm not saying she didn't have financial concerns, but she wasn't so base as to justify this gross mis-characterization.

There was an over-riding benevolence that we had toward each other being part of a powerful sub-culture that was shattered along with the demise of NBI. Too much weight is now being given to Ayn Rand's journals where she was at her best and too little to "To Whom it May Concern" where she was at her worst. Ayn Rand's private life was a lie out of her concerns for her privacy and probably out of concern for Atlas Shrugged. But she thus denigrated the personal worth of the other three deceivers (and by implication herself) and her own philosophy's morality thereby traduced. So Nathaniel Branden, so profoundly influenced by Ayn Rand ended up living a lie and telling lies to her--what could she have logically expected? Not that it gave him a very good excuse.

More later.

--Brant

(Edited by Brant Gaede on 9/26, 9:56am)

(Edited by Brant Gaede on 9/26, 9:58am)




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Monday, September 26, 2005 - 10:44amSanction this postReply
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Linz,

I think it is clear that we are at odds on this issue in general. However, looking at a book never does anyone any harm, so it is a good thing you read it. I will be preparing my own review, so many of the comments I could make here I will not. There are a couple of things, though. (btw - These are ALL my own thoughts, and not one of them has come from any correspondence with Barbara. She will probably be very surprised to see them.)

As a rebut to Barbara's article on Solo about The Passion of Ayn Rand, you wrote the following paraphrase:
The reason we deceived Ayn was that she was our meal-ticket, and we figured she'd cut us off if we told her the truth.

Now that is the full truth, and itís much less appetising than the first version.
Full truth? It was all about money? Only money? All those years of being a disciple was nothing more than financial gain at the root? A comment like that completely dismisses human nature in all its conflicts, love, bickering, admiration, mentor-disciple, you name it. There is a wealth of motivations to a person staying around a person like Ayn Rand for 17 years and becoming involved with her on a personal level. OK, financial gain was a component, but once again, the full truth? Is everybody going Randroid all of a sudden?

Let me mention one aspect of Barbara's character that has not been brought up - not even in my own talks with her. She did not accept the offer to become Ayn Rand's heir without Rand knowing the full truth. THAT, I submit, is more than enough proof of her character. Do you want to know the full truth? How about this?

Leonard Peikoff's turn came up to become designated as Ayn Rand's heir ONLY BECAUSE OF BARBARA'S DECENT AND NOBLE CHARACTER. Not because she was a despicable liar. She was in a horrible situation that dragged on for years. She was among people who did things and made decisions that took years (like 13 years to write a book). Things started to move fast with NBI and that took a lot of attention, so I an see how easy it was in that context to put off engaging in an extremely difficult task like bringing this issue to light. Still, when it came down to the clutch, Barbara came through with a shining example of integrity. She would not become Ayn Rand's heir without the full truth.

That is the full truth.

She wanted financial gain? She could have had it simply by keeping her mouth shut, but her integrity would not let her. How many of us would have made that decision? Think about it. (I can almost hear everybody thinking, "I know I would have done the right thing." But as you said, "Yeah, right.") Barbara is a goddam heroine of Objectivist integrity based on what she did in an excruciating real-life conflict.

The Passion of Ayn Rand is a romantic biography and autobiography. It is a magnificent achievement - both for the writing and for the larger-than-life portrayal of Ayn Rand overcoming external enemies and internal conflicts. So it misfired on a few details. Correct them. Don't try to say that the larger-than-life heroine (Rand) that breathes through every single page of that book was portrayed by a mean-spirited dirty rotten scumbag. That book is a wonderful tribute to Ayn Rand.

Another issue. I do not know the sales figures, but I would bet my bottom dollar that there was an increase in the sales of Rand's books when Barbara's bio came out. On the contrary of harming Rand's reputation, Barbara's work helped spread her ideas. Even the movie, which was superficial, is effective advertising for Rand's work by bringing her name to a middle-class mentality audience (mostly church-goers who are happy to stay that way).

OK, Barbara does not like people who drink alcohol to excess. She is quick on the trigger to call them alcoholics. Is that the only issue to judge her on? There we go Randroid again. The truth is that Barbara rejected you and Solo. But it was not a full rejection because of her constant monitoring. So let's correct this - deal with it with her - and move on and see the rest of who she is and what she has done for Objectivism. Look at it. It exists. It will not go away (especially if I - and people like me who love Barbara - have a say in the matter - in much the same manner that I defend you and Solo and what you are doing for Objectivism).

After the "Puking in the Kitchen" horseshit that Alec Mouhibian did (a high-school level prank), I had written him off. Nobody ever will offend Kat in public and get away with it. However, I want to take this opportunity to extend a warm embrace to him - right here and right now. Alec, your stance and love of truth - and willingness to step up where nobody else has the courage to in order to defend one of the founders of Objectivism - is a tremendous inspiration to me in the midst of all of this bickering. It more than makes up for the prank.

About Nathaniel Branden, I will deal more with what he did and who he is in my own review. I know that when I think about it, I would not ever want to be in his shoes in a situation like what he lived through in having an affair with Ayn Rand. Leave it to say that he has enjoyed tremendous success in his own right and this is something that sticks in the throat of all of those who would like to erase him from Objectivism history. Nathaniel Branden is a great man and most of his detractors are average people without comparable achievements. Like it or lump it. Nathaniel Branden is going down in history as a high achiever and contributor to mankind's wealth. Most of those who do not like him are going to be forgotten. He made a mistake when he was younger. I did not see him repeat that mistake in life and I saw him own up to it in public.

That is the true basis of forgiveness - but I forgot. "Forgiveness" is not PC around here. Better to condemn and be blind to all the rest.

I have serious issues with Valliant's book, most of which I will deal with in my own review. I do want to remind you, Linz, of all people, of Barbara's high-integrity character so long as your gut feelings last.

The silence of both Brandens on the affair and their opinions of her character during Rand's life ALSO AND MOST DEFINITELY can be seen as respect for Rand's achievements and not wishing to cause further suffering to a living giant. I see none of the implied cowardice that is now creeping in to the arguments ("at lease the Brandens are living so they have a chance to rebut Valliant...").

I will end this post with another quote from you. I see that the poison that Valliant is actively trying to spread did not infect you fully. (Whew!) If you are able to see the following, how about those who lived with Rand for 17 years, one even sharing her bed? Cannot they have seen this also and comment on it (especially seeing that they lived it, not just talked about it), or is that only a prerogative of later generations? Are they now to be painted as money mongers only for doing the exact same thing that you are doing here?
There is an Ayatollah Ayn on display at times, as in her infamous and also-very-silly remarks about homosexuality. There is definitely a rationalistic tendency evident in her journals to over-intellectualise questions of sex and romance, areas in which the objective fact of the matter is that thereís much we donít yet understand (see my essay, Romance and Rationalism).
Michael



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Post 11

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 11:47amSanction this postReply
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I had just put this over as good old post 533 on the walking zombie thread known as "Ayn Rand Smeared Again", but I will put it here instead, and a link where it currently lies. It belongs over here now, and I can't think of a better place I'd like to see it than next to MSK's post:




Post 533



Monday, September 26 - 11:24amSanction this postReply


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I happened to be visiting elsewhere at a, er, new place someone who used to be here set up, and noticed some discourse on the topic of judgment itself. This segment was focused on Ayn Rand's comments on the "Judge not, lest ye be judged" precept, and how the morally appropriate precept was "Judge, and prepare to be judged."

Maybe a much more useful piece of scripture to have talked about would be Jesus' "Your measure will be made by the measure by which you measure, and it shall be added to you." Personally, I find that to be the better mousetrap than the two quotes above it, for more than one reason, and I ain't talking about no afterlife...for the most part, I don't think he was either, or if it even matters. It's a good principle. If there is one area that poses the maximum challenge to Objectivists, it is that of judgment of others, theory and practice. And, they do not seem different from most other people grappling with that in that their primary failings lie not only in practice, and the effects it brings to others, but also what it brings to themselves. It is fair to say that results may vary, and objects in the rear mirror are very bloody likely closer than they may appear.

I often watch what my new friend Ciro talks about. Ciro is very Italian, and he writes in broken English. He also has a very unique gift for going deep and getting to the heart of things. I noticed that recently, his thoughts led him to the subject of vendettas. At the same time, I was thinking about Nathaniel's comment (which took its own thread-within-a-thread here) regarding preference of making an enemy into a friend. Both of these topics link to the subject of judgment of others, theory and practice. Most things in human affairs do.  

Rand did not choose to write an autobiography or other book that included the time period of which we speak so frequently. The things that she did write about it outside of her journals, we know about.  She could have written one, and as far as I can tell, she made an unhindered choice to not do so. The Brandens chose to write their respective accounts, which is not a suprising thing for people of that profile to do. It is also not unreasonable to expect that those accounts would be anything less than human, subjective accounts. I do not see any possibility (at least useful possibility) for a player to attempt a third-person approach- to my preference,there is more to be had doing otherwise- I leave it to the writers of such things to monitor themselves, as best they are able. The reader is not required much more than to have enough common sense to know what it means first off when reading something like that, and to know the difference. My point in bringing this view forward is simple: In such a case, I simply want the information (in this case, the journals), if it is made available. In the case of journal-publishing, the conventions are well known; little is required other than the material itself, with editorial notes, and so forth. Perhaps a simple timeline is provided.

If a third party choses to do otherwise, it does not violate my right to reassess my own views- what it does is get in my way. If that person wishes to provide commentary (in whatever style, be it prosecutorial or whatever) about that information, my expectation is that they get to write another book, or do it somewhere else, like the rest of us.

If they do not, and take the path James V. has taken, I view it as an impediment. Now, I have to consider their personal purposes. As a party who did not participate, there will be new purposes and personal agendas- it simply must be so, if the person exercises volition. In Mr. Valliant's case, I have to accept the premise that this appropriately includes establishing himself as an important author- after all, he has come out of the blocks writing about Ayn Rand, and soon will be taking on The New Testament, I am told. Both large, high-profile undertakings, for which he should be admired in terms of sheer ambition. What troubles me in his choice of action (which he has explained) is that it is built from the idea that he must, in the interest of balance (truth, justice, and the American way, even), counter into the situation with his own analyses, his own judging (or prosecution, as was the more natural path for him- stylystically, this makes sense to me on a number of levels, one of them being good business sense if you are out to sell books). In other words, he must pre-load, predigest, on our behalf. That is normally referred to as "spin", and I have no use for spin. For a player, a principal in a set of events, to provide personal "spin" is innate and virtually impossible to separate. I don't even view it as "spin". As I said, they will do as well as they choose to, and as they can manage to. Such is the case with firsthand accounts.

There are some that think that the largest affront in his choice of format is that within it lies the tacit assumption that we were not able to determine that there were subjective elements in the Branden books. In other words, he assumes a deficiency on the part of the reader, which he through his own skills and (more informed) perspective must fill on their behalf. That, due to this "gap", one that AR herself cannot (or did not) fill, he must do our thinking for us, or at least attempt influencing the public currents. This seems like acting by proxy, where there was no proxy given. Actually, it seems an awful lot like a certain variety of pragmatism, or something explained via a certain kind of pragmatism.




(Edited by Rich Engle on 9/26, 12:01pm)

(Edited by Rich Engle on 9/26, 12:05pm)




Post 12

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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Alec and Michael, your defense of the Brandens, mainly Barbara, is touching.
I can understand why Linz, in this instance, might do so, since it appears that Barbara's pyschologizing is a recurring habit that he's experienced firsthand.
Still, it's a good reminder not to reify a person's faults as the whole of their being. I don't know about being unimpeachable, but certainly not a total loss of a human being.

(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 9/26, 12:00pm)




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Post 13

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 12:11pmSanction this postReply
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Linz,

An interesting review of PARC.  You almost tempted me to get the book and read it.  I won't however.  I understand the situation that motivated you to read James Valliant's book, but I'm still of the mind you had been:  Why toss these old bones around?  Ayn Rand's greatness is measured by her achievements, not her follies.  So I'll take advantage of my seat as a backbencher to ignore what more prominent folks around here can't. ;-)

None of this is to disparage Valliant's book.  From your review and the statements of Valliant himself, it looks like a necessary corrective for those whose opinion of Objectivism is unduly influenced by the private lives of Rand and the Brandens.  As already noted by Marty in this thread the rational thing to do, once time makes the past history, is to distinguish between the art and the artist.  Your even-handed treatment of PARC is nice push towards this end.

Unfortunately, I see from some of the responses to your review, the Branden partisans are going to give you a rough time of it for moving on instead of taking their side.  See you in the foxhole if this becomes a shootin' war. ;-)

Andy




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Post 14

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 12:49pmSanction this postReply
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Why toss these old bones around?  Ayn Rand's greatness is measured by her achievements, not her follies.  So I'll take advantage of my seat as a backbencher to ignore what more prominent folks around here can't. ;-)
 
Of course you are right. All people's greatness is measured by their achievements, not their follies. That would include the Brandens, who have both made significant contributions, in several areas.

As far as ignoring goes, it seems to me it is more of a won't, not a can't. Not when the bones were pulled out of the crypt (which already had the wear of many years of vandalism and ghoulishness) and thrust out there publicly. A new sheriff pulled into town, exhumed the body, and attempted a forensic analysis. Well, it wasn't even that, whatever it was.  The idea was to do so as a for-profit and personal gain venture. It was unreleased, significant historical material, wrapped inside unsolicited (and unneeded) holding forth.

it looks like a necessary corrective for those whose opinion of Objectivism is unduly influenced by the private lives of Rand and the Brandens.
 
 I guess I just needed the right guy to set me straight and do my thinking for me while I looked at her papers.   What he did could be done in one fashion or another by anyone who had access to the material. It would've been better straight, with no wash. This just politicized it further. It muddied the waters. I do understand your position, though- to date, it appears to be shared by the Brandens. As participants, they wrote their books, and that was pretty much that.  

Mr. Valliant made a decision about what those interested in Ayn Rand needed, on their behalf. We are to believe that it was basically an act for the greater good of Objectivism, if you can swallow that one. Perception needed to be altered, counterbalanced.

And that would have been perfectly fine with me, if all the journal material had been out first. This is like waiting for an unreleased film that's been in the can for years, and when it finally comes out, you've got some somebody jumping in and out it, telling you what it means. When I buy an organ, I don't want them to make me take the free monkey that comes with it.





(Edited by Rich Engle on 9/26, 12:52pm)




Post 15

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 2:00pmSanction this postReply
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All this is reminding me of Dominique, and why she threw the statue down the air well - and why Rand said Dominique was herself in a bad mood...



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Post 16

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 2:17pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, because you're intelligent and sincere -- and because this can be done without going on and on -- I will respond to your criticism.

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Linz, the only value you cited in this book is that it reminds us of what we already know and what has already been admitted by the Brandens.
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That's not quite right, Alec. There is the value of publishing appropriate rebuttal -- even if it's 20 years late. This is a value to the cause of ideas, which are supposed to spread through populations. That's what ideas do, that's what ideas are for. To argue against the value of the book because YOU (and several others) "already know" these things -- is extremely myopic, and even a tad narcissistic.
Ed, in Linz's post #4 he specifically ignored all my fundamental points that undermined the book's thesis (except for the one about Valliant revelling in Autonimst excretions) to cite one value, namely, the reminder. But as I said, that's just an incidental part of the book and not a criterion for judging it. The criteria for judging it is thesis and support. The thesis is that the Brandens are not only enemies of Ayn Rand, but vicious lying scummy enemies. The support is porous, petty, pathetic and deceitfully exclusionary. I've stated the fundamental invalidations, as have (and will) others.

What "values" there are in this book must be gathered like crumbs. As I said, there *would* have been a value to publishing an *appropiate*, scholarly and intellegent rebuttal, which might've included more than merely reprinting her ENTIRE manuscripts on the subject. But Valliant opted for a sleazy character assassination. It would've also necessitated that he not literally speak for Ayn Rand through brackets almost as much as she speaks for herself, for the purpose of trying to support *his* conclusion that the Brandens are evil, as opposed to presenting Rand's actual and much more complex perspective.

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Maybe you felt like being reminded only because of your recent emotional squabble with Barbara -- you certainly had not a spec of interest in reading the book before that.
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Again, this point ignores the truth about the first point -- and, for shits & giggles, introduces the ugly head of motive, in place of (instead of) arguing the idea. While attacks on motives often count -- they don't substitute, or pinch-hit, for REAL argument. To assume that, is fallacious.
No Ed. Linz has stated his motivation for reading the book himself. He had no interest until his "eyes were opened" by his emotional squabble with Barbara. Now that's fine. My point was that he ignored all the intellectual felonies -- including a proven lie that was spread on this site, about the Brandens launching an "ugly book-burning silencing campaign" -- to praise the book only for its incidental reminder of what people who read the Branden biographies will already know. That reminder does not outwiegh deceit and idiocy. Except, it seems, for people who have emotional personal issues with the Brandens, such as Randroids (by default) and non-Randroids who've had personal squabbles.

Whatever happened to be Linz's motives, overlooking "brazen lack of scruples and rationality" (which describes Valliant's book very charitably) for the sake of a reminder does not reflect good judgment.

Finally, you say:

I disagree with you, Alec, when you say that Valliant should've simply published Rand's notes in total and verbatim. The same could've been said for Barbara's book, no? I find this to be a hypocritical argument. And another thing, you really seem to be taking an altruistic position -- when you say that Valliant should selflessly publish dry history without the twin personal benefits of creating something (with his writing skill) and reaping benefits for what he has created. That's what egoists do, Alec (and this point -- about the inherent rightness of self-productivity -- seems to be lost in your words here).
First, your point about Barbara's book is ridiculous. Barbara wrote a biography; biographies are storied interpretations of a life, in which the perspective of the biographer is acknowledged. This matter has nothing to do with the details of Ayn's life, but rather her *perspective* on a particular private conflict, which only she knows. Therefore, her perspective can only be presented by one person: her. Its rationality can be supported by external facts to a small extent, of course, but that's only if proving its rationality was the purpose. The purpose of Valliant's book, once again, was to indict the Brandens as evil enemies of Rand.

And no, I don't think creating cardboard demons out of real and decent people, based on lies and poor argumentation, constitutes productivity. And I don't think that seeking to personally benefit from such character assassination constitutes rational egoism at all. I stated above what Valliant's rational role could have been.

But the fact is, Ed, that you have to read the book in order to see what all the reviewers have meant. Nowhere to go from here otherwise. If you're interested, I encourage you to read it. Which is an enouragement I made MONTHS ago, qualified by the suggestion that you get it from a library, a used bookstore, or (when you had the chance) from the dumpster behind my house.  

Alec
         




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Post 17

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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The idea that I say the only value one derives from Valliant's book is a reminder of the Brandens' deceits, which they'd already owned up to, is preposterous. The Branden partisans should read the entirety of my review. It includes, for instance, a bullet-pointed section about the non-Ayatollah Ayn who emerges from her journals. Encountering her was emphatically not of no value, for me at least. I still take the trouble to say we mustn't lose sight of the fact that there was an Ayatollah Ayn on view at times.

I'm puzzled that Andy & Marty belabour the desirability of leaving all this personal stuff behind us, since that's precisely the note on which I end my review! That's a given! But Valliant has provided a valuable service in rebutting two posthumous memoirs about Objectivism's founder that we can now see clearly contained many injustices. And as Objectivists we can't airily say the ideas must be divorced from the person. The whole point of Objectivism is that it's a tool for living on a personal level. If the founder, of all people, routinely behaved in a manner inconsistent with her ideas, then that would be something to call her on. Only she didn't.

It's interesting to me that posters here with no horse in the race can see at once how hard I tried to be fair in this review. The Brandenians see only a frontal assault, one of them in particular snarling like a cornered rat. As someone has just e-mailed me privately, "I think you can see the kind of crud that gets hurled at you from the Brandens when you call them out. I'm sure you appreciate the source of much of the current dumptruck load."

I had completely forgotten that Casey or James had once said there was the equivalent of a book-burning here before the thing had even come out. Only they can explain why they said that, but it was clearly wrong.

It's not true that I read the book solely because of Drooling Beast, though that nasty piece of viciousness certainly made me question Barbara's integrity, especially since it took on the appearance of a re-run of the O'Connor allegation. Her defenders said to me privately I shouldn't set too much store by itóBarbara was merely an incorrigible scold, precisely in the vein of my Brandbourne Christian Temperance Union caricature, rather than a smear-monger, a "Jewish mother" whom I should humour rather than argue with. But then I read posts right here from people like Lance, dealing with the big picture rather than personal squabbles, affirming that it wasn't pretty. That's when I decided I would read this thing for sure. And I repeat: I'm glad I did, & I'd urge everyone to do likewise.

Linz



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Post 18

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 3:06pmSanction this postReply
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"And as Objectivists we can't airily say the ideas must be divorced from the person. The whole point of Objectivism is that it's a tool for living on a personal level. If the founder, of all people, routinely behaved in a manner inconsistent with her ideas, then that would be something to call her on. Only she didn't."

THAT is the value of the book.



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Post 19

Monday, September 26, 2005 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks for a well-written and, it appears, fair review, Linz.  And I'm taking into account the Brandens' defenders here.  While I prefer to focus on the ideas and toss the old ad hominems to the wind, it is true that many critics of Rand, or those who dismiss her ideas out of hand, do so while citing info from one or both of the Brandens' books.  If it can be shown that some of that damning information is in error, it could cause some critics to confront Rand's ideas themselves, instead of writing them off with a misinformed character assault.  At least it would save defenders of Objectivism of having to deal with or talk around the 'Ayn Rand was crazy and disturbed because...' objections before we can get to arguing the ideas.

I don't know to what extent the truth merits such a revaluation, and if it does, I don't know whether Valliant's book actually helps or hinders that task.  But I have heard both sides, and you've convinced me to pick it up and find out for myself.

Thanks again!




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