Jun 012012

My most heartfelt thanks to Kelly Elmore, Jenn Casey, Miranda Barzey, and everyone else at ATLOSCon 2012 for reminding me of the sheer joy of spending time with awesome Objectivists. I needed that really, really badly.

After enduring months of intense bullying from some so-called Objectivists, I’d been feeling really disheartened — even seriously depressed — in the weeks leading up to ATLOSCon. At my worst, I felt a desperate need to flee from the Objectivist community — not just in disgust, but to protect myself from further attacks. Overall, the whole experience felt far too reminiscent of my “mean girls” hell of 7th grade in public middle school.

Many people were appalled by the attacks of the CP’ers and their ilk, I know. I’m deeply grateful to every person who opposed their bullying, whether by public comment or private message. I’m especially grateful to the people who made a good joke of the CP’ers, as they so richly deserved. Yet that doesn’t mean that their defamatory campaign was easy for me to endure.

Alas, many Objectivists were aware of these attacks yet said nothing, even privately to me. I wouldn’t expect anything of strangers, but I did expect something from people I’ve known and been friendly with for years. Never in a million years would I have stood by silently if those people were attacked and defamed in such vicious ways, even if I disagreed with them on some points.

Perhaps those silent people didn’t realize the extent of the attacks; perhaps they didn’t think I was much affected by them; perhaps they assumed that I’d know their view of them; perhaps they’re secretly sympathetic to them; perhaps they think I’m getting what I deserve. I just don’t know, and I’ve been painfully shocked by too many people to make benevolent assumptions any longer.

My disappointment was so much more bitter given the hard work I’ve done over the past decade to promote Objectivism and individual rights, as well as to cultivate an active Objectivist community. For example: I managed Front Range Objectivism for five years, making it into one of the largest and most active Objectivist communities in the US. In that time, I lead three Atlas Shrugged Reading Groups; I helped establish three new study groups; and I produced two fabulous SnowCons. I created the Explore Atlas Shrugged series of podcasts and discussion questions. I co-authored two policy papers, an essay for The Objective Standard, and many op-eds and letters in defense of abortion rights. I raised money for The Undercurrent via matching funds. I created the OLists, enabling Objectivists to interact based on their shared values, including activism. I created a friendly Objectivist presence in the paleo movement via Modern Paleo and its weekly Paleo Rodeo. I testified at two hearings against Colorado’s campaign finance laws. I edited many op-eds written by Ari and Paul. I gave lectures on the Objectivist view of moral perfection, myths about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, the virtue of pride, the virtue of justice, the moral basis of capitalism, the deeper meaning of “Atlas Shrugged,” and more. I did all that and more while busy in graduate school, struggling with health problems, and developing my career. I was only rarely paid for my efforts.

Given that context, I was shocked and hurt by the seeming indifference of so many Objectivists to the vicious bullying I and others endured for months on end. If the most productive, capable, and ambitious volunteers in a community are repeatedly attacked, maligned, and misrepresented — while most in that community watch in silence — those people will flee and focus their efforts elsewhere, with predictable results for said community. Objectivists, of all people, should understand that.

(Hence, if you’ve been aware of the attacks but you’ve not said anything to me, better late than never. Unless we’ve been in contact lately, I don’t know where I stand with you, but I’d like to know, for better or worse.)

I was particularly disappointed by the silence of people who knew what was happening and could have made a difference, if only they’d spoken out. That’s been really painful for me to accept. The whole experience has affected me deeply, and it’s not something that I’ll ever forget.

That’s a pretty depressing backstory, I think. Alas, it’s been far worse to live through it. Yet the cloud has a silver lining: that depressing backstory is also why ATLOSCon was so vitally important to me this year.

At ATLOSCon, I could talk to anyone, whether we’d met before or for the first time, without worrying that I’d be accused of eating babies for breakfast. I enjoyed my time spent connecting with old friends, as well as meeting new people, immensely.

At ATLOSCon, I delighted in the thoughtful and creative contributions of my audiences in my presentations. I love to learn from intelligent, principled people — and I experienced that in spades.

At ATLOSCon, I enjoyed a slew of conversations with smart, thoughtful people on topics of major interest and value to me, such as personality theory. I learned some surprising things about myself from these conversations. Win!

At ATLOSCon, I heard, first-hand and in-person, just how disgusted people were with the attacks on me. Even when I already knew the person’s views, that meant a whole lot to me.

At ATLOSCon, I could disagree with people, tentatively float some idea, or make some outrageous joking claim for laughs — without fearing that someone would twist my words so as to unjustly attack me. I didn’t feel on guard in the slightest.

Mostly, I was among my kind of Objectivists — meaning rational, independent, benevolent, joyful individuals. For the first time in months, I knew and felt fully the value that such people bring to my life and my work. I’m so grateful for that.

So thank you again to Kelly, Jenn, and Miranda for making ATLOSCon happen. And thank you to everyone who attended for their own selfish reasons. ATLOSCon was exactly the spiritual fuel that I needed so desperately, delivered just in time.

Mostly thanks to the joys of ATLOSCon, I refuse to give up on the prospect of a thriving Objectivist community, well-grounded in the virtues. Of course, some people will continue to behave like dogmatic asses, and others will continue to tolerate that. Alas, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

The rest of us are not powerless, however. We can practice the virtue of justice by speaking clearly and forcefully against any further bullying — whether publicly or privately. That might not stop the attacks, yet we shouldn’t underestimate the power of mere words. Mere words can discourage further attacks, particularly because so many bullies are cowardly social metaphysicians. Mere words can make all the difference to the people attacked, who often feel utterly alone, vulnerable, and abandoned by their friends and allies. Mere words can mean that other bystanders don’t walk away from the Objectivist community in disgust.

On the power of mere words, recall what Eddie Willers tells Hank Rearden on the eve of Hank’s trial. (The ellipses are in the original.)

“I wanted to say… because tomorrow is your trial … and whatever they do to you is supposed to be in the name of all the people… I just wanted to say that I… that it won’t be in my name … even if there’s nothing I can do about it, except to tell you … even if I know that that doesn’t mean anything.”

Hank replies, “It means much more than you suspect. Perhaps more than any of us suspect. Thanks, Eddie.”

Thank you, to every Objectivist who speaks out against bullying, intimidation, and unjust attacks done in the name of Objectivism, whoever the latest target. It means much more than you might know — more than any of us might suspect.

Mostly though, I hope that we’ll meet at SnowCon in March or at ATLOSCon next May!

  • https://philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

    Ah, it’s so fitting that the first comment [which I deleted] was from an anonymous coward twisting my words and making ridiculous moral accusations. *facepalm*

    • http://www.facebook.com/FabianBollinger Fabian Bollinger

      How disgusting…

    • Kay Isses

      That’s really is ridiculous. Everyone knows that you immediately delete negative comments. Why would anyone bother?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.job Joshua Job

    Well, I’ll go ahead and reiterate in case I didn’t make it clear, I, and the rest of us at Georgia Tech to my knowledge, find the CPers absurd. In my case, so much so that I honestly didn’t realize that it had bothered you as much as it did (I haven’t paying as much attention to your blog as I might like). I just found them hilariously silly and stupid. I was really surprised when I heard you had been considering pulling back online because of it.

    I’m with you 100%, and love all the awesome things you’ve done for the Oist community! And it was great actually meeting you in person at ATLOSCon! Here’s to next year!

  • DougFromOz

    Hi, just a quick note from a long-time lurker on your blog. I’ve noticed that you you seem to actually DO things to help the spread of Objectivism. Quite a contrast from other “Objectivist” forums and blogs I’ve seen, where the participants only seem to bitch and moan. Keep up the good work!

  • Trini

    Diana, you have always been so courageous and appeared so invulnerable, that I had no idea you felt so alone over the vile so-called premise checkers. I’m so sorry to be late, but I want you to know that I’m on your side and have always admired the work you are doing on behalf of Objectivism and individual rights. The premise checkers are a dogmatic fringe; it is they who have left Objectivism–by treating it as a religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000536747848 Jennifer Snow

    Oh, dear. I can’t remember whether I said anything, but if I didn’t, it was because I pretty much considered the CP people to be absurd. I know a few of them from online, enough to know that they’re extreme rationalists who show no signs of independent thought, so I didn’t take them seriously at all. The only way I’ve found to deal with rationalists is to ignore them and let them stew in their own juices, pretty much. They’ll either grow out of it or they won’t, but their method of thinking is such that nothing anybody can say will make any difference.

    Anyway, just to be clear: I think Diana is one of the best Objectivist thinkers I have access to, even when I don’t agree with her 100% about everything. I’m really grateful for all the hard work she does.

    Thanks, Diana!

  • Michael Mansberg

    I guess I’m one of the strangers whom you wouldn’t expect anything from (though you did actually once pick one of my questions to address on your webcast!). I’ve been mostly silently following your blog (and more recently your Facebook page and webcast) for years. Whether or not I agree with your views on any given topic (I usually do) I always find them interesting, even when the topic isn’t within my usual range of interests. I think I draw a certain almost aesthetic pleasure in witnessing the way your mind works when analyzing a question. As far as the CP attacks go, I share the view expressed by others here that they seemed ridiculous, absurd, almost clownish. The whole thing was a spectacle that almost felt like a parody. As strong a person as you appear to me to be, I’m surprised to hear how deeply it affected you. I guess I thought that (even though out of necessity you were publicly combating them) at some level your attitude would be of the “But I don’t think of you” variety. At any rate, I do hope that your spirits and your motivation toward cultural and political activism revive and remain strong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.nasir Amy Nasir

    Diana, thanks for writing this. It was important to explain how this all negativity affected you. People don’t seem to have the imagination necessary to put themselves into your shoes.

    Some assumed that you’d be like Howard Roark – but, really, even Ayn Rand needed Frank to keep giving her the fuel she needed to go on – and that was expressed in Roark with Steven Mallory, among other examples in her fiction. Not everyone can say, “I don’t think of you,” when vitriol can be accessed online by anyone in the world, and is coming at you from so many places. That’s a lot of people to not think about.

    I’m glad you wrote this to instruct people that it does hurt, stifle, discourage, and un-fuel a person. Some Oists are so filled with anxiety that people will think badly of them for not immediately morally denouncing a target, that they don’t stop and think of the reality of their words and actions, especially in public.

    They treat the virtue of justice primarily as a tool for cutting down with the roaring chainsaw of a religious zealot. It’s lost on them that justice should also be used for building up – with thoughtful or constructive criticism assuming positive intent, or with praise for someone’s good thoughts and actions.

    Oists need to learn the relevance of the old adage: Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated. In the context of the Oist community, this means being courteous, not jumping to conclusions, taking your time to reason, and understanding that if you bully people, you are giving others an open invitation to bully you.

    Thanks, again, for all you do, Diana. I hope we can meet again in the future. I’m glad that, like Richard Halley in the Gulch, you found an audience at ATLOSCon who could appreciate your music.

  • Colleen S

    I appreciate all of the work you do and I’m glad you got some spiritual rejuvenation from AtlosCon. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to express to you there how unfounded I think the attacks against you have been.

  • Alyssa_Mae

    Diana, your work is gold. I just don’t understand the actions of these people. They are an embarrassment to the Objectivist community. How they can make such unjustified attacks on someone so honest, genuine and productive just doesn’t compute. Thanks for all you do.

  • https://philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

    Thank you, one and all, for these comments; I appreciate them hugely. I hope that this post serves as a reminder of the importance of offering a few words of support to anyone unjustly attacked in the future. (I wish that I could say that it won’t happen, but alas, that’s unrealistic.)

    In such circumstances, I always think of this quote from Ayn Rand:

    “Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.

    “It is obvious who profits and who loses by such a precept. It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you—whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?”

  • c_andrew

    I have certainly found your blog and blogcast to be interesting. I underestimated the impact that the CPers had because, to me, they were patently transparent in their approach. In great degree they reminded me of some of the trolls of APO/HPO infamy.

    I’m glad that ATLOSCON provided some fuel and respite from them. Thank you.

  • Michael Newberry

    A simple way to think of bullies and negative people, as well as good people, is to think of “good people on the bus, bad people off the bus.” In many cases it is not so much that the people are bad but they are not the right fit for you, or you them. I find it makes energy well spent.

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