Robert_Campbell

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Guardians of Ayn Rand

Up the thread a piece, Vejay referred to a book called The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, by James Valliant.

Vejay said:

Another author--James Valliant--who wrote on Ayn Rand's life studied her private journals (that were unavailable to Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Brandon [sic]). According to him, the air of cultishness was initiated and encouraged by Nathaniel Brandon, who monitored all of Rand's guests, visitors, and letters, to ensure that they were not antagonistic to Rand. Apparently, all this was done without Rand's knowledge until much later she found out, including Branden's continued deception of her.


In point of fact, Mr. Valliant's book is an unscholarly mess.

(1) Although his prime objective is to discredit The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, Mr. Valliant frequently misquotes her book or imposes preposterous interpretations on what she said in it. See, for instance, Neil Parille's meticulous dissection at< http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4405&st=60>.

(2) Mr. Valliant insults his readers' intelligence by telling them that passages that he has just quoted from Ayn Rand's journals do not mean what anyone with a modicum of sense can see that they mean. For instance, he follows up passages in which Rand expresses extremely negative evaluations of Patrecia Scott (with whom Nathaniel Branden had been conducting a secret affair) with pious denials that Rand was ever or could ever have been jealous of Ms. Scott.

(3) If Ayn Rand ever complained about Nathaniel Branden demanding obedience and conformity from her disciples, Mr. Valliant fails to document it. It is possible to deny Rand's authoritarianism only by ignoring her published statements demanding ideological conformity, her comments during the question and answer periods of her public speeches doing likewise, and the testimony of other former associates, such as Alan and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, who remained with Rand after Nathaniel and Barbara Branden were expelled from her circle, but eventually broke with her for their own reasons.

(4) It is clear from Mr. Valliant's own text that Ayn Rand showed some of the journal entries in question to Nathaniel and Barbara Branden at the time, though of course she did not give them copies to take with when they were expelled.

Apart from the previously unpublished journal entries by Ayn Rand herself (which may have been tampered with by Mr. Valliant, and in any event frequently do not show her in the best possible light), Mr. Valliant's book is of value only to those morbidly curious about the rationalizations that worshippers of Ayn Rand are willing to resort to.

Robert Campbell