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How shitty are Rand-bashers?

I've fucking had it with Rand-bashers.  (Note: I distinguish bashers from responsible critics who make an effort to know what's what.)  Not one of the Rand-bashers operates in good faith; out of countless instances I've never seen it happen.

What do I mean by operating in good faith?

Well, let's start with Rapoport's Rules, recently popularized by Daniel Dennett.  (An aside about Dennett.  He brought up Rapoport's Rules in his 2013 book Intuition Pumps, which is 6 years ago now.  There may be no more well-known philosopher in the USA than Dennett.  And yet here we are, 6 years later, and no one seems to have picked up on Rapoport's Rules, not by the philosophically-impoverished "discourse" that's going on in the American lamestream.  Exactly how long should we expect to wait before Rapoport's Rules become a mainstream norm of discourse, i.e., before a critical mass of people have learned about the Rules?  50 years?  250?  5000?  Never?  For this no-brainer?)

Here's the first Rapoport Rule as formulated by Dennett:

1: You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, "Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way."

This principle is also expressed in Bryan Caplan's proposed Ideological Turing Test (ITT), modeled on the original Turing Test idea which had to do with whether one could tell a computer apart from a person.  The ITT has to do with whether one can "state opposing views as clearly and persuasively as their proponents," so that one wouldn't be able to tell the critic of view X from the holder of view X.

Another way of expressing the principle involved is: dialectic.  To make any progress in dialectic we have to be sure that we've established a common ground as to the ideas being proposed by the multiple parties involved.  If one side says that the other side is caricaturing its views, then dialectic cannot proceed or get off the ground.

By the standards expressed here - Rapoport Rules, ITT, dialectic - Rand-bashers have failed abysmally and will always fail abysmally.  This isn't just because Rand's ideas are a lot more plausible and well-supported than the bashers claim; it is because their approach to attacking contrary ideas is so shitty, so ignorant, so lazy, so discreditable, etc.

(I should note, as I have on many an occasion in many a venue, that I find Rand's polemics against such philosophers as Kant to fail by the standards expressed above.  As a result I have been slammed online by the shittier "Objectivists" who basically take the same approach to Kant that Rand-bashers take toward Rand, with as little genuine fruit to show for it.  Hell would freeze over before Kant scholars would consider Rand's characterizations of Kant true, helpful, insightful, etc. - just as hell would freeze over before Rand scholars take Rand-bashers seriously.  Suffice it to say that I think Rand does a much better job formulating her own ideas than characterizing those she despised [or thought she despised, given what she thought those ideas contained].)

Here we are, it's 2019, and a steady stream of professional philosophical literature on Rand - duly compiled in the bibliography at the SEP entry on Rand -  has been emerging for well over a decade now.  You would never know it by listening to the Rand-bashers.  Not only do they not know about this body of literature but all indications I've seen is that they refuse to know.  (I consider intellectual laziness a form of such refusal to know; I distinguish between intellectual laziness - not making an effort to know - from the more extreme form of evasion or intellectual dishonesty, which is making an effort not to know.)  They would rather stick with their ignorant caricature than to learn from those who'd put in the study/effort.

Among the materials with which the highest-caliber professional philosophical literature on Rand would have to demonstrate familiarity is Leonard Peikoff's lecture courses or at the very minimum the themes addressed and highlighted therein.  They're usually methodological themes, having to do with how to conduct one's mind in acts of cognition.  Among the key Peikoff courses is the one titled Understanding Objectivism.  (This one has been in book form for seven years now.)  Whenever I have brought up this course, Rand-bashers have evaded.  They don't think they need to "waste any more time on that crap."  I suppose they would have an excuse for such an attitude if they ever got Rand's ideas right in the first place, or were so much as aware of the importance Rand and Peikoff placed on methodological issues (the core focus of Sciabarra's thoroughly-researched 1995 book Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical).  Rand herself has said that she is not primarily an advocate of capitalism or even of egoism but of reason, and that her conception of reason is contained in works on epistemology she wrote or endorsed (including the full presentation in Peikoff's 1976 Rand-endorsed.

Assuredly, Rand-bashers are in essence ignorant of all this material, hence their main focus on what they think Rand's ethical views are.  (They think they know what Rand's views on capitalism are, but if they couldn't tell you about the themes in Rand's "What is Capitalism?" essay - namely its focus on Rand's whole "role of the mind in man's existence" theme - then they haven't really done their homework.)  And when they get around to talking about her ethics, they're usually terrible at it (according to Rapoport/ITT/dialectical standards).

With that background...

Here's a recent reddit thread on /r/philosophy (sic), in which a bunch of ignorant/lazy/vicious Rand-bashers come out in large numbers.  The thread itself is linked to this piece of shit from the managing editor of the American Philosophical Association's blog.  If it had ever even so much as occurred to that author to run her stuff by Rand's defenders for the sake of accuracy and context, there's no indication of that in the essay.  It is nothing more than the standard hit-piece that Rand fans have seen over and over for decades on end.  (What the fuck is the excuse for this decades-long pattern of shitty behavior?)  The Ayn Rand Society's (ARS) Greg Salmieri wrote a response to that piece at the ARS blog.  If there is a shred of evidence that this made the author rethink her view of Rand, I don't know of it.  No retraction, no contrition, no accountability that I can see.  I think Salmieri is, as a matter of professional necessity and maybe some kind of Aristotelian sensibility as he understands it, is far more cordial than his targets deserve; Rand herself would not be nearly so mild-tempered toward those who basically act like slime when bashing her.

Now, as to that reddit thread.  It's a fucking trainwreck, a testament to "the intellectual bankruptcy of our age," as Rand would have put it.  Next to none of the negative things said about Rand in the thread are true.  I reiterate: this is not even so much about whether Rand's ideas are correct or well-supported, but rather about the method of approach toward ideas/viewpoints displayed in that thread.

We get the usual smears about Rand accepting Social Security benefits ("she hypocritically took welfare, probably ending up in government housing and eating pet food to boot"); only one person in the thread pointed to a well-done Snopes piece debunking the smear.  The others in the subthread just proceed unaccountably as though they know what they're talking about.  Their falsehoods get dozens of upvotes.  (How can reddit be taken seriously as an intellectual format?)

We get the usual smears about Rand's egoism being: cold-hearted, indifferent to others, sociopathic, mean, money-grubbing, narcisstic, simple to refute, and on and fucking on it goes.  Almost zero direct quotes are provided to support any of this.  If any quotes are provided, chances are good they're out of context.

[Note: Numerous comments I made in the thread trying to correct or challenge the smears and strawmen do not show up in the thread, meaning the mods have employed the patently dishonest/malicious shadow-ban technique for which social media mods/admins have earned considerable notoriety.  By doing so they have wasted my motherfucking time and for that they have landed squarely on my shit-list.  Further, one /r/philosophy (sic) mod in particular who for a while went under the user name /u/drunkentune is an especially bad-faith piece of shit on the topic of Rand - for instance, citing Nozick's critique of Rand as evidence she is easily refuted, but not citing the Dougs' rebuttal even thought the latter had been pointed out to him numerous times before.  Another slimy mod, /u/ReallyNicole, was among those wanting to ban Rand threads from /r/philosophy (sic) on the grounds that Rand isn't a philosopher.  These two creatures are/were in philosophy (sic) grad school, well on their way to joining the other dishonest anti-Rand academic faculty-creatures.  By the way, the systematic Rand-related dishonesty is also in full force at /r/askphilosophy.  Indeed, the intellectual culture on any of the "default" subreddits where politics figures heavily is systematically dishonest due to its leftist bias and popularity-contest format.]

The top-voted comment in the entire thread?  I'll quote from it:

Every two months, some blowhard makes an article about how Ayn Rand is being "ignored".
She is not being ignored. Every college ethics textbook mentions her by name in the opening chapters. They describe her ethical system with something called Ethical Egoism.They then usually just say the system is unworkable as an ethical system. Then the book moves on to greener pastures. She is sometimes compared to Machiavelli and maybe Clausewitz.
That's it. There is no problem here.
Look -

So instead of being pointed to random internet smears, we are pointed to "ethics textbooks" where Rand is covered in the "egoism" section.

Well guess fucking what: Rand scholars don't accept those textbook treatments as even close to adequate in representing what Rand actually thought.  (Link is to Irfan Khawaja's article "Randian Ethics: Time to Get High.")  Now, people can differ in their interpretations of texts - it happens all the time in philosophy - and it's pretty safe to say that Rand's critics and Rand's defenders aren't on the same page as to what they're talking about.  But the important question then is: how do Rand's critics react to this fact?  Are they basically willing to engage, or do they dishonestly evade?

I've studied Rand's egoistic theory enough to have published on it in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.  That, along with being able to almost cite chapter and verse from Peikoff's Objectivism courses (I've listened to the biggest ones at least twice each: Understanding Objectivism; Advanced OPAR Seminars; The Art of Thinking; Objectivism Through Induction), is good evidence that I have an expert-level understanding of Rand.  The "egoism" being attributed to Rand by the haters in that thread and elsewhere is not the one I recognize in Rand, not even close.

I haven't read the thread far enough yet to see if the usual Hickman smear comes up, but outside of that thread the Rand-bashers have comported themselves like fucking scumbags on this point.  Follow the links and discover for yourself how they operate when they think they have Rand nailed on something.  It's basically the same story as with the "Rand took welfare" smear - reckless disregard for things like context, or not making an effort to get a different take on the story (from those who probably know a lot more about it than they do; me, I was aware of Rand's journal entries on Hickman over twenty years ago and knew well enough how to assess its relevance to Rand's mature thought, and so you might imagine my disgust when clueless scumbags come along years later, like a child wandering into the middle of a movie, and use them to smear her).

Without exception, from my experience, when Rand-bashers are presented a different take on Rand from theirs, they either slink away without any acknowledgment that they were mistaken, or they double down and get nasty and evasive.  Every fucking time.  It's what Rand-bashers do, given their natures.

Given that my main focus here is on how Rand-bashers operate, the question arises: wherever would these creatures have gotten the idea that operating that way is normal or acceptable in intellectual discourse?  Well, we might have a clue as to that from another reddit thread within the past year (which I found as I was searching for the Khawaja article above) on the /r/AcademicPhilosophy subreddit.  Now, the participants in the thread are presumably academic philosophers or closely interested in the subject.  (The sub doesn't get much traffic.)  Ask yourself whether the Rand-bashers in that thread are proceeding in good faith.  Did any of them address the Khawaja article that headlined the thread?  Nope.  Look at all the downvotes for user Sword_of_Apollo's comments that contain reasonable, documented defenses of Rand.  (I don't support Sword's dismissive attitude about Kant; might I recommend any number of these books?)  Unaccountable, anonymous downvoting.  How is reddit supposed to be taken seriously as an intellectual format, where higher-voted (i.e., more popular) comments get more exposure/attention?  How are philosophy subreddits that look this supposed to be taken seriously?  (55 upvotes for a comment consisting only in "At least Machiavelli's systems actually make sense and work"?  How much more anti-intellectual does it get?)  More on social media toxicity here.

Now, this being the year 2019, one might have thought that were some Rand-basher to come out with a book right now, it would contain some intellectually-respectable reference to the growing body of academic literature on Rand.  One would especially come to expect that from a book on Rand published by a university press.  So, what is the best book that Rand-bashers seem to be able to come up with, 62 years after Atlas, etc.?

We have an answer: Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed, by Lisa Duggan, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU.  It is published by University of California Press.  So naturally there is some expectation of quality given who wrote and published it.  On her twitter page, Duggan identifies herself as "pinko commie" - in other words, a leftist embedded within an academic sub-culture of leftists.  Is the intellectual culture of leftism today a healthy one?  Certainly not, if Duggan is representative of it.

The title of the book, just by itself, is a red flag.  Ayn Rand, mean?  Either that is a basically correct assessment or a basically clueless one.  And no expert in Rand studies would take the "mean girl" thesis seriously.  Now, my question is: Did Duggan so much as make an effort to run her book by Rand experts, for the sake of accuracy, context, intellectual integrity, etc.  Based on the "exchange" I had with her via email, the safe answer is: Fuck no!  I don't think I need to reproduce my goodreads review here, so I'll just link to it; it contains the "exchange" I had with Duggan so you can see for yourself the dishonest/scummy/lowlife way she operates.

And I wouldn't expect much of anything better from the rest of the Rand-bashers.  The two main problems for them: (1) The theme they're pushing - that Rand is a mean bitch, not a real philosopher, etc. - is not defensible in the final analysis, not even close; (2) Their intellectual MO is all fucked-up, lacking the Rapoport/ITT/dialectical sensibility.

Here's the really big problem.  The shitty behavior by those on /r/AcademicPhilosophy speaks for itself, but what about all the shittiness on the main /r/philosophy thread?  Many of the participants there have gone to a college or university where they were supposed to learn the Rapoport/ITT/dialectical sensibility, but that didn't happen.  Why?

Next up: My timeline of key players in the history of Randian thought, which I've had sitting in the queue for months now; it should serve as nice background material to reference on the subject of 'Rand and philosophy.'  The Rand-bashers, and capitalism-bashers - clueless little shits - are only falling further behind the curve.  I'll start talking more nice about them when they start being intellectually honest.

[Edit: Fortunately, there is some serious/honest/respectable academic dialogue on Rand that's happening recently, in the Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies series, where non-Objectivists give fair critiques of Rand and Rand defenders have the fair opportunity to respond.  Elsewhere, especially where Rand-bashers (who are willfully oblivious to the existence of such dialogue) run amok, it's pretty much a shitshow.]


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