Friday, February 07, 2014

David Brooks Talks to America's Kids About Peer Group Pressure


In today's edition of his ongoing and increasingly-erratic series, "I'm Really Writing About My Divorce", Mr. Brooks stumbles around and burns through God-knows how many carefully researched "piles" to sorta talk in hedging circular platitudes about when people should listen to outside points of view or heed public opinion, and, by golly, when they should maybe sorta tell others to pound sand.  

It is many different flavors of banal and weird, but the last paragraph caught enough of my attention to make me sit down and write:
To sum up, I can’t find any universal rules about when to defer to outside approval. It depends on the circumstances. It does seem that people should defer less to public approval as they age. At 15, it’s normal to be socially insecure. By 45, unless you’re in a crisis, you should have distilled enough ancient wisdom to have inner criteria.

-- David Brooks, February 7, 2014
If you do the math you will learn that David Brooks turned 45 in 2006.

Which means, like most Conservatives I know and most Conservatives you probably know, Mr. Brooks has calibrated his taking-personal-responsibility-because-you-should-know-better threshold to a moment slightly after he had begun fleeing for the exit of the fervent cause of his entire adult life.

Because if you have anything resembling a functional memory, you will recall that 2006 was the year Mr. Brooks' Conservative Movement was very busy imploding publicly and spectacularly on every front. Dick Cheney and his cronies were getting thousands of Americans killed to service their Big Lie, while hauling off dump trucks full of war profits as Iraq spiraled into exactly the kind of hellscape Liberals warned it would be. Osama bin Laden still walked around free and unmolested while Commander Cuckoobananas publicly declared that he didn't much care if he was caught or not. Although we did not know it, on Wall Street, unregulated charlatans were busy looting the world economy down to its skin and bones. Abu Gharib, Hurricane Katrina and Terri Schiavo had shown the world that Liberals had been, if anything, far too charitable in their assessment of the criminal incompetence and depravity of the Bush Administration. Disgraced former House Speaker Tom DeLay had resigned from office but still walked the Earth, guzzling blood and pissing bile.

And more. So very much more. All of which left America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual looking like an unreconstructed fool.

And so while all of this was going on -- while his Conservative Movement was failing in every possible way -- America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual was celebrating his 45th birthday down in the lab feverishly cobbling together a pair of Centrist wings on which he could glide safely away from the fiery wreck he had worked so many years to create.

On August 10, 2006 -- the day before his 45th birthday -- this was the product of Mr. Brooks' "distilled...ancient wisdom" and "inner criteria":
The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself. It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency.

The flamers in the established parties tell themselves that their enemies are so vicious they have to be vicious too. They rationalize their behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country. They imagine that once they have achieved victory through pulverizing rhetoric they will return to the moderate and nuanced sensibilities they think they still possess.

But the experience of DeLay and the net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party amply demonstrates that means determine ends. Hyper-partisans may have started with subtle beliefs, but their beliefs led them to partisanship and their partisanship led to malice and malice made them extremist, and pretty soon they were no longer the same people.

The McCain-Lieberman Party counters with constant reminders that country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshaled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom. 
And, as no one be me remembers, a few months earlier, America's Most Famous Conservative Champion of Reticence and Modesty un-fucking-loaded on Markos Moulitsas in a full-bore, Beltway tantrum over Commander Markos daring to point a finger at the reeking midden pile that hacks like David Brooks had made of our politics:
Respect Must Be Paid
Published: June 25, 2006

They say that the great leaders are gone and politics has become the realm of the small-minded. But in the land of the Lilliputians, the Keyboard Kingpin must be accorded full respect.

The Keyboard Kingpin, a k a Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way. And in this way the Kingpin has made himself a mighty force in his own mind, and every knee shall bow.
Which pairs marvelously with the full-bore, Beltway tantrum America's Most Famous Conservative Champion of Reticence and Modesty pitched in November of 2005 when he was a mere stripling lad of 44:
Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m., writing important notes in crayon on the outside of envelopes. It has been four weeks since he began investigating this conspiracy and three weeks since he sealed his windows with aluminum foil to ward off the Illuminati. Odd patterns now leap into his brain. Scooter Libby was born near a book depository but was indicted while at a theater. Karl Rove reads books from book depositories but rarely has time for the theater. What is the ratio of Bush tax cuts to the number of squares on a frozen waffle? It is none other than the Divine Proportion. This proves that Leonardo da Vinci manipulated intelligence on Iraq and that the Holy Grail is a woman!

Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m. He knows now that seven centuries ago at a secret meeting of the Bilderberg Society-Trilateral Commission-American Enterprise Institute, the six High Lords of the Secret Order of the Neocons decided to implant alien life forms into potential Democratic officials that could be activated in case there was a need to manipulate intelligence on Iraq.
But I digress.

In September 2006, Mr. Brooks was still gamely fighting the Battle of Both Sides Were Wrong About Iraq:
If we lived in a serious political culture, we’d be discussing what we’ve learned from Iraq and how to proceed. Instead, all of Washington is involved in a juvenile game of gotcha. Bill Clinton is fighting about what did or didn’t happen 10 years ago. The White House is still exaggerating the positive. Democratic senators purr like happy kittens as retired generals slam Donald Rumsfeld, and then stop up their ears when those same generals call for more troops and a longer war.

Voters now confront a Republican Party that understands the breadth of the threat but has bungled the central campaign, and a Democratic Party that is quick to criticize but lacks an understanding of the jihadists and a strategy for confronting them.
By 2010, at the age of 49, Mr. Brooks had gone all-in on his big plan to save his reputation by simply excising the entire Bush Administration from memory and reducing modern history to a contest between the Present Age of Policy Wonks versus the Good Old Days of Savvy Political Bosses.

In April of 2011 -- the year he turned 50 -- Mr. Brooks was in full swoon over the Genius and Seriousness of Paul Ryan's plan to spare Mr. Brooks a tax increase by laying waste to the poor, the sick, the indigent, the young, the middle class and, basically, anyone who was not David Brooks :
The country lacked that leadership until today. Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Ryan is expected to leap into the vacuum left by the president’s passivity. The Ryan budget will not be enacted this year, but it will immediately reframe the domestic policy debate.

His proposal will set the standard of seriousness for anybody who wants to play in this discussion. It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee. Any candidate hoping to win that nomination will have to be able to talk about government programs with this degree of specificity, so it will improve the G.O.P. primary race.
And who can forget September 2011, when Mr. Brooks memorably had what can only be described as complete wig-snatching hissy because (as one thoroughly Unserious hippie put it):

...he wanted President Obama to stay in Centrist Neverland, playing Very Serious Moderate Pirate games with him and Tinkerbell
The president’s goal in 2012, I suggested, would be to try to paint himself as the moderate bipartisan grownup, and dismiss the Republicans as extreme, intransigent, and hyper-ideological.

Based on the actual details of the deficit plan that the administration just released, though, I would like to retract that analysis. Between the size, scope and design of the tax increases and the skimpiness of the entitlement reforms (nothing on Social Security, minimal tinkering on Medicare), it seems that the president will be running for re-election as Nancy Pelosi instead.
and all the other bloated, corrupt and inexplicably still-employed 
Barack Obama is careening down the wrong path towards re-election.
He should be working as a president, not a candidate.
He should be claiming the vital center, not abandoning it.
He should be holding down taxes rather than raising them.
Lost Boys, forever and ever...

...and then, one day, the President had to finally face the very ugly fact that the GOP -- Our Mr. Brooks' GOP -- is actually completely mad, intractably evil and deeply committed to annihilating what's left of our country and laying their fascist eggs in its still-warm corpse.

Which at long last compelled the President the leave Centrist Neverland, at least for a moment.

Which, in turn, reduced Our Mr. Brooks to weeping hysterics.

Mr. Brooks was a hack and fool at 30, and at 40, and at 50 and, if current trends continue, will remain a hack and fool for the foreseeable future.  And unless the incentive system for pundits radically changes, he will continue to be invited to give voice to his hackery and his foolishness in an amazing variety of influential venues until he chooses to do otherwise.


Jim Matthews said...

Shorter Brooks-I have been in a crisis since who know when. I have not distilled any wisdom and have no inner criteria outside of stroking my benefactors' and my egos.

D. said...

"...when people should listen to outside points of view or heed public opinion, and, by golly, when they should maybe sorta tell others to pound sand. "

If Mr. Brooks is giving the outside point of view, I strongly recommend the last action.

PS I know it is wrong of me, but Mr. Brooks' divorce is taking my Schadenfreude meter up to 11.

Kathleen said...

Ugh! I never actually "read" David Brooks. Those drivel snippets you posted were truly,truly awful. I saw Hamlet last night and I heard the perfect quotation that describes Brooks and the rest of the mainslime media (rethuglicans as well). It included the words "pestilent" and "vapor". I must find the exact quotation because it's the best description I've heard of the current zeitgeist.

Kathleen said...

UPDATE!!!! Here is the quotation from Hamlet which perfectly describes "The Village" and its drooling denizens:

"It appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congreation of vapours".

Isn't that the best snark you've EVER read? Thank you, Willy S. I am not motivated to comb Shakespeare's plays for more snark gems.