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3 hours ago, anthony said:

Good, if a bit heavy on history. Where was discussion of ARI's obvious Leftist bias and where TAS stands politically?

Thanks for listening. Politics wasn't on the agenda.

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Enquiring minds would like to know. It is not politics per se, it's where the O'ist institutions stand ideologically and how credible to readers they remain.

TAS has been quite vocal about Socialism, an out of touch ARI has consistently trashed the conservatives and largely left Socialism alone (from the regular articles I get). Even today, when all out condemnation and canceling has been declared against conservatives by the Left, you'd believe from ARI that the right were the rising danger.

For example from a week ago:

 

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My simple answer to ''Why AR rejected Conservatism'.

She expected more from the conservatives (re: capitalism).

The Left didn't even bear mentioning, they were (and are) beyond the pale.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In our new episode Scott and I take a critical look at Yaron Brook's debate performances and Craig Biddle's dialogue with Dennis Prager. We discuss their different styles and approaches to outreach and debating. Thanks in advance for listening. Enjoy!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

We have a new interview of Richard Salsman, discussing his long history in the Objectivist movement, working with ARI, TOS, and now TAS, and his views on the various schisms involving these groups. We also talk about his new book, Where Have All the Capitalists Gone? Check it out!

 

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Tony,

I, too, enjoyed this one.

I knew very little of Richard Salsman before.

I like him. I want to look deeper into his work later.

From what he said of his earlier years (his "diva mode" if I remember correctly how he said it), I don't think I would have liked him back then.

But then again, I don't think he would have liked me in my earlier years, either.

:) 

Thanks to MS for posting this.

In fact, I think I am going to take another look at Craig Biddle based on what Salsman said about him. I have been really turned off to Biddle for years based on some things of his I read during the 9/11 troubles.

But I'm willing to look once again with a fresh perspective.

Michael

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Michael, both men. Biddle and Salsman strike me as, sort of, "renegade" Objectivists who are not afraid to expand and investigate outside of stifling Ortho O'ism. And if they go too far, (which I've not seen, they know the material inside out) that's better than the rigid party line. Looking up RS on Google, top of the page was OLiving and the thread here about his exchange and conflict with Yaron Brook. Sounded heated... I found his essay I linked on the corona thread.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is my favorite non-interview episode so far because it deals with an important difference between Objectivists.

Objectivism, Open or Closed?

Scott and I have a small debate over the issue of open versus closed Objectivism. Everyone seems to agree that "open" and "closed" are metaphors which need literal explanations. I propose that "open" refers to Objectivism as a common noun, i.e., a class of Objectivist philosophies; while "closed" refers to Objectivism as a proper noun, i.e., the specific philosophy of Ayn Rand. Take a listen!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Robert Bidinotto stopped by our podcast to discuss his history in journalism and the organized Objectivist movement, which he left several years ago. Those subjects occupy the first part of the episode, then at 52:00 we delve into his career as a thriller novelist, his Dylan Hunter vigilante stories, and his thoughts on justice and the death penalty. Check it out!

 

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MS,

I watched it and it was a very good interview. I'm going to say some negative things about Bidinotto below, but in terms of the interview itself, I think all three of you came off shining. It was a wonderfully upbeat interview.

Now for the dirt. :) 

 

I like Bidinotto as an action story writer much more than as a person involved in the Objectivist subcommunity. In your interview, there was not even a glimpse of his nasty petty side that comes from decades of hardening of the categories.

I, myself, no longer communicate with him. Not because I don't want to. But because he has banned me from commenting on his Facebook page. (btw - I was never as nasty to him as he has been to me. In fact, I don't ever recall being nasty to him at all. I used to think we were friends, but I think he only tolerated me over the years because I was close to Barbara Branden.)

The break came when we disagreed over Trump during the 2016 election. His view was that Trump was the greatest threat to mankind that ever existed and was a moral sewer at best. I tried to talk about this rationally with him back then (mentioning things like the character of heartland Americans, Trump did not make his money from war, instead he was a producer, and so on), but he didn't want any part of it. His hatred was way too great.

He then started to write about me, saying I was unprincipled--a charge he has repeated--and it was unbelievable that such unprincipled people were among those who liked Ayn Rand, yada yada yada. 

Trump won and he then had to temper his views on Trump since a lot of his fiction audience loved Trump. Nowadays, he admits Trump did a lot of good things, but for him, of course they were for all the wrong reasons. And, of course again, when he believes he will not offend his fiction audience, he takes swipes at Trump. (if you ever get the inclination, your can read all this going through his Facebook account.)

 

In his interview with you guys, he did not mention why he left being the editor of The New Individualist published by The Atlas Society. He was fired.

The reason was that at the end of 2007, he released an issue with a horrible denigration of Ron Paul on the cover. Don't forget, this was in the context of America electing first term Obama. Freedom lovers in general in the Randian orbit were appalled (with some exceptions, of course), including, I suspect, TAS donors.

The article was entitled "The Abominable Dr. Paul" and was written by Stephen Green. But the cover was produced by Bidinotto and he's the one who hired the article.

image.png

 

Talk about an article and cover of a magazine that did not age well... :) 

Don't think only ARI likes to rewrite history in the Objectivist subculture. I had to spend over an hour searching the Internet for that picture, and I have above average search skills. Even so, I was only able to get a small low pixel picture. The thing has been scrubbed from the Internet. I couldn't even find it on The Wayback Machine using several different URLs.

Oddly enough, being fired from The New Individualist was probably the best thing that ever happened to Bidinotto. I think he felt too humiliated to try to find another place within the Objectivist subcommunity, so he went after an old dream and wrote his first action novel.

And it was deservedly successful. Hunter is a good book, Not great, but good. Ditto for the rest of his Hunter series. I, for one, love it that he has created characters that resonate with a much larger audience than he ever had in the Objectivist subcommunity.

Also, to his credit, he is extremely generous with advice for self-publishing. And he has a lot of great advice about it on his sites.

 

Nowadays he smiles. He never used to.

I think part of his disdain for me is that I used to be an alcoholic, then a crack addict and wrote a lot about how I came out of that. Bidinotto's approach to life does not have much space for redemption. He luvs him some contempt and I honestly think he gets jollies when he contemplates punishing others in the name of justice. :) 

But that kind of personality is perfect for a writer of vigilante or Avenging Angel stories. 

Note. I am in favor of punishing bad guys. I just live on a different emotional plane than he does. I don't get pleasure (not much, anyway :) ) from punishing others and I don't like to wallow in resentment and anger and hatred. He has made a career out of it.

Er...

That was catty. :) 

In my defense, what I felt inside was on the level of quip, not a putdown to humiliate. I am honestly pleased that he is successful. I used to say I was proud of him. I guess I still am. He's a producer and I admire that. He found his niche. He loves what he does. How many people can say that about themselves in life?

 

As an aside, I think I met Bidinotto back in the early 70's, but I'm not sure. I used to go to see Ayn Rand at The Ford Hall Forum in Boston when I was at BU. (I only did two.) Bidinotto mentioned he did, too. I remember young people among the crowd outside hawking literature (mostly mimeographed). I tried to talk to a few of them, but some of them were really obnoxious and, besides, I wanted to see Rand, not them. So I didn't stick around to get to know them. I suspect Bidinotto was somewhere among them at the time. Maybe not...

As another aside, I have a small quibble about his self-characterization as a thriller writer. The way I learned it, the difference between an action story and a thriller, at least as concerns modern genre fiction, is that in an action story, the hero mostly goes out and chases down the bad guys. In a thriller, the hero mostly runs from the bad guys, and usually because he doesn't even know who the bad guys are in the beginning.

Anywho, enough about Bidinotto. He has a Corner of Insight here on OL from the older Barbara days, but I am almost certain he will never want to post there again.

Michael

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On 9/24/2021 at 11:33 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I watched it and it was a very good interview.

Thank you!

On 9/24/2021 at 11:33 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

The break came when we disagreed over Trump during the 2016 election.

I haven't researched his stance on Trump. Admittedly I was most interested in his fiction writing, as we share a love for vigilante stories. Incidentally I was also not liking Trump in 2016 and it took me another year or two to realize that the Democrats were worse. I sensed it with the Russia hoax, and then the impeachment insanity absolutely settled it. So I have some sympathy for people who've gone full TDS, though I was never so bad that I blocked people online over it. I've always enjoyed arguing too much. Plus, good opponents can help me see my errors or help me hone my reasoning.

On 9/24/2021 at 11:33 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

The article was entitled "The Abominable Dr. Paul" and was written by Stephen Green.

Yes, that is an odd cover for an intellectual magazine.

On 9/24/2021 at 11:33 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I think he felt too humiliated to try to find another place within the Objectivist subcommunity, so he went after an old dream and wrote his first action novel.

What do you make of his position that there shouldn't be an organized Objectivist movement because such organizations inevitably lead to dogmatism centered around gurus? He says that TAS was originally more like an open forum but it too succumbed to dogmatism. See his blog post "Am I Still An Objectivist?" This is from his response to a reader named Mel in the comments section:

Quote

During the time I became involved with a specific Objectivist organization, it was set up to function not as a dogmatic orthodoxy, but as an open forum for discussion of ideas related to Rand's philosophy. That was true at its conferences and within its publications. My departure from that group was due, in part, to its eventual, growing ambivalence about that "forum" structure -- for example, heated battles with me over the philosophic content of its magazine, which I edited.

I came gradually to conclude that, regardless of the initial "tolerant" intentions of those who found them, organizations based on a specific philosophy almost invariably degenerate into dogmatic orthodoxies. That's because, over time, some "authority" figure(s) or faction ultimately feels it must interpret and decide the public meaning and identity of that philosophy, and then impose it on the group as a whole, in order to protect the group's own public image and identity.

... groups trying to espouse an entire philosophy inevitably require interpreters of that philosophy -- which means some guru/authority figure(s) -- which means the group will become an anti-individualist orthodoxy that is policed by constant purges of dissenters, demands of loyalty and conformity, and internal factionalism as people struggle to impose their own interpretations on everyone else.

 

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On 9/28/2021 at 2:02 PM, MisterSwig said:

What do you make of his position that there shouldn't be an organized Objectivist movement because such organizations inevitably lead to dogmatism centered around gurus? He says that TAS was originally more like an open forum but it too succumbed to dogmatism. See his blog post "Am I Still An Objectivist?"

MS,

I don't have much an opinion at all on Bidinotto's views on Objectivism. He's entitled to his opinions and, frankly, they will not influence much in O-Land. (It is funny, though, to see a person with a strong dogmatic streak in his personality point the finger at others and call them dogmatists. :) )

On the good side, I honestly think his views on fiction writing have and will have a substantive impact (especially seeing how this area in O-Land is so weak).

As to the Objectivist movement concept, I know this is important to you and Scott. So let me give you a couple of points to chew on.

1. As you know, I use the "identify correctly to judge correctly" process for deep issues. So I see fishing around for an external cause to blame the meager spread of the Objectivist movement on as a problem of misidentification. The problem is not external. It's mostly internal--meaning the ability of the ideas as currently presented to satisfy what humans long for.

For example, it's easy to say dogmatic leaders have spoiled the Objectivist movement. But did they? Not really. Dogmatic people are everywhere and in highly successful movements. I certainly don't see dogmatism impeding the spread of Marxism. :) 

The misidentification I see is selling an Objectivist movement as a savior of mankind movement. The scope is way too big. I'll deal with this more in the second point, but the truth is Rand's view of human nature is way too limited for Objectivism to ever replace religion on the world stage. I know this gets the dander up when I say it, as it used to for me, but if the problem is ever going to be fixed, reality has to be faced and correctly identified.

 

2. So what needs to be fixed for Objectivism to replace religion? Just off the top of my head the following is missing: rituals for celebrating birth and providing comfort on death, a form of strengthening family or replacing it, a form of praying, rituals for fellowship, missionary guidelines and training, funding of movement organizations that work universally rather than just relying on deep-pocketed donors (for example, tithing in religion), and so on. All of these elements involve human nature--the parts of human nature Rand sets aside as non-essential.

In Rand's definition, man is a "rational animal." She usually gives lip service to the "animal" genus, then discards it as she focuses most of her attention on the "rational" differentia. Her insights within that area are profound, but when she tries to use this to replace the rest of human nature, people turn off. They go elsewhere. 

In other words, for one example, when her scope is narrow and she is developing the personal and social conditions for rational volition (reason) to develop and provide goodness to a person's life and humanity in general, her identifications are correct and deep. When she reifies this to replace the parts of human nature she sets aside, her identification of human nature is incomplete and, in some cases, wrong. 

I'm not just talking about the "animal" genus either. There are specific human things that cannot be satisfied by reason or even explained by it except by, maybe, the Law of Identity. Prayer is one. Humans pray and they have always prayed in one form or another--both personally and in group. This practice is so deeply and universally ingrained, one cannot turn it off like with a switch and then expect mankind to follow. Ditto for birth and death rituals. And so on.

One cannot find these things in the formal processes of reason (the differentia) or in the genus (animal). So they fall outside of Rand's definition of human being. But they are not only universal to human beings, they are found nowhere else in nature.

How can one make a widespread social movement out of that?

One can make an Objectivist movement out of something targeted like capitalism and so on. But one cannot chop off fundamental parts of human nature and then call the body of work behind doing that "a philosophy for living on earth" and expect to make a successful movement to save mankind out of it.

 

Those are just two points and I probably could articulate them better. But for this context, I think they are clear enough. And there is more, but I don't have time to go into it all right now.

(And to not exclude Bidinotto, I doubt he would agree with what I wrote. He wants to punish dogmatists too much for fucking up Objectivism. :) )

For me, if there is ever to be a successful Objectivist movement, it must either become more narrow in scope and become several targeted Objectivist movements, or if one insists on building the movement on the rock of saving mankind, provisions and ideas have to be made and become integrated with Objectivism that deal with the parts of human nature that got left out.

 

There are two areas that already do this successfully to different degrees. The first is when there is a huge attack by authoritarians against individuals in general. People who push back often go to Objectivism for intellectual ammo (to use Rand's term) and they simply integrate it into their lives as needed. They don't go deeper. After all, who can give up a fundamental part of human nature and still fight and win a war?

So they just don't bother with the cognitive dissonance. Instead, they piggyback off of religion, use religious foundations of family and so on, and put Objectivism on top of it to fight for individual rights within the threat context. And Objectivism is a powerful weapon against such threats. But once the threat goes away, they generally go back to their normal foundations in daily life.

The second is in fiction. Rand herself dealt with a lot re human nature in her fiction that never got into her nonfiction. And we can see Objectivism penetrating a lot of great fiction by people who are not necessarily Objectivists. Terry Goodkind is a wonderful example off the top of my head. His fiction absolutely does deal with wide swaths of human nature that are not in the official Objectivist nonfiction canon. (And, yeah, Bidinotto, too. :) ) That means the door is wide open to improving human existence through an Objectivist lens to whoever wants to walk through it.

Those, to me, are examples of an Objectivist movement in practice. But they are not organized.

Food for thought...

Michael

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On 9/29/2021 at 3:24 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

The problem is not external. It's mostly internal--meaning the ability of the ideas as currently presented to satisfy what humans long for.

I generally agree with this basic view, though I do think we face important, external factors such as cultural movements devoted to subjectivity, faith, socialism, etc. Not only do we need better arguments, we also need better minds that can grasp the arguments in the first place. When a genius discovers some brilliant philosophical insight, only a moron would expect the rest of society to grasp it. If it were that easy to grasp, it wouldn't have required a genius to develop it in the first place. So this is where character comes into play. The geniuses who grasp the new knowledge need to become trustworthy authority figures in order to gain the good will and attention of those who are sympathetic but who might lack the ability to fully grasp the new knowledge and apply it independently for themselves.

On 9/29/2021 at 3:24 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

For example, it's easy to say dogmatic leaders have spoiled the Objectivist movement. But did they? Not really. Dogmatic people are everywhere and in highly successful movements. I certainly don't see dogmatism impeding the spread of Marxism.

The movement is much larger than a few dogmatic leaders. But where the dogmatists reign, those are the foulest groups within the movement.

On 9/29/2021 at 3:24 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

The misidentification I see is selling an Objectivist movement as a savior of mankind movement.

Yes, I'm beginning to see this as well. I think ARI, in particular, has suffered from a messiah complex. They lost their focus on spreading Rand's philosophy, and they misintegrated their mission with a desire to prevent the impending collapse of Western civilization. This has created an unhealthy obsession with maintaining the purity of the philosophy by not associating with perceived corrupters and posers of Objectivism, because only Objectivism could save us. But perhaps even more damaging to the movement, this complex drove the leaders of ARI to concoct fantastic strategies for rescuing the culture, such as a twenty-year plan to place Objectivist intellectuals into Academia, a plan which ARI basically rejects now.

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In our latest episode we have a chat/debate with Facebook friend Dave Goodman, who has been an Objectivist for fourteen years and wanted to come on the show to defend Yaron Brook from some of our criticisms. We also discuss some ideas on the religious right versus the secular left, and working with non-Objectivists like Dennis Prager. Check it out!

 

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

When a genius discovers some brilliant philosophical insight, only a moron would expect the rest of society to grasp it. If it were that easy to grasp, it wouldn't have required a genius to develop it in the first place. So this is where character comes into play. The geniuses who grasp the new knowledge need to become trustworthy authority figures in order to gain the good will and attention of those who are sympathetic but who might lack the ability to fully grasp the new knowledge and apply it independently for themselves.

Or, if unable to do so, have others do it, just as Roark had the the efforts of Roger Enright and Austin Heller in THE FOUNTAINHEAD to help champion his new ideas...

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On 10/3/2021 at 7:08 AM, MisterSwig said:

... fantastic strategies for rescuing the culture...

MS,

I just made a post on a different thread (see here) that I believe presents a great strategy.

You may or may not resonate with it, but everything I have learned in life and study tells me this works and will work if used correctly to spread Randian ideas. I even think Rand used it in her fiction.

It starts with a video of a guy I was not familiar with (Mattias Desmet) and I cannot recommend this video highly enough. I know I will end up with some quibbles here and there, but this is real deal good stuff. 

Just a suggestion, though. Your life, your interests... well... they're yours.

:) 

Michael

 

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I think it's not as much "the truth" that is apparent when first approaching Rand's (esp.) non-fiction works, that smacks of effortless, intrinsic, "revealed" knowledge (a sometime mistake of Objectivists), it is that - here is MY means to finding and recognizing and gathering the truth, alone. Anyone independent enough to begin with, and that applies I believe to many idealists who are initially drawn to her works - doesn't exclusively want existence/meaning/purpose/morals handed to them on a plate. (She does that too...).

That kind of person predominantly needs the reality foundation and the *method* to find out for themselves to acid-test the philosophy and gain that confidence when it applies to every conceivable context (without only needing reference to Rand's input and assistance).

There is that AHA! moment in her fiction, Rand's reality- and ideal characters -in-action, sure. When a reader recognizes that this is - right, this is true, this is - important. In fact, one had already glimpsed her vision. (Usually/often how one had privately seen and experienced life to be and could be, but was since assured by teachers, etc. it was wrong or evil, and began doubting - until Rand).

Nothing beats discovering or uncovering values for oneself, I believe.  I am less one to "market" and promote Rand and Objectivism, per se. She is already very well-known; there are also many preconceptions and associations made of her ideas, almost always wrong. The reader rather of his own accord, should seek out and find the worth of her works for himself to get that recognition of reality he/she already knew deep down. Or not. When overly shoved on people, like being presented a set book at school for compulsory study and analysis, the tendency for many who liked it is to "get over it" in later years. Or flat antagonism. Many won't stick around long enough to find the philosophy's invaluable application and single purpose: to all of their life. In this time of mass marketing and short attention spans, most who would be drawn initially by, say, an O'ist publicity campaign, will move on just as superficially to another set of seemingly profound ideas, promoted by a clever fellow. Particularly when they find this philosophy is not one of given knowledge, such as many want and are accustomed to, fed for them to follow with minimum output.

But the last is a minor quibble. Keep on going with the good work, guys.

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4 hours ago, anthony said:

it is that - here is MY means to finding and recognizing and gathering the truth, alone.

I started reading Rand's non fiction in my later teens and early twenties, and that is precisely the sense of empowerment I felt. No one could tell me how to think but I was still waived by third party "interpretations" of the truth. No more . . . well occasionally . . . I remember my distrust of Donald Trump when he seemed to be running for President. My thanks to Michael and others for getting my head on straight. He was the real deal but he is a "showman," "promoter," and businessman in his other spheres, and of course there is some crossover.  Now about that Covid shot . . . 

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On 10/4/2021 at 1:00 PM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

It starts with a video of a guy I was not familiar with (Mattias Desmet) and I cannot recommend this video highly enough.

Yeah, I've been following him too, after a FB friend recommended him. It's a good sign that he makes the connection between determinism and collectivism.

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On 10/4/2021 at 4:14 PM, anthony said:

I think it's not as much "the truth" that is apparent when first approaching Rand's (esp.) non-fiction works, that smacks of effortless, intrinsic, "revealed" knowledge (a sometime mistake of Objectivists), it is that - here is MY means to finding and recognizing and gathering the truth, alone.

That is a kind of truth, though. It's truth about the correct method for discovering the truth.

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14 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

That is a kind of truth, though. It's truth about the correct method for discovering the truth.

True! A valid methodology IS the truth (the nature of, and how the mind functions wrt to existence). Recognizing that as fact isn't instantly evident though. The "method" needs trying out.

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Our new episode is an interview with Gennady Stolyarov II, a longtime fan of Rand who is now the chairman of the Transhumanist Party, a political group that supports policies favoring life extension research and technology, with the goal of eliminating the problems of aging and death so people can live healthy, immortal lives. Check it out!

 

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