The fictional Ellsworth Toohey, left, and Howard Roark, right, in the 1949 film adaptation of The Fountainhead.

On Thursday morning conservative political operative and media owner Dan Proft responded to my recent Bleader post criticizing his string of community newspapers with this blistering tweet:

He sure told me—but I doubt if he told anyone unversed in the scripture that Proft and his circle hold dear.

Ayn Rand wrote two texts sacred to conservatives midway through the last century, and in both Ellsworth Toohey is a major figure—the embodiment of everything she despised. In Rand’s 1943 novel The Fountainhead and 1957’s Atlas Shrugged, Toohey is an art critic, conniver, slick, and sleazy piece of work.

Here’s a relevant passage from the Fountainhead:

“Evening clothes were not becoming to Ellsworth Toohey; the rectangle of white shirt front prolonged his face, stretching him out into two dimensions; the wings of his tie made his thin neck look like that of a plucked chicken, pale, bluish and ready to be twisted by a single movement of some strong fist.”

A blog devoted to “Touhey’s of the World” nails Ellsworth’s character. He’s a “master schemer and manipulator” who “represents the stifling, decadent forces of Communalism and Socialism.” The blog recalls a telling confrontation from The Fountainhead between Toohey and Rand’s hero, the visionary architect Howard Roark.

Toohey: “Why don’t you tell me what you think of me, Mr. Roark?”

Roark: “But I don’t think of you.”

This exchange differs in only two trifling details from mine with Proft:
(1) He did tell me what he thought of me. (2) I didn’t ask.

But enough about Ellsworth Toohey. Let me tell you more about Howard Roark. What a man! To quote the same blog, Roark “is the embodiment of the human spirit and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism.” In him is enshrined the “strength of the individual spirit.” He’s just as capable with the ladies, favoring Rand’s heroine, Dominique.

Apparently Rand perfectly captured Dan Proft’s idea of himself. I feel a kinship with anyone who can think along those lines. I remember a time in my life when I fell asleep telling myself stories of my adventures with Batman. Too modest to ever be Batman myself, I was perfectly content as Robin, or on occasion Robin’s best friend. In those stories I was someone who’d grow up to be a man just like Howard Roark.

But then again, I was eight.