The news of the week is the acrid fallout that continues from the post-midterm election debate, this time centering on an essay by Tore Boeckmann which defended Robert Mayhew's criticism of Robert Tracinski's new theory of history.
I personally have been taking my time responding to Trasinski's thesis in-depth (for the record, I disagree with him). Nevertheless, I have been monitoring the debate elsewhere and from time to time I have offered limited commentary. At Diana Hsieh's blog, I noted my view that many of the attacks from the pro- Tracinski side of the debate seem to be the result of the anger many still seem to feel over Leonard Peikoff's election-eve rebuke. Peikoff's statment has caused them to "upchuck a stream of context-busting and concrete-bound arguments, and then engage in an orgy of backslapping for the "courage" it ostensibly takes to disagree with Leonard Peikoff and other scholars." I know, not very subtle and I own that, but unfortunately, the statement reflects my perception of how the debate is rapidly degenerating.
In reply, I noticed a post on the THE FORUM for Ayn Rand Fans, that labels Hsieh, Mayhew, Boeckmann and me as "implicitly and explicitly" issuing "exhortations to Authoritarianism" (note the capital "A") and that the poster has determined that we are disqualified as either "exponents of or legitimate 'authorities' on the philosophy of Objectivism."
Savor the irony. And in my particular case, there's a lot to savor. After all, when Leonard Peikoff first posted his election comments on his website, I agreed with the essential part of his assessment in that some Objectivists are underselling the threat of the religious conservatives in a way that reveals a flawed understanding of how ideas shape history, but I initially disagreed with his lesser important (in my view) position on the importance of voting one way or another (and my disagreement was unequivocal). Ultimately I voted for the Democrats in the election, but I always maintained that one's vote is only as important as the chance that it could swing an election, which is near nil.
So I guess if I'm an "Authoritarian," I don't even get the benefit of being a good one. And it goes even worse for Diana Hsieh; one poster remarks that they never really believed Hsieh rethought and abandoned her previous pro-TOC position. Sure, you can write thousands upon thousands of words frankly acknowledging the errors in your thinking and how you recovered from them, but according to this person's seeming assessment, once a tolerationist rat, always a tolerationist rat. That's a tough break, Diana . . .
Since it has been said that the FORUM is firmly moderated and given that the posts in question are still online, I can only assume that it these posts have met the FORUM's standards for integrity and decorum; that is, that these kinds of wild charges are considered legitimate and helpful commentary by the FORUM's moderators and owners. That's too bad, but it's obviously revealing. I expect that this debate will only become more acrimonious over time.
At the same time, I think this debate is necessary. Lest it be claimed that there are bigger fish to fry elsewhere, I would like those who hold as much to explain to me how people are anything more than vauge allies (if that) when their view of Objectivism leads them to conclude that Bush is a war leader beyond reproach and that the conservatives are not systematically undercutting the advance of freedom in America (that is, when they are not outright threatening it).
Update: Fixed some spelling errors, reordered words in the last sentence for clarity.