Apparently it’s the 100th anniversary of Ayn Rand’s birth, so for a brief period of time the media spotlight is shining again on the founder of Objectivism. Interestingly, there is a way in which Ayn Rand was tangentially involved in the creation of the precursor to this blog. When I received my brand-spanking new 300 baud modem for my birthday way back when, there were no BBSes in my hometown. This led to many long-distance phone bills calling places like Norfolk, VA, which made my parents oh-so-happy. Within a few months, thankfully, some local ones opened up. Most of them were the usual run-of-the-mill (i.e. boring) BBSes, but one of them had an extremely active political discussion group. Being 13 and somewhat naive, I dove into the discussion with my proto-socialist views and started duking it out with all involved. Two of the participants, who went by the names Darkshot and Cardinal Richardson, were dyed-in-the-wool libertarians who were very big on Ms. Rand (and were also usually the most interesting people to argue with). After debating for a few months, Darkshot apparently decided that although I was completely wrongheaded in my thinking, I was intelligent enough to be saved. So he took it upon himself to send me a copy of Atlas Shrugged (and some other books, I think, but I forget which ones).
When I went off to summer camp that year, I took the book with me and ended up reading it straight through. I have to say that it was probably one of the most entertaining books that I’ve ever read – it’s sort of like a comic book in fiction form. A bit of mystery, some really good good guys, some really bad bad guys and the end of the world – what could be better? It didn’t turn me into an Objectivist as hoped, but it did help sharpen my own views on things. Sadly, Darkshot passed away a few years ago but the book still has a sentimental place on my shelf. (I later tried reading The Fountainhead, but I found that it lacked the zip of Atlas Shrugged.)
The whole point of this is that in many ways the fact that, at the tender age of 13, I could go online and argue politics with adults and be taken seriously was a seriously formative experience. (As they say, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.) The egalitarian nature of online discussion had, I think, a lot to do with my desire to run my own BBS and helped spark my interest in online communities that continues to this day. So, thanks, Ayn, and happy birthday!
(As a footnote: Atlas Shrugged also holds the distinctive honor of being the only book that I’ve finished where I didn’t read the whole book. Those of you who’ve read the book know what I’m talking about. I can still distinctly remember getting about 3 pages into Galt’s diatribe before I thought “How long does this thing go on?” and started flipping ahead. When I realized it was, like, 40 pages, that was it…)]]>