Friday, November 17, 2006
I originally composed this post on November 2, but held off on publishing it for reasons I have neither the time nor the inclination to elaborate upon.
When I wrote the below, I agreed with Robert Tracinski's idea that the goal of the last election should have been to rout the left. Parts of this passage, which I have not edited beyond adding bold face to a quote, will reflect that opinion, which I have since retracted.
I also thought that Tracinski would soon offer a more explicit explanation for his opinion. At the time, I believed that such an explanation would entail his offering some kind of rebuttal to Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis. Indeed, it appears that Tracinski has undertaken to offer a rebuttal to what he calls "the standard Objectivist theory" of how ideas spread through culture -- in four parts through TIA Daily of which three parts are complete. I find it rather unsatisfying so far and think that Harry Binswanger's analysis in last night's HBL is dead-on and should be read as soon as possible. [Update: Edward Cline weighs in in detail at Rule of Reason.]
Interestingly enough, as one might see from my own reasoning (Follow links from "retracted" above.), it was not necessary to have any familiarity with the DIM Hypothesis whatsoever (I do not, yet.) to see that Tracinski's view on the election was in error. One does indeed need only, as Leonard Peikoff himself pointed out, to "understand ... the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life," -- and consider easily-accessible evidence on the sad state of the conservative movement today.
Although, I suppose it is possible Tracinski could salvage his theory in Part IV, even if he does pull the fat out of the fire, Tracinski has other issues (pun intended) to address -- and I'm not even thinking about his gun-slingin' pardner, Jack "I keep 'em clean" Wakeland.
[Update: Jack Wakeland has retracted the remarks referred to in the above link.]
I do not recall exactly how I first encountered this blog posting, but it strikes me as quite topical at the moment. Gerald Kalafut, writing in mid-June, very methodically took The Intellectual Activist to task for failing to keep up with its publication schedule.
There is a point when a scheduled delivery becomes so late, that its final arrival brings not relief but outrage. I am speaking of course about the appearance in my mailbox of the latest issue of "The Intellectual Activist" (TIA). This is a magazine that I used to look forward to reading with great excitement and joy, but now greet with a growing sense of anger and frustration.My sentiments as a customer exactly. I think I may still have a few months left on my subscription -- if I recall correctly. (The email edition has gotten somewhat more irregular and less consistent in length lately, as well.)
Here is the breakdown (puns intended) of TIA's publication cycle of late:
vol iss cover date pub date behind change 18 9 September 2004 September 2004 0 18 10 October 2004 February 2005 4 +4 18 11 November 2004 March 2005 4 18 12 December 2004 July 2005 7 +3 19 1 January 2005 August 2005 9 +2 19 2 (removed) September 2005 9 19 3 November 2005 10 +1 19 4 January 2006 11 +1 19 5+6 February 2006 11 19 7+8 "April 2006" 12 +1
The current issue features the Danish cartoons of Allah that sparked off riots in Europe and the Middle East. The threats of Islamic fueled violence and self-imposed censorship are certainly still relevant. But, printing these pictures - months after the initial crisis - has drained this courageous act of solidarity of most of its impact. It comes off not as bold action - standing next to the bloodied victim while staring down a mob - but as timidly patting the victim on the back after the mob has left.
Ironically, the title of this month's issue is "Publish or Perish". That was the challenge that Robert Tracinski faced when he took over TIA. I am sorry to say this but he has failed to publish, and TIA is perishing because of it. "The Intellectual Activist" is now less intellectual, has seemingly lost its activists, and rarely goes to print. [my bold]
Kalafut also mentions a Sid Cammeresi post expressing disappointment at the direction taken by the editorial policy of TIA since about 2004.
Of what relevance is this? While some of the "Blue Objectivists" doubtless gnash their teeth as they wonder how I could still buy anything Tracinski says whenever they stop by here, Tracinski is an excellent writer and is capable of brilliant analysis. I think he has said some valuable things about how public debate occurs that are quite easy for Objectivists less familiar with his work to misconstrue in the first place.
However, to have such a poor track record of publication that a former fan wonders aloud on the Internet about whether it constitutes "breach of contract" or "false advertising" does not enhance the faith, so to speak, of any Objectivist. Ideas matter, and precisely because they are guides to action. No wonder so many Objectivists find it so easy to believe the worst when they read TIA Daily! To say the least, this apparent disregard for the trader principle by TIA does not lend credibility to whatever novel ideas about the progress of history its editor might have to offer.
What does this say? By itself, not necessarily anything. Enough past Objectivist publications have been Mom-and-Pop affairs that have published irregularly that the circumstance was almost a running joke back in the day. But on top of that, you have Jack Wakeland apparently accusing the Blue Objectivists -- without prior provocation or elaboration or subsequent apology -- of "doing our enemy's work". And now, Tracinski saying the following:
This is not the first time Dr. Peikoff has put forward what I identify, on the sense-of-life level, as the Dominique Francon voting strategy, after the character in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. As with Dominique Francon, [Peikoff's] approach seems to be grounded in a sincere disgust with the current state of the world and with how far short it falls from the ideal. But also as with Dominique Francon, it implicitly regards the good as doomed in this rotten world, and offers only a negative solution. We're besieged by "killers," and our only choice is how we will die.Not.
I am afflicted with something very close to that sense of life and I don't see that. Peikoff sees voting for the Democrats as the best (vice "least horrific") course to follow in this election. I don't agree with Peikoff (and not entirely for reasons put forth by Tracinski), but I have never and do not now see in anything of his that I have read anything that boils down to "[O]ur only choice is how we will die." And, oh yeah. There's this. I leave it to the reader to determine whether the joke was intentional there.
At a certain point, one has to wonder what the Hell is going on. I'm at that point now. There could be any number of explanations for what's going on at TIA Daily. I hope they're benign and do not add up to the worst. They could be. But for Tracinski, with his credibility on the line, to pull things out of the fire, he will have to provide answers to questions like these, and not just because some upstart blogger said he does.
Editor's Note: Originally composed November 2. Please read preface above.
Today: (1) Corrected date. (2) Added link to Edward Cline post.
11-17-06: Added link to Wakeland's retraction.