Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's the Beef?

We at RandZapper have understandably grown weary of trolling Objectivist discussion groups in search of the latest Randian imbecilities. Today, however, in a spirit of duty and selfless public service, we manfully attempted to wade into these Augean stables yet again. What we found, however, was not what we anticipated.

Using the Google Groups search engine, we entered the catchall term "Ayn Rand." The search filter we employed leaves out groups in which Rand is merely mentioned in passing; it turns up only those groups explicitly organized around Rand.

Remarkably, only eighteen groups were listed. Moreover, the membership of most of these groups was minimal.

Oh, there was the redoubtable humanities.philosophy.objectivism, with a respectable 624 subscribers, and alt.philosophy.objectivism, with 150 subscribers. There was the New Intellectual Forum, with seventy-eight members. There was also something called Ayn Rand Dating, with forty-one members in search of rational romance.

But as for the rest ... well, here's a partial list.

AYNRAND [sic] THE GREAT: five members.

The Collective Philosophes [sic]: four members.

Rationalist: two members.

Who Is Afraid of John Galt: one lonely member.

Ayn Rand Forum: eleven members.

The amusingly titled alt.schmuck.dead.bad.lady.novelist, which sounds like the kind of group we might have cottoned to, sadly boasts zero members.

Objectivist Club Discussions: seven members.

And seven more groups, mostly international, featuring between two and three members apiece.

Curious, we tried searching for the term "Objectivism." This brought up more hits, fifty-two groups in all. Of course, some of them are the ones already listed. As for the rest, a few seem to depart radically from Randian purity - Christian Objectivists has seventy-eight deeply confused members - while the others mostly boast memberships in the one- to five-person range. After the first page of listings, none of the groups has even 100 members, and nearly all have fewer than ten.

How about the term "Atlas Shrugged"? Google Groups comes back with only five groups. One is a book club that discusses various books, mostly non-Randian. Then there is a group that characterizes itself thusly:

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Probably not a nexus of New Intellectuals, though it does have 110 Jolie-besotted members.

Then there's a group calling itself Fransisco [sic] d'Anconia, which describes itself as follows:

all dose ppl who hav read Atlas Shrugged... this community is for dose who admire Fransisco d'Anconia, the man who supported John Galt throught. A loyal friend, a true lover and a man of great genius. mayb der's sumthing v all ought to learn from him. Lets discus his ideals, his life and him

It has one member.

A hopeful group called Ayn Rand Fans announces it will discuss Rand's works. The discussions must be rather dull, since (again) there is just one member.

Naturally we could generate many more hits by using the search engine to find any discussion in which our terms appeared, rather than limiting results to sites specifically devoted to these topics. Most of those hits would involve discussion groups that normally have nothing to do with Rand, but which were briefly invaded by some deranged Randian shill.

But it seems to us that the best measure of Rand's actual popularity on Internet discussion groups comes from groups that are organized around her works and her ideas. And there just aren't very many of these, and most of the ones that do exist have very limited memberships.

Which is ... odd.

After all, wasn't there supposed to be a lot of buzz and heat and a groundswell of excitement about Rand and Atlas Shrugged? Weren't Rand's ideas suddenly taking America by storm? Weren't we seeing a renaissance of interest in Objectivism, a revival of the Objectivist movement, a surge in book sales, a cresting wave of popular support?

If so, you'd never know it from Google Groups.

Objectivists are always asking, "Who is John Galt?"

Here's a better question:

Where's the beef?