The forthcoming Jennifer Burns bio of Rand, "Goddess of the Market" confirms what many have claimed over the years including your ever-skeptical ARCHNblog: that the Ayn Rand Institute has been engaged in a consistent pattern of rewriting history in terms of both Rand's life and even literally her work. This pattern has been obvious for years, with examples ranging from the trivial (Peikoff fibbing about why Rand gave up smoking*) to the bizarre (James Valliant's "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics). This is hardly surprising, as the ARI, while ostensibly set up to promote a philosophy, is in practice merely an apparatchik organisation with the purpose of sustaining Rand's mythology.
Here's the recent Laissez-Faire Books review that seems to be the first to confirm this practice of rewriting reality is real, and is significant. Key grafs below the jump:
One other area that I found of significant interest is Burns discussion of the various problems surrounding Rand documents made public by the Ayn Rand Institute, Leonard Piekoff’s organization. There has been a great deal of controversy over indications that ARI doctored documents. Some of this doctoring was admitted by ARI, which asserted that they merely made clarifications consistent with what Rand had intended to say. Burns, who has seen the originals, says this is not the case.
She does say that the letters of Rand, that have been released, “have not been altered; they are merely incomplete.” But the same is not true for other works of Rand, including her Journals. Burns writes, “On nearly every page of the published journals an unacknowledged change has been made from Rand’s original writing. In the book’s foreword the editor, David Harriman, defends his practice of eliminating Rand’s words and inserting his own as necessary for greater clarity. In many case, however, his editing serves to significantly alter Rand’s meaning.” She says that sentences are “rewritten to sound stronger and more definite” and that the editing “obscures important shifts and changes in Rand’s thought.” She finds “more alarming” the case that “sentences and proper names present in Rand’s original …have vanished entirely, without any ellipses or brackets to indicate a change.”
The result of this unacknowledged editing is that “they add up to a different Rand. In her original notebooks she is more tentative, historically bounded, and contradictory. The edited diaries have transformed her private space, the hidden realm in which she did her thinking, reaching, and groping, replacing it with a slick manufactured world in which all of her ideas are definite, well formulated, and clear.” She concludes that Rand’s Journals, as released by ARI, “are thus best understood as an interpretation of Rand rather than her own writing. Scholars must use these materials with extreme caution.”
The bad news is that “similar problems plague Ayn Rand Answers (2005), The Art of Fiction (2000), The Art of Non-Fiction (2001), and Objectively Speaking (2009).” Burns says all these works were “derived from archival material but have been significantly rewritten.” Rand scholars have long suspected such manipulation of documents; Burns confirms it with evidence she herself saw.
* We have a forthcoming article by Neil Parille noting some of the odder fibs the ARI have invented about Rand in order to polish the personality cult; stay tuned.