Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Silence

"We are not fighting an alien invasion.  We are leading a revolution." 
-- Dr. Who
Before my annual Lenten attempt to swear off writing about David Brooks, I thought I would leave you with this by Mr. Brooks from February 8, 2013 talking about the war-making powers of Barack H. Obama.
Well, you know, when you get that daily intelligence brief, the way a president does, it changes your perspective. You don't have the luxury of doing the moral preening you do from the outside. And so he has a different view. But I do agree with Mark. 
It's just we should never trust concentrated power. That is not what the country is based on. It's based on checks and balances...
Which sounds super-duper, right?  All Very Reasonable and who but the most vituperative, partisan asshole could possibly disagree?



Except not so very long ago, this guy named "George W. Bush" was president.


Back when we had just begun the process of pissing away our hard-won budget surpluses?  Back when oil executives and neocons were setting American foreign policy behind closed doors?  Back when we had just been lied into a catastrophic war?  Back when anyone who stood in the path of the GOP juggernaut was a de facto traitor?  Back when every single lever of every branch of the federal government was firmly in grasp of the Party of Personal Responsibility?

And back at the very apex of concentrated, opaque, corrupt and ultimately treasonous Conservative power, what was Mr. Brooks worried about?

Whiny Democrats.

Whiny Democrats, who were so deranged by their "maniac" and "over-the-top" hatred of Greatest Fucking President Ever they were turning themselves into "a domestic version of the Palestinians".

No.  Really.
Democrats Go Off the Cliff
Powerlessness corrupts. [by David Brooks, June 30, 2003]

Across the country Republicans and conservatives are asking each other the same basic question: Has the other side gone crazy? Have the Democrats totally flipped their lids? Because every day some Democrat seems to make a manic or totally over-the-top statement about George Bush, the Republican party, and the state of the nation today.

"This republic is at its greatest danger in its history because of this administration," says Democratic senator Robert Byrd.

"I think this is deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States of America," says liberal commentator Bill Moyers.

George Bush's economic policy is the "most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism," says Senator John Edwards.

"The Most Dangerous President Ever" is the title of an essay in the American Prospect by Harold Meyerson, in which it is argued that the president Bush most closely resembles is Jefferson Davis. 
Tom Daschle condemns the "dictatorial approach" of this administration. John Kerry says Bush "deliberately misled" America into the Iraq war. Asked what Democrats can do about the Republicans, Janet Reno recalls her visit to the Dachau concentration camp, and points out that the Holocaust happened because many Germans just stood by. "And don't you just stand by," she exhorts her Democratic audience.

When conservatives look at the newspapers, they see liberal columnists who pick out every tiny piece of evidence or pseudo-evidence of Republican vileness, and then dwell on it and obsess over it until they have lost all perspective and succumbed to fevers of incoherent rage. They see Democratic primary voters who are so filled with hatred at George Bush and John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney that they are pulling their party far from the mainstream of American life. They see candidates who, instead of trying to quell the self-destructive fury, are playing to it. "I am furious at [Bush] and I am furious at the Republicans," says Dick Gephardt, trying to sound like John Kerry who is trying to sound like Howard Dean.

It's mystifying. Fury rarely wins elections. Rage rarely appeals to suburban moderates. And there is a mountain of evidence that the Democrats are now racing away from swing voters, who do not hate George Bush, and who, despite their qualms about the economy and certain policies, do not feel that the republic is being raped by vile and illegitimate marauders. The Democrats, indeed, look like they're turning into a domestic version of the Palestinians--a group so enraged at their perceived oppressors, and so caught up in their own victimization, that they behave in ways that are patently not in their self-interest, and that are almost guaranteed to perpetuate their suffering.

And if you probe into the Democratic mind at the current moment, you sense that the rage, the passion, the fighting spirit are all fueled not only by opposition to Bush policies, but also by powerlessness. 
Republicans have controlled the White House before, but up until now Democrats still had some alternative power center. Reagan had the presidency, but Democrats had the House and, part of the time, the Senate. Bush the elder faced a Democratic Congress. But now Democrats have nothing. Even the Supreme Court helped Republicans steal the last election, many Democrats feel. Republicans--to borrow political scientist Samuel Lubell's trope--have become the Sun party and Democrats have been reduced to being the Moon party. Many Democrats feel that George Bush is just running loose, transforming the national landscape and ruining the nation, and there is nothing they can do to stop him.
And what was Mr. Brooks' opinion of the way George Bush wielded absolutely unchecked, concentrated power?

It was this:
But the main difference between Bush and his critics is that he is in a position of responsibility and they are not. On the colloquium couch, everyone can show off their full appreciation of the strategic ambiguities. In the parlor of intellect, timing is never a problem, because battle plans never have to be made, actions never have to be put in train.

And this:
In this as in so many ways, President Bush reflects the country better than the beltway. He is not the sort of person who wakes up wondering what the columnists think. He has the advantage of having a mind that does not flit about much. Aides say he is dismissive of the chorus of instant evaluators, and has grown imperious towards those who bring that mentality into the White House.
And what was Mr. Brooks' opinion of anyone who called for some checks and balances against the untrammeled imperial power of the Bush Administration?

It was this:
The Democrats, meanwhile, are as divided as any U.S. party has been since Vietnam. Many Democrats support the war, while criticizing Bush's diplomatic tactics. This group includes most of the Clinton foreign policy team and liberals such as Richard Gephardt. But a hard core within the party never did, and never will, support the effort. And this group is getting more alienated, insular and vituperative each day.
And this:
An Iraqi civilian in Najaf exulted, "Democracy! Whiskey! And Sexy!" giving the war its first great slogan. Members of the commentariat began to realize that once again they'd gone off the pessimistic deep end.
And this:
These peace marchers seem driven by bile and self-righteousness, and are fundamentally out of step with a country that wants, now that the war is on, to back the troops.
And this:
There is greater revulsion at those who are trying to divide the country. There is no tolerance for alienated poses.

This was David Brooks in his own words during the height of the Bush Administration, while every branch of the federal government -- every lever of federal power -- was firmly concentrated in Republican hands.

The fact that Mr. Brooks swaps out his opinions like some people change fonts is not news to anyone who has actually read David Brooks over any stretch of time, nor is the more subtle fact that Mr. Brooks opinion of how opinions should be held changes just as radically (Acid, fact-averse and relentlessly "Liberals are Crazy!"-partisan when Dubya was busy pissing away Clinton's surpluses and rolling tanks into Iraq... Wormy, history-averse, relentlessly "Hey, let's not be judgmental!"-Centrist once every one of his "Liberals are Crazy"-partisan fantasies blew up in his face) depending on who is paying him.

It's all there, all on public display, all waiting for someone somewhere to bother to look it up and use it. 

But that never happens, does it?  

With very few exceptions, no one in our media ever dares to ask Mr. Brooks about all the bullshit he was slinging last week, last month, last year.  No one in a position to do so ever, ever, ever confronts Mr, Brooks on the subject of the myriad Very Big Things that he consistently gets horribly wrong.  No one is a position to do so ever, ever, ever asks why someone who is so horribly wrong so consistently is treated with such deference and reverence.

Even by members of the putatively "Liberal" media.

You see, once upon a time (from "The New Republic") ...

... [Ezra Klein] became part of a crew of bloggers, all of them young men, most of them still in college, who were essentially the liberal guerrilla underground during the Bush years: They were disgusted by Bush’s policies and disconnected from the enfeebled Democratic establishment. The mainstream media, which they felt had abetted both Al Gore’s defeat and Bush’s misadventure in Iraq, were particularly villainous in their eyes—little more than stenographers and scandal hounds.

“What the blogosphere did with newspaper column analysis is make fun of how horrible it was,” says David Weigel, Klein’s friend and fellow member of what came to be known as the Juicebox Mafia. “There were columnists who, even with all their access, which you assumed they had, were just completely lazy and misinformed. And that was the opposite of the blogosphere. The only way to succeed in the blogosphere was actually to shoot at the groin of whoever was bigger than you.” Almost everyone came in for derision: George Will, David Brooks, David Broder. The latter became synonymous with high-minded appeals for bipartisanship, or “High Broderism.” Klein and co. were far less interested in finding compromise than in their side winning.
Interesting!  What happened next?
[Ezra Klein's] disavowal of party is particularly conspicuous. Klein, who came up through the progressive media and is, according to public records, a registered Democrat, insists on portraying himself as someone driven purely by powerful, un-ideological currents of data. “I’m not afraid to tell people where I come down,” he told me that October night in the town car. “But it’s entirely possible for me to imagine a Republican president who is not irresponsible on policy. It could even be Mitt Romney, who governed more in the realm of a George H. W. Bush. And all of a sudden, a lot of people who think they agree with me on everything would find that they don’t.”
Ruh roh...

 And then (emphasis added)?
In 2009, the Post took notice and, looking to bring in some new media talent, hired Klein. Once there, it didn’t take him long to figure out how to adapt to the customs of elite Washington: One must be nice and above it all.
And finally...
The columnist who [Ezra Klein] feels achieves this platonic evenhandedness best is The New York Times’s David Brooks. “In the course of a pretty short column, he is able to convey the other side’s positions back to them in a way they would recognize,” Klein says. The fact that Klein feels he has largely achieved this state is a major point of pride, and he says it makes his criticism of policy more weighty...
Which brings us, at last, to "The Silence":  the name given to a race of Dr. Who monsters which has kept humanity under its control for centuries by the ruthless exercise of their singular power:  making you instantly forget they exist the minute you look away from them.

From Wikipedia:
In creating the Silence shown in "The Impossible Astronaut", Moffat drew inspiration from Edvard Munch's famous 1893 expressionist painting The Scream as well as the Men in Black. The Silence continues Moffat's trend of using simple psychological concepts to make his monsters more frightening. In this case of the Silence, their existence is a secret because anyone who sees them immediately forgets about them after looking away, but retains suggestions made to them by the Silence.
They are terrifying and virtually-omnipotent because no matter what they say or do, no matter how many atrocities we watch them commit right in front of us, the minute we look away from them. all of our memories of them and all they they have done just...evaporate...leaving behind nothing but the footprint of their wishes on your thoughts.

A terrific villain, but one which the writers of Dr, Who somewhat overengineered.  

Because as every Liberal knows, in the end you don't need fancy telepathic powers to repeatedly fuck everything up and then make everyone instantly forget what you have done.

In the end, all you need is a Beltway platinum press pass and friends in high places.  


OBS said...

Brilliant, as usual, thanks!

Batocchio said...

The weakness and bad faith of Brooks' columns are sometimes readily evident, but sometimes discerning this requires knowing the context he deliberately admits. Brooks looks even worse over time, because as a hack and bullshitter, he simply can't stay consistent. It's all the more hilarious given that conservatives pretend to stand for eternal truths, consistency and the rest. As Cleek said over at Balloon Juice, conservatives stand for the opposite of what liberals want, updated daily. There's no philosophical consistency; there's only the consistency of tribal dogmatism, and screwing the perceived opposition, which includes, oh, more than half the country.

And while Klein does some good work in sifting through and presenting data, boy, the fawning over Brooks and the rest is just pathetic.

mary said...

There is nothing more seductive and corrupting than success. A person likes the perks and comes to believe he 'deserves' them. Then, of course, he becomes scared of losing these perks. And once that happens, 'they' have him in their pocket. This is an old story, often told. Klein is no different.

drbopperthp said...

Huh - what?? Did I miss something?? I was looking over there...I thought I saw Trump fingering a little...uhhhh...Whahappin'???