Greybird

Nathaniel Branden defamed by Penn & Teller

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There is so much misunderstanding about self-esteem and what adds to it and what subtracts from it. It's the integrated sum of emotional-intellectual self-evaluation. It has a lot to do with real accomplishments and making right, rational choices and enjoying positive results. Positive results aren't guaranteed, of course. And it's not so much positive thinking as avoiding unproductive negative thinking.

What can a teacher of very young children do to foster self-esteem in them? (I am speaking hypothetically for I am not knowledgeable enough about actually working with such children, but any teacher who does can more properly evaluate my comments.) I'm assuming a workable class size of 20 and one teacher for one year. You treat each child as an individual capable of accomplishment. They understand that that is your expectation of them and you give private praise when they do that. The praise is in the form of an acknowledgement that you know and see them and what they did. "I knew you could do this and you did it." You never stand in front of the class and praise the class except with a low key generalization and you never praise anybody to the class. If you do that you will switch from the individual to the collective and suddenly some will feel inferior or "not enough." Remember that a class feels nothing. This is pump-priming; creating students who are self-motivated.

--Brant

Very sensible techniques for teachers of any age group. As you know I have never taught children, but adults learning a new language after only a short time in a totally new culture, really need self-esteem. I don't stand up in front of them except when writing on the board (I don't stand up much anyway, if sitting or lying down is possible), I usually sit in the middle and move from student to student or group to group. They often praise each other, and help each other. In fact each class is sort of a, well, collective...my version, anyway.

I'll be interested to see Xray's comments on this.

Turning students into helpers of other students is a great way to teach. If done right one official teacher can teach scores of students at once as was done in the United States in at least one instance before public education destroyed the private.

--Brant

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There will never be another NB. Not even close. And I mean that with all the respect there is for him. There was nothing but goodness in anything I've ever done with him, even in one business situation that got very ugly. He is a wonderful teacher and a very good man.

r

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The clearest evidence of libertarianism’s nihilist wing would be Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, in which he praises pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, blackmailers, libelors, corrupt cops, et. al., as heroes.

But IS that really nihilism? Doesn't the philosophical position of nihilism mean that NOTHING is considered as of value to the nihilist?

One gets the impression that you erroneously label as 'nihilist' those choices that go against yours (and most people's) code of ethics.

My compliments, Xray. I know I don't offer them to you very often. But when you're right, you're right.

JR

Agreed with all of the above.

"Nihilist" has a specific meaning and Dennis clearly uses it as a catch-all term of abuse for anyone that would disagree with his own moral pronouncements.

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If NB were being interviewed today, he'd sound a lot better. He was grossly taken advantage of two or three different ways. P and T and the producers of this crap should have done some decent research first. Self-esteem is a substantial thing. It's not what you end up with by passing out gold stars and heaping on undeserved or unearned praise.

--Brant

The question is, where is Branden? I'd think that getting in touch with Penn and Teller and clearing up the misunderstanding would be of value to him -- explaining the difference between his notion of self-esteem and others', telling P&T that they've got good instincts when in comes to the subject, showing them how they're actually already in agreement with him in many ways despite their misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of his views, forgiving them their errors, etc.

J

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If NB were being interviewed today, he'd sound a lot better. He was grossly taken advantage of two or three different ways. P and T and the producers of this crap should have done some decent research first. Self-esteem is a substantial thing. It's not what you end up with by passing out gold stars and heaping on undeserved or unearned praise.

--Brant

The question is, where is Branden? I'd think that getting in touch with Penn and Teller and clearing up the misunderstanding would be of value to him -- explaining the difference between his notion of self-esteem and others', telling P&T that they've got good instincts when in comes to the subject, showing them how they're actually already in agreement with him in many ways despite their misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of his views, forgiving them their errors, etc.

J

I have private information. Also, P and T was a hit and run. It's over with them and self esteem.

--Brant

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I have private information. Also, P and T was a hit and run. It's over with them and self esteem.

It's "over with them"? Wow. That sounds like a low self-esteem reaction.

J

Edited by Jonathan
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Yes, the show was a hit-and-run, ambush, hatchet job or phrase it as you will, and no serious viewer could respect it. On the other hand, Branden's vanity makes him an irresistible mark. P&T, being seasoned showmen, picked up on this and let it play itself out.

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I have private information. Also, P and T was a hit and run. It's over with them and self esteem.

It's "over with them"? Wow. That sounds like a low self-esteem reaction.

J

It's just on the the next show--the next thing.

--Brant

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I have private information. Also, P and T was a hit and run. It's over with them and self esteem.

It's "over with them"? Wow. That sounds like a low self-esteem reaction.

J

It's just on the the next show--the next thing.

--Brant

Ah, I see. I misunderstood. I thought that you were saying something like "Penn and Teller are dead to me and to Dr. Branden."

J

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I have private information. Also, P and T was a hit and run. It's over with them and self esteem.

It's "over with them"? Wow. That sounds like a low self-esteem reaction.

J

It's just on the the next show--the next thing.

--Brant

Ah, I see. I misunderstood. I thought that you were saying something like "Penn and Teller are dead to me and to Dr. Branden."

J

While I'm friendly with Nathaniel, I could never speak for him.

--Brant

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For those who don't know, the "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" series itself is now over and done with, and the 2010 season was its last. Earlier this year, the duo ended their contract with Showtime. (It's not clear whether the contract simply was not renewed, or whether it involved dissatisfaction on Showtime's part.) They have moved on to a new show on, I believe, the Science Channel, with a different bent.

So pursuing actions as to defamation or slander in a legal sense may be pointless on Branden's part, not only because of a likely very weak case (as the show qualified as parody, satire, or commentary), but also because the duo no longer has Viacom's far deeper pockets fully behind them.

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If NB were being interviewed today, he'd sound a lot better. He was grossly taken advantage of two or three different ways. P and T and the producers of this crap should have done some decent research first. Self-esteem is a substantial thing. It's not what you end up with by passing out gold stars and heaping on undeserved or unearned praise.

--Brant

The question is, where is Branden? I'd think that getting in touch with Penn and Teller and clearing up the misunderstanding would be of value to him -- explaining the difference between his notion of self-esteem and others', telling P&T that they've got good instincts when in comes to the subject, showing them how they're actually already in agreement with him in many ways despite their misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of his views, forgiving them their errors, etc.

J

I would seriously doubt NB would even acknowledge them. And I like those guys.

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If you're going to be on television you are at the mercy of the producers and editors and hosts of the show. Even the hyper-sharp James Cramer was run over by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I don't think this should be changed, but don't be naive about it. If I were a public (non-political) figure, for instance, I'd never agree to be on "60 Minutes."

--Brant

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There is so much misunderstanding about self-esteem and what adds to it and what subtracts from it. It's the integrated sum of emotional-intellectual self-evaluation. It has a lot to do with real accomplishments and making right, rational choices and enjoying positive results. Positive results aren't guaranteed, of course. And it's not so much positive thinking as avoiding unproductive negative thinking.

What can a teacher of very young children do to foster self-esteem in them? (I am speaking hypothetically for I am not knowledgeable enough about actually working with such children, but any teacher who does can more properly evaluate my comments.) I'm assuming a workable class size of 20 and one teacher for one year. You treat each child as an individual capable of accomplishment. They understand that that is your expectation of them and you give private praise when they do that. The praise is in the form of an acknowledgement that you know and see them and what they did. "I knew you could do this and you did it." You never stand in front of the class and praise the class except with a low key generalization and you never praise anybody to the class. If you do that you will switch from the individual to the collective and suddenly some will feel inferior or "not enough." Remember that a class feels nothing. This is pump-priming; creating students who are self-motivated.

--Brant

Very sensible techniques for teachers of any age group. As you know I have never taught children, but adults learning a new language after only a short time in a totally new culture, really need self-esteem. I don't stand up in front of them except when writing on the board (I don't stand up much anyway, if sitting or lying down is possible), I usually sit in the middle and move from student to student or group to group. They often praise each other, and help each other. In fact each class is sort of a, well, collective...my version, anyway.

I'll be interested to see Xray's comments on this.

Carol,

I too think that what Brant wrote about fostering children's self-esteem is sensible advice; in my job, I practice several of the things he mentioned.

As for Brant's critique of the 'collective': imo the teacher should indeed avoid - if this is possible, for it depends on the situation - treating the class as a collective entity.

But we humans are also group beings, therefore it is an important part of teacher's job to be aware of group dynamics and to productively work with group processes.

So instead of constructing the opposition "individual" versus "group", I see these two concepts as complementing each other, and have made good experiences working that way.

Edited by Xray
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So pursuing actions as to defamation or slander in a legal sense may be pointless on Branden's part, not only because of a likely very weak case (as the show qualified as parody, satire, or commentary), but also because the duo no longer has Viacom's far deeper pockets fully behind them.

Seriously? Your approach to something like this is to contemplate legal action for defamation or slander rather than to see it as an opportunity to teach? Penn and Teller (and/or their staff and crew) perceived Branden as vain and they made fun of him for it, and they misunderstood his ideas, and your response is to dream about using the state to punish them?

J

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I would seriously doubt NB would even acknowledge them. And I like those guys.

Is the act of not acknowledging Penn and Teller something that a man of healthy self-esteem would do? Or is that something that people who are vain and fragile would do?

What would Howard Roark or John Galt do? In a case like this, I don't think they'd pull the "but I don't think of you" line, but would see it as an opportunity to dramatically teach and forgive Penn and Teller -- to lead them to see and take responsibility for their errors. Isn't that how a strong and confident sage would deal with it?

J

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Penn and Teller (and/or their staff and crew) perceived Branden as vain and they made fun of him for it, and they misunderstood his ideas, and your response is to dream about using the state to punish them?

J

Jonathan:

Publicly, and at first individually, Nathanial always came across as vain, distant, or a tad condescending, but he is, as we all know, a remarkable individual. His small smile that breaks out here and there are indicators of his actual personality. The wryness is appealing and easy to misconstrue.

Adam

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Publicly, and at first individually, Nathanial always came across as vain, distant, or a tad condescending, but he is, as we all know, a remarkable individual. His small smile that breaks out here and there are indicators of his actual personality. The wryness is appealing and easy to misconstrue.

In the initial post on this thread, Steve claims that Penn and Teller "both underplayed and misrepresented Nathaniel Branden in a way that, to me, qualifies as at least borderline defamation." I have to question whether or not that is true. Did they misrepresent him, or did they simply base their opinions of him on his behavior? How much of the episode's failure was due to Branden's own lack of seriousness, respect, research and preparedness for the interview?

You'd think that Branden being interviewed for Bullshit! on the subject of self-esteem would be the perfect, knock-it-out-of-the-park, grand slam momemt. So, what went wrong?

I think that Penn and Teller probably deserve some of the blame, but I also get the impression that Branden deserves a big chunk of it himself. Did he know what he was getting into, and on what type of show he would be appearing? Did he take the interview seriously and prepare himself to provide great television by focusing on a relevant point that he wanted to make, and did he then get to the point and stick to the point? Or did he see the interview as little more than a chance to plug his books? Was he passionately interested in discussing his ideas, and what makes them stand out from others in his field, or was he just looking to receive free advertising?

Take a look again at the partial transcript that Steve provided in his initial post. Does this sound like someone who is prepared and serious about standing out and getting his point across:

PJ: But forget kids for a sec — how are we [adults] supposed to raise our self-esteem?

NB (in his office): I think that one of the very best things a person could do, if they wanted to grow in self-esteem, would be to read the following books by Nathanlel Branden — [titles are repeated mockingly and sotto voce by PJ with a sound effect of scribbling notes] Honoring the Self, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem ... that's enough for now.

I don't think that it comes across as someone who is serious about ideas.

If Branden had been focused and ready to dominate the issue, and to win Penn & Teller and their audience over, I think that he would have said something like, "I think that one of the very best things a person could do, if they wanted to grow in self-esteem, would be to throw out the distorted, modern, pop culture concept of self-esteem. Pardon my language, but it's bullshit, and here's why..."

If he had come prepared to say something like that, he would have absolutely owned the episode. Instead, he failed to differentiate himself from "the rest of the self-esteem posse."

J

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So pursuing actions as to defamation or slander in a legal sense may be pointless on Branden's part, not only because of a likely very weak case (as the show qualified as parody, satire, or commentary), but also because the duo no longer has Viacom's far deeper pockets fully behind them.

Seriously? Your approach to something like this is to contemplate legal action for defamation or slander rather than to see it as an opportunity to teach? Penn and Teller (and/or their staff and crew) perceived Branden as vain and they made fun of him for it, and they misunderstood his ideas, and your response is to dream about using the state to punish them?

No, it is not. Why are you (mind)reading it this way? In fact, I see no rational foundation for libel, defamation, and slander laws, as one's reputation in others' minds is not one's own property.

Others, however, have wondered why Branden hasn't "done something." Aside from finding teachable moments — which Branden doesn't seem to be inclined to do, and after fifty years in the arena, I can see why he'd be tired of it — the only thing in our matrix of public life that one can "do" is to file a lawsuit, based on questionable and incoherent case law and statutes.

My point is that even if Branden chose to avail himself of this corrupt system, which he's been reluctant to do (he had a far greater case against Rand), he still wouldn't get anywhere. So that makes it doubly pointless and a waste of his own time and resources.

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Publicly, and at first individually, Nathanial always came across as vain, distant, or a tad condescending, but he is, as we all know, a remarkable individual. His small smile that breaks out here and there are indicators of his actual personality. The wryness is appealing and easy to misconstrue.

In the initial post on this thread, Steve claims that Penn and Teller "both underplayed and misrepresented Nathaniel Branden in a way that, to me, qualifies as at least borderline defamation." I have to question whether or not that is true. Did they misrepresent him, or did they simply base their opinions of him on his behavior? How much of the episode's failure was due to Branden's own lack of seriousness, respect, research and preparedness for the interview?

You'd think that Branden being interviewed for Bullshit! on the subject of self-esteem would be the perfect, knock-it-out-of-the-park, grand slam momemt. So, what went wrong?

I think that Penn and Teller probably deserve some of the blame, but I also get the impression that Branden deserves a big chunk of it himself. Did he know what he was getting into, and on what type of show he would be appearing? Did he take the interview seriously and prepare himself to provide great television by focusing on a relevant point that he wanted to make, and did he then get to the point and stick to the point? Or did he see the interview as little more than a chance to plug his books? Was he passionately interested in discussing his ideas, and what makes them stand out from others in his field, or was he just looking to receive free advertising?

Take a look again at the partial transcript that Steve provided in his initial post. Does this sound like someone who is prepared and serious about standing out and getting his point across:

PJ: But forget kids for a sec — how are we [adults] supposed to raise our self-esteem?

NB (in his office): I think that one of the very best things a person could do, if they wanted to grow in self-esteem, would be to read the following books by Nathanlel Branden — [titles are repeated mockingly and sotto voce by PJ with a sound effect of scribbling notes] Honoring the Self, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem ... that's enough for now.

I don't think that it comes across as someone who is serious about ideas.

If Branden had been focused and ready to dominate the issue, and to win Penn & Teller and their audience over, I think that he would have said something like, "I think that one of the very best things a person could do, if they wanted to grow in self-esteem, would be to throw out the distorted, modern, pop culture concept of self-esteem. Pardon my language, but it's bullshit, and here's why..."

If he had come prepared to say something like that, he would have absolutely owned the episode. Instead, he failed to differentiate himself from "the rest of the self-esteem posse."

J

I've had enough of this. While I volunteered to Nathaniel I'd keep it quiet he didn't ask me to and I doubt if he would object to me posting this: He was an over-medicated heart patient when they did that show and has since had his meds cut back and adjusted.

--Brant

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Brant:

Thank you.

Sure helps having facts and context.

Adam

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No, it is not. Why are you (mind)reading it this way? In fact, I see no rational foundation for libel, defamation, and slander laws, as one's reputation in others' minds is not one's own property.

Um, perhaps I missed some posts on this thread, but you appear to be the only person talking about defamation and slander. See, when you mention defamation and slander, it's a case of my reading your posts, not your mind. Your posts get published out here in the real world and don't remain in your head. That's how it works with these online forums.

Others, however, have wondered why Branden hasn't "done something."

Who, other than you, has been wondering why Branden hasn't pursued a defamation or slander suit?

What I've been wondering is if Branden has had any interest in correcting the misunderstandings that obviously happened, and if he has reflected on how he may have contributed to his failure on the Bullshit! episode. Did you notice that there were others interviewed on the show who said the type of things that you'd expect Branden to have said? Did you notice what was different about their performances?

Aside from finding teachable moments — which Branden doesn't seem to be inclined to do...

Well, if he's not inclined to reach out and make the world a better place when there are misunderstandings, that's too bad. I'd hope that he'd still be young enough at heart to not only find a teachable moment, but also perhaps to learn a thing or two himself.

...and after fifty years in the arena, I can see why he'd be tired of it ...

Maybe that's a part of the problem: when he's tired he should stay away from public situations which require that one have energy and enthusiasm.

J

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I've had enough of this. While I volunteered to Nathaniel I'd keep it quiet he didn't ask me to and I doubt if he would object to me posting this: He was an over-medicated heart patient when they did that show and has since had his meds cut back and adjusted.

That would explain a lot. Perhaps the Bullshit! episode would have gone better if everyone involved had been aware of the medication problem and the effects that it had.

J

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[...] In fact, I see no rational foundation for libel, defamation, and slander laws, as one's reputation in others' minds is not one's own property.

Um, perhaps I missed some posts on this thread, but you appear to be the only person talking about defamation and slander. See, when you mention defamation and slander, it's a case of my reading your posts, not your mind.

Well, it's what you chose to read into them, then. I ran that risk, though, for in the matrix of public life, too many assume that talking about defamation, etc., equates to talking about filing lawsuits about it.

Was Branden defamed? Yes, at least on the borders of the concept, as I said at the beginning. (I recall others agreeing about that, assigning highly differing degrees of blame on Branden's part for what was done.)

Does that mean he should file a lawsuit about it? Not if he's the libertarian he professes to be, because the laws are incoherent nonsense, presuming that a reputation is a form of "property" that does not genuinely exist.

If he chose, against genuine fidelity to his principles, to avoid "teaching" and to file a suit anyway, would he get anywhere? It's highly unlikely, and we should point out such potential waste.

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He was always like that, as Judgement Day and the Heller biography attest. Maybe he would have been more his usual self if not for the meds.

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