Mike Lee saying what many of us think

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On February 12, 2006, Mike Lee made two posts on Nathaniel Branden’s Yahoo forum. The views he presented are ones that are held by many, many people, but hardly ever given formal expression. They sum up a refreshingly frank and insightful historical perspective. I asked for (and received) permission from him to consolidate the two emails and present them here. I have eliminated references to posters and some other people and rearranged a couple of paragraphs.

Thank you greatly for these thoughts, Mike.


It's stunning to hear people say that the Brandens were waiting for Rand to die so they could hatchet her without her responding. That's the stupidest thing I've heard all month. And in my job, I hear a lot of stupid things that have nothing to do with Objectivism.

Rand lied, publicly, egregiously, viciously about the 1968 debacle. Both Brandens were a class act in their responses. They did everything possible to keep Ayn's dirty little secret, at great cost to themselves. What would have happened had the Brandens told the truth then?

Objectivism would have died then. It would have been the undisputed laughingstock champion of the world. All the O-O boobs who hate the Brandens owe their dreary Objectivist identities to the sacrifice of the Brandens in not exposing Ayn's lies. (By the way, you idiots, they didn't do it for you, but for the 99% of people who read Atlas Shrugged and are moved and changed by it and that you anathematize.)

Let's make no mistake: Rand LIED. Gimme an L, gimme an I, gimme an E, gimme a D, LIED. I've got a copy of her public renunciation and the Brandens' responses and all are pathetic. Rand because she was a big fat horrible chicken liar and the Brandens because they protected her. Along with pathetic, the Brandens were heroic. I can't imagine myself exercising the self-control, the renunciation of richly earned revenge, the parsing, tuning, shading, hiding, editing, pacing back and forth, and compassion that suffused their responses.

Good on you both, what an amazing thing under such pressure to separate the thinker from the thoughts and to protect the thoughts from public ridicule no matter what the thinker had done to you.

The Brandens had it in their power at that moment to destroy Objectivism, and they had every reason to, and they didn't. Say thank you, you O-O dipshits.

Talk about grace under pressure, the Branden responses to Rand's screech were archetypally graceful. Something for the rest of us to keep in the back of our minds in case we are ever so unfortunate as to come under similar pressure.

Think through this scary alternate history scenario: Rand noisily, publicly and in writing denounces NB, vaguely hinting at horrible moral defects, implying he's been embezzling or worse. Branden, instead of denying only to the ridiculous charges she made publicly, responds that the real reason she's so mad is that she and I have been having an affair for many years, conducted with the cooperation (or co-optation) of our spouses, and I've been trying to disentangle from it for several years now without provoking just this kind of explosion.

Imagine the newspaper stories, gleefully printing side by side shots of Ayn and NB's hot new girlfriend. Imagine the humiliation of their respective spouses, who I'm sure would also have been featured side-by-side in every paper.

Now imagine Rand's response to all this: does she keep lying and deny the affair? Does she admit it and thus reveal that her previous denunciation was somewhat, shall we say, less than candid?

Any way she turned, Rand's response qua Rand would have only made things worse, much worse. She would have strafed her own credibility and then bombed the rubble. Can you imagine her having to go out in public and deal with this? She was no Howard Roark when it came to ignoring public shaming (otherwise, she would have told the truth in the first place, wouldn't she?).

Imagine all the interviews with former and current members of her coterie. The reporters digging around, the "scholarly" articles hooting that Objectivism was, like we all said, just a silly fad run by amoral hedonists. Imagine this going on in an atmosphere of the mores of 1968--remember, this was pre-Joy of Sex, pre-Stonewall, pre-Harrad Experiment, pre-Open Marriage.

Without reasonable doubt, had the Brandens not bitten their tongues till the blood flowed, Rand would be known today as the kooky cult leader who got caught sleeping with her young protégé and made their spouses watch it all.

Contrast that scenario with the one that really happened: The Branden books were published after a couple of decades of cooling off. With Rand dead, there wasn't much sport in baiting and trashing her--in fact, doing so would have been in bad taste. Ortho-Objectivists were mortified at the revelations, but everyone else came away liking Rand better than before. Suddenly, it all made sense. She no longer seemed so inhuman, intolerant and inscrutable. She seemed tortured and driven by her own demons and blind spots.

Let's not forget: Rand is the one who went public with this. You can make a case that the Brandens' books were a debt owed to intellectual history to make sense of a puzzling and weird event that everyone who ever watches CSI knows didn't add up the way that Rand and the Brandens initially told it.

Let's also not forget: ever since then, both Brandens have led very respectable and productive lives. I think they've both demonstrated they can think interesting thoughts without Rand pulling their strings, and from the way Rand described them, everyone should have been expecting them to end up in jail.

I have no special insight into exactly why the Brandens zipped their lips for so long. Perhaps their motives weren't as noble as I've surmised. But probably they were. Neither Branden is short of brain cells or unable to think 3 chess moves ahead. So, yeah, I think they took one for the team.

What an ironic victory for Barbara and Nathaniel. Since it was their discretion that kept Rand on the bestseller lists.

I think Nathan rocks. His books, his work, his candor have all greatly enriched my life. I'm so glad he exists. He's publicly, obviously, admittedly, not perfect. And that hasn't stopped him from doing great work, making amazing contributions, like his mentor, God rest her sad, beautiful soul.

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