Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Headline You Will Never See in the NYT -- UPDATE

"David Brooks goes undercover to get the inside scoop on Occupy Wall Street!"

Instead you will get this --
If, in the 1960s, you had tried to judge America by looking at the sit-ins and Woodstock, you would have had a very distorted picture of where the country was heading.

And this --

Similarly, if you look only at the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements that have been getting so much coverage in the news media, you know very little about the wider America.

And this --
While the cameras surround the flamboyant fringes, the rest of the country is on a different mission. Quietly and untelegenically, Americans are trying to repair their economic values.

-- until the Bastille is stormed.

Because no matter what the Occupiers say or do...no matter how honest their fears...no matter how deeply rooted in the American tradition their actions...and no matter how many cities they spring up in or how many streets and parks and buildings they peacefully occupy in their millions, David Brooks will not fucking permit them to be the story.


Instead Our Mr. Brooks does his little magic trick. Rub a couple of polls together,
According to the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, three-quarters of Americans said they’d be better off if they carried no debt whatsoever. Not long ago, most people saw debt as a useful tool for consumption and enjoyment. Now they see it as a seduction and an obstacle.

use the wisp of smoke they create to conjure a Silent Majority out of thin air
Quietly but decisively Americans are trying to restore the moral norms that undergird our economic system...

which that just so happens to embrace every one of David Brooks' precious Villager Values!
The third norm is that loyalty matters. A few years ago there was a celebration of Free Agent Nation. But now most people, even most young people, would rather work long-term for one company than move around in search of freedom and opportunity.

And then round out this weeks' Serious Centrist Sermonette with a directive that we all need to look the fuck away from the dirty hippies in a plea media modesty that sounds terribly heartfelt --
America went through a similar values restoration in the 1820s. Then, too, people sensed that the country had grown soft and decadent. Then, too, Americans rebalanced. They did it quietly and away from the cameras.
-- until you notice that this directive is coming from a man whose godawful opinions come dribbling at you every week from microphones of NPR, the cameras of NBC and PBS and the pages of the New York Times.

Because what Our Mr. Brooks' is really saying is that that everyone but Our Mr. Brooks' needs to sit down and shut up.

Also that he does not seem to know that the modest folk of the 1820s might well have stayed "away from the cameras" because the practice of using photographs to illustrate news stories did not come unto being until 60 years later:

The practice of illustrating news stories with photographs was made possible by printing and photography innovations that occurred between 1880 and 1897. While newsworthy events were photographed as early as the 1850s, printing presses could only publish from engravings until the 1880s. Early news photographs required that photos be re-interpreted by an engraver before they could be published. Train wrecks and city fires where a popular subject in these early days.

In 1847, an unknown photographer took daguerreotypes of the U.S. troops in Satilo, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. The first known photojournalist was Carol Szathmari (Romanian painter, lithographer, and photographer) who did pictures in the Crimean War (between Russia and Ottoman Empire, 1853 to 1856). His albums were sent to European royals houses[citation needed]. Just a few of his photographs survived. William Simpson of the Illustrated London News and Roger Fenton were published as engravings. Similarly, the American Civil War photographs of Mathew Brady were engraved before publication in Harper's Weekly. Because the public craved more realistic representations of news stories, it was common for newsworthy photographs to be exhibited in galleries or to be copied photographically in limited numbers.

On March 4, 1880, The Daily Graphic (New York) published the first halftone (rather than engraved) reproduction of a news photograph. Further innovations followed. In 1887, flash powder was invented, enabling journalists such as Jacob Riis to photograph informal subjects indoors, which led to the landmark work How the Other Half Lives.[6] By 1897, it became possible to reproduce halftone photographs on printing presses running at full speed.

You know, I'll bet its just a typo: I'll bet Our Mr. Brooks he meant that the 1920s was a Golden Age of shutting the Hell up about getting screwed over by capitalism gone wild!

Or maybe not.

You don't suppose Our Mr. Brooks was thinking of the 1930s do you?

Because that would be kind of hilarious.

Perhaps rather than posting footage of every labor action, march on Washington and "I welcome their hatred" speech by FDR, we can just agree that, as is true of so many other subjects on which Bobo pontificates with borrowed authority, when it comes to American labor history, Our Mr. Brooks -- a history major from the University of Chicago -- is once just talking out of his ass: inventing a fake, David-Brooks-friendly American labor history in exactly the same way he has tried in the past to in invent a fake, David-Brooks-friendly American Conservative history (Me from 2007 in the prologue of my "A Rose for Bobo" cycle):

Part 1 of 4: Prologue.

I’ve circled David Brooks’ now-infamous NYT column for several days in what can only be called wonder.

Because I cannot recall reading a more remarkably, unintentionally and humiliatingly-revealing essay in a very long time.

For the record (Wait a minute? There’s a record?) it is the column entitled “History and Calumny” (although it would probably be better named “Hysteria and Columnist”) and it appears here if you want to read it for yourself.

Visiting further demolition on it would probably be gratuitous, since watching good writers from all over crank one round after another into Bobo’s wheelhouse has been like unto

watching the Navy take target practice on a derelict ship.

Doghouse Riley has his way with our Mr. Brooks here

Brad DeLong.

Jurassic Pork

Paul Krugman himself deftly gaffs and guts the context surrounding Bobo’s ridiculous assertions here.

Bob Herbert, also of the New Yawk Times, pounds another fistful of ten-penny nails into Bobo’s coffin with “Righting Reagan’s Wrongs?" which begins thusly --
“Let’s set the record straight on Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff in 1980.”

-- and soars onward here.

And, of course, from beyond this vale of tears, my sentimental favorite is this by Steve Gilliard in 2004, which I’ll quote at length below, and which you can read in its entirety here:

So let's get past all the maudlin bullshit and discuss what Reagan really did.

First, Reagan rode to power on a wave of reaction to the Civil Rights struggle. California, a state with a deep well of racial resentment, supported Reagan, who would protect the establishment and call for students to be murdered on their campuses. Reagan was regarded as a crank by many on the left, but his appeal to middle America was strong. It wasn't that Reagan was a racist, as fas as is known, he wasn't. But he sure could pander to them, as he did in 1984 1980 at Philadelphia, MS. For those of you unaware, that is the place three civil rights workers were murdered by the Klan. It would be like a British Prime Ministerial candidate going to Amritsar to talk about the glory of the British Army (the site of a 1921 massacre of peaceful Indian protesters). Reagan pandered to the racist right with ease, even as Barry Goldwater, the man he supported in 1964 with a convention speech, slowly backed away from many of his reactionary views. Instead, Reagan depicted blacks as "welfare queens" leeching off the society, when in reality, white women are the largest recipients of AFDC. Reagan used race like a club to hammer minorities and pander to the racist right.

We need to ask what hath Reagan wrought. His economic policies crippled this country, preventing the kind of long term structural changes which are still needed. How long will American businesses have to foot the bill for health insurance? How long will unequal funding for schools exist? How long will the right of women to control their bodies be subject to restrictions? This is the real, domestic legacy of Ronald Reagan. His breaking of the PATCO strike began the road to anti-Union policies across business. Once, businesses wanted labor peace, after Reagan, strike breaking was permitted, hell encouraged.

Reagan began the road of crippling America's ability to care for Americans. Now we have this failed trickle down economic policy pushed by yet another President. One that leaves Americans in record debt and record bankruptcies. Instead of tax rates which fairly distribute the burden of funding America, the rich have been encouraged to avoid their fair share. Ronald Reagan began the bankrupting of America and the creation of a super wealthy CEO class, one where their great grandchildren will never have to work, an aristocracy of trustifarians. Under Reagan hypocracy and selfishness became the rule of the road. Not just in public life, where his staff routinely lied, eventually leading to Iran-Contra.

But if Reagan started to ruin America, his foreign policy left the dead around like fallen leaves. His foreign policy was a disaster by any standard. Dead nuns in El Salvador, murdered school teachers in Nicaragua, the tortured in Argentina, the seizure of Grenade, the failed intervention in Lebanon, the aerial assassination attempt on Khaddafi, which led to the bombing of Pam Am flight 103. Reagan's policies left a trail of failure and disaster at every turn.

How to explain funding the deeply corrupt Contras? Former Somocista generals who funded their war by the drug trade? Who murdered the innoncent. Or the war in Guatemala and the genocide of the indian population. Or the war in El Salvador, where American nuns, among many others, were raped and murdered. A government so callous that it murdered an archbishop in his church.

Reagan's foreign policy left a trail of death and fear wherever it touched.

Silent complicity was the hallmark of Reagan's policy towards dictatorships. From Indonesia to El Salvador, the innocent died and the US said nothing, did nothing, except make their lives worse.

We backed the guerrilla groups in Afghanistan, funding the most radical ones and then leaving the country in disarray.

Reagan's legacy is a dark one, one of backing murderers and robbing America of a fairer future. It wasn't that he was an evil man, or a bad one. It is what he believed and what he supported caused so much pain and misery for so many people, who had to live with the results of his policies.

Which demonstrates, if nothing else, the true, sad state of American journalism: that a deceased and relatively obscure blogger named Steven Gilliard is still a vastly more vital, thoughtful, passionate and powerful writer from inside the Narrow House than is the allegedly-living New York Times columnist named David Brooks.

And which, in the end, leaves nothing left standing to debunk or refute.

Indeed all of the above would be an embarrassingly one-sided exercise in bouncing the rubble of where Bobo’s career used to be were it not for this simple fact: Bobo still works for the NYT.

Punching most days so desperately far out of his intellectual weight class that he can barely climb up the Big Boy stairs into the ring, Bobo nonetheless continues to punch clock every damned day on the most valuable piece of real estate at the New York Fucking Times.

He worked for them last year.

Works for them this year.

Will work for them next year.

And through the smoke of Hellfire prose tearing his idiocy to flinders, this became the part of the story-behind-the-story which began to fascinate me.

And so, having amply dispensed with that, let us move onto polls he cites to note that that the word "loyal" appears nowhere in them, even though he goes out of his way imply that this characteristic of his awesome Silent Majority is gleaned from them.

Other important concepts which do not appear in either poll: "effort" and "reward".

On the other hand, one exciting fact (among many) that Mr. Brooks failed to mention that is prominently mentioned in that the top three culprits America blames for our current economic crisis are as follows and in order (PDF):
  1. Investment firms and banks making risky loansand investments, especially in home mortgages.
  2. The economic policies under former President Bush, including tax cuts for the wealthiest families.
  3. American companies not investing their profits in creating jobs in America.

You'd think the most famous newspaper on Earth would fact check little things like this, but then again, given that Mr. Brooks is in the pulling-Broderite-opinions-out-of-his-ass business as opposed to the reporting business, perhaps they have simply fallen out of the habit of checking Our Mr. Brooks' facts altogether.

After all, the last time I can remember Our Mr. Brooks logging any actual shoe-leather reporting among the commoners was when spent a few moments chatting up a group of people during a jog one day in the summer of 2010:

I was out jogging on the mall. I was at a Tea Party rally, Tea Party rally. Also there was a group called the Back-- Black Family Reunion, celebration of African American culture. I watched these two groups intermingle. Sitting at the same table, eating-- watching concerts together. Among most of those people, there was a fantastic atmosphere of just getting along on-- on a warm Sunday afternoon.
From this fleeting encounter came several ooey-gooey column inches of Conventional Beltway Wisdom lightly frosted with the thinnest possible gloss of on-site verification: Conventional Beltway Wisdom which, as always, proved to be buffoonish wrong about its assessment of the Tea Party, while those damned Dirty Hippies once again proved to be correct.

Like his New York Times colleague Tom Friedman, rather than working up a sweat actually "reporting" on "events" Our Mr. Brooks prefers to masticate the work of others to finds slivers and nuggets and hints tat appear to ratify his deeply perverse world view, and then regurgitates it in 800-word Conservative Owl Pellets of Conventional Beltway Wisdom onto the pages of the New York Times.

Which is why David Brooks has now written four columns in a row in America's Newspaper of Record explaining -- explicitly or implicitly -- why everyone needs to ignore the Occupy Wall Street movement, move along to something else and stop paying those damned hippies any mind.

Explaining as clear as can be that Johnny Fontane never gets that movie!

Because the dirty hippies, with their olive oil voice and guinea charm, have climbed out of Mr. Brooks' nightmares and onto the street outside his window where they keep loudly insisting on talking about the one thing in this world that Our Mr, Brooks does not want to talk about.

Because the Occupy Wall Street movement makes Our Mr. Brooks look ridiculous.

And a man in Our Mr. Brooks' position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous.


Side note: I'm pretty sure there are at least a couple of typos here which I'll get to when I comb this all out and prepare it for Glorious Posterity. Until then, I'd only note that this kind of column is the product of a little contest I have with myself. Typically, a New York Times column appears to drop between 10:00 and midnight my time.

First I read it for content and pacing as soon as practicable, then re-read for structure and facts. Then I give myself a couple of hours (shorter if I just can't keep my eyes open and longer if it opens up into something else or if I just don't have any sap in my paws) to research and construct a long-form response from scratch, retrieve or (as is the case here) create some original artwork, and hit publish.

More polish means fewer, longer posts. Probably a lot fewer.

Less polish means more fortune-cookie-length posts. Probably a lot more.

Just at the moment I am trying to figure out how much longer this Middle Way is sustainable.


End note: Going over what I wrote last night, this morning I felt compelled to add/modify the content of this post in way that roughly doubled its length.

Because even though it'll roll off the end of my blog in a week an disappear into oblivion, I would have been irritated with myself all day if I hadn't.

Hell, I'm still not entirely happy with it, but I'm OCD-aware enough to know when to walk away with Leonardo da Vinci's "Art is never finished, only abandoned." as my umbrella :-)



D. said...

The only problem is that the only things that Mr. Brooks understands are things that affect him personally. And no one is willing to put the metaphoric severed horse's head in bed with him.

Also, ew, for breakfast, ewwwwww.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, they've edited the "away from the cameras" comment out of all of the online editions. I'm going to check a paper copy to see if it made it into print.

Anonymous said...

Driftglass, you're being duped. Check out wellaware1.com to see underneath the surface. It should provide quite the epiphany for you and your readers. While everything you say is right, your frame of reference has been fashioned for you by the very people you are so animated against.

Anonymous said...

Please keep the responses to Brooks and Friedman coming quickly, even if less polished. This blog has done miracles for my blood pressure since I discovered.

jurassicpork said...

I never knew you'd linked to me all those years ago, Drifty. Wish I could remember what I'd written about Our Mr. Brooks. Wish I'd never deleted my last blog.

So, a VERY belated thanks for the linkage.

Anonymous said...

"According to the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, three-quarters of Americans said they’d be better off if they carried no debt whatsoever. Not long ago, most people saw debt as a useful tool for consumption and enjoyment. Now they see it as a seduction and an obstacle. ...

... Thanks, of course, to myself and my fellow media travelers spending 2001-2009 screaming relentlessly that debt was a useful tool for consumption and enjoyment, and spending the last two and a half years screaming relentlessly that debt has suddenly become a seduction and an obstacle. Why did we make that switch in about January 2009? I haven't the slightest idea."

Rick Massimo

Mark W Adams said...

Another gem! I've found that I'm much more calm and feel better informed if I go directly here when I see a Brooks column vomit forth and just skip the source material. Why read Bobo's lies when I can get truth at Driftglass?

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to comment. I found your blog a few months ago and am just barely getting over the awe that you make my foggy thoughts into lovely tripping phrases. I'm not normally timid.....

2 observations. I suspect when Reagan emptied the mentally ill facilities in CA as Governor, he couldn't have imagined he birthed the Tea Party. Second, wouldn't it be perfect if all that accumulated shit that Brooks spreads would just back-up and he'd blow-up. There no more Brooks.

andrea said...

Charlie Pierce slams Brooks almost as good as you


Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is just the equivalent of Nixon claiming to speak for "The Silent Majority."

StonyPillow said...

Drifty, you're letting the ghost of Sr. Mary Himmler and her fishbones get in the way. Sin boldly. Let Sister Himmler, Mrs. Grundy and any grammar police commenters fume away in the peanut gallery.

You speak for us, and you've got a family that deserves your time, too. How about leaving the polished fourth and final draft and any proofing as an exercise for the reader?

Lindsay said...

Wait, David Brooks was a history major?

Weird considering the determinedly ahistorical vibe I keep getting from his columns.

(Also, great work! This is the first I've seen your blog, and you're awesome. I love your illustrations, too.)

dubioiusraves said...

I guess if any of us inclined to read Driftglass could actually make it through a David Brooks column, we would share your obsession. Instead, we're just bored with him, and Driftglass risks boring us, too, kinda the way Bob Somerby bores us about Al Gore and Roger Ailes bores us about Mickey Kaus.

David in NYC said...

Perhaps for the next revision: just what exactly does WJB's "Cross of Gold" speech from 1896 have to do with "the 1920s [being] a Golden Age of shutting the Hell up about getting screwed over by capitalism gone wild"?

Otherwise, I second Mark W. Adams' comment above about skipping BoBo and coming straight here. I, too, can't read more than about 2 grafs of any of his columns without feeling like my head is about to explode.