Objectionable Objectivism

Sunday, I wrote about being spammed by the Ayn Rand Institute. I said that I intended to call the spammer up and discuss this little practice of theirs.

Mr. Holcberg seemed a bit surprised and confused by my call. Perhaps he couldn’t comprehend that not everyone in the universe was just waiting with bated breath to ponder and marvel at his profound insights, but for whatever reason he didn’t grasp the notion that the issue wasn’t content, but consent — I objected to his presuming that it would be just fine and dandy to put me on their mailing list and send me anything they liked, unless I jumped through their hoops and said “pretty please stop it.” He used phrases like “you’re free to do as you wish” and “that’s certainly your right” and “you can just unsubscribe at any time.”

He also seemed a bit befuddled by my suggestion for a more ethical way to start up his list — sending out a one-time mailing asking if people are interested, to reply, and only adding those people who respond favorably. This approach is marginally better, as those who are truly interested will have to affirmatively indicate so, while those not will have to do nothing and they will not be added.

But in the comments section, one person calling themselves “Elan” took serious offense at my irritation. It got a bit heated, and I composed a rather lengthy response to him/her/it. I intended to send it via e-mail, but I decided that the response should be as public as the initial discussion. However, as I said, it’s a bit lengthy, and probably utterly uninteresting to the vast majority of readers, so I’m sticking it below the fold.

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Elan, I was going to answer you in a private e-mail, but since you’re going to insult others as well, let’s keep this public.

First, I apologize for missing your earlier question about the ownership of Wizbang. But my error was balanced out quite nicely by yours — had you read the credits box at the bottom of the left column, you would have seen Kevin Aylward listed as Publisher and Editor in Chief, while I am one of two Contributing Editors. If that doesn’t make it clear enough, let me spell it out for you: this is Kevin’s sandbox; he’s just kind enough to let me play in it.

Second, the “Punch In The Nose Club” was an analogy. Go ahead, look it up. It is an entirely fictitious construct, designed to make a real-world comparison to the concept of opt-out mailings and negative options. It is hyperbole, done to make a point in a humorous effect. I apologize for not realing sooner that you are a humorless prig, and had I known so I would not have wasted the effort.

Third, I find nothing embarrassing about admitting I have not read Ayn Rand. I started one of her books once, found it not to my liking, set it aside, and never looked back. Since that time, I have not spared a thought on her, her novels, or her philosophies — until the institute founded in her name decided to intrude itself on to my consciousness.

Fourth, I do not issue an “FU” to those who disagree with me. In fact, I often take up their challenges — probably more than I should. I have even, on occasions when I discover I have been in error, publicly acknowledged so and apologized.

Fifth, congratulations on your FICO score. But I trust you will not be offended if I decline to merely accept your word on your financial status. Would you mind posting your name, address, and social security number so I may verify your claims on my own? (Damn, I forgot you are a humorless prig with a stick up your ass the size of a railroad tie, and probably won’t catch that as a joke. I’ll have to remember to go back and delete this, then try another tack.)

Fifth, congratulations on your FICO score. Would you mind explaining 1) why I simply should take your word for it, and 2) why I should care in the least? It is utterly irrelevant to me, the other readers, or this discussion in general. All it does is show that you wish to assert your superiority over others, to establish a level of credibility and respect so you can get others to simply take your word on matters instead of having to prove your point.

Sixth, the comparison between electronic and paper junk mail is flawed. With paper mail, there is a per-item cost to the sender that poses economic limits on the volume. With e-mail, ther is no scaling of costs — it costs the sender nothing more to send a million messages than one. All the burden for the volume is placed on the recipients, meaning that there is no incentive on behalf of the sender to limit themselves, and the recipient finds themself on the hook for the expenses of the mailing. A better analogy would be to allow all junk mailers to send their ads postage due, and the recipient unable to refuse the charges. It is an utterly immoral and unsustainable model.

Seventh, your issue of a “god complex.” Yes, I do think I am god. In certain areas, that is. One of them is over my e-mail box. I am god of my e-mail box, and I am not a merciful god. Those who would trespass into my domain do so at my sufferance, and I am not a god who suffers fools gladly.

Eighth, my annoyance at the Ayn Rand Institute is based on the fundamental lack of respect they demonstrated for me from the outset. Access to my e-mail box is limited to those who wish a one-on-one conversation with me. I was added to their list without the slightest bit of due diligence. Had they even done a cursory survey of my works, or contacted me beforehand, they would have known that I have never published anyone else’s work, I have never discussed the topic they chose to address, and I have often stated my disdain for unsolicited mass e-mailings and the morally reprehensible “opt-out” model. But that mattered not a whit; as “true believers in the cause” (much like yourself, apparently), they hold themselves above the normal mores of good conduct. As I said above, I do not suffer fools gladly, particularly those who trespass against me. (Sorry, your “god complex” has apparently triggered a biblical bent to my writing. I’ll try to restrain it.)

Ninth, I have not picked up a single bit of “disdain for women” in this thread, despite your allegations. I was utterly and blissfully ignorant of your gender before you broached the subject, and still care not a whit. I have never thought of “Elan” as a name, let alone a gender-specific one; what little thought I gave to your appellation was that it was a bit of self-description that bordered on the egotisticial. The disdain was for a sexless institution and a sender of a message who bore a masculine name, but I fail to see the relevance of whether the “Marc” in question is, in the vernacular of a pair of rest room signs I once saw in a bar, a “pointer” or a “setter.” It seems more an attempt on your behalf to introduce an irrelevant aspect to confuse the argument and evade the points being made. Especially since the person you accused of such a tone has one of the most common unisex names, “Chris.” Would you make such a comment to someone you thought was a Christopher was in fact a Christina?

Tenth, let’s run with that “god complex” one more time, but let’s turn it around this time. You say that Rand’s books ought to be “required reading.” Can you think of a better term for someone who says that every single person in the world should be forced to read a certain book than “god?” “Dictator” or “tyrant” doesn’t have quite the same power or connotations.

Eleventh… oh, hell, if I haven’t made my point by now, I don’t think I ever will. I’ve wasted way, way too much time on you already.

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