If the Atlas Shrugged movie comes to your area, it could provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and build community with people who share your values.
A recent example shows how enormously successful we can be, using events to meet people and build a sense of community: The Tea Party movement got an enormous boost by having a march-on-Washington type rally in the nation’s capital, followed by many other local rallies, opposing the massive growth of big government.
Tens of thousands of people came together who never would have met and might have been alone in their little towns. They met others. They started local clubs and movements, and I’m sure some romances blossomed and friendships were started.
By the time election day came, these little grass roots groups had helped massively alter the political balance of power in America. Today they are nationally influential and effective.
Most of us who love Ayn Rand feel at least somewhat isolated. Only a tiny fraction of the population are very interested. When the numbers are so thin, it can be hard to find people who share our values. Yes, you can do some things over the internet, but nothing beats face-to-face contact.
Some years ago, moving to a new city, I wanted to meet people like me. How could I find them? I waited nearly a year until a well-known speaker came to my area to talk about and advocate Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I got permission to distribute a signup sheet for a first meeting of a newly forming Ayn Rand club.
Since they were already interested, well over half of the attendees gave me their contact information. Without that jump start, my discussion group would have been three people in a coffee-shop; instead, it gradually expanded to a mailing list of several hundred. Our get-togethers usually drew twenty or more, and soon I had built a small community.
This weekend the Atlas Shrugged movie is hitting theaters across the nation, presenting us with a rare opportunity that is very analogous to what the Tea Party crowd experienced. Having started many groups, I have suggestions about how to leverage the movie to meet like-minded people in your area.
First, advertise yourself and your values. Get a highly visible type of apparel, perhaps a cap, button, or a t-shirt. Bear in mind, people can’t see a button or t-shirt if others are in the way or if it’s covered up.
Whatever you choose should indicate at a single glance that you are an Ayn Rand fan, not just one of the multitude curious about a movie with an odd title. Few words. No long-winded quotes. Not obscure or too cutesy.
Decide in advance whether you are primarily trying to meet someone for personal or romantic reasons, or if you are trying to start a club or discussion or social or activist group.
If it’s the former — and especially if he or she is wearing similar “advertising” — your job is relatively easy. Walk over with your best big smile: “Have I found another Rand admirer?” Then let nature take its course.
If your goal, however, is to get names for a group or club, this warrants more preparation. Get your own ticket a half-hour early so that, later, you can walk quickly down the line more than once during the half-hour before the movie starts: “Hello... Do you like Ayn Rand’s novels or are you just looking for an interesting movie?”
I suggest handing out a business card or small piece of paper saying only, “Ayn Rand Discussion Club” or “Ayn Rand Dinner Group” or “Ayn Rand Campus Club” — whichever suits your purposes — with your name, email address, and phone number. Hand out them out before the movie; after a movie, people can be in a daze, lost in thought, or vanish quickly.
No theater is likely to allow you to tape up big signs, but some might let you place a discreet, tiny stack of cards or slips of paper in the lobby, or for handing out at the ticket desk. That way they could be seen at dozens of showings across a number of weeks. Never hurts to ask. Don’t wait until just before the showing you’re attending to call and ask to speak to the theater manager.
The first week or so of Atlas Shrugged showings will attract the highest proportion of major fans; they won’t be able to wait long. But if the movie spreads out across the nation, theaters will be filled by the general public and those merely attracted by the buzz.
Finally, you cold likely apply these same community-forming tactics at the Tea Party’s big tax day rallies on April 15th, the day the movie opens.
To give it a try, go to FreedomWorks.org, click the “Find Events Near You” button under Tax Day 2011, and enter your zip code to find the location of the nearest rally. In my area it is in a huge football parking lot and in some cases there could be up to a thousand people, many of them admirers of Ayn Rand.
I plan to go with a large placard about the “Tampa Bay Ayn Rand Club” and not only hand out flyers, but ask interested people if they want to join me in passing more of them out at the local movie theaters.
If you try any of these suggestions and have feedback about how they worked, send me your thoughts the letters-to-the-editor section below. I am also happy to answer questions from any of you who are serious about starting a group in your area.
Philip Coates is an educator who currently teaches history, literature, and thinking skills at the Challenger School, and in the past has been an instructor at the New School for Social Research and a departmental guest lecturer at UCLA. His articles have appeared in professional and academic journals and magazines, including The Independent Review, Reality, Objectivity, and the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery. Also, he has been editor and publisher of Classics Review, a book review newsletter on timeless and classic books.