The Only Review of PARC You Ever Need to Read

Roger Bissell

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The Only Review of PARC You Ever Need to Read

The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics: the Case Against the Brandens (PARC) has been ridiculed as being CRAP-backwards. The flippant jibe is true enough, but that is not the worst of it.

Let’s engage in a little thought-experiment. Suppose Ayn Rand had titled and subtitled her book on theory of knowledge The Errors of Realist and Nominalist Concept-Theory: Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Readers would justifiably be shocked and angry at the inaccuracy and dishonesty and parasitism in such a mislabeling of her book.

Why? Because her book contained a minor amount of material about realism and nominalism compared to its overwhelming focus on her own theory of concepts. Yet, the (hypothetical) title implies that the book’s main focus is on the other theories, while the real truth about the book lies in the subtitle. This is dishonest and inaccurate.

Also, by using realism and nominalism—rather than Rand’s own views—as the main draw to customers, the title implies that the author did not have confidence enough in her thesis to use it as the main draw, but instead parasitically drew from the higher name recognition of the secondary focus, the mistaken theories of realism and nominalism. By dumping her real thesis into the subtitle, she smuggled it in on the strength of the ideas and work of others.

Rand would never have engaged in such an immoral practice in naming one of her books. Yet, one of her disciples, James Valliant, who claims to be upholding her principles and her virtue, has done just that in his book The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics: The Case Against the Brandens.

Why is Valliant’s book inaccurately and dishonestly named? Because it contained a minor amount of material about Ayn Rand’s critics (let alone their “passion,” i.e., antagonism toward Rand), compared to its overwhelming focus on the supposed evils of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. But guess what -- it's not really about Ayn Rand's critics, anyway! It's all about bashing the Brandens.

Early in his book, Valliant makes a clear distinction between the Brandens and the various “critics of Ayn Rand,” past and present, and it is clear that Valliant believes that the books the Brandens wrote about Rand 20 years ago have given Rand’s critics ammunition and an appearance of legitimacy that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Fair enough (whether true or not). Yet, Valliant’s title implies that the book’s main focus is on Rand’s critics, not on the Brandens. This is dishonest and inaccurate.

Why is Valliant’s book parasitically named? By using a wordplay on the title of Barbara Branden’s book—rather than the supposed evils of the Brandens—as the main draw to customers, the title implies that the author did not have confidence enough in his thesis to use it as the main draw, but instead parasitically drew off the higher name recognition of Barbara Branden’s book and the higher name recognition of Ayn Rand herself.

Valliant, who purports to objectively document the evils of the Brandens, can’t even come close to the level of Barbara Branden – Ayn Rand’s first, and still her best, biographer—who titled her book The Passion of Ayn Rand. Instead, as is the pattern for second-handers, he simply leeches off his betters.

And Valliant and his pal Fahy have the unmitigated gall to cheerlead those who are pillorying the folks at The Objectivist Center who refuse to read Valliant's book, as if those refusing to read the book are being non-objective or failing to be “open.” Well, I’ve got news for Valliant and his self-righteous goons, if you can’t get past the title of a book without tripping over two violations of the Objectivist ethics, the book deserves no further attention.

No doubt, the people at TOC were able to see through the fundamental dishonesty and second-handedness of the title and surmised that reading it would only immerse them in more of the same. Silly me, I had to read the book twice, before I grasped what a piece of garbage it was. PARC-backwards is putting it mildly.

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As I stated earlier, OL members are free to write their own reviews of PARC, but OL is not a place for the long acrimonious and hair-splitting discussions that go on elsewhere. Thus the review is available, both for reading and being linked to, but the thread is locked against discussion.

The reason for this is that these discussions always get very disrespectful of Barbara and Nathaniel. That will not happen on OL and I have no wish to be constantly policing it. The rest of the entire Internet the world over is available to those who wish to engage in their own psychological and moral speculations.


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  • 3 years later...

Hello Roger.

Crap. I was going to read it, but now I won't "sanction" him and them by buying the book. I was looking thru my archives and found the following loyalty oath. I remember writing BB off list at the time, and saying this is about money. Perhaps I was short sighted. It is about money, re-writing history, and censorship.




Subject: ATL: In case anyone thought I was exaggerating. . .

Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2001 21:37:23 EDT

This is from Harry Binswanger's announcement of his discussion group, The Harry Binswanger List.

Philosophic issues:

The HBL is primarily for Objectivists. Full agreement with Objectivism is not required, but certain people are excluded--see the Loyalty Oath below. You need not sign or return it. If you join the list, that indicates your agreement with its provisions.

The HBL Loyalty Oath

I have created this list for those who are deeply and sincerely interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism and its application to cultural-political issues. It is understood that Objectivism is limited to the philosophic principles expounded by Ayn Rand in the writings published during her lifetime plus those articles by other authors that she published in her own periodicals (e.g., The Objectivist) or included in her anthologies. Applications, implications, developments, and extensions of Objectivism--though they are to be encouraged and will be discussed on my list--are not, even if entirely valid, part of Objectivism. (Objectivism does not exhaust the field of rational philosophic identifications.) I do not make full agreement with Objectivism a condition of joining my list. However, I do exclude anyone who is sanctioning or supporting the enemies of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. "Enemies" include: "libertarians," moral agnostics or "tolerationists," anarchists, and those whom Ayn Rand condemned or who have written books or articles attacking Ayn Rand. I do not wish to publicize the myriad of anti-Objectivist individuals and organizations by giving names, so if you have questions about any such, email me privately and I will be glad to discuss it with you. If you bristle at the very idea of a "loyalty oath" and declaring certain ideological movements and individuals as "enemies," then my list is probably not for you. To join my list while concealing your sanction or support of these enemies, would be to commit a fraud. Again, if you have any questions on this policy, please let me know.


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