Note: This post involves the absurd internecine disputes within the objectivist movement. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, or if you just don’t care, ignore the rest of this post and go check out Garfield minus Garfield, which is my favorite existentialist cartoon project on the web. If you don’t care for existentialist cartoons or objectivism, then… well, then I’ve got nuthin.
Screed after the cartoon.
So I came across this today. It’s a post by Diana Hsieh, laying out the particulars of some mailing lists she runs. They’re mailing lists for Objectivists (is it possible to double-capitalize a letter?), but ONLY for REAL Objectivists. Because, you know, the movement is so big and unwieldy and so widely influential that it’s really, really important to draw a very fine distinction about who can and who can not be admitted to any particular No-Homers Objectivist club.
Yeah, I’m probably one of the Non-Objectivist objectivists that these lists specifically exclude. I used to work for an organization that gave her scholarships and philosophical training, and I’ve actually spent time working and associating with some of the most prominent, intelligent, and articulate libertarian (hisssss… hisssss…) defenders of free-markets and free societies in the country.
But my frustration isn’t about me being excluded from her mailing lists. Really, I’ve been excluded from lots of mailing lists; being bumped by a bunch of people supposedly committed to empiricism and intellectual rigor for ideological apostasy is OK. I’m not hurt by it. It’s like getting kicked out of the chess club for playing chess.
But… there’s a list dedicated to activists. She includes an activism requirement for list membership, which is fine. She even says that, “arguing with people already substantially familiar with Objectivism in online forums does not qualify as activism.”
You bet it doesn’t!
But then why limit the list to self-described big-O Objectivists? What drives me completely freaking nuts is that Diana says the lists, “All aim to help promote Objectivist ideas in the culture at large.” Apparently, by only admitting people in the culture writ small. I like miniatures and models as much as the next geek, but I don’t want my ideas, my debates, or my movements to be small and petty.
It’s a list dedicated to figuring out how to advance contentious ideas in the world at large, but it’s limited to a tiny subset of people who all agree. Let’s learn new things by talking amongst ourselves! Let’s build a movement within our walls!
Now, my point here isn’t to hash out the particular disagreements that Diana has with particular people or organizations in the movement. I agree with some of her assessments and disagree with others. I share some of her frustrations and wholeheartedly agree with some of her condemnations. I disagree with others. For the most part, I find the excessive, petty partisanship tedious and counter-productive.