by Michael Stuart Kelly
In early 2005, an unknown author and government attorney, James Valliant, published a book entitled The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. It is abbreviated as PARC.
The thesis of the book is that both Brandens had badly damaged Rand's reputation by smearing her in an underhanded—not easily perceived—manner in their published books and that Rand's own journal entries at the time of the break between her and the Brandens prove her to be such a victim.
At the time of publication, this book received the endorsement of almost the entire orthodox Objectivist community. This was fueled by the fact that Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir, had granted Valliant the right to publish Ayn Rand's journal entries from the time of the break, going from the end of 1967 up to the middle of 1968. Peikoff also heartily endorsed the book by claiming the following*:
I admit I also think of Valliant sometimes as a "that" and not as a "who." I also admit that this is not very important, but there it is. This quote was posted by the Chicago Objectivist Society in their announcement of Valliant's talk on April 15, 2006.
Jim Valliant... is one of the few people that knows what he's talking about when he says something.
* NOTE ON MAY 20, 2008: Valliant just revealed that this quote is from the video jacket of Ideas in Action, which, according to him, was published 10 years earlier than PARC. I just documented this in a post. As you can see in the full context in the Noodelfood post reproduced below, there is a strong insinuation that Peikoff wrote this to plug PARC. At any rate, Peikoff endorsed PARC enough to let Valliant use Rand's unpublished journal entries. I have no formal knowledge of what his evaluation of the finished book is, but I have a good guess, and I guess it has changed over time.
There are no archives of this announcement on the Chicago Objectivist Society's website and the Wayback Machine entry for it apparently has been deleted. The entire announcement, however, was repeated verbatim on Noodlefood on March 21, 2006. Here is the full blog post in case it should likewise disappear one day (I did not include the links in the post):
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Jim Valliant in Chicago on April 15th
By Diana Hsieh @ 9:20 AM
The Chicago Objectivist Society is hosting two lectures by Jim Valliant about The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics on April 15th:
Ayn Rand and the Virtue of Integrity by James Valliant
James Valliant, the author of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, is presenting two new lectures to the Chicago Objectivist Society. For the last twenty years, Ayn Rand has been the victim of attacks on her behavior and psychology inspired by the biographies of Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden. Finally, a critical response to the Branden's allegations has been published, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, by James S. Valliant.
In this two-part lecture, Mr. Valliant first examines the problems with the Brandens' accounts. The second part of this lecture is a unique insight into Ayn Rand's character from the only author who has had access to her private journals.
"Jim Valliant... is one of the few people that knows what he's talking about when he says something." -- Leonard Peikoff, author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
Part I: Ayn Rand and the Virtue of Integrity
This engaging lecture lays to rest the myths about Ayn Rand's life and character that have been promulgated by her detractors. It is highlighted by extensive, never-before-published personal journal entries of Ayn Rand. These passages are immensely valuable, not only in revealing the claims of Rand's critics to be profoundly inaccurate and unjust, but also in showcasing her epochal mind at work resolving complex questions of personal life.
Part II: Working With Ayn Rand's Journals
Mr. Valliant will discuss the process of writing this book, how and why the Estate of Ayn Rand made Rand's private journals available to Mr. Valliant - and his surprise at the dramatic confirmation of his hypotheses. Mr. Valliant will describe his experience working with Rand's Estate, and share his insights about Ayn Rand's personality - her serenity and rationality, her righteous anger, her careful moral judgment of others, and, above all, her remarkable integrity.
About James Valliant
James Valliant is the author of *The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics* and the editor of Ayn Rand's private journals used during his research. His op-eds have appeared in publications such as The San Francisco Chronicle.
He has been a Deputy District Attorney in the San Diego area for over 16 years. Mr. Valliant is a magna cum laude graduate of New York University with a degree in philosophy. He received his JurisDoctorate from the University of San Diego. With his wife, he created the 1995 television interview show, Ideas in Action, the winner of two prestigious Cinema in Industry (CINDY) Awards.
Mr. Valliant is a regular expert commentator on several news programs in San Diego, California, including Fox 6 and KUSI news programs as a religious, legal, and political analyst. His next book is on the origins of the New Testament, and will be titled, Behind the Cross.
Date: Saturday, April 15th
12:30-1:00 pm: Author Meet and Greet/Reception
1:00-2:40 pm: Part I: Lecture + Author Signing
2:45-4:00 pm: Lunch Break
4:00-6:00 pm: Part II: Lecture + Author Signing
8:00 pm: Dinner with Mr. Valliant
Location: Downtown Chicago at the DePaul University Campus. More specific information will be provided to registrants.
Cost: $44 per person ($34 full time students) before April 3rd
$49 ($39 full time students) after April 3rd
Enrollment: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org your RSVP.
You can pay with a credit card via the Chicago Objectivist Society's web page.
The comments to the post had nothing of interest to add. There is a repeat of the entire Noodlefood post on the Objectivism Online Metablog dated March 21, 2006. Also, there is a notification by Stephen Speicher on Mar 18 2006 on the Forum4AynRandFans which also gives the Peikoff quote.
I ask the reader to please excuse the level of detail on documenting this Peikoff quote, but this is a perfect concrete example of two points that are germane to what I am discussing here, which is that nobody is taking PARC seriously anymore.
Point 1. The method used by Valliant of distorting reality and rewriting it to fit his evaluations does not come from him. It comes from the top of the heap. I remember reading this Peikoff quote all over the place back when it was first posted. Currently, the three places linked above are the only ones left that I have been able to find. If you want to check for yourself, I suggest you Google it. Just to make sure, I checked the Google, Yahoo, Live, Ask and Mahalo search engines. This is a clear indication that someone has been going around asking people to remove it.
This kind of behavior is tiresome to people who have their own lives to lead and it eventually becomes difficult to document. The idea behind doing that is to distort public image through constant corrosive activity. As an old saying goes, "Drops wear down the stone, not by strength, but by constant falling."
Rhetoric-wise, this is the exact method used in PARC. Valliant did not arrive at this method on his own. He learned it from his orthodox Objectivist betters.
Point 2. The very fact that the quote is being silently removed is an indication that ARI is starting to distance itself from Valliant's book, or at least Peikoff no longer wants to provide such a solid endorsement. Granted, PARC is still being sold by the Ayn Rand Bookstore, but I personally think that this is a face-saving measure. If ARI removed it from the catalog, that would be tantamount to admitting that Peikoff made a colossal mistake in entrusting Rand's journals to such an incompetent boneheaded author as Valliant.
The fact is that nobody but a Branden-hater ever really took the PARC seriously in the first place (except for a convert or two on the Internet forums over the last 3 years—and you can count those converts on the fingers of one hand). The act of demonizing a person or group to the extent PARC did is a solid indication of tribalism.
If you want to have a good example of how this works in reality, go to the comments section on the Amazon sales page for PARC. You will find two basic kinds of comments: people who solidly endorse the book, but pepper their comments with practically nothing but wishful opinions about burying the Brandens, and readers who are appalled at Valliant's obvious distortions.
You can also notice that those who are appalled are generally given one star and those who express approval are given 5 stars. What this means is that there is a small tribe actively trying to manipulate the rating system to present a false public image that PARC is making some kind of impact. They want to give the impression that the majority of Amazon visitors disapprove of the negative reviews. Unfortunately, there are too many negative reviews for this to come across as intended and the distortion is obvious.
Now here we come to a real problem with discussing PARC anywhere. The tribe members are (or were) committed to defending the book at all costs. This meant that they did not care about the veracity of any facts. They have tried to win any and all arguments by wearing people down.
Valliant is particularly slippery in this respect in his online behavior. He is an active poster on the Solo Passion website and was active on its precursor, SoloHQ. He always leaves himself wiggle-room to get out of owning up to an obvious fact if it goes against his Branden demonizing Rand whitewashing campaign, but then he comes back the next day repeating his original point as if the fact that was presented did not exist.
This is trying to win an argument by wearing people out, not by having actual facts that contradict the one presented. Unfortunately for him, people have become aware of this. It is the main reason that PARC is not being taken seriously anymore.
What's worse is that nobody is ever convinced by this method. They are merely silenced for a while. They get bored. There is only one reason this obvious truth is not understood by Valliant and those who do like he does: they are disconnected from reality. If they were connected, they would understand that they are not defending Rand at all. They are simply driving people away from the discussion, even their own tribe-members.
Still, Valliant is so slippery that his method is hard to document in an open-and-shut manner that cannot be denied even by acolytes. However, Neil Parille gave a brilliant performance in nailing Valliant to the wall in a manner that eliminated the wiggle-room. Valliant literally had no way out and capitulated. He had to just to save face. But he still did not capitulate entirely to owning up to the facts. And he is still trying to win God knows what by wearing folks down. (He seems oblivious to the fact that there are precious few of us left who even read him.)
Here are some highlights to a discussion between Valliant and Neil. It concerns the veracity of Barbara Branden's meeting with Ayn Rand shortly before she died. This issue was discussed amply in other places where PARC was discussed, with Valliant using a wide range of his traditional smarmy rhetoric, but frankly I do not feel like wading through all of that again. The recent discussion is more than enough to illustrate my point.
On Feb, 27, 2008, Neil mentioned the following on Solo Passion:
On Feb, 28, Valliant responded (amidst a plethora of smarmy language):
Jim says on page 94 that "Rand never saw [Ms. Branden] again." That's incorrect. On pages 397-400, Barbara Branden discusses meeting Rand in 1981.
On Feb, 29, Neil posted:
Also, Ms. B. makes the claim that she later saw Rand. Is there any corroboration of this self-serving claim? (Do try to keep the rest of PARC in mind.)
Valliant refused to answer and made a smarmy post instead, accusing Neil of avoiding questions.
You say that Barbara Branden never met Rand again, so you believe that she is lying.
What did you do to attempt to verify or refute her claim? Did you contact the housekeeper who Barbara says was there? (You claim she says Barbara misrepresented her on Frank's alleged drinking, so I assume you talked to her). Did you contact the ARI archives and ask if they had any correspondence relevant to this issue (Barbara says she wrote a letter to Rand after the meeting)? Did you ask Peikoff if he knows anything about this meeting?
On Feb, 29, Neil posted again:
Valliant still refused to answer, although he posted more smarmy crap.
1. Did you contact the housekeeper who Barbara says was there?
2. Did you contact the ARI archives and ask if they had any correspondence relevant to this issue (Barbara says she wrote a letter to Rand after the meeting)?
3. Did you ask Peikoff if he knows anything about this meeting?
Not difficult questions.
On Feb, 29, Neil posted once again:
On March 1, Valliant responded:
You are claiming that BB made up this story of a 1981 meeting. Considering that you often find the Branden books credible, I think you have the burden of proof in showing that this meeting was fictional.
That being said, I did email the Archives and asked them about this. If they respond and give me permission to post it, I will do so.
I think if Valliant had imagined the outcome, he would not have been so smarmy here. Just to make sure that this issue is understood correctly, Valliant is lying. He actually did "make such argument in PARC." It is on page 94. Here is a direct quote (and Neil already quoted part of this). Valliant is discussing affairs in 1968 during the time of the break.
Of course, I make no such argument in PARC as the one you are now arguing against, but imagine, for just a moment, if you can, that it even acknowledged Ms. B.'s claim about meeting Rand later -- despite your inability to provide any corroboration at this point. (But do keep up your researches -- you're bound to learn.)
How can anyone imagine, other than making it up or lying, that Barbara would report later meeting Rand if "Rand never saw her again?" Valliant is either incredibly sloppy here or he is the one lying. I think he is both based on his behavior.
At her attorney's advice, Rand authorized him to invite Ms. Branden to a meeting so that they could discuss the accusations she was making. Ms. Branden never came and Rand never saw her again.
What's worse, Valliant not only refused to admit he had not checked the archives or Peikoff, he insinuated that no corroboration existed and that he had actually checked the archives.
But let's not take him at his insinuation. Let's take him at his word. In July 2006, Barbara made a speech at The Atlas Society's summer conference entitled "Objectivism and Rage." Valliant participated in a book-signing nearby around that time to try to cash in on TAS's public. During the Q&A following a speech he gave, he made the following statement (and this is from the horse's own mouth). This mp3 was posted on Solo Passion for a while. I cut off the beginning and end to reduce the size. What is left was extracted whole, without editing, from the original.