Online Objectivist Mediocrity


Michael Stuart Kelly

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Online Objectivist Mediocrity

by Michael Stuart Kelly

I have been trying to keep a distance from all the recent foolish bombast, but a small series of online shenanigans from the loudmouths of the Objectivist movement has drawn attention away from the beautiful world we are trying to build. I am thoroughly disgusted and hold nothing but contempt for these people. They say they are fighting to save the world through Objectivism. In reality, they act like they are trying to form a gang. But there’s more.

Oh, the “shining world” rhetoric is bandied about and they scapegoat people like the Brandens in order to have a rallying cry, but if you look – and you don’t have to look hard – it is much worse than all that. These poor souls want to form an audience of neophytes because they are mediocre. They don’t have talent. The ones that do have some talent don’t want to do the work to obtain quality. They can’t get heard on the open market. The few times they do emerge, they don’t stay there. They’re a bunch of losers. That’s the sad truth.

What’s galling is that this crap is done in the name of Objectivism, where competence is held as a top value. One thing mediocrity has going for it, though. If everybody is mediocre, you can chime in without worrying about being judged too harshly. That is what you use scapegoats for.

I’ll look at scapegoating, then at a few examples of the mediocre garbage (satire, short story, nonfiction and politics), and then folks, in all due respect, I don’t have the stomach for too much more.

When I was in Brazil for over three decades, dreaming about returning to the USA and hooking up with productive heroes in life based on a marvelous vision portrayed by Ayn Rand, i.e., the people in the Objectivist world, I had no idea that it would be populated by such inept crummy little pretenders. Bah!

What good is scapegoating? Well, for one thing, it centralizes an enemy. It allows people to take their rational focus off of what they are doing and put it on a common enemy. Achieving something – building something – is hard work. It takes time, effort, and most of all, sustained rational thought. The emotional payoff is wonderful though. There is nothing like pointing your finger to a complicated magnificent achievement and saying, “I did that.” Nothing beats that. Nothing.

There is something close, though. If you are lazy or mediocre, it is a poor substitute, but it does allow you to get by and fool yourself into thinking you are a virtuous Objectivist hero. You can point your finger at a group of people and condemn them. You can call them evil or immoral or evaders or whatever makes you feel good.

How’s that for an easier choice than doing productive work? You don’t have to put in long hours, overcome tortuous inner doubts, listen to ridicule from other people for things taking so long, expend so much mental effort it seems like your brain will burst. You don’t have to do any of that. All you have to do is point at someone and bitch – bitch real loud. Then you can pretend you are better than others. No wonder the mediocre like this so much! You can get some achievement-like glory and audience without actually doing anything hard.

Let’s take a look at satire, to start with. The charm of satire is to make word plays and present a person’s weak characteristics to an exaggerated extent. I hate to do the following, because when you explain a joke, it loses its funniness, but I want to give an example of good quality satire before talking about the bad.

Here is a brilliant example by Roger Bissell: “Dizzy Vertigo” for Lindsay Perigo, and “Total Bashin’ for the Total Hype” for “Total Passion for the Total Height.” In the name, there is a word play on Linz/Dizzy and Perigo/Vertigo. Roger was able to tie in several concepts at the same time – alcohol drinking (to allude to the scandals that occurred on SoloHQ – especially the number of times Perigo used to make stupid vicious statements, then apologize the next day with a crack about having imbibed too much, including the whole blow-up afterward), the idea of stupid (dizzy) thinking, and the idea of “height” with “vertigo” and the dizziness one gets from heights.

The word plays are obvious in “Total Bashin’ for the Total Hype.” The whole satire points to the hypocrisy of the different crusades, threats, and whatnot this individual normally promotes in public (and of course, via private email campaigns). Instead of pushing an idea, Perigo has consistently engaged in personal attacks against trumped up enemies with some high-sounding rhetoric laced into it. But the rhetoric is hypocrisy if taken at face value. The intent is practically always to smear someone. The extremely long line of “enemies” of this individual proves this.

There also is another subtle idea lampooned by Roger. The idea behind Perigo’s “rational passion” is that you can say anything at all, no matter how absurd or insulting, then you can blame it on being in the throes of “passion.” (Perigo is famous for being some kind of emotional retard because of “righteous rages.”)

Of course, when you leave that mystical daze, you might have to clean up a bit of a mess, but there is a payoff. You can use this as a technique to see how much you can get away with in public. If people swallow an absurdity without contesting it, well great! You can use this as a sound argument when you are no longer in the bliss of emotional transfiguration. You have more rhetoric for selling hatred. So when Roger says “Total Bashin’ for the Total Hype,” the “hype” also refers to this manner of sneaking in false irrational ideas into rational discourse.

The rest of the satire in the thread Roger started lives up to the same standard of word play and exaggeration of weaknesses. I am particularly fond of one I did as a derivation of “Total Bashin’ for the Total Hype.” I changed it to “Total Bashin’ for the Total Parasite.” This refers to the fact that SoloP is going to hold its conference in the vicinity of the TOC Summer Seminar at the same time. Thus it will “lean” on TOC’s structure to generate an audience, sucking and feeding off the host while attacking it.

I did a thing with Jason Quintana’s name by calling him Demon Banana. I had a problem with this one, because I wanted to rhyme “Jason” but couldn’t come up with much. I tried “Babycon Banana” (with an allusion to his young age and the parasitical “con game,” but it was too forced and not very funny). The word play between Quintana and Banana is strong enough to carry it. The Demon refers to his hot-headed crusader style and Banana refers to “bananas” as a term to indicate emotional imbalance and craziness (the exaggeration of his weak traits).

In short, the thread is full of high-quality satire of this nature.

Now let’s turn to how Perigo does satire. He recently wrote a piece called “Objectivists Reeling.”

Let’s start with two names. Robert Bidinotto-Robert-Robert and Michael Stuart Kelly Stuart-Stuart. When I saw that, I thought, “Huh?” I didn’t get it. Was this some kind of NZ humor? Where is the word play? Where is the hidden meaning? Where is the charming pun? Where is the talent? Hell, after all the effort and talent I and others have put into our lampoons, I at least thought that something a little more competent than a fizzle would be coming at us. All Perigo did was the equivalent of saying “hoity-toity” and sticking his tongue out. As mocking, it might be OK, but as satire or lampoon, there is nothing of value there. I want to call it poor, but it is just mediocre. It will soon be forgotten.

The exaggeration on alcoholics that started Perigo's piece could have been much better, but at least it was in the ball park of satire. However, the word plays were almost nonexistent and the exaggerations were way too obvious. When a joke gets that obvious, it is called “corny.” With a satire, it is just boring.

Note that the only people who found it funny were people in Perigo’s “gang.” The general public turned the page and didn’t comment. Even a few regulars popped up and said that the attempt at satire was in poor taste. I could almost feel the mental nag coming through in their posts – the question that doesn’t make it into full consciousness: “What is this garbage doing in the middle of a crusade for a glowing vision of saving the world?”

Even the lampoon of ARI thrown in at the end with “Anal Retentive Institute” fell flat, although it was slightly better than the other stuff in terms of word play and exaggerating weaknesses. (It seems like Perigo was aware of the “sour grapes” tone of his humor and tried to balance it.) I could analyze the whole thing phrase by phrase and offer suggestions for far funnier phrases that would make it good satire, but I have my own work to do. Why on earth would I want to fix a mediocre pile of crap like that anyway?

The only thing that made Perigo’s attempt stand out was the shock value of the obscenity. This is a technique people use to get attention when all else fails. In Brazil, they say "ele está apelando" (meaning, he's overdoing it, but usually stated when a person has lost his audience or attention and resorts to ridiculous antics to call attention to himself). When you don’t have the talent to pull off an idea with competence, you start putting things like "Eat shit, dickhead" in Nathaniel Branden’s mouth or “I figure the least I can do is give him some head" in Robert Bidinotto’s mouth. You also make gestures like a monkey.

I don’t mind being lampooned, but dayaamm! I wish it could be done with some talent. This thing was just plain lousy – pure mediocrity.

I wonder how Ayn Rand would have rated this piece on its literary merits? I wonder if she would have wanted this person to keep “fighting” for her ideas? Her history is pretty clear and if the same values are used, it indicates a resounding, “No!”

Let us turn to another terrible piece of writing. This is one that prompted the present rant. I happened to come across a piece called “The Ghost of Thomas Jefferson” by Ross Elliot. It was recently posted, but apparently had been published before on the old SoloHQ and in The Free Radical.

The plot is that the President of the USA has stopped at night for silent contemplation at the Jefferson Memorial. He is apparently bothered because he will be presented with a 33rd Amendment the next morning that will grant him the power to suspend the Constitution. The ghost of Thomas Jefferson comes out and talks to him about a lot of libertarian rhetoric (the vast bulk of the story). He announces the next day that he is using his new power to revoke that same power and the crowd goes wild.

That’s all, folks. No conflict. No character development. No symbolism. Frankly, I’ve seen high-school students write better things than this.

I won’t analyze the full extent of the awfulness of this rubbish, but let’s look for moment at character development and forget the weak contrived plot and bland style (but inflated with political jingoes). What is the only thing in the story that lets the reader know that the President is bothered? Merely the fact that he stopped to think – nothing more. As the story develops (actually “develops” is too strong a word for the lack of plot, something more like “as the political rhetoric is bounced back and forth between him and the ghost” would be a better way to phrase it), we are constantly being told that the “politician” comes to the fore in the President’s character as he ponders the ghost’s pronouncements. That is all that is given in terms of character description.

This piece reminds me of Soviet art, where happy farm workers were portrayed by ballet dancers pirouetting around tractors or the movie, The Song of Russia (which qua art, at least, was art – bad art, but art) or that kind of thing. Elliot’s piece is nothing but political propaganda. As art, it is crap – mediocre crap. If you want an eye-opening exercise in literary values, compare this piece of garbage with any section where there is a political speech in Atlas Shrugged and see the difference for yourself. The mediocrity is astounding. Elliot should stick to obscene posts and smarmy comments and leave writing fiction alone. He does the underbelly grunge routine with a whole lot more competence.

The last item of mediocrity I want to examine is one of the loudmouth college students (those dignitaries who are loudly proclaimed to be “ARI representatives”) that Robert Campbell just finished unmasking for poor scholarship on a thread called “Is This What They Teach at the Ayn Rand Institute?” Robert gives facts and asks hard questions. He is met with assertions that he is dishonest, refusal to read the material being debated, grandstand statements – anything but solid scholarship.

What I want to mention, though, is a parallel issue that arose with one of the loudest of the loudmouth college students, Diana Hsieh, and her treatment of Reginald Firehammer on her blog. I have to make a small detour to get to the mediocrity.

I have serious disagreements with Regi, especially with respect to the Brandens and a few other issues. That is why I never registered on his site as a poster. I have no wish to debate those topics with him or Cass. Firehammer is highly intelligent, though, and well read.

He is an extremely sore point with Perigo for his outspoken views against homosexuality. After he was banned from SoloHQ, he promoted long acrimonious threads on The Autonomist (his website) that were mostly name-calling. Thus he became an object for ridicule – and a hated one.

There is another consideration. The Autonomist was one of the first places to offer a positive review of PARC (written by Cass), way before anyone else did. The problem is that The Autonomist is a low traffic site, so its value in terms of sales and promotion is negligible. Back when Valliant was starting to promote his book, he took what he could get and made wide use of the endorsement. I do not think he ever believed that Perigo would fall out with Barbara Branden and then endorse his book. As it turned out, the improbable did happen.

What used to be a gratefully accepted tribute from The Autonomist became a point of embarrassing contention with his new soapbox. Tricky, tricky, tricky. Now Hsieh is a relative newcomer to Perigo’s gang. Her prior endorsement of PARC and hatred of the Brandens is the crucial point cementing their relationship. Everything was going along really hunky-dory in long Branden bashing and TOC bashing threads by the “anointed few,” high-fiving each other’s hatred, until one fine day a couple of weeks ago (maybe a little longer) Firehammer popped up out of nowhere on Hsieh’s site and applauded her for something or the other – I believe it was uhm… Branden bashing or TOC bashing. Cass chimed in shortly thereafter.

I could almost hear the mental cogs screeching as the monkey-wrench hit the gears. How on earth do you get rid of this guy? He’s going to screw up everything. Perigo hates him.

On a sojourn to The Autonomist, I saw that Firehammer had been banned from posting on Noodelfood (Hsieh’s blog). Dayaamm! Now this would be a wonderful opportunity to get ornery and post some kind of endorsement. But my mental gears did a screech too. I figured it would be a good idea to read what all the shouting was about before I spoke up. After all, I do disagree with much of what Firehammer writes.

The hubbub was over an article called “Saving the World, Alternate Views.” Cool. He started out linking to the “save the world” messages published on five Objectivist websites: Noodlefood, Rebirth of Reason, Solo Passion, TOC and ARI, and then started unfolding his thesis. Then came the boom.

Hsieh had posted about an environmentalist, Dr. Pianka, who allegedly advocated exterminating 90% of the world’s population as a cure for environmental issues. Firehammer wrote about it in his article. Was he outraged? No. He considered extermination as a viable possibility, then went on to make an analysis of how true individuals would rebuild humanity. He ended his article with the following pessimistic statement:

The world, that is, human society, in its present state, is probably not worth saving, and neither the Objectivist's or Dr. Pianka's method can save it. Dr. Pianka's method, which very well may occur, does have one advantage—while it cannot save the world, it would eliminate all that is not worth saving, leaving it for the independent individualists to rebuild.

I started thinking (shaking my head), “Regi, Regi, Regi. You didn’t just say that. Tell me you didn’t just say that. You just said today’s human society ain’t worth saving and called exterminating 90% of the population “Dr. Pianka's method” for saving the good part. Tell me it ain’t true! Dayaamm!”

Well, he did just say that. He made a disclaimer earlier that no sane man would want that, but hell, after his pessimistic ending, you want to tell him, “You start. You be the first to die.” Still, this is an example of very poor writing, not an example of preaching mass destruction. Firehammer has written far better stuff than this, so this essay is just one more of the mediocre Objectivist things piling up.

But the mediocrity didn’t stop there. Hsieh, seeing her chance to get rid of the monkey-wrench gumming up her Perigo works, banned Firehammer and Cass from posting on her site. That’s her prerogative, of course. But in her haste, did she give honest reasons? After all, this is a public forum open to all to read. Nope. She lied. She categorically stated the following in this post:

I have deleted Reginald Firehammer's post about his article, since it is beyond vile. Under the banner of Objectivism, it advocates the mass extinction of humanity as a method of "saving the world" for the self-sufficient individualists.

Ahem…

Regi “advocates the mass extinction of humanity”? Under the banner of Objectivism? Where on earth did he advocate that? He wrote really, really poorly about the possibility of mass extermination happening due to a pandemic, he called it some dude’s method, but did he advocate that? Sorry. No cigar. That was not only wrong, that was a purposeful lie.

So where’s the mediocrity here? That kind of lie is immoral, not mediocre. Right?

Wrong. It’s just bickering. It’s not really worth the moral attention of an honest man. What is mediocre about it is both the bickering and the concept of “rational passion” that is dragged through the mud. Hsieh can always say later that she was so outraged that she accidentally misstated Regi’s position or whatever. She can have her cake and eat it too.

But in terms of reflecting on mass extinction, has Hsieh, qua Objectivist, forgotten about Atlas Shrugged? Humanity was dying at the end of that story, including good guys like Eddie Willers. Do starvation, mass illness and gang warfare count? That was what was going on at the end of the book. Then the rugged individualist producers went back to save the world.

So why the double standard? Why does Rand get to make money off of reflecting on mass extinction and even create a philosophy by dramatizing it and Firehammer is not even allowed to write a dreadful article about it? Well, for one thing, Rand was never Perigo’s ally. Hsieh is. The mediocrity here – the mediocrity of spirit – is that the “moral outrage” Hsieh staged in public is nothing more than political bullshit to get rid of an inconvenient poster.

Valliant, of course, chimed in to ride piggy-back on Hsieh’s “moral outrage” to disassociate himself from Firehammer for good.

Funny. That is how you do show business in Brazil – you step on people who have helped you once you get into a better position, all the while pretending you are pious. Valliant has performed that role to perfection.

Ah me! The mediocrity is killing me! What a sick joke played on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of productive competence and integrity!

Hysterical scapegoating, obscene fifth-rate ranting masqueraded as satire, fifth-rate political propaganda pawned off as a short story, piss-poor scholarship, contemplation of mass extermination of the human race as a “method” for saving the world and dirty politics as usual cloaked as “moral outrage” – this is today’s online Objectivism. There are tons more of this kind of crap out there, too. I simply don’t have the patience or stomach to dissect it.

What a downer! What a real downer!

After this voyage through the intellectual slums, hypocrisy, lack of talent, mediocrity and moral filth of the current online Objectivist movement, it is time to read some Rand and other giants of humanity and take a shower. Now that the bile from some of the more vile mediocre dung has been purged out of my system, it is time to go back to building. I need to keep remembering that all those crummy little folks stay in a spiritual pigsty because they can’t do any better – or they won’t.

The world is beautiful and worth doing my share in it. There is much more out there than the bad. I am also among competent people. Intelligent people. Good people. Friends and intimates I love dearly. We are individuals of honor who can and want to do better – always. Time to look up again – look up at the stars…

Michael

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The Firehammer episode is quite amusing and revealing. Here you'll find the Autonomist's side:

http://theautonomist.com/wowbbforums/view_...=627&forum_id=6

Now the following is interesting. Mrs. Hsieh's reaction to Perigo's piece "Objectivists reeling" was: "Linz, I'm almost in tears from laughing so hard."

But when she becomes herself the subject of satire:

http://theautonomist.com/wowbbforums/view_...rum_id=6&page=2

her sense of humor suddenly evaporates and she doesn't laugh as hard as when other people are the victims:

"The vandal with the maturity of an eight year old is still posting. I will continue to delete the messages and ban IPs. In the meantime, I apologize to anyone who has had to gaze upon even one of those incredibly stupid messages."

Now that piece may perhaps not be a very good satire (although I'll confess that I found it rather funny), but compare that to Perigo's satire that mrs. Hsieh found so terribly funny and which even some Soloists, in general not the most fastidious lot, found far from funny ("pretty nasty", "unfunny", "tasteless", "gutter humor" were some of their qualifications). But mrs. Hsieh seems to have found her soulmate in mr. Perigo; Attila and the Witch Doctor finally found each other!

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MSK wrote,

"Now Hsieh is a relative newcomer to Perigo’s gang. Her prior endorsement of PARC and hatred of the Brandens is the crucial point cementing their relationship. Everything was going along really hunky-dory in long Branden bashing and TOC bashing threads by the “anointed few,” high-fiving each other’s hatred, until one fine day a couple of weeks ago (maybe a little longer) Firehammer popped up out of nowhere on Hsieh’s site and applauded her for something or the other – I believe it was uhm… Branden bashing or TOC bashing. Cass chimed in shortly thereafter.

"I could almost hear the mental cogs screeching as the monkey-wrench hit the gears. How on earth do you get rid of this guy? He’s going to screw up everything. Perigo hates him."

So what you're saying is that it's not too early to start a pool on when Linz and Diana will burn through their current love-fest (which is based on little more than their mutual hatred of the evil Brandens) and officially denounce and disassociate from each other?

OK, I'll start the pot with a one-year subscription to JARS. Anyone who wants to play should throw in something of similar value. The player closest to guessing the date of Linz or Diana's first shrill, public announcement of disassociation from the other (including website/blog banishment) wins all. In the event of a tie, the player whose middle initial comes first in the alphabet wins.

I'm going with November 23, 2006.

J

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I will put a bet on a Linz/Diana break in early fall... late September or early October after the high of the summer seminars has worn off. Their relationship is based on hatred, not love so it will not last in the long run. I will bet an Amazon $20 gift card.

Michael did a damn fine rant. Damn fine. Now I will throw in my thoughts as well....

I am very discouraged by RoR and I seldom participate there anymore. It goes without saying that I am utterly disgusted by SoloP and have never frequented the noodlepoo site because of the downright nastiness. As most of you know I was thrown off SoloP when I resigned from staff. It was mainly guilt by association. I no longer wished to be on the staff of an organization that called Michael all types of names and called Barbara a bitch and actively promoted a smear campaign against her.

Now there is a smear campaign against Michael over his questioning of the Objectivist ethics in emergencies and the rights of children to be protected from harm. I am in full agreement with Michael's point of view, including the necessity of saving a child in danger. He expresses my views very well. When people on the board equate rescuing a helpless child to facism or altruism and talk like getting a child out of harms way is the moral equivalent of slavery or taking on the responsibility of adopting the child, it sickens me. Absolutely sickens me.

When the toddler in the woods topic first came up between Luke and MSK at their monthly group in Florida, Luke literally starting yelling at Michael and calling him a facist in public and then took it to the RoR board. Huh? Michael was never asking anyone to sacrifice anything or to dedicate their life to saving the child or the starving nations of Africa, only that it is necessary to take action and do the right thing as a human being. When another human is in a life or death situation, it is not the time to ponder your political right to say, sorry but you are not my kid and talk about how the kid is imposing on his rights. Such action will cause that child to either die or grow up to be a sociopath. That is so vile I can't even put it into words. Where is their moral compass? What happened to heroism? Maybe the virtue of selfishness is being taken too far. Does a child have to die? I think not.

Many people have turned against Michael and myself recently...Luke, Ethan, John, Theresa, Dean...Not because we are bad people but because we are good. We are not orthodox Objectivists, and on occasion, disagree or question what is being put forth as Objectivism. We are individuals and what really bugs people is that we refuse to stop calling ourselves Objectivists. I am in agreement with the vast majority of the philosophy and want to see it grow and spread known simply as Objectivism, in other words, under the common umbrella of Objectivism. Why chop it up into little pieces and call it Objectivism, objectivism, neo-objectivism, randian, post-randian, and so on and so forth until every who subscribes to the philosophy has given it a new name. This is what the keepers of the flame wish to do. Objectivism is simply not big enough to splinter off like that. Look at politics. There are many who identify themselves as a member of a political party and within the party there are various groups. Because they disagree on one issue is not reason enough for them to give up their party affiliation because they are still fundamentally in agreement with the party.

As Objectivists, we share a unique view that most people do not share. Over the past year of being involved with the online Objectivist movement, I have seen people gang up and turn on each other. Making enemies from friends. This is cultish behavior and is very surprising that it happens in a group of people who call themselves individualists.

Whatever....

Kat

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I wrote about Pianka on RoR. The reaction to that, when I zoom out in my mind, is not about environmentalism at all (some environmentalists are just vile), but more about being just as reactionary AS THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS.

Obviously (some) people are going to choose to do what they do. The RoR folks understood; however I can't say that for all people.

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The kind of small-minded bickering we see so often is a short-cut to virtue. One sees it all the time among Christians, or at least I have. The concern is not with trying to achieve something for oneself, but merely to try to position oneself as somehow better than someone else. They call it "Holier than Thou."

There is a name for this among Objectivists. Someone coined one of those Objectivist icon names for this....... Social Metaphysician? Yea, that's it.

It's a childish game. It also doesn't work. If it worked, some morning the practitioner would wake up and say, "I have proven I am better than x, y, and z, so I need not prove this any more." In my experience, these people are never able to do this. They must daily prove that they are better than someone else in some respect they claim is important. Sometimes, this is by claiming they slice an onion better. Not important you say? Oh, it is for the terminally insecure under-achiever! They will even take other's writings out of context or twist the meaning of their words until they are unrecognizable to manufacture their superiority out of nothing. Now, that is really desperate.

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In my mind, any action that is intended to manipulate the perception of relative social status is an action of social metaphysics. There is much too much of this in the Objectivist movement.

Paul

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Kat,

Some time ago, I quit calling myself an Objectivist, and made my decision public.

But what I quickly discovered is that if you criticize the orthodox interpretation of Rand, or agree with Rand on X while deviating on Y, you're still regarded as a heretic. How you label yourself doesn't matter, unless you entirely vacate the turf that the orthodoxy claims for itself. Chris Sciabarra has had the same experience. I'm sure others have, too.

Besides, the ARIans now distinguish between Objectivism (closed) and Objectivist philosophy (open, but somehow in the spirit of the closed stuff), which means they're a lot closer to those slack Kelleyites than they want to admit.

Paul,

I'm a realist about status--it will never cease to be a force in human social dynamics. I just don't think that it has to rule us, the way many sociologists would claim (or that Tom Wolfe would).

Still, Objectivism is about valuing individual achievement and devaluing "competitive social comparison" (as self-esteem researchers call it). It's amazing how oblivious some people can be about all of this.

Robert Campbell

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Robert,

Earning social status and manipulating the perception of social status are distinct activities. I respect the first and detest the second. I have a keen antenna for social metaphysics-- manipulating the perception of social status-- and appreciate the counter manipulation of the manipulators Francisco style (or Mike Lee style).

Paul

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Michael,

You realize that the only reason I read anything on SoloP or RoR these days is because y'all make it sound so wacky that I have to see for myself. I usually regret it. I'm not exactly sure if I regret reading "Objectivists Reeling" or not, though. It's just so fuckin' fascination, y'know? :lol: Really. Like a car wreck or something. It's a genuinely surreal experience. What is he lampooning exactly? I get that there are certain people for whom he has nurtured a thorough contempt (the height of which he expresses by picturing them giving someone head--this from a gay man? Does that seem right to you?), but beyond that what is the subject of his little fantasy?

Well there's the alcoholism thingy. I'm not saying Linz is an alcoholic, but maybe it wouldn't be totally out of line to refer to him as an Alcoholist? He certainly finds the subject to be an endless source of inspiration.

The closest approximation I can come to a legitimate rhetorical theme of his satire is that Linz hates people who admit they've made errors or changed their minds, specifically, objectivist leaders who have made errors or changed their minds. Such people deserve nothing but scorn. All that accountability and honesty is really just too much to stomach, I guess.

And I know what "ass licking" you've done, Michael, to get Barbara to post on your board--exactly none, unless one considers respectful correspondence and honest admiration for another living human being "ass kissing." Well, it seems Linz does.

Damn, I cannot imagine the self-styled leader of any political movement in history making such a gratuitous ass of himself so publicly with the expectation that people would applaud--unless it be Nero, or Caligula or maybe Louis XIV.

-Kevin

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I'm not going to take Jonathan up on his bet because he got the best date! And Kevin, thank you for that.

Here's a reality test for you, folks.

If you start feeling moved by the "defending a hero" and "fighting amoralism" and "total passion for the total height" type rhetoric, I suggest you step back, shake it off just for a second and take a hard look at the people who make those grand utterances.

What have they done in life?

Look very close and you will see one failure after another - a pattern. A small achievement might appear, but only in a sporadic instance or other. Look hard. You will see what it really is - an exception to their failed lives and empty souls. I have seen nothing that will last beyond a few years after the death of any of these particular crusaders. Certainly nothing anywhere near the stature of We The Living, much less The Fountainhead. (I will not disrespect Rand's magnum opus by citing the achievement of that within this context.)

These people talk about individualism and are tribal collectivists underneath, trying to form gangs. They talk about being heroes and are parasites underneath, feeding on other Objectivists. They talk about Rand's achievement and have no achievement of their own, except trying to trash the reputation of other people.

They need Objectivists who have admitted error to scapegoat because they don't even have the capacity to recognize error when it stares them in the face from the other side of the mirror. And they need famous Objectivists to "take down" so they can steal some of the shine. They have no shine of their own.

These intellectual bloodsuckers hold themselves up to the world as Rand's New Intellectual. They are mediocre garbage.

Ask yourself, in such a moment, if you are looking hard, "Do I want to fight for a world so that I can be like one of them?" Then look at your dreams and your own achievements in life.

The answer should be clear.

Michael

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Honouring creative passion was one of Rand's messages. Devaluing those with different perspectives was another. Ask yourself which lesson resonates with your spirit. The answer will tell you a lot about who you are.

Paul

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Paul,

Exactly. I was on my way out of being a Randroid when I began to realize that the first was what mattered, and the second too often got in the way.

I dare you to put your post on SOLOPassion as a quote.

Robert

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MSK:Ask yourself, in such a moment, if you are looking hard, "Do I want to fight for a world so that I can be like one of them?" Then look at your dreams and your own achievements in life.

Michael, no one wants to be like anyone else, it doesn't matter whom do you ask, people will always say; I want to be who I am, Sam I am!

CD

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Ciro,

You are correct on one level. But little power mongers like to intimidate people into adopting a "party line" to the extent that they lose their individuality. And the mediocre people I discussed do that under the guise of "morality."

I worked in both art and entertainment. One of plums of entertainment is to make a fad that catches on. You try to get people to say "I want to be that too." It could be a catch phrase, a hair style, even a restaurant to go to a lot.

Trying to be colorful and faddish is one of the tricks some of these mediocre people use to gain an audience.

So I was just making a call for people to let go of the fad for a minute and see if (1) they liked being part of a gang, and (2) they wanted to join in group scapegoating and leave their own achievements to the side.

These mediocre people do this and they do very little else in life.

Michael

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Robert,

The truth is I am not curious about them. I haven't paid them much attention. I briefly scanned some of the SOLOPassion site, was not impressed, and moved on. I'm not interested in their apparent currency of exchange, nor in the product they seem to be selling. Their currency is social manipulation-- by various means, some of which have been discussed by Michael-- and their product is relative social status. The law of exchange is thinly veiled mutual contempt. I see no value there.

I prefer to write here because I respect the people and the content. The currency here is intelligent perspectives and the product is an growth in one’s understanding of existence. The law of exchange is mutual respect. There is great value here.

Every time I choose to involve myself in a discussion I consider the time it must take away from the other things in my life that are important. To compete with my wife, my kids, my work, my leisure, and my sleep, getting involved in a discussion has to have considerable value to me. While I will admit there would be some entertainment value to manipulating the social manipulators, it would not be enough to compete for my time.

I should mention that I have previously played no part in the Objectivist movement. I went through my Randroid phase, over a period of nine months, twenty years ago. It was pretty self-contained, a relationship between me and Rand’s books. Since then I have kept the faith reading N. Branden’s work and forged my own path. My ideas about existence were just my ideas about existence. This is the only time I have expressed my perspective and participated in an Objectivist forum.

Ultimately, what all this means is that many of the motives people have from being associated with the Objectivist movement for a long time, I do not share. I am not here for the fight. I am here for the exchange of intelligent ideas. And I think it is the exchange of intelligent ideas that will eventually lead to the growth of Objectivism. Despite the orthodoxy’s deliberate attempts to stop it, Objectivism will evolve into something more complete. Evolution cannot be stopped. It won’t be the first time that it is the black sheep that lead the forces of evolution.

Paul

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The truth is I am not curious about them. I haven't paid them much attention. I briefly scanned some of the SOLOPassion site, was not impressed, and moved on. I'm not interested in their apparent currency of exchange, nor in the product they seem to be selling. Their currency is social manipulation-- by various means, some of which have been discussed by Michael-- and their product is relative social status. The law of exchange is thinly veiled mutual contempt. I see no value there.  

In the idiom of the sixties: " that's some heavy shit".

L W

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Paul

Hear hear!

LW got it right. That is some heavy shit. That also bears repeating.

The truth is I am not curious about them. I haven't paid them much attention. I briefly scanned some of the SOLOPassion site, was not impressed, and moved on. I'm not interested in their apparent currency of exchange, nor in the product they seem to be selling. Their currency is social manipulation-- by various means, some of which have been discussed by Michael-- and their product is relative social status. The law of exchange is thinly veiled mutual contempt. I see no value there.

You are one of my favorite quiet voices of reason and your comments often help bring me back to focus.

Michael

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Honouring creative passion was one of Rand's messages. Devaluing those with different perspectives was another.

I think the first message is what hooks people (most of the people who become attracted by her work), but then the second is what begins to ruin them because they believe that the moral denunciation is required in order to honor the creative passion. The linking of the two starts especially with Galt's Speech. A large percentage of the speech is denunciation, in an egregiously "psychologizing" (as she would later define that term) way. Her rant on "the soul of the mystic" (which I hated from the first time I read it) couldn't have been topped by Jonathan Edwards at his most extreme. And then, in all of her non-fiction writing, there are always the denunciatory passages linked with the positive content. ITOE is the least bad in that respect, but even there she takes swipes at the presumed dishonesty of persons proposing different views from hers.

Back when I was still at Northwestern, I had a philosophy course with Henry Veatch (whom I adored for his sparkling blend of intelligence and impish humor). I was curious as to what Veatch would think of Rand -- though I had a strong "hunch." I selected some articles from the Newsletter and the magazine to show him. This was before ITOE appeared in its original magazine version, or I'd have taken that. I tried to find items which had the least of what I came to call her "castigation breaks" (sort of like commercial breaks). One of the items I selected was of course the review of Randall on Aristotle (Veatch was a noted Aristotelean). I've always recalled his remarks.

"Well, Miss Stuttle," he started -- he always addressed students in a formal fashion, I think as a mark that he was treating us as grown-up intellectuals (and expected us to act as such) -- "much as I could appreciate what she might be doing for Aristotle's popularity, I do think that she doesn't quite understand Aristotle. And I find when I'm reading her that just when I seem to expect calm explication I get instead rhetorical denunciation."

Yeah, well, what could I tell him? I had to grin and agree.

Ellen

___

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I agree with Ellen. And it's fascinating to see how MUCH more respectively Leonard Peikoff speaks of Aristotle -- especially in comparing the appropriate view of Aristotle with that held by a number of Objectivists who tend to denigrate him for being a moderate Realist and/or for not being Rand! In "Objectivism through Induction" he had scathing things to say about the Aristotle-denigrators among his Objectivist compadres. Get a load of this! Talking about Aristotle's logic, he wrote:

That is ineffable, in terms of the mammoth stature of what he’s doing, and it’s the exact…the analog or the counterpart in epistemology of what he did in metaphysics.  In metaphysics, he looked for the laws of being qua being.  What were the principles of everything that existed, by virtue of the fact that existed?  And now, he’s asking a companion question in cognition:  What are the principles that govern valid thought qua valid thought, no matter what is the subject matter?  

Now, this is a process of induction that could never again be equaled in originality and scale, because he’s taking in the totality on both of the fundamental branches of philosophy.  So, no one could ever equal Aristotle.  And Ayn Rand was, of course, the first one to say this, and she was very indignant if anybody said, “Well, Aristotle made some suggestions but, you, Ayn Rand, are really the genius.”  She really did not like that, because she thought that means the person is very superficial, and they don’t realize that Aristotle, in one lifetime, asked the most fundamental questions in the most universal form and gave the right answers to both and, without which, you know, we would still be floundering in a pre-scientific, pre-industrial civilization.

Also:

 So, the paradox here is that Aristotle, who was being accused always of being a narrow-minded rationalist, a champion of deduction, who does not appreciate induction, actually discovered the nature and rules of deduction by a series of staggering and original inductions.  So, he was a master in the practice of induction, and he used it to reach the rules of deduction.  So, to point him as the Father of Logic and say, “Oh, well, he only knew deduction” is ridiculous.  He didn’t discuss the theory of induction, but he was the greatest inducer of all time, bar none.  So, I always think that is the most grotesque injustice to say, “Aristotle didn’t do anything about induction.  We needed Francis Bacon,” you know, is what they’d say, which is, you know like, I don’t know, you can’t compare Aristotle and Francis Bacon in the same evening, let alone in the same sentence.

And especially this!

...it is completely wrong to make comparisons as I’ve heard ignorant people do, how much better Ayn Rand is than Aristotle and how many mistakes Aristotle made.  You could not say that in her presence, I guarantee you, because she would condemn it as utterly unhistorical, unjust, ungrateful, not to even go into other terms.  So trying to appreciate the historical context in which Aristotle functioned is basically like trying to say, this guy who invented the wheel, what good is that?  He couldn’t have invented a Lexus, which has four wheels and makes such fantastic use of them.  But the question is: where did the Lexus come from?

These comments are out of context, and the lectures are really good, so I hope this encourages some of you to save up your shekels and invest in the CDs.

REB

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Thanks, Roger, for Peikoff's insightful defense (and context-setting) about Aristotle.

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However, Michael, I do have to say I wish you had resisted the temptation to start a thread with a title like "online objectivist mediocrity" whose purpose is to take on your tormentors / opponents:

"Aw, Phil..you're no fun! Even just one tiny kidney punch?..Enough to draw blood?....Just one!!"

I thought this was supposed to be an oasis whose purpose is to focus on the productive, constructive, and positive. You can always reply to them or display your contempt for them on RorR, if -absolutely- necessary (but hopefully in principle on the philosophical or judgment mistakes and not re their character, motives, or whether they are successful or productive). And once you open things up to this sort of fight, it simply invites more of the same. (And there is literally no end to it...the opponents - just as angry and offended and outraged as you - will come at you once again and try to cut your guts out.)

On a related matter: I would urge this same course on Robert Campbell, Robert Bidinotto, and Roger Bissell as well, whether here or on another website or venue. Skip the *personal* type of criticism, even if they've done it to you. Let others be on that level. [ I think one can respond to the principles which are disagreed about...that's what Kelley does in T&T which I've urged them to make available for free download on their website, since F&V is available.]

"But I don't think of you" is not always possible, but should be the rule with regard to getting into the gutter or trench warfare or personalities by and large.

Is it clear who wins when the conversation turns to this level? Seldom the more thoughtful, rational argument. It's in the interest of he who has the best case to not get deflected from the higher level of discourse.

Phil

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Phil,

You are making an equivalence mistake here. This one is a bit different.

You presume that my criticism was on the same level as the obscene garbage with convoluted logic these pretentious little people produce. It isn't.

I agree with the folly of prolonging this thing. However, I had to express my total contempt for the blatant low quality that has been exhibited by those who make a career out of calling others names in the Objectivist community. If they want to call names, they set themselves up for judgment. So I judge (and modestly speaking, I can):

What they normally produce is crap. Pure mediocre crap.

Look at what Rand wrote and look at what they write. It's embarrassing. If you find the quality to be the same, we have a vast ocean between our standards.

Making a stand for decency and not bickering is not the same as practicing sanction of the victim. I have written about about turning the other cheek as a strategy. I do not practice it as a virtue.

I seek no peace or truce with these crummy little people. They have my utmost contempt. They are intellectual and moral trash.

Michael

Note (edit) - If they (a select few and we know who they are, don't we?) start producing anything bearing any kind of quality or lasting value, I could revise my appraisal. I won't be holding my breath...

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