The Mark of the Fanatic

G. Stolyarov II
 
Issue XXIII - June 24, 2004
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"The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness or holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold onto." ~ Eric Hoffer

What shall be discussed in this treatise is the very fate of civilization itself. The Western world is under attack by… a foe. That much everyone can agree upon. At times this foe is given names: terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, fanaticism. It is known that the foe will stop at nothing from actualizing his design to destroy Western culture, Western technology, and Western lives. It is known that the foe will seek nothing but the categorical abnegation of his victims. Some people then proceed to smugly conclude that the foe is some intellectual chimera: extremism. These seemingly bland purveyors of “moderation” then seek to censor and label as “dangerous” any man who displays but a hint of passion and devotion to the ideas he holds, anything that even remotely smacks of principled advocacy. The explosive furor with which the “moderates” endeavor to suppress the “extremists,” and the bleating to which they incite their legions of unthinking sheep before the latter trample upon the freethinking mavericks at the fringes of ideology, inevitably furnishes terrified recollections of precisely that same quality exhibited by the foe, by the fanatic. The similarities are all too striking to ignore, and their abundance by far overflows the constraints of any particular cliques, factions, or even ideologies. Civilization is at war against evil ideas—it is true—but far truer is the fact that civilization must declare war against evil mentalities, the mentalities of fanaticism which have infiltrated and pervade, to some degree, every civilized institution at this stage in the conflict. Our mighty fortresses, with all their moats and turrets, may all have been erected in vain, for they will be rendered impotent by assassins lurking within, and even the very cause of freedom may be subverted by those who wield the dagger of fanaticism in its name.

Fanaticism Defined

The dictionary definitions of a term so loaded with various connotations tend to be manifold and often at odds with one another; the modern dictionary is not a logician’s handbook, but rather the accumulated baggage of the ages, be it furnished by sages or brutes. The best definition of “fanaticism,” to my knowledge, comes from Dictionary.com, somewhat down the list of alternatives. Fanaticism is described as “excessive intolerance of opposing views.” This is a definition immune from the popular folly of equating “fanaticism” with “extremism.”

Indeed, were the Islamic fundamentalist merely concerned with his own life, if he believed that he personally should pray five times a day facing Mecca under all circumstances, wear a beard to the stomach, be constantly garbed in a turban and robe, compel himself to undertake a pilgrimage through the disease-ridden streets of Mecca, and strictly heed the edicts of a 1400-year-old book, the rational man might have thought him quaint or incomprehensible at most. It would even be possible to befriend such a man and enjoy whatever sferes of convergence would exist with regard to his life and one’s own. Yet the Islamic fundamentalist exhibits the flaming desire to impose his lifestyle and ideology on others by force. This is inevitably preceded by the assertion that anyone slightly disagreeing with the fanatic’s choices and beliefs is “evil” or “inferior.” Under this mindset, even minor divergences with respect to the succession of the califate have plunged the Sunni and Shiite fundamentalist sects into 1300 years of near nonstop mutual slaughter, with each participant a fanatic, a thug, and a victim at once.

In certain situations, intolerance, when allowed to manifest itself in practice, results in the barbaric initiation of fysical force. But the definition of fanaticism reveals more: fanaticism need not develop into such a situation. Initiation of force is a possible consequence of fanaticism, but it is not fanaticism itself. Fanaticism is the mindset which renders initiation of force possible, but it may also fester and rot in the self-designed catacombs of certain men’s minds, occasionally to be spewed out in a torrent of sewage through the mouth. As this modern era of envy and fear approached its culmination in the post-modern nihilism of the mainstream hippie culture, increasingly this sewage was let flow without any pretense about it, without any valves that would hold its eruptions in check or moderate their caliber. Intolerance of opposing ideas is nearly as prevalent in our culture, in mindset, if not manifestation, as it is in the realm of the Islamic fundamentalist. How eager is the average American to utter a disgusting “f-word” or “s-word” in response to a mere disagreement or difference in lifestyles, attitudes, and choices, rather than espouse rational argumentation? To what extent has the average American politician caught on to this trend, and employed ad hominem smears in place of agenda criticisms, cliché accusations instead of reasoned counterpoints? And why focus on merely the lowest common denominator? To what extent have the avowed representatives of the best America has to offer succumbed to the most ruthless foe of humanity and progress?

Fanaticism and Orthodoxy

The filosofy of Objectivism offers one of the most systematic defenses of individual freedom, unfettered commerce, and the efficacy of human reason ever witnessed. The superb and straightforward reasoning performed by Ayn Rand on every fundamental subject in metafysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics, has the capacity to profoundly liberalize the American political arena, elevate human happiness and prosperity, and at last place filosofy upon its rightful throne as a foundational science, much like mathematics, and a requirement for accurate, systematic human cognition. Yet many Objectivists, self-proclaimed heirs of Ayn Rand, have lost sight of the battle for the future. In the late 1980s, the “mainstream” Objectivist movement featured a rising star, the scholar Dr. David Kelley. Kelley actively promoted the ideas of and extrapolations upon Ayn Rand and delivered addresses before libertarian conferences, where his audiences were not explicit Objectivists, but still men whose intellectual cooperation would still be desirable and of assistance in bringing about the world that Ayn Rand had envisioned. For the heinous sin of “morally sanctioning” those whose premises diverged with his own on certain issues, Ayn Rand’s “official heir,” Dr. Leonard Peikoff, effectively excommunicated Kelley from the sum total of the organizations open to Objectivism at that time. In his 1989 essay, “Fact and Value,” the Holy Writ of Orthodoxy, Peikoff scathingly writes: “if you agree with the… Kelley viewpoint or anything resembling it — please drop out of our movement: drop Ayn Rand, leave Objectivism alone. We do not want you and Ayn Rand would not have wanted you — just as you, in fact, do not want us or her.” Let the reader recall that the definition of fanaticism is “excessive intolerance of opposing views.”

And what was this “opposing view” to which Peikoff had demonstrated such intolerance? It was the notion, in essence, that certain opposing views are tolerable! Kelley recognized that libertarian goals of political liberalization and ethical independence are enormously similar to those sought by Objectivists. He also suggested that a filosofy develops not in accordance to a centrally planned course rigidly dictated by a select few, but in a free market of ideas. After his excommunication, Kelley produced the insightful work, Truth and Toleration, where he formulated the viewpoints for which he had been condemned by Peikoff as an evil comparable to Marx or that favorite scapegoat of Objectivists, Immanuel Kant. I will let Kelley speak for himself:

“... a real movement will not have a single leader. At any given time there will be a number of individuals who distinguish themselves by their work. There will be a dense network of personal relationships and organized groups.”

“I think the marketplace of ideas is very much like the marketplace of goods and services. No one could plan it or predict it.”

“Suppose an Objectivist philosopher disagrees with Ayn Rand on some particular point. This does not necessarily mean that he rejects her view on all the other principles to which the point in question is logically related. It may well be that he takes the position he does because he regards it as the true implication of those principles.”

“Objectivists have too often relied on stereotypical formulations of Ayn Rand's ideas. They have been quick to pounce on thinkers who might have been their allies. They have greeted new extensions of the system with a timid caution that reminds me of the Council of Scholars in Anthem, who spent fifty years debating the wisdom of accepting that radical innovation, the candle.”

Kelley, since his founding and direction of The Objectivist Center, has encouraged dissent and discussion within the Objectivist movement. He has never announced his categorical acceptance of every single view held by any Objectivist, Ayn Rand included, and has rather proposed that each idea be discussed on its own merits, and that disagreements in the context of such a discussion do not warrant the alienation of those who disagree from one’s company or from the honorable title of “Objectivist,” earned by advocacy to the fundamental principles discovered by Ayn Rand.  

Peikoff, on the other hand, has displayed the behavior characteristic of orthodoxy, defined by the 1933 Oxford Universal Dictionary as “the quality or character of being conventional and approved.” Peikoff’s interpretation of Rand’s doctrines does not seek to arouse any new questions from Rand’s original insights; he considers Objectivism a “closed system,” limited only to the works of or officially approved by Rand and published in her lifetime. Peikoff claims that Rand’s original filosofy is perfect and complete, and that each Objectivist must, in its interpretation, treat Rand’s words like legal writ, following them to the letter. The slightest deviation in any of the most periferal stances, even in one’s associations with those who do not entirely agree with every word produced by Rand, results in Peikoff’s most ferocious censure and reproach. This is not even to mention other periferal issues on which different interpretations derived from the same fundamentals may be possible, including abortion, euthanasia, and foreign policy. Rather than permitting a free market of ideas, in which competition inexorably brings the best of thoughts to the forefront, Peikoff seeks to promote a static, rigid, and vehemently enforced set of already existing beliefs. He does not tolerate the slightest bit of dissent from the already established creed, and thus stifles any and all intellectual progress, including his own. Prior to the “Fact and Value” debacle, Peikoff had earned a reputation as a thorough scholar of Objectivism, systematizing the filosofy by its fundamentals in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and producing a masterful synthesis of political and intellectual history in The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America. Yet, after the schism with Kelley, Peikoff has produced no other works of such a caliber, nor is he interested in extending Ayn Rand’s discoveries to new realms. Why? Because his is the mark of the fanatic, so intolerant of the slightest innovations, modifications, and expansions of the existing “conventional views,” the existing orthodoxy, that he has even rejected his own work after Rand’s death as not an official part of the Objectivist corpus!

This is not a trend limited to Peikoff’s case. The Islamic fundamentalist seeks to, with vicious fervor, enforce a pristine orthodoxy of Muslim ritual, down to the sorts of foods a “believer” should or should not eat, or the type of headgear he should wear. The screeching demagogue of the New Left seeks, with bitter, uncoordinated rage, to enforce an orthodoxy of “victimization.” Woe to him who dares assert that the livelihood of modern African-Americans is not tarnished by the specter of slavery, or that no inherent gender-discrimination exists in contemporary America, or that the free market would not somehow inhibit the opportunities of poor children, or that the elderly would not be ruthlessly robbed and cheated in a free market for medicine and pensions! The hippie will smear him with the names, “fascist,” “cold-hearted brute,” “Eurocentric patriarchal bigot,” or that favorite obscenity of the “counterculture” and its intellectual descendants, “f****r.” And of course, the moderates who use the emergence of terror as an excuse to suggest a suppression of “extremism” are themselves advocates of the most vicious orthodoxy of them all, the status quo. What else could be more “conventional and accepted?” What else could be more stereotypical and less systematic than a random hodgepodge of whatever most people happen to feel or wish or, more rarely, think at some particular time? It can be generalized from this that a fanatic is inextricably linked to an orthodoxy and seeks to defend an orthodoxy against any “unbelievers.”

With the use of the status quo as the quintessential orthodoxy, one may ask the question, “But does the status quo truly espouse any principles? Is it not an-ever shifting set of often self-contradictory beliefs, which cannot even at any instant be pinpointed to or related with any absolute?” And I will answer that this question strikes the mark precisely when identifying the nature of the status quo. It is not based on principles; nor is an orthodoxy. The fanatic defending it defends not principles but conventionality. He enforces it not because he seeks to champion a cause, but because he seeks a cause to champion, not for the sake of the cause but for the sake of the championing. He is comparable to the blindly devoted fan of a sports team: whether or not the sports team wins, loses, cheats, trades out its best players, or discovers a funds-embezzling management, the fan will still cheer out his lungs for it at the arena and garb himself in a host of absurd contraptions merely to demonstrate his “team spirit.” It is no coincidence that the first three letters of “fanatic” are “fan.”

Thus Mr. Hoffer’s insight concerning the nature of the fanatic becomes accessible; the mark of the fanatic is not consistency, nor justice, nor a search for the true, sacred, and righteous, nor any search, for that matter, that could conceivably be calculated toward a man’s own benefit. Rather, it is the most abject form of self-abnegation; the orthodoxy adhered to receives the fanatic as the unconditional executor of its amorfous will. The Islamic fundamentalist will sacrifice his life, and Leonard Peikoff will sacrifice his scholarly esteem to it—the fanatic surrenders all personal values and self-interest to the shifting abomination of conventionality. Moreover, the fanatic will not hesitate to sacrifice principle to orthodoxy. If the Islamic fundamentalist hears that the notion of the omnibenevolent Allah, who prohibits the killing of innocent women and children, is clearly contradicted in the World Trade Center attacks, it is the omnibenevolence that he sacrifices to the practices of the clique to which he is subordinate. When a “closed system” Objectivist is maneuvered to admit that “abortion rights” are at odds with her own selfish interest, she is prepared to renounce self-interest, a fundamental of the Objectivist ethics, in favor of a dogmatic adherence to the “right” of any woman to kill a fetus.

The unprincipled and, indeed, anti-principled nature of the fanatic is thus revealed in the manifestation of obstruction by periferals, which I have defined in a prior treatise as a situation occurring “whenever a judgment on an issue far from the foundational truths in a filosofical hierarchy is held rigidly and carried to its full implications in a manner conflicting with the fundamentals of the same hierarchy.” The principled man, the diametrical opposite of the fanatic, is capable of distinguishing between the fundamental and the periferal; the former occupies a far greater fraction of his devotion, and he constantly seeks to derive the latter in terms of the former, not hesitating to alter his derivations if the fundamentals should so dictate. The fanatic, however, is an embodiment of what Rand called the “concrete-bound mentality.” He is incapable of the high degree of abstract thinking required to comprehensively grasp a conceptual hierarchy and what lies at the foundation of that hierarchy. To him, all concepts are created equal, and are treated as such, in the best of cases. In the worst, and most typical of them, the periferals are reinforced by more of the fanatic’s fervor than are the fundamentals, since the periferals are more concrete in their manifestations. For example, in the abortion issue, the state will either legitimize abortion or forbid it. People will either have abortions or not; both outcomes are outwardly perceptible to the most constricted minds. Yet, when the invisible yet all-determining roots of the issue are dug at, concepts such as self-interest, futuristic certainty, natural rights, political liberty—the fanatic is confounded. These are abstractions that his limited mind cannot reach directly; he can only pretend to fathom them through clichés (such as “the right of a woman to her own body,” or the frase “pro-choice”), name-calling (such as “fascist,” “statist,” or “interventionist,” aimed at those who oppose “abortion rights”) and the endless second-hand repetition of thoughts borrowed from someone else (the Peikoffian “potential is not actual” creed). This is all too reminiscent of the “duckspeak” described by George Orwell as characteristic of the Oceanian Party orthodoxy in 1984, which I analyze in “Orwell’s Warning: Newspeak:”

“Such a label is perceived to be the ideal of rhetorical expression in Oceania. The orator is required to spill out collectivist blather without the involvement of any voluntary effort or mental processes, similar to the automatic and thoughtless quacking of a duck, in order to be referred to as a ‘doubleplusgood duckspeaker’.”

As I had noted in “Abortion versus Selfishness: Obstruction by Periferals,” Rand’s stance on abortion is an infinitesimally small portion of the original Objectivist corpus; her only explicit written mention of it was in a tangential paragraf on the 1973 essay: “Censorship, Local and Express.” Yet, to the fanatic, every periferal, by its very smallness and concrete-boundedness, becomes as or more necessary to defend unconditionally than a fundamental and far richer concept. Thus, critiques of abortion have been received with rabid backlashes by the “mainstream, conventional” Objectivist movement (note that the word, “conventional,” needs not apply only to the general society; it defines any typical paradigm in the context of any movement or set of ideas). For example, even Lindsay Perigo, the owner of the SoloHQ forum, known for its relative tolerance of various interpretations and extrapolations of Objectivism, chastised me as “a pseudo-objectivist conservative rationalist” and called my action an “abuse of SoloHQ’s tolerance and hospitality” when I had merely posted a witty anti-abortion remark by Ronald Reagan in SoloHQ’s Quote Gallery. This censure was delivered in absolute evasion of my manifold prior contributions to SoloHQ that did meet Mr. Perigo’s agreement and affirmed beyond doubt our mutual adherence to the same fundamental principles of Objectivism, yet Perigo adamantly refused to apologize for applying such an unwarranted label to me. Mr. Perigo certainly bears the mark of the fanatic to a far lesser degree than Dr. Peikoff, but his willingness to hurl names at and sour relations with a fellow thinker over a disagreement extremely minor to the Objectivist filosofy, reveals a partly fanatical disposition, an adherence to a periferal mindset comprising the established orthodoxy at all cost, and a lack of hesitation to, in an out-of-context manner and without thorough prior deliberation, crudely chastise the periferal dissenter as an “unbeliever.” (What else does the term, “pseudo-Objectivist,” imply?)

Not being a context-dropping fanatic myself, I will not hesitate to praise Mr. Perigo’s past scholarship, including his “Politically Incorrect Editorials,” his ten-year enterprise as chief editor of New Zealand’s famed Free Radical magazine, and his very establishment of the SoloHQ forum. Yet I grant it possible to have, within the same personality, attributes that propel intellectual progress forward and others that threaten to stifle it. The mark of the fanatic has, alas, touched Mr. Perigo in this situation, and in other cases that even more explicitly manifest this quality. The mentality, however, is reversible, as I shall later endeavor to show.

Fanaticism and Smear-Hurling

The fanatic’s mindset is not rational; it cannot be, for it is not based on principle. The fanatic, as Mr. Hoffer suggests, is far more frequently motivated by the desire for acceptance in the clique representing the orthodoxy he adheres to. Though some orthodoxies claim to be rigid and immutable, and others are admittedly “fluid,” all orthodoxies are the latter in fact, modeled after the abomination of the status quo. The notions prevailing in the orthodoxy or occupying the majority of its adherents’ attention will shift with time, whether the adherents themselves admit it or not. For example, along with the abortion issue’s rise to prominence in the current Objectivist orthodoxy, came another issue, which Rand had never explicitly mentioned at all. Currently, the Peikoffian camp, as well as the “mainstream” of SoloHQ and other related organizations, assert the “right” of assisted suicide to exist, a practice to which I am firmly opposed. Both sides can claim their case to be derived from fundamental Objectivist principles, as best illustrated in a most tactful, civil, and constructive debate I once engaged in with Mr. Edmund Daleford. Certain supporters of the right to euthanasia, such as Mr. Daleford, genuinely believe their case to be rooted in principle, and will attempt to argue from the fundamentals to prove this; they are not fanatics, though disagree with them I do.

Others, however, will not hesitate to brand those who oppose “euthanasia rights” as un-Objectivist. How they can justify this even by Peikoff’s original definition of Objectivism as the sum of Ayn Rand-sanctioned works, published in her lifetime, is indeed a perplexing question, for Rand published nothing on the matter of assisted suicide. The orthodoxy’s nature and focus shifts with time, even in an orthodoxy committed against such shifts; the danger manifested in an orthodoxy and directed outward by its fanatical representatives is not aimed at shifts per se, but at those who shift in a different direction or at a different pace than the members of the orthodoxy. Woe, that is, to whomever dares think for himself! Thus is the filosofy of reason, the doctrine which originally encouraged each man to yield the autonomy of his own thought to no authority and no paradigm, transfigured into an instrument of intellectual repression aimed  precisely at those who seek to question established doctrines, authorities, and trends. The man thus arrayed against the forces of orthodoxy is a target of the vilest straw men and the most irrational styles of argumentation.

A perfect example of such an instance took place most recently on the SoloHQ forum with regard to my June 11, 2004, treatise, “A Rational Defense of Marriage,” a position far closer to the original views of Ayn Rand than to the current views of the Objectivist orthodoxy on the subject. Rand, a woman happily married for fifty years, who believed in the highest possible affirmation of values and potential for happiness derived from exclusive romantic relationships, and who abhorred the prospect of legalizing “homosexual marriages,” would likely have agreed with my principled defense of the “historical definition” of marriage and the values of a relationship’s exclusivity, permanence, and mind-body integration that it affirms. However, the vast majority of Objectivists on SoloHQ would rather share the view espoused by Joseph Rowlands’ article, “Marriage,” whose implications lead to the condemnation of not only the marriage contract but the very expectation of permanence in a relationship as immoral and irrational! My treatise, intended to conclusively re-assert the values scorned by Mr. Rowlands and his supporters, instead elicited a vicious string of comments from some of the latter. On June 17, 2004, Mr. Philip Howison posted a comment on the SoloHQ discussion thread relating to my treatise that should become the New Testament of the Holy Writ of Orthodoxy, if “Fact and Value” were considered the Old.

Mr. Howison’s outburst of a comment is a perfect example of the fanatic’s tactic of irrational smear-hurling. He introduced his message by accusing myself and Mr. William Tingley, a free-market Catholic with whom I had been conducting a civil discourse, of spouting “irrational fascist crap.” How this substitutes for an argument, I know not; how it does not unravel the crude and vicious motivations of the fanatic rather than the tactful and well-deliberated ones of the rational argumentator, I cannot say. Yet I can spot, with perfect lucidity, the resemblance of such a frase to the smear-tactics employed by leftist fanatics to discredit their opponents as “heartless fascist pigs.” Then, Mr. Howison proceeds to list every single point on which I diverge with the current Objectivist orthodoxy, constantly misconstruing each of my positions to put words into my mouth that I did not say, and seeking to create the impression of Stolyarov the Statist, Collectivist Monster, when no such character exists. Even my idea that individuals should not gratuitously expose certain body parts in public has been morfed by Mr. Howison into the accusation that I view the human body as “ugly and shameful.” Mr. Howison’s closing remarks, with regard to his name being spelled “with a PH and not an F,” offer even more insight into the psyche of the fanatic; there is no way that my support of voluntary, free-market reforms toward a rational, systematic orthografy could ever be construed as statist or evil, yet Mr. Howison chose to include it in his list of grievances, despite the fact that, in my “An Objectivist Filosofy of Linguistics—Installment I,” I explicitly noted that individual names, being private property, would be exempt from the modifications! Why did he do this? Because his objective was not to chastise me because a departure from principle but because of a departure from any and all orthodox positions. And, failing to find a position in the Objectivist orthodoxy on orthografy, he borrowed the next best thing: the position of the general status quo on the matter. Any disagreement with the orthodoxy, however insubstantial or innocent, is treated as grounds for hurling ostracism, slander, and straw men at the unbeliever, as many of my opponents in the debate that evolved from my treatise displayed. Moreover, whenever the particular orthodoxy one adheres to lacks a position on an issue, the fanatic merely refers for aid to the mother of all orthodoxies, the status quo. It was from a leftist-dominated status quo that current orthodox notions of support for legalized euthanasia and “fluidity” in relationships were, for example, derived.  

I responded to each of Mr. Howison’s particular accusations with evidence clearly exonerating me from intellectual maleficence and need not do so again here. I requested that Mr. Howison offer an apology for his disgraceful conduct, not worthy of a man who seeks to title himself an intellectual. Being the fanatic, Mr. Howison, naturally, refused, receiving in return my promise to immortalize his folly in this treatise. Moreover, Mr. Perigo chimed in to support him. His post was rather brief and filled to overflowing with the attitudes and methods characterizing the fanatic; thus I shall reproduce it in full here:

Phil Howison - that was a splendid post, & right on the money. Do not be intimidated by Mr Stolyarov's threat to ‘expose you to the world.’ I would be proud to be ‘exposed to the world’ for saying what you've said here. ‘Fascist crap’ is exactly what these frigidly formalistic strictures are, bringing child-rearing under state control to the extent that they would, & it's entirely appropriate that they should find support from a Roman Catholic, & vicarious support from Rationalist Regi [i.e. the filosofer Reginald Firehammer, who did not in fact support my position, yet who, due to his occasional divergences from the orthodoxy, could be expected to be grouped by the fanatic into the category of “unbeliever”]. Plato would be pleased with both the frigid formalist & the Catholic. I'm pleased that the frigid formalist chose to re-post his dicta about keeping all flesh apart from ears, nose, mouth & eyes (& maybe forearms on a hot day), hidden from the view of ‘random strangers.’ Here is the naked (oops!) essence of his frigid formalism revealed - something until recently practised in Afghanistan by the [Taliban.] Nothing could be further removed from Objectivism, & I can't begin to imagine why Stolyarov is attracted to Ayn Rand's philosophy. He must know Objectivism only through the ARI - & even they are not that bad." 

Note that the above post is filled with nothing but partisan accolades to loyal defenders of orthodoxy, presumptions, affirmations of formerly used smear-names, introduction of new smear-names, comparisons of the unbelievers to the great historical menaces of a given system (I am compared to Plato much as Kelley was likened to Kant or Marx, despite the self-evident and profound dissimilarity of all those characters), and absolutely unwarranted distortions of the unbelievers’ positions to render unto them a monstrous and heinous image. The facts are these: I do not support state-controlled child-rearing, I do not endorse the orthodoxy and partisanship expounded by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) (though I do not see this as an impediment to benefiting from some worthwhile scholarship produced there), nor am I an admirer of the policies of the Taliban (the name most closely describing my position on clothing would be “Victorian”). Mr. Perigo’s case against me would not stand were he to allow the light of truth into the arcane halls of orthodoxy, and thus, like anyone displaying the mark of the fanatic, he sees fit to distort the truth to justify what he hopes to be my informal excommunication from the Objectivist ranks. Thence comes another pivotal insight: just as fanaticism and orthodoxy are inextricably linked, so are fanaticism and distortion. Of course, this should have been anticipated; anyone who renounces principle in favor of orthodoxy, while remaining unable to renounce life in an objective universe governed by principle, will inevitably distort.

The Cure

Any problem has a solution, and any affliction, fysical or intellectual, has a cure; such is an understanding necessary for a man who affirms that he lives in a rational universe. The cure to fanaticism does not require an individual to renounce any specific position that he holds; rather he must renounce his former approach to arguing such a position. Let the reader recall that fanaticism is not tied with a particular ideology or with ideology in general—it is linked only to how an individual treats those who diverge from his views and the degree of importance that he affords to the true fundamentals of his ideas. I here offer a characterization of a personality diametrically opposed to the fanatic: the rational argumentator, from which name the title and essence of my own publication derives. It is possible for an individual of any systematic ideology, however flawed, to remain a rational argumentator, and, moreover, it is possible for an individual of any ideology, however correct and well-structured, to bear the mark of the fanatic.

For a rational argumentator who also happens to be an Objectivist, the affirmation of a radical new document, “An Objectivist Statement of Resolves,” intended to conclusively halt all further schisms, excommunications, and smear-hurling within the movement, will leave almost no room for fanaticism to rear its ugly head within the ideology that holds the greatest promise to save the West, and the world, from tyranny and unreason. Those who sign the Statement will thereby affirm that their ideology is correct not only in content, but also in the form in which they promote it, thus becoming both advocates of the good and rational argumentators. No higher honor or distinction can be expected by a genuine thinker.

Had Western civilization consistently opposed the essence of that, which seeks to destroy it, namely, the fanatical mentality itself, it would have been able to launch a firm, coordinated response against it. But it is faced instead with a far more daunting and necessary task; to expose for its intellectual foes those who display the mark of the fanatic while seeking to cloak it in Western garb. It may be that some fanatics may be saved in the process, and converted to the methodology of the rational argumentator, but the primary targets of the fanatics, those whose minds are undecided on a given issue, will be swayed to reason by the mere sight of the mark of the fanatic, which the latter desperately seeks to hide. It is those men whose liberation from the fanatic’s grasp we must most urgently seek.

As for those who profess explicit advocacy for a filosofy of reason, and whose struggle against fanaticism will bear the greatest impact on events to come, they must grasp the individualistic maxim of Dr. David Kelley: “An Objectivist thinker must be a thinker first, an Objectivist second.”

Only thus can orthodoxy be consigned to the rubbish heap of the ages.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

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Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.