Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Lacklusterhood of The Traveling Rants
Apparently designed for the good-mouth-feel of his large audience of Digital Shut-Ins, today's David Brooks column ("Riders on the Storm") is yet another in Bobo's long, long line of tedious Thesis-Antithesis-Pseudosynthesis exercises. So let me once again save you the risk of possible optical injury caused by driving your eyes over its mushy, uneven surface by summarizing it for you in thirds.
The First Third: Cass Sunstein once said that people's internet clicky habits would probably lead to a more insular and self-referential electorate. Which considering that, like the real world, the internet is 99.3% porn, sports, kittehs, Nigerian banker frauds, pitches for penis creams and unguents of various pedigrees, people looking for work, people looking to get laid and Lindsay Lohan rumors...seems a little grandiose. It does, however, reflect Bobo's personal experience, by which I can only assume he means those occasions when he and Bob Herbert find themselves uncomfortably side-by-side at the Judith Miller Memorial Urinal Trough and Herbert "accidentally" pees on Bobo's loafers.
Or when Ross Douthat (The NYT's other Prometheus of Conservative Thinking) rubs Times' cafeteria Brussels sprouts in Bobo's comb-over for being a Movement traitor.
But such is the dangerous life of the Reasonable Centrist.
The Second Third: But wait just a damn minute! If it please the court, we have a surprise last-minute witness that might be able to show that Sunstein is -- wait for it...wait ... for ... it... -- wrong! Maybe, instead, "Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs."
The Third Third: Oh, but maybe not. Or maybe so, but maybe the causes and effects I've built my column around have nothing to do with each other. Or something.
Of course, analyzing traffic flow stripped of content or intent (Quote: "The study measures the people who visit sites, not the content inside") to determine...anything...strikes me as worse than useless; like trying to draw some tourism and cross-cultural inferences from the fact that, for reasons the researchers were unable to ascertain, incidents of Americans visiting Europe and the South Pacific spiked Way Up during WWII.
But by staying aggressively focused on data from studies you'll almost certainly never read, Bobo can once again shift the readers' attention away from the fact that political groups can and do coalesce for entirely different reasons. For example, in a frantic attempt to avoid taking any responsibility for (or even making any acknowledgment of) its utter capitulation to its nutjob, racist Base and the spectacular failure of virtually every one of its core economic, foreign policy, domestic policy and political tenets...the Right has retreated into a kind of belligerent insularity that borders on catatonia (A tiny, Eastern European country which broke away from the Soviet Union in 1986 by hiding behind Estonia and then sneaking out when the Commies were busy in Afghanistan.)
The Left, on the other hand, is more or less organized around the difficult task of Solving Actual Problems, one of which is the fact that Conservatives broke the country, and another of which is the fact that the Conservative Movement has lost its fucking mind.
Unsurprisingly, the vital distinction between the single-mindedness of the Conservative arsonists and the single-mindedness of the Liberal fire department is skipped rather flamboyantly over by the Conservative David Brooks, who instead favors looking at our crippled and looted nation through the distant, passionless and self-absolving eyes of an alien observing the comings and goings of red and black ants. "We" are all one, scuttling, dopey, biased mass to poor, Reasonable David Fucking Brooks; "...people who live in partisan ghettoes, ignorant about the other side."
Except, of course, that is just a huge fucking lie. And by reiterating this Big Centrist Lie in column after column for year after year, Bobo has come to define the absolute cutting edge of lazy; the state-of-the-art in phoning it in.
Because in tepidly tapping other people's seemingly-opposing-but-maybe-not ideas together, reaching no apparently conclusion, and then shrugging and walking away -- in padding out the phrase "There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear" with enough lard and breadcrumbs to fill a hundred New York Times columns -- Bobo has truly found his Philosopher's Stone.
Of course, room-temperature tapioca pudding in a pastel tie oozing forever back, down and to the Right is not how our public discourse must inevitably be, and to prove it, instead of gumming your way through another bowl of lukewarm Centrist tripe, take a look at what happened when two very smart people passionately debated exactly these same issues.
Over 40 years ago...
UPDATE: Welcome "Bill in Exile" readers (link Not Safe for Work).
Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan on "The Summer Way"