L did some political activism and got in a newspaper. (Something like a publicity stunt involving no serious or important ideas.) L got a brief quote included, in which she claimed to be for free expression and contradicted herself.
On Facebook, F saw this as a great and impressive accomplishment, despite admitting that L did indeed contradict herself and that there was room for improvement.
No one should be impressed. Here is some of the criticism I explained:
why so impressed by the prestige of a bad newspaper? what do you expect this stuff to accomplish?Rather than argue against any of this, L Facebook-liked the paragraph about Hayek which pointed out that getting into the newspaper was depraved by her. L also wrote a comment defending me against haters (not F) and asked them to stop.
Wynand owned bad newspapers, and you know how that worked out. you merely got an article in one. so what?
by designing a portion of your life so it could more easily be picked up by a bad newspaper, you lived their values. you let them have some control over you.
when Hayek won a nobel prize, that was not a symbol of success, it was a symbol of his depravity.
F expressed the concept that higher standards would be nice, but are unnecessary. F thinks L’s message was good enough.
It has been claimed to me that F is an Objectivist. I wonder how she read, “PART I NON-CONTRADICTION” (Atlas Shrugged).
How can F accept contradictions – and expect me to accept them too and still be impressed? By having much lower standards in life than I do. By having lower points of comparison, lower expectations. F's standards are not low compared to the typical person, but they're low compared to mine or Ayn Rand's.
F compares L to something like a typical member of her social circle. In this, L exceeds expectations, despite the contradiction and other problems. So F is impressed.
I think that typical person is stupid and incompetent. F thinks of that more like average intelligence, or perhaps above average. This is a clash of standards and expectations – do you compare to your idea of the average person in society or to objective standards for what it takes to think well, be highly effective in life, etc?
F does not expect to ever meet a John Galt or Ayn Rand on Earth. F doesn’t look for that. F doesn’t compare people to that kind of standard. F has a circle of friends who contradict themselves regularly, and F contradicts herself regularly, and F thinks that’s all there is and that’s how life is. F is content with that. Greatness might be for some rare other person who is outside of F’s life.
F is by no means the worst example of any of this. Plenty of other people have similar ideas, and some of them are worse. And plenty of people have lower standards than F. This is not a comparison of F to her conventional people.
I compare to things like Ayn Rand or Howard Roark. Those are my standards. Why not? It’s good to aim high. L should aim high. People could be so much better than they are, but most won’t even try for it.
L is struggling to aim high. L has, like most people, some second-handedness. L likes and seeks praise like F and others hand out for L’s conventionally-impressive-but-actually-immoral “achievements”. F and many others are making this problem worse and are encouraging L to have low standards and to destroy herself.
This is a sad waste of potential, talent, and capability. F thinks she’s kind by never even imagining L in the same realm as great men. F praises mediocrity as if it was greatness because her standards are set that low. This does no moral person any favors.
“What is kinder—to believe the best of people and burden them with a nobility beyond their endurance—or to see them as they are, and accept it because it makes them comfortable? Kindness being more important than justice, of course.” (Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead)
Justice is what matters and what actually helps people. Expecting the best of people is the right thing to do. Encouraging them to take comfort in accepting mediocrity is depraved.
F, stop trying to drag L down (and stop dragging down everyone else too). Stop encouraging her to play in the mud, instead of do things that have any connection to greatness. When you do that, you are part of the irrational mob that plays a large role in the destruction of most human beings.
A big part of L wants to be great. Any friend of hers would encourage that. Criticism is helpful. Encouraging higher standards is helpful. Arguing with people who do that, in favor of standards so low L already meets them, discourages seeing greatness as the normal, natural and expected. It spreads a destructive sense of life.
Standards are not a matter of taste. Objectively, people like Mises and Popper are around the minimum necessary to accomplish much for the cause of reason. Even Rand wasn't very effective. E.g. ARI is bad. Where is any big positive influence by Rand on more than a handful of people? Rand helped a lot of people a little. It's something. It's not that much. It's nothing like making TCS or liberalism or reason actually be popular. L, and others, ought to aim for accomplishments more like that. (Or at least aim to learn enough to make an informed decision about whether to do that.)
L's recent political activism is not on the path to greatness. It’s going the wrong direction. It’s self-destructive. It’s making things harder in her future, not easier. She's taking time off learning ideas worth spreading to get some non-intellectual attention. She's on path to be a mini Gail Wynand – similar themes on a much smaller scale.
If you think some standard – e.g. non-contradiction – is too high or otherwise wrong for a situation, argue your case. Say why it's not achievable, and say what the standard should be (e.g. what contradictions are to be allowed).
Remember to look at standards in terms of whether they will achieve particular goals, not whether they are beating other people. You could easily do way better than your friend, but still fail badly at your goal.
People like F think if they agree with Ayn Rand that contradictions are bad, they are on her side. Then they set standards dramatically lower than Rand did – e.g. they accept many contradictions as good enough. That isn't agreeing with Rand. That is being Rand's opponent.
It's like when someone says "I like reading Rand, that's on my todo list," but they prioritize it low enough it doesn't happen. Then deny they are rejecting Rand.
Considering something (reason, non-contradiction, liberalism, TCS, etc) nice, but then not expecting much of it, is a way to pseudo-agree with its advocates, but not actually substantively agree. It's a way of evading disagreement and preventing learning the full issue. By sweeping conflict under the rug, it prevents the persuasive truth-seeking resolution of that conflict. This sort of irrationality is really common.
These people, who are half on the side of reason – but with low standards (like allowing explicit contradictions in a single paragraph) – are an example of the men in the middle that Rand spoke of in Atlas Shrugged. For example, people who won't chose to take non-contradiction seriously or to oppose it:
There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice.
"You, who are half-rational, half-coward, have been playing a con game with reality, but the victim you have conned is yourself. When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it's picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.