Comments from NoodleFood

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Comment #1

Friday, July 23, 2004 at 23:30:02 mdt
Name: Shannon

Heh. Another entry for the "I'm too cool for Ayn Rand now!" genre. And I'm sure this gentleman is the best and most objective judge of his father's work ethic. I also think the writing is especially skilled for a newspaper columnist: "all union members are weak, stupid, and good for nothing." Talk about freedom from information.

You should post this over on the Atlasphere metablog so that we can all point and laugh. In all seriousness, I think you're right: there's no such thing as bad publicity, especially when it's a lot of under-educated ranting.

Comment #2

Monday, July 26, 2004 at 2:53:54 mdt
Name: Jason

What is a scrip? The only definition I found that has anything to do with economics doesn't fit in context with the excerpt. As far as sweat shops, I can't help but laugh when they're brought up. Slavery is wrong, yes, but a producer offering employment to workers at wages they'll voluntarily accept hardly strikes me as a flaw of capitalism (actually, it seems to be quit a positive aspect).

Comment #3

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 at 10:03:40 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh

I didn't mean to imply that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Ed Hudgins' op-eds are a paradigm case of bad publicity for Objectivism: they are tepid, weak, confused, contrary to Objectivist principles, appeasing, and so on. People reading them unfamiliar with Objectivism would come away with a totally wrong idea of the philosophy -- thanks to its supposed defenders at TOC. In my view, that's much worse than the absurd attacks on Objectivism from its critics -- both morally and practically. Morally, the folks at TOC do or should know better than to publish such crap, given their familiarity with the philosophy. Practially, readers are far more likely to wonder whether the ideas have been presented correctly from critics than advocates. TOC is not merely ineffective in its work to spread Objectivism, but actively destructive. They are all about bad publicity for the philosophy.

Okay, so that was a big aside from Shannon's comment, but my point in the blog post was merely that virulent attacks are sometimes signs of progress, not that all publicity is good publicity.

Comment #4

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 at 11:02:06 mdt
Name: John Enright

Scrip means paper money, but not usually the kind issued by national governments. So a company might pay your salary in paper coupons that you could redeem at the company store.

Comment #5

Tuesday, July 27, 2004 at 21:48:13 mdt
Name: Shannon

Well, I can't really share your opinion about TOC in general, although I can certainly see where they've gotten off track, but by "publicity" I meant stuff that actually gets out there. It seems clear that Ed Hudgins' writing _doesn't_ really get out there (probably because it is for the most part cliched and dull, as you said). It's not bad publicity so much as non-publicity.

Comment #6

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 at 13:15:29 mdt
Name: Shannon

Diana: I wanted to add, since you brought up the question of TOC's activism, that I think the organization has been taking some recent, productive steps towards correcting the problems you've noticed. The Q&A period at this year's Summer Seminar revealed some deep rifts among the membership about where TOC was heading, and it was clear that the leadership was paying attention. There's a large collection of us fairly young scholar types who expressed disappointment at the amount of money that's being poured into the Washington office, and the lack of bang for our buck that's come as a result. I for one (and many of the people I spoke to) would be thrilled to see TOC head in more scholarly directions and dump its ineffective Washington activism. We also talked a great deal about how we want to see "Navigator" devoted to philosophy and related fields again, and not simply serve as an outlet for Robert Bidinotto's bad writing about his favorite movies. (Someone pointed out that while this was bad enough in itself, TOC had the bad taste to publish a _follow-up_.)

So perhaps Ed Hudgins will come to play a less important role at TOC. I think that one of the most important things that any Objectivist organization can do at the moment is get Ayn Rand's name respected in academia. The rest will follow.

Comment #7

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 at 15:16:15 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh


Just to make my position clear, I do not regard TOC as capable of anything but superficial, short-term reforms. Thus your news doesn't change my basic view of or hopes for TOC, both of which are entirely and deeply negative.

As you might know, my unhappiness with TOC began to grow and fester with practical frustrations about the lack of support and training for students, the embarrassingly bad public advocacy, and so on. But I did not depart the organization over such frustrations. After seeing the success of ARI firsthand at last summer's OCON, I resolved to review the original documents surrounding Kelley's split, to see if TOC's failures could be traced back to its founding philosophy. A few months later, when I finally re-read T&T, it quickly became clear to me that TOC's founding philosophy was wrong, confused, disastrous, and responsible for many of the longstanding and baffling failures of the organization. Since then, as I've thought about and discussed the issues further, my perspective has become more informed, more radical, more integrated -- and thus more fundamentally opposed to all that TOC is, does, and represents.

Whatever reforms TOC makes, it will continue to be a disaster for Objectivism and Objectivists. The only good news is that it's too ineffective to do all that much damage.

I know that you don't agree with all that, but I wanted to make my own position crystal clear. Too many supporters of TOC do not understand my deep philosophic opposition to the organization, but instead regard me as merely unhappy about the way the organization was run. As nothing could be further from the truth, I'm trying to stress my full philosophic opposition whenever the issue arises.

Comment #8

Wednesday, July 28, 2004 at 16:03:27 mdt
Name: Shannon

Diana: I certainly understand your position. I only brought up the activism issue since you mentioned Ed Hudgins' op-eds, not to convince you that TOC is a more valuable organization than ARI. I think I speak for many in the TOC community when I say that we're sorry to lose your excellent work in applied ethics and that we look forward to reading a full refutation of "Truth and Toleration." I've been rereading it recently and finding myself in as much agreement as ever.

Comment #9

Thursday, July 29, 2004 at 9:00:34 mdt
Name: Mysterious Stranger

Shannon, could you please give some examples of the questions and answers that make you think the TOC leadership is paying attention to you.

"...Ed Hudgins will come to play a less important role at TOC." Any evidence of this? I don't see it.

Comment #10

Thursday, July 29, 2004 at 10:29:31 mdt
Name: Shannon

Mysterious Stranger: Well, I wasn't taking notes during the Q&A session, so I can't give you the specific questions with any confidence or claim to accuracy, but one thing that encouraged me was that the entire panel down at the front of the lecture hall was (unlike me) taking notes. What emerged from all of the comments from the peanut gallery was that most people thought the Washington activism was ineffective, and that the role of "Navigator" had to be either defined as in-reach or out-reach, not some unwieldy combo meal. Most people I spoke to came down on the side of in-reach, which would, should TOC follow the preferences of its paying customers (which I think they know is necessary), make Ed Hudgins inherently less important to the organization, since his entire purpose is outreach.

But, to address your question, I don't see evidence yet that the Washington office will become less important to TOC's mission. After all, Summer Seminar was about two weeks ago. In some sense, acknowledging that there's a problem by holding the panel and hiring Bill Perry as community outreach director to keep an eye on what's going on in the general Objectivist community is a good first step that will mean nothing if no change occurs as a result. When it becomes clear that TOC no longer serves my needs, I will of course send them a private letter withdrawing my support. For the moment, I'm willing to give TOC the benefit of the doubt. Stephen Hicks' excellent book on postmodernism (completed under TOC's auspices) was just published, David Kelley is writing top-notch lectures again, and responsible and knowledgeable people like Will Thomas are starting to move the organization in the direction of scholarship. I think that TOC could learn a lot from ARI's organizational goals (although certainly not from its atmosphere) and start attempting projects like the Anthem fellowships to encourage young academics. If not, I hope that those among TOC's current membership who don't want to see it become yet another libertarian thinktank will, along with their money, quietly depart.

P.S. Although this post is longer than I intended already, I did want to add that I think Ed Hudgins is an effective public speaker. I was reluctant to attend one of his lectures at Summer Seminar because I think his op-eds are laughable but ended up going any way. I was impressed by his ability to get the soundbyte, as they say. He's not a writer and he's certainly no original thinker, but in a limited context, he seems to do well. Getting the soundbyte doesn't necessarily demand the most complex and nuanced understanding of Objectivism. Again, I see no reason why TOC should keep him on the payroll, since I think TOC's value lies elsewhere, but I'm happy to have him as an ally.

Comment #11

Thursday, July 29, 2004 at 11:08:07 mdt
Name: Shannon

Mysterious Stranger: I reread your comment after I posted my own and realized that you used ellipses to inaccurately portray my position. You wrote:

"'...Ed Hudgins will come to play a less important role at TOC.' Any evidence of this? I don't see it."

What I actually wrote is: "So perhaps Ed Hudgins will come to play a less important role at TOC." 'Perhaps' indicates, as I think is clear, that I'm uncertain what role Ed Hudgins will continue to play at TOC, although I see certain signs that maybe his role will be less important.

Please make an effort, should you respond to my comments again, to use ellipses in such a way that doesn't distort my point of view.

Comment #12

Thursday, July 29, 2004 at 17:58:24 mdt
Name: Bill

Thank You Shannon. I was just looking for a general idea of what happened, which is what you gave me. I didn't mean to come across as demanding. The ellipses was my mistake, sorry.