Alas, yet another attack warrants my reply here on Discord.
Onkar Ghate and Harry Binswanger of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) have written a long article, titled “Of Schisms, Public and Private,” in which they claim that Carl Barney and I have “attacked” ARI and that we were wrong to speak publicly about what they regard as “private matters.”
The “attacks” of which they speak are not really attacks, but rather Carl’s and my responses to prior attacks instigated by Onkar, Yaron Brook, and other managers and affiliates of ARI. And the “private matters” of which they speak are acts of defamation committed against me by Onkar and a unilateral breach of agreement on the part of ARI’s managers (including Onkar and Tal Tsfany) regarding a public rapprochement between ARI and The Objective Standard (TOS).
Onkar and Harry’s article is full of falsehoods, fabrications, and fallacies, and I won’t address all of them here. But I’ll address a representative few to show what they are up to.
“Attacks” that Were Responses to Attacks
Onkar and Harry repeatedly claim that Carl and I “attacked” ARI. To which I say: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
To attack means to take aggressive action with the intent of harming or killing someone. The term connotes an initiation of aggression, as against a response to aggression. The dispute in question certainly has involved attacks, but they were not instigated by Carl or me. They were instigated by Onkar, Yaron, and other employees and affiliates of ARI. For instance, Onkar defamed me to seventy students on an Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) phone call (see the transcript here); Onkar and Yaron lied about me from stage at an OCON (transcript here); Robert Mayhew claimed that I “trafficked in stolen goods” (see here); and so on. Carl and I have not attacked anyone. We have responded to attacks and to unilateral breaches of agreement (see here). And we have exposed these wrongdoings. Outside of Newspeak, responding to attacks and/or exposing them are not the same as instigating them.
Anyone interested in understanding the nature of Onkar and Harry’s latest attack and my response to it will need familiarity both with the earlier attacks and broken agreements in question, and with Carl’s and my responses to them. The following articles provide this context. They also are the main articles that Onkar and Harry reference, quote, and misquote:
- The Truth about Craig Biddle vs. Smears by Some at ARI, by Carl
- Response to ARI, by Carl
- More Context about Craig Biddle and ARI, by Carl
- Onkar Ghate’s Pseudo Reasons and His Responsibility to Give Real Reasons, by me
- Context Dropping and “Arbitrary Tu Quoque”, by me, and
- “Trafficking in Stolen Goods,” the Hierarchy of Moral Principles, and a Decade of Defamation, by me.
Onkar and Harry’s Pragmatic “Rule” (Or: A Blank Check for Wrongdoers)
In their article “Of Schisms,” Onkar and Harry claim, “As a rule, one should be suspicious of the first side that goes public in a private dispute (or in the part of a dispute that is private).”
Where did this “rule” come from? What facts of reality gave rise to it? What would it mean in practice? The answers to these questions are, respectively: Onkar and Harry made up the rule to serve their present purpose. Other than that, no facts gave rise to it. And, in practice, the rule would be a blank check for wrongdoers to get away with wrongdoing.
The principles—not pragmatic “rules,” but reality-based principles—that govern Carl’s and my choices to speak publicly about the above matters include honesty, justice, and the law of excluded middle.
The principle of honesty holds that facts are facts and cannot be wished away, that acknowledging this is essential to thinking and living, and that pretending otherwise is anti-life. The principle of justice holds that people should be judged according to the facts and treated accordingly, that acknowledging this is essential to thinking and living, and that pretending otherwise is anti-life. And the law of excluded middle, when applied to the issues at hand, holds that a person either has or has not presented evidence in support of his claims, that he either has or has not quoted people accurately, that he either has or has not fabricated evidence, that he either has or has not been defamed, and so on.
Nothing in these principles—or any other principle of morality or logic—says or implies that someone who publicly exposes a private act of immorality should be held in “suspicion” for doing so. And that’s a good thing.
Suppose you are a journalist who owns and runs a magazine, and you discover that a journalism professor, call him Rakno, falsely told his students that you have violated the principles of your trade on multiple counts. He told them that you violated the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, independence, objectivity, accountability, and more. He did not give his students any concrete examples or evidence of these violations. He merely asserted that you violated various principles of the field in which you make your living. He also told his students that he will not go into details on the nature of your violations, adding, “It is possible that you cannot see the violations of which I speak. But I am not a student. I am a professional journalist. And I can see many things that you can’t see.”
These students, who are studying in your field of work, could be future employees, associates, business partners, or writers for your magazine. Rakno told them falsehoods and made unsupported claims about you that disparage your professionalism, character, and integrity. He also used an appeal to authority to evade the responsibility of providing evidence in support of his claims, and to pressure the students into accepting his baseless claims. This is damaging to your hard-earned, good reputation and thus to your life.
Suppose further that one of Rakno’s students recorded and shared on the internet a session in which Rakno made such claims about you to seventy students, and you downloaded and transcribed the recording. Do you have a right to let other people know what Rakno said about you in the recorded session? Do you have a right to share the evidence—a transcript of the portion of the recording in which he defamed you—to show interested parties what he did? And could these actions be not only within your rights, but also the right thing to do?
Or—per Onkar and Harry’s “rule”—should you be held in “suspicion” if you publicly expose what happened in private?
You most certainly do have a right to let people know that Rakno defamed you. You also have a right to share the transcript of the recording publicly to support your claim. And, depending on the context, doing so may be the right thing to do.
Because matters of right and wrong are determined by reference to the requirements of human life. One requirement of your life is that you earn and maintain a good reputation, especially in regard to your profession, the work through which you make your living. You earned your good reputation. It belongs to you. Rakno has no right to damage it by defaming you. Thus, you have a right to protect your reputation (and thus your livelihood) against Rakno’s smears, regardless of whether he made the defamatory remarks publicly or privately, and regardless of whether he made them to a single person, or seventy, or seventy thousand. And protecting your reputation against such smears is the right thing to do: It is good for your life.
Your exposé of Rakno’s unjust behavior is also an act of justice for your friends and people you care about, who can use the information to think more clearly about whether to engage with Rakno in the future. It’s an act of goodwill for strangers who might benefit from the information as well. It’s even an act of justice for Rakno, in that it grants him some small measure of what he deserves for his unjust behavior.
In addition to exposing Rakno’s bad behavior publicly, you might choose to sue him. After all, defamation is not only immoral, but also illegal. And suing Rakno would punish him for his unjust behavior and possibly result in some measure of just compensation for you. Then again, you might choose not to sue. Litigation consumes enormous amounts of time, energy, and bandwidth. And if you would rather spend these vital currencies engaging in more productive activities, such as writing, traveling, and enjoying life, choosing not to sue is perfectly moral, too. What’s best for you depends on your context, your judgment, your rational self-interest.
Either way, whether or not you choose to sue Rakno, you have a moral right to expose his act of defamation by sharing the evidence with interested parties. And, depending on your values, goals, the damage done, and related facts, doing so may be the right thing to do.
The notion that you must keep quiet about Rakno’s act of defamation or that you are morally forbidden to share evidence of it because he committed the act in private is absurd. You do not owe him cover. You do not owe him anything. Virtue owes nothing to vice.
Likewise for a breach of contract. Suppose you and Rakno made an agreement, and suppose he unilaterally breached it. Do you have a right to let interested parties know that Rakno broke the agreement? Do you have a right to share evidence of the fact that he broke it? And can doing so be the right thing to do? Yes, yes, and yes.
Of course you have a right to tell interested parties that Rakno broke an agreement with you. Doing so protects your reputation against Rakno’s potential lies about what happened. It exposes Rakno’s bad character, which exposure is a portion of his just desert. And it can help others to think more clearly about whether to engage with him in the future. Again, you don’t owe Rakno cover. You don’t owe him anything. Virtue owes nothing to vice.
In all such cases, it makes no difference whether the defamation, the agreement, or the breach was enacted publicly or privately. Private acts of immorality are not some special category of vice that deserves and must be granted privacy. Anyone who claims a “rule” to the contrary—a rule to the effect that if you expose a wrongdoing that happened in private, then you should be held in “suspicion”—is trying to get away with something. He is also advocating a blank check for wrongdoers in general.
Think about it: If everyone were to adopt a rule to the effect that anyone who goes public first about a private dispute is by that fact “suspicious,” whom would it benefit and whom would it harm?
Actions are right or wrong not by reference to pragmatically devised rules, but by reference to observation-based principles, such as honesty, justice, and the law of excluded middle.
Carl and I have presented facts and evidence regarding acts of defamation and broken agreements on the part of ARI managers. It is not surprising that they do not want you to know the facts. They made choices and took actions that put them on the wrong side of the facts. And that is a bad place to be.
Of course, they could choose to face the facts, stop pretending, apologize for their wrongdoing, and put all of this behind them. But I see no evidence that they will. And unless and until they do, they will continue to feel as though they must cover up their previous lies and bad behavior with more lies and bad behavior. It’s a vicious cycle.
If only there were a principle by reference to which they could see that pretending that facts are other than they are is as impractical as it is immoral.
Onkar and Harry’s Loaded Questions
Another made-up rule set forth by Onkar and Harry is the notion that Carl and I “must answer two basic questions”:
- “Why is it objective for them to have gone public in the way that they have?”
- “Why do they think outsiders are now in a position logically to judge the dispute?”
Both of these questions are loaded. They contain non-obvious implications that serve Onkar and Harry’s agenda. The first subtly calls for Carl and me to engage in an infinite regress or to prove a negative. The second involves a package-deal implying that in order for Carl or me to present valid or useful evidence, we must present exhaustive or conclusive evidence.
Take these in turn.
“Why is it objective for them to have gone public in the way that they have?”
Observe that there are ordinary language ways of asking what that question purports to ask. For instance: “What have Carl and Craig said about why they’ve spoken publicly about these matters?” This clear, plain-language question can be answered by looking at what we have written.
In the case of Carl’s article, “The Truth about Craig Biddle vs. Smears by Some at ARI,” the title itself indicates Carl’s reason for speaking publicly: He wanted to tell the truth and counter smears. Carl also stated clearly and forthrightly in the article why he spoke up:
I just want to make these facts known because they are necessary to a just evaluation of Craig and TOS. Craig has been unjustly maligned by Onkar, Yaron, and others. It is time for this injustice to end.
That couldn’t be clearer.
Likewise, in my October 2020 announcement in TOS, pointing readers to Carl’s article, I explained that it could help them to understand why the rapprochement between TOS and ARI, which I had publicly announced in August 2018, fell through. I noted that some people at ARI had been disingenuous about the rapprochement, that I had refrained from discussing the matter publicly because doing so would have required an inordinate amount of time, and that I appreciated that Carl had laid out many of the relevant facts in his article. I added:
Because Carl was on the board of directors at ARI during the controversies, his context and perspective are especially illuminating. He was “in the room where it happened,” so to speak, and he has provided many relevant facts along with a clarifying chronology. As he notes, there is much more to all of this than can be included even in a lengthy article. But he lays out the essential facts necessary to make sense of the situation.
Again, a perfectly clear and forthright reason, or set of reasons, for speaking publicly.
Similarly, in Carl’s “Response to ARI,” he wrote:
Rather than respond to the article [“The Truth”], ARI issued a statement attacking it as “riddled with errors and distortions.” What errors and distortions? They don’t say. Surely they could have spent a few minutes out of respect for readers to provide a few examples of errors and distortions. If I got something wrong, the correction would be welcome.
Once again, Carl’s reason for posting couldn’t be clearer.
I could go on. Every time Carl or I have spoken publicly about this dispute, we have made clear why we did so. Yet Onkar and Harry say that we must explain why it is “objective” for us to have gone public.
One possible implication of that demand is that we have not stated our reasons for speaking publicly. But clearly we have (e.g., see above). Another possible implication of the demand is that we must do more than provide our reasons; we must also show that our reasons themselves are “objective.” Well, objective means fact-based, in accordance with a rational standard, and in compliance with the method of logic. The reasons we have given for speaking publicly clearly are fact-based: We provided facts and evidence in support of our claims. Our reasons are also in accordance with a rational standard: We spoke up to tell the truth and do justice—aims that are in accordance with the objective standard of morality: human life. And we made our case using logic, the method of non-contradictory identification.
In light of this, Onkar and Harry’s demand that we explain why it is “objective” for us to have gone public implies that we have some further obligation. It implies that we must somehow prove that our reasons, evidence, and logic are objective. But no such obligation exists. And the demand for such proof implies either (a) that we must engage in an infinite regress—as in, prove that that proof is objective, and prove that that proof is objective, and so on; or (b) that we must prove that our reasoning is not fallacious, that we have not erred—in other words, that we must prove a negative.1
When you provide reasons, evidence, and logic in support of your claims or actions, you are not also logically required to prove that your reasons, evidence, and logic are fact-based or that you have not erred. Reasons, evidence, and logic stand on their own.
Carl and I have given perfectly clear reasons for speaking publicly. We have provided evidence in support of our claims. We have employed the method of logic. And we have asked people to point out any errors in our reasoning. If Onkar or Harry (or anyone else) has evidence to suggest that Carl’s or my statements are false or that our reasoning is fallacious, they are free to share the evidence publicly. And I encourage them to share it. If I am wrong about something, I want to be corrected. It keeps my mind connected to reality so I can live and thrive in reality. As a wise woman once said, “When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit.” Words to live by.
Now consider the second question that Onkar and Harry claim Carl and I must answer.
“Why do they think outsiders are now in a position logically to judge the dispute?”
Again, there are ordinary language ways of asking what this question purports to ask. For instance: “What evidence have Carl and Craig provided to help people think more clearly about the issues at hand?” And, again, such a clear, plain-language question can be answered by looking at what we’ve written.
In Carl’s article “The Truth,” for example, he quoted from and linked to the WayBack archives of the Ayn Rand Bookstore; quoted from and cited several articles and posts, including an article by Onkar that was published at “Division of Labour”; quoted from an email I sent to Yaron about Onkar’s article; provided personal testimony about his knowledge of matters at ARI, including agreements that ARI managers made and broke; and more. (Given his context—his position on ARI’s board of directors for twenty-five years, his close relationships with and intimate knowledge of people who run ARI and serve on its board, the tens of millions of dollars he contributed to the organization, and the fact that all of his testimony integrates with all other evidence and relevant facts—Carl’s testimony is properly regarded as evidence.)
In short, Carl provided a lot of evidence.
Likewise, in my article “Context Dropping and ‘Arbitrary Tu Quoque,’” I provided a transcript of the portion of the OAC call in which Onkar defamed me, showing that Don Watkins’s claim that I quoted Onkar out of context was false; I presented evidence to show that Don misquoted me by claiming that I said “we must make moral judgments on partial information, and, if we don’t, we’re guilty of moral neutrality,” when I never said anything of the sort; and I presented evidence to show that Don (a) selectively quoted from my October 2010 statement about the McCaskey affair, omitting key material that clarified the point in question, and (b) used the resulting dearth of clarity to further misrepresent what I said and further mislead his readers.
Again, I could go on. Carl and I have presented a great deal of evidence in our responses to broken agreements and attacks by ARI managers and affiliates.
If Onkar and Harry had asked a simple, straightforward question, such as, “What evidence have Carl and Craig provided to help people think more clearly about the issues at hand?,” they would have done their readers a service. They would have pointed their minds to the salient facts and helped them to think more clearly about the matter at hand.
But Onkar and Harry didn’t ask such a question. Instead, they formulated and posed a loaded question involving a package-deal that serves their agenda. They claimed we “must answer” this question: “Why do they think outsiders are now in a position logically to judge the dispute?”
To see the package-deal in that question, ask yourself: What is meant by, “in a position logically to judge the dispute”? Does this mean, “equipped with exhaustive or conclusive evidence about the matter”? Or does it mean, “equipped with some relevant evidence about the matter”? These are very different things. Yet Onkar and Harry’s formulation packages them together as if they are the same. This package-deal enables them to shuffle between the two meanings and to imply that for Carl or me to present any valid evidence, we must present exhaustive or conclusive evidence. But this is not the standard of valid evidence. The standard of valid evidence is that it must be fact-based and non-contradictory. Ours is. That’s what makes it helpful to interested parties and useful toward making judgments about the issues and people in question.
As I wrote in “Justice for John P. McCaskey”:
We never have complete information about any person or event, and we don’t need complete information to make moral judgments. We can and must make moral judgments on the basis of partial data; and, as a matter of observable fact, we do so virtually every time we make a moral judgment. For instance, we don’t have complete information about why politicians take the actions they take, yet we can and legitimately do judge many of their actions to be immoral. Likewise, we don’t have complete information about why John D. Rockefeller took the actions he took, yet we can and legitimately do judge his productive actions to be profoundly moral. One could multiply such examples endlessly.
The fact that we don’t have complete information means only that our judgments are contextual—i.e., based on the information available to us at a given time. In many cases, the possibility remains that we will gather additional data in the future that will bear on our judgment and require us to revise it. But until such data are available, we are warranted in making judgments on the basis of the currently available and relevant facts.
The suggestion that you must know everything about a dispute in order to make judgments about it is patently false and completely non-objective. We should, as a matter of principle, be suspicious of anyone who suggests such skeptical nonsense—whether directly and clearly, or indirectly and vaguely, through a package-deal.
Neither Carl nor I have claimed or implied that we have provided exhaustive or conclusive evidence about the matters at hand. Rather, we have provided relevant facts and evidence that can help interested parties to think more clearly and to judge matters for themselves.
If Onkar and Harry want to be objective, they should uphold the principles of reason and logic, stop deploying loaded questions and pernicious package-deals, and stop demanding that people engage in infinite regress, prove a negative, or the like.
Of Coherency, Consistency, and Compatibility
Onkar and Harry write:
Barney’s post [“The Truth”] . . . failed the coherency/consistency test (e.g., conferring on Onkar, an employee who was not even a member of ARI’s board at the time, the ability to dictate policy to ARI’s CEO and board of directors).
Onkar was, at the time (as he is now), the head of ARI’s Intellectual Oversight Committee (IOC), and he had (and has) enormous influence on the CEO and board. While on ARI’s board and deeply involved with the organization for many years, Carl observed that Onkar had such influence. If Onkar and Harry deny that Onkar had such influence, perhaps they will explain why, in addition to being in charge of the IOC, Onkar has been dubbed the “Chief Philosophy Officer” of ARI. What do such positions and titles confer if not authority to decide policy for ARI regarding intellectual and philosophical matters?
Onkar and Harry continue:
[Barney’s post] also failed the test of compatibility with publicly available facts (e.g., Barney suggests that Peikoff respects Biddle’s grasp of Objectivism, when in fact Peikoff has publicly reprimanded Biddle for his inability to understand and apply Objectivism’s principles).9
Footnote 9 is not to be missed. In it, Onkar and Harry write:
In the aftermath of John McCaskey’s 2010 resignation from ARI’s board of directors, many Objectivists, including Craig Biddle, publicly attacked Peikoff. Here is the relevant portion of Peikoff’s public response, in which he condemns his attackers. Barney’s post misleadingly quotes from Peikoff’s statement and provides no link to the source. [Onkar and Harry now quote Peikoff from his public response:]
When McCaskey was appointed to the Board, I said nothing, just as I have not objected to the fact that a few longtime Board members and I are on terms of personal enmity, and do not speak to each other. In all these cases my personal dislike was irrelevant. It is only when I perceived harm in practice that I have taken action. And I have set the requirements for such action high. In the 25 years of ARI’s existence, I have vetoed only two individuals prior to McCaskey.
If any of you believe that this makes me a dictatorial opponent of independence or free speech, then God help you, because reality obviously hasn’t. And if, as seems possible, my detractors in this issue represent a sizable faction within the Objectivist movement whose spokesmen include magazine founders [Craig Biddle] and PhDs with podcasts [Diana Hsieh, aka Diana Brickell]—then God help Objectivism, too.
P.S. Ayn Rand would not have sought to defend herself against a similar attack. She would have regarded such an attack as contemptible, and an answer to it on her part as a moral sanction of the attackers, implying as it does that their charges are worthy of consideration.
I am not as strong as she was.
Where to begin.
First, Carl nowhere quotes from—much less “misleadingly quotes” from—Leonard’s statement that Onkar and Harry excerpt in footnote 9. Onkar and Harry made that up. As you will see if you read Carl’s article, his only mention of Leonard’s appraisal of my work is this single sentence:
Leonard Peikoff was so impressed with Loving Life that he offered to write an introduction to the book and to help Craig take it to a major publisher, not something he does frequently or lightly.
That has nothing to do with Leonard’s statement excerpted by Onkar and Harry. And the reason Carl didn’t link to a source about Leonard’s comments on Loving Life is that the source is a series of private emails and phone calls between Leonard, Yaron, Tara Smith, and me.
Nor does Leonard’s statement “reprimand” me for anything. Onkar and Harry made that up, too. Rather, Leonard’s statement expresses his displeasure at the possibility that a large number of Objectivists agree with my criticism of him for morally condemning McCaskey without providing evidence in support of the condemnation.2
Why do Onkar and Harry misquote people and make things up? Why not just quote people accurately and go by the facts?
More False Claims and an Argument from Intimidation
Toward the end of their article, Onkar and Harry attempt to capitalize on their many false claims while making a few more and lacing in an argument from intimidation:
[F]rom the outset the non-objectivity of Barney’s and Biddle’s accusations was clear for anyone to see. . . . and the irrationality is now virtually self-evident, as they change their stories (e.g., Biddle now contradicts Barney regarding what Onkar allegedly said to students) and have even tried to justify violating individual rights (Biddle now claims that it was legitimate for him to have violated ARI’s property rights, trafficking in a stolen recording, because some ARI staff members privately criticized an article of his).
So, the “non-objectivity” and “irrationality” of Carl’s and my statements are “clear for anyone to see” and “virtually self-evident”?
Well, are the non-objectivity and irrationality of our statements clear to you? Are they self-evident to you? If not, what do Onkar and Harry’s claims imply about your intelligence or rationality?
This is what Ayn Rand called “the argument from intimidation,” which is not really an argument but rather “a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure.” The aim of the method is to get you to accept an unsupported claim (or condemnation, as the case may be) by threatening you with the speaker’s (or writers’) disapproval or disparagement if you refuse to comply. The operative assumption is that you are second-handed and can be cowed into conformity by the threat of a scoff or a scowl. The effect, when the method works, is that the user or users shirk the responsibility of supporting their claims or condemnations with reasons and evidence. In the case of a baseless moral condemnation or smear, they get away with character assassination.
As Rand writes, “All smears are Arguments from Intimidation: they consist of derogatory assertions without any evidence or proof, offered as a substitute for evidence or proof”:
When one gives reasons for one’s verdict, one assumes responsibility for it and lays oneself open to objective judgment: if one’s reasons are wrong or false, one suffers the consequences. But to condemn without giving reasons is an act of irresponsibility, a kind of moral “hit-and-run” driving, which is the essence of the Argument from Intimidation.3
Why do Onkar and Harry substitute psychological pressure for rational, evidence-based argument? If they have evidence to support their claims, why not simply provide the evidence and let people evaluate it rationally and independently?
The answers to such questions speak volumes.
As for Onkar and Harry’s claim that Carl’s and my statements about what Onkar said during the OAC call somehow contradict each other, I have no idea what they are talking about. If you read our respective statements, you will see that Carl provided a brief indication of what Onkar said during the call, pointing out that he dismissed “Justice for John P. McCaskey” as “garbage” and that he “did not give reasons, explanations, or evidence in support of his assertion.” That is true. I later elaborated and provided a transcript of the call, showing (a) that Onkar gave only pseudo-reasons for his claims, telling his students that I violated several principles of Objectivism but giving them no specific examples or evidence to support his assertions—and (b) that Onkar ultimately resorted to a naked appeal to authority, saying:
I’m not going to go into all the details of the nature of the statement or what is wrong with it. . . . If you read and can understand the philosophical issues involved in Craig Biddle’s statement, there are significant problems here. . . . It is possible that you cannot see the issues in Craig Biddle’s statement. But I am not a student. I am a professional philosopher. And I can see many things that you can’t see.
Carl’s and my statements are in perfect harmony with each other and with reality. They present different levels of detail about what happened on the call. That’s not a contradiction.
Onkar and Harry further assert that “Biddle now claims that it was legitimate for him to have violated ARI’s property rights, trafficking in a stolen recording, because some ARI staff members privately criticized an article of his.” This is yet another fabrication. I never said anything of the sort.
Here, in part, is what I wrote in the article they referenced regarding the question of property rights and who violated them:
What about those who own the recording of the phone call? Have their property rights been violated by the sharing of the portion of the transcript? Perhaps in some respect. But if and to the extent that their rights have been violated, they have been violated by the person or people who necessitated the sharing of the portion of the call that exonerates the person that he or they defamed. The people who necessitated my sharing of the portion of the transcript of the OAC call showing that Carl and I had been defamed are: Don Watkins, who claimed falsely and publicly that Carl disseminated false information about the 2010 OAC call—and Onkar Ghate, who claimed falsely to seventy students on the call that my statement misused many philosophic concepts; who pretended to give reasons (which, as I’ve shown, were non-reasons, including a world-class appeal to authority); and who concluded on the basis of zero evidence and much hand-waving that I don’t understand the Objectivist ethics.
That is an application of the same principle underlying the truth that when innocents are killed in a retaliatory strike against an aggressor, the aggressor, not the retaliator, is responsible for the deaths of the innocents. The operative principle is the law of causality applied to human responsibility. If Onkar and Harry deny this principle in regard to the party responsible for a violation of property rights when a shared recording exposes defamation, do they also deny it in regard to the party responsible for the killing of innocents in a retaliatory strike? If not, why not?
In light of what I actually wrote in the article they referenced above, observe how blatantly Onkar and Harry misquoted me by writing, “Biddle now claims that it was legitimate for him to have violated ARI’s property rights.”
Why did they misquote me at all, let alone so egregiously? Why not quote what I actually wrote? Again, the answers speak volumes.
It is a tenet of Objectivism that when “a person makes an assertion for which no rational grounds are given. . . . It is as though nothing had been said.”
It is true that when someone makes an assertion for which no rational grounds are given, it is as though nothing had been said. This is why Leonard was wrong to morally condemn McCaskey without providing evidence of his wrongdoing—and it’s why Onkar was wrong to claim that I have violated principles of Objectivism without providing evidence of such violations. This principle, however, does not support Onkar and Harry’s claims about Carl and me. Indeed, their claims are yet additional instances of people morally condemning people without providing evidence to support the claims.
Such behavior on the part of Onkar, Harry, and other managers and affiliates of ARI has put them between a rock and a hard place, where they feel that they must justify their prior acts of injustice with further acts of injustice. So, the vicious cycle continues. And the hard place gets harder.
If only there were a principle by reference to which they could see that morally condemning people without providing evidence of their wrongdoing is as impractical as it is immoral.
But Onkar and Harry have not merely failed to provide evidence in support of their claims. They also have, among other things:
- fabricated “evidence”;
- attributed statements to Leonard that he never made, attributed statements to Carl that he never made, attributed statements to me that I never made;
- made up a “rule” to conceal their wrongdoings and those of other ARI managers and affiliates;
- lobbed loaded questions at Carl and me—one demanding that we engage in an infinite regress or prove a negative, another involving a package-deal that throttles clear thinking about whether Carl and I have supported our claims with evidence; and
- used an argument from intimidation to pressure you into accepting their false and baseless claims.
Such behavior on the part of people who claim to be advocates and exemplars of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason, independence, and evidence-based thinking is morally obscene. It not only harms innocent people; it also harms the reputation of Objectivism among independent thinkers. And it attracts the kind of people who like being told what to think and who want to bow to authority and conform to a tribe.
That an institute with Ayn Rand’s name on it has come to this is a travesty.
1. Thanks to Jon Hersey for the observation about proving a negative.
2. Nor have I ever attacked Leonard. Rather, I pointed out that it is wrong to morally condemn someone publicly without providing evidence of his moral wrongdoing, and I criticized Leonard for doing that—that is, for committing an act of injustice. As I wrote in “Justice”:
For Peikoff to morally condemn [McCaskey] without providing good reason for doing so is objectively wrong.
Does this mean I am condemning Peikoff wholesale? Absolutely not. Rather, I am morally condemning Peikoff’s act [emphasis in original] of injustice against McCaskey. An injustice of this kind committed by a man of Peikoff’s moral stature does not warrant wholesale condemnation of the man. But it does warrant identifying the injustice as an injustice, and, if Peikoff does not correct the injustice (or show that it is, in fact, not an injustice), it warrants a proportional adjustment of my heretofore enormously high esteem for Peikoff.
Read “Justice” and ask yourself whether you could even uncharitably argue that I attacked Leonard. You will see that, in order to do so, you would have to misquote me and make things up, which is precisely what Onkar and Harry have done.
3. Ayn Rand, “The Argument from Intimidation,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), 162–168.