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I'm posting this at Irfan Khawaja's request. (Correction: I initially stated that he is not a member here. Apparently he is a member, but highly inactive.) Keep in mind that I am serving (primarily) as the lightning rod. I cannot quit the Ayn Rand Society because I was never eligible to join it. I do not have a degree in philosophy and therefore cannot join the parent organization, the American Philosophical Association. That said, the decision to invite Yaron Brook to give a talk at an ARS meeting has never made sense to me, except as a demonstration of allegiance, and of inside influence, by the ARIans who are now in complete control of the Ayn Rand Society. So I do support the call for a boycott. Robert Campbell BOYCOTT THE AYN RAND SOCIETY Posted on December 16, 2014 by Irfan KhawajaThis may turn out to be the least-publicized call for a boycott ever, but I’m going to call for one anyway: Philosophers attending the APA Eastern Division Meetings this year should boycott the meeting of the Ayn Rand Society. Frankly, in my view, they should boycott the Society itself. For twenty-five years now, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has vilified libertarians as “nihilists,” and declared them too evil to “sanction,” i.e., too evil to endorse or deal with. “Boycotted and condemned.” I like that. Despite some tricky-looking verbal gymnastics, ARI has not disavowed that view (and explicitly says that it has not). So vilification of libertarianism and libertarians remains the official view of the Ayn Rand Institute despite their paradoxical (that is, hypocritical) decision to make common cause with a few libertarian organizations. The Ayn Rand Society (ARS) is a nominally distinct entity, but every single member of its Steering Committee is in some way affiliated with ARI. In any case, this year, they’ve decided to invite Yaron Brook as the main speaker at their APA Eastern Meeting (see the very first link in this post). Yaron Brook is the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is therefore the man responsible for ARI’s continuing policy of defamation. ARS has invited him to address their meeting despite that fact, and absurdly enough, has invited two libertarians to respond to him. The Steering Committee’s knowledge of Brook’s institutional role–and of ARI’s ideological position–are, in my view, sufficient to justify a boycott of the meeting. (Read this exchange if you’d like a sense of Yaron Brook’s moral stature and his method of cognitive functioning. It’s best read in conjunction with this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education.) It makes things worse that intellectually, Brook is a shallow propagandist entirely lacking in bona fide qualifications as a political philosopher. (Nonetheless, like all Objectivist pseudo-intellectuals of his type, he insists on describing himself as an “expert.”) It’s therefore a mystery why ARS’s leadership would have invited him to speak at the APA. In 2012, I asked both the late Allan Gotthelf (ARS’s founder*) and James Lennox (the current co-chair of ARS’s Steering Committee) why Brook had been invited. Neither of them had an answer. If you’d like an answer, feel free to ask Lennox or his co-chair Gregory Salmieri for one, and share what you hear from them. But my own inference is that they have no defensible answer to give. I also find it a mystery why James Otteson and Peter Boettke would have accepted an invitation to discuss libertarian politics with someone responsible for a mass-movement campaign of anti-libertarian defamation, but I suppose one mystery begets another. I’m happy to say that I’ve convinced at least one major philosopher to back out of an invitation to speak at an ARS event, and have convinced a few prominent libertarians to let their membership in ARS lapse (or in the case of those who had already let it lapse, not to renew their membership). I’d like to add indefinitely to that list. Whatever you do, don’t seek refuge in the excuse that philosophers are obliged to have conversations with those with whom they disagree on moral issues. (Scroll down in the link to my exchange with Matt Zwolinski.) The response to that is: “no kidding.” The question is whether philosophers ought to help burnish the reputation of organizations that suborn and facilitate decades-long campaigns of character-assassination. If you want to be a part of that of effort, feel free. But then take responsibility for being a part of it. And don’t complain when you’re treated accordingly. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself. *Correction (added after posting): To be precise, Gotthelf was ARS’s co-founder, along with David Kelley and George Walsh. ARS was co-founded by the three of them in 1990. But Walsh died in 2001, and Kelley has not been active at the leadership level in ARS for decades. Gotthelf was the central figure at the heart of ARS, and was responsible for the decision to invite Brook.