PARC Fallacies

Michael Stuart Kelly

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PARC Fallacies

This thread is about The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics by James Valliant, which has been widely discussed by a relatively few number of people on the Internet. This is a “research” thread, so in keeping with the spirit of OL, it will be locked against discussion. If a reader has something he/she wishes to add or correct, please contact me at

The reason for this policy is that I wish to gather the maximum number of facts in a single place for easy consultation. The discussions tend to get long-winded, several passing 300 posts by far and one even going up to well over 500 posts, thus it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Also, in some of these discussions, a small number of posters have become highly insulting about the Brandens and this is not tolerated on OL.

The most basic provable fallacies will be given in this thread. Some comments on Valliant’s rhetorical methods also will be included. This thread will be updated periodically.


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Frank O’Connor’s drinking

Fallacy in PARC: The account of Frank O’Connor’s drinking was made up by the Brandens, principally by Barbara.

Quotes from PARC:

“It must be borne in mind that the Brandens are the exclusive sources for the claim of O’Connor’s alcoholism, and that both have a vested interest in portraying O’Connor as a devastated man, driven to drink by Rand’s callousness.” (p. 145)
“And yet, as previously indicated, it is those closest to the O’Connors in their later years who most vehemently deny this charge.

In the end, there is no reason to suppose that Ms. Branden is not the true source of this urban legend herself.” (p. 147)

Truth: Four different people close to Frank O’Connor corroborated that he had a drinking problem.

Main reason for the fallacy in PARC: Sloppy research. The author did not consult either Barbara Branden or Nathaniel Branden and ask them for their sources, nor were any people who knew Ayn Rand outside of the ARI circle interviewed (at least none are credited in PARC).

Evidence: Post by Barbara Branden: Objectivist Living, Fri Mar 17, 2006 12:55 am..

I appreciate the fact that polite questions have been raised about Frank O'Connor's drinking, and so I am happy to answer the questions.

I, myself, did not see him seriously affected by his drinking (only, sometimes, what I would have called being tipsy)  -- or, if I did, I was not aware of it, since it's not something I was attuned to noticing in people -- but I left in 1968, and I've been told that his really debilitating drinking began after that time. I was told about his drinking by four people (two of whom were close to Ayn and Frank). One, as I believe you know, was the maid who worked for Ayn and Frank for many years and who discovered all the empty liquor bottles in Frank's studio after his death.  Another was Elayne Kalberman, a member of the Collective, who said that she smelled liquor on Frank and observed him unsteady on his feet a number of times when she came to the apartment in the mornings on business matters.. Still another was Barbara Weiss (now deceased), who spent a good deal of time in the apartment as Ayn's secretary in Ayn and Frank's later years; she, too, told me that she often smelled liquor on Frank's breath; and she recounted various episodes of his behavior -- which I do not care to recount -- which clearly showed that he was badly affected by his drinking. The final one was a sculptor named Don Ventura, a recovered alcoholic himself, who often talked with Frank in a bar they both went to, and who told me that it was clear to him that Frank was a fellow-alcohoic.

I have Elayne Kalberman's and Barbara Weiss' statements on tape, since I interviewed them both as preparation for my biography. I have letters giving their statements from both Don Ventura and the maid.  

No one had asked me to keep his or her name secret. I decided on my own that since they all cared deeply for Frank, they probably would prefer not to be named in my biography as describing his drinking..

By the way, in my biography of Rand, I did not diagnose Frank as an alcoholic, although I did state that he was drinking heavily. And I did, of course, quote Don Ventura's statement.

Edit - September 2, 2006 - More evidence

Another confirmation of Frank's drinking was given in a discussion on Solo Passion by George H. Smith on September 2, 2006. A quote from the post is given below. Albeit, it is a bit vague, it is still from a credible source in the Objectivist world.

The major source for the Frank story was a woman whose name I don't recall. This conversation happened around 1972, when there was a lot of interest in the L.A. area about the split. A key player in collecting information was Roy Childs, who made a point of interviewing everyone who knew something about the split and who was willing to talk to him.

Roy and I lived in the same apartment building in Hollywood, and we saw each other every day. One day he said he was having lunch with a woman who had been affiliated with NBI and knew the principal players. He wanted to "pump" her for information (this was a near-obsession with Roy, as those who knew him can attest), and I agreed to tag along.

Well, she and Roy spoke for around an hour. (I said very little.) The relevant point was her comment about Frank O'Connor (a person I knew virtually nothing about at the time). After confirming the essentials of Roy's research about the split, she said that she felt most sorry for "Frank," and that she viewed him as the real victim in the entire mess. She added that he had turned to drinking, while speculating that he had withdrawn so much that he felt helpless to do anything.

Now, Roy (who had a problem with drinking himself) was very interested in this detail, so he and she talked about it for at least ten minutes. Beyond that I don't really remember a whole lot. That was 35 years ago, and I really didn't think much about it afterwards, except that, yeah, I'd probably drink too in a situation like that.

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Rhetorical Method: Argument by Repetition

A series of rhetorical methods are used in PARC in order to convince the reader of the author’s bias. I will be writing an article on them, but I wrote about one on another thread. Readers would do well to look out for the rhetoric on reading a book like PARC. Sometimes even I was not immune to it and I was actively fighting it in my mind. (Please see the fallacy regarding the 1979 Phil Donahue TV interview of Ayn Rand for an example of where an improper doubt was created.)

The purpose of all the heavy-handed rhetoric is to convince the reader of the author’s anti-Branden message by providing an illusion of a well-thought-out case. To this end, it is used to do the following:

  • Replace lack of proof when none is available;
  • Attempt to inhibit the reader’s critical faculty by (a) tricking him into not imagining interpretations of passages and events contrary to the author’s anti-Branden message, and (B) paralyzing his critical thinking, especially through sheer volume devoted to the same anti-Branden message over-and-over and an incessant over-explaining of the obvious;
  • Attribute sinister interpretations to minor neutral details, even to ones where the contrary is obvious (mislead the reader);
  • Cover up the shoddy scholarship and research (basically, fake it); and
  • Promote an unrealistic image of Rand in an attempt to answer evidence unflattering to her and direct the attention of readers away from unflattering implications in her journal entries.

Anyone reading PARC right now would be well advised to look out for the Argument by Repetition, as given in a post by me (Michael Stuart Kelly) on Objectivist Living, Wed Mar 01, 2006 6:20 am.

Here is one rhetorical device, just as an appetizer, since it is the most obvious one he used constantly. (And, from what I am able to gather, it is pretty effective with people who read a bit out of focus or with an ax to grind.)

I call it argument by repetition. How it works is that the author will state something at the beginning that is opposite of the point he wants to sell. After that statement, he then starts repeating his real point every chance he gets, even in the most mundane places. He milks the more obvious examples with two or three paragraphs repeating his point. Things that clearly do not apply are used to illustrate his point. Nothing escapes. When someone calls him on the incessant harping, he points to the initial statement as his proof of "objectivity," meanwhile hoping some of the venom seeps through the cracks of repetition.

Here is an example: p. 21 of PARC:

The Brandens' portraits of Rand are nothing if not complex. Along with their many criticisms of Rand's psychology and behavior are mixed significant complimentary references. They both concede that there is much for which Rand must be praised - using Rand's own standards. Rand was a woman of fierce independence, brilliant and dedicated to her ideas and craft.

This sounds pretty reasonable by itself. Then you go to p. 23, and read, "From the ferocity of the Brandens's attack..." and off he goes, practically for the rest of the book, bashing the Brandens' works by saying that all the Brandens were doing was trashing Rand. Every little item becomes a chance to show this poor opinion of their work. And true to form, many times two or three paragraphs are dedicated merely to those poor opinions and nothing else.

He uses this same method for several issues as he goes along (their character, things like Rand's overbearing personality, which he denies in the repetition part, etc.), and there are a few other rhetorical devices he uses regularly.

If you are interested in catching one, note when he starts harping about something. Then jump back to the beginning of where he started talking about that and you will see a statement to the contrary (for his "objectivity" - I call it covering his hind-end). But then look back at the harping and see the proportion.


("Drops wear down the stone, not by strength, but by constant falling.")

Confirmation of the rhetoric is given by Ellen Stuttle in a post on Objectivist Living, Wed Mar 01, 2006 11:32 pm, putting it in popular language. (Scroll to the thread.)

Yes, the rhetorical devices in PARC-- or I suppose that in lawyerly language, they might be called "leading statements" -- are as thick as a swarm of gnats, and need some strenuous effort to keep brushing aside.

The following quote is from Charles Anderson from an email of March 10. He has graciously allowed me to post the following paragraph. Despite having read PAR years ago before reading PARC, I found his description to be similar to what I experienced and what others have told me they did, but rarely has the quality of the rhetoric/fact relation been expressed this clearly. His main complaint is about the repetitious rhetorical pattern and the constant trivial and/or fallacious points (after a "huge, elaborate windup").

... I have not read PAR and I have only read about 80 pages of PARC.  This is a strange thing to do.  No one would read PARC without first reading PAR.  Surprisingly, it is an interesting exercise.  If I accept the facts presented by Valliant as true for the sake of argument, I then concentrate simply on his logic and his methodology.  He makes an occasional point in that context, but the points keep coming up as pretty trivial.  It is comical to see the huge, elaborate windup and then watch the pitch fizzle on its way to the plate.  In more cases than not, even accepting his facts, he does not make valid points.  For someone to so consistently make fallacious arguments, one almost has to assume that an overriding emotional agenda is directing his actions.  I finally found the pattern too repetitious to go on reading and stopped.

Excessive rhetoric is something a reader needs to look out for when he weighs arguments in his mind. A person who lets rhetoric sway him easily on one matter will let the same thing happen in another.

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Rand criticism excessively influenced by the Brandens

Fallacy in PARC: The Brandens’ biographical and autobiographical works on Rand have been responsible for “setting the agenda” in most public criticisms of Ayn Rand and her ideas.

Quotes from PARC:

From scholarly journals to allegedly historical novels, from an episode in The Simpsons to a cable-television movie, from cocktail party conversations to university lectures, both of the Brandens’ accounts set the agenda for most public discussions of Rand and her ideas today. (p. 2)
Through their research, even scholars who are critical of Rand have almost entirely verified the truth of Rand’s various assertions regarding her education and youth, long a subject of doubt and speculation in some quarters. (28) Despite such verification, these scholars persist in treating Rand’s statements skeptically while they simultaneously fail to subject the Brandens’s assertions to the same testing of credibility. Indeed, most uncritically (and often extensively) rely on them in their own work. (p. 25) [Note: the footnote reference was to Chris Sciabarra.]

Truth: In a survey made by Chris Sciabarra of the articles in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, well over 90% of the articles did not even mention Ayn Rand’s personal life, much less the Brandens’ biographical and autobiographical works. Of those that did, not all were unflattering to Rand. Thus “most public discussions” and “most [scholars]” is found to be untrue in one of the major scholarly periodicals on Rand – one that specifically caters to independent scholars.

Main reason for the fallacy in PARC: Sloppy scholarship. No surveys of scholarly materials were made. Valliant’s discussion centered on a few examples only and he attributed them with being representative of “most.” (Presumably, no surveys of TV shows, historical novels, cocktail party conversations or university lectures were undertaken either. At least none are mentioned in PARC.)

Evidence: Chris Sciabarra, Post 160, November 1, 2005, on the thread “The Argument from Intimidation.” (Former SoloHQ now RoR)

Solo Passion SoloHQ archives: Post 160.

As far as scholars go, I have never been to a conference at either The Objectivist Center or the Ayn Rand Institute.  I have attended several "day" lectures through the years sponsored by TOC in New York City.  At those conferences, the attention was on ethics, politics, or aesthetics.  Nary a word was ever said about Ayn Rand's personal life.

My comments about the marginal character of the Affair in genuine Rand scholarship are based on years of contributing to, editing, and reading in the Rand scholarly literature.

For example:  JARS is now entering its seventh year of publication.  We have 13 issues to our credit since the Fall of 1999.  I count a total of 152 articles published over this time period.  Of these articles only a very few mention Rand's personal life, and only a very few of these mention Rand's "moral shortcomings."  In these limited number of cases, the authors' judgments of Rand are based on their reading of the Branden works for sure.  You will find a comment about Rand's "moral shortcomings" in Lisa Dolling's Spring 2000 review of Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (a book that includes an essay by Barbara Branden); Joseph Maurone's Spring 2002 essay, "The Trickster Icon and Objectivism" (which deals with much more than Rand's "personal life," focusing on important Romantic themes in Rand's novels); and the James Arnt Aune Fall 2002 essay referenced in Valliant's book (an essay that was met with devastating critique by Leland Yeager in our pages).  Other essays that mention Rand's personal life:  Dean Brooks's review of the Sures memoir; and a 3-article exchange between Karen Michalson and Sky Gilbert on Gilbert's Branden-inspired play, The Emotionalists.

But a book review of David Kelley's Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand focuses almost no attention on Rand's personal life or the "movement" schisms; Jonathan Jacobs, the reviewer, is much more interested in philosophical issues and actually yearns for a "more purely philosoph[ical] book."

It is true that some left-wing critics, like Gene Bell-Villada, mention Barbara Branden's biography---but he sees Barbara as Rand's "frank yet devoted biographer" ("Nabokov and Rand," Fall 2001 JARS).  

Other left-wingers, like Slavoj Zizek ("The Actuality of Ayn Rand," Spring 2002 JARS) go so far as to praise Rand for the way she handled The Affair.  Writes Zizek:  "There is a well-known story about Rand whose superficially scandalous aspect often eclipses its extraordinary ethical significance." That "ethical significance," for Zizek, is not located in Rand-as-Moral Monster, but in the fact that "Rand did not cheat" (Zizek's emphasis).  He concludes:"To show such firmness in the most intimate domain bears witness to an ethical stance of extraordinary strength: while Rand was here arguably 'immoral' [in the conventional sense, a reference to the extramarital affair], she was ethical in the most profound meaning of the word.  It is this ethical stance of inner freedom that accounts for the authenticity clearly discernible in Rand's description of ... Howard Roark."  And Zizek then goes on to praise Roark as one of the most authentic and benevolent of fictional characters.

So, all in all, in seven years of publishing JARS, I count a total of 10 articles out of 152 that mention Rand's personal life, and not all of these references are unflattering, as we have seen from the Zizek article.

Zizek didn't need to read Valliant's book (this was Spring 2002 after all) in order to come to this conclusion, and he had every reason, as a left-wing pomo, to make lots of snide comments about Rand.  Instead, he formed his own positive conclusions from his own reading of the Branden books.

So, clearly, not everybody, including the critics, walks away from the Branden books with a view of Rand-as-Moral-Monster.

Remember, btw, that JARS is being "boycotted" by the likes of ARI-scholar Andrew Bernstein because of the "people" we publish. Bernstein called for that boycott of the journal and of all my works (which he admits to never having read), in the Spring of 2002, after we'd published a single paragraph reply Bernstein had written for the journal to a Kirsti Minsaas review of his Cliffsnotes (see here and here.  I'll leave it to others to speculate on the character of Bernstein's denunciation.  Clearly, from where I sit, it has nothing to do with the fact that we publish "the Brandens" (ooops, we have published an essay or two by the Great Mini-Satan, David Kelley!!!) or that we are some kind of Branden "front organization."  That JARS is a "nonpartisan" publication has done nothing to ease the tension (see here and here).

Now, if I extend my inquiry to include the larger Rand scholarly literature, I can tell you that one finds very few references to Rand's personal life.  ARI-affiliated scholars who have published fine books (I count the writing and editing work of Robert Mayhew, the work of Tara Smith, and others) never say a negative word about Rand's personal life.  No surprise there.  But non-ARI-affiliated scholars have a similar track record.  Take a look at the countless volumes of essays and books on Ayn Rand, by Douglas Den Uyl (The Fountainhead: An American Novel); Douglas Rasmussen (with Den Uyl, The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand; ); Mimi Gladstein (Atlas Shrugged: A Manifesto of the Mind; The Ayn Rand Companion); Tibor Machan (Ayn Rand, and hundreds of other articles), and you'll find almost an exclusive focus on Rand's philosophy or literary legacy.  And that's where the focus should be.

In the same discussion, Sciabarra made his point clear to Valliant in Post 183, November 1, 2005, on the thread “The Argument from Intimidation.” (Former SoloHQ now RoR)

Solo Passion SoloHQ archives: Post 183.

I thought one of your points, James, was that too much criticism of Rand is rooted in charges made by the Brandens. I simply pointed to over 150 articles in JARS and much of the critical scholarship done on Rand, and I find that the discussion of Rand is not informed (much, if at all) by the Branden books.
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Ayn Rand – Kay Nolte Smith break

Fallacy in PARC: Both Kay Nolte Smith and Philip Smith committed a “systematic and personal” betrayal of Rand by making changes to the dialogue of the Penthouse Legend (The Night of January 16th), showing “callous indifference” to both Rand’s history and artistic integrity. This fallacy is further compounded by another fallacy Valliant promoted in an online discussion where he claims that these changes were made before the play’s opening.

Quote from PARC:

Such a famous reputation might be counted on to provide caution to those who would take liberties with this author’s text. Not so with Kay Nolte Smith and her husband, who, in an act exhibiting unbelievably reckless judgment, changed the dialogue in their production of Penthouse Legend without authorization from Rand. (57) In such an instance of systematic and personal betrayal, a break at least was understandably in order, simply on the basis of their callous indifference to Rand’s personal history, if not to her artistic integrity. (pp. 75-76)

[The footnote reference is to The Ayn Rand Cult by Jeff Walker and includes the following statement: “Miss. Smith refused the author’s request to be interviewed in 1983.”]

Truth: According to Philip Smith, only one line was cut from one evening performance because it provoked an inappropriate laugh.

Main reason for the fallacy in PARC: Shoddy scholarship. The main surviving person who was directly involved in the event was not consulted. Instead, a book that Valliant himself discredits (The Ayn Rand Cult by Jeff Walker) and “anonymous sources” where used. (A tempting speculation is that the “anonymous sources” are all ARI affiliated.)

Evidence: A request for information made to Philip Smith by Barbara Branden, reported in a post on Objectivist Living, Fri Mar 17, 2006 5:09 pm.

I contacted Phil Smith (yes, he's very much alive) about it, because although Kay had told me about it, I couldn't remember the details, although I did recall that the change was very minor. Here is Phil's reply:  

"All I remember is that a line of Regans that always got an inappropriate laugh was cut for one evening performance and when Kay told Ayn about it the next day you would have thought that the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb."

(Interestingly, in an attempt to show “objectivity,” Valliant’s online discussion with Sciabarra focused on the fact that he had no idea how Rand discovered the change. According to Philip Smith, Kay told her. All Valliant had to do was ask to find out – basic research.)

Reasonable speculation on Philip Smith’s comment, based on witnessing the production and knowing the people involved, is provided by Ellen Stuttle in a post on Objectivist Living, Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:28 pm.

Interesting to get the story straight from Phil. I was figuring that it was probably something just of that sort -- especially when I read that the change had been made at the request of one of the actors. I thought that the actor might have been the person who played Guts Regan. He was a professional actor, hired for the production -- and quite good; I thought he was the best of the group in his performance. The line was probably something which used words which had acquired a meaning which weren't intended when Rand wrote the play (an example of that sort of thing, various words referring to homosexuals which once upon a time didn't have that reference). And after delivering this line on a few nights, and getting snickers because of the unintended meaning, the actor wanted to drop the line. Some "systematic and personal betrayal" on the Smiths' part.

A more in-depth analysis of the fallacy, including the one made online by Valliant, is given by Michael Stuart Kelly in a post on Objectivist Living, Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:56 pm. (As there are many quotes, this post is given in a different format than the ones above.)

Here is a brief summary of the story about the reason for the break between Ayn Rand and Kay Nolte Smith.

Starting with PARC (p. 75), there is a criticism of PAR stating that this story was "curiously absent," thus insinuating some kind of dastardly cover-up.

As for the Smiths, their story is curiously absent from Ms. Branden's account.

The source mentioned in PARC for this story is Jeff Walker's book, The Ayn Rand Cult, but this book is also characterized as the following (p. 393 n. 61):

... so grossly misrepresents Rand and Objectivism ... that his work, as  criticism, merits no further comment. Also, Walker's repeated use of empty, personal attack exhibits a degree of hostility toward Rand, her philosophy, and nearly all of her associates, sufficient to suggest significant problems with regard to his objectivity.

A further speculation is added (presumably so Walker's book can be used as a source selectively at whim):

It is assumed, however, that he has not grossly misquoted persons alive at the publication of his book.

No other sources for this story are given in PARC. But some unnamed sources are mentioned elsewhere in an online discussion. From the rejoinder to Chris Sciabarra's review of PARC on Notablog:

In the few instances where I rely on Walker, such as Hospers’ report on Rand’s difficult youth and the “break” with Kay Nolte Smith, I do have other, corroborative sources, providing independent, if anonymous, verification.


I should have, perhaps, included the fact that the changes made to Rand’s play were removed before its opening (although ~ how ~ Rand discovered these changes in the production remains the essence of the charge), but my own anonymous sources here are credible contemporaries to the event—and their reports to me long pre-date Walker’s book.

Thus anonymous sources for PARC (but not mentioned in the book) corroborate Walker's book (the named source), which is characterized as having "significant problems" with objectivity - and these distinguished people apparently claim that the offending "changes" (note the plural) were removed before the opening of the play. The anonymous ones must be the source for the time frame as this alleged fact is not given in Walker's book. The only other alternative would be that the author of PARC made it up.

I do not have Walker's book yet, so here is a part of Jonathan's post above in this thread (which quotes Walker's book):

In his discussion of the Rand-Smith break, Valliant (2005, 400 n. 57) cites page 35 of Walker's book. In part, here is what Walker says:  

"Kay Nolte Smith was excommunicated in the mid-1970s for making unauthorized changes to ~a few lines of dialogue~ for a public performance of Rand's play PENTHOUSE LEGEND (NIGHT OF JANUARY 16TH). [in an interview with Walker,] Smith concedes she shouldn't have done so but insists it was not a big deal. ~For that one mistake~ she was drummed out, 15 years of prior devoted association notwithstanding" (~ indicates ~emphasis added~)

To repeat, no information is given on when the "changes" (note the plural) are made in Walker's book. So the claim that these changes were removed before the opening must have come from the anonymous sources. Moving along on the gossip vine (and taking the cue from Jonathan), here is how the event is depicted in PARC (pp. 75-76):

Such a famous reputation might be counted on to provide caution to those who would take liberties with this author's text. Not so with Kay Nolte Smith and her husband, who, in an act exhibiting unbelievably reckless judgment, changed the dialogue in their production of Penthouse Legend without authorization from Rand. (57) In such an instance of systematic and personal betrayal, a break was at least understandably in order, simply on the basis of their callous indifference to Rand's personal history, if not to her artistic integrity.

As Jonathan notes:

We have gone from "that one mistake" of changing "a few lines of dialogue" in Walker's rendering to "an instance of systematic and personal betrayal" in Valliant's rendering.

To be fair, the author of PARC states that he tried to contact Kay Nolte Smith for an interview but was refused. It is almost comical that this attempt was in 1983 (PARC, p. 400 n 57). It is a real temptation to ask whether he was planning on writing PARC back then, before PAR was even written. As Sciabarra wryly observed in his review:

Well Kay Smith passed away in 1993; Philip Smith survives.

Now Barbara has done the obvious. She asked the guy who was involved in the dastardly deed. This bears quoting again. Here are Philip Smith's words from Barbara's post above:

All I remember is that a line of Regans that always got an inappropriate laugh was cut for one evening performance and when Kay told Ayn about it the next day you would have thought that the Enola Gay had dropped the bomb.

See how the gossip chain works? And see the reliance of PARC on pure gossip for its rhetoric?

We move from "one line" (Smith) to "few lines of dialogue" (Walker) to "systematic and personal betrayal" (PARC).

Also, the single line was cut (not even changed) because it got "an inappropriate laugh" (implying at least one prior performance), and was cut for "one evening performance." Yet the anonymous sources used for PARC affirm "the fact" that the "changes" (plural) to the play "were removed before its opening ."

All that was needed to avoid this error was the most basic research of all: ask the person who was involved in the event. Or have a trusted person ask him.

He might have even discovered how Rand found out about the change (Kay told her).

The research for PARC for this particular event is shoddy and not at all credible.

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1979 Phil Donahue TV interview with Ayn Rand

Fallacy in PARC: In The Passion of Ayn Rand, an angry exchange was overly-exaggerated to insinuate that Rand shouted at a young girl when she did not. The show was described as a disaster when it was not. The angry exchange was incorrectly depicted as having occupied much more time than it actually did.

Quotes from PARC: (Given in the post below.)

Truth: The angry exchange was only one part of a disastrous show, as there were other elements highly unfavorable to Rand. Both the description of the young woman and the time of the exchange’s impact on the show were accurately depicted in PAR.

Main reason for the fallacy in PARC: Essential facts about the show were left out and the rhetoric was intentionally misleading.

Evidence: Report of viewing the interview in a post by Michael Stuart Kelly: Objectivist Living, Fri Mar 17, 2006 12:21 am.

Since this is the place where impressions taken from PARC are being registered, and since the following observations will probably not make it in my upcoming review of PARC, I want to register them here.

It has to do with the 1979 Phil Donahue show. I finally saw it last night and it left a strong impression on me. My own view of Rand physically up to then has been based on photographs and the one time I saw her in public at the Ford Hall Forum in the early 1970's.

I will admit to being a bit shocked, since Rand did not age well at all. She showed all the signs of poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise. Her visual production was not TV-oriented, either, and showed her in an unflattering light. Also, once Donahue started walking around the audience for Q&A in Madison Square Garden, she seemed to slouch in her chair on stage. This might have been camera angles and the awkward position she had to turn to see him, but the whole visual impression of Rand I got was that of a grumpy old woman in a sloppy mood. (It pains me to write that, but this is how I saw it.) I am sure this was the impression seen by those who were not familiar with the philosophy.

Now on to the excerpt on this in The Passion of Ayn Rand (pp. 391-392). I will quote the full paragraph (it was only one paragraph), but in PARC, the excerpt starts with "It was a disaster" (PARC discussion pp. 80-82).

Ayn had continued to force herself to appear at the Ford Hall Forum, but fewer speaking invitations were coming in after her years of constant refusals. Nor would she have accepted them had they arrived. In May of 1979, however, she agreed to appear on "The Phil Donahue Show." It was a disaster. A young woman in the audience asked Ayn a question which made it clear that she thought her former admiration for Ayn's work had been an aberration of youth - and Ayn, offended and insulted, pounced angrily, shouting at the girl; a substantial part of the show was devoted to their exchange.

PARC basically presents the content of the exchange correctly (congratulating the ARI Bookstore on still keeping the tape available), then gives the evaluation below. In recounting the episode, though, it is claimed that Rand did not shout when she interrupted the young woman. What I saw would make that debatable. Rand certainly raised her voice above that of the young woman's and was highly abrupt, with full intention of interrupting. That can be called a shout in my book. It was not a hysterical shout, though, but definitely butting in with a loud voice.

Before the excerpt, PARC gives the following description:

The "girl" in the audience was clearly an adult. The "girl" started to ask a question about ITT's allegedly monopolistic control over "everything," but interrupted herself to say,...

Then the exchange is given. Notice that the word girl is given in quotation marks denoting sarcasm. In the excerpt, the word girl continues to be used in quotation marks. Notice also that Barbara's first reference had been to a "young woman." My guess from seeing the tape is that she was in her late twenties, so "young woman" with "girl" right after are apt designations, where girl would not mean an adolescent. There was nothing in Barbara's description that merits such getting all bent out of shape. It is accurate.

After the exchange is presented, PARC continues:

In total, the exchange could not have accounted for 10% of the show's time.

The fact that Donahue was blind to the gratuitous ad hominem within a question about ITT is not surprising. It is less understandable how Rand's comment about "the quality" of the questioner's brain should be taken as an insult but not the "more educated" crack. It is a strange "one-way" street on which Donahue directed traffic.

In any event, Rand did not "shout" at "a girl," but only refused to answer the condescending question of a grown woman. The appearance was not such a "disaster" as to prevent Rand from being invited back the following year. That appearance cannot boast even this type of minor "moment."

Even more to her credit - and despite the obvious temptations - Rand is not said to have ever exploded at Phil Donahue or any other interviewer.

Maybe Barbara's quote was not her finest hour as an author, but it certainly is not inaccurate as given in PARC. Let's look at the complaints.

The show actually was a disaster from what I saw. Rand seemed highly uncomfortable (but not with Donahue). She seemed a bit nervous, like people are wont to be when they are a bit rusty with being before an audience, and it was evident (to me at least) she was making an effort to control it. In addition to her poor visual presentation, Donahue was constantly in her face during the interview part and waving his arms all the time. The audience also was hostile. Whenever Donahue would make some point against Rand, the applause was solid. Whenever Rand would make a point, the applause was weak. The thing ended practically with Rand explaining why a woman should not be President (claiming that a woman as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces was "unspeakable.")

Now, within the context of Barbara's biography, all this might have been interesting to note, but there were several interviews she covered. All these details would have cluttered up the flow.

Next point. There is an arbitrary 10% total show time put on the exchange. It is obvious that the author of PARC is not in show business, since he has no idea how to measure these things. Let's see what happened.

Barbara stated that the exchange occupied "a substantial part of the show." There actually is one thing apparently misleading here, but a second's thought will show that it is not as misleading as it seems. Time-wise, many interviews come with Q&A sessions after the interview. So it is obvious that Barbara was not referring to the interview part when she made that comment. She was referring to the moment the young woman presented her question and was interrupted by Rand, and from that point on.

How is TV time measured in terms of impact? I would say it is whether a topic is still present after a commercial break. If the topic is emotionally charged as this one was (with Donahue trying hard to stay on the good side of his predominantly young audience), the subject will be in the air even when other things are discussed. Slight insinuations to it with audience reaction constantly occur, which is what happened.

But let's look at the main events.

What PARC does not report is that after the first commercial break, Donahue tried to start the new period with a new question altogether. Rand stated firmly that she wanted to go back to that young woman's question, but wanted someone else to present it. Donahue tried to parry it a bit, then finally, running out options and running the risk of the show descending into only bickering, he personally asked Rand the ITT question. The answer not only included the answer, but more comments about the questioner.

Then, after another commercial break (and PARC omitted this info too), Donahue asked Rand how she could judge Islamic people for being so intolerant when she herself would not listen to what the young woman had to say. (Solid applause.) Rand's answer focused on terrorism.

Thus this exchange actually did occupy a substantial part of the show (three periods with two commercial breaks). So I don't put too much store in the criteria used in PARC for arriving at the 10% time figure.

Parts of a TV program are judged in terms of impact and this exchange was one of the highlights.

As to the remark in PARC stating that this episode did not prevent Rand from being invited back the following year, insinuating that Barbara was indirectly saying something like that, all a reader has to do is look at PAR, pp. 395-396, and read how lovingly Barbara wrote of that second Donahue interview.

This also goes for the crack that there was no such "moment" (angry exchange) in the second Donahue interview, insinuating that Barbara was searching only for such things to put in PAR.

Anyway, enough. The style of PARC is shot through with these kinds of insinuations and strategic omissions.

I merely wanted to register my own impression on this because, frankly, this is one of the points where PARC had put a doubt in my mind. On examining what really went on, I see that even I was not immune to the excess of rhetoric. The conclusions damning PAR in the analysis in PARC simply do not stand up to reality, essential facts are left out and the wording is highly misleading.

In answer to a comment by John Dailey, there is part of another post by Michael Stuart Kelly: Objectivist Living, Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:00 am.

I certainly will not argue the point that the prelude to the young woman's question was insulting. The immediate interruption was certainly justified, albeit poor public demeanor. But Rand's insistence on making snipes at the young woman for the rest of the show (even after commercial breaks) was neither wise nor professional. Was she there to discuss Objectivism or discuss that person? The fact that it became a highlight coloring the rest of the show was as much due to Rand's fault as it was to the hostile audience and Donahue.

One thing I was arguing against, though, was the preposterous claim that preceded the discussion of this in PARC (p. 80):

Ms. Branden's tendency for exaggeration is made clear from her description of other Rand appearances. A good example is Rand's first appearance on The Phil Donahue show.

Frankly, the discussion in PAR where this occurs is a discussion of Rand's general pessimism about the culture and is immediately followed by a very loving description of the 1979 Tom Snyder interview.

As I hope my description showed, Barbara did not exaggerate the event at all. Instead, the paragraph was pulled out of context, undue emphasis was placed on certain aspects ("girl," etc.) to insinuate a meaning that was not there, and the event was misrepresented, with crucial facts being left out of the criticism.

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