Tuesday, January 09, 2018

David Brooks: Because Every Political Catastrophe Needs a Sanctimonious Equivocator -- UPDATE

On Sunday, Mr. David Brooks used approximately one-third of his time on Meet the Press to wag his finger at Michael Wolff's reportage on the state of freakout among the denizens of  President Stupid's Fire and Fuhrerbunker,  Not that it was "wrong" per se, because "wrong" is a concept which Mr. Brooks' perception filter simply erases whenever the subject of the depravity of his Republican Party is in play.  But rather, Mr. Wolff's work was simply not up to snuff.

Not up to the rigorous standards of Mr. Brooks' New York Times.
DAVID BROOKS:  ... [Wolff] doesn't normally meet the standards that most of us would meet at The New York Times or NBC or The Washington Post. There are just too many errors. So I think it's a valuable book, but one to be read with skepticism. I am as anti-Trump as it's possible to be. And I think there are a lot of people I've spoken to who know Trump and who work with Trump who do exactly, who think exactly the way he says everybody thinks. But not everybody in this White House thinks that way. Some think he's deranged and a child. Some think—some like him. Some think he's a problem they can work around. Some think he's strange, but in sort of a good way. So there's a lot more nuance here in the way the White House thinks about him than I think is reflected in this.
Why mention this?

Because you have just read, in powdered form, most of David Brooks column in The New York Times today.  Which isn't really surprising since Mr. Brooks has made a career out of making seven-course meals out of a single shitty idea.  And also because there are at least four distinct acts of journalistic malpractice to be found in this column -- "The Decline of Anti-Trumpism" -- that really should not disappear down the memory hole unremarked upon.

First, sourcing.

Mr. Brooks spanks Michael Wolff for skipping right past anything resembling journalism in order to gossip about "rumors that are too good to check."
We anti-Trumpers have our lowbrowism, too, mostly on late-night TV. But anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book.

Wolff doesn’t pretend to adhere to normal journalistic standards. He happily admits that he’s just tossing out rumors that are too good to check.
This is the sum-total of Mr. Brooks' argument -- that in the service of spinning a tasty, Beltway-pleasing fairy tale (oh the fucking irony) Mr. Wolff did not do the hard, boring job of Journalism 101.

For decades now Mr. Brooks has leaned hard on his alleged access to deep and  unimpeachable insider information to float one ludicrously wrong assertion after another, so let us now look at every single one of the credible, well-placed sources that Mr. Brooks of the high-standards-havin' New York Times cites today to undergird his own counternarrative (with emphasis added):
First, people who go into the White House...

They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected...

They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive...

Second, people who work in the Trump administration...

Some think he is a...

But some think he is merely...

Some think he is strange...

Some genuinely admire Trump...

Many filter out...

My impression is that the Trump administration is...

I’ve noticed a lot of young people...
And that is literally it.  Not a single source, by name or title or, well, anything.  Just "people" who just so happen to believe exactly what Mr. Brooks needs them to believe in order to support his own fairy tale.

Very much like the "people" who had definitely reformed the GOP and turned it into a well-managed compassionate political dynamo...as Mr. Brooks has boldly asserted every 18 months or so for the last 20 years.

Or the "people" who were definitely going to nominate Marco Rubio.

Or the "people" who were certainly never going to elect Donald J. Trump.

What I'm saying is, Mr. Brooks lies.  A lot.  And always has.  And his employers at the high-standards-havin' New York Times are either completely unaware of this or are completely cool with it. And always have been.

And then, on the strength of no credible sources or evidence whatsoever, Mr. Brooks settles into his most comfortable New York Times column-writing zone:  The Land Of Ideologically Convenient Speculation!
Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals... 
It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.

I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country...
So that is the first thing.

The second thing is that the Democratic Party has now completely disappeared.  In Mr. Brooks' telling, we on the Left no longer exist, and the Center -- that glorious, glorious Center -- has been relocated to somewhere between the Trumpers (many of whom, Mr. Brooks tells us, are just terrific people) and the Never Trumpers, who live terribly insulated lives (again, oh the fucking irony) --
The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him. And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they’ve learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.
and are kinda dumb:
I mention these inconvenient observations because the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. 
In other words, Mr. Brooks is incapable of performing his function as a spinner of Beltway fairy tales without a fence to straddle and a High Horse on which to stand and scold his lessers.  And if no fence or horse is readily available here in the real world of President Stupid and the depraved Republican scum that now service him like pilot fish, then by God and all Her BFFs, Mr. David Brooks will fucking well invent them.


Which leads us to the third thing: in Mr. Brooks' fairy tale. Republican Party has now mysteriously vanished too.  No kidding.  In fact, the word "Republican" does not even appear in his column. The political world is now divided between Trumpers, Never Trumpers, and high-minded, lonely David Fucking Brooks, who exists high atop the pinnacle of America's newspaper of record, alone and sad as all Morally Superior Superbeings must be because they are surrounded by lesser mortals who refuse to live up to their lofty standards.

Finally, if this all seems eerily familiar, it should, because the entire thing is nothing more than a lazy recycling of Mr. Brooks hack-work back in his Weekly Standard days.  Back when he would crank out column after column asserting-with-no-evidence-whatsoever that George W. Bush was actually a perfectly serviceable if flawed president (later upgraded to "decent", which was later upgraded to "great president and military genius", which was later downgraded to "decent but led astray by nefarious underlings" which was later downgraded further to "George who?") and the only real problem was that the opposition to Dubya's confident, plainspoken wisdom were nutty hysterics who should not be taken seriously.

Like this:
The New Stupid Party
The Gephardt Democrats' slow, Social Security-induced suicide.

LONG AGO, the Republican party was nicknamed the Stupid Party, and at times Republicans have done their best to live up to the label. But after the past week, it is perhaps time to acknowledge that when it comes to brainless, self-destructive behavior, the Democratic party has achieved a level of excellence that will be unsurpassed in our lifetime...
And this:
The Pelosi Democrats
Are they going to become the stupid party? 
ARE THE DEMOCRATS about to go insane? Are they about to decide that the reason they lost the 2002 election is that they didn't say what they really believe? Are they about to go into Paul Krugman-land, lambasting tax cuts, savaging Bush as a tool of the corporate bosses? Are they about to go off on a jag that will ensure them permanent minority status in every state from North Carolina to Arizona?
And this.
Bush, as Advertised 
FEB 5, 2001
What on earth has gotten into the liberals and the media? Perhaps affected by some sort of post-Palm Beach stress disorder, reporters and activists on the left have depicted George W. Bush as the leader of some sort of arch-conservative jihad. They've portrayed his tax plan as dangerously radical, some of his nominees as Confederacy-loving loons, and his voucher plan as a menace to the future of public education. To put it bluntly, this is all deranged. You get the impression that the left has actually started believing its own direct-mail fund-raising letters....
And this:
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals
JAN 15, 2001 
We seem to be entering a period of competent conservatism and reactionary liberalism. George W. Bush has put together a cabinet long on management experience and practical skills. But liberal commentators and activists, their imaginations aflame, seem to be caught in a time warp, back in the days when Norman Lear still had hair...
And this 
Optimism Rediscovered
From the April 4, 2003 London Times:
Suddenly, things don't look so grim.
10:25 AM, APR 6, 2003
Second, one hears of a growing distaste for the peace marchers, again from people who don't necessarily support the President. Their objections are not so much substantive as tonal. These peace marchers seem driven by bile and self-righteousness, and are fundamentally out of step with a country that wants, now that the war is on, to back the troops.

In short, the mood feels a bit as it it did after September 11. Americans are pulling together. There is a yearning to perform some act of public service. There is greater revulsion at those who are trying to divide the country. There is no tolerance for alienated poses.
And, well, you get the point.  

For more than 20 years Mr. David Brooks has gotten rich extruding this same, tired, laughably-false bullshit in column after column after column.  And in all that time, no one has ever gone on the record to explain why The New York Times and NPR and PBS and NBC all keep filling this clown's pockets with gold, year after year after year.

I bet it's a helluva story, and I bet it would unlock a lot of mysteries behind why our political media is so deeply fucked up and why, at the very highest levels, it is so deeply committed to staying that way.

Yastreblyansky does lovely work here.


According to Joey Joe Joe Junior Joe Scarborough -- another Republican who has been wrong about everything since forever and gets paid enormous sums of money for no explicable reason -- the dreck Mr. Brooks driveled out proves that "David Brooks is a great columnist".  See, according to Mr. Scarborough, Mr. Brooks is great because Joe Scarborough and his panel talked about him for five minutes, and because, in Mr. Scarborough's opinion, "Conservatives and Republicans will be talking about for a long time to come".

Mr. Scarbought then went on to assert that the election of 2016 was the result of the "bill" for Bill Clinton finally coming due because something something Dimmocrats something something Hillary, and warning that the Republican Party that there would be a price to pay for throwing in with Donald Trump.

Which may happen, but probably not.  

First, because Trump is the Party and the Party is Trump. The GOP is nothing but paranoid, rage-drunk racist morons all the way down and from sea to shining sea, exactly as 30 years of hard work have engineered it to be.  And until they start dying off in large numbers, thus it shall remain.

Second, because the Great Republican Bust-Out is almost over -- now all they have to do is leave behind a rump party of Gohmert-level meatheads to block everything and cover their getaway.  Let's face it, the single banner under which the entire Republican Party marches is a seething contempt for government, which is why they suck at governing.  At the moment they are using their majorities to looting everything they can lay their hands on and smash anything they can't carry, but after the damage is done and the country is broken, they will be perfectly happy to go back to being who and what they truly are: a bitter, whining, obstructionist minority party of lying, sedition assholes.  

Third, because if the mainstream media has excelled at one thing over the past 30 years it is making absolutely sure that the Republican Party never, ever pays any real price for being a bitter, whining, obstructionist party of lying, sedition assholes.  

Behold, a Tip Jar!


Cirze said...

Thanks for reminding me why I haven't bothered reading Brooks in over a decade. The gag reflex just got too intense and as no learning ever took place, the desire to read him or the Times or the Post just disappeared. New sources of real information appeared regularly on the internet and life improves when you don't feel lied to by those who take your money.

Oh yes, and you save money. Imagine if no one read Brooks or Kristol or Coulter or any of the other liars any more? You could then read good books and build up your ability to repel bad choices with intelligent counter arguments based on solid evidence and even some knowledge of science and math!

It's an impossible dream for an illiterate country, but we can dream; and many in the world will wish us well.

I'm reading (just for fun right now) a book on Stalin (not my first). The change that happened in Russia from Lenin to Stalin is deeply instructive for the western world of today. We need some well-educated citizens to hold the line and provide alternatives for the hard-pressed workers who've been sold out by their "leaders."

There is still a little time left to do something positive. Hopefully, it will happen before people are convinced by these "leaders" we can survive a nuclear attack victorious.

eVille Mike said...

"Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals..."

Yeah, y'know - it'd be a great day if the weather didn't suck.

Neo Tuxedo said...

I bet it's a helluva story, and I bet it would unlock a lot of mysteries behind why our political media is so deeply fucked up and why, at the very highest levels, it is so deeply committed to staying that way.

I'm sure it would. But, to paraphrase what a much wiser man (or at least a wiser guy) than myself once said, it's too bad that the media that once would have relentlessly sought the source of the problem is now utterly fucking consumed by the problem.

Davis Statton said...

What was his take on the journalistic standards of Clinton Cash?

iamironman said...


bowtiejack said...

". . . why our political media is so deeply fucked up . . ?"

David Brooks is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

trgahan said...

"Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet....we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals..."

Those few sentences proving that every media faux-Never Trumper from DFB on down would be loyal Republican attack dogs like they where from 2000-2007 if Trump simply stopped publically embarrassing them each day.

It isn't about a single policy for David.

It's all about being able to knife a fellow citizen in a way they squirm the least while keeping a smile on your face. Cause if one lists the accomplishments of that DFB endorsed Invisible White House, all we have is the brutality, backwardness, and ignorance that is the Republican Party Platform for decades.

Robt said...

Where does the Brooks get all that hay to stuff his straw men?

Would think with today's technology Brooks could create Straw men out of something more advantageous.

How does the NYT know if people read his Hodge Podges?

Really, Straw men are not real. They don't read. let alone having the ability to speak to Brooks and respond in an interview.

Well, imagination can be vast and mystical.

dinthebeast said...

"I am as anti-Trump as it's possible to be."

No, David, you're not. If you were you wouldn't constantly lie in the service of his Republican party and its attempts to shield him from the consequences of his actions.
The goddamn republicans are in full attack mode against the goddamn FBI right now, David, and you fucking support them.
I could go on and on thusly about all of the immediate damage being wreaked by your goddamn Republican party, which is the party of Donald Trump, and in the service of Donald Trump, and point out that by supporting the scumbags who are currently wrecking the government (and the justice department in particular) you are complicit in the shielding, that is to say supporting, of Donald the fuck Trump, but what would be the point?
It's just one more lie on the pile of lies you have excreted into the public discourse.
I could fix it for you, if you like:
"I can say that I am as anti-Trump as I believe I need to to retain my phony baloney job's ratings and hit numbers..."

-Doug in Oakland

Neo Tuxedo said...

And until they start dying off faster than the Noise Machine can replace them, thus it shall remain.

Fixed that for you, chief.

Robt said...

As a democratic California Senator represents me more than both my GOP Senators,
By releasing the Fusion GPS testimony.
Now I can decide when and who is lying on the Congress floor about the Steele dossier.
Don't you just respect the GOP when they use big Government , bigly when they have majority.

I am a republican from the government we hat and I am here to help my big donors at your expense.
A Reagan-omoly

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

"Invisible White House"...also known as General John Kelly...also known as Ivanka Trump...also known as "Trump is pivoting"...also known as "Trump is finally acting Presidential"...

...or as your man Mr. Gilliard apparently called it, "Army Group Steiner"...


Be seeing you.

Ozsportsdude said...

That section pointing out Brooks using no named sources to criticise the sourcing and journalistic methods of the book he is criticising is just brilliant, what I don't understand is why nobody else has pointed this out

Unsalted Sinner said...

The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity.

Fog in the Channel; Continent Isolated.

jim said...

"People who go into the White House" are there by invitation, & as such are generally in lock-step with Trump's Visigoth 2.0 agenda & know that a little PR rehab goes a long way with the unwashed masses.

Hard to see how "insularity" is an issue when the corporate media has spent the last year extruding a constant stream of articles about the supporters of Combover Caligula whilst granting buku bandwidth to his apparatchiks to "explain" the nuances of Teh Glorious People's MAGA Doctrine.

The real danger isn't lowbrowism - it's outrage fatigue. Intellectual & emotional exhaustion are a lot more perilous than vulgar oversimplification - one leads to apathy, one doesn't. Some people might claim that Bobo's fixation on the more harmless issue - & total silence on the other - is a tell as to just how much of an "anti-Trumper" he really is.

Tanbark said...

Well, we've got about 10 months (which is less than two "Friedmans; to use NYT Brooks' asshole buddy's: We're-going-to-start-to-begin-to-commence-to-win-in-Iraq! time units…) for the republicans to try to figure out how to turd-polish two years worth of Donald Trump, enough to hold on to congress.

They're gonna be as busy as the proverbial cat-covering-shit-on-a-tin-roof.

Ginning up another war could be their last, best, chance, to hang onto power, but I have this notion that our military might quietly tell the super-patriots to go fuck themselves. I sure hope so.

Dr.BDH said...

IF the NYT had a competent editor and IF that editor could be forced to read your well documented examples of Brooksian self-contradiction, Brooks would be writing for Amazing Fantasy magazine.