My 12th Anniversary Fundraiser (Day Two) brings us the two subjects Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times loves to obsess over far and away more than any others: guilt and Both Siderism.
Because collectively they encompass the contents of his mingy little soul.
So you know he's having a helluva day when he decides to take these two moldiest ingredients off the shelf, shove them in a blender, purree them into mud and them wallow in it for 800 words ("The Strange Persistence of Guilt".)
And since this is a David Brooks column, once again the collective "We" are the problem.
We have words and emotional instincts about what feels right and wrong, but no settled criteria to help us think, argue and decide.Sure we do.
Just look past your own navel, Mr. Brooks, and you'll see that over here on the actual Left and not the one you invented out of whole cloth to make your toxic Both Siderist claptrap balance out, the principles that scare the shit out Conservatives and Both Siderist -- facts, reason, history, science -- are still well regarded and used as our common currency every day.
The problem, as Mr. David Brooks fucking well knows-but-will-never-say is that his Movement and his political party and his propaganda engines have all gone straight to the devil, on purpose. They're all nuts. They have Brexited from the Enlightenment and they no longer honor the coins of that realm.
But of course Mr. Brooks' is so deeply in hock to that Movement and that political party and that media that he cannot even hint that any of this is true. So he must lie continually (hence the obsessive Both Siderism) in the full knowledge that he is lying (hence the guilt.)
Secular philosophies that grew out of the Enlightenment have fallen apart.No they haven't. For the last 30 years they have been taking a shit-ton of incoming fire from the ghouls and con men who run Mr. Brooks' Republican party, but the fundamentals of the Enlightenment aren't going anywhere.
And here comes the Both Siderism...
We haven’t entered the age of milquetoast bourgeois relativism. Instead, society has become a free-form demolition derby of moral confrontation: the cold-eyed fanaticism of students at Middlebury College and other campuses nationwide; the rage of the alt-right; holy wars over transgender bathrooms; the furious intensity at every town-hall meeting on every subject.Got that?
Students protesting "Bell Curve" Murray at one campus = "campuses nationwide" = the American fascists who now occupy the White House. And "holy wars over transgender bathrooms" = millions of Americans who are terrified and furious that the Randites and fascists who now run the government of the United States are trying to strip them of their health care.
This is the kind of filthy false equivalence which Mr. Brooks has traded in ever since he ducked out of the "George Bush is an economic and military genius" scam back during his Weekly Standard days. He gets paid for this, kids, Paid a lot of money by three different American media corporations to dismiss your righteous fury over the rise of the American fascist party as nothing more than the same kind of ruckus raised by America's most depraved Christopaths,
Which is why Mr, Brooks never lets his handlers book him into any venue where anyone might actually ask him any tough questions.
We’re living in an age of great moral pressure, even if we lack the words to articulate it.We don't lack the words, Mr. Brooks. We have plenty of world. Millions of words. I myself have 12 year's worth of words piled up om this little blog. Sure a lot of them are "fuck", but there are ten dollar college words in there as well. Picture too, at no additional charge.
Now, our problem is that we represent an existential threat to both the Right and Mr. Brooks' Fake Center, Which means that no one is ever going to gift us a New York Times/Meet the Press/NPR-sized platform from which to enunciate our words to the world.
But like Super Chicken, we knew the blog was dangerous when we took it.
And yet we have no clear framework or set of rituals to guide us in our quest for goodness. Worse, people have a sense of guilt and sin, but no longer a sense that they live in a loving universe marked by divine mercy, grace and forgiveness. There is sin but no formula for redemption.So where the hell does David Brooks get off speaking for "we" and "people"? Because if Mr, Brooks' long career has demonstrated one fact beyond dispute it's that he hasn't the first fucking clue what anyone outside of his tiny, cloistered world thinks about anything. No, this reeks of a middle-aged man projecting his own, immeasurable guilt onto the rest of the world. Guilt over moralizing for years about God and Marriage and Family even as he was dumping his wife to take up with his young assistant. Guilt over spending his entire career paving the way for the monster that now occupies the White House. Guilt which Mr. David Brooks is too morally polluted to admit, so "we" get one more sermon on "our" collective naughty behavior.
So bend over, because here comes more Both Siderism!
We see events through the lens of moral Marxism, as a class or ethnic struggle between the evil oppressor and the supposedly innocent oppressed. The moral narrative of colonialism is applied to every situation. The concept of inherited sin is back in common currency, only these days we call it “privilege.”And even more Both Siderism!
As the political scientist Thomas U. Berger put it, “We live in an age of apology and recrimination.” The conflicts on campus take on a Salem witch trial intensity. In the Middle East, the Israelis and the Palestinians compete for the victimhood narrative. Even America’s heartland populists see themselves as the victims of the oppressive coastal elites. Steve Bannon is the Frantz Fanon of the whites.And then Mr. Brooks sticks the landing with a final, steaming pile of his barely-sublimated guilt:
I notice some schools and prisons have restorative justice programs to welcome offenders back into the community. They tend to be more substantive than the cheap grace of instant forgiveness. I wonder if the wider society needs procedures like that, so the private guilt everybody feels isn’t transmuted into a public state of perpetual moral war.This from a man who has made his fortune trafficking in the cheap grace of Whig fan fiction and Both Siderist fairy tales. Because, as one cold-eyed Liberal fanatic put it a couple of years ago...
...it is not merely a boo-boo or two or a misstep or two from which Mr. Brooks is trying to separate himself: he is seeking to annul thirty years of well-documented facts.
He is filing for divorce from his own past, and factual reality does not grant such requests.And so, like Henry VIII, Mr. Brooks has had to invent a brand new church which would grant his divorce. A church from which history and causality have been excommunicated in favor of cheerful fairy tales. (from Mr. Brooks today, "Goodness and Power")...Maybe once upon a time there was an environment in which ruthless Machiavellians had room to work their dark arts, but we don’t live in Renaissance Italy. We live in a world of universal media attention. Once there is a hint of scandal of any kind, the political world goes into maximum frenzy and everything stops.We live in a world in which power is dispersed. You can’t intimidate people by chopping your enemies to bits in the town square. Even the presidency isn’t a powerful enough office to allow a leader to rule by fear. You have to build coalitions by appealing to people’s self-interest and by luring them voluntarily to your side.Modern politics, like private morality, is about building trust and enduring personal relationships. That means being fair, empathetic, honest and trustworthy. If you stink at establishing trust, you stink at politics.Three words: Bengahaaazi!Bengahaaazi!Bengahaaazi!Also death panels and birth certificates.Also Vince Foster and "It's been pretty well confirmed..."
Also a thousand other very real atrocities which Mr. Brooks' Conservatism has committed against the common good but which have been exiled from Mr. Brooks' new church for unrepentant cowards and con men: a church which purloins the language of morality and humility from honorable faiths in order to cobble together an infinitely flexible dogma of ouchless redemption without confession or atonement for Mr. Brooks and the rest of our loathsome media elect.The Church of Lyin'tology.
Behold, a Tip Jar!