Peikoff on Barbara Branden's book


Robert Campbell

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Leonard Peikoff

1987 Ford Hall Forum

http://www.facetsofaynrand.com/additional/thirty_years_with_ar.html

The question starts at 23:09 in Part 2.

Q: Would you please comment upon Mrs. Branden’s book, particularly with reference to her references to Ayn Rand’s alleged affair with Dr. Branden?

A: Yes [wearily]… I’ll be happy to comment on that.

I did not read Mrs. Branden’s book. [throat clearing]

I didn’t, because I discount — you know, the technical term is not lie, which I would regard as inaccurate—I regard her book as non-cognitive. Uh… By this I mean, I do not think that it has reached the realm of cognition to be evaluated as true or as false.

Umm… I happened to know the author of that book extremely well, being related to her and having known her for a long time—also Nathaniel Branden, and many of these other people that I alluded to in my talk. I know entirely what they are capable of, and I would not put any credence in anything that they say.

So I did not refrain from reading the book because of being afraid to face facts. On the contrary, by my best definition of “fact,” I would have no means whatever, including the fact that something was in quotes, of determining whether it ever occurred. And to show you that I am consistent on this point, I do not either believe or disbelieve this view that Miss Rand took her name from the typewriter Rand, which someone has referred me to. I have no source for that other than that book; therefore, as far as I’m concerned, I’m in the exact position with that ascription of the word “Rand” as I was before I heard it. It just doesn’t come up in my mind. I don’t say it’s a lie; it has no more status, if you know, uh, my lectures on Objectivism, than the sounds coming from a parrot. If Barbara Branden or anybody else gives an internally logical argument such as “2 and 2 is 4, etc. etc., therefore,” then her character and so on is entirely irrelevant. But I … I …didn’t gather that she was [doing] an exercise in mathematics. It was supposed to be testimony, of a factual sort, and that is precisely why I wouldn’t dream of considering from that source.

Now with regard to the affair with Nathaniel Branden, I’d like to tell you my exact, uh, state of mind with regard to that, setting aside, huh, the Barbara Branden book and the Nathaniel Branden book which is forthcoming, and who knows what else.

I never asked Miss Rand whether she slept with Nathaniel Branden. Wehh… she never volunteered that information to me. We respected each other’s privacy; we had a personal but not a, uh, how shall I put it, psychoanalytic, uh, relationship.

However, I am the heir of Ayn Rand, and I have access to all of her papers. And I have not read the book, my wife has. And she tells me that there are papers that indicate that there was an affair between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. In fact, I understand that there are lengthy documents in Ayn Rand’s handwriting recounting the salient, uh, facts, motivations, manipulations, lies and other … evils, let us say, to which she was subjected, that were, of course, written for herself as part of her own thinking.

You may wonder why I didn’t rush to read these papers. My wife is sorting out the Estate, which is why she did. I don’t see any philosophic or moral significance in the issue. And so, not that I’m not curious, but I just didn’t get around to it yet.

To elaborate on this briefly, I have for [a] long time as a standard Objectivist lecturer answered questions entirely independent of Ayn Rand to the effect of that it is not an absolute that you can never be sleeping with two men in the same period of your life. Of course, we do not advocate that as the rule of human relationships, but there are contexts and circumstances in which that can be done perfectly properly. Which the example that is obvious and is used in ethics texts is, uh, a woman is in love with her husband, he goes to war, she hears that he’s dead, she falls in love with somebody else, and he comes back. Now, even there, there are many options, but there are situations in which it, that, is conceivable and perfectly proper, assuming … many conditions, including that they both are extremely great values to her, that all three people know about it, etc.

I think there was, in this instance, an exceptional circumstance—I’m entirely speculating here, simply from my knowledge of Ayn Rand and her life—which was that she wanted a man with a mind equal to hers. And she knew that, as wonderful a person as her husband was, he was not her intellectual equal. I think the tragedy of her, huh, life, if you want to put it that way, was that she couldn’t find the mind and the soul in the same person. And, uh, she did think extremely highly of Nathaniel Branden at that period, as did all of us around her at that time. She thought he was an extraordinary genius, and, uh, leave [off] that that is wrong but I’m not here to attack him now, whatever rightly or wrongly, my explanation of the thing is that as the story was told it was perfectly open to everybody.

Well I see I have told you what I have to say. I think it is a terrible thing that a situation like this would be turned into food for scandal—I don’t think it is scandalous. And, uh, if there is anybody left in this country, uhhh, who is not, uh, eager to find some more mud to throw at a woman who was very able to defend herself in life and was never attacked until she died and couldn’t speak—I say if there’s anyone left, before I die, everything that she wrote is going to be published.

So you will hear the facts of her life from her side, which may after all be relevant.

I have only one last thing: I wish that these biographies of her—if I could have one wish granted, it would be that they would not pose as being balanced and impartial and so on, that they identified their venomous hatred in the preface, and then you could judge accordingly. Unfortunately, the dishonesty, ehh, would prevent that, that’s all I can say.

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Leonard Peikoff

1987 Ford Hall Forum

http://www.facetsofaynrand.com/additional/thirty_years_with_ar.html

Next question, at 31:04 in Part 2.

Q, shouted from the audience “about her husband’s alcoholism.” [some discussion on and off mike, plus a dropout …]

A. Can I comment on that? Just in a word—I have to ask his ghost to forgive me.

Umm, he was certainly not an alcoholic—uh, I gather that that’s a charge that’s been raised against him. I saw that man regularly day and night. In my entire life, I saw him have too much to drink once. And the manifestation of it was that he overtipped the waiter, which Ayn Rand asked him in some length why he did… I defy an alcoholic to survive 20 minutes in her apartment!

I believe, if you want some idea of objectivity in biography, the source of that was … story, so far as I can pin it down, was a cleaning woman who found empty liquor bottles in his studio after he died. He used those bottles to mix paints in.

Now you judge for yourself. Well, I’m, I’m insulting you and myself to refute these things, because it’s too disgusting to comment on—but I couldn’t let it go once people heard it.

Answer ends at 32:38.

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I defy an alcoholic to survive 20 minutes in her apartment!

I'm glad that Peikoff doesn't apparently have any friends or family members who are alcholics (or he would know better), but this statement is absurd.

-Neil Parille

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I have only one last thing: I wish that these biographies of her—if I could have one wish granted, it would be that they would not pose as being balanced and impartial and so on, that they identified their venomous hatred in the preface, and then you could judge accordingly. Unfortunately, the dishonesty, ehh, would prevent that, that’s all I can say.

Did Barbara Branden ever make the claim that her book was "balanced and impartial"? Peikoff's disdain aside, I would say that is very difficult for someone who knew Ayn Rand for as long as Mrs. Branden did. It's certainly very interesting to hear someone's inside account, but emotions, whether positive or negative are going to color that account in some fashion. I haven't read The Passion of Ayn Rand, so I can't say to what extent it's "impartial."

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Robert -

Peikoff's remarks about Barbara Branden's book are more revealing about his personality than he would care to admit. The claim that he did not - would not - lower himself to read her book, but allowed "others" (such as his wife!) to read the forbidden material and report back to him (apparently the others are lesser ethical beings and therefore can be sacrificed for this purpose), is pathetic.

Peikoff's facile explanation that Frank's wine bottles were really just used for paint bottles in his studio, sounds like an intentional cover-up of what he had found in Frank's studio, as reported on page 403 of Anne Heller's book.

If he "knew" that his cousin and her husband were evil liars, from previous experience with them, why did he keep that a secret? The answer is that he knew no such thing, but used the opportunity of the scandal to insert his obsequious self and gain Rand's confidence. And he is lecturing to the world about proper ethical conduct?

That Peikoff would publicly announce to his audience at the Ford Hall Forum, his stated wish that future biographers would "just announce" in their preface to their books that they are, of course, evil and intentional liars, is both stupid and hilarious.

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Jerry B,

I would call these comments sadly egregious. Keep in mind, too, that this is the Q&A from "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand" (during which lecture he did not mention the affair).

We know now from the Burns and Heller books that there was a period of several years (from the end of 1967 until he became too feeble and demented to go there anymore) during which Frank O'Connor spent time in his studio but did no painting. So forget whether liquor bottles can be used to mix paints ... Frank had had no occasion for mix paints for many years, by the time Leonard Peikoff oversaw the cleanup and closure of his studio.

I'm sure he also knew what Eloise Huggins had said, about finding liquor bottles every week.

Robert C

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I have long wondered about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the book. I finally got to this topic with Dan Fauci when he was in Austin a couple weeks ago.

He was pretty close to the circle back in the 1960's. He actually appears in the softball game photo in The Passion of Ayn Rand.

Dan told me that Barbara is one of the most honest people he knows. I'd trust Dan with my life, so I will take his word on this.

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This feels like a dumb question, but why wouldn’t Frank throw away the empty bottles himself? Was he leaving them out as a cry for help? Was he too drunk to walk them over to the garbage chute? It’s hard to form a consistent image of him. The mixing paints line naturally leads to the question of how so many bottles got emptied in the first place. But how many where there? God what a stupid subject this is, sorry.

icon_rolleyes.gif

Good thread though.

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> God what a stupid subject this is

If I see one more gossipy, pointless post about Frank's liquor bottles or whether Peikoff shouldn't have defended the dude, I'm going to wheel out my ten year's supply of gin, vodka, and ripple and pour it over my monitor and set fire to Robert Campbell's picture (the one where he looks like Toulouse-Lautrec :blink: ).

...or whoever the latest culprit is who keeps having more and more final words to say on this inane, endlessly plowed and replowed over backfence subject.

Edited by Philip Coates
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> God what a stupid subject this is

If I see one more gossipy, pointless post about Frank's liquor bottles or whether Peikoff shouldn't have defended the dude, I'm going to wheel out my ten year's supply of gin, vodka, and ripple and pour it over my monitor and set fire to Robert Campbell's picture (the one where he looks like Toulouse-Lautrec :blink: ).

...or whoever the latest culprit is who keeps having more and more final words to say on this inane, endlessly plowed and replowed over backfence subject.

Phil,

The photo should have turned out green or some other startling color for Robert to look like Toulouse-Lautrec by Toulouse-Lautrec and he's missing a cool looking bowler hat besides :-).

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson
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This feels like a dumb question, but why wouldn’t Frank throw away the empty bottles himself?

I'm not at all surprised that someone who is demented and an alcoholic will keep the empty bottles. Hoarding is not uncommon with dementia and you cannot expect rational behavior from such people.

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> The photo should have turned out green or some other startling color for Robert to look like Toulouse-Lautrec by Toulouse-Lautrec and he's missing a cool looking bowler hat besides :-). [Jim]

Weeelll, then obviously I was speaking too loosely. I might have to retrack my statement under paint of criticism.

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Phil -

They still make Ripple? Or are you keeping a stash in your wine cellar? I'm sure it is mature now, so you can uncork it. Oh, I forgot - it has a screw top.

If these media attacks on Rand get any worse, I just might have to dig up MY stash of Mad Dog 20/20. Don't need to uncork that one either! It ought to be about 100 proof by now.

Maybe I'll send a case over to those intellectuals at GQ magazine. What a classy outfit!

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Well, Jerry, now you're just being silly <_<

On a more serious note can anyone explain to me why they don't sell -all- wine in a screwtop? Is there some rational explanation for having to fiddle with a cork, break it, get pieces in the wine, not be able to reinsert it.

That's one of the many things I'm going to do away with in PPOW. Along with getting rid of all the spitting in the World Series. The pitcher, the batter, the umpire, the shortstop...

(See I can post about irrelevant trivia as well.)

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Phil -

First: Put down that Ripple bottle!....Now, ALL you ever wanted to know about wine bottle enclosures (plus things you probably don't want to know): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_wine_closures

Cheers!

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Phil-

On second thought, maybe you should pick up the wine glass....Robert Campbell was simply reporting (transcribing) what Peikoff said at a Ford Hall Forum. I think it is important. NOT because of you-know-who's use of you-know-what (there! - no mention of whathisname! Put down the glass.). The issue here is, a transparently inept attempt at a cover-up when no such thing was needed. UNLESS the speaker is trying to create a sanitized myth around Rand, when that's not necessary, either!

What he could have done was simply acknowledge the incident(s), and move on with a comment that what IS important, is Ayn Rand's IDEAS!(The guy is, after all, a philosophy professor,...NOT a priest!) The fact that he could not, or would not, do that is why these "stupid" issues about personality keep coming up!

He created this tar baby - and, as you know, you can't cover-up a tar baby!

And don't pour inflammable substances on your computer monitor, it'll just cause a fire!

Edited by Jerry Biggers
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...or whoever the latest culprit is who keeps having more and more final words to say on this inane, endlessly plowed and replowed over backfence subject.

Sorry Phil, but I’m going to attack the subject again. First of all, I wouldn’t care one jot if AR herself was a falling over drunk. Christopher Hitchens does public debates while sauced and manages pretty well. The content is what matters. Determining whether Frank O’Connor was a drunk is a he said she said, the integrity of the witnesses is key, and I don’t see how any of us can have a final word on the subject. And to me it doesn’t matter, so I find myself writing about it and then stop and say 'Oh the hell with this!'

However, to give a better idea of my thoughts on the matter, I propose a thought experiment. Imagine if Barbara and Nathaniel Branden had both died in a plane crash in late 1968. Would we have ever learned about The Affair? I’m not going to prejudice the reader, think about it and work through the implications.

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> attempt at a cover-up when no such thing was needed. UNLESS the speaker is trying to create a sanitized myth

Jerry, to me this is an issue of having a sense of proportion. Whether or not someone dranks a lot or even whether someone is trying to sanitize something might be of interest once, but this is posted on obsessively over decades - plus it is repetitious - plus it tends to exclude the ideas themselves in order to focus on the personalities and people.

AR's biography + the people around her + who was unfair to whom becomes focused on over and over and over.

And over.

The number of posts I've seen on these topics over decades is probably four digits now. And two new bios has simply restarted all of it again. Then there will be the authorized biography by Shoshana Knapp and we have people here who will be posting on these things from their nursing homes two or three decades from now.

Edited by Philip Coates
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> attempt at a cover-up when no such thing was needed. UNLESS the speaker is trying to create a sanitized myth

Jerry, to me this is an issue of having a sense of proportion. Whether or not someone dranks a lot or even whether someone is trying to sanitize something might be of interest once, but this is posted on obsessively over decades - plus it is repetitious - plus it tends to exclude the ideas themselves in order to focus on the personalities and people.

AR's biography + the people around her + who was unfair to whom becomes focused on over and over and over.

And over.

The number of posts I've seen on these topics over decades is probably four digits now. And two new bios has simply restarted all of it again. Then there will be the authorized biography by Shoshana Knapp and we have people here who will be posting on these things from their nursing homes two or three decades from now.

All this seems to me to boil down to absolutely nothing other than "The people on this list are not discussing what I, Phil, think they ought to be discussing! Why doesn't everyone just do things my way? (Sound of foot petulantly stamping.)"

But probably I'm wrong.

JR

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Phil-

On second thought, maybe you should pick up the wine glass....Robert Campbell was simply reporting (transcribing) what Peikoff said at a Ford Hall Forum. I think it is important. NOT because of you-know-who's use of you-know-what (there! - no mention of whathisname! Put down the glass.). The issue here is, a transparently inept attempt at a cover-up when no such thing was needed. UNLESS the speaker is trying to create a sanitized myth around Rand, when that's not necessary, either!

What he could have done was simply acknowledge the incident(s), and move on with a comment that what IS important, is Ayn Rand's IDEAS!(The guy is, after all, a philosophy professor,...NOT a priest!) The fact that he could not, or would not, do that is why these "stupid" issues about personality keep coming up!

He created this tar baby - and, as you know, you can't cover-up a tar baby!

And don't pour inflammable substances on your computer monitor, it'll just cause a fire!

Exactly. Ayn Rand hardly needs Peikoff's defense. The image of HIM as HER defender is, in fact, ludicrous. Rand was quite capable at defending herself, and her writings survive her, defending her point of view.

In fact, the one thing Peikoff could do that he hasn't adequately done, to date, is to let Rand speak. That is, to open the archives, and let her unpublished writings emerge. To publish what he thinks is worth publishing. (I still think there might be some general interest in a version of the journals which is not so heavily edited - perhaps actual materials, multiple volumes, . . . And the same thing for others. Rand can defend herself. She doesn't need lesser lights editing her words to make them, in THEIR eyes, more acceptable!) And to allow scholars open access to the other material.

Bill P (who doesn't view PAR, JD or MYWAR as damning Rand - - - - all three exhibit great admiration for her)

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Leonard Peikoff

1987 Ford Hall Forum

http://www.facetsofaynrand.com/additional/thirty_years_with_ar.html

The question starts at 23:09 in Part 2.

And at that point we see illustrated, vividly, the extreme disservice being done to Rand by her self-conceived "protectors." Citations have to be to tapes/CDs/audio files, instead of to books or other written documents. We are still left with so much in the oral tradition (albeit, in the case of the Ford Hall Forum lectures these are available in audio for purchase). It's a shame to be looking at citations at this, 22 years later.

It's time to open the archives, publish what's marketable and allow scholars to openly access the archives.

Bill P

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It is ironic that it is precisely Valliant and his supporters who ensure that the noise around Rand's behavior and Frank's decline will not die down. By his ridiculous attack on Barbara, claiming that some completely innocent and unimportant errors in her book are proof of evil deception, he opens Pandora's box, and focuses the attention all the more on Rand's bad behavior (trying fanatically to shift all the blame to Nathaniel in the split is a nice example of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks", the lady being Valliant) and on Frank's alcoholism, making them only more important then they otherwise would have been, namely just facts of limited historical interest. But with all that renewed attention, you cannot avoid that people will have another look at the affair, Rand's behavior and Frank's alcoholism, and Valliant & co. must be rather naive to think that everyone will follow their conclusions. For a real Rand-hater Valliant's book is a godsend! You cannot help but wonder whether those Valliant fans are really that dumb. On the other hand, the Valliant/Casey chorus (Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC?) seems to have died down a bit on SOLO, perhaps the battle cry has lost some of its luster, even for the fans, who probably deep in their hearts realize that Valliant's case isn't so strong after all.

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It is ironic that it is precisely Valliant and his supporters who ensure that the noise around Rand's behavior and Frank's decline will not die down. By his ridiculous attack on Barbara, claiming that some completely innocent and unimportant errors in her book are proof of evil deception, he opens Pandora's box, and focuses the attention all the more on Rand's bad behavior (trying fanatically to shift all the blame to Nathaniel in the split is a nice example of "the lady doth protest too much, methinks", the lady being Valliant) and on Frank's alcoholism, making them only more important then they otherwise would have been, namely just facts of limited historical interest. But with all that renewed attention, you cannot avoid that people will have another look at the affair, Rand's behavior and Frank's alcoholism, and Valliant & co. must be rather naive to think that everyone will follow their conclusions. For a real Rand-hater Valliant's book is a godsend! You cannot help but wonder whether those Valliant fans are really that dumb. On the other hand, the Valliant/Casey chorus (Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC?) seems to have died down a bit on SOLO, perhaps the battle cry has lost some of its luster, even for the fans, who probably deep in their hearts realize that Valliant's case isn't so strong after all.

Dragonfly - -

Yes. In fact, I read PARC (I know you weren't asking, but . . .). It impressed me as an incredibly badly written book. As if the author was counting on the reader looking only for soundbites, and not having the attention span and powers of concentration to stay in focus for the duration of a paragraph - to notice how the author assumes his conclusion (that virtually whatever the Brandens say is wrong, and whatever anyone else says is right) and then proceeds to derive from that the conclusion that . . . the Brandens are sometimes wrong.

Amazing nonsense.

Bill P

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> it is precisely Valliant and his supporters who ensure that the noise around Rand's behavior and Frank's decline will not die down. ...with all that renewed attention, you cannot avoid that people will have another look at the affair, Rand's behavior and Frank's alcoholism [DF]

I don't agree. People can resist following all this blow by blow and ought to view these issues as very secondary and as a time sink.

Self-control.

I can't help masturbating in public.

Jim - Valiant - Made - Me - Do - It.

Edited by Philip Coates
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