Saturday, November 25, 2017

David Brooks: Controlling The Future By Butchering The Past

You're going to want to pay particular attention to the definition of this word.  "Ellipsis".  It'll become important a little ways down the road.
əˈlipsis -- noun -- the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.
Got it?



As I have mentioned once or twice, the last and most impregnable stronghold of the cabal of Republican-enabling knaves and toadies who have helped kill American journalism and politics by slow poison is the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism.

During the Age of Trump. no Beltway institution has taken (and deserved) more incoming fire than Both Siderism, and no clique has fought more tenaciously to preserve the ablative shielding their cult provides than America's Both Siderists.  They are grim and fanatical in their faith, because they have to be.  Because they know that, however objectively shitty and ridiculous their creed may be, if it falters even in the slightest, there is no place on this Earth left for them to hide.  If Both Siderism cracks and the truth starts pouring in, the structure of our media and politics would radically shift overnight.  The very language we use to talk about ourselves and our country would undergo a swift and tectonic change, and since, in the end, control over public words are all the Both Siderists really have, their careers and reputations, their perks and privileges, would all be over.

Which is why, as long as they are permitted to occupy the commanding heights of the American media unmolested -- as long as they hang on to the power to amplify their own lies a million times, and to silence their critics -- they are going to go right on abusing that power every day to prop up their cult in way that are both subtle and gross.

Friday, in Thew New York Times, was one of the "gross" days.

First you had to get past The Mustache of Understanding deciding that what the world needs most of all at this exact moment is him weighing in once again on a subject about which he hasn't been anywhere close to right once in living memory:
Then you had to make it through the fire swamps, and past an inexplicable puff piece on a Conservative Rodent of Unusual Size named Ben Shapiro:
Which led you, at last, to this stunningly awful tub of revisionist grue by David Fucking Brooks --
America: The Redeemer Nation
-- in which the administration of Abraham Lincoln is re-imagined as extended exercise in Both Siderism as filtered through a highly redacted version of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

From Mr. Brooks:
Slavery, Lincoln says, was not a Southern institution, it was an American institution, weaving through our common history for 250 years. The scourge of war, which purges this sin, falls on both sides. Lincoln fought any sense of self-righteous superiority the Northerners might harbor.
What Mr. Brooks doesn't bother to mention is that Lincoln had the freedom and flexibility to be generous and speak of reconciliation precisely because he had spent the previous four years destroying the Confederacy.  Killing their armies.  Sinking their ships.  Burning their crops.  Laying waste to their cities.  This is the central fact of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln besides which all others recede into footnotes.

Less than two months after Mr. Lincoln was elected, the secession of the South and the formation of the traitor Confederacy had begun over the issue of slavery.

A month after Mr. Lincoln was sworn into office, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor over the issue of slavery.

And four years later, on the day Mr. Lincoln delivered his stirring Second Inaugural, the bloodiest war in American history was slowly drawing to a close.  The Confederacy had been smashed, what remained of its shattered armies were in a state of endless, slogging retreat.  And one month after Mr. Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural, Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Less than a week later, Mr. Lincoln would be assassinated by Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth.

And yet, in Mr. Brooks' Both Siderist version of America history, the explicit causes of the Civil War and its aftermath hardly exist at all.  The are reduced to "divisions and disappointments" which "fall on both sides" and which seem to exist on some weird, parallel track that runs alongside the Lincoln Administration but barely intersect with it:
The speech is a great reconciling speech. The words recurring through it are “we” and “all.” “All thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it … Both parties deprecated war.”  
Except, no.  Because unlike Mr. Brooks, who it desperate to race right on past the cause and cost of the Civil War on his way to oth Siderist sermonette, Mr. Lincoln knew exactly how he had finally arrived on that particular platform in March of 1865.

Remember the definition of ellipses from just up the way a little?  The "omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous"?

Compare Mr. Brooks amputated interpretation of the Second Inaugural -- 
“All thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it … Both parties deprecated war.”  
-- with Mr. Lincoln's words in their full and original form --
 ...all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to 'saving' the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to 'destroy' it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would 'make' war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would 'accept' war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
--  to see for yourself what Mr. Brooks' considers "superfluous".

That's right.  To serve his political agenda, Mr. Brooks has very deliberately omitted the entire context for one of the greatest speeches in American history:  the fact that there were two sides to the Civil War -- one which was dedicate to destroying the nation in order to preserve the institution of slavery, and another -- led by Abraham Lincoln -- which was determined not to let that happen.

And as to Mr. Brooks' claim that "Slavery, Lincoln says, was not a Southern institution, it was an American institution, weaving through our common history for 250 years."?   Well for fuck's sake, David, just read the very next god damn paragraph of the speech you are god damn quoting:
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
In Mr. Brooks' Both Siderist version of America history, Lincoln is transformed into a disembodied specter who somehow just floats above all of this, hand-in-hand with Mr. David Brooks, as together they survey the sad and petty squabbles of the wretched Extremes on Both Sides, both in 1865 and 2017. 

And why?  What could possibly justify the editors of The New York Times giving Mr. Brooks a free hand to mutilate history and lie about Lincoln so publicly and flagrantly?

Well thank you for indulging me by asking, since I have a strong feeling that you already know the answer...

...because here comes the utterly predictable Both Siderist razor in the apple which you will find in virtually every single fucking column written by Mr. David Brooks for The New York Times in the past 14 years (emphasis added):
In his speech, Lincoln realistically acknowledges the divisions and disappointments that plague the nation. But he does not accept the inevitability of a house divided. He combines Christian redemption with the multiculturalist’s love of diversity. In one brilliant stroke, Lincoln deprives Christian politics of the chauvinism and white identitarianism that we see now on the evangelical right.  He fills the vacuum of moral vision that we see now on the relativist left.
Yes, by the simple act of ignoring every single critical element of the most consequential event in American history (other than the American revolution), Mr. Brooks' strips Mr. Lincoln of his role as the president of the United States and commander-in-chief of the Union army --

-- and creates a more pliant and ideologically useful fictional Lincoln whom he elevates the exalted role of Patron Saint of the High and Holy Church of Both Sides Do It. 

Lincoln as a Centrist angel with a flaming sword who will stand beside Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times as they do righteous battle with the "of the chauvinism and white identitarianism that we see now on the evangelical right" and  "the vacuum of moral vision that we see now on the relativist left."

Finally,  I have one more little rabbit to pull out of my beat up, old hat and for that trick I need you to dwell on the short phrase which Mr. Brooks has taken great care to repeat back-to-back so as to mortal one more brick into the facade of the High and Holy Church of Both Sides Do It.

"the chauvinism and white identitarianism that we see now on the evangelical right" and "the vacuum of moral vision that we see now on the relativist left."

"that we see now".

"that we see now".

Now here's a funny thing.  Because I have been doing this for going on 13 years, I've accumulated a helluva deep archive, and a pretty accurate if eclectic memory of what I have written over the years.

So indulge me for just one more minute as I take us back in time.  Back to my earliest pioneer days of blogging.  Before the Rise of Trump.  Before the election of Barack Obama caused the barely subterranean racism and depravity of the GOP to burst out of the political sewers in which it usually stayed hidden and come roaring into the open.  Back to 2005, when it was starting to become so horribly clear that the Left had been Right about George W. Bush all along that even staunch Republican stooges like Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times were starting to look for lifeboats.

And you'll never guess what shape  Mr. Brooks' lifeboat was beginning to take 12 long years ago?

Stuck in Lincoln's Land
Yes, even before the drywall had been hung at the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism, all the way back to the Year of Our Lord 2005 Mr. David Brooks' of The New York Times was trying to furnish his new digs with the bones of Honest Abe.

Using exactly the same despicable false equivalences back then --
Today, a lot of us are stuck in Lincoln's land. We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists. We reject the smug ignorance of, say, a Robert Kuttner, who recently argued that the culture war is a contest between enlightened reason and dogmatic absolutism. But neither can we share the conviction of the orthodox believers, like the new pope, who find maximum freedom in obedience to eternal truth. We're a little nervous about the perfectionism that often infects evangelical politics... 
-- that he employs today:
Lincoln deprives Christian politics of the chauvinism and white identitarianism that we see now on the evangelical right.  He fills the vacuum of moral vision that we see now on the relativist left.
Because while times change, and circumstances change and the basic character of presidents and their administrations radically change, the financial and psychological imperatives that drive Both Siderists like Mr. Brooks to protect their careers and reputations at any cost remain absolutely constant and fiercely immune to objective reality.

Which is why what I wrote all those years ago, remains sadly and perfectly applicable today:
BoBo asks, given these two equipoised and equally distasteful alternatives, whatever shall I do? And we ask how oh how did BoBo the Hutt get so Orca-fat feeding on such empty Straw Men?

The predictable part is BoBo snaking around in the weeds, reductively and absurdly positing the world into two bad camps and then trying to stake out some heroic middle ground where all the reasonable people live. And hoping someone, somewhere will step into this asinine bear-trap.

Sorry, mon petit overpaid and underpowered slice of NYT bourgoise headcheese, but no. No, no, no, yet again no and yet again your toxic little opinion need to be fumigated lest some poor child accidentally swallow it and end up at Ontological Poison Control having to get their frontal lobes pumped.

And yet again, New York Times, is this month-old slice of room-temperature trichenosis-laced pork the very best you can off the American public when it comes to incisive thinking? Jesus Haploid Christ. What happened to you, man? I remember when it used to be about the music…and real, actual jour-nal-ism.

Yes, BoBo, the world is divided, but between reasonable people – of all religious persuasions and of none at all – and irrational, superstitious, Armageddon-luvin’, Fundamentalists. The political party who’s ass you oil and lave and snuggle is owned and operated by the latter types, so how about a quick test to see which one of us if chock so full of shit that it’s squirting out of our tear-ducts like feculent Play-Doh Fun Factory logs…and which one of us isn’t?

Name me 15 influential leaders of the Democratic Party that by any reasonable definition fall into this absurd silo you have spun out of whole cloth called “militant secularists.” And not obscure academics, but people who command real electoral power. People who move voters to the polls. People who give platform speeches and show up on the short list of Democratic Leaders when Charlie Rose or George Stefanopoulis are booking guests.

15 Democratic Party leaders, in other words, who are enemies of “People of Faith.”

And while you’re making that list, I’ll name 15 leaders of your party who are intolerant, hate-mongering theocrats. Superstition-touting extremists. Your opinion leaders. The ones who get out the vote for your candidates and without which you cocksucking Cocktail Party Republicans would never win anything.

And also while were at it, exactly how many “militant secularists” think-tanks are there cranking out Democratic policy papers and talking points?

What exactly is the “militant secularists” Progressive equivalent of the 700 Club? Of Bob Jones University? Of Hate Radio? Of Jesus-Hate-Radio? Of Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Church? Or hadn’t you noticed that the last two Democratic Presidents could out-quote most any pastor when it came to citing scripture.

Jesus Hammersack Christ, BoBo, even according to a Fox News poll from last year, “Fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 85 percent in heaven and 82 percent in miracles.” So exactly where is this army of secular immoderation hiding?

Yet again, BoBo The Hutt has pulled a fantasy of a menacing, aggressively secular, God-hostile goon-squad entirely out of his ass in order to pretend that there are two sides to the issue of “Intolerance”, so that he can drag the “middle ground” another thousand miles in the direction of the Middle Ages.

Yes, BoBo, there are people like me who want to keep the public square secular for the same reason that the Chicago Park District may give a permit to use the same space to a bunch of cops on Friday, a Gay's for Genome Research Fun Run on Saturday, and the Church of Mary, Queen of the Universe Pancake breakfast Sunday morning. That’s why it’s called the “Public Square.” If you want a space dedicated solely to one religious point of view or one interpretation of scripture…I believe they call those places “Churches”. And Synagogues, and Ashrams, and Temples.

There did used to be a time when the public square was indeed non-secular; when it was owned and operated by one faith, one dogma, one creed. Those days are usually depicted in wood block illustrations along with the Black Death and The Inquisition: A global, religious totalitarian state that no sane person of any faith would want us to return to.

In other words, Jerry Falwell’s idea of Heaven on Earth. And Pat Robertson. And Bob Jones. And Randall Terry. And Tom DeLay. And Don Wildmont. And James Dobson. And Rick Santorum. And Sam Brownback. And Peggy Noonan. And Alan Keyes. And, Jiminey Christmas BoBo, did’ja ever notice that each and every one of these Heroes of Ignorance and Intolerance are all in the same political party?

So how’s your list coming along anyway…?

Lastly, how dare you conflate Martin Luther King with the theological Lepers that lead your political party? Seriously, how fucking dare you?

The direct spiritual forebears of the likes of Jerry Falwell were preaching pro-slavery, pro-Jim Crow while the forebears of MLK were chattel of those people. Being beaten, raped, murdered and sold at will by those people.

The direct spiritual forebears of the likes of Pat Robertson chanted and stoned the followers of MLK as they tried to exercise their rights to eat and live and learn as free citizens.

The Virginia trial judge in Loving v. Virginia who, like his modern-day brethren, used God to shield intense, inbred bigotry, wrote this about interracial marriage: “"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Substitute “gay” for “race” and tell me with a straight face (OK, small pun intended) that any religion that is as fanatically preoccupied with the bedroom habits of consenting adults as Conservative Fundamentism, is not by its very nature an insult to the idea of Civil Rights. Second verse, always the same as the first.

So refresh my memory. When exactly was it that Conservative Evangelicals were slaves?
Or an oppressed minority?
Or lynched by the hundreds?
Or denied the right to vote? Or own property? Or marry whom they chose? Or read and write?
Or were denied access to every other civic institution by law, so that they literally had no other place to rally than in the church?

Are you actually comparing the fake “victimhood” of this NeoConfederate Theological Claptrap that was created out of the violent White Male Privilege backlash against the Civil Rights movement, with Martin Luther King? A multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt empire built on a virulently hateful, defiantly ignorant ideology that has its own media, its own satellites, its own sophisticated technological infrastructure, its own political party, a substantial number of judges and now owns the Federal Fucking Government…with SNCC? With Rosa Parks? With Emmett Till?

Unless you have completely overdosed on the kind of Moral Relativism that your ilk is supposed to abhor, saying that a Segregationist thug in the pulpit preaching hate is somehow comparable to an Honorable man in the pulpit preaching peace is beyond contemptible. Conflating those whose perversion of the Gospel all-but-explicitly advocates the bombing of Women’s Health Clinics with the memory of those who had their churches and children bombed for daring to vote is beyond contemptible.

And doing it on the pages of the NYT?

How do you live with yourself?

Behold, a Tip Jar!


dinthebeast said...

" How do you live with yourself?"

Money, mostly.

And DFB? Go read the goddamn Cornerstone speech. Then read it again. And keep on reading over and over until you're as sick of it as I am sick of your insidious, toxic lies. And then read it some more for each of us who want to vomit when we see your name in the fucking New York Times. Only to make you feel bad at your punishment, because you will never grasp the true significance of it, as you are being paid not to.
But this stopped being about justice a long time ago with you, so it may as well be about satisfaction.

-Doug in Oakland

Andrew Johnston said...

Brooks' career has been preserved by the limited memory of the political press. Politics is always a moment-to-moment affair, and people seldom return to essays from years past because - with notable exceptions written by truly visionary people - they seldom stay relevant once the moment has passed. This is how Brooks gets away with recycling content.

I've seen this myself. Here are two remarks from Mr. Brooks highlighting that "vacuum of moral vision" seen among filthy young iconoclasts. First:

Today, community service is sometimes used as a patch to cover over inarticulateness about the inner life...Many people today have deep moral and altruistic yearnings, but, lacking a moral vocabulary, they tend to convert moral questions into resource allocation questions.


It is not too hard to see that at the very least, talk about character has been crowded out amid all the rush, bustle, and achievement. On the whole, college students are articulate on every subject save morality. When you talk to them about character, you notice that they are hesitant to say anything definitive, as if any firm statement about which lifestyle choice is conductive to firm character development might break the code of civility...

One of those statements was written in 2015 and represents, per the author, a new insight culled from recent studies into the character of the young and information gleaned from studying Great Men. The other, by the same author, was penned no later than 2004. Funny how a decade of experience and a slate of philosophical revelations haven't really changed his mind, or even his phraseology.

Anonymous said...

Reza? Good to see him, again.

Kathleen O'Neill said...

Had you waited one more day or so you could have added Times'Nazi Love Poem. People ask why they keep doing stuff like this. At which point I pick up the Alt Whiter Than White Courtesy Phone and page Mr. Occam to report to Customer Service and bring his razor.