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Ellen Stuttle

"To Whom It May Concern"

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I did something last night which I'm feeling today was a mistake of timing. I wanted to read a little before I went to sleep, so I started a chapter of PARC which up till then I'd skipped, the chapter titled "The Exploiters and the Exploited," in which there's some discussion of AR's "To Whom It May Concern."

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?

Ellen

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Ellen,

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 [1968] 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:

1962 +7

1963 -3

1964 +2

1965 +4  

1966 +4  

1967 +1

1968 even

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.

Michael

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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'll say how I reacted. Of course, I did have prior context, included in which, as I've said a number of times on various threads, was that I thought of AR as not the best at psychological perceptiveness. Still, I was shocked. To whatever extent I viewed her as A Heroine, my view of her acquired permanent clay feet in process of my reading "To Whom It May Concern." I was appalled. However much pain she was feeling -- and the pain dripped from the statement, I felt -- she wasn't excused, especially when writing an announcement and making charges so momentous to her admirers, from giving due regard to EVIDENCE. She seemed to expect that what she wrote would be accepted at face value, because she said it. This I found extremely off-putting.

Ellen

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Ellen, you asked what one's reaction would be to "To Whom It May Concern" if one knew nothing of the people or events involved. I can give you a very telling example, which I recount in PASSION. Nathaniel and I considered suing Rand for libel because of her accusations -- although we soon rejected the idea, unwilling to subject ourselves to more years of dealing with an issue we wished only to leave behind us.

"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. . . '"

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I've only read excerpts from Rand's "To Whom It May Concern." I Googled for more, but couldn't find much. In my search I did come across this blog entry from Diana Hsieh which I thought was interesting:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2003/03/hon...nd-affairs.html

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.

J

Btw, if anyone has "To Whom It May Concern" handy in electronic form, please feel free to e-mail it to me offlist.

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Barbara tells the story of attorney George Berger's reaction to reading "To Whom It May Concern."

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.

Ellen

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I've only read excerpts from Rand's "To Whom It May Concern." I Googled for more, but couldn't find much.

That's interesting. You mean it isn't available as an isolated item from ARI?

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. ;-))

Ellen

PS: I don't have the document available in electronic form, or I'd send it to you.

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Jonathan,

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.

Robert Campbell

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Dragonfly:

Check the files section of OL (tw1a.jpg - tw5a.jpg)

Thanks!!

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:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/objectivistliving

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.

Ellen

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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. You can see she is hurt deeply but that is a feeling that she would never allow herself to feel, probably because she would have to admit to evading the truth that her affair with Nathaniel was wrong on so many levels. What I find disturbing is that she then had to have her associates sign on to her side as well. It was like she needed witnesses to prove to herself that she wasn't lying.

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.

Kat

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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.

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.)

Ellen

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In response to my statement on the public nature of marriage, Ellen wrote, "I don't think I actually agree that she made it everyone's business specifically for that reason."

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.

Ellen wrote,

"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.

J

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Jonathan writes:

It's seems pretty obvious that his crime was that he preferred another woman to Rand.

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.

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John,

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.

Michael

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These comments are primarily made as my thoughts about what Jonathan says about marriage above.

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.

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Charles wrote,

"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.

Charles wrote,

"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.

J

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John wrote,

"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.

J

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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.

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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.

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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).

Ellen

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If David knew, I except he got it from

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Ellen, I have no doubt at all that if Roland were here, we would

be told that your first sentence above are exactly his own

sediments.

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If David knew, I except he got it from___

Ellen, I have no doubt at all that if Roland were here, we would be told that your first sentence above are exactly his own sediments.

I couldn't agree Moore.

L. N.

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Jonathan,

I really do not understand the role of the public in a marriage except in so far as they are involved in adjudicating a legal contract in which there is a dispute between the parties involved. The purpose and the goals of a marriage are those of the married, not the remainder of the culture. It is true that many in the remaining culture would like to have a say in others marriages, but it is not different in kind from telling me what kind of car I must buy, what color I must paint my house, and what the minimum wage is that I can work for, except of course that marriage is even more important and intimate. What sexual positions I and my partner prefer is our business, how many children we choose to have is our business, and whether one of us chooses to leave the other should one of us have an affair is still again our business. No one has the right to tell me how I must make these choices. They do have the right to make such choices for themselves.

The social contract is a legal contract. There may be a religious agreement as well, or there might be other private vows, but neither of these are likely to invite general involvement. I simply do not know what the basis of your claim is. It is simply that it would not be seemly for you to make a pass at another man's wife? That it is not good etiquette? Well, this is true, but you seem to be making a stronger statement of involvement. Anna and I do not think we invited you to have such an involvement in our marriage. Now, I am not saying that you are a bad fellow, but we just did not have any reason to invite you to play this role.

Sorry to make this personal, but in the end the abstract considerations do boil down to the concretes that result. I would be appalled to have or share the responsibility to make such decisions relevant to your marriage or that of others. Please do not put me in such a difficult position.

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Charles,

In theory I agree with you. But I agree with Jonathan, too, since Rand was a public figure. People who become public figures give up a measure of their privacy. That's reality. (Now think about a public figure who is selling ethics and constantly telling people what is moral and immoral in their lives. Her privacy gets doubly zapped because people will not only talk about her, which is what being a public figure is all about, they will use her as a role model for the ethics she teaches and uses to judge them.)

As a person who has lived in a profession where building a public image is just as important market-wise as the product being sold (art and entertainment), I find it naive to think that Rand was unaware that in the USA culture at that time, being married and essentially conservative implied monogamy. Any other sexual involvement was and still is called an "extra-marital affair."

She also lived for years among a small group of people. She taught them as chief guru. She hid from them her romantic involvement with one of their leaders - the one she most endorsed - day after day after day. She actively promoted the view that such a thing would be unthinkable because she was monogamous with her happily married husband. She even held her husband up as one of her own heroes ("highest value" and all).

Granted, this was the 60's. Peace and love. Sexual revolution, etc. But Rand's image was not as a hippie and she knew all about public image. She worked in Hollywood for years. Even one of her characters in Ideal was a PR man.

Rand very competently built her public image and constantly groomed it. Just because she did not agree with many of the ideas in the culture, that doesn't mean that she was unaware of or incompetent about the nature of the market she worked in. One day I will probably write in more depth about this side of her. I see it all over her history and her works.

Michael

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Michael,

When we talk specifically about Ayn Rand, we do run into her attempts to mislead people with her pretense that Frank was a heroic man. Well, actually in a way he was. He endured a lot.

But, Ayn Rand was not a conservative. Her ideal people were clearly not willing to live within the romantic and sexual conventions of their times. Nonetheless, Ayn Rand found it difficult to fully assert herself in her private and public life as one of her heroes. She tried to live parts of her life privately. If she had done this without the public deception, I would not be in the least critical of her. If she had said that her love life was her business and no one else's, that would have been fine. Unfortunately, she told active lies, which is a moral disappointment.

In her time, if she had told others that she had a lover, this would have been harder on Frank. Of course, it also would have been a distraction from her ideas, which is what she wanted the focus to be on. I think she was wise to hide her affair. She simply should have done so by not talking about her love life.

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