The kind of stuff [Diana Hsieh] said makes even the worst Speichers stuff tame by comparison, and she's aided by abominable viciousness from Mayhew and Boeckmann, all piling together into one big mass of seething vituperation . . . [w]hat gives?I don't see it that way. For example, I thought it intriguing that Stephen Speicher quoted an almost two-year-old HBL post by Tore Boeckmann in one of his FORUM threads. Leaving aside the whole "was Speicher authorized to do it" issue, I found it remarkable that anyone would remember anything anyone said on HBL from two years past--until I looked at my HBL archives and saw that Boeckmann and Mayhew were disagreeing with Speicher's wife, Betsy over the perennial "how goes the world" question. Mayhew had made a strong case against Betsy Speicher's overly optimistic view and offered his opinion that hope for the future will be for naught if Objectivists spend all their time in Internet discussions over more laborious (and productive) thinking and reading.
Sure, "ouch," but Mayhew is 100% right, and Boeckmann came in later for the assist when another HBL'er objected, adding his own observation that the Objectivism is best learned under the tutelage of an expert followed by private thought.
In reading though it all, it was clear to me that Boeckmann wasn't arguing for "authoritarianism," he was arguing for structure and the benefits of a master's helpful guidance. And he's right; the Internet is great for meeting similar-interested people, sharing camaraderie, and exchanging the occasional deep thought or two, but an Internet bull session is absolutely no substitute for formal instruction in any field. The Internet must not be viewed as the poor man's way to learn philosophy--it's simply too ad hoc and there is too much noise to signal for it to serve as a good substitute for formal learning.
Fast forwarding to today's debate, all I can infer is that these old posts by Mayhew and Boeckmann really pushed Stephen Speicher's buttons, hence the elephant-like memory and the seeming hair-trigger hostility. Yet far from being "abominably vicious," I say Mayhew and Boeckmann make a truthful case in both their past and present criticisms.
So how then has this criticism been met? In one of his more recent responses, Stephen Speicher listed Mayhew's academic articles and the number of documented citations of these articles (which he says is none) on the implicit grounds that this somehow proves that Mayhew is a lout (and worse, a lout that no one cites).
I call it the "Late Great Smear by (Lack of) Citation" and when I read it last night, I recoiled in embarrassment for Speicher. Without knowing the citation ratio for other Objectivist scholars (and Objectivist scholars in the classics), and without knowing what battles Mayhew has had to fight in his career as a scholar, Speicher's list is meaningless. It's nothing more than a cheap and ugly shot. If it was an attempt to take the high ground by proving a material fact, it utterly flopped dead with me.
As for Diana Hsieh, I look at it like this: if you are going to go after her, you damn well better make sure it's good. Some (especially her former pro-Kelley allies) have certainly turned sliming Hsieh into a cottage industry and it only seems that others are jumping in on the action. Nevertheless, Hsieh has convinced me that she's far too thoughtful a writer to deserve being subjected to that kind of treatment. Furthermore, I don't see "seething vituperation," in Hsieh's writing; I see someone laying it out as she sees it and who is right, both in a broad sense and in terms of the particulars. Hsieh may often be pointed and tough, but in my estimate, her targets have convinced me that they deserve it.
I read your post on Noodlefood that you think that the "real cause of this debate is Robert Tracinski's positions over the past several years," but I don't see how Tracinski's pro-Bush ideas played that big of a role . . . [also], I have yet to see one Objectivist claim, on The Forum or anywhere else, that "Bush is a war leader beyond reproach" and that the conservatives are not a threat to our liberty.I take it all back to Jack Wakeland's claim in TIA that when Objectivists criticize George Bush for fighting a "half-war" on totalitarian Islam, they are doing the enemy's work. Up until that point, I was merely indifferent to what I saw as a shift in the focus of TIA's reporting, but from that point on, I took it as an outright shift in TIA's view of philosophy. Tracinski's subsequent writings clearly bear me out on this.
Because Tracinski is not a flip thinker and because many Objectivists seem to agree with him, I think his positions demand thoughtful and sober-minded examination. That said, I don't think that these examinations will come out of Internet discussion boards and I point to the current sad debacle as proof. In fact, I urge all serious-minded participants to argue their positions and examinations by longer-form essays over short cut-and-pastes with an attack premise--in the hopes of reestablishing a proper sense of polite etiquette and a devotion to ideas over personalities.
In my view, Internet pile-ons are simply unbecoming given what most of the participants aspire to be.
Update: Apparently, Stephen Speicher’s list of Robert Mayhew’s journal articles and their citations has been removed. I was able to find no mention or explanation for this removal. Additionally, other posts in this thread also seem to have vanished without explanation.