A few nights ago I watched The Fountainhead for the first time. It was a real eye opener.
Not only was this my first Gary Cooper movie–yes, I was a virgin–but it gave me a weird sense of deja-vu, kind of like I had just spent an hour flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.
Sure, Howard Roark was a real stand-up guy, with all of that integrity, but the story line which really grabbed my attention had to do with The New York Banner, a scandal sheet with an enormous circulation and little honor.
The paper is run by the ruthless capitalist, Gail Wynand, a self-made man who traded his principals for cash. Wynand cooks up scandals and then feeds them to the masses. Whether these stories are true or not is of no concern, the value is measured by the hysteria it creates.
Even though Wynand peddles in trash, he values truth. In his private life, Wynand is polished and educated. In short, he feels he is much superior to his readers. Therefore, since his audience are such simpletons, Wynand believes he can easily manipulate the mob and give them their marching orders.
And then there is the ideologue Ellsworth Toohey, the architecture critic for The Banner. Toohey also believes the common people to be idiots, but instead of manipulating their feeble minds in order to amass a personal fortune, Toohey trades in personal power.
Unlike Wynand, Toohey doesn’t believe in truth or inherent value. In fact, he believes it is dangerous–a threat to his quest for power predicated on the rise of mediocrity. Toohey actually believes the bullshit he is peddling. His only truth is the newest lie which will add to his power.
As The Fountainhead reaches its dramatic conclusion, there is a struggle between Wynand and Toohey as to who will controll The Banner and by extention the mob.
Who wins? I’m not going to spoil it for you. I will give you a hint, though. Just turn on your television.