Friday, February 03, 2017

David Brooks, The Swimmer

There is an analogy I have used before, so bear with me.  From me in November of 2009, with emphasis added:
Like Neddy Merrill (the protagonist of John Cheever's surrealistic story "The Swimmer") paddling boozily though the chain of public and private pools that run the length of his affluent suburban neighborhood, oblivious to the passage of years, tragedies and the growing hostility of his surroundings as he moves inexorably towards the ruins of his abandoned home...the bizarrely ubiquitous David Fucking Brooks continues to back-stroke his way across the American media pitching the preposterous theory that "Palin Wing" of the GOP is just a loud, angry, goofy bunch of cranks way out on fringe of the his Party.


Other than Bobo's vague assertions of the existence of a secret cult of "serious people" who meet "deep in the bowels of the G.O.P." there is no evidence whatsoever to support his bizarre hypothesis. 

On the other hand, there is enough documentary evidence covering the last the 40 years of ever-more-aggressively crazy, bigoted, Orwellian tactics employed by the Republican Party in rich and sickening detail to fill a big-city library. Tactics which were applied with all the meticulous precision and care of a black market agricultural biologist trying to up the throw-weight of the THC of his lab-grown weed.

It took decades, but the Party of God has finally produced it's perfect wingnut warrior caste; dog-loyal, allergic to reason and programmed to hate whoever their leaders tag as the enemy this week...
Well, The Swimmer has finally done it.  Finally made it all the way home.

Here is David Brooks 20 years ago, from March of 1997.Back when he was one of Bill Kristol's Neocon henchmen at The Weekly Standard:
A Manifesto for a Lost Creed
MAR 03, 1997 | By DAVID BROOKS

And here is Mr, David Brooks in The New York Times today, February 3, 2017, lying in a heap in front of his abandoned home, 20 years older and none the wiser.
A Return to National Greatness
David Brooks FEB. 3, 2017
Yep.  Same column.


Twenty years ago:
The original Library of Congress building celebrates its centennial this year. When I mention the Jefferson Building, as it is now called, to people who have done research there, they smile at the memory of it. There's something about the place that seems to inspire affection.

In fact, the building just overpowers you with its exuberance and grandeur. The interior is unabashedly ornate and infinitely decorated. You may cross into the main reading room in a sober mood to get some serious work done, but then this great dome opens up above you. It's covered by a thousand floral medallions and a complex weave of terra cotta figures. You're surrounded by warm amber marbles, bronze sculptures, and a collection of frescoes, columns, and pediments without end.
The Library of Congress’s main building is one of the most magnificent buildings in Washington, or in the country. It was built in a pivotal, tumultuous time. During the 23 years in the late 19th century that it took to design and build the structure, industrialization transformed America. More people immigrated to America than in the previous 250 years combined.

The building articulates the central animating idea that held this bursting, turbulent country together. That idea is best encapsulated in the mural under the dome of the main reading room. A series of monumental figures are depicted, each representing a great civilization in human history and what that civilization contributed to the human story.

It starts with a figure representing Egypt (written records) and then continues through Judea (religion), Greece (philosophy), Islam (physics), Italy (the fine arts), Germany (printing), Spain (discovery), England (literature), France (emancipation) and it culminates with America (science).
20 years ago:
For all its classical and Renaissance style, this 1897 building speaks to us in American. It embodies the optimism and brassy aspirations of Americans in the Gilded Age, their faith in the power of beauty to elevate, their confidence in America, their brash assertion that America was emerging as a world-historical force. 
...The congressmen who appropriated the funds for this building wanted to make sure it was the most expensive and most glorious library on the face of the earth (some even toured Europe to check out the competition). Its architects chose the Renaissance style to invite comparison to that golden age -- to suggest that America was making contributions to world culture equal to it or any other epoch. The librarian of Congress at the time, Ainsworth Spofford, gave pride of place to American heroes like Benjamin Franklin and Robert Fulton in the pantheon of historical likenesses that covers the walls. Spofford and his colleagues saw the building as a statement of American greatness -- and as a way to elevate America to greatness.
In that story, America is placed at the vanguard of the great human march of progress. America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts. It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role. America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.

This historical story was America’s true myth. When we are children, and also when we are adults, we learn our deepest truths through myth.

Myths don’t make a point or propose an argument. They inhabit us deeply and explain to us who we are. They capture how our own lives are connected to the universal sacred realities. In myth, the physical stuff in front of us is also a manifestation of something eternal, and our lives are seen in the context of some illimitable horizon.
20 years  ago:
What a melancholy thing to compare today's Washington with the Washington in which there was such enthusiasm for grand American projects...
But now the myth has been battered...
But here's the funny thing. The prescription Mr. David Brooks offered back in 1997 for a Return to National Greatness sure sounds a whole lot like the vision The Bastard President offered to the base of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party.  Because, see, governments are feckless and dumb, so only a Great Man can do the job (Mr. Brooks, 20 years ago):
The national mission can be carried out only by individuals and families -- not by collectives, as in socialism and communism. Instead, individual ambition and willpower are channeled into the cause of national greatness. And by making the nation great, individuals are able to join their narrow concerns to a larger national project.
And in the end it really doesn't matter what the Great Man who will run Mr. Brooks' future government chooses as his Great Project, as long as it's big and bold and screams to the world, America, Fuck Yeah! (Mr. Brooks, 20 years ago):
It almost doesn't matter what great task government sets for itself, as long as it does some tangible thing with energy and effectiveness. The first task of government is to convey a spirit of confidence and vigor that can then spill across the life of the nation. Stagnant government drains national morale. A government that fails to offer any vision merely feeds public cynicism and disenchantment.
Well now that we arrived at exactly the conditions Mr. Brooks called for in 1997 -- the House of Trump (an individual and his family) elected exuberantly by Mr. Brooks' Republican Party to sweep aside the old order and build The Greatest Fucking Wall You've Ever Seen -- what does Mr. Brooks of 2017 think of the state of the nation?
And so along come men like Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon with a countermyth. Their myth is an alien myth, frankly a Russian myth. It holds, as Russian reactionaries hold, that deep in the heartland are the pure folk who embody the pure soul of the country  -- who endure the suffering and make the bread. But the pure peasant soul is threatened. It is threatened by the cosmopolitan elites and by the corruption of foreign influence.

The odd thing is that the Trump-Bannon myth is winning. The policies that emanate from it are surprisingly popular. The refugee ban has a lot of support. Closing off trade is popular. Building the wall is a winning issue...
But it's not odd.  Not odd at all.  

It is no secret that the paranoia and rage and racism and malignant ignorance of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party did not happen by accident.  Any sentient human being with access to the internet can read the public record  for themselves and see that what happened to the Republican Party has been the result of a calculated long-range strategy which Mr, Brooks has very actively supported since back when he wrote this column the first time 20 years ago.  

If fact it would be 100% fair to say that a blithering hack like Mr. David Brooks would not have a typing-words-in-a-row job of any kind (much less a licence-to-print-money career as America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual)  if he had not devoted the last 20 years of his life to propagandizing for the party the just elected The Bastard President...and slanderer those who have spent the last 20 years trying to put the brakes on the GOP's long, public and horrifying slide into fascism. 

But of course that is not the story which Mr. Brooks' employers pay him to spin for his very high-dollar, high-influence clients -- America's most addlepated university presidents, deluded CEOs, cynical political professionals, Beltway media assholes, sclerotic plutocrat shut-ins and so on.  

You know the fairy tale those people want to hear.  You know the Last and Biggest Big Lie the members of the High and Holy Cult of Both Sides Do It people Mr. Brooks to spin for them, day after day, year after year.  So please open your hymnals once again to "Everyone Is Equally To Blame" and sing along with the rest of Mr. Brooks' column:
But now the myth has been battered. It’s been bruised by an educational system that doesn’t teach civilizational history or real American history but instead a shapeless multiculturalism. 
Wow.  Just when you were worried that the Pat Buchanan/Spiro Agnew playbook had gone out of print, the dirty hippie multiculturalism and the "nattering nabobs of negativism" are back, bitches!
It’s been bruised by an intellectual culture that can’t imagine providence. 
Got that, atheist Libtards?  This is on you too!
It’s been bruised by people on the left who are uncomfortable with patriotism and people on the right who are uncomfortable with the federal government that is necessary to lead our project.
And there we have it.  The real razor in the apple.  The Both Siderist money-shot.  The universal, all-occasion alibi that Crazy Uncle Liberty reliably coughs up every single fucking time he gets caught lying his ass. The toxic and despicable fraud that has made Mr. David Brooks a wealthy man.

But wait!  The hoary old wingnut cliche haversack is not quite empty yet...
The myth has been bruised, too, by the humiliations of Iraq and the financial crisis. 
Sure, if he were actually interested in honestly diagnosing what has actually gone disastrously wrong with American politics  Mr. Brooks could have spoken these words: "The myth has been bruised, too, by the twin disasters inflicted on this country by the last Republican administration.  And hey, remember how I spent years cheerleading the events that led to both of those catastrophes and mercilessly smeared anyone who tried to warn the country?" 

But he fears to speak them, for indeed his tongue would burn with fire.

By a cultural elite that ignored the plight of the working class and thus broke faith with the basic solidarity that binds a nation.
Yeah.  God damn cultural elite.  Hey, have I mentioned recently how much time, effort, money and political capital the Obama administration spent on the plight of the working class?  

Or how Mr. Brooks' Republican Party relentlessly obstructed, sabotaged and lied about the Obama administration's efforts for eight years? 

Or how little "reality" matters to a Republican Party that dumped facts and reason in favor of fear and bigotry decades ago?  That get their opinions out of crackpot conspiracy dumpsters which pander relentlessly to their lowest instincts and publishes "news" that is little more than weepy, indignant, self-aggrandizing fan fiction about how awesome they are and how everyone else sucks.

The Trump and Bannon anschluss has exposed the hollowness of our patriotism.  
It has exposed how attenuated our vision of national greatness has become...
No, Mr, Brooks.  Over here on the Left we are a raucous bunch, but our patriotism is just fine, and our hopeful, inclusive vision of America remains intact.  

Unfortunate that hopeful, inclusive vision of America is now now under direct assault by your Republican Party -- a party that spent the last 20 years slouching into barbarism and madness, with men like you giving them intellectual cover fire every inch of the way.

And now that The Bastard President has finally blasted the last, rotting pillars of the High and Holy Cult of Both Siderism to atoms, all that is left for Mr. David Brooks to do is stand in its ruins, plaintive reciting its hollow dogma.


keith gargus said...

If the object of conservatism is to halt progress and social evolution, then Bobo is the prefect writer for such movement. He hasn't had an original idea in 30 years. Nice post DG.

trgahan said...

"The refugee ban has a lot of support. Closing off trade is popular."

and right there is why Mr. Brook's rehashed his claptrap from 20 years ago...because Trump/Bannon thought went one EO too far in week one. Instead Trump/Bannon prematurely executivated in public, burned THE wedge issue for 2018, and, worse of all, damaged the Fortune 500 (Brook's paying audience) in the process.

My guess is once the tax cuts are passed and signed, Trump/Bannon are going to get a sit down about they can play Nazi and shit talk Mexico all they want, but this "American First" protectionist bullshit is to NEVER fuck with market fundamentals again.

Robt said...

I think if I wanted to I could make the case that the NYT would sell papers equally or greater than it do with Brooks in its op pages.

It is difficult for me to assume Brooks brings in readers who purchases the paper to read his opining. To the contrary, It is more plausible that Brooks is simply a space filler. I mean, If not Brooks to provide the essence of conservatism to the NYT conservative (achem) readers. Then who?

Jonah Goldberg and his (keep the stained dress) mother? The return of Bloody Bill?
How about another helping of Sour Krauthammer
If the NYT's decided to have the conservative ideals represented in written opinion.
Who better to provide such a clear dreary, illogical, unfounded , hypocritical. A clear expressed view of the delusioned loyal soul of a conservative. In which all other branches of the thorny tumbleweed dieology can be defined. That those others, who will tell you they are not republican they are conservative or that they are not that kind of conservative.
May look out and find self pride in being part of "something" they say they are not aligned with.
To give the NYT credit for (filling space) or providing the essence of conservatism through the torrid life and times of Brooks and his Cabby Gurus. Portrayed as a flounder lost at sea who finds principle and values and identity of who he is not and never has been. In those ocean depths of dark cold nowheres.

I guess to summarize,
If not Brooks to fill a mandatory conservative today example. perhaps the NYT filled the space on that page with someone who provides the clarity and the life devotion portrayal of what best invokes the life's living by the ideology and how a conservative (in this case Brooks) invokes how the ideal of conservatism applied to human beings only contradicts one another in the virtue of self loathing, enjoyment of others suffering to ease one's everlasting agony that is never resolved by masochism and self flogging.
Sure he is paid well and the money will never buy him his utopia that does not exist.

What the NYT provides for me with Books's employment is the appreciation for the arts.
In this case Music of the arts. Specifically in the lyrics to a song by the Alan parsons Project.
Titled, "I wouldn't want to be like you".

So until I can confirm the NYT is putting conservatism on display to learn of what not to allow one" soul to be inescapably captured and chained in misery. The opinion of Brooks is an instructive illustration of the horrors of committing to live your life in such ideological turmoil. To be thankful you have not fallen prey to it. And of course, Beware of the Moors.
Now I am reaching way into the darkest hole in the universe that I might find just a glimmer of light when it comes to the explanation of the so called mental prowess of the human race in this day and age. As it pertains to the Brooks phenomenon.

bowtiejack said...

You and your damn facts!

Why this is like Kelly Anne Conway's Bowling Green Massacre.
Sure it didn't happen, but it would have been a terrible thing if it had!
Alt reality is just as real as alt facts and deserves the same respect!

Neo Tuxedo said...

tom skrev:

My guess is once the tax cuts are passed and signed, Trump/Bannon are going to get a sit down about they can play Nazi and shit talk Mexico all they want, but this "American First" protectionist bullshit is to NEVER fuck with market fundamentals again.

Probably something like Arthur Jensen's famous explanation of the primal forces of nature to Howard Beale, which our host surprisingly doesn't seem ever to have quoted and I can't find on my Tumblr, so I'll link to it from somewhere else.

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians, no east, no west, no Communists, no Third Worlds. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast and immane[nt], interwoven, interactive, multi-variant, multi-national dominion of dollars; Petrol-dollars, electro-dollars, Yens, Pounds, Rubles and sheckles. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the stucture of the world today. That is the atomic, and sub-atomic, and galactic structure of things today. And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and you will atone. Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

dinthebeast said...


"America culminates history."

Sure it does. In precisely the same way that every living creature believes its kind to be the culmination of evolution.

David Brooks is an idiot.

-Doug in Oakland

C.J. Pitchford said...

Thank you. That's all!