Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yaron Brook vs. Peter Schwartz

I just fucking knew this chicken would come home to roost at some point.

Here we have Dr. Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, giving a lecture at the Oxford Libertarian Society.

Here we have Peter Schwartz, some 20 years prior, chastising anyone who would give a lecture at any organization deemed to be "Libertarian."

It doesn't even matter what particular libertarian organization then-ARI speaker David Kelley spoke at; the very fact that he would speak to a "Libertarian" organization was enough to fall afoul of Schwartz's "sanction" policies. What qualified as a "Libertarian" organization by Peter Schwartz's criteria? Cutting through the bullshit, the simple answer is: Whatever the hell Peter Schwartz felt like labeling and condemning as "Libertarian." The very term "libertarian" itself is a no-no in Schwartz-land. It is evidenced simply by the way he would ever speak about anything having to do with that label. If you could ever sit through a reading of his signature piece, "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty," (included in The Voice of Reason) you would find a mash-up of truly bad scholarship (some of which flies plainly in the face of the original meaning of things he quotes way out of context), weasel-wording, false integrations, hysterical hyperbole, and overall nonsense in place of substance. Never in his entire career of being the "Libertarianism" hatchet-man have I ever seen him offer anything remotely resembling clear-cut criteria for who merits his anti-"Libertarian" ire.

What amazes me is how he got away with this un-objective crap for so long. Many, many reasonable and intelligent people who left ARI and/or joined David Kelley in the early 1990s were flabbergasted that such anti-intellectual trash was being peddled in seriousness. Just what was the stick up this guy's (and many of his emulators') ass about the very mention of the word "libertarian"? (Schwartz always used "Libertarian" with a capital L. There's no clear or objective reasons that he would do so. I've always found him slimy for a number of reasons, and I'm guessing his reasons for doing so here are, likewise, slimy. The only effect - intended or not - is to confuse people and foment stupidity.) Yeah, we get the point about sanctioning evil, but what is this irrational hysteria posing as Objectivist thought?

It is also worth mentioning that since the time Schwartz was president of ARI, i.e., since Yaron Brook has taken over, the illogicality, the un-seriousness, the pointless sectarianism driving away good and reasonable people, has gone by the wayside in favor of actual quality and substance. Which particular libertarian organizations to speak to or work with has always been a matter of judgment and of context - things which the Schwartz approach shat all over. Schwartz is a fucking idiot and his signature piece will go down in infamy in the eyes of history. MARK MY WORDS.

(To be perfectly frank, the way Schwartz quotes and uses original sources screams of bad faith. The way he targets and selects material, most significantly from Murray Rothbard, rips it out of context, twists the meaning, applies non-sequiturs to the twisted out-of-context carefully-selected quotes . . . it just falls so far beyond the pale of intellectual responsibility that it discredits him on that basis alone. One thing it does do, is prey upon the most ridiculous misconceptions and ignorance about things people like Rothbard actually ever said. Another piece of anecdotal evidence: In Understanding Objectivism, Peikoff relates an incident in which an unnamed "libertarian" - Rothbard, it turns out - claimed the right to bash him over the head with a typewriter, as long as he, the basher, was the typewriter's rightful owner. He repeated this story on his radio show in the late '90s. This, of course, runs counter to everything Rothbard ever advocated. Now, I have ample reason to believe Peikoff's example rested upon an innocuous misunderstanding on his part. But for Schwartz to sit by and allow this stuff to be spread around in Objectivist circles for years . . . it's just too intellectually vicious to merit a benefit of the doubt, given his own knowledge of Rothbard's actual views.)

Now, the question is, how do the Schwartzophiles react to the news that the leading ARI spokesman today speaks in front of a group identifying itself by the dreaded L-word? If past experience with these assholes is any indication, the reaction will consist primarily of one thing: evasion. Fortunately, it looks like the worst of the Schwartzophiles have gone away as he has withered into relative obscurity since his loathsome signature-piece heyday.

Now, one might be inclined to ask, "How did such an idiot and second-rater manage to pull one over on so large a group of people otherwise committed - at least ostensibly - to reasonable and thoughtful discourse?" Does this really require a flight of imagination? We need only look at the case of Nathaniel Branden, who managed to pull off his shenanigans for years, and right to Ayn Rand's face, too. Throw in plenty of honest confusions on the issue from all corners, and throw in some groupthink dynamics - the record of behavior by many so-called Objectivists in this regard is far from enviable, and makes Miss Rand roll in her grave - and it's not hard to understand at all. The damage Branden did to the reputation of the Objectivist movement is untold; likewise with Schwartz's thoroughly stupid dumping-on anything he called "Libertarian."

By the way, it is most irrelevant here that Rand had little to nothing nice to say about the Libertarian Party or the political-types who eschew philosophy while adopting the "libertarian" label. A reasonable, commonsensical person can tell the difference between what she meant (she took the care to put the term in "scare quotes" so that we know she isn't identifying with a political label - not that the term cannot be reasonably and objectively applied in certain contexts) and the cognitive filth Schwartz was spewing. So if I so much as fucking hear about "Rand denouncing libertarians" or "libertarians this," and "libertarians that" with no clear cognitive context to it ever again, by god I just don't want to deal with it lest I scream. It's just too stupid to take seriously.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Yaron Brook for not going apeshit over a label. Have we finally moved past the screaming stupidity?

[Incidentally, I found this link to Brook's lecture after discovering a lecture by noted libertarian (oh dear) scholar Eric Mack. Unlike certain intellectual pipsqueaks who bash "L/libertarians" indiscriminately, his work is usually first-rate.]

No comments:

Post a Comment