Tuesday, June 12, 2012

David Fucking Brooks -- UPDATE




UPDATE II -- Welome C&L Readers!


Held in durance vile by the need to pay the mortgage on his $4M dollar estate, twice a week, every week, David Fucking Brooks is forced out onto the balcony of his demesnes to toggle his giant head around and around, searching...searching...searching the narrow, well-manicured ideological easement between the Washington Beltway and his mansion for one more oddly tufted of bit dandelion or fleck of poo upon which to hang his one thousandth column about Centrism and/or the decline of Western Civilization at the hands of the Dirty Hippies.

Mr. Brooks' makes his obsessive devotion to constantly, drearily repeating the same soggy lies for large piles of money ever so much easier on himself by subtracting history, economics and human nature from his ruminations. Thus liberated from the need to write about actual people and stuff, Mr. Brooks instead bumbles around through an airless, abstract null-zone full of geometric shapes and big, stupid ideas. And from this chill, dead, interstellar void, Mr. Brooks moans out his melancholy bi-weekly dirges about  Centrism and/or the decline of Western Civilization at the hands of the Dirty Hippies, singularly unaware of and unconcerned with the real plight of we tiny, weak humans out here beyond  the narrow, well-manicured ideological easement between the Washington Beltway and his mansion in a place known as the Real World.

From Dean Baker at the "Center for Economic and Policy Research":

... Brooks may have missed it, but the economy collapsed in 2008. This was not due to any external event like a massive drought or asteroid strike, it was due to fact that the people who design economic policy were too brain-dead to see the largest financial bubble in the history of the world.

The result of this failure is that tens of millions of people are unemployed, underemployed, or out of the workforce altogether. Millions more are facing the loss of their homes. And a huge cohort of baby boomers, many of whom spent their lives working at decent paying jobs, are approaching retirement with nothing to support them but their Social Security.

The amazing part of this story is that the people most responsible for the disaster are still doing just great. ...

I know that a first blush it may seem pretty weird that a U. of C. history major like Mr. Brooks could so routinely omit or radically misrepresent such huge swaths of American history, but you have to remember that Mr. Brooks is:

  1. A lying, partisan hack, and, 
  2. Very, very lazy.

From Charlie Pierce:
...
Let's run down the list, shall we? Vietnam. Watergate. Iran-Contra. Iraq's WMD's. The recent crushing of the financial system by faceless gamblers and shameless mountebanks. Why in the name of god would anyone be suspicious of "the elites"? I'm not sure, but I think we're coming around to those people who are ruining America by eating Cheez Whiz in their trailers, watching Cops, and fucking without regard for David Brooks's advice. And, as for that last sentence, well, Self-Awareness just hopped on the last bus out of Dodge, I'm thinking.
You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don't believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.
We're getting closer, folks. Notice the pea moving under the shells right there. Brooks knows that neither OWS nor the Tea Party are leaderless. They just have a different leadership structure. (And, I would argue, again, that the latter know good and well who their leaders are. They just voted a passel of them into Congress in 2010, and who they're not. Adios, Dick Lugar.) Instead, Brooks gives us "hierarchies and leaders," because he knows that, in the politics of his dreams, he may never be the latter, but he's certainly part of the former, which is how you get vast spaces for entertaining.
...

Which is why when even the minuscule level of effort required to conjure up brand new lies becomes too much for him, Our Mr. Brooks falls back on Plan B: picking the corpse beetles off of some two-year-old slab of his own Beltway piffle, throwing it back on the grill for a quick re-heat and then serving it up in the op-ed column of the "New York Times".

Of course, before he can try to pass of his old shoe leather as Kobe beef, Mr. Brooks often shrugs on his Green Army Jacket to tenderize the hell out of it with some vigorous Hippie Punching:
... 
Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves. Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king. 
...
But his perfunctory dusting of whiny pecksniffery fools no one but the noobs: just under the skin you will always find the same, sniveling, bootlicking, authoritarian-worshipping "Shut up and obey me you ignorant proles!" attitude that has been Mr. Brooks' stock-in-tirade since his salad days huffing George Will's toupee glue and playing Neocon Stratego with Bloody Bill Kristol back at "The Weekly Standard".

An so we find that, right under its thin layer of Hippie-bashing filo-dough, the hand-wringing, authoritarian-worshiping whinging of Mr. Brooks' column of 06/12/12 ("The Follower Problem") --
...
Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes: that we are all created equal but that we also elevate those who are extraordinary; that we choose our leaders but also have to defer to them and trust their discretion; that we’re proud individuals but only really thrive as a group, organized and led by just authority.

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.

In his memoir, “At Ease,” Eisenhower delivered the following advice: “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” Ike slowly mastered the art of leadership by becoming a superb apprentice.

To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it.
...
-- is virtually indistinguishable the hand-wringing, authoritarian-worshiping  whinging  of Mr. Brooks' column of 02/18/10 ("The Power Elite") --
...
Yet here’s the funny thing. As we've made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.

It’s not even clear that society is better led. Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?

Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?
...
-- as well as every other hand-wringing, authoritarian-worshiping column Mr. Brooks has ever wanked into the pages of America's Newspaper of Record:

What Life Asks of Us

By DAVID BROOKS

Published: January 26, 2009

...
I thought it worth devoting a column to institutional thinking because I try to keep a list of the people in public life I admire most. Invariably, the people who make that list have subjugated themselves to their profession, social function or institution.

Second, institutional thinking is eroding. Faith in all institutions, including charities, has declined precipitously over the past generation, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Lack of institutional awareness has bred cynicism and undermined habits of behavior. Bankers, for example, used to have a code that made them a bit stodgy and which held them up for ridicule in movies like “Mary Poppins.” But the banker’s code has eroded, and the result was not liberation but self-destruction.

Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity.

But they often save us from our weaknesses and give meaning to life.

And since Mr. Brooks' now supports himself in the style to which he has become accustomed by passing off retreads of his crappy old hand-wringing, authoritarian-worship as crappy new  hand-wringing, authoritarian-worship, I see no reason why I should not accommodate myself in somewhat the same manner by uncorking a vintage deconstruction of Mr. Brooks' hand-wringing, authoritarian-worshiping tendencies from a few years ago.

From me, in 2010:

Monster 
brooks_david2

"What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds."

-- Eric Hoffer

As the Republic burns and the New Conservative Barbarians caper in the firelight screaming for blood and tax cuts, America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual sits in an empty lot at the edge of the conflagration, desperately sifting the Sands of Derelict Nostalgia, looking for something other than the complete failure of everything he has ever believed in to write about.

Which is a tough beat.

Because no matter where one pokes one’s pen these days, out oozes a radioactive stream of Conservative fraud and failure, and unluckily for him, for all of David Brooks’ stature and influence, in the end he really only knows three or four card tricks. There is the Barely Humorous Anecdote. The 800-word essay on The Last Book I Read. The “Ain’t Modern Life Kooky?” chestnut.

And, most often these days, there is the Ahistorically Nostalgic Melodrama starring nonspecific groups of People.

When you hear this last one, you can be about 99.9% certain that America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual is lying. About something. And like solving a Junior Jumble, it's really not all that hard to dope out once you figure out how each specific, abstract lie interacts with the Overall Conservative Theme.

And these days the Overall Conservative Theme is always the same:
1. Once upon a time (specifically, when Saint Ronald Reagan walked the Earth) everything was better.
2. Then some stuff happened – no one is quite sure what.
3. Then things got worse.

It is the unmistakable spoor of America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual wearing the corners off his thesaurus as he tries to simultaneously claw his way to relevant commentary on the very grim events of the day with one hand, while desperately whitewashing his own culpability for those grim events with the other.

Very sad.

Yesterday the subject of his Ahistorically Nostalgic Melodrama starring nonspecific groups of People was “The Power Elite.” It seems that, once upon a time...
1. Honest working stiffs and rich white people ran things.
2. Then some stuff happened that let the rabble get edumicated.
3. Then things got worse.

Very sad.

Now while we Frist Fisk (thx. KCinDC) a little bit of Mr. Brooks’ execrable column, let us remember that he is not a mental patient who has scribbled this on the wall with his own poo, but rather America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual, who sits unassailably atop the very apex of the Power Elite.
...
Sixty years ago, the upper echelons were dominated by what E. Digby Baltzell called The Protestant Establishment and C. Wright Mills called The Power Elite.

Since then, we have opened up opportunities for women, African-Americans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Hispanics and members of many other groups. Moreover, we’ve changed the criteria for success. It is less necessary to be clubbable. It is more important to be smart and hard-working.

Yet here’s the funny thing. As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.
OK, what “institutions” is he talking about? I mean, as flawed as they may be, it’s hard to believe, for example, that trust in the military has plummeted since it was integrated. Or that fire departments are less respected today because they’re run more professionally than they used to be. Or that cops are more hated now that they can no longer recreationally gun down civil rights activists or club hippies into comas in Grant Park.

So obviously America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual is not talking about those institutions.

So WTF is he going on about?
...
Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?
...
Oh.

I get it.

Bankers.

See, although Mr. Brooks says “our institutions” what he means is “Goldman Sachs”.

And it will come as no surprise to you that, although he is talking about bankers, America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual manages to fail to mention the fact that, 50 years ago, Thurston Howell III had to do his drinking and golfing and maid-fucking and minority-hating inside a regulatory cage built for him by Arch Liberal Franklin Roosevelt. Although he may well have wanted to, Thurston was simply not allowed to destroy the global economy in order to make himself and his heirs incrementally wealthier.

Then, 30 years ago, acolytes of Conservatism in both political parties began frantically picking the lock on that cage. They finally succeeded in letting the Beast Capitalism out...and it almost destroyed the world.

True story, which, for painfully obvious reasons, America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual is desperate to now pretend was a failure of meritocracy and not a failure of Conservatism.

America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual continues…

...
Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?
...
Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So wrong it is actually breathtaking.

So fucking wrong it is hard to know where to begin.

First, I assure you, there are still plenty of party hacks in the gummint, even as there obviously are on the editorial pages of the New York Times.

Second, where America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual sees “party hacks”, the rest of us see a government which used to be staffed with people who knew, at a street-level, that if they didn’t fulfill their end of the social contract by getting the streets paved and the schools open, they’d be tossed out on their asses.

Third, what “government” is America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual talking about? The zoning board? The local school council? Da Mare’s office? In addition to bursting at the seams with Teh Lying, this is also just plain lazy writing Mr. Brooks.

Fourth, and most importantly, to prop up his shabby, bullshit thesis, America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual has to (yet again) resort to deliberately falsifying the historical record by playing "Hide the Salami" with decades of recent American history.

America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual kinda does that a lot.

Because between his teary nostalgia for the Good Old Party Boss Days of yore and the Bad New Days of the well-educated, meritocratically-promoted technocrats, David Brooks desperately hopes that you won't notice that he has dropped people like Messiah College’s most famous graduate -- Monica Goodling -- down the Conservative memory hole.

You remember Monica, don't you Mr. Brooks?

The Wingnut Evangelical who the Bush Administration appointed as the 3rd in command of Alberto Gonzales’ Department of Justice?

The 12-year-old zealot who did not know the difference between rules and laws?

Ringing any bells?


As David Fucking Brooks fucking well knows, the cruel and excruciatingly-well-documented truth is that, in case after case, the Bush Administration filled the federal bureaucracy not with ward bosses or technocrats, but with grotesquely unqualified, anti-gummint Conservative ideologues; stuffing them into the lath and plaster of the United States government like so many wingnut IEDs.

That for eight, long, bloody years -- as David Brooks fucking well knows -- one massive, crippling Conservative catastrophe after another was caused NOT by some non-specific group of People staffing some non-specific Gummint with P-school grads; they were caused by Republicans who deliberately bypassed experts and packed a Republican Gummint with Conservative True Believers.

Thugs like John “Torture Me Elmo” Yoo.


Goofs like the former head of the Arabian Horse Association

who ran in tiny, useless circles while an American city drowned.

Stooges like Monica Goodling’s boss, who found employment in the federal gummint because he got Dubya out of jury duty in Texas (where he’d have had to ‘fess up to a politically embarrassing past) and because he had a positive genius for screwing the gummint up real good

and then forgetting about it.

There were also the armies of True Conservative Believers who were in charge of denying science

and wrecking environmental regulations.


There were outright War Criminals like Scooter Libby, whom David Brooks admired greatly, apparently on the strength of his musky man-smell, manners

and the fact that Scooter paid for his own salmon croquettes at lunch (from "The News Hour"):
DAVID BROOKS: I went to lunch with Scooter Libby twice when he was -- and he told me...

JIM LEHRER: What were the dates of those?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, what struck me was, A, he told me nothing. I didn't even know what he was ordering half the time.

DAVID BROOKS: And he was incredibly discrete.

And the second thing that always struck me is, he would pay in cash. Usually, you can buy somebody lunch if it's up to $20. But he would insist on following the law to the stickler of the detail. He would always put down a $20 bill.



But of course, the havoc wreaked, pain caused and distrust sown by these Conservative political saboteurs was dwarfed into the footnotes of history by architects and executors of the single most catastrophic foreign policy debacle in a generation (From "The New Yorker", with emphasis added):
...
[Bush] forced a congressional vote on the war just before the 2002 midterm elections. He trumpeted selective and misleading intelligence. He displayed intense devotion to classifying government documents, except when there was political advantage in declassifying them. He fired or sidelined government officials and military officers who told the American public what the Administration didn’t want it to hear. He released forecasts of the war’s cost that quickly became obsolete, and then he ignored the need for massive expenditures until a crucial half year in Iraq had been lost. His communications office in Baghdad issued frequently incredible accounts of the progress of the war and the reconstruction. He staffed the occupation with large numbers of political loyalists who turned out to be incompetent. According to Marine officers and American officials in Iraq, he ordered and then called off critical military operations in Falluja against the wishes of his commanders, with no apparent strategic plan. He made sure that blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib settled almost entirely on the shoulders of low-ranking troops. And then, in the middle of the election campaign, he changed the subject.


Like every other failure of the Bush Administration's, their Berserker A-Team were emphatically not street-wise political pragmatists, or “public policy school” graduates.

From the Chickenhawk Brownshirts

who replaced sane foreign policy with masturbatory dreams of Neocon Empire...

...to the legions of Republican clusterfuckers who drove my country


right


off

the cliff...


...these people were Conservative Fanatics, who ran every policy decision from some one-page, all-purpose Randite checklist cribbed straight out of "Atlas Shrugged" (from the late Steve Gilliard's "The guinea pig state"):
When I read that Viceroy Jerry, by fiat, had imposed a 15 percent flat tax, I thought it was a joke. I simply couldn't believe that Steve Forbes had that kind of influence on Iraqi politics.

The neo-cons are going to impose every half-wit idea in Iraq they can dig up. Illegally, without Iraqi consultation or any understanding of the Iraqi government or economy, he's going to change the rules of the game.

People have died for less.
...

Finally, America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual turns his beady eyes to his own profession:
...
Journalism used to be the preserve of working-class stiffs who filed stories and hit the bars. Now it is the preserve of cultured analysts who file stories and hit the water bottles. Is the media overall more reputable now than it was then?
...

The idea that David Brooks can seriously reference the words “journalism” and “meritocracy” in the same paragraph without the topic sentence of that paragraph being “My presence in the field of journalism proves beyond any doubt that it is anything but a meritocracy is enough to make H. L. Menken laugh himself out of his unquiet grave.

No, Mr. Brooks, journalism used to be the preserve of smart, working class stiffs who were unafraid to tell the truth. Who believed it was their mission to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” To the throw the first punch.

Now it is the preserve of rich, pudding-soft, establismentarian careerists who think missing blonds and adulterous golfers are Important!Breaking!News! but who wouldn’t call out the Devil for reeking of brimstone if you put a gun to their heads.

Journalism lost its good name and died a whore the day it was moved into the Entertainment division and told that it had to turn tricks to make a profit.

Or, as Jim Sleeper at TPM succinctly expressed it ("Where the Power Elite Gets Its Power") after slogging his way through this same, dreary mess

...Brooks will keep on dancing around that mirror, holding it up to others to make them feel guilty. He'll dispense barbed apercus while careening from Ivy envy to Ivy ingratiation and plucking those same chords in his fans. "[O]ur system of promotion has grown some pretty serious problems," he'll fret. But he won't name those problems' causes; he'll point fingers at their carriers, at least on the days he's resenting the carriers rather than courting them
.


UPDATE:

And the perfect, glistening, O. Henry cherry on top of this entire steaming pile of Beltway power-elite circle-jerking?

The fact that, from his position at the pinnacle of a mountain of unearned wealth and undeserved privilege, Our Mr. Brooks' published this latest screed about vain, self-centered Dirty Hippies ruining America by poking around where they damn well don't belong



just five days shy of the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.


16 comments:

Bustednuckles said...

Wow dude.
That was fucking awesome.
Spot on and awesome.

Keifus said...

And for that matter, what, exactly, is the difference between well-connected blue bloods and 47% of Harvard's 2007 graduating class.

Fearguth said...

I'm reading Schlesinger's The Age of Jackson at the moment, and the parallels between the 1830s and today are positively uncanny. If David Brooks were to be transported in a time machine back to, say, 1838, he would be absolutely indistinguishable from the Federalists-cum-Whigs of the time.

Bustednuckles said...

http://bustednuckles.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/this-is-why-driftglass-is-the-man-17/

RossK said...

Ya, but...

Who says Mr. Brooks actually has a mortgage on the new mansion anyway?

I mean, given that he is America's greatest conservative intellectually bankrupt foreclosure artist of all time, why should he have to pay for anything anymore?

Including $20 lunch snacks taken with the descendants of all things Scootological.

.

Patricia said...

Like I said on Busted's blog, you are a genius. It is a crime that no one has snapped you up and you aren't writing for a major publication. There is no justice.

Sophist said...

Every day the sun sets on a David Brooks who has not been vigorously booted in the nuts is a day of potential unfulfilled.

Spud said...

Proofs and truths such as these will eventually awaken the unwashed masses. The hippies had it right 50 damn years ago, and yet we're still too ignorant to seek truth.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

David Brooks is probably jealous of Wanker of the Decade Thomas Friedman.

Poor Bobo didn't even make the list.
~

n1ck said...

It is the unmistakable spoor of America’s Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual wearing the corners off his thesaurus as he tries to simultaneously claw his way to relevant commentary on the very grim events of the day with one hand, while desperately whitewashing his own culpability for those grim events with the other.

That is Brooks, exactly. I have nothing else to add.

Anonymous said...

BRA-fucking-VO!!!!

Q said...

A little late in comments, my first, but in the words of The Highlander, "There can be only one..." and driftglass is it when it comes to vicious and truthful Brooks rebuttals. There is, however, a sick irony that this takedown for the ages certainly took longer to get on the internet than the past year's worth of Brooks' 800-word turds.

marindenver said...

Masterpiece. Sheer. f'n. masterpiece. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My god, the repubs really know how to F things up and their followers really know how to F___ing forget.

Patrick Harris said...

David Brooks is subject to plenty of justifiable criticism... And yet, at the end of the day, he seems a perfecty decent person, unlike the author who prefers to hurl feces on the wall of an Internet echo chamber. So I'll take the former, inconsistencies, inanities, and all.

Suzan said...

Or not.

He knows the exact plight of those outside of his "golden" circle (after all he was educated in a public school), and is the well-remunerated messenger of lies about how it got that way.

As you document very well.

There are dogs like him in every "gilded" era and they are lucky to escape with their lives when faced with the knowing victims at its end.

Kudos! As usual.

You rock.

S

singularly unaware of and unconcerned with the real plight of we tiny, weak humans out here beyond the narrow, well-manicured ideological easement between the Washington Beltway and his mansion in a place known as the Real World