How Ayn Rand Predicted Dylan Mulvaney
Most of her fans – and probably her detractors as well – know Ayn Rand primarily through her four great novels. She also wrote essays, philosophy books, screenplays, and Broadway dramas… but we remember her for her novels.
We fear that the dystopian world of Anthem will come true someday, but not soon. We fear that the totalitarian tyranny of We the Living is approaching, any day now. And we know full well that the mindless, vicious, destructive bureaucratic rule of Atlas Shrugged is in some ways upon us already.
But the shocker is realizing that her most specific, dead-on prediction, the one we never saw coming, was in The Fountainhead, and it is all around us today.
A few years ago, a confused teenaged actor, much like tens of thousands of other teenaged actors, was hoping for a career in the theatre, and meeting with the minor success so common in youth: a role in a local professional play, perhaps even a part in the chorus line of a musical’s touring company. Then in 2021, following the strange year known as “the pandemic,” this young person decided to become “trans,” and to report on his “transition” on the Chinese online platform TikTok.
Soon, Dylan Mulvaney was being represented by Creative Artists Agency – not for acting, dancing, or singing ability but for “being” a trans activist and online influencer. Soon, as he began wearing the hair, makeup, and wardrobe of a woman, he was getting promoted by the Trevor Project.
In the spring of 2023, an American public that had never heard of this young man was suddenly seeing him everywhere -- in dresses, hats and pearls -- in print ads, on television and online commercials, even on the packaging of America’s most popular brands.
Consider: how did people become spokesmen in the old days? A television or film actor or singer, already famous, would sign an endorsement deal. An Olympic or sports team star, already famous, would appear on a cereal box or television commercial. They were always famous first, and an advertising executive thought their image might be a good fit for their product.
There have also been unknown actors who directly became famous from a commercial, but that was always one specific, memorable commercial character in a very creative, well-written sketch. For such commercial appearances to strike gold and launch an actor’s broader endorsement career is rare indeed.
Dylan Mulvaney is a new case, and possibly a prototype for a new way: he is suddenly ubiquitous, simultaneously hired by Anheuser Busch and Kate Spade, Nike and Ulta Beauty, CeraVe and Crest, InstaCart and Haus Labs. What a client list for a fringe, unknown actor!
Note that key word: simultaneously. One producer, one manufacturer, one ad agency didn’t come up with an idea, launch it, see how it went, and then, on the strength of a year’s increased sales due to his ads, leverage that success into more and more bookings.
No. All these companies joined the bandwagon together, practically overnight, without waiting for any other campaign’s results.
These businesses were sold on this young man as a concept, before there was any data available to objectively demonstrate that it would be a good marketing decision for them.
This just doesn’t happen. This never happens. While I am not an expert in the history of advertising, Gentle Reader, I am certain that this has not happened before.
All of a sudden, this skinny young man in a dress, looking like a Halloween party Audrey Hepburn impersonator, is popping up everywhere, like the Gallant Gallstone… and for exactly the same reason.
Ayn Rand’s fans will remember a character in The Fountainhead named Ellsworth Toohey, a newspaper columnist who spent years and years planting Marxists in every industry and association, spreading them throughout the country as sleeper cells, ready to be activated on his word.
One day, perhaps to test his approach, perhaps to gauge his influence, Ellsworth Toohey puts out the word to his army of plants that they should advertise a book by poet Lois Cook, a talentless hack who has written about a sentient gallstone making its courageous path through a human body. It’s outrageous, of course, sheer theatre of the absurd, but his plan works, as the character of the Gallant Gallstone is suddenly ubiquitous, seemingly overnight.
Only then are the eyes of other characters opened, and they begin to realize how dangerous, how powerful, this Ellsworth Toohey character has become.
By the same token, we Americans have watched for years as corporations big and small have added new jobs, even new board roles, and signed on to new corporate commitments, seemingly as a harmless sop to one interest group or another, unthinkingly, much like a political machine that creates a no-show patronage job for some party boss’s kid.
Our companies have appointed a “Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer” or an “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Vice President.” Stockholders were happy to do it because Blackrock and other huge funds advocate it… and if you make them happy, it’ll count toward your Corporate Equality Index (CEI). These giant pool investing houses will buy your stock and push up your perceived market value.
What they didn’t know, what they never dreamed, was that these useless officers weren’t just no-show placeholders to satisfy a demand for a bribe. They would have actual power. They would sit at every board meeting; they would run a department. They would have a vote on company decisions, big and small, just like all the other board members.
We have seen this influence in recent years, as large companies, both publicly traded and privately held, have written checks, often for millions and millions of company dollars each, to hostile organizations like BLM. And now they are at the heart of the movement to put Dylan Mulvaney in front of every American’s face.
There are many imputed laws in the business world. Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. The Peter Principle, that in any hierarchy, each employee will eventually rise to his level of incompetence. O’Sullivan’s Law, that any organization not explicitly founded to be conservative will eventually become left-wing.
And perhaps we now need a law that we should always have thought would go without saying: If you give someone a seat at the table, he will take full advantage of it.
We – our modern American society – have thought that we were showing tolerance, open-mindedness, liberality, when we threw the left a bone and invited people clearly hostile to the principles of Western Civilization and capitalism onto the management hierarchy and the boards of directors of our business community. They have taken this opportunity and used it to their movement’s best advantage, undermining the profitability of the very companies that pay their salaries.
They have gotten oil refiners to insanely commit to wean themselves away from oil; they have convinced energy utilities to shut down their most efficient, most productive nuclear power plants; they have convinced advertiser after advertiser to produce commercials that insult and offend their customers.
And now, in perhaps the ultimate of such suicidal campaigns, they have convinced a beer company to put a guy in a dress on the front of their beer cans. They have convinced a makeup company to make this man the face of their cosmetics. They have convinced an athletic apparel company to have a skinny, non-athletic man model their sports bras.
These brands are bleeding customers daily as a result. Whether these specific companies will ever learn their lesson or not may be beside the point. The most striking lesson for us today is the fact that it happened at all.
An association of political activists, international in scope, has proven itself to have the ability to plant destructive people in the business community’s corporate boards, and to force businesses to willingly sabotage their own sales, undermining their own shareholder value, by advancing a countercultural political agenda at the expense of their own market share.
We can see this one. Dylan Mulvaney is in our face. What else are they doing, what else are these plants talking our struggling American business community into doing, that we haven’t heard about yet?
The real world’s Ellsworth Toohey may be a single person, or a group, or a movement, but what we now know for certain is that in some way, he is real, and just as powerful and malevolent as Ayn Rand imagined him.
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international transportation professional. A onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman, he has been writing a regular column for Illinois Review since 2009. His book on vote fraud (The Tales of Little Pavel) and his political satires on the current administration (Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes I and II) are available on Amazon.