"To Whom It May Concern"
Posted 19 March 2006 - 11:17 PM
Speaking of "restless nights in one-night cheap hotels" ("Let us go then, you and I..." ["The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," lines from which have recently been quoted on this list])...
I suppose I could have anticipated if I'd stopped to think of consequences that reading material in that chapter would send my psyche traipsing down the paths of a bleak memory-lane excursion. The New Jersey "hotel" -- "motel," precisely -- wasn't "cheap," though neither was it one of the more expensive; middle-priced. And it served as my dwelling place for multiple nights more than one -- for closer to a fortnight; and "restless" isn't a good description for that night, since I hardly moved; instead I sat, leaning on pillows propped against the headboard of the bed, feeling hollow inside and hollow-eyed, staring into the darkness of a room lit only by a faint glow of parking-lot light seeping round the edges of thick curtains.
I sat until dawn -- I still have body-sense remembrance of the bed's dimensions, the dim shape of a nightstand and lamp to the left, the curtained windows to the right -- my mind forming connections, juxtaposing details from Rand's articles with details of her statement. I had read "To Whom It May Concern" early that afternoon, while it was being typeset. As I've mentioned before, I'd happened to meet the typesetter within a few days of my arrival in the New York City area, and she'd invited me to keep her company while she typeset the document. I'd talked with Barbara for awhile afterward, and then for a longer while, for a couple hours, with the typesetter at a coffee shop.
I'll tell more of the story of that day and long night at some point. But I would first like to pose a question to anyone who has a copy of Rand's statement and who wants to try this experiment: Read the statement attempting as best you can to suspend from your mind your knowledge of the persons, the issues, the prior and subsequent history; read it pretending as best you can that it's a statement written by someone of whom you've never heard before, and about persons, issues, circumstances of which you know nothing. What sort of evaluations and impressions do you form of the document's method of approach, its content, and its author?
Posted 20 March 2006 - 05:02 PM
Here is some basic information on Rand’s essay, “To Whom It May Concern,” for easy consultation by readers.
It was published in The Objectivist – May 1968 (7:5), however, this issue obviously was mailed out much later (being that the explosion happened in July 1968). It is also available on The Objectivism Research CD-ROM. Unfortunately an online version is not available.
A discussion in PAR is on pp. 353-356.
A discussion in Judgment Day is on pp. 401, 403-406.
(I don't have a copy of My Years With Ayn Rand yet.)
A discussion in PARC is on pp. 90-127.
The online version of “In Answer to Ayn Rand” is available at the websites of both Brandens.
Normal html version can be read at Barbara’s site:
In Answer to Ayn Rand – Part 1 – Nathaniel
In Answer to Ayn Rand – Part 2 – Barbara
Both versions can be read in pop-ups and PDF versions can be downloaded here at Nathaniel’s website.
Fred Seddon wrote an article covering this on SoloHQ called:
“Valliant Versus the Brandens” here and here.
Fundamental errors by Rand are given in the following quote from that article:
Then on p. 3 (I’m using the original article as my source here) she wrote, “If you check over the back issues of this publication, you will observe that in 1962 and 1963 Mr. Branden and I wrote about the same number of articles and that he carried his proper share of the burden of work. [This presupposes that they had an agreement to write an equal number of articles—but I had no evidence of such an agreement.] But beginning with the year 1964, the number of articles written by me became significantly greater than the number written by him. On many occasions he was unable to deliver a promised article on time and I had to write one in order to save the magazine from constant delays. This year  I refused to write more than my share; hence the magazine is now four months behind schedule. (I shall now make up this time lag as fast as possible.) [This latter promise was never kept. In Pittsburgh, the standing joke was, “It must be Christmas, the September issue of The Objectivist is here.]
So let’s check over the back issues. Here is what I found. (A “+” indicates Rand is ahead of Nathaniel Branden's output; a “-“ that she is behind. Here are the results up to the break in May of 1968:
Notice she is wrong about 1962 and 1963. They did not write “about the same number of articles.” In 1962 she wrote seven more than Branden, the greatest imbalance of any year, despite her complaint about 1964 on. In 1963 Branden actually wrote more articles than Rand—the only year that happened. Notice also that in all of 1967 and 1968, Rand only wrote one more article than Branden. Hardly enough to justify her fuss, especially considering the huge difference in 1962 of which she does not make mention.
My own feeling is best summed up by Mike Lee in a very colorful analysis here on OL (Branden Corner) called “Mike Lee saying what many of us think.”
For general information on PARC, there are two new threads in The Library on OL called PARC Facts and PARC Fallacies.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 03:09 AM
Posted 24 March 2006 - 02:02 PM
"But before rejecting it, we made an appointment with George Berger, an attorney in the Louis Nizer office. He knew nothing about us, nothing about our conflict with Ayn; he knew only that we wanted his legal advice rearding a possible libel suit. Before saying more, Nathaniel handed him Ayn's 'To Whom it May Concern.' He read two or three pages, looked up and asked, 'How old is she?' We answered, puzzled by the question, that she was sixty-three; he coninued reading. After a few more moments, he shook his head sadly and said, 'Hell hath no fury. . . '"
Posted 24 March 2006 - 02:30 PM
I think Hsieh takes a reasonable position in response to what she views as Rand's fabrications and false justifications, but I tend to disagree with her view that the affair was "nobody's business." Rand made it everyone's business when she sought the public sanction of marriage with Frank. She acquired a type of official, legal, publicly recognized status, and then tried to maintain the public illusion of that status after altering it without informing the public who granted it.
Btw, if anyone has "To Whom It May Concern" handy in electronic form, please feel free to e-mail it to me offlist.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 03:44 PM
Lest anyone think -- who might think such a thing, I wonder? -- that Barbara conveniently made this story up when writing PAR, well...
If she did make it up, she'd already done so by the very day the page proofs of "To Whom It May Concern" were typset, since she told me that exact story on that day. I replied, "That's just what it sounds like to me, too."
Barbara doesn't remember my having met her that day. We talked for about half an hour, maybe somewhat longer. I was someone she'd never met or even heard of before, a new arrival in New York City -- "fresh off the streets," as it were. And I'm very sure that Barbara had a great deal on her mind in that stretch. When, many years later, when she and I started to become listland friends, I told her about our having met that long-ago fateful day, she'd forgotten the conversation. But I have never forgotten it. It was being attended to from my side with full faculties on the alert to record nuances.
A telling detail in regard to AR's state was the start of the conversation. That needs a bit of stage setting to describe. As I've mentioned, I'd happened to meet the girl who did typsetting for the printer who produced The Objectivist. (The printing company's offices were a subspace of the NBI suite; I'm not sure of the details of the business setup.) When the job was complete, Julie, the typesetter (same name as the girl who asked AR the Beethoven question, but a different person) went into Barbara's office to talk with her. Julie had reacted to the statement the same way I did, with a feeling of being appalled by Ayn Rand.
Julie was in there talking for what was getting to seem quite awhile, and I idly murmured to a man who was sitting at the reception desk (later, putting things together, I realized he was Bob Berole), "I wish I could meet Barbara." Suddenly brightening up from a rather glum expression, he said, "You want to meet Barbara?!!" I nodded, affirmatively.
"Next thing I knew," as they say, it was as if I'd been catapulted into Barbara's office. He'd taken my arm and led me to the door and opened the door with a sweep and said, "This girl wants to meet you!"
I was kind of "dizzy" from the rapidity of this. And Julie and Barbara looked up startled by my abrupt entrance. Only later did I understand what had been the source of Bob's reaction: It was because so few people from the O'ist world were willing to speak to Barbara (or of course Nathaniel) during that time. He was delighted by someone's actually expressing a desire -- and I'd expressed it wistfully, obviously genuinely meaning the desire -- to meet Barbara.
I muttered something to Barbara and Julie about "I told him I'd like to meet you; sorry, I'm interrupting"...embarrassed mutters covering the awkwardness of my sudden appearance. Then Barbara indicated a chair near her desk, and I sat down. I saw that Julie had the pages of Rand's statement on a table or set of low shelves next to where she was sitting, so I gestured toward the statement with my left hand and said to Barbara, "It's terrible; did you expect it to be that bad?"
No, she said; she didn't. What they'd expected was that Rand was going to write just a brief statement announcing without elaborating that she and the Brandens were no longer associated. Assuming that Barbara's report was correct -- and I see no good reason to doubt that it was -- Rand had changed from her initial intention, working herself up to the place of writing the document she then (in an act of what I consider very bad judgment) had published.
An aftermath: I'd be willing to bet that Rand later regretted having said as much as she did, because of all the commotion that ensued. Allan Blumenthal said something which provides a touch of confirmative evidence for this suspicion. In my first meeting with him after he'd broken with Rand, he said that she had decided against making any public announcement of her and his discontinuing association, considering the history of what had happened with the earlier, Branden-break announcement.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 03:55 PM
That's interesting. You mean it isn't available as an isolated item from ARI?
I've only read excerpts from Rand's "To Whom It May Concern." I Googled for more, but couldn't find much.
I tend to disagree with [Diana's] view that the affair was "nobody's business." Rand made it everyone's business when she sought the public sanction of marriage with Frank.
I don't think I actually agree that she made it everyone's business specifically for that reason. But I very strongly believe that she made it the whole world's business when she published "To Whom It May Concern." And I thought that, ironically, she was almost announcing to the world exactly what she wanted to hide. (A certain percentage of the world didn't see the same fine print, however. ;-))
PS: I don't have the document available in electronic form, or I'd send it to you.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 04:44 PM
PS: I don't have the document available in electronic form, or I'd send it to you.
Check the files section of OL (tw1a.jpg - tw5a.jpg).
Posted 24 March 2006 - 09:07 PM
How quickly things change.
Diana Hsieh's statement (from 2003) pre-dates her public denunciations of David Kelley and of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and her public alignment with the Ayn Rand Institute (all of which took place in 2004).
Ayn Rand's dishonesty in the aftermath of her break with Nathaniel Branden is certainly disappointing to me, but hardly devastating. I admire Rand as a novelist and a philosopher, but her personal conduct is ultimately irrelevant to me.
Ms. Hsieh now insists that anyone who admires Rand as a novelist and a philosopher must also venerate her as a moral paragon--while anathematizing Nathaniel and Barbara Branden as "false Objectivists" and serpents in the Garden.
Posted 24 March 2006 - 11:34 PM
Check the files section of OL (tw1a.jpg - tw5a.jpg)
The files are photos of the pages of the magazine. They include page 9, on which is "For the Record," signed by four persons, Allan Blumenthal, Alan Greenspan, Leonard Peikoff, and Mary Ann (Rukavina) Sures, two of whom -- AB and AG -- later rescinded their irrevocable condemnation and repudiation of Barbara ("[...] we condemn and repudiate these two persons irrevocably," they wrote). (I'm not sure if AG rescinded his of NB; AB didn't. He and Nathaniel never liked each other.)
The files section, in case any of the OL members don't know, is accessible at the website:
There are only 26 members listed for that yahoo group. I'm not sure if you have to sign up as a member of the yahoo group in order to view files.
Posted 25 March 2006 - 09:12 AM
btw - I am the only one who can sign members up for the yahoo group. It is basically a place to put files to share privately. It is not used much as originally I thought it would work for images, but we have since switched to Photobucket for that as Yahoo randomly changes the file names so linked images disappear. If you would like to be put on the Yahoo list or need the password for our Photobucket account, please send me a private message.
Posted 25 March 2006 - 03:55 PM
That's what I thought too, Kat. And then I was amazed at how few of her followers saw what to me seemed so obvious. (The typesetter also read it the way I did, and at first I assumed that everyone would. Thus I was shocked on later discovering that a large percentage of the Objectivists I met not only didn't see "the fine print," they claimed there was something wrong with my reading skills because I did. It was years before many of them would even acknowledge that the way I read it had any plausibility.)
Well, I just read To Whom it May Concern and IMHO this document shows a woman scorned grasping at straws to justify her anger while desparately trying to hide the true cause of her emotional outburst. It is quite clear that some hanky panky went sour though.
Posted 25 March 2006 - 03:58 PM
What did marriage mean to Rand (initially, not after she had an affair) if not an official, public declaration of an exclusive romantic relationship? Why did she seek to include the public (or society, the state, or however you want to put it) as a participant in the establishment of the status of the relationship in the first place? It seems odd to me that an intense moralist would value and voluntarily attain a form of publicly granted status but then disregard the public's involvement as irrelevant when the meaning of that status is no longer convenient.
"But I very strongly believe that she made it the whole world's business when she published 'To Whom It May Concern.' And I thought that, ironically, she was almost announcing to the world exactly what she wanted to hide. (A certain percentage of the world didn't see the same fine print, however.)"
I've now read "To Whom It May Concern." You're right, Ellen, in what you wrote earlier -- that Rand seemed to think that she could make momentous charges without presenting evidence.
This part stuck out to me:
"In conclusion, I want to indicate, at least in a general way, an answer to the question that is now torturing his former students here in New York: How could Nathaniel Branden do this?"
The only questions that repeatedly came to my mind while reading "To Whom It May Concern" were not, "How could Nathaniel Branden do this?" but, "~What~ did he do? What were his crimes and why is Rand avoiding naming them? What were his 'conscious breaches of morality,' his 'departures from the principles of Objectivism' and his 'ugly actions and irrational behavior' which mustn't be revealed, but for which he must be thrashed?"
It's seems pretty obvious that his crime was that he preferred another woman to Rand.
Posted 26 March 2006 - 11:20 AM
She had developed a particular dislike for the other woman he in fact preferred. In her notes to herself, she seems to say that she could accept being passed over for some other woman, but could never accept being passed over by this particular woman.
It's seems pretty obvious that his crime was that he preferred another woman to Rand.
Posted 26 March 2006 - 11:38 AM
In Rand's notes to herself, it also becomes clear that Nathaniel was constantly talking about Patrecia to her.
She was "the one who will not go away."
(I've been there myself and it's horrible.)
I have to reread her notes, but I think she also stated that she would not accept being passed over at all (in different words). I remember her wavering on this point, writing one thing, then the opposite.
Posted 26 March 2006 - 07:13 PM
Two people may take a civil contract out with a local government, which has many legal consequences. There are consequences with respect to sharing property, the raising of children, and roles to be played when one or the other is ill, among other consequences. Usually, people who marry intend to maintain a romantic relationship only with one another and the vows they make at a ceremony may state this. Certainly if one party has an outside affair, this is grounds for divorce if the other party wishes to make it so. However, the state does not itself run about checking up on each party to see if either has had an affair and then nullify the marriage in the name of the citizens of that government.
We might talk of the sanctity of a marriage, but that is not provided by the legal contract. It is provided by the willing agreement of the marrying parties. They may do this in a church, as most people do. They may simply do this in their very private conversations. Especially if they do this as two independent and consenting adults, they are free to change the nature of their concept of their marriage, providing that both parties agree to do so. This is their business. It is not the business of every busy body who thinks he or she is qualified to dictate the nature of a relationship as complex and individual as a marriage. Your role is just that of a citizen and comes into play only when the married couple come into a state of legal disagreement.
A failure to understand this is one of the reasons for the fury about same-sex marriages. People entangle their own religious views with the legal contract of marriage. It would be helpful if this term marriage were never used for the legal contract. That contract should be called what it is for everyone: civil union.
Posted 27 March 2006 - 08:16 PM
"It is not the business of every busy body who thinks he or she is qualified to dictate the nature of a relationship as complex and individual as a marriage. Your role is just that of a citizen and comes into play only when the married couple come into a state of legal disagreement."
I'm not advocating the idea that anyone should dictate anything, and I wasn't addressing legal issues, but social ones. I was suggesting that when two people voluntarily request that society recognize their marriage, they have ~invited~ society into that aspect of their lives, and have given up the right to claim that it's "nobody's business." They have requested a specific type of public recognition which carries with it a certain kind of social respect and expectation (the kind of respect that was apparently so important to Rand that she had to conceal her affair from even her closest friends in order to keep it).
Now, admittedly, I'm assuming that on her wedding day Rand accepted the common meaning of marriage as monogamous. If there's evidence that when taking her vows, she specifically avoided forsaking everyone other than Frank and made it a point to publicly redefine marriage so that hers was an open one, I'd be more than happy to reconsider my position.
"A failure to understand this is one of the reasons for the fury about same-sex marriages. People entangle their own religious views with the legal contract of marriage."
Well, I don't think I'm entangling anything into the concept of marriage by suggesting that honest Objectivist couples should alter the terms of their marriage as publicly as they've established them. If you wanted to define marriage as, say, an exclusive union between nine people of varying genders and orientations, that would be fine with me. If you and eight of your romantic partners were to ask me to recognize all of you as married to each other, I'd happily do so. But if four of you then started having a secret affair with Nathaniel Branden, I don't think I'd be a "busy body" if I disapproved of your violating your own promises that ~you asked me~ to witness and sanction, nor would I be a "busy body" if I disapproved of the fact that you had actively concealed your affair in order to falsely retain my respect.
Posted 27 March 2006 - 08:22 PM
"She had developed a particular dislike for the other woman he in fact preferred. In her notes to herself, she seems to say that she could accept being passed over for some other woman, but could never accept being passed over by this particular woman."
Yeah, I had read in other forums that Rand saw Patrecia as the lowly "shop girl" type. In fairness I also understand that NB played a part in contributing to that evaluation since he apparently focused on Patrecia's alleged flaws when discussing her with Rand.
But then again, if I had been in his situation and Rand had told me that she might find it acceptable for me to try to cure my "sexual problems" by jump-starting myself with an unimportant younger woman who was inferior to Rand, I might have done my best to point out ways in which lovely Patrecia was inferior.
Posted 27 March 2006 - 09:40 PM
There haven't been any takers in answering my question about a reaction to AR's statement, supposing one had no prior context of the persons involved.
I'm going to dig it out and look at it again. When I read it, my reaction was merely that it wasn't telling the story--too many big fat unanswered questions. I was surprised when I found out some people didn't react that way. One person became quite angry at me when I said that was my reaction.
I first heard of "the Affair" in the winter of 1977 from an alumnus of Vassar College, who had heard of it from a philosophy professor there named David Kelley. At that time it had never been publicly discussed by any of the people involved beyond "To Whom It May Concern" and the Brandens' replies -- none of which I'd read yet. What I heard from the Vassar College alumnus was that Frank O'Connor and Barbara Branden had consented to the affair.
How did David Kelley know? It must have circulated among Ayn Rand's acquaintances then, while she was still alive. -- Mike Hardy
PS: I see that the "preview" feature on this site does not work.
Posted 27 March 2006 - 09:59 PM
How did David Kelley know? It must have circulated among Ayn Rand's acquaintances then, while she was still alive.
If David knew, I except he got it from Allan B., who was the one person in her close circle who was told about it prior to the split. David was friends with the Blumenthals. But others in her circle didn't know. Leonard claimed to have eventually found out when going through her papers (this was in answer to a question asked him at the Ford Hall Forum after Barbara's book had appeared).
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