Saturday, October 05, 2013

David Brooks Unplugged

Just chillin' behind a tiny copse of trees across from the International House, sharin' a bag of Haze and rappin' with a Chicago Maroon reporter about writing and shit.

On access to the President of the United State:
CM: How much time have you spent with him?

DB: Since he became president I've probably met with him 25, 30 times. They’re off-the-record meetings with some regularity
On the nearly-unbearable pressure of having to produce 1600 words of tepid revisionism (Every! Week!) on whatever subject he chooses, except for the weeks when he is on vacation, or "book leave", or whatever...
CM: You have to write a column twice a week. Is there something about that pressure that affects the way you go about your everyday life? Do you always have to have a certain type of reaction to the news?

DB: Every second is, ‘Can I get a column out of this? Can I get a column out of that?’ There’s no second when you’re not thinking about that. That’s seven days a week. It’s a constant lookout.

CM: Is there something about always having to form opinions in the op-ed column format that’s changed your general outlook on politics and society?

DB: I’m less happy. I’m always anxious that I’m not going to have something to write about next time. There’s a lot more anxiety. And after the opinion comes out, there’s always the incoming criticism. That took some getting used to
On what it's like to be read every day by millions of people around the world:
CM: Are you constantly aware of how large your audience is?

DB: You feel that. You can’t think about that. You write to one person. You write to interest yourself. Whoever you are, you write to a specific reader…Whoever the people are out there—I don’t know them, so they can make of it what they can. I can’t control their reaction because I don’t know who they are.
On how David Brooks is plotting to steal your children  -- 
DB: ... The people you hope to influence are outside of power—younger people. It’s like being a teacher. There’s a good phrase: that writing provides a context in which other people can think. You’re really not trying to tell them what to think—you’re trying to give them a context in which they can have a discussion with themselves about a subject.
-- thus confirming my theories about Mr. Brooks' Revisionist Long Game:

On how people like me who undertake to blog, punditize, podcast or otherwise critique the work of David Brooks need to understand that every bit of what we do falls on deaf ears:
CM: Back to your columns. Do you ever read comments on your work?

DB: Stuff comes to my email. I’ll occasionally look at comments, and then you get some feedback just organically. I never Google my name; I never look too much at the blog commentary; I don’t look at the comments too much. It’s too psychologically damaging.

CM: Have you actually been seriously affected by responses to your columns?

DB: In the first six months on the job I was going through everything. Most of it is harshly critical, so it was debilitating. I stopped.
On the why people other than David Brooks (and Tom Friedman and Richard Cohen and Maureen Dowd and Jennifer Rubin and Peggy Noonan, and George Will and Cokie Robert and so forth) actually need to be competent writers of things that people want to read if they want to turn a buck at this game:
DB: ...Getting the structure right is super important. The other thing is that unlike in college, no one is paid to read your writing, so you better be reasonably compelling or else they’ll just click off to something else.

*Thanks for the catch, D.


D. said...

He thinks his writing is "reasonably compelling," does he? Because that explains a lot.

By the way, your link at "True Conservatism" doesn't go anywhere. (Much like true conservatism, in fact.)

Anonymous said...

"Chicago Maroon"

I mean this in all "maroon" a reference to the color, or Bugs Bunny's word for "moron" (in the sense of a self-deprecating reference)?

"Since he became president I've probably met with him 25, 30 times."

Starring David Brooks as Forrest Gump...

"I’m always anxious that I’m not going to have something to write about next time."

Day 1: Mr. Brooks can't find something to write about. Day 2: He's fired. Day 3: He's homeless, without a friend in the world to help him at his lowest point. Is this the scenario he's anxious about?

"I never Google my name; I never look too much at the blog commentary; I don’t look at the comments too much."


"The people you hope to influence are outside of power—younger people."

Translation: I'm here to talk to you, not listen to you.

---Kevin Holsinger

marindenver said...

" Most of it is harshly critical, so it was debilitating. I stopped."

I'm sure every writer gets some negative feedback. But when MOST of it is "harshly critical" shouldn't that tell you something?

Apparently the constant invitations to opine at the Mouse Circus & on NPR put those fears to rest.

Demian said...

$omehow I've $ucceeded at $creening out all that harsh criticism. Who needs things that debilitate my world view?

Anonymous said...

If I were in Brooks' position I'd fear for my safety. If you google 'fuck David Brooks' you get a bunch of sites that document everything he's ever done wrong in life. I guess he can't stand seeing the cold truth about himself. Now why does the president waste so much time with this asshole?


drbopperthp said...

Love this comment from the linked to interview with David (BoBo The Clown) Brooks at the Maroon:

I’m normally one of the Times columnist mockers that Brooks references above, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed this interview. A lot of humanity came through here, and I feel like I understand Brooks’ personality and perspective much more. I appreciate his friendly, open attitude and Noah Weiland and the Maroon for conducting and publishing such a pleasant but thorough interview.
Still, I don’t think this changes my perspective on Brooks’ columns (although that clearly wasn’t the goal) – filled with pop-psychology/sociology (please see the NYT review of The Social Animal) and a simplistic conservative viewpoint of the world that blankets Brooks in a false comfort while ignoring the troubles around him. There’s something telling about his story about deciding a major while at U of C. He didn’t decide based on how he felt he could improve the world, or what truly fascinated him, instead he thought about which Manhattan neighborhood would suit him best.
As a 21 year-old recent graduate I will not be so hubristic as to ask Brooks to reconsider his clearly well-set politics. Instead, on the off chance that he reads this comment, I ask only that he use his perch as an influential UChicago alum to keep a close eye on the current administration. He notes that “Chicago is still pretty Chicago” and I agree; there’s something distinctive about our school. But just look at the current headlines in the Maroon or the disgusting way our University treats the surrounding community and you’ll see that Zimmer is moving us away from our Chicagoness as quickly as possible. Please Mr. Brooks, don’t let us transform into a place that values “social entrepreneurship” over real involvement and activism, or Career Advancement programs over the Core.
pauline babinski Oct 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm CDT

Forget Pauline - he'll never read your comment. - Da Doctor

Pinkybum said...

There's only one you thing to know about David Brooks and the quality of his writing in his columns: Can you ever imagine a compendium book of his columns being a bestseller?

Paul Krugman has published such a book.