Michael Stuart Kelly

Hudgins: Invitation Rescinded (TAS 2008 Seminar)

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Hudgins: Invitation Rescinded

Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sat, 2008-01-26 00:46.

January 25, 2008

Dear Lindsay:

This is to inform you that I am not including you on the program for our 2008 Summer Seminar. Let me make clear the reasons for my decision.

Will Thomas, our conference director, extended to you an invitation explicitly in the context of you contributing to "an outbreak of peace,"words you acknowledged in your communications with Will. You also wrote to Will that "I'll speak about something non-fratricidal."

As you therefore acknowledged, these were the implied terms and context of your contract and our main reason for extending an invitation about which we frankly had grave doubts, given your history of spreading incivility and acrimony throughout the movement and your uncivil attacks on us in particular. We had not seen the specifics of your talk so we did not know whether it would, in fact, serve the ends of the invitation.

However, your behavior subsequent to agreeing to speak has done the opposite of promoting "an outbreak of peace." Rather, you have fanned the flames of

further controversy and acrimony.

In your announcement on SOLO that you would be speaking at our Summer Seminar you seemed to be spoiling for a fight with those with whom you have had differences in the past.

I sought clarification from you in light of some of your remarks, to make certain that you would be civil at the event, that your talk would conform to its promised purpose and, in addition and as a sign of your intentions, that you would "commit to this wider goal of building an open and civil Objectivist movement."

You emailed me that you intended to behave in a civil manner at the event and not to use your talk on "Objectivism's Greatest Enemies: Objectivists,"

to attack your opponents by name. Yet your other posted comments suggested the opposite.

With respect to my challenge concerning civility you responded: "Well, I don't champion Ed Hudgins' cause, which is indiscriminate, unconditional civility. I've no objection to name-calling, if it can be substantiated. In

fact, in such instances, name-calling is desirable." You also wrote: "Well, that's too bad, Ed, because I'm not going to make any.... I can't guarantee it will always be civil (nor do I owe you or anyone such a guarantee)."

It was never our belief or aim that TAS could heal or unite the Objectivist community. However, it was our hope and our clear intention that in extending this invitation we might at least take the first steps toward

reducing the decibel level of personal vituperation and the incivility by which even profound disagreements are expressed. But you have, by your own public statements subsequent to our invitation, only poured more gasoline on the fires that are consuming Objectivism's public reputation. You actively participate in online discussion threads where you continue to mock and

taunt your opponents and, at times, sink to obscenities (e.g. what you said recently about Barbara Branden). So too have your SOLO associates. This unprofessional conduct has only furthered the rancor among Objectivists and contributed to an ongoing Hatfields/McCoys war between participants on SOLO-Passion and Objectivist Living.

Far from contributing to the civilized atmosphere we sought and expect at a Summer Seminar, you have only turned your prospective appearance into

another battleground in an ongoing uncivil war.

We recognize that some of your opponents have also contributed much to this toxic atmosphere through their own intemperate comments about your scheduled

appearance. You might have taken this as an opportunity, not to ignore past disagreements nor to feign friendship with those with whom you have bad blood but to say, "I'm not sinking to that level. I am taking the high road.

Why don't you? Let's see where it takes us." In any case, I delayed this communication to you in part to take time to address them directly about

this, calling them to a higher standard of conduct.

Nonetheless, it takes two sides to stage a public brawl, and in any case, those individuals were not invited to speak at our seminar about Objectivism. You were, and it was understood that you would conduct yourself

in a manner that would reduce incivility and hostility within the movement. But your statements announcing that talk and the manner of your response to critics of it have been completely contrary to that goal, dashing hopes that your appearance can contribute to our stated objective.

I do want to apologize for not vetting your talk more carefully in the first place. Had I done so, perhaps you would not have been invited at all, sparing all concerned a lot of grief.

In any case, we take your statements and behavior as a rejection of the terms under which we wanted you to speak at the 2008 Summer Seminar and it is my decision that you not be included on the program this year.

Sincerely,

Edward Hudgins

Executive Director

The Atlas Society

This is an announcement. People may gloat if they wish. I prefer they do not.

Thank you to the Atlas Society.

Michael

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I have returned -- if only briefly -- to add a few points in strong support of what Ed Hudgins has posted to Lindsay Perigo. Please note: I am speaking only on my own behalf, and these comments should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the views of anyone else, including my employer.

In my opinion, a full bill of particulars concerning Mr. Perigo's actions could have gone much further. It would include, for example:

* repaying his prospective hosts for their invitation by insulting them, even in his announcement of his forthcoming talk, by once again using his juvenile epithet "KASSless" against TAS.

* promising in a later post that he'd no longer refer to us by that epithet, yet continuing to host a poll on his website home page that contains that insult.

* publicly posting his private acceptance note to Will Thomas under a title that was certain, and that was no doubt intended, to incite controversy ("Batten Down the Hatches!"). Rather than posting a professional, low-key announcement, his was filled with defiant rhetoric and characteristic bravado -- and also with veiled warnings that he would not guarantee to us that, if provoked, he would be able to "bite his tongue." This acceptance note had caused us immediate concern when we received it privately; but we certainly did not anticipate that Mr. Perigo would post this inflammatory statement publicly, and under a title that, in effect, promised a storm. This was an action that he must have known would only further provoke his critics -- and his prospective hosts.

* (as Ed noted) actively contributing to online discussions at SOLO where he has continued to mock, taunt, and bait his opponents -- at times resorting to crudely insulting profanity (e.g., his remarks about Barbara Branden).

* posting demeaning, insulting comments about the relative abilities and appeal of other TAS speakers.

* (as Ed also noted) openly and publicly defying Ed's polite public challenge to him to try to foster greater civility, responding instead with comments such as: “Well, I don't champion Ed Hudgins’ cause, which is indiscriminate, unconditional civility [a demonstrably false claim]. I’ve no objection to name-calling, if it can be substantiated. In fact, in such instances, name-calling is desirable.” And, in reply to Ed's call for Mr. Perigo to offer some constructive proposals about how to undo the incivility of the past, by writing: “Well, that’s too bad, Ed, because I’m not going to make any.... I can’t guarantee it will always be civil (nor do I owe you or anyone such a guarantee).”

Any respectable organization that first invited a speaker, then witnessed subsequent behavior of this sort, would undoubtedly and with complete justification revoke their invitation, on any single one of those points. Each, alone, represents a complete lack of professionalism, courtesy, maturity, respect, and personal dignity. Each, alone, demonstrates appalling bad faith in response to a generous invitation extended in good faith -- generous especially in light of Mr. Perigo's past comments against us and the risks to our reputation that we obviously assumed by inviting him.

To underscore this last point: There is certainly no other good reason why TAS would have even dreamed of inviting him to speak had Will Thomas's motives not been exactly as stated all along: to try to diminish such disgraceful behavior within the Objectivist movement, and to try to encourage a more civil and productive atmosphere -- and public image -- for our movement and for the propagation of our philosophy. Call that hope naive, or worse; but it was sincere.

It is clear, then, that it was Mr. Perigo who proceeded in bad faith -- not us.

Some will, of course, declare that rescinding his invitation was an act of cowardly capitulation to pressure from his opponents. As I said earlier, in my previous comment on this matter: "At this point, any decision [Ed] makes, either to affirm or rescind that invitation, will merely be seized upon by partisans to score points and to smugly assert their sanctimonious I-told-you-sos. Any decision he renders will be damned by one side as a 'cowardly capitulation' to the other side -- and all of you know it. I could write all the talking points for both sides in advance. Even five seconds of reflection will tell you that this double-bind interpretation of Ed's motives is illogical and completely unjust."

Mr. Perigo's partisans are now reacting in a way that makes my words prophetic. But their claim about capitulation is preposterous on its face. Given Mr. Perigo's well-known history and animosities, we knew in advance that his appearance would anger a number of decent people, including many long-time TAS supporters. However you care to characterize our invitation, the word "cowardly" is one that cannot apply. Moreover, we have hosted a number of controversial speakers in the past, including Mr. Perigo himself; yet we have never felt compelled to revoke an invitation simply because of "pressure" from anyone.

And despite all the outrage expressed here and elsewhere for extending that invitation, we would not have rescinded it this time, either -- except for Mr. Perigo's own subsequent statements and behavior. The fate of his talk thus rested entirely in his hands. He is the author of the outcome.

Now, with all this behind us, let me turn my attention to a final matter.

When Ed and I publicly called for civility from participants on this site, too, we meant it. Again, let me stress that I speak only for myself: I was appalled by comments posted here during this controversy -- some addressed against TAS, but even some of those posted against Mr. Perigo. I have stressed my personal dismay about this in private, confidential correspondence to several of you on this site. Let me be clear about the reasons for my concern.

Many of you have expressed your objections to our invitation of Mr. Perigo in the strongest moral terms, and I have absolutely no objection to that. I would not suggest for one minute that anyone sanction what he believes to be an immoral action. Thus, I am not saying that those of you opposed to our invitation should have refrained from passing moral judgments; and I am not saying that people shouldn't express their judgments in the strongest terms, when appropriate. That goes for your judgments against TAS or against me.

But there is a manner appropriate to publicly expressing even the harshest of moral outrage. However intemperately one may rage in private, I believe that in public settings one's manner should maintain some measure of personal dignity and rational restraint. What I singled out earlier for criticism -- "the personal insults, the obscene language, the gratuitous psychologizing, the He-threw-the-first-punch finger-pointing" -- is neither dignified nor rational.

This point is quite apart from the substantive issue of who is right and who is wrong, on this or other issues requiring expressions of moral judgment. I pointed out earlier that in Ayn Rand's novels, you never see her fictional heroes -- whom she explicitly intended to represent Objectivism's behavioral models -- sinking to profane public rants, personal taunts, juvenile name-calling...or, for that matter, obsessive dwelling on each and every statement and action of their enemies. They sought out better things to do, and nobler ways to express themselves.

Several others -- including Judith, quite eloquently, and also Phil Coates and Laure -- have echoed similar concerns about instances of gross incivility here. Too often, however, their comments have been dismissed, sometimes with scorn and mockery. I applaud them for their outspokeness and for the dignity of their demeanor, maintained in the face of these provocations.

Perhaps now, with the heat of the moment subsiding, I might invite readers here to go back through these threads and reread closely what they had to say. Then, rather than rush immediately to your keyboards and compose angry, defensive replies, please take some time to absorb and weigh the merits of what they have said.

The public reputation of Objectivism is established every day by the statements and actions of its proponents. We must all remember that. I include myself in this admonition, because as I said before, my own record on this score is hardly perfect. But I aim to do better.

And the reason is that I don't want the bad example of Mr. Perigo to infect my own character. I don't wish to absorb, even unconsciously, his false premise: that "moral passion" must be expressed by vulgarities and vituperation, by psychologizing and conspiracy theorizing, by name-calling and all-consuming rage and obsessive preoccupations with evil enemies. Surely we are better than this.

This is my challenge to you -- and to myself: We should now give our leave to Mr. Perigo, letting him reclaim his monopoly on incivility, and ceding to him those dwindling few who prefer to share his warped form of "passion." And then, in the words of a noble American, we should proceed to raise a standard to which the wise and honest will repair.

--Robert Bidinotto

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Please note: I am speaking only on my own behalf, and these comments should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the views of anyone else, including my employer.

Robert,

The only thing I wish to add to all this is that what you just said above applies to every single OL poster.

OL is not a collective. It should not be treated as such.

Michael

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Please note: I am speaking only on my own behalf, and these comments should not be taken as necessarily reflecting the views of anyone else, including my employer.

Robert,

The only thing I wish to add to all this is that what you just said above applies to every single OL poster.

OL is not a collective. It should not be treated as such.

Michael

The only thing I wish to add is that I completely reject Robert Bidinotto's criticism of OL posters. He and TAS were the ones who invited Perigo in the first place, people here told them what a bad idea it was, and lo and behold, it turned out to be a bad idea. They, as the professionals who accept money to deal in shaping the Objectivist scene, should have known better, but they did not.

How dare he lecture the face of such a farce that he partook of? That isn't it. He dares NOT posture as the superior in the face of his inferior performance here.

Shayne

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I've decided to delete my intemperate remarks leaving only what Wolf quoted in the following post. It's over. The damage is done. I have great sympathy for Robert in this, actually; he lost the most.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Find a better employer. For someone with your brains and experience that will be no problem.

during the 1988 presidential campaign, made murderer "Willie" Horton and

prison furloughs the decisive issues in the defeat of Michael Dukakis (Wikipedia)

Nope, no problem. Highly employable.

:sick:

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This whole issue makes me unbearably sad. Really. As in weeping.

Robert and Ed, well done under difficult circumstances.

As for myself, I'm going to go do other things unrelated to objectivist partisan politics for the rest of the weekend.

Judith

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Ed: I knew, in my head and my gut, that Perigo would hang himself, if given enough rope. I am glad to see that my oracular powers are still intact. :-) More importantly, I am glad to see that you came through and did the right thing -- though I really don't see how you could have done otherwise.

I wish that Becky and I could afford to take in the Summer Seminar in Portland, especially now that one major...impediment has been removed. However, we will have to sit this one out, since -- due to my lack of Ph.D., lack of publication on the topic, etc. -- my own boring, KASS-less proposal was rejected. :bye:

I know you will have a good time in Portland, and I know we will be missing some excellent presentations. Perhaps I'll be able to attend the Graduate Seminar in August. And then, there's always next year!

Take care, and thanks for your passionate concern.

REB

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I think everyone should note that I saw this is coming. I wanted to go to Portland and now I'm going.

Some people don't know when to be quiet.

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Personally, I think that we should declare yesterday to be some kind of celebratable holiday.

rde

All good gawdang cums to him what waiteth.

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I wouldn't call yesterday a holiday to celebrate and I am certainly not jumping up and down performing a victory dance. I feel a sense of relief more than anything.

This whole episode was a real downer, angered many of us (justifiably) and the feelings of anger and betrayal only intensified the longer TAS delayed, denied any wrongdoing and dumped on us at OL calling us uncivilized for taking issue with the whole thing instead of taking swift decisive action. I felt like TAS turned on me personally and I could not understand why. I still don't. How could Perigo, being such a bitter enemy of TAS, have possibly been invited when long-time supporters here were being rejected left and right? How could TAS do this? I kept trying to tell myself Ed would never invite Perigo, but yet it looked as if he would let the invitation stand. Ed is one of the few people in this world that I truly admire and trust to do the right thing and act with integrity. My trust was shattered. It was one of those moments where you think the good guys have turned into to bad guys and you just want to throw in the towel.

Anyhow, the damage was done, now it is being undone and it will take some time to heal the scars and rebuild the trust and admiration that I once held for TAS as an organization. I still hold a great deal of admiration for Ed and Robert and realize that they were doing their jobs trying to repair the damage that Will has done to the organization. I want to think he acted alone and was naive about Perigo, but I deep down I really don't think either. I do hope that in the future there will be a little more oversight in the invitation and acceptance process to avoid these types of sticky situations in the future.

Again, I applaud TAS for doing the right thing. Thank you and apologies. We still love you guys.

Kat

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~ Remember that old 'Sonny & Cher' song?

---"...and the beat goes ON..."

---"...And the Beat goes on..."

~ I'm with Judith on this.

~ WAY too much personally-based 'moralizing'-(some rationalized, I'd say)-from-the-public-rooftops, by some noted 'leaders' and too many partisan 'supporters' about rapproachment a-t-t-e-m-p-t-s 'twixt organizations. --- Hatfield-McCoys indeed...

LLAP

J:D

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