Tuesday, October 05, 2010

All The Lies That Are His Life

Last Friday, while you were all presumably getting high and copping feels at what I can only imagine must have been a pre-OneNation Rally Bacchanal on the Mall (because why would there not be), I was out in one of Chicago's many exciting suburbs doing a little reporting.

At Elmhurst College's storied Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, New York Times columnist David Brooks gave a keynote address on the works of the late American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the meaning his teachings in modern life.

About 80% of what Mr. Brooks had to say was perfectly fine: considered, careful and all-in-all an even-handed overview of Niebuhr's ideas. (Although, I must admit that before the event began, being as how it has been awhile since I've been in a chapel during regular barroom hours, the surroundings did eerily remind me of the last five minutes of "Lost" [spoiler alert]

and not for the first time in my life did I fire off a brief and fervent prayer that I wasn't fictional...and dead...and in the hands of desperate writers.)

Of course, saying that I found 80% of what Bobo said on Friday agreeable or inoffensive is a tiny bit like saying that 80% of the 4/14/1865 Ford Theater production of "Our American Cousin" was terrific: it was a fine night out, right up to the part where the lunatic lurking in the shadows leaped from cover to mess it all up.

It was a fine night out, except for the bits where David Brooks utterly betrayed Niebuhr's most basic teachings by manifestly lying about his own horribly inconvenient past statements and beliefs (I never said what I said) and repeatedly drawing manifestly false equivalences between Left and Right positions and policies (asserting, for example, that while the invasion of Iraq may have been problematic, it was a largely a noble and well-intentioned effort that was poorly executed. Just like the Stimulus Package! Which, Bobo asserted, had also proven to be a failure because it was based on a similarly false model of human nature.)

Of course, if I had publicly shit myself as badly and repeatedly as David Brooks has over the years, I'd be kinda desperate not to have it publicly recalled and recounted either, which is why Beltway pundits and journalists are such fetishists about their Villager manners and rituals, and why they generally stick with their own species and rarely wander off into the weeds: out here in the Real World, people are liable to ask all kinds of rude, impertinent questions.

So why should anyone care?

Because standing at the pulpit of a church, invoking the name of Reinhold Niebuhr, America's leading Conservative public intellectual calmly lied about some things that are really important.

Because over the last 10 years, Cruel Reality has not merely demonstrated the fatuous dishonesty of the stereotypes which David Brooks has used to beat up Those Crazy America-hating Leftists, but it has let him live long enough to see every single one of his dire observations and hysterical predictions about the insularity and irrationality of the Imaginary Hippie Left that lives under his bed instead take root in his own back yard and metastasize into the monstrous freak-show of the Actual Palin/Beck/Limbaugh/Angle/O'Donnell/Rand/Armey/Koch Family/FoxPAC Right.

Because, far-from being career Kryptonite, as Glenn Greenwald wrote a year ago, being wrong about everything actually gets Neocons like Brooks promoted:
All of this would be a fascinating study for historians if the people responsible were figures of the past. But they're not. They're the opposite. The same people shaping our debates now are the same ones who did all of that, and they haven't changed at all.

They're doing the same things now that they did then.

When you go read what they said back then, that's what makes it so remarkable and noteworthy. David Brooks got promoted within our establishment commentariat to The New York Times after (one might say: because of) the ignorant bile and amoral idiocy he continuously spewed while at The Weekly Standard. According to National Journal's recently convened "panel of Congressional and Political Insiders," Brooks is now the commentator who "who most help[s] to shape their own opinion or worldview" -- second only to Tom "Suck On This" Friedman. Charles Krauthammer came in third.

Ponder that for a minute.

Journalism, kids.
Read it.
Learn it.
Use it in a sentence.


Mermaid said...


Anonymous said...

That sounded like..uh..vandanhovel.....you know..the editor of the Nation.

Anonymous said...

"After driving around a few countries in the middle east (not Iraq) and seeing a great number of poor people. I came to the conclusion that the solution to the wide spread poverty in the region, was to bomb one of those countries (Iraq) in to the stone age. The mistake I made was in believing the people I supported vehemently in that solution, were not as competent in implementing it as I would have liked. Does that answer your question...?" -DFB

Caoimhin Laochdha said...


D F B's 28th of April 2003 ridiculing rant of the (predictably) prescient left turns out to be some of the most pathologically insane projection I have ever heard.

If a billion Chinese are, in fact, looking at DFB's opining on the NYT's op-ed-of-record as the face of U.S. policy/opinion/thinking etc., they are obviously falling for the greatest disinformation campaign in the history of the world.

Thanks DG, once again, you've run that little worm's (littler still) jock up the flag pole.

Kathy said...

DFB: Very few novels make clear and provocative arguments about American life anymore,...

Can you imagine over age 17 saying/writing such a thing? And that is the FIRST LINE of his review of a (depressing sounding) book he approves of: "Freedom". Ish.

James Hooten said...

I still have many friends who think Brooks is A Reasonable Man; the Intellectual's Conservative, etc. Then there's me. I think he's epistemically and intellectually vicious, which does not reflect well on his standing as a "public intellectual" or on his moral character as a human being. I'm not saying he lies, cheats and steals in his personal life. I'm just saying that he's a mendacious, tedious, and ultimately inane caricature of a public intellectual. Spot on, driftglass.

jim said...

I don't think he pretends his calumnies against the Left never happened. No, I think his statement is more reflective of "we create our own reality" - he says "I don't believe I ever attacked anyone who was against the war" & thus it never actually happened!

David Brooks: instantaneously changing the past ... with THE POWER OF HIS MIND.

"All those op-eds were actually reverse-engineered by liberal fascist black-ops specialists from the Granola-SS, who also used the liberal media to implant false memories of all those times I slagged the DFHs who treasonously opposed our noble crusade! We'd have saved Iraq-Tinkerbell, if only the left had just clapped harder!"

Sounds perfectly Moderate & Reasonable to me.

redoubt said...

My God. Who wrote his answer? Sarah Palin?

but Brooks says the Left is ambitious
and Brooks is an honorable man. . .

WV: berapp--Brooks' column; a beer-and-arrogance fueled belch

Anonymous said...

D**n you driftglass! You Clockwork Oranged me. Now, whenever I hear that stunning Dies Irae from Mozart's Requiem mass my brain will superimpose Bobo's simpering, whining rationalizations and evasions.