Saturday, July 06, 2013

One Sees Qualities at a Distance -- Update

And defects at close range.

-- Victor Hugo

I would, just once, like to have been taken by surprise by America's Most Famous Conservative Public Intellectual.

I would like, just once, for David Brooks to have written something like this:
"Democracy, the argument goes, will eventually calm extremism...[they] may come into office with radical beliefs, but then they have to fix potholes and worry about credit ratings and popular opinion. Governing will make them more moderate."
Or this
"They reject pluralism, secular democracy and, to some degree, modernity. When you elect fanatics, they continue, you have not advanced democracy."
Or this
"You have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy. The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup. The goal is to weaken political Islam, by nearly any means."
Or this
"But elections are not a good thing when they lead to the elevation of people whose substantive beliefs fall outside the democratic orbit. It’s necessary to investigate the core of a party’s beliefs, not just accept anybody who happens to emerge from a democratic process."
-- about his American Conservative movement or Republican Party.

That, of course, is impossible.  The incentive structure will not allow it.  It can never happen.

No, these are Mr. Brooks' unfiltered observations about the Egyptian people and their politics, about which he concludes:
"It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients."
In fact pretty much the only idiotic observations he cares to make about the United States and Egypt are so close his idiotic observations about the Obama Administration and Congress that they could have been extruded by the same macro:  Mr. Brooks contends that while President Obama is, in fact, powerless to do anything about the course Egypt is taking
"In reality, the U.S. has no ability to influence political events in Egypt in any important way."
He is also a failure because he somehow...should have done...I dunno...something...
"The Obama administration has not handled this situation particularly well."
Still, stepping back from individual sentences and reviewing Mr. Brooks' column in its totality, one can see that it is definitely 800 words long.

Which is all the NYT has ever required of him.

Update:  Others from around the internet take aim at Mr. Brooks lamentations over the White Man's Burden.

From The New Yorker:
This is where Brooks drops off from a relatively mainstream (if often wrongheaded) discussion about Egypt’s messed-up political institutions and dips into something disgraceful. Islamists, he writes, are odd, stilted people: “they lack the mental equipment to govern”; “incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam”; “they have a strange fascination with a culture of death” (has he flipped through the lives of the saints lately?). Brooks approvingly quotes an essay arguing that Islamists don’t really get causality as a concept—it’s all divine magic to them—or the difference between a fact and a feeling. The best “outsiders” can do is promote the few “modern thinkers” among them—to wait, presumably, “in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild— / Your new-caught, sullen peoples / Half devil and half child.” That last bit is a quote from Rudyard Kipling, whom Brooks mimics, to the discredit of both.
From Gawker:
It's worth asking here if Brooks himself has the basic mental ingredients for democracy. He seems confused about what democracy actually entails, in particular when he attempts to contrast "those who emphasize process," (the softies who argue that Morsi was democratically elected) "those who emphasize substance" (the keen-eyed realists who understand that what democratic values really call for is people with tanks and guns who are willing to remove elected Islamists from power).

The problem with this distinction, beyond the glib oversimplification, is that it makes no sense at all. There can't be a distinction between "those who emphasize process" and "those who emphasize substance" because the "process"—you might know it as "democracy"—is the substance. This is, in fact, the point of democracy!


wiley said...

Brooks is a neo-con. His attitudes about Muslims and Arabs is likely formed by the Orientalist book "The Arab Mind.

Though he'll never, ever, think like or quote Judith Butler, I'll add this to your lists of thoughts that would be refreshing to hear:

Let me suggest first that the USA made use of bad anthropology when it devised its protocols of torture. The Department of Defense assigned a text from the 1970s called `The Arab Mind', which assumed that there was such a mind, that it could be characterized in general ways with respect to the religious beliefs, and specific sexual vulnerabilities of people from Arab descent (Patai 2002). The text subscribed to that form of cultural anthropology that treated cultures as self-sufficient and distinctive, which refused the global mixing of cultural and social formations, and which considered itself beyond moral judgment and more generally in the service of cultural tolerance. I want to suggest that the massive reduction of Arab life to `the Arab mind' produced a ready object for the US military and for the protocols of torture enacted under the direction of General Geoffrey Miller. Since of course there is no `Arab mind', and it is not possible to attribute the same fears and anxieties across the Arab world in its geographical complexity and its cosmopolitan formulations, the text constructed an object that it could then manipulate. Strategies for extracting information from this mind were devised, and they were applied in the various scenes of torture that have become visually available to us as well as those that remain unrepresented in any media form.

wiley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinkamena Panic said...

I saw that psted at BJ and wondered aloud, "How long will DG take to smack Bobo around for this festering lump of stupid?" You did not disappoint.

And Bobo? He's a bigoted fuck trying to hide behind a veneer of respectability that nobody with two brain cells to rub together buys - like some kind of incompetent ninja trying to hide himself as an obviously-fake tree... in the middle of a desert.