The Passion of James Valliant’s Criticism, Part II

Neil Parille

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An additional consideration is that the diaries had already been published, in 1997, without the parts about her split with Branden. These passages simply weren't commercial with a big book already in print.

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Maybe I need to re-read the Branden biographies, but I don't remember seeing a lot of victim mentality. As I recall, the books were confessions of their authors' misdeeds, as well as accounts of both Rand's poor behavior and her greatness.


Your recollection is correct. You don't remember seeing a lot of victim mentality because there was none. This is simply an attempt to keep one of the Valliant/ARI legends alive in the face of devastating proof that PARC is a totally corrupt document. If you want to see a real victim mentality, look at two of Perigo's amazing recent statements here (Sun, 2007-08-26 04:34):

I have never deceived, defrauded, backstabbed, connived, betrayed...

and here (Sun, 2007-08-26 10:03):

Defining moments ...

... that made me realise I, in my naive expectation that SOLO would be all plain sailing, had underestimated the Shakespearian perfidy and perverseness of human beings:

There follows a litany of some breathtaking selective recreation of reality according to a guru-wannabe's metaphysical vanity judgments. The root message is that the evil Brandens are the cause of almost everything wrong in his life, including Chris Sciabarra's observations, and the rest that is wrong is because the other side bows to Peikoff as guru (instead of, say... er... him, for instance :) ).

There is more operating here than simply a personality thing (other than Perigo's foolish vanity and victim mentality I just mentioned—and I mention him, poor thing, to give him some attention, because his real value to the Objectivist community has turned into being merely the host of the place where Valliant posts). There is the very role of Objectivism in the lives of adherents at root. As I see it, on one side, you have people who are interested in the philosophy as a source of practical principles for better living and to attain their goals easier. They want something to use for their lives. They know and feel the meaning of life all the way down, regardless of what ideas they encounter. They are ends in themselves.

On the other side, you have those who are more attracted to Objectivist legends and mythology. They seek a secular religion to give vent to their urge for faith. (I have an article coming later on the sense of reverence in human beings where this is discussed.) They want something to believe in. They want something larger than their lives so they can give themselves over to it. They seek the meaning of life outside themselves. (This is what makes them vulnerable to tribal feelings and guru-type manipulators.) They don't define or even acknowledge the source of their urge, so they make the most astounding rewrites of reality.

Getting back to Jim, this is not the first time he has made incorrect statements about the works of the Brandens. Here is a post I made in May in response to some of his incorrect allegations. (I will quote it partially, but the sheer overkill of facts I presented to show how the first point was wrong is well worth reading. Click the light red arrow or see here to read it.)

James Heaps-Nelson,

I don’t want to do an inter-forum thing, but there is a PARC related theory of omission you have been mentioning on SOLOP (see, for example, here, here, and here. I would like to address some points where there is a severe accuracy problem before they become more of the folklore that will hang around as a minor irritation for a while before they disappear down the memory hole slated for PARC.

This is especially pertinent since Valliant has started posting on SOLOP again. Although the bulk of your allegations are not in PARC, they are clearly derivative. Here is the list of your allegations (more or less in your own words):

1. Rand was dragged through a bogus psychological counseling charade that the Brandens did not come clean about in their books.

2. Nowhere in Nathaniel Branden's memoir or in Barbara Branden's biography can you find any significant discussion of Rand's development of the Objectivist philosophy in the 1960's. (Both Branden pieces focus on Ayn Rand as novelist to the exclusion of Ayn Rand as philosopher save the philosophical passages in Atlas.)

3. No discussion of the written explication of the Objectivist Ethics in Rand's title essay for VOS or the University of Wisconsin talk unveiling it.

4. No discussion of the articles that would become the Introduction Objectivist Epistemology.

5. No discussion of the material that went into the Romantic Manifesto.

6. It was really only possible for Barbara Branden to render one side of the story. Her research pool only consists of those who split with Ayn Rand.

7. Barbara's biography is entitled The Passion of Ayn Rand, but Rand's passion was only one facet of her personality. Her commitment to reason and rationality looms large as the other major component.

I will not argue the merits of any of these allegations here except their accuracy—are they true or false? I believe if statements like this are to be made responsibly, they should at least correspond to excerpts from the works you mentioned.

Of course the excerpts I presented completely demolished the first allegation as false (Rand participated as one of the perpetrators instead of being "dragged" and the Brandens did come clean, albeit not in great detail). Later, I did not want to continue doing that amount of rebuttal to the other points, although every one of them is equally as false. I had a feeling of hopelessness. Is it possible that people simply can't read?

But the problem I ended up discerning is not in the clarity of the facts. Witness Jim's comment about victim mentality in the Branden works as a response to Neil's article. If a person is rational, there is no way to look at Neil's articles and still think that PARC is a correct document. There are too many errors. But the accuracy of PARC is not really a priority.

The real problem is that the facts presented by the Brandens contradict the Objectivist legends and mythology. Somebody has to pay if the secular religion is to be kept alive. A demon is needed to explain the existence of evil for the god to exist, so to speak. Accuracy of facts is a long, long distant second place to that value in the value-structure of the religious-leaning. And no amount of presentation of facts will alter that priority. Only introspection and coming to grips with the source of that spiritual need will unite mind and body, reason and emotions.

If nobody says anything else in defense of the facts, slowly the distorted versions and Branden-bashing will reappear and become repeated like mantras by these people until they result in incorrect statements by those distant from the controversy, like Jim's statements above. Notice that his statements were presented not as opinions, but as facts. (Jim is not a stupid man, so I don't think he was really aware of how wrong those statements were when he made them. He merely succumbed to the siren's call of the mantra that numbed his rational faculty.)

The very existence of PARC was an attempt to provide this mantra to the flock. And it is a perfect example of the reappearance of Objectivist legends and mythology that have been widely discussed and debunked by facts on many other occasions. Notice that these facts and observations have been presented by many people other than the Brandens. (This is another discussion, but some of them are presented in Neil's article, like Rothbard, for instance.)

The weird part is that had Valliant not been so inept and incompetent, the mantra might have had a chance to take hold in the hearts of those seeking the meaning of life in Objectivism. As it stands at the present, PARC can only be defended by Branden-haters with blinders on their rational faculty, but they are fanatics who will have no impact on the world in the long run. They are beyond reason.


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No kiddin'. When it comes to the victim mentality, who can outdo Lindsay Perigo?

This latest performance made my jaw drop--and I've never had a whole lot of illusions about Mr. Perigo or his propensity to operatic bloviation.

If you want a case study of the person who is drawn to Rand's work because it provides him with a mythology of self, you need look no further. Mr. Perigo is carrying a remarkable load of metaphysical vanity judgments. But, as you noted, he is far from the only actor in Rand-land to be so burdened.

All of that said, I think you are being kind of rough on Jim. Neither The Passion of Ayn Rand nor Judgment Day is an expression of any sort of victim mentality. But plenty remains for biographers to do. I continue to hope for the speedy publication of Anne Heller's book, for instance.


My advice is to reread The Passion of Ayn Rand. Though I was a highly skeptical reader of Jim Valliant's opus, I trusted my memory of PAR and JD, neither of which I had reread recently--so I missed a large proportion of the misrepresentations that Neil Parille has now caught by cross-checking every reference.

Until recently, I also trusted Messrs. Valliant and Fahy, at a minimum, to transcribe Ayn Rand's diary entries correctly. But evidence now abounds that Mr. Valliant has been both sloppy and dishonest in his handling of sources, and his and Mr. Fahy's conduct in online debate has been noteworthy mainly for its non-stop arrogance and game-playing. I hope that Neil does make a formal request to see Ayn Rand's diary pages.

As I've said in a couple of our past online exchanges, I would like to see more work done on Ayn Rand's intellectual development. But who is going to illuminate the details that Nathaniel and Barbara Branden haven't addressed? Given Leonard Peikoff's personal investment in mythologizing Ayn Rand and his participation in air brushing away even the slightest contributions of past rivals, do you see anyone in the Peikovian orbit producing a reliable in-depth study?

Robert Campbell

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Getting back to Jim, this is not the first time he has made incorrect statements about the works of the Brandens.

Well, I don't know Jim all that well, but I very much like what I know of him so far, despite any disagreements that I might have with his personal interpretations or opinions of either of the Brandens or their biographies, and I don't have a huge problem with his seeing "victim mentalities" where I didn't. I can understand why he, or anyone else, might dislike Barbara or Nathaniel, despite the fact that I like and admire both, and why he might be very critical in interpreting the tone, balance or content of their accounts of Rand. The only thing is, I expect the same critical eye to be applied equally to Rand, and I don't know that I see quite that willingness in Jim, and, obviously, there's practically no interest in applying the same standards to Rand when it comes to the regular SOLOP/Valliant gang.

Btw, I see that the idea of Rand's "moral perfection" is being discussed again, with the more devout Objectivists challenging others to point to examples of where Rand knowingly breached her own ethics. When arguing about her moral perfection, it surprises me that the faithful never seem to discuss her To Whom It May Concern article (of course, I could have missed such discussions).

I largely agree with Hsieh's past comments on the issue:

But Rand was obligated to tell the truth about the reason for her break with Branden, which she did not. If she wished to keep the affair private, as would have been reasonable, she could have cited irreconcilable personal differences and even the Brandens' dishonesty. Instead, she fabricated all sorts of false justifications in "To Whom It May Concern" -- and failed to mention the real reason for the break.

In Basic Principles of Objectivism, Nathaniel Branden argues that honesty requires that we take responsibility for the reasonable inferences of others. Misleading technical truths are not honest. Even if every word that Rand wrote about the Branden's in "To Whom It May Concern" were true, the letter would still fail that test miserably.

Ayn Rand's dishonesty in the aftermath of her break with Nathaniel Branden is certainly disappointing to me, but hardly devastating. I admire Rand as a novelist and a philosopher, but her personal conduct is ultimately irrelevant to me.

I think that a person who engaged in such "dishonesty" and very publicly "fabricated all sorts of false justifications" about others can't, by any standard, be considered to have been "morally perfect" (including by the rather malleable standards being bent, twisted and stretched in order to maintain the notion of Rand's perfection).


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I suppose you could say that high self-esteem=completely healthy psychological individual, but I think that is simply a convenient definition. I've seen plenty of high self-esteem individuals who haven't dealt with detritus from their childhood or have issues of some kind. If I get a chemical imbalance in my brain and go into an organically induced depression, have I lost self-esteem? Less dramatically, if someone's parents don't deal with perpetual game-playing behavior when a child is 2 to 8 and a person doesn't completely correct for it on their own, does that mean they lack self-esteem?

I agree that judging issues involving self-esteem (or anything about psychology) can be very complex, which is why I said that I've tended to see the lack of appropriately placed humility as a serious self-esteem issue -- I wouldn't feel comfortable stating that my suspicion about any person's self-esteem, based on his lack of humility or sense of proportion, is an accurate diagnosis.

I piped up because I don't think that a person's apparent confidence, or even his extreme competence at one aspect of his life, necessarily translates to overall "high self-esteem" or psychological health.


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I'm about as far from an Objectivism as church Objectivist as you will find. I also don't like James Valliant very much, although for different reasons than you. I also don't mind people letting the chips fall where they may vis-a-vis Rand.

Also, unlike many I've actually read almost all of Nathaniel Branden's books, which is why I was shocked when I finally made it through Judgment Day. I was shocked at the contrast between that book and his others. He was unkind not only to Rand, but to many others.

I have nothing vested in a perfect persona of Rand. She's been dead for 25 years. I simply think she should be accorded the same objective biographical treatment accorded others. If it turned out to be a factual, negative biography without spin like Thomas Reeves' biography of McCarthy, fine. I admire Rand not for her personal life, which is really none of my business, but for her novels and her philosophy.

Finally, I hate what has been done to Rand's philosophy by ARI. They've stripped it of its innovative spirit and let it become stagnant. Now if you want to read about cutting edge cognitive science and epistemology, you'll learn more by reading Hawkins, Damasio and Kandel than anything in Objectivism. I also think they are much too simplistic about human nature and I tend to be far more physically reductionist than they.

So I disagree with Michael's assessment of me, but I'll leave that to him.


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Whenever there has been what can be called a specialty item with Rand's posthumous works, ARI has used its own presses, Second Renaissance Books and Ayn Rand Institute Press. PARC is the only book I am aware of that contains previously unpublished material by Rand that is either not at a traditional established large publisher or one owned by ARI.

One obvious point about ARI not publishing this hatchet job is it would be easy to bankrupt them with a lawsuit for slander.

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Do you find my evaluation of you,; er... oversimplified? Rather than build up to my point, I will state it here at the beginning. Every time you make one of your incorrect derogatory statements about the Brandens or their works, you do the same thing to them that you now object to.

How does it feel?

You know the rules here, no Branden bashing. And you know that "victim mentality" falls right within that category—a sweeping oversimplified and baseless smear that sounds good because it sometimes appears as a no-no Objectivists level at each other. Like I said, you are not a stupid man. (I imagine you agree with that part of my assessment of you.) So you said that with eyes open.

Now if you are interested, really interested, in looking dispassionately, you will see that I did not evaluate you personally except to state that you were not stupid and that you were distant from the controversy. Do you disagree with either of those evaluations? Are you stupid? Are you in the middle? I don't see it.

I did, however, impugn the accuracy of your statements (with proof) and this inaccuracy is what reflected on you, not my own words about you as a person.

I do not think you are one of the religious Objectivists all the way down, but I do see evidence of bursts when you pop out with derogatory comments about the Brandens that are easily rebutted by simply pointing to published text. You may not consider what I am about to say very friendly, but I mean it in the most tender, benevolent and goodwill-ish manner I can muster. If I were you, I would reflect deeply on what leads me to express false statements like that in public. You have a good mind, but it turns off at those moments.

I am not saying that the Brandens cannot be rebutted. If there is something they wrote that bothers you because of accuracy or whatever, by all means, cite it (with actual quotes or page numbers or things like that) and let us discuss it. Right/wrong judgments of their words or deeds here is OK. What is not OK is good/evil judgments or crap like "victim mentality." These people are good people and if someone wants to smear them, they can do it elsewhere.

Notice that I hold the same policy about Rand. If someone wants to speculate on right/wrong or reasons that might have led her to error, oversimplification, or outright deception (when it happened in specific events like the essay, "To Whom It May Concern"), I have no problem with that. There was often a lot of pain and complex motivations involved in her acts. I interfere when comments start bordering on the position that she was putting one over on people with her philosophy, etc., or that she was a lunatic.

Unfortunately, she is the center of a cult-like movement and many things she did and said encouraged such behavior. We need to get at the root of this in order to wipe it out of Objectivism. That is the only way the ideas on a formal level are going to have any real impact on the culture. A cult will not, even if it grows a little through grants from millionaires.

So this leads to discussions of Rand that border on the edge at times. Some of them make me uncomfortable, but I try to keep a balance with that goal in mind. OL is not a place for anyone to proclaim that Rand was an evil person with evil ideas, or mentally impaired, but it is also not a place to whitewash her less morally appealing acts, or justify incorrect or vague parts of the philosophy with logical pretzels to deify her words..

The Brandens made some bad moral choices, but they were specific and involved specific matters. Rand ditto—bad specific moral choices that involved specific matters. That is reality and I don't mind reality. The judgments should be leveled at the specific acts, not at the people. They all lived honorable and productive lives. There is no Hitler or Stalin (or even a Lonnie Leonard) among them.

Incidentally, I agree with you that Judgment Day was overly harsh at times, but I saw nothing in it that was essentially worse or unfair than what Rand said about people she did not like. Frankly, it was interesting to see the history of the birth of Objectivism through Nathaniel's eyes. And I personally have the emotional maturity to realize that I was reading one man's perspective when I read it.

But on unfairness, when I look inside myself, I have to apply the same standard to both Nathaniel Branden and Ayn Rand. If the unfair behavior of one appalls me, so must the other. If it does not, the problem is not in the unfair behavior per se, but in my perception of it. That is what I am calling you on.

Incidentally, I find nothing very appalling in the entire history of Objectivism. I see a lot of petty stuff like the excommunications, etc., but nothing I would call appalling. The affair was really nothing more important than a colorful episode. I am appalled by German concentration camps, genocide, bigotry, suicide bombers and things like that. What one person thinks of another in a fringe philosophy (so far) is really light-weight stuff by comparison.

I urge you to think about my words instead of considering them as a personal attack. You have a good mind and that is the part I am addressing right now.


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United States law concerning libel, slander, and defamation is a really messy area these days.

As currently formulated, the laws allow countless suits that the plaintiffs will almost certainly not win in court, but can proceed a long way--sometimes all the way to trial--without being thrown out by the judge.

I doubt that a suit against Jim Valliant for libel would be successful, because Nathaniel and Barbara Branden would be classified as "public figures." And the standard for libel against a public figure, as per the 1964 Supreme Court decision, isn't merely that what is said about the person is false, but that it is a deliberate lie exhibiting "reckless disregard for the truth" or "actual malice."

Besides, suing Mr. Valliant would cost him a lot of money and a lot of hassle, but I doubt it would embarrass him. Au contraire, he could pose as a gallant defender of Ayn Rand's honor, braving her vile enemies' last-ditch effort to bring her down.

If the judge could be persuaded to include the Ayn Rand Institute and/or the Estate of Ayn Rand as a co-defendant, Leonard Peikoff et al. would also get opportunities for gallant posing. The opportunity to embarrass them would come during "discovery," when, as per current American tort law, the plaintiff's lawyers could demand truckloads of documents. But ARI could probably get itself off the hook; I'm not so sure about the Estate.

Bottom line: The work of Neil Parille and Jordan Zimmerman and Michael Stuart Kelly and others has thoroughly discredited Mr. Valliant's opus, for much less cost and aggravation than would be entailed by suing the author.

Robert Campbell

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There was some unacknowledged anger in JD, but it was not a leitmotif of the book. I think the more Barbara researched her biography the less anger and the more love she felt for Ayn Rand. I didn't see any anger, suppressed or not, in Passion for the subject. Of course, the biography sees AR through the author's eyes, which is true for biographies generally and without exception.


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I also consider Jim to be one of the good guys.

I agree with you about the harshness of Judgment Day. I will go farther and say that some of the evaluations of other members of Ayn Rand's Circle have an air of sibling rivalry about them that I'm sure is authentic but is not especially becoming to the author. As Tommy Smothers used to say to Dicky Smothers, "Mother always liked you best."

But no, the nastiest things said about anyone in JD/MYWAR aren't as nasty as Ayn Rand's gratuitous slams at Bertie Russell.

Robert Campbell

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We are bound to have disagreements about Barbara and Nathaniel and I know you admire them very much. I don't require perfection in the people I admire, but it's becoming increasingly clear to me that we have to look outside the movement for the kind of heroes Ayn Rand wrote about.

I work at a company that had three founders that innovated with the utmost integrity. When I see heroes, I see Andy Grove, Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. Although they had many severe disagreements, I can't imagine Andy Grove writing a negative or even mixed book about Robert Noyce who died in 1990. My brother gave a talk at our local Objectivist club about Grove who was known to be abrasive and incendiary in the 1970's.

I do know that Grove would scarcely have time for the kinds of arguments that crop up in Objectivist circles. That is an internal gut check that I also fail from time to time. Luckily for me, whenever I approach the deep end in this regard, I head back to my job and the people I love and realize I don't have to have all the answers or even come to a settled conclusion about Objectivism's tough questions. The world will go on with or without us.


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I agree with you about the libel situation. At the beginning, I actually pushed for the Brandens to sue. From what I saw (and still see), publishing a book-long thesis claiming that a renowned psychologist and therapist has the soul of a spiritual rapist is libel, despite the public figure status. I would be very interested to see the so-called proof laid out in court on that one.

But in the end, PARC has not merited such employment of resources. There has been no impact at all on the professional lives on the Brandens (like loss of profits or opportunities), despite the hysterical and vulgar level of name-calling that went on at a few low-traffic Internet sites. The book certainly didn't sell anything.

So I was wrong before. Now I agree that Valliant's incompetence is not worth legal action. The ineptitude assures that the book will never become taken seriously outside of a very small group of people who are immune to reason and objective writing/research standards when their pet peeve is involved. In fact, in the long run, Valliant did the Brandens a favor since PARC has been loudly proclaimed by Branden haters as their best shot.

In the big picture, it has been no more than a tiny bit of flatulence in the wind (please excuse my vulgarity), so if that is their best shot...


I truly lament the ammo it gives Rand-haters, though.


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If you want to see the kind of heroes Rand wrote about, look inside her books. They don't exist anywhere else. They are "a selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments."

They exist for inspiration regarding specific issues and they are wonderful in that regard. I personally get great inspiration from them, as I do from several sources. But anyone who looks to them for the meaning of life condemns himself to the futility of living another person's fiction.

I have no doubt the men you mentioned were vastly more interested in their own lives and values than molding their actions to fit some fictional characters.

EDIT: Apropos. Would your real life heroes call their competitors or those who disagreed with them "subhuman," evil," "savages," "mindless," "trash," "swamp," "shriveled creature with the wizened face of a child," "whim worshiping," etc.? Rand did. Often. She also had many choice terms for people with whom she broke. I never hear you complain about this part of Rand's personality. Do you think this should be emulated? Do you admire this? (I am not talking about calling Hitler these names. I am talking about using these terms for honest and sincere thinkers.)

As an extra thought, if you really want to make use of Rand's heroes on a very selfish level, do not use them as yardsticks to measure other people with. Instead, look inside yourself and let them illuminate some of the dark corners and allow certain parts of your soul to bask in their light. That is really what they are for.


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Just to make sure the context of my previous post is understood, I want it to be clear that I take the dictum that man is an end in himself literally. Thus each person's life is an end in itself, not a means to serve Rand's vision or the vision of any other person.

Her heroes can only illuminate facets of such a complex creature as a human being. They are archetypes, each with a specific theme like the Greek gods were. They were not—nor could they be—real people.

How this ties to PARC is the theme of that incompetent mishmash: Valliant tries to assert that Rand's life was an archetype of moral perfection. Unfortunately for him and his tribe, Rand was a human being. Her life was an end in itself, not a means to their ends.

And that applies to the Brandens, just as it apples to each of us.


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Since this is a two-part article, a post I made recently on the Part 1 thread bears repeating here.

On seeing that Wendy McElroy was the only libertarian to find anything good about PARC (see her review on, I was delighted to see her publishing Neil's article above at ifeminists:

The Passion of James Valliant’s Criticism

(published yesterday, Aug. 28, 2007)

Valliant recently claimed the following here, Wendy McElroy Celebrates "The Woman - Ayn Rand", where he was plugging her site.

Despite our differences, she remains one of the most rational voices out there on the subject of Ayn Rand and always worth checking out.

I am sure he appreciates her rationality in posting Neil's critique of his shoddy standards. After all, Rand does deserve the best and all that...


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If you want to see the kind of heroes Rand wrote about, look inside her books. They don't exist anywhere else. They are "a selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments."

They exist for inspiration regarding specific issues and they are wonderful in that regard. I personally get great inspiration from them, as I do from several sources. But anyone who looks to them for the meaning of life condemns himself to the futility of living another person's fiction.

I have no doubt the men you mentioned were vastly more interested in their own lives and values than molding their actions to fit some fictional characters.

EDIT: Apropos. Would your real life heroes call their competitors or those who disagreed with them "subhuman," evil," "savages," "mindless," "trash," "swamp," "shriveled creature with the wizened face of a child," "whim worshiping," etc.? Rand did. Often. She also had many choice terms for people with whom she broke. I never hear you complain about this part of Rand's personality. Do you think this should be emulated? Do you admire this? (I am not talking about calling Hitler these names. I am talking about using these terms for honest and sincere thinkers.)

As an extra thought, if you really want to make use of Rand's heroes on a very selfish level, do not use them as yardsticks to measure other people with. Instead, look inside yourself and let them illuminate some of the dark corners and allow certain parts of your soul to bask in their light. That is really what they are for.



I don't have an issue with calling out Rand for negativity. I have also elsewhere stated that she was wrong in requiring people's allegiance to her and denouncing others without providing evidence in To Whom It May Concern. I have no way of evaluating her personality other than reading her books, watching her personal appearances and reading accounts on all sides by people who knew her.

The main thing I admire about Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove is that they were all painfully aware of their own weaknesses and sought people out who complemented them. Noyce was a genius inventor and good with people, Gordon Moore ran an R&D lab and was a somewhat nerdy technical implementation genius, Andy Grove was a data-driven taskmaster, firebrand and production management expert. I often think that the wonderful cultural legacy of Intel was that it was started by good-natured Noyce and Moore, but carried to greatness by Grove.

People who know me also know that I'm aware of my weaknesses (of which there are many :-) ).


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Changing gears, I had a two-week exchange with James Valliant on solopassion awhile back that struck me as odd. He was trying to tie the whole nonorthodox movement under one big umbrella and tell everybody that TAS was bad because they had invited Nathaniel and Barbara to speak. He cited the one page in Truth and Toleration out of 75 that dealt with the Great Schism. I asked him if he agreed with the Peter Schwartz statements about libertarians being as bad as the Ayatollah Khoemeini. It became clear that Valliant had not read the rest of David Kelley's book. That overreaching really bothered me. I will have some comment on Neil's criticisms of PARC when I have a chance to do cross-references and the like.

Many of us have lots of varied reasons for choosing alternatives to the orthodox movement. Mine have to do with the ridiculous kinds of group pressure and conformity found there. The other is the lack of engagement with cutting edge work in cognitive science which I consider to be of paramount to innovation in the philosophy.

I also think it is of paramount importance that movement issues not become a criteria for association and a tool of group pressure. Individualism requires that individuals come to their own conclusions about the things that matter to them. Part of this is an information gathering exercise. The other part is a recognition that the movement issues, although worth addressing, are small compared to what needs to be done. A closed-in, paranoid, nonadaptive philosophy will not change minds. I hope that people will repair to Rand's concept of the men of unborrowed vision in the world. This is what appealed to me in Rand when I read her as a youngster. It still appeals to me now.


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I am wondering if anyone has picked up Carol Tavris's recent book "Mistakes were Made (but not by Me)."

What makes me bring it up in this thread is not only her topic, but that Center for Inqury** has a great downloadable audio discussion (podcast) with her -- a possible answer to those of us who wonder at Valliant's non-response to criticism. I also think Michael and Jame H-N would like it ("Sure, mistakes were made, a lot, and all were made by YOU!" seems to be the subtext).


Tavris is a great psychologist. Great speaker, good writer, cracker-jack brain.

Here's a excerpt of the blurb on the CFI page:

In this wide-ranging discussion with D.J. Grothe,

Carol Tavris explains “cognitive dissonance,” and

how it can lead to self-deception and self-

justification. She talks about the ways that

reducing dissonance leads to real-world negative

effects in the areas of politics, the legal system,

and in interpersonal relationships. She also

explores what dissonance theory says about

confronting those who hold discredited beliefs,

what it may say about religious and paranormal

belief, what implications the theory may have for

scientists communicating with the public, and the

role of the scientific temper in avoiding the

pitfalls of cognitive dissonance.

I haven't yet bought the book, but have been a fan of her writings (in relation to crazy 80s therapy cults, which were my hobbyhorse at the time).

Tavris's explicit backbone to discussion is 'cogniitive dissonance,' and I can't be the only one who wonders if this is what afflicts James Valliant's thinking and behaviour. I don't generally comment on books that I haven't read (neither of the Branden books on their time with Rand, nor The Passion of yadda yadda Creeticks), but Neil's Valliant critique at IFeminist is superb, and got me to scratching an intellectual itch that I didn't really have time for.

The podcast is found at Point of Inguiry, a 'digital media' arm of CFI/CSI**, devoted to rational thought, albeit non-Randian.

There are too many good lines from the audio (it's a 49 minutes), but one about Lincoln made stuck out, something like: "He was wise enough to surround himself with people who disagreed with him."

At bottom, a note I sent to Neil on his article appearance at


** CFI is associated with the contemporary skeptic orgs of CSI. CSI = Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, until this year CSICOP, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

Main base in Amherst, New York, but spreading its evul tentacles all over the world, and publisher of Skeptical Inguirer and Free Inquiry . . . Neil should be working with CFI/CSI.


Snar Par carp

Brilliant work on SNARC, on ifeminist. Solid, impressive, Neil.

Tops all your notes and posts so far, with its precision and

rational tone. You can now retire to a sunny Italian villa . . . I

know you will garner a lot of praise.

I would not be surprised if some of the stupidest people (perhaps

Val hisself) react, "just because Wendy McElroy calls 'the author'

a 'fiend' and a 'de'-mented liar in her latest 'conspiracy of

allegiance' . . . " and when someone else says, "James, that wasn't

Wendy, that was Neil Parille," he can say, "I never 'implied' that

'it' was not the latest in a long line of 'Puerille' work" -- and

then SOLO can decline to two or three regular posters instead of

nine. Or maybe I give them too much credit.

--Valliant is at home with English as a fish is with rational

inquiry, or vice versa. Why some Objectivists cling to this person

and his work I cannot fathom (me, not at all an O-ist, large O or

small). The psychology fascinates me. The ick factor exponential.

The sloppiness of people who claim to be fenced in by Reason,

glorious Reason . . .

If he was a fish and not a writer, he long since would have been

clubbed to death and eaten with french fries. My mind has always

staggered at the idea that someone so close to real disorder as

Valliant has fans . . . anywhere outside of a psychiatric clinic,

and even there, the friends have simply got to be the staff and not

the inmates.

Sorry for the hasty ramble -- I never comment on his book on lists,

not having read it or the other two AR memorials. I would have said

"the book? Make me read it, please. The man? Has been left in the

sun much too long."

But, should I break my 'delusional silent conspiratory':

"Kudos, Kudos, Kudos, Mr P.

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If you want to see the kind of heroes Rand wrote about, look inside her books. They don't exist anywhere else. They are 'a selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments....They exist for inspiration regarding specific issues and they are wonderful in that regard.

~ "The 'kind'...?" Depending on how myopically that Rorschacian phrasing is interpreted, then, literally, that's true; however, if 'interpreted' a bit broader than the specific professions/careers they chose, even lowly firefighters fall into that 'kind' of hero: people who lay their lives on the line for what they see as the worthwhileness of their chosen, committed-to, 'jobs' (akin to Ragnar, who committed his life to be a 'pirate.')

~ Rand's heroes are not (other than myopically literally) 'mere' fiction. Methinks you're missing the representational meaning in her art.

~ She did not write a couple tomes about WonderWoman or Superman.



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