Sunday, November 09, 2008

James Valliant on "The Exploiters and the Exploited," Part 4

According to Valliant, Rand’s defense in TWIMC was accurate whereas the Brandens’ responses were “dishonest . . . relying on direct personal slander.” (PARC, p. 90.) However, Valliant concedes that “Rand was not telling her readers everything.” (PARC, p. 95.)

It is evident from reading TWIMC that there was an undisclosed “personal” matter that provided the backdrop for the dispute. For example, Rand says that she was “shocked to discover that he [Branden] was consistently failing to apply to his own personal life. . . the fundamental principles of Objectivism . . . .” (p. 3.) She says that Barbara Branden later disclosed that Branden “suddenly confessed that Mr. Branden had been concealing from me certain ugly actions . . . in his private life . . . .” (p. 4.)

Although Rand did not say what these “ugly actions” were, she did reference Branden’s letter of July 1968. She wrote, “Mr. Branden presented me with a written statement which was so irrational and so offensive that I had to break my personal association with him.” (p. 3.) Left unsaid was that this statement was a several page letter which Nathaniel wrote to Rand explaining that their difference in age prevented him from resuming a sexual relationship with her. (JD, p. 375.) Branden reports that Rand was furious when he hand-delivered the letter to her. (JD, pp. 376-77.) Rand spent numerous pages in her diaries denouncing Branden and the letter. (PARC, pp. 311-69.)

Branden’s response to this claim about the letter was the following:

In writing the above, Miss Rand has given me the right to name that which I infinitely would have preferred to leave unnamed, out of respect for her privacy. I am obliged to report what was in that written paper of mine, in the name of justice and of self-defense.

That written statement was an effort, not to terminate my relationship with Miss Rand, but to save it, in some mutually acceptable form.

It was a tortured, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassed attempt to make clear to her why I felt that an age distance between us of twenty-five years constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.

It is tempting to say, as does Valliant, that this portion of the Branden’s response was, if not gratuitous, at least misleading. In my opinion, the most natural implication of what Branden says is that Rand wanted to start a relationship. I don’t think most readers would conclude that Rand and Branden had a relationship which she wanted to restart. However, one must consider the context. At the beginning of the affair, all parties agreed to keep the affair secret. Rand, by mentioning the letter, in effect broke the agreement. By wording his response the way he did, Branden was able to keep his word and respond to the substance of TWIMC.

An additional matter is the addendum to TWMIC from signed by four lecturers at the NBI (Allan Blumenthal, Alan Greenspan, Leonard Peikoff, and Mary Ann Sures) who announced that they were breaking all ties with the Brandens and “condemn[ing]
them “irrevocably.” Of these four, Rand told only Allan Blumenthal of the affair. I find it a bit unfair for Rand to ask (or allow) these three people to sign such a statement without telling them know the complete story.

In hindsight it would probably have been better for Rand to write a short statement that she was ending her association with the Brandens for personal and professional reasons. By launching such a personal attack on the Brandens and indirectly referencing the affair, I find the Brandens’ response measured.