|Bob Campbell wrote, "What ever happened to the good old-fashioned declaration, "That's none of your business"?|
"Besides, when a person has a policy of telling lies to protect privacy, he or she can't exactly announce what issues the lies will be told about, or who the lies will be told to. Such announcements would defeat the purpose of telling the lies."
I am reminded of Harry Binswanger's claim, stated unreservedly to a live audience at an Objectivist conference, that if there were any unflattering aspects of Rand's character or personality, her biographer should keep them under wraps, lest they serve as grist for the mill by those who would seek to discredit her. So are there really any grounds for believing that ARI would release all of Rand's private writings, even those that did her a disservice? Of course, there are none. On the contrary, we have it from the horse's mouth that they would do no such thing. Binswanger's remark along with Peikoff's stated position on privacy lies tell us all that we need to know. Anyone who thinks that we're getting the full story and not some sanitized version designed to protect Rand's reputation should think again!
Does that mean that ARI is obliged to release material that presents Rand in a bad light? Does the failure to do so constitute a sin of omission? I don't think so. Only if ARI declares that they are making a full disclosure, when in fact they are not, can they be accused of deception. But we already know that we aren't going to be getting the whole story if it is less than complimentary. So there's no reason to think otherwise.
As for declaring "That's none of your business," the classic rejoinder has always been that this reply can give away the store by implication, so that a lie is really the only way fully to protect the information from those who have no right to it. Suppose someone says to you, "I heard that Ayn Rand used to be a call girl. Is that true?" If you answer, "That's none of your business," it will almost certainly arouse suspicion, since if it were false, there would be no reason for you not to deny it. So, the claim is that a privacy lie may indeed be warranted, on the grounds that the inquirer has no right to the information nor even to any evidence for believing that it is true.
But what makes this issue particularly interesting is that the argument Rand gives for honesty is that it is a prudential virtue - that when you lie, you have to continue to buttress the lie by further lies, which entangles you in a web of deceit that you can't keep track of, so that you will eventually slip up, resulting in even worse problems than if you had simply told the truth to begin with. Whether this constitutes a sufficient argument against privacy lies depends, I suppose, on the likelihood of your being caught and whether or not the risk is worth taking. Of course, if Rand's prudential argument against lying were valid across the board, it would be valid against privacy lies as well, something that Peikoff might want to consider.