Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In Search of Historic Bobo

If you want to start a brawl in the media scholar faculty lounge at any major university, stick your head in the door and ask them to settle the question of the historical authenticity of "David Brooks" once and for all.  Then duck, because this is the subject which has most loudly and aggressively divided students of the so-called "Fucking Crazy Years"* of American political media for the last century.

Of course as every high-school student knows, almost all of the original digital and analog records of the Guild of Pundits during that period were destroyed during the Great Discontinuity -- the early 21st century's Elite media's last ditch effort to evade accountability for their crimes.  And what few fragments we do have from that time come down to us filtered through the fun-house mirrors of surviving backups of the "fuckingblogs".  

And yet such is the enduring fascination with the fallout from those terrible, lunatic "Fucking Crazy Years" that despite the paucity of first-hand evidence (or perhaps because of it) thousands of master's theses, doctoral dissertations, best-selling "histories", graphic novels, stage plays and dirty limericks have been written about the era.  

(Artist's rendering of "David Brooks" offering a ritual "Social Security" sacrifice 
at the Temple of St. Reagan)

And as the original events have been sifted and re-sifted by popular culture, fan fiction and hermeneutics, the academic world has more-or-less evenly divided itself into two, irreconcilable orthodoxies -- the Historical Brooks versus the Fictional Brooks -- each of which finds strong support for its own theory in the literature itself.

Based on the radically divergent accounts of writings attributed to him during a single decade, roughly half of all professional media historians -- The Historicals -- subscribe to theory that "David Brooks" in an amalgamation of several real but wildly different people. The other half -- The Fictionals -- maintain that since so much of what he was alleged to have written was so obviously false and absurd, "David Brooks" had to be a literary contrivance: something analogous to Poe's nameless recounter of "The Telltale Heart" or Greta Van Sustern -- a fictional narrator whose own pathological unreliability is integral to the story.

For example, the Historicals point to the fact that there is strong evidence that a writer or group of writers using the name "David Brooks" achieved a level of notoriety during the Age of Bush by relentlessly backing the Worst President in American History as he terrorized and lied his country into one catastrophic misadventure after another.  How (the Historicals ask) could someone who backed disastrous and unpaid-for wars, disastrous and unpaid-for tax reductions for the most wealthy and the whole constellation of ruinous policies of President Bush H. W. Cheney (citation needed) -- who wrote paeans to the competence of the Worst President in American History --
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals

We seem to be entering a period of competent conservatism and reactionary liberalism. George W. Bush has put together a cabinet long on management experience and practical skills. But liberal commentators and activists, their imaginations aflame, seem to be caught in a time warp, back in the days when Norman Lear still had hair...
-- possibly be the same person who turned on a Bitcoin to spin hair-raising tales of government coercion and incompetence in which the "legitimacy" of the very idea of self-governance was gravely imperiled by a poor website launch?
The Legitimacy Problem

...There are two large questions to be settled, which you might call the questions of competence and coercion.

The first is whether the government is competent enough to manage large programs. Can the administration get the website to work, set rules for the right insurance products or impose efficiency measures to restrain costs?

Obamacare, as originally envisioned, mandated that people join the system in order to redistribute money from the healthy and young to the sicker and older. It coerces some people to do something they might not want to do, and which, in fact, may not be in their short-term interest to do.

Already, it’s very clear that millions of Americans — and not just Tea Party types — do not accept the legitimacy of the government to overrule individual decisions, even on something like health insurance. This is not the America of 1932 or of 1964. This is an America steeped in distrust of government. It’s an America that is, on both left and right, steeped in the ethos of individual choice. It’s an America steeped in a morality of authenticity, which says that it is right to listen to the individual voice within and immoral to be forced to conform to the external commands from without...
How could the same person (the Historicals ask) who energetically championed the people and policies which most grievously crippled the nation's faith in its government (and equally energetically mocked those who cautioned against the dark and dreadful path down which the Worst President in America History leading them) --
Bush, as Advertised 

What on earth has gotten into the liberals and the media? Perhaps affected by some sort of post-Palm Beach stress disorder, reporters and activists on the left have depicted George W. Bush as the leader of some sort of arch-conservative jihad. They've portrayed his tax plan as dangerously radical, some of his nominees as Confederacy-loving loons, and his voucher plan as a menace to the future of public education. To put it bluntly, this is all deranged. You get the impression that the left has actually started believing its own direct-mail fund-raising letters.
-- possibly be the same person who wrote this with a straight face just a few years later?
Governing in an age of distrust is different than governing in an age of trust. Government now lacks the legitimacy to impose costs on losers, so politicians face unprecedented pressure to create situations in which everybody looks like winners. Government lacks the legitimacy to coerce.
Obviously, (the Historicals conclude) like "Alan Smithee" or "Tom Freed Man", "David Brooks" must have been some sort of collective pen-name behind which dregs of the Punditry Guild could shout all kinds of shameful craziness while avoiding the professional consequences of saying remarkably stupid thing in public.

But (the Fictionals rejoin very effectively) it is the very ludicrousness of "David Brooks"'s "opinions" which argue most strongly against it being the name -- or pseudonym -- of any real person or persons.  Consider that, in order to make the argument that the United States government is incapable of competently operating a national health-care system with mandates, "David Brooks" simply ignores the fact that the United States government of that era was already operating a very efficient and beloved national health-care system (with mandates!) which was known as Medicare and, at the time, had over 49 million beneficiaries.

Fine (the Historicals say), but do you really need to yell every time you make that point?

If you'd fucking listen for once (the Fictionals reply) maybe we wouldn't have to!  I mean, just look at the literature.  "David Brooks" touting the success of the ruinous Second Gulf War.  "David Brooks"  blaming an infamous 2011 serial rape case at Penn State on the 1960s.  "David Brooks" writing numerous "serious" short histories of "Conservatism" in which he conspicuously refuses to mention any actual Conservatives of the period.

Based on the sheer number of these obviously tall tales (the Fictionals conclude) it is clear that in the United States during the early years of the 21st century, "David Brooks" was created as a wealthy, suburban caricature whose cultural function was very similar to the "Ole" character in classic Scandinavian American "Sven and Ole" humor (see also "Ole and Lena"): an all-occasion buffoon, whose myopic obliviousness to the world around him leads him and his even-less-bright sidekick to say and do comically ridiculous things. Example:
Sven and Ole go to Fargo and visit a brothel. A woman says she will have sex with both of them for $20, but insists, "You have to use rubbers 'cause I don't want to get pregnant." They agree. Back on the farm, a week later, Sven says, "Hey, Ole, remember that girl we met in Fargo?" "You betcha, why?" Well, I been thinking I don't give a damn whether she gets pregnant or not." "Me neither." "Well, let's take dese damn tings off, then"
Until definitive proof is unearthed to settle the issue once-and-for-all, the battle between the Historicals and the Fictionals will continue to rage.  However,  even as the conflict between these two schools of thought continues to divide loyalties behind the ivied walls of academe, it should be noted that both groups are united in their contempt for a third, much-smaller and thoroughly-despised band of outlaw professors who refer to themselves the "Literals".

These "Literals" assert that "David Brooks" existed literally, as an actual person, who really did write every, single viperish, false and self-contradicting thing which has been attributed to him. That he really was elevated to the highest ranks of the Pundit Guild.  That his opinions were read and taken Very Seriously by Big Thinkers, government officials and hundreds of millions of ordinary people around the world.   And even though the "fuckingblogs" show that the obvious fatuousness of "David Brooks" fables were routinely and effortlessly shredded by "fuckingbloggers", for reasons the Literals are never able to explain, David Brooks was somehow allowed to accumulate vast wealth and publishing reams of patently silly drivel...all while never once having been challenged by anyone of any stature.

Which is why, despite their deep differences, Historicals and Fictionals issued their famous joint statement on the Principles of Academic Exegesis (see, "The Literals? Fuck those guys!") in which they express unanimous concurrence that however shoutycrackers things became during the worst of the "Fucking Crazy Years", as tens of thousands of journalists were defrocked and hundreds of media houses were shuttered, it would have been impossible for any real writer whose output was as meager and ridiculous as "David Brooks" to have maintained a position of such influence and status at the very apex of the Punditry Guild.


the bewilderness said...

May the light always find you on a dreary day.
When you need to be home may you find your way.
May you always have courage to take a chance,
And never find frogs in your underpants.

Anonymous said...

You know, although Ramses lived and reigned for 80 years, beget by some estimates, over 150 offspring and literally had his deeds and exploits carved in stone more than any figure in history; there is no actual recorded mention of the exodus or even the enslavement of...well you get the picture...other than the old testament.
Hell, it's 2013 and I still think Bobo has to be a fictional composite of mediocrity.
Brilliant bit of Christmas work...thanks
Back to my Sopranos marathon which contrary to my memory, on second viewing with some years past... was apparently an amazing work of comic genius.

tenacitus said...

This was brilliant parody of the way scholars do historical criticism of ancient texts like the bible and what they will do in the future with blogs.

Redhand said...

Brilliant parody indeed. Was Homer a real person? Did the Same Person "write" the Iliad and the Odyssey? Are some of the better "Fragments" in the Satyricon really the work of Petronius, etc. etc?

The utter degeneracy of today's pundocracy -- Brooks, Friedman, "Newshour" jester Mark Shields, et al -- is a subject worthy of Bonfire of the Vanities treatment. Tom Wolfe, where are you when we need you?

StonyPillow said...

So it shall be written. So it shall be done.

blader said...


Retired Patriot said...

Bravo. Simply bravo!


Anonymous said...

Excellent thesis, sir.

Monster from the Id said...

Redhand: IIRC, Wolfe is one of THEM--that is, a right-winger. Of course he won't criticize his comrades in pseudo-intellectual arms.

marindenver said...

" it would have been impossible for any real writer whose output was as meager and ridiculous as "David Brooks" to have maintained a position of such influence and status at the very apex of the Punditry Guild."

The whole thing was a wonderful read but that statement sums it all up. It should be absolutely impossible. What the hell is the matter with people anyway?

Kudos on the photoshops too!

Redhand said...

@Monster from the Id

I wasn't aware of this, but it looks like you're correct. Future generations probably will be left only with driftglass fragments to piece together someone like Brooks. But it'll be hard. Certainly there is no explaining his ascendancy now with "full information."

I take some consolation from the bizarre, post-divorce self-hatred that is seeping out of some of his recent, post "book leave" pieces, as if Brooks himself half acknowledges that he's a totally-full-of-shit fraud. And there is this year's magnificent take down of Brooks by Alex Pareene. One can only hope that also survives le déluge this worthless fuck has helped create.

Professor Fate said...

Just Brilliant - thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wait. You mean the great David Brooks is a ....hypocrite? I'm shocked, shocked that such an accusation could be leveled at a man who clearly has as much integrity as a wet paper bag. People who don't know the meaning of the word integrity can hardly be accused of hypocrisy; after all, hypocrisy is an integral part of their character. They don't actually comprehend the meaning of the word. It's like accusing a fish of swimming in water: it's not their fault. They can't help it. Any more than Brooks can help being a hypocrite

Athenae said...

This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.


Steve said...

I am rereading 1984 at the moment; David Brooks and Winston Smith, toiling away in the Ministry of Truth, seem to have a lot in common.