I received an e-mail this morning from an old acquaintance who was disturbed by my recent blog post about the Brandens. I thought it worth quoting, along with my reply. He wrote:
I’ve just brought myself up to speed on the “trouble” you’ve been having with the Brandens and NoodleFood. I had no idea that you had developed such a bitterly negative perspective on the two of them. I don’t know that it will matter much to you, but I find the anger-filled and adversarial nature of your comments to be quite bewildering, a little disturbing, and not at all like the Diana Brickell that helped to introduce me to the universe of “Objectivism” back in the early 90s.
I really don’t understand, and I don’t know what else to say.
I can understand that you find my strongly negative moral judgment of the Brandens strange and bewildering. In that blog post, I couldn’t do more than hint at the reasons for that judgment, which was unfortunate. Such was certainly not my plan, which was to say nothing publicly on the matter until I could fully detail my reasons. (That’s taking some time to write up, but I am currently working on it.) The purpose of that plan was precisely to help prevent bafflement.
Unfortunately, NB’s juvenile and deceptive games made that impossible. In my e-mail to him this spring, I told him that he was no longer welcome to post on my blog and that I would not engage him in debate. Yet he posted anyway, engaging me in debate under false pretenses. That put me in a horribly awkward position. In order to expose the deception and explain why I was deleting that debate from the comments, I had to explain why he was banned from my comments in the first place. And that required indicating my basic moral judgment of him, despite my desire to wait until I could offer my full reasons.
And yes, I was furious. He deceived and manipulated me, not to mention wasted my time and violated my property rights, all while feigning friendliness and benevolence. In my book, that’s reason enough for anger. The emotion was in response to the facts — and it is those facts which ought to be the focus of your attention.
As with another recent e-mail, I do appreciate the fact that this person had the courage to inquire with me directly. Unfortunately, his attention seems focused on the strength of my emotional reaction, rather than upon the facts relevant to the underlying moral judgment. That’s a fairly common response, I suspect. I’ve noticed a similar concern for inessentials from people focused upon the sheer number of my moral condemnations of past associates — now up to the unacceptably largely number of two, apparently — rather than upon my reasons for them. That’s quite a handy rationalization for dismissing whatever evidence I present to support those moral judgments.
In reality, understanding my present emotional response to David Kelley and Nathaniel Branden requires a person to be focused upon the relevant facts and moral principles. Of course, I haven’t yet had a chance to present my full case. But I’ve written enough for someone to grasp my basic reasons for my moral judgments, e.g. in my public statement disassociating myself from TOC, my comparison of the abysmal op-eds of TOC in comparison to those of ARI, my comments on my regrets about my years at TOC, my discussion of how my approach to error influenced my departure from TOC, my comments on the closed system view of Objectivism, my discussion of my approach to ARI and the role of emotion in moral judgment, my view of apparent reforms at TOC, my post on Kelley’s pragmatist approach to moral principles, my post on TOC’s willingness to regard subjectivists as friends of liberty, Paul’s analysis of libertarianism and moral sanction, my post on the Brandens, particularly Nathaniel Branden’s deceptive and juvenile games, and my explanation of my intellectual history.
If a person can dismiss all that — as some have — with “Oh, Diana’s just gone off the deep end” or “Diana’s slipping to the Dark Side” or “Diana’s just enthralled with all the attention from ARI” or “Diana’s turned into a Randroid” or “Diana was always too judgmental” or “Diana thinks all her old friends are evil” or “Diana must have some other hidden reasons that she’s not revealing” or “Diana thinks that Ayn Rand said all that needs to be said in philosophy” or whatnot, then I am incapable of offering any facts, evidence, or arguments for consideration. Nor do I know how to reach those who regard rigorous scholarly standards in Objectivism as inherently restrictive, authoritarian, or dogmatic. And those who claim fidelity to Objectivism while regarding resolute moral judgment as unimportant, unnecessary, damaging, overblown, or hysterical are far beyond my present grasp. If such people wonder whether they ever really knew me in years past, rest assured, the feeling is often mutual, sadly enough.
I know that I can present a compelling case to people who are morally and intellectually serious, even if presently baffled or confused by my change in views. As for the rest, I can do nothing for them; only they can help themselves.