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Rothbard on political witch hunts

We have already mentioned the excommunications and "purges" in the Randian movement. Often, the excommunications – especially of important Randians – proceeded in a ritual manner. The errant member was peremptorily ordered to appear at a "trial" to hear charges against him. If he refused to appear – as he would if he had any shred of self-respect left – then the trial would continue in absentia, with all the members present taking turns in denouncing the expelled member, reading charges against him (again in a manner eerily reminiscent of 1984). When his inevitable conviction was sealed, someone – generally his closest friend – wrote the excommunicate, a bitter, febrile, and portentous letter, damning the apostate forevermore and excluding him forever from the Elysian fields of reason and reality. Having his closest friend take the leading part in the heresy proceeding was of course important as a way of forcing the friend to demonstrate his own loyalty to Rand, thereby clearing himself of any lingering taint by association. It is reported that when Branden was expelled, one of his closest former friends in New York sent him a letter proclaiming that the only moral thing he could do at that point was to commit suicide – a strange position for an allegedly pro-life, pro-individual-purpose philosophy to take.

The break with the apostate – even if once closest friends – had to be uncompromising, permanent, and total. Thus, a woman, very high in the Randian hierarchy, once hired a Randian girl to be her assistant in editing a magazine. When the woman was summarily expelled from the movement, her assistant refused to talk to her at all, except strictly in the line of business – a position steadfastly maintained despite the obvious tensions at the office that had to result.

As is true of all witch-hunting groups, the greatest sin was not so much the specific transgressions of the member, but any refusal to sanction the heresy-hunting procedure itself. Thus, Barbara Branden reported that her greatest sin was held to be her refusal to attend, and therefore to sanction the legitimacy of, her own trial, and other purgees have had similar tales to tell.

It should come as no surprise to learn that, in contrast to most other psychotherapies, the Objectivist Psychotherapists served as stern moral guardians for the troops. "Immoral" patients were expelled from therapy, a practice that reached its apogee when patients of Objectivist Psychotherapists were expelled for simply asking their therapists the reasons for the Rand-Branden split.

Thus, kept in ignorance of the world, of facts, ideas, or people who might deviate from the full Randian line, held in check by adoration and terror of Rand and her anointed hierarchy, the grim, robotic, joyless Randian Man emerged.

For the moulding processes of the cult did succeed in creating a New Randian Man – for so long as the man or woman remained in the movement. People were invariably transformed by the moulding process from diverse, often likeable men and women to grim, tense, hostile poseurs – whose personalities could best be summed up by the word "robotic." Robotically, the Randians intoned their slogans, generally imitating the poses and manner of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and further, imitating their common cult vision of heroes and heroines of the Randian fictional canon. If any criticism of Rand or her disciples were made, or any arguments were pressed that they could not answer, the Randians would adopt a tone of high offense: "How dare you say such a thing about her?," turn on their heels and stomp off. No smile, nor many other human qualities, managed to shine through their ritualized façade. Many of the young men managed to look like carbon copies of Branden, while the young women tried to look like Barbara Branden, replete with the cigarette-holder held aloft, derived from Ayn Rand herself, that was supposed to symbolize the high moral standards and the mocking contempt wielded by Randian heroines.


Disagree with 'X', excommunicate them. That is the liberty way.

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Thank You

I read Mr. Rothbard's article and found it eye opening. Both my brother and sister have gone the way of what is spoken here, one in a 'religious group' and the other in the communist party. My brother, the communist, and I have found common ground in Ron Paul.

There is, I think, a more obvious answer to our propensity to 'need' a group, a common belief, something to get excited about, a place where we can feel good about ourselves.

At the beginning of our individual existence in this country we were stripped of any 'self-confidence' or any sense that there was anything within us worth listening to. If we had an 'over-active' inner man we were stifled severely. In the last 25 years we have more practical methods of silencing that voice within, Ritalin.

Scary as it might appear, on the road to the depth of your heart lies the hope and deliverance the rest of us need (but cannot see unless we too are on the same road)....the road to freedom.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr.