Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Noblesse Oblique


In today's New York Times, David Brooks explains why no one should judge David Brooks and why it is useless to try to change David Brooks' bad behavior:
How People Change

The problem, of course, is that no matter how emotionally satisfying...tirades may be, they don’t really work...

People don’t behave badly because they lack information about their shortcomings. They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.


The way to get someone out of a negative cascade is not with a ferocious e-mail trying to attack their bad behavior. It’s to go on offense and try to maximize some alternative good behavior.

See!  See!  No matter how dishonest or fraudulent or generally godawful Mr. Brooks' "New York Times" columns may be year after year after year, Mr. Brooks has "troves" of research proving that telling Mr. Brooks about his bad behavior isn't going to change anything.  Even if he is perfectly aware of how deeply dishonest his body of work is -- how weasely and craven and wrong  -- pointing it out over and over and over again won't work.

Writing mean emails won't work (From Mr. Brooks' 2012 "Playboy" interview):

After my first six months on the job, I cleaned out my e-mail folder, and there were 290,000 messages with the core message “Paul Krugman is great; you suck.” For the first six months on the job, I was bothered by it. I’d never been hated on a mass scale before, but my skin got thicker. I’m still bothered by it, but that’s part of the job.
Filling his comment section with thousands of rebuttals and refutations won't work.

Penning hundreds of essays and blog posts over the years won't work.

Dozens of pointed columns by colleagues at the "New York Times" disassembling his silly assertions?  Won't work.

You know what will work?

Admiring him more!  (emphasis added):

"It’s foolhardy to try to persuade people to see the profound errors of their ways in the hope that mental change will lead to behavioral change. Instead, try to change superficial behavior first and hope that, if they act differently, they’ll eventually think differently. Lure people toward success with the promise of admiration instead of trying to punish failure with criticism."
Mind you, Mr. Brooks landed his gig at the "New York Times" based on working at Bill Kristol's wingnut grindhouse for years, happily cranking out column after column mocking and excoriating Liberals for being stupid, demagogic posers, whiny simpletons and Birkenstock-wearing dupes who don't understand (for example) that, in George Bush's new economy, there is money enough for every tax cut one could ever want, with plenty left over for surpluses as far as the eye can see!

Perhaps it was after Mr. Brooks uptraded his years punching hippies at Bill Kristol's neocon hog-wallow for the NYT's rarefied heights (a mere quarter mile down scenic cobblestone roads from Cleveland Heights) that Mr. Brooks suddenly discovered:

...perpetually bellowing at each other to be better [is]...a lousy leadership model. Don’t try to bludgeon bad behavior. Change the underlying context. Change the behavior triggers. Displace bad behavior with different good behavior. Be oblique. Redirect.
Or perhaps not (from me back in 2010):

Matt Taibbi was dead right when he pegged Bobo as a "professional groveler/ass-kisser" and "spineless Beltway geek" forever on the "pencil-pusher’s eternal quest for macho cred".

What Bobo really wants is the freedom to be a lavishly overcompensated Defender of the Conservative Faith in some faraway Alternate Universe where the heirs of Hamilton and Burke bestride the evergreen Reagan Revolution like stoic philosopher kings, while Eisenhower and Buckley and Milton Friedman rise early every day to lay waste to good-natured but intellectually outgunned hippies in one Glorious Conservative Victory after another. 
Five short years ago when wingnut camp followers like Bobo were still entertaining the exciting idea that they'd never see another Dirty Hippie in the White House, still feeling emboldened enough to get their vicarious ya-ya's out by publicly reveling in their Dear Leader's warrior/stud exploits (and still referred to Judith Miller as a "reporter") the allegedly "reasonable" David Brooks was gleefully taking shots like this at Democrats from his New York Times snipers nest:
The Harry da Reid Code


Published: November 3, 2005

Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m., writing important notes in crayon on the outside of envelopes. It's been four weeks since he launched his personal investigation into the Republican plot to manipulate intelligence to trick the American people into believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Reid had heard of the secret G.O.P. cabal bent on global empire, but he had no idea that he would find a conspiracy so immense.

Reid now knows that as far back as 1998, Karl Rove was beaming microwaves into Bill Clinton's fillings to get him to exaggerate the intelligence on Iraq. In that year, Clinton argued, ''Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.''

These comments were part of the Republican plot to manipulate intelligence on Iraq.

Reid now knows that in the late 1990's, Dick Cheney and other Republican officials used fluoridated water in the State Department and other government agencies to brainwash Clinton administration officials into exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.


Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m., writing important notes in crayon on the outside of envelopes. It has been four weeks since he began investigating this conspiracy and three weeks since he sealed his windows with aluminum foil to ward off the Illuminati. Odd patterns now leap into his brain. Scooter Libby was born near a book depository but was indicted while at a theater. Karl Rove reads books from book depositories but rarely has time for the theater. What is the ratio of Bush tax cuts to the number of squares on a frozen waffle? It is none other than the Divine Proportion. This proves that Leonardo da Vinci manipulated intelligence on Iraq and that the Holy Grail is a woman!

Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m. He knows now that seven centuries ago at a secret meeting of the Bilderberg Society-Trilateral Commission-American Enterprise Institute, the six High Lords of the Secret Order of the Neocons decided to implant alien life forms into potential Democratic officials that could be activated in case there was a need to manipulate intelligence on Iraq.

So how did it come to pass that Mr. Evenhanded J. Anti-emotion felt so at ease with his own hysterical rage that he thought nothing of penning this hateful, petulant tantrum and putting into the pages of the NYT?

Because it was 2005, and it was safe to punch Democrats and Liberals in the face. Hell, it was a sport, and as a "spineless Beltway geek", Bobo always follows wherever the mentality of the upper middle class mob that buys his lunch takes him, and the Villagers were backing Bush, and so it was safe to call Harry Reid a fringe crazy.

But now it is 2010, and Democrats are, for the moment, back in power. And since David Fucking Brooks is a professional groveler, suddenly screeds against the paranoid Left are out, and being the "reasonable man" who "fetishes balance" is in. 
And now it is 2012 

And, once again, Democrats are, for the moment, back in power. 

Which is why Mr. Evenhanded J. Anti-emotion has once again returned.  And is once again saying things like this on "Meet the Press":
...you can't humiliate the Republicans on your way to a deal. You have to give them a pathway to yes...
But maybe, just maybe, if we could all agree to admire and reward and recontextualize and oblique the shit out of Mr. Brooks a little more each and every day...


Bustednuckles said...

Mr. Brooks can be perfectly reasonable, when he doesn't open his mouth or hit "publish".

KWillow said...

For four years Obama and his administration "reached out" to the repugs in congress (much to my fury), only to get their hands ripped to pieces, and fingers gnawed right off AND EATEN.

And now repugs are weeping at the mean old dems who won't extend the hand of friendship to them anymore.

Fiddlin' Bill said...

After the sandbagging McCain and Lindsey just gave Obama and Ms Rice, I say punch 'em in the face, and keep punching till New Years, when the bus "goes over the cliff." Fuck the cliff too. There is no working with Republicans. The lesson has been learned.

brother yam said...

You know what will work?

Admiring him more!

This must be an illness that runs through the NYT. Consider "science" writer Nicholas Wade on Marco Rubio's idiotic creationism and why it's all the atheist's fault:

A scientific statesman, if there were such a person, would try to defuse the situation by professing respect for all religions and making a grand yet also trivial concession about the status of evolution.

Like those electrons that can be waves or particles, evolution is both a theory and a fact. In historical terms, evolution has certainly occurred and no fact is better attested. But in terms of the intellectual structure of science, evolution is a theory; no one talks about Darwin’s “fact of evolution.”

See, creationism will go away if we'd just "profess respect" for their idiocy.


Anonymous said...

Brother Yam,

My bachelor's degree is in geology, so you have no idea how much creationism and intelligent design burns my behind. I wish I could track down my copy of Idiot America. Apparently, one of the marketing firms behind the Dover Trial (or Scopes Monkey Trial, part 2) was also a firm hired by the tobacco industry to instill FUD over the link between their products and horrible death. I want the name of that company....

As a person of faith, I would recoil in horror at the thought of my personal beliefs being taught as science. If I want to cast divinitory lots on New Year's because it's a tradition, fine, it's five minutes of my personal time. If my doctor cast runes or yarrow sticks to find out what is wrong with me, I'd have a fit. (Actually, I think he does the modern equivalent, consult Web MD.) As a person educated in science, I would say calling evolution "just a theory" is a gross insult to most branches of the biological sciences.

And, for the record, a "Law" means it's pure math, usually calculus. A "Theory" means it's understood, and any exceptions that may exist are understood, but that it *cannot* be reduced to math. "Germ Theory" is a "Theory" because bacteria are not equations. Evolution is a Theory because it cannot be reduced to calculus.


Anonymous said...

And, unrelated...

Driftglass, your "Queen Bobo" picture is still my absolute favorite. You captured the "We are not amused" look perfectly.


(and I think I forgot to sign my little rant agreeing with Brother Yam.)

Anonymous said...

They behave badly because they’ve fallen into patterns of destructive behavior from which they’re unable to escape.
Patterns of destructive behavior like say for example blaming the economic crisis on those who have no money and have been locked out of the economic system except as accumulators of debt... or heralding as job creators those corporations and individuals who spent most of their time squirreling away their so-called jobs creating tax breaks in safe havens off shore, metaphorical mattress stuffing.

Sam Baker said...

When Republicans whine about civility, they're showing their fear.