(If you are not an Objectivist, please ignore this.)
For about 10 years, on and off, certain people at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), most notably Onkar Ghate and Yaron Brook, have been publicly and covertly (through phone calls, emails, and social media) denouncing and blacklisting Craig Biddle and The Objective Standard (TOS). They did this publicly at an OCON conference in July 2016 to about 300 Objectivists. Both Yaron and Onkar denounced Craig from the stage and claimed that they had tried to work with him to show him the errors in his thinking. This was not true. They had not communicated once with Craig about this. Although Yaron met with Craig at my home three months later, in September 2016, to discuss how they might work together (see here for more on this), neither Yaron nor Onkar had ever communicated with Craig about where or how they thought he erred. At another OCON, they banned Craig from participating in an Objectivist Intellectuals Meeting on the grounds that he “doesn’t qualify.”
Behind the scenes, they are prohibiting employees and discouraging others from writing for TOS. Some at ARI have been complaining to Dr. Leonard Peikoff about me because I associate with Craig, and they’ve complained to Leonard about Craig in dishonest ways (e.g., by calling him a libertarian). They told Leonard that I was “throwing money around” in Europe (I don’t throw money around) and asking people “not to allow Yaron to speak—even for free” (I never did any such thing). They continue to defame Craig as an “enemy” of Leonard. He is not only not an enemy, he has the highest respect and admiration for Leonard.
All of this is harmful to both Craig and TOS—and harmful to the reputations of both ARI and Objectivism. It also has disrupted my efforts to market and deliver Leonard’s courses. (I’ll post about this later.)
Recently, when ARI used their defamation of Craig to attempt to dissuade Leonard from granting me permission to market and deliver his courses, that was the final straw. I decided that this continuing overt and covert 10-year campaign had to be exposed. Now, it has been and will continue to be.
ARI initiated this dispute. They made it public by making public statements about rapprochement with Craig and TOS and then reneging on them.
Such unseemly disputes harm the reputation of Objectivism and retard its advancement. I want to put an end to them. I think most Objectivists also want them to end. (Do you?)
I tried for years to fix this problem privately. I wrote numerous emails to the ARI Board, almost begging them to honor the rapprochement agreement and stop agitating against Craig and TOS. Some on the Board agreed with me and sought to put an end to this nonsense. (These included Jim Brown, Tal Tsfany, Lars Christiansen, Arturo Gamboa, and Tim Blum—all of whom were longtime supporters of Craig.) Onkar and Yaron refused. Rather than work toward rapprochement, Onkar doubled down and sent me and the Board a nasty email condemning Craig yet again. Finally, I wrote:
Dear ARI Board Members,
I’m asking the Board to inform me of its position regarding Craig Biddle for the following reasons:
- Yaron Brook recently raised a complaint in opposition to Craig with Leonard. [His purpose was to prevent me from delivering Leonard’s courses.]
- Tal Tsfany objected to Leonard’s lectures and courses possibly being delivered through Objective Standard Institute [Craig’s new organization].
- RM’s and OG’s [Robert Mayhew’s and Onkar Ghate’s] hostile opposition to Craig (and peripherally to me for supporting Craig).
- Craig Biddle is the Executive Director of my Prometheus Foundation.
- I’m considering making a statement regarding the McCaskey affair and Craig.
This was the beginning of an eight-page memo detailing the history, circumstances, rapprochements, and agreements regarding Craig and TOS. (There is a lot of context to this—for some of it see my statement, The Truth about Craig Biddle versus Smears by Some at ARI.) I concluded with:
In conclusion, given all the above, I now ask that the Board state its position regarding Craig Biddle so that I can act accordingly with whatever I may do with him, Prometheus [Foundation], and TOS. I look forward to your response.
They ignored my email.
I’m hoping that ARI will stop defaming Craig. It is not rational. It is not the way Objectivist intellectuals should behave. And it is not good for the reputation and advancement of Objectivism.
I want to make it clear that anyone who is part of ARI or supports ARI is welcome to participate in any of the activities of my Prometheus Foundation (the Objectivist Venture Fund, Scholarships, and Productiveness Grants), and Craig informs me that they are welcome to take part in or write for TOS or be involved with OSI.
We will not engage in or grant credence to petty squabbles between Objectivist organizations. (We will not work with any individuals who have been dishonest or unjust, or with any organizations that are detrimental to the reputation of Ayn Rand or Objectivism.)
My purpose in bringing this into the open and calling for civil, rational discussion and engagement among Objectivists is to encourage the Objectivist movement to cooperate and collaborate and to positively and productively advance—and model—these vital ideas in the culture.
I hope you will join me in this effort.
3 thoughts on “More Context about Craig Biddle and ARI”
All this has been very troubling to me, Carl. I am concerned that ARI doesn’t find it necessary to make clear what its problems with TOS and Craig are. Your writings about this have come across to me as completely rational, and I have admired Craig and TOS for many years. You have raised issues that need a response and I just don’t understand why Yaron and Onkar, both of whom I have admired for years, won’t explain the specific reason for their attacks, which makes me wonder about them, not you.
My very best regards to you,
As a supporter of ARI since its inception, and a huge fan and admirer of Craig — and of TOS, which is easily the best Objectivist periodical since Miss Rand’s own publications — I find this information very upsetting. That said, I appreciate you “blowing the whistle,” as it were. It’s always better to know the facts than to be left wondering.
And in that regard, I’d been puzzled for years why ARI seemed to neglect or ostracize Craig and TOS. Spreading Objectivism in the world is ARI’s mission, and Craig Biddle, along with TOS, TOSCon, and now OSI, are powerful factors in advancing that end. That end is also the reason that I, and many others, have continually contributed to ARI. Why wouldn’t ARI’s intellectuals want to work together with him toward gaining that priceless value?
Re: “Such unseemly disputes harm the reputation of Objectivism and retard its advancement. I want to put an end to them. I think most Objectivists also want them to end. (Do you?)” My answer is: Yes, absolutely!
I encourage members of ARI’s Board, who I’ve always believed to be honest, rational people, to answer the charges Mr. Barney has made. My contributions have been minuscule compared to his (as most other contributors’ have been) but I can’t continue to support ARI until I learn precisely what the hell is going on with regard to this issue.
I mentioned this before. This is very similar to collectivist “cancel” culture, and I have known about this occurring for more than half a century. This has to be more thoroughly understood aside from the rationalism, empiricism and preferences debate. If nobody knows that Objectivism exists because they have been battling each other, what good does this knowledge or principles have for casualties?
There is a collectivist premise among Objectivists that arises precisely when I see things starting to move forward. I could actively predict it if I was interested enough in any specific event. I have seen numerous initiatives torpedoed and falling-outs occur, and then sides have to be taken, often on faith, since details have been omitted. At root, some of these are personality conflicts, but not all of them, and I am not convinced that they have to do with character. Rather, the language of each side is grasping at straws, and gets more personal. Perhaps if Objectivists were in real danger from the outside, they would put aside these differences. Today, each person in these disputes has the need to achieve full resolution and ego satisfaction, no matter the cost. This becomes a battle for domination, not cooperation, and then the project is killed, people are hurt, and some move on.
I am starting to believe that as members of a movement, Objectivists do not have the tools for a rational, civil discussion and ongoing engagement. While they are able to function in business and personal areas, and have enduring friendships, engaging in positive cultural change with the fellow travelers requires new means of communication that are missing from skillsets. This especially applies when people have different contexts. Note that as Ayn Rand pointed out in “What Can One Do?” or “Anatomy of Compromise” that implies that short-term cooperation is appropriate for more concrete causes, provided that they do not compromise a principle. Today, it looks like long-term cooperation amongst Objectivists will continue to be painful at best. Each peer has to go it alone, though they can certainly be a leader. This creates difficulties in boards consisting of certified individualists, which I’m sure in Objectivist circles, are not keeping minutes.
Since this happens over and over for this individualist voluntary organization, a protocol needs to be developed for the same reason that Robert’s Rules of Order exist, to allow people to cooperate and accomplish timely agenda.