Sunday, March 11, 2018

David Brooks: The Triumphant Return of "Team B"

Team B made an assumption that the Soviets had developed systems that were so sophisticated they were undetectable. For example, they could find no evidence that the Soviet submarine fleet had an acoustic defense system. What this meant, Team B said, was that the Soviets had actually invented a new non-acoustic system, which was impossible to detect. And this meant that the whole of the American submarine fleet was at risk from an invisible threat that was there, even though there was no evidence for it.

-- Adam Curtis, The Power of Nightmares

Our Elite Beltway Commentariate and their dogma of Both Siderism have survived intact and nearly unchanged for decades despite being completely wrong about nearly everything.  They stand for nothing tangible or specific.  They propose nothing rational but laughable bromides and bumper stickers.  They perceptively analyze nothing.  And yet in defiance of any concept of meritocracy and market-correction which should have ended them long ago, they roll on and on like the mighty Mississippi.

And exactly why this continues to be true has been a subject of intense interest to me since long before the day I started blogging 13 years ago.

And after closely following their utterly predictable movements for decades now, I can say with perfect confidence that our Elite Beltway Commentariate exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to perpetuate themselves by telling their wealthy patrons the fairy tale they want to hear.  And the fairy tale they want to hear is that they are the reasonable, equipoised and indispensable center during a time of social upheaval in which Both Sides are equally wrong.

Under Clinton, during the rise of Gingrich and Hate Radio, this lie was dangerous and recklessly irresponsible.

Continuing this lie under Dubya was a catastrophe.

Under Obama this lie metastasized and went from a tacitly racist cancer to an openly racist cancer.

And with Trump, the madness of Both Siderism has abetted the rise of a genuinely an extinction-level threat to our democracy.

The sides are not mirrored opposites of each other.

The Conservative side -- the Republican Party side -- is doing its damnedest to kill this country.  It is their mission and it has been their mission for decades.  The Liberal side -- the Democratic Party side -- is, however imperfectly, trying to stop the Republican Party from putting the final hammer our flawed, glorious experiment in self-government.  Someday, God willing, this will not be so, but here and now those are the stakes, and they have very clearly been the stakes for a long time.  Here and now the stark reality is that we are at war with each other: a war in which the Left is largely right on the issues and entirely right about the Right; a war in which the Right has gone violently insane and is smashing and looting the place.

This is the truth of things now.  But it is a truth that the Elite Beltway Commentariate cannot live with. This truth is a dagger -- a direct and immediate psychological and financial threat to their very existence.  As Martin Longman put it in the Washinton Examiner:
How [David] Brooks can look at our culture in the era of Donald Trump and blame liberal college students for the growth of tribalism and force is perhaps explained by something in his upbringing. But I think it’s better explained by the fact that he simply can’t come to terms with what all his work for conservatives has come to. Spending your life in the service of a movement you should abhor is taxing on the soul
Our Elite Beltway Commentariate has helped the Right birth a monster and, although the paternity of that monster is as plain as day right there in its DNA, they have the patronage and the media muscle to deny-deny-deny that they had anything to do with it.

But using their power and influence to lie their way out of taking responsibility for paving the way for the rise of Trump is not sufficient.  To continue to wield power and influence, the need their Both Siderist ecosystem to remain intact.  Which, in turn, means they must "Team B" an imaginary Villain of the Left into existence out of thin air.  An imaginary Villain of the Left which counterposes the Republican Party's actual threat to our democracy in both stature and menace.  An imaginary Villain of the Left onto which they can shift half of the blame for a cataclysm created wholly by the unholy alliance of the Right and their Both Siderist enablers.  Nothing less than manufacturing an imaginary Villain of the Left big enough and scary enough to balance out the actual Villain of the Right will let them continue to anesthetize their consciences, collect their paychecks, and sate their wealthy patrons' appetite for fairy tales about the Extremes on Both Sides against which their Sensible Center must eternally inveigh.

In 2004, The New York Times hire The Weekly Standard's Republican hit-piece writer and managing editor, David Brooks, to do one job: crank out slight variations of the same hollow, preening Both Siderist claptrap week and after week after week.

I ought to know:  I've been on this beat for 13 years now.  Since back in the day when Tom DeLay was the sui generis Republican villain who was certainly not representative of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party, but still should be taken seriously.  And also, Democrats suck too!

David Brooks from the 04.09.05 NYT in which BoBo looks incrementally past his grotty navel and notices he has a couple of stinky little feet at the end of his legs. The article has been trimmed a bit, and helpful translations have been added for You The Customer.
The Republican Party is running into a problem: the conservatism of the American people. Over the past decade, the Republicans have set themselves up as the transformational party... 
[But the American people] have a taste for order and a distrust of those who want too much change on too many fronts too quickly...
Translation: They are scared shitless that the Crazier’n a Shithouse Rat Theocrats that the Evil Liberals have always warned them about might actually exist and have the keys to the car. Oh and all the Mapquest Route Planners they left behind as clues have a place called “Armageddonville” circled in big, red Crayon.
It's become increasingly clear that the Republicans are bumping into some limits...
Translation: limits like...gravity, evolution, arithmetic, international law, economics. Why does reality hate Republicans?
Being conservative, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case. Even many evangelicals, who otherwise embrace the culture of life, grow queasy when politicians in Washington start imposing solutions from afar, based on abstract principles rather than concrete particulars.
Translation: Even in the middle of my faux critique of my own Overlords ...must...regurgitate...” culture of life” meme...every...six...minutes. Hope no one notices what a trained seal I have become.
Then there is Social Security reform. Republicans set forth with a plan to give people some control over their own retirement accounts. Here, too, Republicans have been surprised by the tepid public support. Americans understand that there is a big problem, but right now most oppose personal accounts invested in the markets. According to a Wall Street Journal poll this week, a third of Republicans currently oppose them...
Translation: We were all shocked when the public didn’t think letting Thurston Howell’s idiot son bulldoze Mom’s retirement money onto the craps table was a spiffy notion. We were stunned when our Soviet Style “spontaneous” crowds of carefully screened zombies came across like a Pravda Puppet Show.

And when a something vaguely resembling the seventh-generation photocopy of an actual “question” made it past the filters, and Bush opens his mouth, the public is once again reminded that they narrowly re-elected a man who is quite possibly the stupidest human being to ever hold elected office in the United States. When he stands next to a filing cabinet he makes the furniture look positively clever and raconteurish.

We are equally stunned that when seniors didn’t respond to our idiotic plan to economically bugger them, that calling them Troop Hating Fags did not win them over.
Then there is the Tom DeLay situation. Conversations with House Republicans in the past week leave me with one clear impression: If DeLay falls, it will not be because he took questionable trips or put family members on the payroll. It will be because he is anxiety-producing and may become a political liability...
Translation: DeLay has been a foaming-at-the mouth, rabid Evangelical freak show for about 15 years now. For naked political advantage, he has been sloppily knobbing the militia movement, cross-burners, clinic bombers, queer-bashers and basically anything he can fish out of the absolute dregs of the DNA barrel around who’s fetid cock he could fit his mouth. Now that you’ve noticed him in all his Gorgon Awfulness and we in the Neutered and Rightwing Media can’t keep pimping the story that he’s a “colorful kook." Now we have to pretend to be Shocked! Shocked! at his bestial excesses.
House Republicans like what DeLay has done, and few have any personal animus toward him, but his aggressiveness makes them - and his own constituents - nervous. Only 39 percent of DeLay's Texas constituents said they would stick with him if he were up for re-election today, a Houston Chronicle survey found.
Translation: DeLay has their nuts in his medicine bag and they don’t fucking dare say a word against him. DeLay makes a viper like Gingrich look like a charming Southern Gentleman, that’s how de-ranged he is. Don’t fuck with The Hammer, dude. My cousin said she had a friend who saw him beat a homeless guy to death with a congressional staffer. Then he ate him, whole, like an Anaconda eating a rabbit. He’s Kaiser Fucking Sose, man. Prince of Darkness. On the plus side, two-out-of-every-five ambulatory humans in Sugardland, TX would still support him even now that he has been outted as the Satan’s Wingman. Gotta love Texas: It’s like a whole other kinda Dumb-as-Fuck Purgatory.
This does not mean good news for Democrats. That party is at risk of going into a death spiral. The Democrats lost white working-class voters by 23 percentage points in the last election, and now the party is being led by people who are guaranteed to alienate those voters even more: the highly educated and secular university-town elites who follow Howard Dean and believe Bush hatred and stridency are the outward signs of righteousness.
Translation: America has had a chance to test drive Irresponsible Cowardly Stupid for a few years now and they luvs it! Even though they will climb over corpses to send their kids to college, Americans hate “elites.” Jeez, just saying that word creeps me out. ElitesElitesElites!

Stop it dude: you’re scaring the Fundies. Nothing more frightening than a citizen with a book. And positively terror-ific if they went to college...except Bob Jones...who Rock! Go Fighting Antimiscegenists!
...Nor does it mean that Republicans should abandon their ideas, but it may be time to think about methods.
Translation: Shit, they’re on to us! Quick, change clothes.
Public opinion is not always right, but it is always worth respecting...
Translation: Ain’t no justice like Sweet Mob Justice. Ah BoBo. Go to bed, little man, and don’t be afraid. I’m sure the Shining Path Evangelicals you stooge for won’t kill you ‘til last.
So why unload all of this ancient history on you poor souls today?

Precisely because it is ancient history.

Because through the Great Iraq Clusterfuck and the Great Bush Recession ... through three different presidential administrations ... through the Judith Miller scandal and mass layoffs of journalists (including at the NYT) the one constant at The New York Times has been the singular importance it attaches to paying Mr. David Brooks a small fortune decade after decade to recycle the same toxic, ludicrous Both Siderist claptrap over and over and over again.

The same toxic, Both Siderist claptrap against which I have been contending in my own, small way for the past 13 years.

And how has The New York Times responded to the Republican Party's precipitous, public dive into overt white supremacy, conspiracy-peddling, paranoia-mongering, rage-drunk depravity?  You know, basically, manifesting every single go damn fascist pathology that we on the Left have been warning about for decades?

Well, first The New York Times hired (and subsequently fired) Bill Kristol to write his own slight variations of this same Both Siderist bullshit.

Then The New York Times recruited Ross Douthat to write Catholic-guilt-sex-panic-riddled variations of this same Both Siderist bullshit.

Then The New York Times hired Bret Stephens to write slightly Wall Street Journal-flavored variations of this same Both Siderist bullshit.

And most recently The New York Times hired Bari Weiss to write slight female-inflected variations of this same bullshit.

Because with Republican vandals in control of all three branches of the federal government and whelping jaw-dropping acts of treason and criminal dereliction faster that alley cats whelp kittens and with nary a President Clinton available to demonize or a President Obama around to fault for not "leading" enough, the casual observer would be forgiven for believing that our Elite Beltway Commentariate is finally fucked. Because there are simply no raw materials left for them to work with anymore --  not even enough stubble in the fields of American politics for them to glean to slap together a passable straw man to punch and scream at and heap their sins upon.

But of course, the casual reader would be wrong.  A new Villain of the Lef has been found, because a new Villain of the Left must always be found.

From Slate yesterday:
Sweet Jesus, Will the NYT’s Conservatives Ever Write About Anything but the “Intolerant Left” Ever Again?

David Brooks published a column in the New York Times on Friday complaining about the manner in which “[s]tudents across the country,” having become obsessed with “group identity,” are engaged in “tribalism” and the oppression of dissenting viewpoints on campus.

Here’s selection of other recent work from the corner of the Times op-ed page occupied by Brooks and the other conservative writers who have either been hired for or jumped enthusiastically on board with (relatively) new op-ed editor James Bennet’s mission to challenge the presumed orthodoxy of the Times’ readership:

“We’re All Fascists Now,” Bari Weiss, March 7—a complaint that “leftists,” particularly “on campuses,” are attacking the ideals of “free speech.”

“Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort,” Bret Stephens, Feb. 22—a complaint, delivered originally as a speech at the University of Michigan, about intolerant behavior by the “progressive left.”

“On Venezuela, Where Are Liberals?”, Bret Stephens, Feb. 15*—a complaint that “campus activists” on “the left” are too forgiving of political repression abroad.

“The Rise of the Amphibians,” David Brooks, Feb. 15—a complaint, in part, about society’s tendency toward conceptions of “tribal identity” that cultivate “mistrust, division and emotional frozenness.”

“The Retreat to Tribalism,” David Brooks, Jan. 1—a complaint that “identity politics” fomented on campus are “tear[ing] a diverse nation apart.”

“What’s Wrong With Radicalism,” David Brooks, Dec. 11—a complaint, in part, about “woke activists” on “the left” who are fixated on “identity.”

“Mugabe and Other Leftist Heroes,” Bret Stephens, Nov. 17—a complaint that academics and others on “the left” are too forgiving of political repression abroad.

“The Siege Mentality Problem,” David Brooks, Nov. 13—a complaint about the politics of “collective victimhood” espoused by, among others, “campus social justice warriors.”

“America’s Best University President,” Bret Stephens, Oct. 20—a complaint that “the left” is assaulting “free speech” and creating an atmosphere of “Orwellian double-think” on too many campuses.

“When Progressives Embrace Hate,” Bari Weiss, Aug. 1—a complaint that the organizers of the January 2017 Women’s March are too forgiving of, among other things, political repression abroad...
Yes, as a few of us have been pointing out for several years now --
-- our Elite Beltway Commentariate has made a unified decision to lock shields and advance phalanx-style on the idea that a handful of college students are the new Big Bad on the Left who are just as dangerous to democracy as the collective might of entire Republican Party.  Debt-laden young men and women who are fed up with living in the rubble of the serial disasters the Republican Party have unleashed on this country.  Who are fed up with jeering Conservative scumbags and sadists and racists -- whose whole schtick is little more than mocking and slandering the weak and the powerless -- being treated as serious thinkers whose opinion should be meekly respected.

To keep their place of privilege and power, our Elite Beltway Commentariate would turn our kids into the monsters of a toxic fairy tale their wealthy patrons pay them to repeat over and over and over again. 

Anyone who is shocked by this has not been paying attention.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through

Light posting.  On the road this weekend.  At the moment I'm back in Chicago, in the Loop, preparing to take my stepdaughters on a whirlwind tour.  Just learned they closed Uncle Fun :-(  Damn them!  Damn them all to Hell!

Behold, a Tip Jar!


Retired Patriot said...


This one is a masterpiece. Yet another tour de force describing who-what-when-where-why & how our fine nation became Idiocarcy. Thanks for being the small voice in whirlwind.


Habitat Vic said...

Growing up in the late 60s in rural Wisconsin, my only source of weird novelty items were from the back of magazines and/or dedicated catalogs. Johnson Smith comes to mind. Ten years later, I'm in college and my brother takes me to Uncle Fun, which he said was Johnson Smith in a real-life store. Great place. When I lived in Lakeview in the 80s I'd take friends there before a weekend party/costume. Tacky disguises, whoopie cushions, all sorts of odd cheap stuff.

I have no doubt you will expose your kids to great literature, philosophy, and instill in them critical thinking. However this must be counterbalanced by the occasional fart machine, fake vomit, crazy baloons and so forth. Our future as a nation depends upon this.

As to the meat of your post about Conservatives & the Both-Siderist Defense (trademark DGBG Productions)? SMH. Fucking Eh.

bowtiejack said...

Just excellent. Thank you for making my Sunday morning.

Nick Cipollone said...

Oh no! NO. Why, God, WHY? On top of the Eternal Purgatory that has been Bobo's tenure on t6he NYT op-ed pages, THEY'RE CLOSING UNCLE FUN? Abamdon Hope.

Bruce.desertrat said...

It's old, but the Google has a few suggestions

Also American Science and Surplus is open:

dinthebeast said...

Then there's the whole "They are actually trying to kill us by taking our healthcare away as their stated policy goal" thingie.
I'm neither young nor in college, and I still get strident as fuck about that, only to be informed that "No sane person believes that."
Which I guess means that they have revised their own definition of sanity down to "Slavering reprogrammable right-wing meatbag propaganda addict."
None for me, thank you.
And for the record, my employment included regular visits to both the UC Berleley and Stanford campuses for fifteen years, and I never once witnessed anyone being deprived of their first amendment right to free speech. In fact, I encountered many who were obnoxious as fuck, right out in the open.

-Doug in Oakland

Jay Farquharson said...

Things are not passing, unnoticed.

Green Eagle said...

" I think it’s better explained by the fact that he simply can’t come to terms with what all his work for conservatives has come to. Spending your life in the service of a movement you should abhor is taxing on the soul"

I think this analysis is wrong, and still, after all that has happened, fails to recognize the true depth of the problem we are facing.

Brooks and all the people like him know perfectly well what they are doing. They don't admit the truth because they are paid not to. They do not abhor Conservatism; they just don't care who pays their salaries.

There are two kinds of people in this world; people who care about other and those who care about nobody but themselves. The Conservatives have spent decades seeing to it that no one in any position of power or influence comes from the former category. They have a system that selects for sociopaths, and it has worked very well for them.

Meremark said...

"lock shields." Spring the trap. Don't march forward.

'Excuse me, another time perhaps?'


Speaking of consciencedness, and we haven't been, I discovered its location.

Located in your skull, above your reflexes and below your vocabulary, shaped like a long string-balloon gathered at its middle with two ends swept arching over, a ram's head with two sweptback horns --
named right and wrong, the fundamental conscienced ideas tearing you between every dilemma's horns --
but literally pathologically each idea is conducted in a specific space like the inside of a 'V'-form balloon like analog TV's infamous rabbit-ears antennae pictured bent back half-circle. Or picture a peanut shell with two macaronii glued on one end like curled horns.

Illustrated in that shape imagine it as a hollowed-shell unit with a stream of thought running through it. The peanut body aqueducts your 'lemma,' if you will. Each macaroni circulates its spin branch, right or wrong, of the question in issue, or 'dilemma' of each and every conscienced behavior, such as it is, you'll find.

I think it's the long-sought Seat of the Soul. It is where brain mentates fairness and balance and justice. Our moral motion.

That brain chamber is long-known as the third ventricle, I think. It's a bustle of nerves like if a spider was inside the shell spinning cobweb strands fine as angel hair or thistle down, bathed in brain-fluid.

If we may merely stipulate the foregone just as something like a casual aside along my way, perhaps non-sequitor to making my point, we may conclude it means brainscan images today might show the condition of your moral sense.

CSF, cerebro-spinal fluid flowing through the third ventricle is as blood flowing through the heart. The measurement of moral sense is not much by shell-shape or -volume, and not much by number or density of the silken neurons grown inside it, although each of these numbers counts somewhat.

In the course of time, changing mores, and changes in behavior, the primary measurements of your moral condition are pressure, current and temperature (changes) of the CSF inside the shell, however that's shaped.
In exact analogy to measures of whole body health by changes of pressure and flows and temperature in the blood stream -- how healthy you are shows in your blood pressure sooner and determined more than by the shape of your heart, (another 'hollowed shell' itself). Also, blood temperature shows health that physical size of heart doesn't.

Pressure, temperature and flow of blood measures health.
Pressure, temperature and flow of CSF, (particularly in the amygdala), measures morality in the moment.
Right or wrong depends on sinus pressure and temperment? Okay

Oh, the humours of it!


My point goes to a definition of 'democratic platform.' Which is bait I switch to 'progressive' in order read it here:

What's the Matter with America?, by Amos Pinchot, 1910.

Also reading his Wikipedia entry.


Procopius said...

"The Conservative side -- the Republican Party side -- is doing its damnedest to kill this country. It is their mission and it has been their mission for decades. The Liberal side -- the Democratic Party side -- is, however imperfectly, trying to stop the Republican Party from putting the final hammer our flawed, glorious experiment in self-government"

OK, I believe the first sentence is true, but I think it's not what they believe they are doing. I think what they're doing is reciting the mantra, "Who dares, wins." I think they've convinced themselves that the risk of nuclear Armageddon is really small, but fear of it will bring enough voters to their side that the risk is worth is.

I believe the second sentence is false. I believe the Democratic Party side (i.e., the Clintonist/Anti-left leadership) is fighting for their institutional lives and using extinction-level dangerous tactics to do it.

The good news is that there are now many millions of people who are not dedicated to maintaining Blue Dogs in power and despite the DCCC's best/worst efforts are having successes at lower levels which will eventually lead to successes at higher levels

jim said...

There are always special moments in history when the status quo develops the equivalent of a burnt-out clutch. Ours is extra-special, because technological momentum has turned that moment into an ongoing norm - with the wear & tear to prove it.

The Byzantine conniptions of its apologists are both educational (not for content but for context) & dangerous ... which sadly guarantees their cultural franchise as clickbait. Any alternative in the event of that cultural host rejecting them would likely involve stacking crates or flipping meat patties if not total ostracism & unanimous loathing, so rest assured their pearls are not being clutched entirely in vain.