|Actually, the change of organization's name had been discussed for years, and in the works for a long time. The question was largely: When would be the right moment to make the switch?|
As you now see, the organization made it at the perfect time: June 5th. My birthday.
Seriously, I want to share several thoughts. (And for those collectivist mentalities who love to attribute the thoughts of our group's individual staff members to those of the entire organization, let me state emphatically that these are MY THOUGHTS -- not necessarily those of any other member of the staff or Board of Trustees of The Atlas Society.)
1. Those obsessed with attacking this organization 24/7/365 would never be mollified no matter what we do, or don't do. Recall that their past complaint against us was that we DID have "Objectivist" in our name, declaring that we shouldn't because we aren't "really" Objectivists at all. But now that we do not have "Objectivist" in our name, they attack that, declaring that our name change proves our lack of commitment to Objectivism!
This doubletalk is, on its face, completely hypocritical and dishonest.
Let's get real. Everyone familiar with these creeps knows that they look daily for new excuses to go off on rants against us, mining our every noun and verb, our every program and policy, our every article and op-ed, our every hire and fire. I invite you to consider just how much of their personal time this fixation consumes. We are justified in concluding that they either must have nothing better to do with their lives, or, perhaps, lack the capacity to do it.
Our name change is now their excuse du jour for further attacks, and hence for further evasion of the responsibilities of undertaking more productive, personal value-pursuits. Sadly, we have come to expect no better of them.
2. As has been pointed out above by others, we have NOT jettisoned the name "The Objectivist Center," but now have applied it more narrowly and appropriately to those activities for which it is best suited: the scholarly and academic programs headed by David Kelley and Will Thomas.
Is this a mistake? Well, then, a couple of questions for our critics:
Does ARI's calling its academic division the "Objectivist Graduate Center" indicate a desire to "distance" its scholarly activities from the name "Ayn Rand"? Why not "The Ayn Rand Graduate Center"?
Likewise, does the name "Ayn Rand Institute" indicate a desire to distance itself from the word "Objectivism"? Why did ARI not call itself "The Objectivism Institute"?
Again, let's get real. What we are doing is no different from what ARI has done, in labeling its overarching identity and its particular programs to target the specific audiences for which those titles are best suited.
The primary purpose of a title is not simply to make those wearing it feel good about themselves. The primary purpose of a title or label is effective communication to a target audience. A ponderous name that only "insiders" understand, but that the target audience does not, is simply not effective communication. Ditto a name that is difficult to pronounce, spell, and remember.
For years, those of us at the Center answering phone calls or media inquiries have had to restate, re-pronounce, and re-spell our organization's name again and again to answer inquiries. Even so, we found that many people, including reporters, still misspelled or mispronounced it in conversations and news stories (e.g., "The Objective Center").
Or consider this: If people hear our name in a conversation, or if viewers see us for a few fleeting moments on a talk show and want to learn more, then go to the Web to Google us, which name is more evocative, and more likely that they will remember and spell correctly: "The Atlas Society" or "The Objectivist Center"?
Furthermore, which name is most likely to draw the right mental associations for an important target audience: the millions of readers of Ayn Rand's fiction? Many of those readers -- probably most of them -- haven't a clue what "Objectivism" refers to, or know that it has any link to Ayn Rand.
It's therefore only common sense that in targeting those readers, you select a name that will evoke some familiar connection to Rand and/or her works. For such readers, ARI arguably has the best possible name because of its direct reference to Ayn Rand. (Google search results indicate that five times as many people search on the term "Ayn Rand" than they do on the term "Objectivism.") But after "Ayn Rand," the "next best" words to use, in terms of their familiarity to readers Rand's fiction, are the titles of her two most famous novels: Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
A direct reference to "Atlas," once sufficiently publicized and connected to this organization, will make a much more indelible impression on those readers than does a nominal reference to the unfamiliar "ism." The figure of Atlas also lends itself to great imagery, imagery that conveys a positive suggestion of strength, and of "supporting the world" -- which is the very reason that Rand used the Atlas metaphor herself in the title of her magnum opus.
In short, for communication purposes, "Atlas" is much better in a title than is "Objectivist." A title that communicates little or nothing to target audiences is not an asset.
3. It is significant to note that long after she had defined and labeled her philosophy, Rand herself did not use the term "Objectivism" or "Objectivist" in any of her nonfiction titles, except for Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology -- a book originally published privately by Rand as a monograph, and aimed only at the Objectivist "hard core" audience. Now, why do you suppose that, in communicating to mass audiences, she didn't title The Virtue of Selfishness as The Objectivist Ethics -- or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as The Politics of Objectivism -- or For the New Intellectual as The Philosophy of Objectivism, etc.?
Because Ayn Rand was a smart marketer -- that's why. She understood that the overriding purpose of a title was effective communication. Titles using neologisms and unfamiliar or arcane terms don't communicate anything effectively to a target audience. Rand knew that the purpose of a title is to get the attention of the right people. And she introduced "Objectivism" in discussions and writings only after she had gotten their attention.
4. Then there is the issue of appropriateness. Besides being ponderous, and difficult to spell and remember, the organization's original name, "Institute for Objectivist Studies," gave the impression that the organization was solely an academic or scholarly think tank, doing nothing more than producing studies. It did not suggest the full range of the group's activities, including public advocacy, and events and activities for the growing Objectivist social community.
On that score, "The Objectivist Center" was an improvement, in my opinion, but only a slight one. We still found that people hearing the word "Objectivist" for the first time had a host of misleading impressions as to what it referred to -- and most of those impressions were not positive ones. (For example, remember that "objective" in current cultural usage implies "value-neutral" to many people. Is that a message you wish to convey in a title? The battle for the true meaning of "objective" is absolutely crucial; but you do not fight such a battle in the title: you fight it in the subsequent arguments -- just as Rand did within the pages of her books, but not on their covers.)
"The Atlas Society," by contrast, evokes familiar, positive imagery, and also better suggests a membership organization. Also, the name does not suggest a mission limited solely to scholarship; it is broad enough to encompass the full range of activities, including public advocacy, our magazine (The New Individualist), our seminars, and even social activities and events.
5. Finally, the publicity already beginning on the "Atlas Shrugged" movie project affords us a unique opportunity to connect our organization's philosophical message to the attention that the movie will generate. That is a sound practical reason for timing the name change now.
For all these reasons, I enthusiastically support the change of the organization's name to "The Atlas Society," and also for retaining "The Objectivist Center" as the name for those scholarly programs that address the study, development, and teaching of Objectivism as a philosophy.
Clearly, nothing at all has changed in terms of our absolute commitment to that philosophy, and all its implications. Those unfamiliar with the organization, but who have been prejudiced by the Big Lie Campaign against it, are invited to check us out. You can decide for yourself where our commitments are.
Once again, let me state emphatically that these are MY THOUGHTS -- not necessarily those of any other member of the staff or Board of Trustees of The Atlas Society. One of the distinctions of our organization is that, unlike some self-styled Objectivist groups, we take seriously both aspects of the term "rational individualism."
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto
on 6/06, 1:16pm)
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto
on 6/06, 4:47pm)