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9thdoctor

New (old) dirty laundry aired

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http://dupin.byethost18.com/OTIPOJ/

A discussion on OO about Northrup Buechner’s book prompted someone to sign up on OO to send me a private message. I checked, and the person joined yesterday and hasn’t made any posts. Anyway, he (she?) points me to what looks like a new site (link above) documenting a minor scandal from the late 80’s involving Peikoff, Buechner, Reisman, but mainly Ridpath. I’ve never heard of this one before. Some people got the boot, as in, they were not allowed to attend conferences or get lecture tapes (in the age of rentals) because an ex-girlfriend of Ridpath’s accused him of using force (forcing himself on her…whatever, you can read it yourself). Her friends, having not even repeated the allegations, got the boot on simple guilt by association grounds.

This one strikes me as just not all that juicy, and ultimately irrelevant to the present day. Nowadays it’d be all over Facebook or the various forums, and arguments from authority, such as the one ascribed to Ridpath (in his defense (in what’s clearly a “he says she says” situation) when he offers his 20+ year friendship with Leonard Peikoff as his only evidence) would be laughed off the stage.

I do see this as a valuable document of the evolution of the cultist element. So, it’s like a bit of anthropology. The constant genuflecting before Peikoff is awfully nauseating, then there’s the Branden demonizing, which is simply irrelevant to the arguments, but this is how these people were talking in that time and place. We learn about how Peikoff was keeping himself insulated during that period. We even get insight into this species’ mating habits: Look there, the female migrates thousands of miles to join with the male! But then…

Anyway, whoever put this site together did a good job, though their motives escape me. Particularly, why did they sit on all these original documents for over 20 years? Did anyone else hear about this when it was fresh? I know we’ve got some old timers who were part of that subculture back in those days.

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I do see this as a valuable document of the evolution of the cultist element. So, it’s like a bit of anthropology. The constant genuflecting before Peikoff is awfully nauseating, then there’s the Branden demonizing, which is simply irrelevant to the arguments, but this is how these people were talking in that time and place. We learn about how Peikoff was keeping himself insulated during that period. [....]

That's how I see the document, too. I was previously sent the link off-line, and I've read the whole thing in detail. It's a kind of cameo example of the evolution of the argument from rank (I've been Peikoff's friend for 20 years, how could you disbelieve me?, that sort of "argument," which has become "I was Ayn Rand's... [you know the rest]").

I wonder if the question "On Certainty and Justice," August 29, 1989" -- item #22 -- which J. Marc submitted as a written question to Peikoff but which Peikoff didn't answer -- was the basis of a hypothetical Peikoff himself later used in the Reisman/Packer proceedings.

Anyway, whoever put this site together did a good job, though their motives escape me.  Particularly, why did they sit on all these original documents for over 20 years?

I'm not sure, but I think the person who put it together only acquired the documents recently.

Did anyone else hear about this when it was fresh?  I know we've got some old timers who were part of that subculture back in those days

Not I. "Old timer," yes -- but I didn't hear of it, or even that such material was being sent around to people. (I was just about completely out of the Objectivist loop during the '80s and hardly hearing of any gossip until the Kelley/Peikoff split, so possibly there was talk then no wiff of which reached my citadel.)

Ellen

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http://dupin.byethost18.com/OTIPOJ/

...

I do see this as a valuable document of the evolution of the cultist element. So, it’s like a bit of anthropology. The constant genuflecting before Peikoff is awfully nauseating, then there’s the Branden demonizing, which is simply irrelevant to the arguments, but this is how these people were talking in that time and place. ...

Dennis,

Good Lord!

I just skimmed it and it was painful to read. Here is something that honked at me. It is a letter from one B. Martin to Peikoff dated August 19, 1989.

First, an aside. For some reason, the first name of "B. Martin" was inked out, but the "B" was left in without redaction. This kind of thing is peppered throughout the papers. I wouldn't mention it, but I've seen some really weird editing in O-Land before--where the redactor makes up some arbitrary rule out of thin air, then uses it as if this were standard procedure--and I wonder what on earth these people were thinking.

There is something goose-steppy about this that really bothers me. It's like the person is struggling to control someone or some situation and feels a compulsion to be morally correct, but doesn't know how--so he opts for the letter and not the spirit of an idea. He opts for a technicality on steroids, then churns out mutilated records with gusto. But the way it comes off is, instead of a long-ringing sonorous gong, there is a dead thunk.

I sense, as subtext, a person with a real need to receive a pat on the head from a superior and hear, "Good job. You are moral. I approve of you."

Ironically, the first time I became aware of weird O-Land editing was in a passage of a book by Albert Ellis called Is Objectivism a Religion? and the author of the weird edits was none other than Nathaniel Branden. Ellis relates that he had debated Nathaniel and it didn't go well. As part of the agreement, NB was to provide him with a copy of the tape recording. But when NB finally sent it over, he only included Ellis's voice. NB (or someone at NB's orders) had erased all the other voices. Thus, Ellis got a debate with only himself talking as if to a ghost. Talk about blank-out! :smile:

This stuff causes me to experience the most odd but vivid post-modern feelings...

:smile:

Anyway, here is the part of B. Martin's letter that caused cult-chills to crawl up the back of my spine:

In my judgment, Ayn Rand was the greatest person in history -- by that I mean the most able to live a happy efficacious life, and I know that she did. Yet my soul aches when I contemplate how important it was to her to find a hero, and how she was horribly, viciously robbed in that quest by Nathaniel Branden.

Groan...

Michael

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First, an aside. For some reason, the first name of "B. Martin" was inked out, but the "B" was left in without redaction. This kind of thing is peppered throughout the papers. I wouldn't mention it, but I've seen some really weird editing in O-Land before

I thought that was peculiar too. The document is formatted as an open letter, so who was it distributed to? The redacted names should be easy enough to fill in by someone who has an original copy, not that I’m asking anyone to do that. I was probably reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time when this made the rounds, so I certainly wouldn't have been on the recipient list.

One takeaway from this is how much easier it was to effect an excommunication back before the internet. Also, this called to mind something from Peikoff’s latest podcast, when he talks about how he insulates himself today. Start 2 minutes in.

http://www.peikoff.c...eautiful-world/

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Ironically, the first time I became aware of weird O-Land editing was in a passage of a book by Albert Ellis called Is Objectivism a Religion? and the author of the weird edits was none other than Nathaniel Branden. Ellis relates that he had debated Nathaniel and it didn't go well. As part of the agreement, NB was to provide him with a copy of the tape recording. But when NB finally sent it over, he only included Ellis's voice. NB (or someone at NB's orders) had erased all the other voices. Thus, Ellis got a debate with only himself talking as if to a ghost. Talk about blank-out! :smile:

This stuff causes me to experience the most odd but vivid post-modern feelings...

Michael

Michael-- Here is a link to a prior post by Peter Reidy explaining this incident.

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Dennis,

Pete didn't address the edits. He merely mentioned that the transcript was not published because both NB and Ellis needed to OK it.

I just checked Ellis's book (for any interested reader, pdf download link here) and below is his quote about the recording.

The moderator of the debate, Lee M. Shulman, introduced Branden and me by stating: “I trust that during this discussion you will show the same respect to the speaker with whom you disagree as you will show toward the speaker with whom you agree.” Although I am reasonably sure that any unprejudiced observer hearing the debate would agree that my associates, friends, and followers who were in the audience strictly adhered to the moderator’s request, such an observer will probably agree that a large percentage of Branden’s cohorts reacted in the opposite way.

I would be delighted to offer evidence on this point by making the tape recording of the debate available to the public. Unfortunately, Branden includes in his post-debate letter to me this statement: “As you know, our written agreement states that neither of us can release tape recordings of the debate for general distribution without the consent of the other. For the reasons given above, I cannot give my consent. I cannot give your performance the sanction that such consent would imply.

“I will be glad to provide you with a copy of the recording for your own personal use, as agreed on, if you will assure me that the tape will not be played for anyone else, neither for your patients nor students nor colleagues. If you decline to give me such a letter, I will provide you with a tape recording of your part of the debate, but not mine.”

I had no choice, since I wanted a recording of the complete debate in order to prepare this chapter, but to agree to Branden’s terms. So only I (and not even a transcribing secretary) have listened to the recording. After listening to it, I find that I would be delighted to release it for public hearings; but I shall of course stick to my agreement and not do so. As for Branden’s “reasons” for not releasing it, I would suspect--though I am naturally not certain--that he was so ashamed of some of the puerile, intolerant interruptions by many of his supporters that he decided it would be poor public relations for the cause of objectivism to release this recording.

The letter from NB that Ellis quoted is in the December, 1967 issue of The Objectivist.

Now I'm wondering if my memory played tricks on me. A few years after I had been in Brazil (in the 1970's), I came to the USA to visit my parents. While there, I went to a public library and, quite naturally for me at the time, tried to find anything and everything I could about Objectivism, Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and people I had read about from reading Rand's books. That was when I came across Is Objectivism a Religion?.

I got it and devoured it, wondering what on earth was going on.

I distinctly remember Ellis saying that he had received the tape edited as I originally said. I even remember him saying something to the effect that he had to rely on memory in presenting some of the material because he could not check for accuracy as he received the tape edited with only his voice present on it.

But here in his updated version of Is Objectivism a Religion? (published in 2007 and now called Are Capitalism, Objectivism, And Libertarianism Religions? Yes!: Greenspan And Ayn Rand Debunked), I read the passage as quoted above. So Ellis received the complete recording, but did not let anyone else listen to it (presumably, up to his death) in order to honor an agreement he felt he was forced into.

Somehow that just doesn't sound right. Honor such an agreement? Hell, Ellis had no compunction in the book about admitting that he had tricked NB on a few points, especially his hidden intent to use the debate to bash Objectivist psychology. Here is one such passage (citing the same letter from NB as was published in The Objectivist 12/67):

In a letter written to me three months after the debate, Branden put his objections as follows:

1. “Contrary to our stated understanding and written agreement, your presentation was not a discussion of ‘Rational Emotive Psychotherapy vs. Objectivist Psychology.’ It was merely an attack on Objectivist Psychology--or,more precisely, on what you claim to be Objectivist Psychology. I would never have consented to a debate on the subject of ‘Objectivist Psychology--Pro and Con,’ with the defensiveness on my part that that would imply. Yet, by violating our agreement, you, in effect, tricked me into participating in such a debate.”

Yes, Branden is partly right here: My presentation was mainly (though not merely) an attack on objectivist psychology. That was what I intended all along, since my primary motive for the debate was to show how untenable objectivist psychology is.

Ah me, Objectivist squabbles are long and life is short, as the example here helps to show.

Memory plays tricks on you over time, so that might be what happened to me. But, I still remember it as I said--quite vividly in fact--and I will probably not rest until I get my hands on a copy of the first version of Ellis's book to check. I admit, though, I might be suffering from a case of mental indigestion. Until second notice, I have to accept Ellis's words above.

Anyway, there it is.

As to my original point, what NB suggested (and published in The Objectivist) is still a weird edit, even if it is only the threat of editing it that way.

Michael

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For the sake of completion, I wrote about this episode here on OL back in 2007 on a thread devoted to Ellis.

There is an interesting point in this book. I first read it in the late 1970's. I had been in Brazil a few years and I went back to the USA to visit my parents. While there, I went to the public library. I tried to find books by or about Objectivism and I came across this little gem. You can imagine how the title jumped out at me. I was still in my Randroid stage (coming to an end). As I read it, I had the impression that there was much more to the story than I was getting.

However I do remember thinking the story about the debate with Nathaniel really odd. This was not because of the controversy, but because of the tape. Ellis complained that he received a copy of the tape of the entire debate, but the voice of Nathaniel had been erased. Only his voice was present. The reason he said Nathaniel gave for this was that Nathaniel was giving Ellis his own property, but Nathaniel would not provide him with Nathaniel's property after the debacle. I thought this was really strange back then. I could not take the property rights argument seriously (who could?) and I took this as a quirky manner Nathaniel had of bashing him. I cannot imagine what only one side of a debate must sound like. It has to be quite weird.

I find it extremely ironic that the first person to airbrush the Brandens out of Objectivism was Nathaniel himself, apparently with Rand's blessing at the time! smile.gif

(Of course, Nathaniel's motivation was not to rewrite history back then, but to insult Ellis or at least communicate his hostility.)

Michael

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Dennis,

Memory plays tricks on you over time, so that might be what happened to me. But, I still remember it as I said--quite vividly in fact--and I will probably not rest until I get my hands on a copy of the first version of Ellis's book to check. I admit, though, I might be suffering from a case of mental indigestion. Until second notice, I have to accept Ellis's words above.

Michael

Michael,

I happen to have an original copy of Ellis' vile screed in my library and will check it later when I get home. (No telling what time that will be. It's Friday, ya know. The road home tends to meander a bit more on Fridays.)

If it turns out that you're completely delusional, I'll be sure to let you know. :laugh:

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Michael,

I checked my copy of Is Objectivism A Religion?--published in 1968--and this is exactly how it reads on pp. 297-298:

The moderator of the debate, Lee M. Shulman, introduced Branden and me by stating: “I trust that during this discussion you will show the same respect to the speaker with whom you disagree as you will show toward the speaker with whom you agree.” Although I am reasonably sure that any unprejudiced observer hearing the debate would agree that my associates, friends, and followers who were in the audience strictly adhered to the moderator’s request, such an observer will probably agree that a large percentage of Branden’s cohorts reacted in the opposite way.

I would be delighted to offer evidence on this point by making the tape recording of the debate available to the public. Unfortunately, Branden includes in his post-debate letter to me this statement: “As you know, our written agreement states that neither of us can release tape recordings of the debate for general distribution without the consent of the other. For the reasons given above, I cannot give my consent. I cannot give your performance the sanction that such consent would imply.

“I will be glad to provide you with a copy of the recording for your own personal use, as agreed on, if you will assure me that the tape will not be played for anyone else, neither for your patients nor students nor colleagues. If you decline to give me such a letter, I will provide you with a tape recording of your part of the debate, but not mine.”

I had no choice, since I wanted a recording of the complete debate in order to prepare this chapter, but to agree to Branden’s terms. So only I (and not even a transcribing secretary) have listened to the recording. After listening to it, I find that I would be delighted to release it for public hearings; but I shall of course stick to my agreement and not do so. As for Branden’s “reasons” for not releasing it, I would suspect--though I am naturally not certain--that he was so ashamed of some of the puerile, intolerant interruptions by many of his supporters that he decided it would be poor public relations for the cause of objectivism to release this recording.

Try to get some rest, anyway.

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Dennis,

Oh Lord.

There goes one of the planks of innocence from my youth. Coming of age time...

How did I misunderstand that back then?

It's impossible! I won't even consider it.

I have been reading Feet of Clay by Anthony Storr (a psychological look at the personalities of gurus) and this reminds me of the following quote:

Neither psychotic delusions nor religious faith nor being in love can be shaken by argument. Nor can spiritual experience.

So let me look at the alternatives.

1. You are lying.

2. Ellis really did publish the book the way I remembered, but quickly managed to change it and replace all the copies in the marketplace, but missed the one I saw.

3. We live in parallel dimensions (like some scientists claim in quantum mechanics) and I managed to slip into one back then, but only for a moment, where the book was written the way I said.

There.

That must be it.

Whew! At least there're some rational explanations to investigate.

:smile:

(Woe is me... woe is me...)

Michael

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1. You are lying.

2. Ellis really did publish the book the way I remembered, but quickly managed to change it and replace all the copies in the marketplace, but missed the one I saw.

3. We live in parallel dimensions (like some scientists claim in quantum mechanics) and I managed to slip into one back then, but only for a moment, where the book was written the way I said.

4. You read the claim in some secondary literature, and didn’t promptly check if it was accurate. It sounded right, so it went into your memory as a fact.

5. You fabricated it yourself, stored the lie in your memory, forgot that it was a lie, and now that you've become such a scrupulously honest person you find you can't trust your memory from your, as Comrade Sonia might put it, "inherently dishonest" days. Crap, wait a minute, it's Robert that's "inherently dishonest", you're merely "odious", see how hard it is to keep these things straight!

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Dennis,

You're right!

(Except for the part that I fabricated it--that just didn't happen and the issue is not debatable. Since we are friends, I will not add on the proper continuation of that phrase, "you goddam fool"! :) )

Also, I could have been momentarily brainwashed by subliminals coming through the TV.

This thing is more complicated that I first imagined...

Hmmmmm...

Michael

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You're right!

(Except for the part that I fabricated it--that just didn't happen and the issue is not debatable. Since we are friends, I will not add on the proper continuation of that phrase, "you goddam fool"! :smile: )

I was only suggesting it as another alternative. Hence the numbering. You don't really believe number 3, with the parallel dimensions business, do you?

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Dennis,

(Groan...)

I'm joking. I was playing off of Dennis H's humorous lead about letting me know if I am completely delusional and for me to get some rest.

I obviously screwed up way back when and misread the damn passage. As it was a library book I got on a visit to the USA and I lived in Brazil, I didn't have it around to check later when I went back home, so the initial impression stayed in my mind and grew over the decades.

Here's an attitude for ya': Anything at all can be the reason for a screw-up I make except for me actually screwing up. I don't believe this, but I find this attitude widespread in some highly vocal members of our subcommunity. Not in what they say, but in what they do. Look at their discussion habits. I also find it comical as all get out. And the more convoluted the rationalizations, and the more they ape Rand's fictional characters, the funnier it gets to me.

(I am of the persuasion that if you don't screw up, you can't learn. If you already know something, you never need to learn it.)

So I parodied this attitude and was going full blast in that direction. I thought you were on board.

Well hell... There goes the humor by needing to explain the humor...

This even blows the continuation and climax. Usually when the boneheads are wrong and they finally have to admit it, they go into long-winded solemn explanations and nitpick the thing to death. But the full substance is never more than, "I screwed up. Oops."

(Well, there is a variation: "I screwed up. Except I didn't really.")

I had a howler coming as my auto-da-fé, but now it's a wannabe lampoon that will fall flatter than a buckwheat pancake run over by a giant steam roller.

I will divert it to a satire later when I start publishing fiction for real.

Michael

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I had a howler coming as my auto-da-fé, but now it's a wannabe lampoon that will fall flatter than a buckwheat pancake run over by a giant steam roller.

I will divert it to a satire later when I start publishing fiction for real.

All this was supposed to be funny? Oh well, even the best comedians get heckled sometimes.

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Come on, Dennis.

You read this and it didn't ring any warning bells about how serious I was being?

2. Ellis really did publish the book the way I remembered, but quickly managed to change it and replace all the copies in the marketplace, but missed the one I saw.

Dayaamm!

Michael

EDIT: The Milton Berle thing was a hoot! "His problem is he's the ninth child in a family of eight." LOL...

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Michael,

In all seriousness, there’s a perfectly logical explanation for your mistaken Ellis’ recollection: false memory syndrome.

Top Ten Mysteries of the Mind

Some experiences are hard to forget, like perhaps your first kiss. But how does a person hold onto these personal movies? Using brain-imaging techniques, scientists are unraveling the mechanism responsible for creating and storing memories. They are finding that the hippocampus, within the brain's gray matter, could act as a memory box. But this storage area isn't so discriminatory. It turns out that both true and false memories activate similar brain regions. To pull out the real memory, some researchers ask a subject to recall the memory in context, something that's much more difficult when the event didn't actually occur.

It’s not all that uncommon. Some dreams are so vivid that, years later, you swear the experience was real. The older we get, the more likely it is that we will have false memories. In fact, sometimes I wonder if my menage-a-trois with Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry is really a false memory. (I really hope not.)

It all goes to show you that Kant was right. So-called “reality” is just a big fat delusion. :laugh:

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