For those of you who have never read Ayn Rand, the mousy movie critic inThe Fountainhead, Ellsworth Toohey, is one of the evilest characters in the objectivist writer’s repertoire. Today, as we watch ever more corporations, sports heroes, cultural icons, and organizations of all types express their solidarity with those engaged in forced retail reparations, and as our citizenry becomes ever more compliant in the face of draconian lockdown orders, it is increasingly clear that America has become a nation of Ellsworth Tooheys.
In The Fountainhead, the hero is modernistic architect Howard Roarke. Roarke faces societal obstacles because he refuses to pay homage to the greats in the field, determined to forge his own stylistic path. Society’s rejection of him comes not necessarily as a function of aesthetics or taste, but rather his unwillingness to agree with the widely held belief that new artistic endeavors must necessarily build upon the preceding styles. Roarke’s fatal sin is to insist on being his own man and sticking to his principles.
“Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others,” Roarke says at one point. “But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.”
Roarke sums up pretty much the whole of Objectivist philosophy in one sentence when he says, “I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society.”
Despite early success, Roarke struggles throughout the book to excel in his career as he faces mounting societal rejection for his refusal to play the game.
Enter Ellsworth Toohey, the film critic for the largest group of newspapers in the world. As a film critic, he has somehow wormed his way into holding sway over the opinions of millions, and has gained an unexpected power over hearts and minds. His lust for power never stops growing, but he prefers not to be the strong man. Ellsworth Toohey’s destructive force is summed up in his monologue about power:
“I shall rule.”
“You. The world. It’s only a matter of discovering the lever. If you learn how to rule one single man’s soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It’s the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That’s why the Caesars, the Attilas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last. We will. The soul, Peter, is that which can’t be ruled. It must be broken. Drive a wedge in, get your fingers on it – and the man is yours. You won’t need a whip – he’ll bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him in reverse – and his own mechanism will do your work for you. Use him against himself. Want to know how it’s done? See if I ever lied to you. See if you haven’t heard all this for years, but didn’t want to hear, and the fault is yours, not mine.
“There are many ways. Here’s one. Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an idol in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against himself. Direct it towards a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness. Tell man that altruism is the ideal. Not a single one has ever reached it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it. But don’t you see what you accomplish ? Man realizes that he’s incapable of what he’s accepted as the noblest virtue – and it gives him a sense of guilt, of sin, of his own basic unworthiness. Since the supreme ideal is beyond his grasp, he gives up eventually all ideals, all aspiration, all sense of his personal value. He feels himself obliged to preach what he can’t practice. But one can’t be good halfway or honest approximately. To preserve one’s integrity is a hard battle. Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up its self respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be glad to obey – because he can’t trust himself, he feels uncertain, he feels unclean. That’s one way.
“Here’s another. Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it. Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional. Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept – and you stop the impetus to effort in men, great or small. You stop all incentive to improvement, to excellence, to perfection. Laugh at Roark and hold Peter Keating as a great architect. You’ve destroyed architecture. Build Lois Cook and you’ve destroyed literature. Hail Ike and you’ve destroyed the theatre. Glorify Lancelot Clankey and you’ve destroyed the press. Don’t set out to raze all shrines – you’ll frighten men, Enshrine mediocrity – and the shrines are razed.
“Then there’s another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humour is an unlimited virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul – and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle. He’ll obey and he’ll set no limits to obedience – anything goes – nothing is too serious.
“Here’s another way. This is most important. Don’t allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take away from them what they want. Make them think that the mere thought of a personal desire is evil. Bring them to a state where saying ‘I want’ is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission. Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men will come to you. They’ll need you. They’ll come for consolation, for support, for escape. Nature allows no vacuum. Empty man’s soul – and the space is yours to fill.”
You see here that Ayn Rand has captured Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, perhaps unwittingly, but certainly, around the time he developed his theory. Ellsworth Toohey and Saul Alinsky are nearly identical in effect. Rand, as a refugee from revolution-torn Russia, knew full well the tactics the Communist Party used to take over.
Fast forward to the insanity of 2020, and the mob mentality that has taken over both the response to the CCP coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the rioting and looting in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. You can see Ellsworth Toohey everywhere, or at least his influence. Many Americans still feel more comfortable obeying lockdown orders—many of which are expressly illegal and unconstitutional—over exercising their freedom of movement, religious expression, assemby, and even speech.
“Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an idol in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against himself. Direct it towards a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness.” By creating internal conflict and corruption in free Americans, we’ve caused them to doubt themselves. Those souls doubtful of their own worth subsequently judge those who wish to remain free, free to question, free to think independently. The free are then targeted for mob justice.
“Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up its self-respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be glad to obey – because he can’t trust himself, he feels uncertain, he feels unclean.” This is the polar opposite—indeed, the chief enemy—of that unique Americanism as expressed by Walt Whitman: “There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.”
Ellsworth Toohey surrounds us in 2020, making a simple question a revolutionary act, making alternate viewpoints an act of war, making deeply held principles ultimate sin. America has become a nation of Ellsworth Tooheys.
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.
Editor’s Note: Want to support PJ Media so we can keep telling the truth about China and the virus they unleashed on the world? Join PJ Media VIP and use the promo code WUHAN to get 25% off your VIP membership.