Tuesday, January 07, 2014

David Brooks Continues To Lose His Mind

Any writer with any ambition at all can do a nice little 800 word piece while hanging out in pretty much any hotel lobby or bar in America. It's easy. Strike up a conversation. Strike up another. Buy the old lady a drink. Ask the divorced father hustling his kids cross-country over Christmas what that's like. Hell, Mike Royko built half his career carefully documenting the dreams and beefs and brags and heartbreaks of the real and imaginary denizens of Chicago beer halls, taverns, posh joints and dives.

Of course, David Brooks, being David Brooks, does none of these things.

Freed by wealth and status from the need to interact with actual, grubby humans, like some discarded minor character from an early draft of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, Mr. Brooks bypasses "people" altogether and burns his 800 words fetishistically cataloging the price tags of various boutique hotels and their selections of sofas (cerulean) and photos (Steichen). It is an incompetent, assembly-line still-life: dead, flat, with a few, travel brochure stick-figure caricatures tossed in --
...the sort of affluent consumer who is produced by the information economy, which rewards education with money. This is a consumer who is prouder of his cultural discernment than his corporate success...
-- to maintain the illusion that this junk is not extruded by rote.

If the Time's wants to save a bundle, it should just licence a copy of Real Human Praise from The Colbert Report. With a few, minor upgrades it could be rigged to generate a new "David Brooks" product comparable in every way to their existing David Brooks product, every two minutes, until the end of time (UPDATE: video removed because despite the "autoplay" feature showing as "false" in the code and not autoplaying in my browser, apparently it is starting up unbidden in everyone else's browser.)

Then again, perhaps the motive behind Mr. Brooks pissing away 800 words of prime journalistic real estate to up-sell high-end hotel rooms --
A basic rule of happiness is don’t buy things; buy experiences. The market has taken one commodity product after another and turned it into an emotional experience — even hotel stays. I don’t know how you measure how much better off we are because of that, but we are significantly better off. The world’s a sweeter place when, for an extra 200 bucks a night, you can lodge like Afrojack.
-- is somewhat more nakedly mercantile (From the Guardian, with emphasis added at no extra charge):
One of the anomalies of digital journalism is a lack of clarity between high and low. That's the historic distinction in publishing, mass from class, the vulgar from the refined, tabloid from broadsheet, the penny press from papers costing a nickel.
You knew who you were by what you read. You were what you read.
For writers, writing for the New Yorker was not only a different experience, and different purpose, but actually imputed different meaning than writing for, say, the Reader's Digest, or the New York Post, or, for that matter, Time. Even the upper segment was segmented, each brand cultivating its form of elitism.
Now, in a sense, there is just Buzzfeed and its like, traffic magnet sites. Buzzfeed's editor, Ben Smith, is a credible journalist who now works in the middle of a random content stew, that, in another world, would have devalued his skills and undermined his career potential. But Smith, along with a whole generation of writers who exist outside of intellectual caste or conceit, is part of a flattened world, one in which there is only one real measure, traffic. And almost all traffic is low value. Hence the main job is getting more of it, and, if possible, to incrementally raise its value.
Which is why the New York Times now finds itself, grimly, and with the greatest self-pity, having to accept native advertising or branded content. In an achingly self-conscious memo, the Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger (quite a big gun to announce a minor advertising development), tried to explain "our version of what is sometimes called 'native advertising' or 'branded content'" and why it would not offend Times readers or the Times' sensibility.


Steve said...

Its so cold David Brooks says for the duration its okay to hotbox!

Kathleen said...

What in the name of all that is holy is he talking about? You nailed in another Brooks post - he has no soul. Nor, of course, does his writing. It's awful. Petulant, whiney, awful.

kootcoot said...

Hey, if you don't want to get the "unavailable" message with Colbert and Jon Stewart stuff, go to and link to the Canadian version at http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/

There even us peons in Canada can watch the complete shows, on demand (without staying up late) because we are blessed with Canadian content commercials, but only a minute's worth between each segment. Less than on broadcast or cable TeeVee.

kootcoot said...

I hadn't realized you kinda photoshopped the "no lookee" message from comedynetwork.com above. But at least now in my comment there is a copy and pastable link to our Canadian site.

I applaud you for writing a coherent post about Brooksie, it is like nailing jello to the wall, somewhat like trying to take serious his stable mate the Mustache of Wisdom or Master of the Metaphor, Kinky Friedmans brother who married an heiress.

bowtiejack said...

I come for the David Brooks photoshop brilliance.
I stay for the beautiful prose.
Keep up the good, no great, work.

Anonymous said...

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God... I read the comments section... Someone actually praised DFB's insight....

What the Fucking Creepers is this about "the middle class" paying an extra $200 a night for a *hotel room* for the experience?

*Perhaps* if it's one night on a vacation, but... Fucking Creepers... I can't imagine having $200 and thinking *anything* but "Buy extra groceries this month and pay down the gas card!".