|For the record, I did not find "very few (if still unexplained) problems" in Harriman's editing of Journals of Ayn Rand. I was only able to compare one journal entry from that book to the same passage published previously in The Objectivist Forum. And a comparison of these different versions of the same passage showed inexplicable editing, including the elimination of the name "Albert Jay Nock" from the Journals' version. I have never seen the actual journals in Rand's handwriting, and I've never seen any other published passages from Rand's journals by which to make a more general comparison. So, what few problems I identified were only identified because I had a basis for comparison. With no archival access and no alternatively published versions of the journal entries available, I have no basis for assessing the overall quality of Harriman's editing.|
What I did say, in my initial essay on Harriman's editing (see here), however, was not that Harriman was being dishonest in his editing but that the introduction of these alterations, with no explanation, leaves scholars in the position of having to question their authenticity in part, or in toto. This is a totally unnecessary problem that emerged, which could have been very easily addressed by those responsible for the editing of Rand's personal papers. Unfortunately, the problem has never been addressed by Harriman or anybody else. (That's not quite correct; one blogger recently addressed some of these issues, but I think the questions this blogger raises only compound the problem. See Notablog here).
I should state that whatever objections people have to Jim Valliant's parenthetical remarks in his publication of Rand's personal diaries, I praised him, from Square One, for having published the material raw and for having indicated every change he made with proper use of brackets and bold emphasis.
As for the issue of the Brandens' accounts: Jim has, no doubt, found a number of inconsistencies and conflicts within each of the Branden accounts and between them. But most of these conflicts revolve around "subjectivity" issues: how each person, deeply embedded in the interpersonal dynamics that constituted The Affair, interpreted the other person's thoughts, feelings, motivations, etc. in the context of that Affair. I am not saying that The Affair is unimportant; I just continue to maintain that it relates less to the philosophic system that is Objectivism than, say, an understanding of Rand's intellectual development (which has always been of more interest to me).
As for the removal of the Brandens' voices from audio lectures, such as Rand's lectures on fiction-writing: All this would be put to rest if those responsible for the editing simply provided us with an explanation. But this practice of airbrushing people out of existence once they've broken with Rand or her immediate followers is not restricted to the Brandens. See this lovely demonstration at the Free Radical site, for example.
I have a problem with practices that alter the historical record; differences such as those that exist between the Brandens' accounts of The Affair and Rand's own journals can at least be placed in the context of motivational or interpretive differences. Jim V and I can disagree over the motivations of the players in question on any number of issues; but at least Jim V decided to approach the issue head-on, rather than bracketing out the existence of the Brandens from public discussion.
When people simply disappear from an historical record, there is something important that is being eliminated, something that partially explains that record or provides a richer context for understanding it.
As for my use of the archival material in the possession of ARI: I was in touch with Leonard Peikoff briefly prior to the publication of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. He refused to provide me with any photos for my book because he had had a bad experience with the use of a photo by James Baker for a book that Baker wrote on Rand. Not only did I understand his apprehensiveness, I actually raised the issue of the Baker book before he had a chance to. He explained that unless he really knew the people involved, he would not share such material. That was his right.
I had also asked him relevant questions concerning Rand's relationship to Professor N.O. Lossky, which he was unable to answer, but he had promised me at the time that if he came into any information about the case, he'd get in touch with me.
After the publication of my book, I received a number of letters from people at ARI who were pleased with the seriousness that I brought to the study of Rand. This didn't imply agreement with my work. But they were completely aware of my relationship to the Brandens (they saw in my book my extensive treatment of the Brandens' contributions as well as photos provided to me by the Brandens), and this never stopped them from continuing a correspondence. In fact, they were fascinated by my uncovering of information about Rand's early education at the Stoiunin gymnasium and secured from me a photo of Lossky for use in the documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life." I actually received a screen credit (along with Boris Lossky, N. O. Lossky's son) in that film.
Moreover, at the time, I had invited some ARI-affiliated scholars to contribute dissenting material to the volume Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand; they declined. Perhaps, in that instance, the presence of both Brandens in the volume posed a problem. But this was not the explanation they offered.
All I know is that I was on the verge of receiving a faxed copy of Rand's college transcript when they suddenly told me that I could do the research, provide them with my evaluation of the material, but never publish on the subject. They gave me no explanation as to why I would be denied the right to publish my findings; at first, I simply thought that they would want to make the "big splash" and that it was a "timing" issue. But that was not the issue, and they never explained why it was that I would have no right to reap the benefits of my own work. As it turned out, I sought those archival documents elsewhere, and eventually published my findings in the first issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.
Let me stress my agreement here with Magenta Hornet, however, that "The Rand estate has every right to decide how and when Rand's journals are made public ~ in any manner it chooses," even if it has never been expressed to me, implicitly or explicitly, that I have been denied access to those archives because of my relationship with the Brandens. In any event, such would not explain the denial of access to many other scholars, like Mimi Gladstein or biographer Anne Heller.
In fact, to my knowledge, no non-ARI scholars have been allowed to use the Rand Archives. Jim V may be the exception, but he had a relationship of sorts with Leonard Peikoff and his intellectual conclusions were certainly in sync with the negative assessment of the Brandens that Peikoff himself shares.
Such control over archives is not unusual; the Freud estate, the Nietzsche estate, and so many other estates, in their infancy, attempted to control the flow of information as a way of protecting the legacy of the person in question. But, over time, that control just doesn't work. Scholarly pursuits will not be held back no matter how many litmus tests are put in place to guide those pursuits.
I agree fundamentally with Jim on this point: "It is certainly to be hoped and expected that one day all scholars will be able to use all of it ..."