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Virtue Signalling by the Ruling Class and Wannabes I have a feeling this thread could turn into a nice collection of blatant hypocrisy. If not, just the video below by Paul Joseph Watson is quite a collection. Anybody else gotta favorite celebrity or Ruling Class soulmate who likes to show others how virtuous they are by one standard when they live by another? Who knows? Maybe this thread can become a future reference for articles or videos or something when someone needs an example... Michael
I'm posting this at Irfan Khawaja's request. (Correction: I initially stated that he is not a member here. Apparently he is a member, but highly inactive.) Keep in mind that I am serving (primarily) as the lightning rod. I cannot quit the Ayn Rand Society because I was never eligible to join it. I do not have a degree in philosophy and therefore cannot join the parent organization, the American Philosophical Association. That said, the decision to invite Yaron Brook to give a talk at an ARS meeting has never made sense to me, except as a demonstration of allegiance, and of inside influence, by the ARIans who are now in complete control of the Ayn Rand Society. So I do support the call for a boycott. Robert Campbell BOYCOTT THE AYN RAND SOCIETY Posted on December 16, 2014 by Irfan KhawajaThis may turn out to be the least-publicized call for a boycott ever, but I’m going to call for one anyway: Philosophers attending the APA Eastern Division Meetings this year should boycott the meeting of the Ayn Rand Society. Frankly, in my view, they should boycott the Society itself. For twenty-five years now, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has vilified libertarians as “nihilists,” and declared them too evil to “sanction,” i.e., too evil to endorse or deal with. “Boycotted and condemned.” I like that. Despite some tricky-looking verbal gymnastics, ARI has not disavowed that view (and explicitly says that it has not). So vilification of libertarianism and libertarians remains the official view of the Ayn Rand Institute despite their paradoxical (that is, hypocritical) decision to make common cause with a few libertarian organizations. The Ayn Rand Society (ARS) is a nominally distinct entity, but every single member of its Steering Committee is in some way affiliated with ARI. In any case, this year, they’ve decided to invite Yaron Brook as the main speaker at their APA Eastern Meeting (see the very first link in this post). Yaron Brook is the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is therefore the man responsible for ARI’s continuing policy of defamation. ARS has invited him to address their meeting despite that fact, and absurdly enough, has invited two libertarians to respond to him. The Steering Committee’s knowledge of Brook’s institutional role–and of ARI’s ideological position–are, in my view, sufficient to justify a boycott of the meeting. (Read this exchange if you’d like a sense of Yaron Brook’s moral stature and his method of cognitive functioning. It’s best read in conjunction with this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education.) It makes things worse that intellectually, Brook is a shallow propagandist entirely lacking in bona fide qualifications as a political philosopher. (Nonetheless, like all Objectivist pseudo-intellectuals of his type, he insists on describing himself as an “expert.”) It’s therefore a mystery why ARS’s leadership would have invited him to speak at the APA. In 2012, I asked both the late Allan Gotthelf (ARS’s founder*) and James Lennox (the current co-chair of ARS’s Steering Committee) why Brook had been invited. Neither of them had an answer. If you’d like an answer, feel free to ask Lennox or his co-chair Gregory Salmieri for one, and share what you hear from them. But my own inference is that they have no defensible answer to give. I also find it a mystery why James Otteson and Peter Boettke would have accepted an invitation to discuss libertarian politics with someone responsible for a mass-movement campaign of anti-libertarian defamation, but I suppose one mystery begets another. I’m happy to say that I’ve convinced at least one major philosopher to back out of an invitation to speak at an ARS event, and have convinced a few prominent libertarians to let their membership in ARS lapse (or in the case of those who had already let it lapse, not to renew their membership). I’d like to add indefinitely to that list. Whatever you do, don’t seek refuge in the excuse that philosophers are obliged to have conversations with those with whom they disagree on moral issues. (Scroll down in the link to my exchange with Matt Zwolinski.) The response to that is: “no kidding.” The question is whether philosophers ought to help burnish the reputation of organizations that suborn and facilitate decades-long campaigns of character-assassination. If you want to be a part of that of effort, feel free. But then take responsibility for being a part of it. And don’t complain when you’re treated accordingly. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself. *Correction (added after posting): To be precise, Gotthelf was ARS’s co-founder, along with David Kelley and George Walsh. ARS was co-founded by the three of them in 1990. But Walsh died in 2001, and Kelley has not been active at the leadership level in ARS for decades. Gotthelf was the central figure at the heart of ARS, and was responsible for the decision to invite Brook.
For those who haven’t seen the show Breaking Bad, Walter White is a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, finds himself the unapologetic ringleader of a brutal criminal enterprise by the end of the series. I’ve been thinking recently about how well-intentioned people like Mr. White can find their identities gradually eroded and wind up in a place they never would have chosen or predicted for themselves. One way this can happen to us is through “cognitive capture,” where a corrosive social or moral environment slowly warps even those who are initially hostile to its influence. A personal example is from my college years, when I worked in a year-long paid internship for a megacorporation with large government contracts. A group of us started together as gung-ho productive workers who would often forgo our lunch break to finish reports on expedited schedules. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the transition began, but it must have been sometime when we left the plant and arrived back 15-30 minutes over our allotted lunch hour. Corporate procedure dictated that we inform our supervisors and mark the time down on our timesheets as unpaid, but it was just so much easier if we allocated it to one of our megaprojects and made up for lost time later. The incident didn’t change much at first, except weeks later it happened again, and then again, and there were never any observable consequences for our escalating transgressions. Months later, it had developed to the point where we would come in, goof off for the full 8 hours, and go home without having accomplished anything at all. Now you, the reader, may assert, “That wouldn’t have happened to me!” But consider that we ALL started out as reliable, hardworking employees, and we ALL ended up as Walter Whites of corporate productivity. Another example was a friend of mine who entered military service as a strongly independent libertarian. I remember asking him how he reconciled his politics and contrarian personality with his career choice, and whether he feared the outcome of his experiment. He replied that he could always retain his individuality by rejecting those aspects of the organization he despised while adopting the positive traits he admired. Years later, I found that he had been totally converted to institutional thinking and had adopted the habit of angrily denouncing any who challenged America’s defense spending or foreign policy on the basis that they lacked inside information and were in no position to question experts on the ground. My hypothesis is that the mind operates like a velociraptor from the film Jurassic Park, systematically testing the electrified fences for weaknesses that can give way to an easier existence. When we're placed in an environment with holes in the fence, and especially others to show us the way through, it can wear down our natural boundaries and incentivize habits that we never would have adopted on our own. I’m interested in hearing other examples of people “breaking bad” from their personal moral codes, and in thinking about ways in which we can prevent this degenerative process from occurring in ourselves and others.