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Michael Stuart Kelly

Why Nobody Takes PARC Seriously Anymore

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<font size="4"> Why Nobody Takes PARC Seriously Anymore

</font>by Michael Stuart Kelly

In early 2005, an unknown author and government attorney, James Valliant, published a book entitled The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. It is abbreviated as PARC.

The thesis of the book is that both Brandens had badly damaged Rand's reputation by smearing her in an underhanded—not easily perceived—manner in their published books and that Rand's own journal entries at the time of the break between her and the Brandens prove her to be such a victim.

At the time of publication, this book received the endorsement of almost the entire orthodox Objectivist community. This was fueled by the fact that Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir, had granted Valliant the right to publish Ayn Rand's journal entries from the time of the break, going from the end of 1967 up to the middle of 1968. Peikoff also heartily endorsed the book by claiming the following*:

Jim Valliant... is one of the few people that knows what he's talking about when he says something.

I admit I also think of Valliant sometimes as a "that" and not as a "who." I also admit that this is not very important, but there it is. This quote was posted by the Chicago Objectivist Society in their announcement of Valliant's talk on April 15, 2006.

<font size="1">* NOTE ON MAY 20, 2008: Valliant just revealed that this quote is from the video jacket of Ideas in Action, which, according to him, was published 10 years earlier than PARC. I just documented this in a post. As you can see in the full context in the Noodelfood post </font><font size="1">reproduced </font><font size="1">below, there is a strong insinuation that Peikoff wrote this to plug PARC. At any rate, Peikoff endorsed PARC enough to let Valliant use Rand's unpublished journal entries. I have no formal knowledge of what his evaluation of the finished book is, but I have a good guess, and I guess it has changed over time.</font>

There are no archives of this announcement on the Chicago Objectivist Society's website and the Wayback Machine entry for it apparently has been deleted. The entire announcement, however, was repeated verbatim on Noodlefood on March 21, 2006. Here is the full blog post in case it should likewise disappear one day (I did not include the links in the post):

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jim Valliant in Chicago on April 15th

By Diana Hsieh @ 9:20 AM

The Chicago Objectivist Society is hosting two lectures by Jim Valliant about The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics on April 15th:

Ayn Rand and the Virtue of Integrity by James Valliant

James Valliant, the author of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, is presenting two new lectures to the Chicago Objectivist Society. For the last twenty years, Ayn Rand has been the victim of attacks on her behavior and psychology inspired by the biographies of Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden. Finally, a critical response to the Branden's allegations has been published, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, by James S. Valliant.

In this two-part lecture, Mr. Valliant first examines the problems with the Brandens' accounts. The second part of this lecture is a unique insight into Ayn Rand's character from the only author who has had access to her private journals.

"Jim Valliant... is one of the few people that knows what he's talking about when he says something." -- Leonard Peikoff, author of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Part I: Ayn Rand and the Virtue of Integrity

This engaging lecture lays to rest the myths about Ayn Rand's life and character that have been promulgated by her detractors. It is highlighted by extensive, never-before-published personal journal entries of Ayn Rand. These passages are immensely valuable, not only in revealing the claims of Rand's critics to be profoundly inaccurate and unjust, but also in showcasing her epochal mind at work resolving complex questions of personal life.

Part II: Working With Ayn Rand's Journals

Mr. Valliant will discuss the process of writing this book, how and why the Estate of Ayn Rand made Rand's private journals available to Mr. Valliant - and his surprise at the dramatic confirmation of his hypotheses. Mr. Valliant will describe his experience working with Rand's Estate, and share his insights about Ayn Rand's personality - her serenity and rationality, her righteous anger, her careful moral judgment of others, and, above all, her remarkable integrity.

About James Valliant

James Valliant is the author of *The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics* and the editor of Ayn Rand's private journals used during his research. His op-eds have appeared in publications such as The San Francisco Chronicle.

He has been a Deputy District Attorney in the San Diego area for over 16 years. Mr. Valliant is a magna cum laude graduate of New York University with a degree in philosophy. He received his JurisDoctorate from the University of San Diego. With his wife, he created the 1995 television interview show, Ideas in Action, the winner of two prestigious Cinema in Industry (CINDY) Awards.

Mr. Valliant is a regular expert commentator on several news programs in San Diego, California, including Fox 6 and KUSI news programs as a religious, legal, and political analyst. His next book is on the origins of the New Testament, and will be titled, Behind the Cross.

Date: Saturday, April 15th

Time:

12:30-1:00 pm: Author Meet and Greet/Reception

1:00-2:40 pm: Part I: Lecture + Author Signing

2:45-4:00 pm: Lunch Break

4:00-6:00 pm: Part II: Lecture + Author Signing

8:00 pm: Dinner with Mr. Valliant

Location: Downtown Chicago at the DePaul University Campus. More specific information will be provided to registrants.

Cost: $44 per person ($34 full time students) before April 3rd

$49 ($39 full time students) after April 3rd

Enrollment: E-mail contact@chicagoobjectivists.org your RSVP.

You can pay with a credit card via the Chicago Objectivist Society's web page.

The comments to the post had nothing of interest to add. There is a repeat of the entire Noodlefood post on the Objectivism Online Metablog dated March 21, 2006. Also, there is a notification by Stephen Speicher on Mar 18 2006 on the Forum4AynRandFans which also gives the Peikoff quote.

I ask the reader to please excuse the level of detail on documenting this Peikoff quote, but this is a perfect concrete example of two points that are germane to what I am discussing here, which is that nobody is taking PARC seriously anymore.

Point 1. The method used by Valliant of distorting reality and rewriting it to fit his evaluations does not come from him. It comes from the top of the heap. I remember reading this Peikoff quote all over the place back when it was first posted. Currently, the three places linked above are the only ones left that I have been able to find. If you want to check for yourself, I suggest you Google it. Just to make sure, I checked the Google, Yahoo, Live, Ask and Mahalo search engines. This is a clear indication that someone has been going around asking people to remove it.

This kind of behavior is tiresome to people who have their own lives to lead and it eventually becomes difficult to document. The idea behind doing that is to distort public image through constant corrosive activity. As an old saying goes, "Drops wear down the stone, not by strength, but by constant falling."

Rhetoric-wise, this is the exact method used in PARC. Valliant did not arrive at this method on his own. He learned it from his orthodox Objectivist betters.

Point 2. The very fact that the quote is being silently removed is an indication that ARI is starting to distance itself from Valliant's book, or at least Peikoff no longer wants to provide such a solid endorsement. Granted, PARC is still being sold by the Ayn Rand Bookstore, but I personally think that this is a face-saving measure. If ARI removed it from the catalog, that would be tantamount to admitting that Peikoff made a colossal mistake in entrusting Rand's journals to such an incompetent boneheaded author as Valliant.

The fact is that nobody but a Branden-hater ever really took the PARC seriously in the first place (except for a convert or two on the Internet forums over the last 3 years—and you can count those converts on the fingers of one hand). The act of demonizing a person or group to the extent PARC did is a solid indication of tribalism.

If you want to have a good example of how this works in reality, go to the comments section on the Amazon sales page for PARC. You will find two basic kinds of comments: people who solidly endorse the book, but pepper their comments with practically nothing but wishful opinions about burying the Brandens, and readers who are appalled at Valliant's obvious distortions.

You can also notice that those who are appalled are generally given one star and those who express approval are given 5 stars. What this means is that there is a small tribe actively trying to manipulate the rating system to present a false public image that PARC is making some kind of impact. They want to give the impression that the majority of Amazon visitors disapprove of the negative reviews. Unfortunately, there are too many negative reviews for this to come across as intended and the distortion is obvious.

Now here we come to a real problem with discussing PARC anywhere. The tribe members are (or were) committed to defending the book at all costs. This meant that they did not care about the veracity of any facts. They have tried to win any and all arguments by wearing people down.

Valliant is particularly slippery in this respect in his online behavior. He is an active poster on the Solo Passion website and was active on its precursor, SoloHQ. He always leaves himself wiggle-room to get out of owning up to an obvious fact if it goes against his Branden demonizing Rand whitewashing campaign, but then he comes back the next day repeating his original point as if the fact that was presented did not exist.

This is trying to win an argument by wearing people out, not by having actual facts that contradict the one presented. Unfortunately for him, people have become aware of this. It is the main reason that PARC is not being taken seriously anymore.

What's worse is that nobody is ever convinced by this method. They are merely silenced for a while. They get bored. There is only one reason this obvious truth is not understood by Valliant and those who do like he does: they are disconnected from reality. If they were connected, they would understand that they are not defending Rand at all. They are simply driving people away from the discussion, even their own tribe-members.

Still, Valliant is so slippery that his method is hard to document in an open-and-shut manner that cannot be denied even by acolytes. However, Neil Parille gave a brilliant performance in nailing Valliant to the wall in a manner that eliminated the wiggle-room. Valliant literally had no way out and capitulated. He had to just to save face. But he still did not capitulate entirely to owning up to the facts. And he is still trying to win God knows what by wearing folks down. (He seems oblivious to the fact that there are precious few of us left who even read him.)

Here are some highlights to a discussion between Valliant and Neil. It concerns the veracity of Barbara Branden's meeting with Ayn Rand shortly before she died. This issue was discussed amply in other places where PARC was discussed, with Valliant using a wide range of his traditional smarmy rhetoric, but frankly I do not feel like wading through all of that again. The recent discussion is more than enough to illustrate my point.

On Feb, 27, 2008, Neil mentioned the following on Solo Passion:

Jim says on page 94 that "Rand never saw [Ms. Branden] again." That's incorrect. On pages 397-400, Barbara Branden discusses meeting Rand in 1981.

On Feb, 28, Valliant responded (amidst a plethora of smarmy language):

Also, Ms. B. makes the claim that she later saw Rand. Is there any corroboration of this self-serving claim? (Do try to keep the rest of PARC in mind.)

On Feb, 29, Neil posted:

You say that Barbara Branden never met Rand again, so you believe that she is lying.

What did you do to attempt to verify or refute her claim? Did you contact the housekeeper who Barbara says was there? (You claim she says Barbara misrepresented her on Frank's alleged drinking, so I assume you talked to her). Did you contact the ARI archives and ask if they had any correspondence relevant to this issue (Barbara says she wrote a letter to Rand after the meeting)? Did you ask Peikoff if he knows anything about this meeting?

Valliant refused to answer and made a smarmy post instead, accusing Neil of avoiding questions.

On Feb, 29, Neil posted again:

1. Did you contact the housekeeper who Barbara says was there?

2. Did you contact the ARI archives and ask if they had any correspondence relevant to this issue (Barbara says she wrote a letter to Rand after the meeting)?

3. Did you ask Peikoff if he knows anything about this meeting?

Not difficult questions.

Valliant still refused to answer, although he posted more smarmy crap.

On Feb, 29, Neil posted once again:

You are claiming that BB made up this story of a 1981 meeting. Considering that you often find the Branden books credible, I think you have the burden of proof in showing that this meeting was fictional.

That being said, I did email the Archives and asked them about this. If they respond and give me permission to post it, I will do so.

On March 1, Valliant responded:

Of course, I make no such argument in PARC as the one you are now arguing against, but imagine, for just a moment, if you can, that it even acknowledged Ms. B.'s claim about meeting Rand later -- despite your inability to provide any corroboration at this point. (But do keep up your researches -- you're bound to learn.)

I think if Valliant had imagined the outcome, he would not have been so smarmy here. Just to make sure that this issue is understood correctly, Valliant is lying. He actually did "make such argument in PARC." It is on page 94. Here is a direct quote (and Neil already quoted part of this). Valliant is discussing affairs in 1968 during the time of the break.

At her attorney's advice, Rand authorized him to invite Ms. Branden to a meeting so that they could discuss the accusations she was making. Ms. Branden never came and Rand never saw her again.

How can anyone imagine, other than making it up or lying, that Barbara would report later meeting Rand if "Rand never saw her again?" Valliant is either incredibly sloppy here or he is the one lying. I think he is both based on his behavior.

What's worse, Valliant not only refused to admit he had not checked the archives or Peikoff, he insinuated that no corroboration existed and that he had actually checked the archives.

But let's not take him at his insinuation. Let's take him at his word. In July 2006, Barbara made a speech at The Atlas Society's summer conference entitled "Objectivism and Rage." Valliant participated in a book-signing nearby around that time to try to cash in on TAS's public. During the Q&A following a speech he gave, he made the following statement (and this is from the horse's own mouth). This mp3 was posted on Solo Passion for a while. I cut off the beginning and end to reduce the size. What is left was extracted whole, without editing, from the original.

<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="http://www.google.com/reader/ui/3523697345-audio-player.swf?audioUrl=http://mikellyusabr.googlepages.com/Valliant2006_07_06_QA-shortened.mp3" width="400" height="27" allowscriptaccess="never" quality="best" bgcolor="#ffffff" wmode="window" flashvars="playerMode=embedded" />

If you have any trouble operating the player, just right-click on the link below and choose "Save target as" (or link or file or something similar) to download the mp3 file to your hard disk. The file's real name is Valliant2006_07_06_QA-shortened.mp3.

Valliant's opinion of Barbara's last visit to Ayn Rand

Here is a transcription.

Valliant: Yes, Andrew?

Andrew: What do you think of the fact that Barbara Branden visited Ayn Rand before she died, uhm [unintelligible]?

Valliant: No. There is no corroboration in any of Ayn Rand's notes or in any of the evidence from the Ayn Rand Archives that there was such a meeting as Barbara Branden describes later in their lives. That doesn't mean it was the case. It doesn't mean it wasn't the case. I will have to say what I said [unintelligible] in the book about that.

Everything that either one of the Brandens says that does not have independent corroboration from a credible source is to be dismissed out of hand as an arbitrary assertion.

What can be more self-interested than her reconciled with Ayn Rand?

She didn't think I was such a bad person. She forgave me. Forget what 1968… all that denunciation by Ms. Rand, because, you know, in the end she forgave me.

What could be more nakedly self-serving than such an assertion? If there was such a meeting, I have no idea what was said. I have no idea whether or not Ayn Rand spat in her face if there was such a meeting, which, probably, would have been the appropriate behavior. But no. No.

Branden has a similar story about his third wife meeting Ayn Rand—Devers Branden—and such a semi-reconciliation as well.

Both stories I dismiss out of hand.

Can there be any doubt that Valliant claims to have the authority of the Ayn Rand Archives to doubt Barbara's story? Is there any wiggle-room at all here?

Then came the bomb.

On March 7, Neil posted a thread on Solo Passion entitled "Barbara Branden's Meeting With Ayn Rand In 1981." Here is the text of that post:

In The Passion of Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden says that she met Rand in 1981 and wrote Rand a letter thereafter. (PAR, pp. 397-400.)

In The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, James Valliant says that Rand never saw Barbara Branden again after their split. (PARC, p. 94.)

I contacted the Archives of the ARI and they confirm that there is evidence that this meeting took place. Specifically, although the letter mentioned by Barbara Branden was not found, Cynthia Peikoff (who was Rand's secretary in 1981), mentions the letter and the meeting in the forthcoming 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, by Scott McConnell.

Reference assistance, courtesy the Ayn Rand Archives, A Special Collection of the Ayn Rand Institute.

I thank the Archives for their response.

Did Valliant say "Oops!"? Did he say, "I'm sorry for the mistake"? Did he say, "I actually did not consult the archives about this"?

No.

He acted as if he knew all along how it would turn out. Take a look at this incredible lack of owning up (on March 7). What is amazing about the post is that Valliant is so boneheaded he doesn't even see the implications in his own statement. Here is what he said about the ARI archives in that post:

It showed that even if the documentary evidence that you were looking for doesn't exist (something I had already noticed), they will work to give you their best information.

Say what?

Does this mean that "they will work to give you their best information" to Neil, but did not give their best to Valliant when he was right there in the building during extended stays doing research for his book?

Can there be any doubt that Valliant is lying about something?

I think he is an incredibly shoddy scholar and/or equally shoddy liar. No wonder Peikoff (or his supporters) is silently removing his endorsement from the Internet.

Even with Valliant's own mendacity rubbed in his nose in public, he still had the gall to say (in that boneheaded post):

Now, as to how the meeting may have gone down... (the most suspicious part of all)?

And, of course, this information has no impact on anything else in that chapter. Not one little thing. So, perhaps, you might want to take my earlier suggestion, ignore this item, and tell me what's wrong with the conclusions -- or, indeed, anything else -- in that chapter.

If you can.

To be fair, Valliant thanked Neil twice, once in that boneheaded post and once on another thread. Neil has also documented some of this in his article on OL, "The Passion of James Valliant's Criticism, Part III."

Since then, Valliant has not become more humble. He has not asked for corrections (other than rhetorically to try to prove that none need to be made in PARC). He has not shown good will at all to accept facts and question whether or not he may have made other incorrect assumptions. On the contrary, he has started melting down and some of his current posts border on unintelligibility.

For instance, in later trying to chastise Neil (March 12), Valliant made an incredibly stupid blunder again, practically fessing up to his own shoddiness:

And you're still making stuff up, I see. No one told me that there was no meeting -- and there is no reason to suppose that anyone did.

Of course there is no reason to suppose that anyone at the archives told him anything if one already knows that he did not ask anyone about it. But since he claimed he knew what was and was not in the archives (and there is much more online from Valliant making this claim than I gave above if anyone wants to look for it), it is reasonable to think someone from the archives told him there was no meeting between Barbara and Rand, or at least there was no evidence in the archives of such.

Now I want you, dear reader, if you are still awake or with me in this life-shattering topic, to think about the following. (That was sarcasm.) Look at how much crap was needed to get Valliant to stop spreading one boneheaded smear (with an accompanying bare-faced lie) out of a gazillion in PARC.

It would be possible to do that point-by-point and I assure you that Valliant would not fare well in the exercise. But who has the time for all of that?

I would not suggest using the following method on hardly any other book, but I know this one in depth. It is 100% safe to conclude that if Valliant used such sloppiness and lack of morality in the issue of Barbara meeting Rand at the end of Rand's life, he did that in other cases in PARC. As I said, there are gazillions. In fact, he did that so often that this is exactly what the people in the Amazon reader reviews of PARC sensed and what made them so appalled. The real issue is not pro-Rand or contra-Rand or pro-Brandens or contra-Brandens. It is the implications involved in fabricating and endorsing an intellectual swindle.

Objectivism is a philosophy of integrity, or it is supposed to be. Is lack of integrity, outright lying and gross intellectual sloppiness what ARI really wants to endorse? Do they really want their name associated with this crap? Do they really want to show the world that Peikoff will endorse something irrationally out of hatred—even when it has been incontestably proven wrong—and not out of reason?

PARC is not a serious book. Valliant is not a serious scholar. Shame on the people who allowed some of Rand's most intimate writing to see the light of day in this bonehead's hands. And shame on the people who endorsed this mess.

* * * * *

EDIT on June 9, 2009: Dr. Peikoff finally made a public statement with reference to PARC. It is on his website, but after the time of this posting passes, you will probably have to locate it by searching for it. As presented currently, it is a note to the podcast of June 8, 2009. The message in its entirety is given below. Oddly enough, Dr. Peikoff CC'd his personal email addressed to Mr. Wales to Robert Campbell. I say odd because he had never had any communication or contact with Robert before that virtual carbon copy.

Welcome to the official website of Leonard Peikoff — the world's foremost authority on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism.

June 8, 2009

To my listeners:

I would appreciate any help that you can give me in my effort to reverse Wikipedia’s decision in this issue.

Thank you,

Leonard Peikoff

Dear Mr. Wales,

I learned recently to my astonishment that while books by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, attacking Ayn Rand and her personal life, enjoy the status of reputable references in Wikipedia, a book disputing their claims and presenting the opposite viewpoint has been removed from your list as non-reputable. I refer to The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics by James Valliant published in May 2005. On its face, this is a policy of egregious injustice on your part.

As Ayn Rand’s executor, heir, and longtime personal friend, I will testify in any forum to the accuracy of Mr. Valliant’s book. I do not pretend to know every detail of the clash between Rand and the Brandens, but I do know firsthand the essential truth of the Valliant book. I leave aside here my own personal observations and discussions on this issue with Rand, because the book itself contains lengthy excerpts from her own personal notes, which completely bear out Valliant’s thesis in her own words. I released these notes only after a 20 year wait, because in Valliant I found at last a writer who would give her personal viewpoint a rational hearing, neither hostile nor worshipful.

My understanding, which may not be correct, is that one of the instigators of your new policy is Barbara Branden, one of the two persons identified in the Valliant book, with substantial corroborating evidence, as hostile to Ayn Rand. Surely such an individual and her claque have a transparent motive to kill this book. Can you justify removing one side of this dispute, the one endorsed by someone with my credentials? Do you describe as “reputable” only enemies of Ayn Rand?

There are those in the academic world who question the objectivity of Wikipedia. I hope that your action on this matter will prove that they are wrong.

Sincerely yours,

Leonard Peikoff

Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand

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Michael,

I recalled Mr. Valliant's 2006 statement about arbitrary assertions from that Q&A. It helped me to understand how the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion is put to use by Leonard Peikoff and his followers.

I'd forgotten that he brought up the doctrine specifically in connection with Barbara Branden's 1981 meeting with Ayn Rand.

Wow...

Let's see how he can wriggle out of his assertion, made in public a little less than two years ago, that the Ayn Rand Archives had no information confirming the 1981 meeting.

Let's also see how Mr. Valliant accounts for the steady disappearance from the Web of Dr. Peikoff's personal endorsement.

The Peikoff Institute really is in a bind now. If they keep selling Mr. Valliant's book, they will continue to take eminently deserved hits for promoting such an unscholarly, grossly slanted product of blind zealotry. If they quit selling it, they will, as you noted, be seen as admitting in front of everyone in Rand-land that PARC is... well... an unscholarly, grossly slanted product of blind zealotry.

Robert Campbell

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At the time of publication, this book received the endorsement of the entire orthodox Objectivist community.

Is that quite accurate? Aside from the technical nit of its not being provable how "the entire orthodox Objectivist community" reacted, my understanding is that Harry Binswanger in particular, who's rather a prominent personage in that community, disapproved of the whole project from the beginning. Has he said anything favorable about the book, does anyone know?

Ellen

PS: Grammatical detail in the sentence above the one quoted. Should be "Rand's own journal entries at the time prove [not proves] her to be such a victim."

___

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At the time of publication, this book received the endorsement of the entire orthodox Objectivist community.

Is that quite accurate? Aside from the technical nit of its not being provable how "the entire orthodox Objectivist community" reacted, my understanding is that Harry Binswanger in particular, who's rather a prominent personage in that community, disapproved of the whole project from the beginning. Has he said anything favorable about the book, does anyone know?

Ellen

PS: Grammatical detail in the sentence above the one quoted. Should be "Rand's own journal entries at the time prove [not proves] her to be such a victim."

___

Ellen,

I concede the point about Binswanger. I have heard something similar. There were probably some other exceptions, too. But I want to keep the phrase in for rhetorical reasons because the impression one had at the time in the online discussions was the way I stated. There was thundering silence from the orthodox Objectivists who objected to PARC, at least at the places I read, and I read just about everything public there was to read on this.

Besides, it's always good to give the boneheads something to bitch about.

:)

Thanks for the grammar correction. I am making the improvement now.

Michael

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In PARC, Valliant says that Peikoff read the draft of the first part of PARC that was on the web. (It was removed prior to PARC.)

I have never seen the draft and am wondering if it contains the claim that there were no further meetings between AR and BB. Since Peikoff must have known this meeting took place, it is interesting that he didn't inform Valliant of his fact.

Concerning the orthodox objectivst community, the orthodox blogosphere strongly supported PARC, but I'm not sure about the more prominent folks associated with the ARI such as Binswanger, Gotthelf, Schwartz, etc.

Edited by Neil Parille

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I found a way out (i.e., being correct and maintaining my rhetoric).

I put in the word "almost."

Michael

Qualifiers are such useful words. ;-)

E-

___

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Just out of orneriness, I decided to put this thing on the front page for a while.

:)

(I left a link behind in the ARI Corner, though.)

Outside of my natural persuasion toward making trouble, it actually raises some important issues that transcend PARC.

Michael

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Outside of my natural persuasion toward making trouble, [this article] actually raises some important issues that transcend PARC.

Could you summarize those briefly, separating them from the exegesis? I'm feeling bone-weary at the prospect of wading through the above to find them.

I neither give credence to PARC nor see any reason for me to read it at the library, let alone buy it. (What library would waste the money? Even local governments aren't so crabbed or silly in professional outlook as to thus gratify 0.01 percent of their patrons.)

The Rand estate's archives are applying the shredded tatters of what's left of their scholarly or objective value to abet such printed vendettas. This, though, is almost ancient news, and archivist Jeff Britting — the only half-rational ARI employee (or shill) I've ever encountered, in person or not — has been sinking with his ship for years now.

As for Valliant, methinks you doth ... well, not "protest too much," but "give him more attention than he's worth." So Peikoff still lends PARC a promotional blurb at his satrapy's bookstore — or he doesn't. What enduring difference does it really make? I'm hard-pressed to find any.

Edited by Greybird

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Steve,

I get tickled at you sometimes. I honestly think you don't see certain things. I think it did not occur to you that there might be a problem with pointing to my writing, talking about "wading through it" as if it were muck, then expecting not only a civil reply but a summary so you don't have to do all that wading. In other words, you expect me to treat my own writing as trash and still do your homework for you so you don't have to bother reading it.

That's all right, though. I am not offended, just amused (in a benevolent manner)...

:)

The issue is separating zealotry and tribalism from the ideas.

PARC is a zealot's manifesto. It is not a rational analysis. I fully know I can't kill it dead, but I can make sure there is enough online so that people who wish to look into the matter can cut to the chase and realize that this is a product of irrational fanaticism, not reason.

Do I like the fact that Objectivism is infested with irrational fanatics? No.

Can I ignore this fact if I value the ideas? No.

I can shed light.

I can make it clear that some Objectivists reject irrational fanaticism.

And I can provide clear examples of irrational fanaticism in certain products like PARC to help people identify them as such.

Otherwise, let each man think for himself. Women too.

That's the issue in a nutshell.

Michael

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The discussion flourishes in SLOP-land and I know I should really let it lie for now, but the following quote from Valliant gave me a belly-laugh like I haven't had in a long time. From this post.

In any event, the Brandens are hardly "evil incarnate," and I would be curious to know how one would conclude this from PARC -- if you can be specific.

In PARC Valliant said NB has the soul of a rapist and that both Brandens are liars, manipulators, etc. about 50 gazillion times and... and... and...

Did I say he was out of contact with reality? Or did I say it?

Oh the pain... the pain...

:)

Michael

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Michael,

This is my favorite from Valliant:

“In addition, I was not writing a biography of Rand, and a total evaluation of this break [with the Smiths] was well beyond PARC's scope. (I believe it involved other reasons, as well.)”

Recall that when he was proved wrong with respect to the 1981 meeting between Rand and Barbara Branden, he said, "Now, as to how the meeting may have gone down... (the most suspicious part of all)?"

The only thing suspicious here is Valliant's claim that he has sources that have provided him a different version of various events.

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Michael, thank you for at least noting your broader aim more directly. That much I had gathered already, I'd have to note.

I apologize again for my style of expression, and my overabundant exasperation, when it comes to sectarian pie-fights. (After a while, they all get that way. I haven't hidden how I feel about them.)

You said that I expect you "to treat my own writing as trash." You're doing here what you have so often (wrongly) accused others of doing about you, citing what "expectations" are presumed to be in my head. I didn't even conceive of this, let alone believe it.

Yet when you quote, at the outset, an entire two-year-old announcement of an appearance at the Chicago Objectivist Society, it strongly suggests a hard slog for the reader through primary sources — such as they are — and not a compact argument. My rough skimming afterward tended to support this.

I'm sorry if my saying that this is something to "wade" through bothers you, but I simply have to say that I've lost patience with the broader brouhaha from all sides. As with anything approaching the length of a philosophic journal's article — such as Neil Parille's pieces, as well, to be fair — a brief summary, or points one can skim on first viewing, is a courtesy to a sorely swamped reader.

Edited by Greybird

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Why Nobody Takes PARC Seriously Anymore

by Michael Stuart Kelly

In early 2005,

[snip snip]

Valliant's failure to say "Sorry about that; it was a mistake" (in reference to his statement that nothing in the Ayn Rand archives corroborates that Barbara Branden met with Ayn Rand in 1981) would be appropriate if he were representing a client before a jury, since he would need to avoid letting it look to the jury like his client's mistake. He allowed that, yes, something in the archive does corroborate the story of the meeting. That's enough to set straight the information the jury gets about that point. But he didn't say "I was wrong when I said nothing in the archives corroborates it."

'Nother words, he's acting like a lawyer whose duty is to a client who has taken a certain position.

So why might that be the appropriate way for him to behave? -- Mike Hardy

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[....] From this post.
In any event, the Brandens are hardly "evil incarnate," and I would be curious to know how one would conclude this from PARC -- if you can be specific.

In PARC Valliant said NB has the soul of a rapist and that both Brandens are liars, manipulators, etc. about 50 gazillion times and... and... and...

[....]

Unreal, if he actually doesn't know "how one would conclude this from PARC."

Well, let's see, we start on pg. 6 with his describing the Brandens' respective books as:

[...] monuments of dishonesty on a scale so profound as to literally render them valueless as historical documents [...].

Despite the claims these biographers make that their memoirs are drawn from personal experience, it will be seen that their intense personal animosity towards Rand--which emanates from that experience--has scarred all aspects of their work.

We shall see that rhetorical maneuvering, insinuation, failure to name sources, uncorroborated, self-serving assertion, and extensive internal contradiction, render even the positive things the Brandens have to say about Rand--which might be regarded as credible considering the authors' obvious hostility toward her--of little value as well. Any praise they offer seems, in the end, a mere acknowledgement of the observations of far more honest sources.

And that's only the beginning...

A "favorite" paragraph of mine -- because it deserves one of those awards for lousy writing (what are they called: the Buhler Lytton awards or something like that?) -- is this gem from pg. 15:

Most helpfully for her readers, Ms. Branden wears her own distorting prejudices on her sleeve. The portrait of Rand that she paints is so filled with contradictions, both explicit and implicit, that they form a striking spectacle of their own that focuses the eye away from Rand and on a disturbing portrait of Ms. Branden painted with impressions of Rand refracted through the prism of her conflicted mind. Just as in non-objective art, the prism of Ms. Branden's mind soon becomes the focus, since what is reflecting through it is clearly impossible.

The purple in that patch of prose is so refulgent, I wonder if it had help in part or in whole from Casey Fahy.

Ellen

___

Edited by Ellen Stuttle

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Ellen,

The Bulwer-Lytton awards, I think they're called.

Although that specimen of Mr. Valliant's prose is purple enough to compete, it isn't convoluted enough to win.

Robert Campbell

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Outside of my natural persuasion toward making trouble, [this article] actually raises some important issues that transcend PARC.

Could you summarize those briefly, separating them from the exegesis? I'm feeling bone-weary at the prospect of wading through the above to find them.

I neither give credence to PARC nor see any reason for me to read it at the library, let alone buy it. (What library would waste the money? Even local governments aren't so crabbed or silly in professional outlook as to thus gratify 0.01 percent of their patrons.)

The Rand estate's archives are applying the shredded tatters of what's left of their scholarly or objective value to abet such printed vendettas. This, though, is almost ancient news, and archivist Jeff Britting — the only half-rational ARI employee (or shill) I've ever encountered, in person or not — has been sinking with his ship for years now.

As for Valliant, methinks you doth ... well, not "protest too much," but "give him more attention than he's worth." So Peikoff still lends PARC a promotional blurb at his satrapy's bookstore — or he doesn't. What enduring difference does it really make? I'm hard-pressed to find any.

Grey; I found to my shock that the Fairfax County Library has several copies of PARC. I hope they were contributed. I don't know if ARI has encouraged the placing of PARC in other libraries.

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A "favorite" paragraph of mine -- because it deserves one of those awards for lousy writing (what are they called: the Buhler Lytton awards or something like that?)

The Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, which has hilarious contributions.

Most helpfully for her readers, Ms. Branden wears her own distorting prejudices on her sleeve. The portrait of Rand that she paints is so filled with contradictions, both explicit and implicit, that they form a striking spectacle of their own that focuses the eye away from Rand and on a disturbing portrait of Ms. Branden painted with impressions of Rand refracted through the prism of her conflicted mind. Just as in non-objective art, the prism of Ms. Branden's mind soon becomes the focus, since what is reflecting through it is clearly impossible.

A prism of the mind that becomes the focus...? A portrait of Ms. Branden painted with impressions of Rand...? Hmmm...

Indeed, we could use it as an entry for the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest.

Edited by Dragonfly

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Indeed, we could use it as an entry for the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest.

Only on a Dark and Stormy Night.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I wonder if Valliant's animus toward Nathaniel Branden started with youthful exposure to Murray Rothbardian animadversions upon same. For Rothbard NB was "Hitler."

--Brant

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[...] For Rothbard [Nathaniel Branden] was "Hitler."

You write this as if you're quoting Rothbard directly. Please tell us exactly where you read this, lest we become entitled to believe that you're channeling Peter Schwartz.

(I guess "channeling" implies that the source has died. Well, there's "is," and there's "ought to be" ...)

Rothbard slung recriminations to the point of being baroque in his "Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult," and he pushed satire well beyond reasonable boundaries in his "Mozart Was a Red," but as far as I know — and I've read millions of words of his — he never came anywhere near likening Rand or her circle to Nazis.

Let's leave that (low) caliber of personal smearing over at The Atlas Society, shall we?

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'Nother words, he's acting like a lawyer whose duty is to a client who has taken a certain position.

So why might that be the appropriate way for him to behave?

Mike,

I am unsure about the meaning of your statement and question, and if I get it wrong, I apologize and would appreciate a clarification.

If it means what I think it does, I admit that in the USA lawyers are expected to lie in defense of their clients, so they don't really need to make any amends when they are caught lying. Dey are jus doink der jops, Herr Führer! Sieg Heil!

I don't like the practice and I don't condone it as good professional practitioner ethics. I think it's shyster level practice and I would never hire a lawyer who would lie in court for me. (If he would lie to the court, he most certainly will lie to me.)

Now, since we are discussing a book that I presume the author wants to be taken seriously, I personally can't take an author seriously who is caught lying red-handed and thinks it is OK to pretend otherwise. That is one of the reasons I don't take that book seriously. I believe it is one of the reasons nobody else is taking it seriously anymore either, as stated in the title to my article.

(Of course there is a whole slew of reasons why nobody is taking it seriously anymore: piss-poor writing, machine-gun-like rhetorical excesses, a mountain of incorrect facts, boneheaded speculations, altered Rand journal entries with a demand you take him at his word on what was altered or not, and many other things. But I will stay with bare-faced lying for now.)

What else is Valliant lying about? That's a reasonable question in light of what I (and Neil and others) have presented. Since one cannot verify Valliant's countless allegations without going through all that crap Neil went through, it is also reasonable to seek information from more reputable sources.

Michael

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