Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Re-Checking Some Premises

Update: Dr. Hsieh has written her own response to the shameful checkingpremises.org site here.

A new Objectivism-related website named checkingpremises.org went live yesterday. My interest was piqued when I saw a link in Facebook comments, so I paid the new site a visit. According to its Purpose page, the site was "created by serious students and proponents of Objectivism in response to the danger that some, who may seem in agreement with the philosophy, are in fact subverting it."

Checkingpremises.org contains a few select quotes and links related to David Kelly, the Brandens, and Libertarianism. Also present is Peikoff's oft-quoted "Fact and Value," a very enlightening statement on disputes within the Objectivist movement. Links to works by Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, and Ayn Rand are there as well.

So far, this is nothing unusual. There are already numerous sites on the web offering resource material on various disputes in the Objectivist movement. This site adds nothing new on that front, and is by comparison quite lacking in content. What makes checkingpremises.org stand out (and not in a good way) is its concerted, focused attack on professional intellectual Dr. Diana Hsieh. Based on the website's presentation at launch, one can only assume that it was created specifically to attack Dr. Hsieh, and explicitly to lump her together with David Kelly, the Brandens, and Libertarianism, i.e., as an enemy of Objectivism.

[At launch,] Checkpremises.com contains a total of 13 pages: one page on its Purpose, one page on its Context, one page about Libertarianism, one page about the Brandens, one page about David Kelly, one Resources page, one About Us page, and six pages about Dr. Diana Hsieh. Even more striking is the complete lack of meaningful content on the non-Hsieh-related pages. For example, the entries on David Kelly and the Brandens contain two sentences and one link each. The Current Controversies page -- dedicated entirely to Dr. Hsieh -- contains two full paragraphs along with links to five other pages, each with additional comments on Hsieh's alleged transgressions against Objectivism.

Despite their mission to expose "subversive" threats to Objectivism, the authors of checkpremises.com contribute nothing of value to advance this end. The entries on Kelley and the Brandens are ridiculously short; no effort whatsoever is made to substantiate criticism of these individuals. This is not to say no criticism can be made, only that the site's creators make no attempt to do so.

Ironically, Drs. Diana and Paul Hsieh have contributed literal volumes of thought-provoking essays related to the various Objectivist splits. Dr. Diana Hsieh's collection of essays False Friends of Objectivism contains a wealth of insights from a professional intellectual who has been personally and emphtically promoting Objectivism for many years. Dr. Paul Hsieh's brilliant article The Fable of the Cartiac Surgeon is perhaps the best, most easily accessible criticism of Libertarianism I have ever read. I may not agree with everything the Hsiehs have written over the years, but they are always thoughtful, they always cite their sources, and they always stimulate the mind. They are fiercely independent thinkers who have dedicated their lives to promoting a philosopy for life on earth. They are anything but subversive enemies of Objectivism.

If there is anything "subversive" brought to light by checkpremises.org, it is the underhanded way in which an entire website was created as a giant smear of Dr. Hsieh, then dressed up and presented as a resource site for conflicts within the Objectivist movement.

For a site that boasts of fifteen contributors, it is laughably short on content and substance. These fifteen individuals (did they write one sentence each?) expose one further subvertive element within the Objectivist community: the tendancy of loud, cynical, moralizing Objectivists to wage propoganda wars against purported "enemies" over non-essential disagreements. A distinction needs to be made between anti-Objectivists like Kelley, the Brandens, or pedophile-defender Michael Stuart Kelly -- and others like Tracinski, McCaskey, and the Hsiehs (and Reisman and Packer?) who have had non-essential disagreements with other Objectivist intellectuals which blew up into widely-publicized conflicts.

Thankfully, this destructive trend to focus disproportionately on negative elements within the Objectivist community seems to be waning. Objectivist bloggers and professional intellectuals are dissiminating the philosophy every day by applying it to a variety practical subjects. Those with a passion for written communication openly debate a wide range of topics, and all benefit. Your average college-age Objectivist out there may not even know who David Kelley is, but is much more likely to have written dozens of posts on internet forums in his pursuit of knowledge. I think this is a very good thing.

Dr. Diana Hsieh is already a much more important contributor to the history of the Objectivist movement than David Kelley ever was. She is a far greater a contributor still than those now concocting these smears against her. The tens of thousands of pages of material she's published, the thousands of online discussions, and the dozens of lectures speak for themselves. While I would never say that I'm in the Hsieh's "camp" (they don't have one) I consider them much greater allies, who contribute so much more to my life, than those Self-Centered, Malevolent People Premisers of checkpremises.org.

--Dan Edge


Anonymous said...

Diana Hsieh is not allowed at OCON for very good reasons. Checkingpremises.org was started to give people a resource for understanding why. Her advocacy of eating babies (literally) was really the last straw for many people when it came to the fore a few weeks ago even though she originally advanced it in May 2011 at AtlosCON.

Dan Edge said...

I appreciate the feedback, but I respectfully disagree. I find my disagreements with Dr. Hsieh to be non-essential when evaluating her performance as a professional intellectual.

Diana Hsieh said...

I've never been banned from OCON. Paul and I chose not to go last year. At present, we're not interested in attending OCON.

As for the claim that I advocate eating babies, that's COMPLETELY FREAKING INSANE. I said exactly the opposite during my webcast at AtlosCON -- as anyone who actually listens the recording can hear for themselves. A summary of my views can be found in my recent blog post.

The people who want to claim that I'm so awful should stop inventing stories and stick to the facts. Of course, the facts don't justify their condemnation, and that's why they're engaged in these blatant fabrications.

Anonymous said...

No, Diana, you are NOT allowed at OCON.

Diana Hsieh said...

... sez some totally anonymous random person on the internet. Forgive me if I don't take that seriously.

Dan Edge said...

For the record:

I allow the comments from "Anonymous" to remain only because they further expose the depths of dishonesty we're dealing with here. I didn't even know about the bizarre baby-eating thing until recently, but I've looked into it now. I was too cordial to Anonymous the first time round, and I'd like to correct that, too.

I state with complete certainty that anyone who claims Diana advocates baby-eating is lying. I don't mean misunderstood, or ignorant, but fully willfully and consciously lying. And it appears that the lies are being spread for the express purpose of unjustly assaulting Diana's reputation.

I do not accept as a possibility that anyone could honestly conclude that Diana advocates eating babies. Particularly not when Diana has clarified her position time and again, very clearly, citing sources of hers and others' prior comments. And then re-explaining. Very carefully.

Frankly, I find the notion completely fucking ridiculous. The anti-Diana frenzy has reached a point to where some her detractors will create any kind of bullshit controversy imaginable to slander her.

And it *is* potentially slander, because these people know that what they're saying is false, and they're purposefully spreading that false information to attack her livelihood as a professional intellectual.

Fortunately, no damages could be proven because, especially after this shameful display, the authors of checkingpremises.org have zero credibility. They are literally the laughing stock of the Objectivist community. I'm sure that many of them consider themselves to fall within the Peikoff camp, but I have too much respect for Peikoff's accomplishments to accept that.

What an unbelievably weird and unfortunate spectacle this has become!

--Dan Edge

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Advocating eating babies is definitely a weird spectacle. What about just drinking their blood? That would be better. At least they would have a chance of surviving.

Would that be consistent with Diana' theory that we should copy behaviors of "humans" who lived 2.5 million years ago in the Paleolithic? She thinks we should eat like them. That's for sure. She thinks we should move (exercise) like them. Why shouldn't we think like them too? Mind/body dichotomies are no bueno.

I would be willing to bet they ate a lot of babies back then. Ever see a gorilla get its hands on a baby baboon? Of course, I have never heard of a gorilla eat a baby gorilla. I guess they have higher standards that Diana "the Cannibal" Hsieh.

Dan Edge said...

That last comment was a great example of the kind of charges now being made against Diana. At least the authors of checkingpremises.org link to Diana's site (which quickly gives lie to the assertions they make).

I challenge any of the anonymous folks to provide a single quote from Diana, even one completely out-of-context, which would lead one to the conclusion that she advocates baby-eating.

For those ignorant of the conflict like I was until yesterday, Diana generated controversy by openly exploring the implications of the fact that a brainless baby, like a fetus or a pet, would be treated as (rights-less) property in a laissez-faire government.

I haven't thought about this issue enough yet to form a solid opinion. But I do believe that all animals, even pets, ought properly be regarded as property. This means that it would not be illegal to torture or kill your pet, or even make kitten stew. Does this imply that I advocate kitten-murder?

Even given this little information, which could be misinterpreted to an extent, could anyone arrive at the honest conclusion that I support animal torture? I say no. Yet this is exactly the kind of BS we get from checkingpremises.org.

And, really, you're gonna accuse Diana of being anti-Objectivist because of her FUCKING DIET?!? Is it just Paleo you object to, or am I a bad Objectivist too for trying Weight Watchers that one time? What about p90x and crossfit, I've been into those for a while? Boy, I sure hope I choose the most objectively rational workout routine.

You really gotta be kidding me about this.

--Dan Edge

Anonymous said...

None of those diets you mention try to pretend that the Agricultural Revolution didn't happen. It did. It led to the Industrial Revolution--which allowed those prepackaged meals Weight Watchers makes--and the current Technological Revolution, which allows people to share their opinions openly. The good ones get picked up. The bad ones go find something else to do with their lives. Like Diana should do. Now.

Also, good luck with your diet. As a former personal trainer, my best advice is to eat less of what you like and remember the weight loss equation: calories in must be less than calories out.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, nice chatting with you. I see that Dollars and Crosses picked up Checkingpremises.org. Shouldn't be long now...

My work here is, as they say, done.

Trey Peden said...

Anonymous has so obviously misrepresented Diana's views and lied about other facts that I am genuinely shocked.

I don't care for the Checking Premises folks, but I have generally assumed they're honest in their disagreements. I hope they know better than to associate with that person.

Dan Edge said...


Yes, I would guess that many of that website's principals would disagree with Annonymous's statements. At least I hope so. I note that the restructured checkingpremises.org sites contains less of this kind of language. Joyce's essay, for instance, makes no charges of "baby-eating advocacy".

--Dan Edge

Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. said...

I don't think DH actually advocated that we could eat babies, given that she did eventually (even in the podcast) say that it would be immoral. However, the way she handled the issue during the podcast and during the AltosCon live session was to state that the Supreme Court had come to the conclusion that brainless babies don't have rights, and therefore began to speculate that we could eat them. This turned into a session of let's eat human baby baby-backed ribs, and I think her comment that it would be immoral to actually do it was lost in the disgust many of us felt for her bringing up the topic and the possibility that we could eat brainless babies. I don't think she handled the podcast nor the session very well, as if she had decided that eating brainless babies was immoral, then she should not have presented it as she did and should not have encouraged her audience to celebrate eating human baby baby-backed ribs. If there is a general misunderstanding of her position, she has no one to blame but herself.

Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. said...

OK, time for a really big apology to Diana Hsieh. I went back and re-listened to the podcast in question (for about the third time) and also re-read that portion of her rebuttal to critics, think I misunderstood her statements about the court deciding that the brainless child could not reason, and therefore could be euthanized. Somehow, I took her statement to mean that the court grants us rights. She also clearly states that she thinks it would be immoral to eat them, though the "dark humor" of human baby baby-backed ribs (brought up several times) was misunderstood by me as her endorsement of actually eating them, especially since it went into having them in grocery stores and farms. I misunderstood her arguments several times.So,for that, I do apologize to her (since she is on oo.net and evidently listening it). But I will also send this note to her via email. Diana, I do apologize. It may very well have been my revulsion of eating human babies that led me to mis-interpret what you were saying.

Dan Edge said...

Thank you, Thomas, and know I never doubted your honesty in these matters.

--Dan Edge