Objectivist groups across North America dissolved into bitter schisms. For example, a friend was banned from a discussion group he had helped to form because he refused to take Nathaniel Branden’s book The Psychology of Self-Esteem off his shelf. From one day to the next, his circle of friends became a circle of condemners. Even today, the ’80s schism tends to define the Objectivist movement by splitting it into small “o” and capital “O” Objectivists, the latter being viewed as Rand purists who revile the Brandens.
It is strange to hear Rand scholars and admirers suggest that her perspective on such a key movement event might best be left unavailable. I am hard pressed to think of similarly important material from other diaries or correspondence that historians would advocate burying.
The reason offered for this suggestion: admirers wish to spare Rand embarrassment. That reason is commendable but invalid on several grounds. Not to be crude, but Rand is dead and incapable of being embarrassed. The only impact could be on her legacy and that has been as badly damaged by the Brandens’ books. Strangely, however, I have not heard people object to how embarrassing it was for Rand to have both those accounts available.
Moreover, I found her journal entries to be far from embarrassing. In fact, I was relieved by both their content and their tone. Rand counsels Branden for months in an attempt to help him (and one imagines herself) come to grips with what’s happening. Of course, the attempt is futile as Rand is missing the information that would make sense of it all: Branden’s other and ongoing affair.
Far from the rantings and ravings of a scorned lover, I discovered the soul-searching of a confused woman who was desperate to make sense of a relationship
Having argued that The Passion is an appropriate book, it is time to ask if it is a well-written one. This brings us back to the first section of the book in which Valliant presents a full defense of Rand.
The style of Valliant’s defense has drawn as much fire as its content. For example, Valliant has been accused of constant repetition, of giving the benefit of all doubt to Rand and none to the Brandens, of exaggerating the Brandens’ misdeeds and motives, etc. In his review of The Passion, David M. Brown of Laissez-Faire Books correctly observes of Valliant, “he’s smart enough to know that this is not all the fault of one party, however much he may have focused his mind on the task of letting Rand utterly off the hook.”
Valliant’s book is not a scholarly work that aims to provide a balanced view; nor does it pretend to be. Valliant’s book is not written in a “popular” manner that seeks to entertain; nor does it pretend to be. The Passion is best viewed as a legal brief, with all the strengths and weaknesses inherent in that sort of document.
The split up between Rand and the Brandens ? in particular between Rand and Nathaniel Branden ? is a pivotal development in the history of the Objectivist movement
Valliant, a real-life district attorney, has taken on Rand as a client whom he defends against the Brandens’ accusations. And the best defense is an offense, with the Brandens becoming “the accused.” Like a good attorney, he does not credit both sides; he does not give the opposition any benefit of the doubt. He advocates for his client. In saying this, I do not suggest that Valliant has adopted the attitude of “I stand by Rand, right or wrong.” Rather, I believe he decided before conceiving the book that Rand was overwhelmingly in the right and, then, adopted a legalistic style of demonstrating his conclusion.