Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Forgiveness for Dummies by David Brooks

Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. 
--  Luke 6:42
Sometimes I wish blogging weren't dead.

Because some days, terrible forces conspire to catapult into my little world a confection of hubris and sanctimonious duplicity so rich and bacon-wrapped that I just can't resist taking at least a little bite.

I always feel durdee afterwards, but I just can't seem to stop myself.

So imagine by horrified delight when eleven minor demons stood on each other's shoulders just so they could reach my transom, through which they flung into my lap an entire column by David Brooks on the importance of 
A)  Important People admitting when they have made a mistake, and 
B)  Smelly Peasants not mocking their betters when such mistakes are made.
There goes the diet.

On one level, even after carefully reading and rigorously rebutting David Brooks' columns for a decade, every now and then I am still caught off guard by David Brooks' ability to astonish me with the sheer breadth of his hypocrisy.   

On another, more pounded-down-by-the-world level, I am not surprised at all that today Mr. Brooks red-lined the Beltway Indignation Generator in an effort to balloon what's happening to Brian "Born on a mountain in Tennessee/ Greenest state in the land of the free/ Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree/ He kilt him a b'ar when he was only three" Williams into a general-quarters alarm over Teh Barbaric and Snarky Internet that wants to hold people accountable for stuff (some additional text added for context):
I’ve only spoken with Williams a few times, and can’t really speak about the man (though I often appear on NBC News’s [moldering corpse of a real news program] “Meet the Press”), but I do think we’d all be better off if we reacted to these sorts of scandals in a different way. The civic fabric would be stronger if, instead of trying to sever relationships with those who have done wrong, we tried to repair them, if we tried forgiveness instead of exiling.
This, according to Mr. Brooks, is what happens every time anyone of note does or says anything even minimally offensive:
"The offender issues a paltry half-apology, which only inflames the public more. The pounding cry for resignation builds until capitulation comes."
And in mounting that Very High Horse and riding to the aid of another beleaguered multimillionaire, in addition to his column's many other offenses against honor and honesty, Mr. Brooks fails at the most minimal standards of his own profession by refusing to cite even one other example besides Brian Williams to justify his asinine thesis that his gated media community is being overrun by a flood internet popinjays and ruffians.

Instead, in order to rationalize this latest Terrible Internet Incivility Crisis, Mr. Brooks makes an abrupt,  gargantuan and hilarious leap from this being about a member of his own caste -- that tiny, tiny subset of wealthy and famous people in America whose job description involves being in front of a camera or behind a microphone and telling the public something which he or she purports to be the truth -- to this somehow being about every famous person on planet Earth.
By now, the script is familiar: Some famous person does something wrong...


I mean, even though I am a wretched internet barbarian and even though Mr. Brooks exists so far above me in the media pecking order that, statistically, I do not exist, I will not be following Mr. Brooks down his ridiculous rabbit hole today.

Instead, I am going to wonder aloud about the more obvious and salinet question which Mr. Brooks -- passed out as he is on the Terrible Internet Incivility fainting couch -- is in no fit shape to answer:   even within that tiny, tiny subset of wealthy and famous people of Mr. Brooks' caste, who the fuck could he possibly be talking about about about?

Because I have never, ever see this "coliseum culture" of which he speaks --
The barbaric part is the way we respond to scandal these days. When somebody violates a public trust, we try to purge and ostracize him. A sort of coliseum culture takes over, leaving no place for mercy. By now, the script is familiar: Some famous person does something wrong. The Internet, the most impersonal of mediums, erupts with contempt and mockery. The offender issues a paltry half-apology, which only inflames the public more. The pounding cry for resignation builds until capitulation comes. Public passion is spent and the spotlight moves on.
-- when unrepentant monsters like Newt Gingrich are welcomed back onto teevee over and over again without penalty.

And I certainly haven't noticed notorious liar Joe Scarborough's career suffering any slings and arrows of professionally inconvenient accountability.  

And in case you weren't paying attention, Mr. Brooks, NBC did not give your close friend David Gregory his walking papers because he spent his tenure at "Meet the Press" groveling for Conservative's approval by letting them get away with murder on his show.  He was fired for letting his ratings drop below the midday crop report, and was replaced by someone constructed from the a cheaper brand of the same materials who explicitly believes he should not press Republicans when they lie to his face.

Sure, I could name half a dozen Liberal news-and-comment types on radio and teevee who have been pushed or flogged out of a job for saying or doing being something untoward, but when was the last time an otherwise decent, straight-shooting Conservative has been shown the door for saying something dumb on the air?

Hell when was the last time anyone has seen an otherwise decent, straight-shooting Conservative behind a microphone or in front of a camera anywhere? Because from Day One, Roger Ailes' entire business plan has been based of the premeditated, serial mutilation of the truth, all day, every day, and I don't hear anyone in Mr. Brooks' caste demanding "Confession and Penitence" from anyone on Fox News.

And this is because -- and this is important -- David Brooks is not writing this column for you or for me or for anyone we know.

He is writing it for the several thousand members of the Beltway Club who still go to bed at night a little worried that someday, somehow, someone might show up and demand that they be publicly brought to book for the shit they said and did back when it looked like the Age of Dubya would last forever and so nothing they said, no matter how loathsome or disgraceful or false would ever come back to haunt them.

But the Age of Dubya did come crashing down.  And ever since then our Beltway Media -- led by Bush Regime cheerleaders and dead-enders like David Brooks -- has adopted a strategy of locking arms in a unified Confederacy of Denial.  Knowing, as Ben Franklin said in an entirely different context, that if they did not all hang together, they would most assuredly all hang separately.

As I and a handful of despised outsiders have documented over and over again for years, the Beltway establishment has been remarkably successful in killing any attempt to hold anyone accountable for anything under layer upon layer of smothering revisionism, lies and "Both Sides Are To Blame".   

Here, Mr. Brooks demonstrates that the massive slabs of hammered bullshit under which he and others like him have entombed the truth are now so strong that he can stomp around on them in the perfect certainty it will no easily hold his weight -- that he can dance on the grave of journalistic integrity and not a single professional Beltway journalist will raise the slightest objection.  

I have already written more regularly and comprehensively about David Brooks that anyone one the internet, so I have little to add to the enormous body of work I have already produced.


But I can't resist juxtaposing just a few lines out from this latest, stale sermonette from America's most pecksniffian Pharisee...

...next to the history of the actual David Brooks.
Forgiveness is often spoken of in sentimental terms — as gushy absolution for everything, regardless of right or wrong. But many writers — ranging from Hannah Arendt and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to modern figures like Jeffrie Murphy and L. Gregory Jones — have tried to think hard about rigorous forgiveness, which balances accountability with compassion.
David Brooks has never once been held to account for any of the horrid shit he has written to build his career and make himself wealthy -- from sleazy, pro-Bush hippie-punching to lazy Both Siderist Whig fan fiction passed off as truth.
Pre-emptive mercy. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that forgiveness isn’t an act; it’s an attitude. We are all sinners. We expect sin, empathize with sin and are slow to think ourselves superior...
Approximately every third David Brooks column is a stern lecture to "disordered families", denizens of the "children's table" and various internet barbarians to shut the fuck up and heed their imaginary betters, all of whom happen to agree with David Brooks.
Judgment. A wrong is an occasion to re-evaluate. What is the character of the person in question? Should a period of stupidity eclipse a record of decency?

It’s also an occasion to investigate each unique circumstance, the nature of each sin that was committed and the implied remedy to that sin. Some sins, like anger and lust, are like wild beasts. They have to be fought through habits of restraint. Some sins like bigotry are like stains.... Some, like adultery, are more like treason than like crime ... Some sins like vanity — Williams’s sin — can only be treated by extreme self-abasement...
At no point has anyone caught sight of David Brooks re-evaluated any of the horrid shit he has written to build his career and make himself wealthy -- from sleazy, pro-Bush hippie-punching to lazy Both Siderist Whig fan fiction passed off as truth.  If he has ever engaged in any acts of self-abasement -- extreme or otherwise --  they must have been done in secret.  Possibly with the assistance of a Leona Helmsley lookalike who charges a thousand dollars for the service.

And most astonishing of all, the man who made his bones pimping the biggest economic and foreign policy debacles in modern history and slandering people like you and me along the way said this. The man who glibly slid into a job for life at the New York Times once all that he had evangelized  came tragedy and ruin and who has been acting ever since as if none of it ever fucking happened said this (emphasis added):
Confession and Penitence. At some point the offender has to get out in front of the process, being more self-critical than anyone else around him. He has to probe down to the root of his error, offer a confession more complete than expected. He has to put public reputation and career on the back burner and come up with a course that will move him toward his own emotional and spiritual recovery...
For those of you who have never seen it, here is a video I shot of Mr. Brooks, live, in 2010.  The man who has been fighting madly for 20 years to positioned himself as America's Reproachiest Voice of Civic Morality was at the Hammerschmidt Chapel in Elmhurst, Illinos, lecturing on Reinhold Niebhur and morality.

At the nd of his remarks, during the Q and A, someone asked him to reconcile his belief if accountability and repentance with all the horrid shit he had written to build his career and make himself wealthy.  To perhaps live up to all the stuff  he had just said by, y'know,  being more self-critical than anyone else around him.

And America's Reproachiest Voice of Civic Morality stood there in the pulpit and lied.

I used to think things like facts and history might budge the needle slightly in the direction of forcing our Beltway media to come clean about what they have put this country through over the last 20 years.

I no longer think that.  


Cirze said...

What a frigging great graphic!

Not to mention the writing.

You rule, baby.

David Brooks doesn't have a chance.

Mike Lumish said...

Thank you, Mr. Driftglass. This analysis is the kind of thing we had in mind back in the dark days of 1996 when the early bloggers started groping towards the ideal of a national multilateral conversation. The traditional pundits could do their thing, backed by the copious resources of the great publishing houses, but other voices might at last be heard and the cream would rise to the top.

The civic fabric would be stronger if, instead of trying to sever relationships with those who have done wrong, we tried to repair them, if we tried forgiveness instead of exiling.

As to this, the civic fabric might be even stronger if people were not so regularly exiled to the outer darkness for the crime of being right in an inconvenient manner.

T_P_K said...

“I say to you: Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, and
pray for those who despitefully use you.
And whatsoever you believe that I would do
to men, do you also to them.

“You are commissioned to save men,
not to judge them.
At the end of your earth life
you will all expect mercy;
therefore do I require of you
during your mortal life
that you show mercy to all
of your brethren in the flesh.
Make not the mistake of trying to
pluck a mote out of your brother’s eye
when there is a beam in your own eye.
Having first cast the beam out of your own eye,
you can the better see to cast the
mote out of your brother’s eye.

“Discern the truth clearly;
live the righteous life fearlessly.
You have heard it said: ‘If the blind
lead the blind, they both shall fall into the pit.’
If you would guide others into the kingdom,
you must yourselves walk in the clear light
of living truth. In all the business of the
kingdom I exhort you to show just judgment
and keen wisdom. Present not that which is
holy to dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine,
lest they trample your gems under foot
and turn to rend you."

steeve said...

"He is writing it for the several thousand members of the Beltway Club who still go to bed at night a little worried"

As (i think) Mark Twain said, a classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

The club doesn't actually read Brooks's crap, or watch Chuck Todd or any of that other nonsense. They just hope others do.

The entire "centrist" media is a giant classic novel for the rich. If its viewership/readership dropped to zero, it would still be on the air/published.

blackdaug said...

Imagine what it must be like, to sit high atop bullshit (monied) mountain (sigh), three monkeying (tm) your way through the world, creating and maintaining a bubble so thick, no vestige of reality ever penetrates.
The worst part is, I think the Williams nothing burger, was the last straw loaded on the back of beloved Jon Stewart.
Unlike Bobo and Sully, Stewart has an actual conscious, and you could see the weight of carrying all that reality on his shoulders get more and more oppressive since Colbert moved on.
He started to look like those before and after pictures of Presidents.
I think Williams and Stewart may have even been friends to some extant, and seeing his excoriation over trivia, while others atop the big money pile of bullshit mountain continued to thrive - was just too much.
Of course, in Bobo's mind, it was trivial because everybody knows it should be dealt with using fake contrition and some time in the penalty box; that is the right's wash cycle no matter how big the fuck up.
In reality it was trivia because of the gross over estimation of Brian Headroom's relevance to anything resembling credibility in the infotainment empire.
Phil Donahue, Ashly Banfield, Alec Baldwin, Eliot Spitzer may beg to differ with Bobo's lament.

bowtiejack said...

You and your damn facts!

I believe Goebbels's favorite author settled this whole question a long time ago:

“But being dependent, every day of the year and for year after year, upon certain politicians for news, the newspaper reporters are obliged to work in harmony with their news sources.”
― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda

Harmony, Driftie, harmony! Not stirring up trouble with awkward facts. Geez.

Unknown said...

I noted in the last comment thread that I thought this might be the David Brooks opus that finally kills our dear friend driftglass. I'm glad I misunderestimated his resilience. And glad for this rebuttal. I'd just say again that David f'n Brooks is just about the last person who has any moral standing to pontificate about the civic fabric.

You see all the rips and vomit stains and cat piss on the civic fabric? You built it, Bobo!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for 'pecksniffian'.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

In the "A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice Per Day" Department:

A few members of the rich and upper-middle classes are thrown to us envious sans-culottes once in a while. These are the ones who have somehow angered the other grandees. These hapless souls include Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley, Kenneth Lay, and Bernie Madoff. Some would include Bill and Hill, and even Tricky Dick in that group.

I'm not saying any of those folks are nice people, but many equally despicable characters do get away with it (assuming no afterlife).

dinthebeast said...

I can see how the idea of forgiveness for one's journalistic sins would appeal to DFB.

-Doug in Oakland

Anonymous said...

I went to youtube and watched the video. It was incredibly painful. What a worm, squirming on that stage. The whining piety. He will never admit he was wrong, because maybe someday Iraq will get a pony. And if they don't, well, he meant well, so it's not his fault they can't be civilized like us?

Opposition to the war? What are you talking about? Everyone who matters knew there was no choice but to send civilizing forces. And you can't say it wasn't worth it, just because the pony hasn't yet appeared. If you squint just right,you can almost see its psuedo-shadow.