Friday, January 10, 2014

No True Herbert -- UPDATE

Herbert: a "somewhat... uncomplimentary" phrase referring to "a minor official -- notorious for his rigid and limited patterns of thought." (from Star Trek, "The Way To Eden"
No True Scotsman: "[A]n informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim ("no Scotsman would do such a thing"), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule ("no true Scotsman would do such a thing")
My oh my, where does the time go?

It seem like just a few days ago we were taking down the last of our War on Christmas ornaments and today it's apparently already time again for another of David Brooks' once-a-quarter columns about the awesomeness of  "real" conservatism and how its resurgence in the face of the obvious failure of Both Sides -
Conservative programs like urban enterprise zones failed to produce measurable results. Liberal programs like Head Start scarcely produce identifiable long-term gains. Therefore, it is best to approach government in a mood of skeptical reformism.
 -- is juuuust around the corner.

See kiddies, Mr. Brooks has a big problem and he needs your help!

It all began a long time ago in a land forgotten by history where Mr. Brooks made a tidy living selling something called the Great Big "Liberals are To Blame For Everything" Lie.  Since nobody actually listened to Liberals anyway, it was easy to turn them into caricatures and turn a buck mocking them, so for a long time business was good.

Then came the early years of the Bush Administration, and suddenly business went from good to fucking terrific!

It was a wingnut gold rush, boys and girls, where every third-rate Bircher and halfwit college Republican asshole was suddenly being courted as Serious Thinker, and every raving slunkmeat lunatic leftover from the good, old Clinton-hating days was being handed a book contract. And upon the that rising tide of hippie-punching, nobody's boat rose farther and faster than our Mr. Brooks, who parlayed his job writing middle-brow wingnut trash for Bill Kristol into a permanent gig as America's Premier Conservative Public Intellectual for the New York Times.

But then the Bad Thing happened -- the Bad Thing that everyone in our Beltway Media agreed never to speak of in public until the end of time.  Almost overnight, all that that yummy-yummy wingnut gold turned to shit.

It turned out that pretty much everything Liberals had been saying about Dubya specifically and Conservatism generally had been horribly accurate and it all starting going very bad for the Right very fast. Worse yet,  the Liberal-pinata everyone had had such a jolly good time beating starting punching back. Of course, with an entirely self-contained media, unlimited funds and a vast army of brainwashed dolts at its command, the Right was well-equipped to wage a brutal rear-guard action against Reality for decades, but for David Brooks the market for his brand of middle-brow defense of what was clearly a criminally insane enterprise took a pronounced nosedive.

And so Mr. Brooks quietly took down his "Liberals are To Blame For Everything" shingle and went into the more stable Both Sides Do It trade, where Conservatives may sometimes be wrong, but they can never be more than half-wrong, because Both Sides!  Of course by this means that Mr. Brooks rarely gets the chance to rear up on his hind legs and go full, bloody-rag "jewels of nuance" on imaginary Liberals anymore, but it also means Mr. Brooks still gets to dump half of every political chamber pot onto the heads of imaginary Liberals, and get away with some of the most incredibly lazy writing imaginable.

So nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately, in order to keep both this new regime of Both Sider lies (as well as his old regime of "Liberals Are To Blame For Everything" lies propped up) propped up, every few months Mr. Brooks has to shake off the overwhelming evidence that the Right is mad-dog crazy and getting worse every day by writing yet another column in which he manifests some absurd "True Scotsman" definition of Conservatism out of his ass so that he can reverse-engineer his wet dreams into it (from today):
If you just listened to Republican politicians, you’d have almost no sense that conservative thinking has changed much since Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney over a year ago. But if you hang around the conservative policy wonks, and read certain conservative magazines, the picture is quite different...

Second, this conservatism is populist about ends but not means. Over the past decade, many Republican politicians have spread the message that the country’s problems would be easily solved if only the nefarious elites would get out of the way and allow the common people to take over. Members of this conservatism are more likely to conclude that, in fact, problems are complex and there are no easy answers, but there is room for policy expertise, and perhaps philosophical rigor, even if it comes from Washington.
...and /or pretends that a new Conservative Renaissance and/or New Liberal Dark Ages is juuuuuust around the corner.

A couple of samples
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals
JAN 15, 2001

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.
Of what I am talking about

How George W. Bush and John McCain -- without quite realizing it -- are creating a new Republican philosophy
SEP 13, 1999

...together, Bush's Compassionate Conservatism and McCain's New Patriotic Challenge are steps toward a fresh vision for the Republican party.
But it's a fairy tale.  Mr. Brooks' imaginary Conservatism-that-never-was remains as dead as ever:  dead and buried at the crossroads long, long ago by the raging paranoid electoral beast people like Mr. Brooks helped build in order to win elections.

And yet, to keep the franchise going, every few months Mr. Brooks writes this same column, urging his readers to...



Don't let Tink die!

Clap you son's of bitches!


UPDATE:  Alert reader Yastreblyansky points out that these days Mr. Brooks' quarterly "Coming Conservative Renaissance" columns have reached such a nadir of intellectual laziness that he doesn't even both to write new ones anymore:
This morning, he is offering a column on how a new, humble, Burkean conservatism is being proposed to the Republican public by Yuval Levin at National Affairs that sounded strangely familiar to me, from the first paragraph:
If you just listened to Republican politicians, you’d have almost no sense that conservative thinking has changed much since Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney over a year ago. But if you hang around the conservative policy wonks, and read certain conservative magazines, the picture is quite different.... I’d invite you, for example, to cast your eye over the new issue of National Affairs, the right-leaning policy journal edited by Yuval Levin. 
Sure enough, it's an updated redraft of a piece from November 2012:
If you listened to the Republican candidates this year, you heard a conventional set of arguments. But if you go online, you can find a vibrant and increasingly influential center-right conversation.... [The "Burkean Revivalist"] group includes young conservatives whose intellectual roots go back to the organic vision of society described best by Edmund Burke but who are still deeply enmeshed in current policy debates.... Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs is one of the two or three most influential young writers in politics today. He argues that we are now witnessing the fiscal crisis of the entitlement state, exemplified most of all by exploding health care costs. His magazine promotes a big agenda of institutional modernization.


James Hooten said...

I seem to recall Nice Republican Radio doing a story on the demonstrable long-term good that Head Start contributes to society about the time Congress was failing to properly fund it because of the shutdown. When the facts contradict your point, lie about the facts.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

I read Mr. Brooks' column. It reminded of the "legitimate business world" teacher from "Back to School"...

I don't doubt that there are conservatives who aren' borrow a phrase...crazy, stupid, or evil.

But they're not in charge.

And they haven't BEEN in charge for a long, long time.

And they're not GOING to be in charge without the "nerds and the jocks" first going to war like some 1980s college comedy.

Enjoy your weekend.

---Kevin Holsinger

Yastreblyansky said...

One thing you missed that fits right in: Brooksie opens this column with a direct self-plagiarism (from November 2012)

Read Meet !!~ said...

This sucker resonates....

steeve said...

"problems are complex and there are no easy answers"

I wager even many liberals would agree with this, but like everything else Brooks says, it's dead wrong. Top tax at 70%, do health care like the whole world, audit defense spending, don't shit on the poor, green energy research. Every major problem solved, just like that.

There are other problems that are difficult and complex. But we're so buried in the easy problems that we don't even know what the hard ones are anymore, and won't be able to find out until we solve the easy ones and see what happens.

This is why, aside from lamenting the continued existence of old media and the republican party, there's just nothing to talk about. It's all a holding pattern until a bunch of old people die or something.

Luigi said...


I know I am a certified old fart, but your recollections of the End Of Carter's Days and the Reagan Daddy Era where liberals were hunted for sport is pretty much spot on. I rely on you, Steve M. and Charlie Pierce to read Brooks so I don't have to. I will never forgive the press establishment and the electorate making the liberal brand its collective bitch. When I get shit about being a liberal, I just tell them "Yeah, I'm fucked up like that... unlike you who would never be a liberal, I care about people. So sue me." As they antagonize the situation and I point out the fallacy of not acting as if we are all in this together, they usually buckle under the weight. Sometimes, I actually have people agree that being liberal is both what Jesus was and what America should be.