Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Several Species of Small Privileged Onanists Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Couric* -- UPDATE

UPDATE: Welcome Eschaton Readers!

130 years ago, Mark Twain wrote about the only job extant in which one could exercise sole, unquestioned and absolute control:
...a [riverboat] pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth.
130 years later, we no longer have riverboat pilots.  Instead, we have New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks:

I’ve never attended a meeting at the Times. We can write about anything. I’ve been at the Times for over a decade; I’ve never had a performance review. We can go anywhere we want. And we are just left alone.
David Brooks, who has used the unprecedented clout, latitude and wealth the New York Times has handed him to fearlessly suck up to the powerful and wander again and again into an endless string of Imaginary Applebees, there to confirm -- again and again -- every one of his parochial Tall Tales about the fundamental authenticity of the Red States and the snobbish condescension of "Coastal America"
Through his articles, a best-selling book, and now a twice-a-week column in what is arguably journalism's most prized locale, the New York Times op-ed page, Brooks has become a must-read, charming us into seeing events in the news through his worldview.

There's just one problem: Many of his generalizations are false...
Also (and most jarringly) instead of Twain's loving, lyrical reminiscence of his joyful time working his dream job on the mighty Mississippi --
If I have seemed to love my subject, it is no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless pride in it. 
-- we get David Brooks...bitching about how hard it is to be him.

About the horrors of being digitally confronted by his critics (and how the Times permits Mr. Brooks to cope with his critics by completely walling himself off from them):
Nobody likes the comments section, but few of us have interns assistants who can scour them for us.

In an interview with Yahoo! News’ Katie Couric, New York Times columnist and thought leadererererer David Brooks detailed the hate mail and negative comments that confronted him when he started at the Gray Lady, criticism he now largely avoids. 
“I used to read them, but it was just too psychologically damaging,” Brooks said of the comments. “So then I would ask my assistant to read them.”
About the "great job at a magazine" he used to have before going to work for the Times (Mr. Brooks somehow fails to mention the "great job" which preceded his gig at the Times was slandering Liberals for Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard.)** 

About the crushing burden -- the "terrific time-crunch" -- of having to have to come up with 800 words! Twice a week!  Even though the entire apparatus of the NYT is at his command, and he has assistants to review and correct whatever he comes up with:
I tell college students, "Imagine having a paper due in three days.  For the rest of your life."
And about how, unlike his friend George Will, Mr. Brooks does not have any "backup columns" or an index card with his next 13 column ideas on it.  No sirree!  He plunges ahead with each one, fresh and new, and without "a safety net".

(These last complaints are especially rich to those of us who have reverse-engineered the simple, "Both Sides Do It" algorithm that Mr. Brooks uses to extrude a column-shaped object twice a week.  Except, of course, for those weeks when he is away on vacation.  Or on "book leaves".  Or during the weeks when he just Copy/Pastes excerpts from whatever he is reading.  Or, really, whenever else he wants to get away from the keyboard.)

Of course, none of this comes as a surprise to those (very, very few) dorks among us who have tracked Mr. Brooks' ascension from a toxic Neocon propagandist peddling Bill Kristol-brand snake oil in the pages of The Weekly Standard to a truly influential and dangerous Neocon propagandist peddling Both-Siderist-brand snake oil in the pages of The New York Times.

For example. the astute observer will be aware that Mr. Brooks was sketching out an early draft of his 2014 Humble Origins Story
"It was the worst six months of my life," he said. "I had never been hated on a mass scale before."

The conservative columnist received more than 290,000 emails during his first six months at the left-leaning paper. "The core message was, 'Paul Krugman is great; you suck,'" Brooks recalled.
back in 2012 in Playboy.
After my first six months on the job, I cleaned out my e-mail folder, and there were 290,000 messages with the core message “Paul Krugman is great; you suck.” For the first six months on the job, I was bothered by it. I’d never been hated on a mass scale before, but my skin got thicker. I’m still bothered by it, but that’s part of the job.
But the really astute reader will note how Mr. Brooks' has revised his Humble Origins Story to suit his audience.  Back in 2012, apparently lots of people were getting right up in Mr. Brooks' grill in real life. However, being a manly man --

-- he stoically endured it, as he explains to Playboy readers here:
BROOKS: I guess so. There’s a lot of “He’s the liberals’ favorite conservative.” But I was a defender of the Iraq War, and Times readers didn’t like that. There was a lot more hostility the first few years, but today it’s still surprising. A lot of conservatives don’t regard me as a member of the team anymore, but a number of people on the left don’t seem to see a difference between me and Ann Coulter. I get a lot of hate mail. It’s not the majority, but people come up and tell me how much they hate me.

PLAYBOY: Literally?


PLAYBOY: Does it bother you?

BROOKS: No one likes to be hated. Not long ago I was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and a stunningly beautiful woman walked right up to me and said, “I hate you.” You don’t like that, but it’s part of the job.
However, two short years later, in front of the genteel and privileged few at Aspen, Mr. Brooks recounts exactly the same incident to make precisely the opposite point; that while the comments section of the NYT may be filled with (often drunk) haters, [video time code 9:30] "on the street...and you're super visible, people are generally almost always very nice"
But on the street, Brooks rarely hears from haters. "I think in my whole life I've had two people come up and be nasty to me," Brooks said. "Once I was at the Museum of Modern Art and this astoundingly good-looking woman came up to me and said, 'I hate you.'"
Anyhoo, this is the material -- which constitutes about two minutes of a one hour interview -- that has been sliced and served up elsewhere, by everyone from Jonah Goldberg's mommy to Wonkette  to TPM.

What no one has yet covered is, well, all the other stuff.   From which I will spare you because, frankly, it would take too long and bore me to tears.

However,  it is kind of amazing to me that no one has touched on the most revealing overall aspect of this long interview: the fact that, after ten years of virtually unlimited, unaccountable power at the New York Times, Mr. Brooks' most heinous fixations and absurd sophistries are now entirely off the leash and running his show.

For example, it will come as a surprise to no one that Mr. Brooks would go right to his bedrock, Both Sider fairy tale (from my own, quick and dirty transcription):
Let me quibble with one phrase in your question.  "Moderate middle."  I'm a moderate but I'm not in the middle.  I think being a moderate is seeing politics as a competition between partial truths.  Like in this era we have competition between security and freedom. Between achievement and equality.  Between mobility and cohesion.

And both sides have a piece of the truth.  And often you want to be radical on both ends.  And try to balance.  So it's all about balance.
There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- in modern American political reality on which Mr. Brooks can hang a patently absurd statement like this, but he doesn't have to, and that is the real story to be found in this long interview.

Yes, there are jaw-droppers to be found throughout the thing and those are what you have read about everywhere else, but what fascinated me was the walking, talking proof of how successfully the Times has bio-engineered a Conservative who, in his pastel-necktie, timid-voiced, aw-shucks manner, is every bit as delusional as any "Kenyan Usurper"-sign waving, Limbaugh-loving, wretch from the swamps of Sisterfuck, Arkansas.

By isolating him from all criticism and shoveling money at him, the Times has built a Brooks who can no longer cope with reality as you and I experience it because he doesn't have to.  And so, relieved of any need to be answerable to anyone, everything out here in the real world where you and I live has become nothing but a delightful set of abstractions to him: toys for Mr. Brooks to play with by remote control.  Which is why, from the safety of his high-orbit privilege-bubble, he can  dismiss something as lethally real as the flood of guns with which are our fellow citizens are slaughtering each other with a tangle of postmodern gobbledygook -- 
We all want to be given respect.  The gun issue is not about guns.  Its about respect.  ... They [Red State Murricans] don't think their culture is respected.  And people want to take away the emblems of their culture. And the gun is an emblem that has become a cultural symbol and not about what it is, just a material object. 
-- which sounds like dialog leftovers from 24 Hour Party People ("Have you never heard of situationism, or postmodernism? Do you know nothing about the free play of signs and signifiers?")

Because, in Mr. Brooks' American Fairy Tale, the culture war and the gridlocked government and poisonous civic atmosphere it has created is mostly a matter of failure of respect -- 
And so I think a lot of the cultural war is "show me some respect for my values".
-- for which (in a singular break in his obsessive Both Sider Protocol) both sides are not equally to blame for:
Couric:  And do you think that's valid?

Brooks:  Totally.  I do think there is...

Couric: On both sides...

Brooks:  Well...I think it's somewhat asymmetrical frankly.   There's certainly a lot of hostility...if you're in Red America there certainly is some hostility towards Coastal America.  There's some looking down on matters of faith and morality.  But I certainly think there's a lot more looking down from Coastal America -- which I'm from -- to non-coastal America.  I think there's just a lot more snobbery involved.
And then, moments after telling the elites of Aspen how they are primarily responsible for the culture war because of how they look snobbily down on the mores and folkways of the good people of Sisterfuck, Arkansas...Mr. Brooks spends some good portion of the next 20 minutes mocking the good people of Sisterfuck, Arkansas by insulting the way in which they enact those mores and folkways:
Couric:  So how do you feel about the Tea Party?  I know you've written about them, but it does seem, David, that our government is more dysfunctional than ever, we're more polarized than ever.  The notion of compromise is a dirty word more than ever on Capital Hill.  So how do you see us getting to a place where there can be a moderate middle?  Do you think that's possible to return to those days?
Mr. Brooks "quibbles" with the term "moderate" (see above) and then this...
Brooks:  ...Politics is messy and slow... and my problem with the Tea Party is they're anti-political.   I believe in politics: that you pass a piece of legislation and you get half a loaf.  And you make a slow step and you make a compromise.  ... And my problem with the Tea Party is they don't like politics; they want it to be pure and they often punish people who they call RINOs (Brooks points to himself) -- "Republican in Name Only" -- because they're not pure.  
And this: 
Brooks:  I think impurity is, y'know...what leaders do is take impurity and take it upon themselves.  They take the sins of the situation on themselves.  They take the complexity of the situation on themselves. And they try to muddle through.  I think people who are unwilling to muddle through are not being political, they're being self-indulgent
And this...
Brooks:  The same with Jeb Bush.  The Party is not where Jeb Bush is.  The establishment is winning back some, but the Party is much closer in...it's heart of hearts to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.  And if they nominate Cruz or Paul they'll win several important counties in Mississippi.  
And this...
Brooks:  I'm sort of a Northeastern Republican I guess and some of us think Lenin's phrase "The worse, the better".  That it takes a real beating before the Party will move. And there'd be some virtue in that.  I'd hate to see a complete wipe-out.
And this...
Brooks:  But the party has moved and has become more intolerant of even...   You couldn't win running George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" campaign any more.  It's become angrier and more oppositional.  ...  You go to the Republican events and you see it's every shrinking group in America is a Republican now.  If this country had a rising group of 87-year-old white guys in Florida, they'd be doing great.
And this...
Brooks:  I wrote a sentence which I sort of regret because it was over the top -- "Sometimes the rallies that I would go to in the last campaign would remind me of people longing for a White America that is never coming back." 
In a perverse way, the Times has performed a genuine public service.  As one would culture a disease in a petri dish so as to better study its characteristics, the Times has cultured Mr. Brooks' "Moderate" Conservatism in an uncontaminated candy-land of money and indulgence.  This has allowed the radical, split-brain schizophrenia of David Brooks' "Moderate" Conservatism to come to full maturity, so what was once only caught in unguarded glimpses on the page is now full grown, blissfully waltzing one opinion across the floor, dumping it mid-stride, and two-stepping back with an entirely opposite opinion on its arm, completely confident that no one would be so rude as to mention the contradiction.

This is how Mr. Brooks can inveigh against the obstructionism and thinly veiled bigotry of the Right one moment...and then blame their intractable insanity on the Dirty Coastal Hippies who don't respect them enough the next.

This is how Mr. Brooks can grudgingly kinda sorta acknowledge that the GOP here are sabotaging assholes who ground government to a halt on purpose and never had any intention of giving President Obama an inch -- "Republicans...have been what they've been" -- but then shift the blame for it the good old days of 2009 when Obama blew it by not building a "governing majority" by starting off day one, 8:00 AM with something the GOP would have liked.  Like tax reform!   (But Obama didn't because he was [wait for it...wait...for...it] so busy accommodating to the Left.)  (Mr. Brooks then reverses himself again in the next breath, allowing as how that Obama came to office during fiscal catastrophe, which he did have to deal with immediately with a stimulus which was "very polarizing".)

This is how Mr. Brooks can brush ever so lightly against the highly combustible subject of his red-meat war-cheerleading during the Bush Administration --
In the beginning we were doing the Iraq War, and I was pro-war so that was... (shrug)
-- and then sprint away from that and directly into a sermonette about one of his Conservative intellectual heroes -- Edmund Burke -- who championed "epistimological modesty"; the view that the
world was so complicated that we should be extremely cautious about any attempt to change it.

This is also the point in our narrative where I point that the most important perk the Times has given Mr. Brooks' is not wealth or fame or ubiquity:  it's his immunity.  He need never fear accountability in any form.  There will never be a bad performance review or an iota of blowback from the tidal wave of WTF? comments that his terrible columns provoke.  He can walk onto any stage anywhere with perfect confidence that no one is going to lay a finger on him

With it, he is invincible.

Without it, any cub reporter working the cafeteria beat on their school newspaper could vaporize him in minutes.

Which leads us, at last, to Ms. Katie Couric.

If she had wished to act as a reporter, Mr. Couric could have changed the entire trajectory of her interview with Mr. David Brooks into something substantive and important, with four little words.

Four, polite words.

When Mr. Brooks said --
In the beginning we were doing the Iraq War, and I was pro-war so that was... (shrug)
-- all Katie Couric had to say was, "So that was...what?"

Four words -- the simplest question imaginable -- that every Liberal in America would have been deeply grateful to finally have put on the table.  A question which any cub reporter working the cafeteria beat on their school newspaper would know to ask,  but which Ms. Couric -- the woman who deftly pulled Sarah Palin apart on national teevee -- chose to leave hanging, unspoken, in the air.

A question left conspicuously unasked by virtually every interlocutor who has "interviewed" David Brooks for the last ten years, precisely because the subject makes Mr. Brooks very uncomfortable.

Because asking such question means taking the many, many ludicrous, irreconcilable lies that make up the woof and warp of the Beltway media into places it's benefactors and beneficiaries do not want it to go.  And the minute our media decided that asking men like David Brooks the most basic questions about positions they had loudly and aggressively held just a few years ago -- the minute the Beltway collectively agreed that it was in their best interest to simply ignore the vicious, contradictory, idiotic or flatly untrue things their colleagues had said and done -- that the moment that political journalism died, quietly and out of the public's view, at the hands of its practitioners.

And that was the moment David Brooks became one of the most influential and invulnerable public thinkers in America.

*h/t Pink Floyd


Jim from MN said...

David Brooks is a horse's ass. That is all.

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Ummagumma was the sound track to some of the happiest days of my life. We happy few, with no hint that one day some vicious both-siderist would lay waste to our happy kingdom.

steeve said...

"He can walk onto any stage anywhere with perfect confidence that no one is going to lay a finger on him"

But even that is not enough for him.

Everyone who has ever interviewed him has treated him like some holy Greek oracle. As if his answers were somehow impossible to achieve with any merely human brain, even if that brain were given infinite time to produce thoughts.

And this crushing obsequiousness persists right through the oracle's casual admissions that it really doesn't have any thoughts and has to flagellate itself every time it's called upon to belch out a few more words.

And the reason for this is that Brooks needs more than just the assurance that he won't be criticized. He needs to be sure he'll be worshipped.

And soon we'll hear about how difficult it is for him to get through these interviews, because he doesn't have a goddamned thought in his head but must produce more of them, in real time, than any column requires. He'll tell college students "imagine your defense of your doctoral thesis being done live on stage in front of the whole world".

Pinkamena said...

A "column-shaped object"? To me it looks more like a cylinder, tapered at both ends so the orifice doesn't slam shut.

Gene Oberto said...

We once looked at that picture of Pink Floyd's performance gear and said, "Wow, only Pink Floyd needs to travel with THAT much gear..."

Nowadays, your better than average garage band has AT LEAST that much.

Then, Pink Floyd could of been seen in a theater for no more than 10 bucks, yes, with all that gear.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

I think somebody's just upset that he won't be receiving a telegram from the good Mr. Brooks, who apparently still uses telegrams. :)

Anyway, I could've sworn a few months ago he gave advice in an interview or something about how people SHOULD seek out opinions contrary to their own. But Googling for it yielded nothing.

Best I got for you is this:

[For a conservative commentator, David Brooks gets plenty of flak from the right. And he doesn’t much care.

“If it’s from a loon, I don’t mind it,” the New York Times columnist tells me in a video interview. “I get a kick out of it. If it’s from Michelle Malkin attacking, I don’t mind it.” But if it’s “people who are thoughtful,” including some former colleagues at the Weekly Standard, “then it bothers you.”

Even worse, says Brooks: “I don’t mind liberals praising me, but when it’s the really partisan liberals, you get an avalanche of love, it’s like uhhh, I gotta rethink this.”]


Enjoy your day.

---Kevin Holsinger

Fearguth said...

Ummagumma Lives!

Anonymous said...

Thought experiment for David Brooks. We let the Confederacy go. Where you gonna live? With your fellow conservatives or with the dirty hippie liberals?

Redhand said...


Just a thought. It might be useful to go to the root cause of Brooks and Freedman's unmerited influence: Pinch Sulzburger, to see how he publicly justifies keeping these two assclowns in their positions of prominence. Pinch is really the root cause of the rot here.

Yastreblyansky said...

"...we were doing the Iraq war..."

Nobody can do the shake! like I do
Nobody can do the boogaloo! like I do
Nobody can do the Iraq War! like I do
Nobody can do the Phillie! like I do

Anonymous said...

"I tell college students, "Imagine having a paper due in three days. For the rest of your life.""

This is the best. That is so much less than the average workload of a college student, much less someone with a real job.

Anonymous said...

He misses the point that her stunning beauty is proportional to the degree of hatred she cultivates for him.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post! You have left a "David Brooks" stain in the road. Thank you!

marindenver said...

How do we get a Pamela Franklin to show up and put a stop to him?

Anonymous said...

Great piece.

David Brooks is simply a right-wing hack, convenient for the NY Times to have around. He has all the intellectual gravitas of a well-worn athletic sock, and makes Richard Nixon look like a man of integrity (at least Nixon was consistent in his savagery).

I listen to him on NPR and I can't figure out who I'm yelling at really: the cowards who put him on the air, or the man himself.

I do agree with the premise here. By making him immune, the Times has created a kind of monster. A drearily effective and dangerous form of camouflage for the Permanent Ruling Class. It has been ever thus, I guess Brooks is just a particularly egregious example.

dinthebeast said...

Imagine having to drive a fork lift competently and quickly five days a week for the rest of your life. Or considering who we're talking about, even once.
The "PK is great and you suck" bothered him, but not enough to get him to stop sucking.
The fact that people walk up to him and say that they hate him made me far happier than it should have.

-Doug in Oakland

Anonymous said...

More proof—as if we needed any—that Mr. Brooks (pace the fictional Col. Kurtz) is no more than an errand boy for grocery clerks, collecting a bill.

Anonymous said...

I happened upon him on the street in DC about 5 years ago. He's monstrously misshapen below the belt. From the sternum up he looks like a person of normal weight, but below the waist he's very fat and ungainly, resembling something of a human Weeble. He was walking around on a hot spring afternoon with a young dark-skinned boy of maybe 8-10 years old. It looked like they were going to attend a movie. He was dressed in a suit and tie, and the kid wore t-shirt and shorts. It was weird. He's weird.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @11:05,
Brooks is indeed a pestilence, but let’s not prop-up monsters from the past as a comparison. I am pleased to include this comment I made from a previous post when the point was foisted about how past conservative monsters now looked good compared to today’s malodorous conservatives:

I refer you to this Hunter Thompson piece about Nixon. It needs repeating when one wants to wax nostalgic about past conservatives. Nixon was a fucking monster, make no mistake.

Take it away Mr. Thompson:


Best regards.

OBS said...

...what fascinated me was the walking, talking proof of how successfully the Times has bio-engineered a Conservative who, in his pastel-necktie, timid-voiced, aw-shucks manner, is every bit as delusional as any "Kenyan Usurper"-sign waving, Limbaugh-loving, wretch from the swamps of Sisterfuck, Arkansas.

That was majestic.

Dan said...

Reporting in from Sisterfuck, Arkansas all I can say is at least Brooks doesn't live here.
Well, there isn't really a town called Sisterfuck but there's one called Toadsuck so take your pick

Dan said...

The important thing is that Brooks is a mealy mouthed butthole that was for the war before he was against it.
I love how he waxes on about redneck toad fuck America as if he'd ever lower himself enough to hop on a bar seat at Boontoolies and have a cold Pabst with the local shit kickers.

Unsalted Sinner said...

I tell college students, "Imagine having a paper due in three days. For the rest of your life."

He forgot to add: "And imagine that you get to grade it yourself, because your professors don't give a crap what you do."

Anonymous said...

"I tell college students, 'Imagine having a paper due in three days. For the rest of your life.'"

And then I tell them, " Imagine getting paid a six-figure salary, for doing that. Just that, for the rest of your life."

Which of course, takes what few misgivings anyone might have about the first comment, and tosses them right out the window with the second, since it more than compensates for any "strain" or "stress" from which he might suffer from, you know, "working", if you want to call it that.