An Ex-SOLOist Speaks Out

or

What Went Wrong?

Henry Emrich

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXIX-- December 30, 2004

          As some of you who read the Rational Argumentator web-zine already know, Mr. Stolyarov, Mr. Firehammer and myself were all active members on the SOLO forum.  I was banned from posting on that forum because (I freely admit this) I allowed my emotions to run amok, in response to incessant needling and complaints against me, by several other participants on that forum, who had apparently decided to act like “neighborhood gossips”, and declare everything I did as completely wrong.

          Mr. Firehammer: I’m genuinely sorry for participating in the insults and malevolence directed your way by many other SOLO participants at the time.  Looking back on it now, I see that “mutual benevolence among rational men” (and women) was never part of the “SOLO spirit” at all.

          At the time SOLO finally “turned on me”, I was (only peripherally) involved in a discussion thread which revolved around the nature of consciousness, whether “artificial intelligence” is possible, and what that would mean.

          The thread was referenced to an article by Francois Tremblay called “Organo-centrism as racism”.  The salient point here is that the article itself HAD been cleared by the SOLO “reader” for posting.  (This is important to remember.)

          The deterioration of the whole situation began innocently enough.  At the time, I was involved in writing a book.  (I later self-published it via cafepress.com, but have since taken it offline for extensive revisions which, unfortunately, are not yet finished.)

          At any rate, because I had mentioned my writing in various SOLO threads, another member, Paul Hibbert, emailed me, requesting that I review some stuff he was writing – the beginnings of a novel, if I recall correctly.)

          I reviewed it unfavorably, due primarily to the fact that it was really derivative of Atlas Shrugged, and I could find none of the “philosophical implications” he kept going on about in the email. 

          (Hint: if you don’t want an honest review, don’t send stuff to me!) J

          I didn’t get any reply from Mr. Hibbert via Email, but suddenly, his attitude toward me on the SOLO forum changed completely.  My employment situation is somewhat “unorthodox” (for reasons which are, quite frankly, none of anybody’s business.)  Suffice to say that my “day jobs” and other “income-producing activities” tend to involve very variable times.  (Some days evenings, some days mornings, it’s hard to predict.)

          Why is this important?  Because my posting-times on SOLO were suddenly being hawkishly monitored by Mr. Hibbert and some of his “pals” who proceeded to complain that I posted “too often” and/or at the “wrong times of day.”  SOLO (ever true to the junior-high school mentality so prevalent there even then) promptly turned into a rumor-mill, with the speculation centering on whether several other members and myself (all under thirty at the time, ‘coincidentally’) were: mentally-ill, retarded, shut-ins, chronically unemployable, and or “stealing time from [our] employers.”

          At any rate, suffice it to say that my SOLO experience was fast degenerating into a pattern of “log in, read the new exciting slander, innuendo, insults and wisecracks about me, get annoyed, and log off”.

          In short, S.O.P. in regards to those unfortunate enough to get on the “wrong side” of the “clique”.)         

          The odd part is that, at the time, the “organo-centrism” thread (which Perigo ‘humorously’ described as a discussion of “robot rights”) was just about the only thread in which any activity was occurring at all.  Everything else was dead.

          Perigo posted to the thread one day, not to add anything constructive to the discussion, but to tell all of the participants that it was “complete bollocks”.  (He then proceeded to compare us all to: transhumanism, scientology, Neo-tech, etc.)

          Can’t you just “feel the love?” J

          He wrote:

Good Lord! So much sound & fury, signifying nothing. This article is complete bollocks. Transhumanism is complete bollocks. Neo-Tech is complete bollocks. Scientology is complete bollocks. The posts here are complete bollocks. "Sentient machines with volitional consciousness" is complete bollocks. Never have so many pseudo-erudite nitwits talked so much crap in so incongruous a forum.

          Now notice something here:

          Mr. Perigo finds something unacceptable about our discussion.  

          Fine so far.  Disagreement is good, and honesty (both with others and ones-self) is one of the core values of Objectivism. 

          However:  In all honesty:  is it necessary or proper to describe one’s opponents as “pseudo-erudite nitwits” talking “crap” in an “incongruous fashion”, and then compare them to the worst, wackiest cults you can think of?

          Initially, I attempted to be reasonable about the whole thing:

          I replied:

Linz:

I'm just curious, here, but which exact threads have we "hijacked". Moreover (as I amply demonstrated to our ol' pals Sam Erica and Firehammer), how do a few people posting in a board, preclude anybody ELSE from posting? It doesn't make sense to me.

And what 'stuff" are we 'hijacking' the board with, anyway? These discussions are no different, in principle or purpose, from the perpetual discussions even "orthodox" Objectivists seem to be willing to allow, about the 'issues' of organ transplantation, genetic therapy, or any other such issue.

Yes, Linz, all of us are familiar with biological life, but why this taboo, on discussions of high-technology issues for which (despite the claims of their being 'sci-fi' food for thought), there is ample evidence?

Computer technology IS developing, Linz. Neural net research IS actually occurring. Even if the issue of "robot's rights" (damn, if THAT'S not a dismissive term, there!) never comes to fruition, then we STILL benefit by discussions of this nature, if ONLY as 'hypothetical examples' which help us learn about what "life" is, what "volition" is, and what GOOD argumentation is.

I know you're one of the founders of the board, but Objectivism is NOT a philosophy based on the mindless acquiescence to 'authority'. Of course you have the right to 'speak your piece', but if you don't like a discussion thread resulting from an article, then the only alternatives which come to mind are:

1.  Make the board 'non-public', and have everybody fill out an "Objectivism-compliance" survey so (so as to weed out the "undesirables", like others, such as OSG -- Objectivist Study Group, already do.)

Or,

2. Exhaustively pre-screen articles before they are published, to weed out those which discuss the 'incorrect' issues. You'd have to take that up with Joe Rowlands, of course, because (far as I know) HE is the one in charge of putting up the articles.

I have no problem with the idea of a board screening out 'inappropriate' articles: but IF you're going to do so, shouldn't you at least make an effort to see that the criteria used, are rational?

Honestly, if there are some of us who you would like to have leave the board (Sam Erica referred to 'ten or twelve', without naming names), then just publish a list, and we'll probably all leave. But remember if you do, that you will have started down the slippery slope to cultism, that OSG, ARI, and FAR TOO MANY OBJECTIVISTS THEMSELVES, have taken.

Just food for thought, everybody.

          (Note: I’ve trimmed the messages down to what I consider the salient portions.)

          The Discussion quality deteriorated really fast after that:

          Some examples:

Jeremy

 

 

Post 70

"In other words, I really do think that NONE of you would disagree on the fundamental importance of idea-trading and contextual benevolence. Please tell me: Am I wrong about this? ...

Ed"

No, Ed. You're completely correct. I would have hated to see Henry go as well, until he pretty much called SOLO a cult. Like I said, all this tripe is the equivalent of a dime store t-shirt, and he's turning it into a Greek f*****g tragedy. So if Emrich thinks we're all Perigoists and wants to be shut of us, f**k him. And his horse. :P

(and this isn't a post requiring a response, Emrich. Unless you start acting like an adult and this crap fades away before you do, I'm done with you. Which is a shame, since I agreed with...well, just about every PHILOSOPHICAL thing you had to say.)

 

Francois Tremblay

 

 

Post 71

 

Tuesday, January 27 - 3:09pm

Sure, you just happen to agree with Henry about everything... EXCEPT about SOLO. And the guys on your side are calling others bollocks and Marxists. Doesn't that tell you something?

Jeremy

 

 Post 72

Hey Francois! How ya been! Yeah, that does kinda tell me something.

Francois Tremblay

Post 73

Hmm. And what would that be exactly?

Jeremy.

Post 74

If I cared to clue you in to what I'm thinking, I would have done so. I don't, so I didn't, and I won't...so look for a rational way to bail out of SOLO elsewhere. :P

Francois Tremblay

 

 Post 75

I'm not looking for a rational way to "bail out" of SOLO. I don't need your "bollocks" to give me a justification. No one cares anyway. So keep supporting people who are against rational discussion, you little trooper you.

          Well, suffice it to say that any “Objectivist” board whose members’ “reasoned discourse” consists of “f**k him and the horse he came in on” is – let’s be really charitable here – NOT exactly showing the philosophy of Objectivism in its best presentation?

          I left SOLO over this, and stayed gone for quite awhile.  However, I attempted – mistakenly – to return a few months later (in response to Diana Mertz Hsieh/Bickell’s resignation from TOS, and her “public statement” about it.)

          Objectivism  --the philosophy – has a lot of potential.  The vision Ayn Rand gave us all of rational, productive, benevolent individuals engaged in non-sacrificial relationships, in a socio-political system based on the recognition of individual rights is noble, and has served to revitalize vast stretches of the “Enlightenment” tradition from which it derives. 

          However, as a “movement”, Objectivism has done very little other than fragment into warring factions, squabbling over the smallest peripheral points, and using “moral sanction” to insure that Objectivism self-destructs through factionalism and infighting, instead of developing.

          I allowed myself to get sucked down to the level of squabbling, high-school drivel, and for that I apologize. 

          But the fact remains that Mr. Perigo is a poseur, who has glommed onto Objectivism, with apparently no intent to “practice what he preaches”.  SOLO portrays itself as an “Objectivist” organization, but in reality its aims and goals mirror the personal “pet peeves” of Lindsay Perigo to a shocking degree:

          Sexuality, Homosexuality, and all things “gay” occupy entirely too much of the board’s space to simply be “just another topic”

          Mario Lanza is really vividly over-represented, as well.

          The debate style mirrors Perigo’s technique ever more closely.

          (Hint: I was accused of “rudeness” for some of my --- admittedly vulgar – comments a year ago.  NOW Mr. Firehammer is an “Entity” to be “buttlicked”, according to Mr. Perigo.  So much for “rudeness”.)

          SOLO is an example in microcosm of what has happened OVER AND OVER AGAIN within the Objectivist ‘scene’, and it’s very sad.

          So long as I participated in the barrage against “Supreme chairman”, “Mary”, and whoever else was “on the outs”, SOLO was “home”, but when I dared to question Perigo, I became “persona non grata”.

          Is THIS what Objectivism is supposed to be?

Henry Emrich is an Objectivist author, essayist, and contributor to The Rational Argumentator. He can be reached at gcbhenry@earthlink.net. You can access Mr. Stolyarov's review of Mr. Emrich's book, Battlefield of the Mind, here.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA's Statement of Policy.

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

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

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

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