Thursday, May 07, 2015

David Brooks: The Great Project Continues

From "Martini Judaism" and "Sojourner"
Why David Brooks is my rabbi
Meaning and Purpose in Catholic Education

Yesterday, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column lamenting the lack of a rich culture and conversation centered around essential human questions...
From Robert Redford:
To the Editor:

Regarding David Brooks’s May 5 column, “What Is Your Purpose?,” featuring the issue of morality in all walks of life:

Considering how the issue appears so infrequently in political and social dialogue, how refreshing.


Santa Fe, N.M
Over the years, as I have laid out the case ad nauseum that David Brooks is engaged in a vast conspiracy to radically redact the entire history of Modern Conservatism, my language has been sharp and pungent from time to time, but I wasn't being hyperbolic or metaphorical in my meaning. This is quite clearly what he is attempting to do.

When I said that part of this Great Project involved sheathing it in the language of faith in order to create a critic-proof bunker where Mr. Brooks could hide his crimes and frauds behind a solid wall of double-talk about humility and faith, I wasn't kidding.  And when I pointed out many, many times that he is getting away with it in broad daylight, I wasn't kidding about that either.

The David Brooks-related Twitter over the last several days has been surreal -- two intertwining, diametrically opposed realities coexisting but not touching.  Like watching a long preview for Bizzaro "Tomorrowland" in which, at the touch of an amulet, you can flip back and forth between two completely unrelated dimensions that exist side-by-side but never interact in any way.

In one reality -- the real one -- Mr. Brooks is taking a severe beat-down from all the usual suspects for one of his most popular frauds: warping statistics in order to lecture the Poors on their bad morals.  In that reality, people remain incredulous that such a serial-dissembler continues to enjoy such uncritical praise and prestige.

In the other reality -- the one which Mr, Brooks has been carefully constructing for over a decade now -- Bobo is America's Moral Leader:  a humble man preaching reticence and humility to a weary world.

You see, according to Rabbi Brooks, back in Thee Good Olde Days:
Public discussion was awash in philosophies about how to live well. There was a coherent moral ecology you could either go along with or rebel against.
Really?  Which "coherent moral ecology" would that be?  The one that held blacks as racially inferior to white because God said so?  The one that preached that women should not mix in the affairs of men?  The one in which, what was good for Ford was good for America?  The one that built an entire philosophy out of beating the shit out of the weak and the poor?

Ah, but I get ahead of myself.

Anyhoo, once upon this time that never was, everything was well ordered and smoothly run.  And then along came the Twitters and the Instagrams and such
These days we live in a culture that is more diverse, decentralized, interactive and democratized. The old days when gray-haired sages had all the answers about the ultimate issues of life are over. But new ways of having conversations about the core questions haven’t yet come into being.
and it all went straight to Hell!
Public debate is now undermoralized and overpoliticized. We have many shows where people argue about fiscal policy but not so many on how to find a vocation or how to measure the worth of your life. In fact, we now hash out our moral disagreement indirectly, under the pretense that we’re talking about politics, which is why arguments about things like tax policy come to resemble holy wars.
And this right here -- Mr. Brooks' assertion that our "[p]ublic debate is now undermoralized and overpoliticized" -- is a pillar of Mr. Brooks' new cult, standing at the intersection of his Great Project (to erase the vile history of Modern Conservatism and his very active role in it) and the Church of Lyin'tology which he is building atop the mountain of bullshit he has already created.

And it is a measure of how completely Mr. Brooks' new cult has divorced itself from reality that this dogma of his church was published completely without irony and self-awareness on the same day and in the same newspaper as this:
Mike Huckabee Joins Republican Presidential Race

MAY 5, 2015

HOPE, Ark. — Mike Huckabee, who excited evangelical voters in his first presidential race in 2008 and retains much of their good will, announced on Tuesday that he would again seek the Republican nomination, despite a crowded field of rivals for his natural base in the party.

A former Southern Baptist pastor and Arkansas governor, Mr. Huckabee is returning in hopes of once more dominating among social conservatives, but he is acutely aware he needs broader support to avoid the snares of last time, when he ran dry of money and failed to appeal much beyond the South.

He extolled a cultural populism in a book this year, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” in which he praised the values of “Bubbaville” and poked at Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles as bad influences.

He is not backing off his core social conservatism. He has reframed his opposition to same-sex marriage, as the Supreme Court nears a decision that may find a constitutional right to it, by warning that the country is “criminalizing Christianity,” as he told 1,000 evangelicals at an Iowa church recently.
For the last +30 years, Mr. Brooks' Republican Party and Mr. Brooks' Conservative Movement have done almost nothing but commandeer every public platform they can get their grubby paws on so they can  preach their same, tired sermons of rage and bigotry and paranoia to the nation.  We have been drowning in a fucking ocean of their moralizing vomit for decades, and it's been killing us by inches.  But in David Brooks' version of modern American history, none of that ever happened because it would very inconveniently call into question Mr. Brooks' complicity in turning our country's public discourse into the toxic wasteland about which Mr.Brooks now complains so bitterly.

You see, in Mr. Brooks' aggressively whitewashed version of modern Conservative history, Jerry Falwell never existed.

Neither did Pat Robertson or Phyllis Schlafly or Dr. James Dobson.

Frank Schaeffer never wrote "Crazy For God" and George W. Bush never cited "Jesus" as his favorite philosopher.

The Family Research Council never organized nationwide "Justice Sundays" to preach the evils of judges who did not toe the wingnut party line, there was never a "Jesus Camp" and the man about whom the born-again-humble and reticent David Brooks' once wrote --
What's happening to [Joe] Lieberman can only be described as a liberal inquisition. Whether you agree with him or not, he is transparently the most kind-hearted and well-intentioned of men. But over the past few years he has been subjected to a vituperation campaign that only experts in moral manias and mob psychology are really fit to explain. I can't reproduce the typical assaults that have been directed at him over the Internet, because they are so laced with profanity and ugliness, but they are ginned up by ideological masseurs who salve their followers' psychic wounds by arousing their rage at objects of mutual hate.

Liberal interest groups that seek practical goals, like the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the League of Conservation Voters, back Lieberman. But the netroots now seek to purge what's left of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, and to eliminate those who have had contact with the evildoers in the other party, because movements are deemed to prosper to the extent they achieve holiness unmarred.
-- never publicly sucked the dick of apocalyptic End Times lunatics like John Hagee* in exchange for votes.

And at the core of much Conservative thinking there is no gargantuan turd called "Atlas Shrugged" which was conceived and executed by Ayn Rand as her masterpiece of morality --
Rand’s advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism is a consequence of her deeper philosophical views. An individual who eagerly faces reality, who embraces his own rational mind as an absolute, and who makes his own life his highest moral purpose will demand his freedom. He will demand the freedom to think and speak, to earn property and associate and trade, and to pursue his own happiness.
-- and is obsessively discussed as such by every Randite on Earth in gibbery, morality-saturated language, 

Meanwhile, over on the side of the angels, Mr. Brooks is equally sanguine about ignoring the explicitly moral component of Ferguson and Baltimore.

About ignoring the presence of the moral language of equality and social justice and purpose as it is spoken by millions on Left including people like Reverend William Barber:

In the David Brooks version of history, Popes do not become Time Magazine Person of the Year, and Dalai Lamas do not have Twitter accounts.

Don't for one minute doubt that you and I are at war with David Brooks and his cronies, and the battlefield is our nation's immediate past.

For our side to win, we must demand that our history be remembered and acted upon in all its ugly, inglorious detail.

For Mr. Brooks and his co-conspirators to win,  those of us who persist in remembering the inconvenient past Out Loud must be banished forever to the "children's table", and the past itself must hollowed out into a mysterious and melancholy void just big enough to accommodate a handful of columns by David Brooks and one hardback edition of "The Road the Character".

*Thanks for the catch, Victor!

PS.  If you have not moseyed over to look at the latest contributor to America's slowly growing genre of Brooks Pantsing, you really should.  Here's a snip
In the years since, [David Brooks] has been a reliable producer of out-of-touch, tissue-thin pronouncements on the perils of our secularized, technologized 21st century lives, virtually all of which rightly can be interpreted as passive-aggressive nostalgia for what Family Circus comics told him “outdoors” might have been like when he was a kid. You could just about set your calendar by it: In a month of Brooks, you’d get the call to begin or continue a war with Iraq or Iran, the grasping attempt to paint some cretinous Senator or presidential hopeful as the intellectual heir to Edmund Burke, and then, at last, the decline-and-fall column. You’d see a headline like “The Slow Virtues” or “The Hollow Century” or “Why the Teens Are Despicable,” and you’d know ol’ Dave’s coffee shop was out of plain croissants a week ago and the barista had a nose-ring and he’d decided he’d witnessed the death of the Western moral tradition.


Victor said...

Don't you mean John Hagee? Sorry to bust out of the gate with pedantry, but it leapt out at me because I distinctly remember covering that horseshit-seller in my blogging days.

steeve said...

For the first time in history, common people have the resources they need to figure out that the elites are stupid. That is the totality of the moral downfall Brooks is complaining about.

Anonymous said...

Drift check your email, you'll howl with laughter, it's good.

Benjamin Feddersen said...

'e have many shows where people argue about fiscal policy but not so many on how to find a vocation or how to measure the worth of your life.'

Oh man, Brooks is shamelessly lifiting Alain de Botton's schtick wholesale. But I'm prepared to believe Brooks is so stupid he actually thinks it was his idea.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

"I thought I’d do my part by asking readers to send me their answers to the following questions: Do you think you have found the purpose to your life, professional or otherwise? If so, how did you find it? Was there a person, experience or book or sermon that decisively helped you get there?"

I've said it before, but I feel your purpose is to be the hook-guy in "I Know What You Did Last Summer"...

Enjoy your day.

---Kevin Holsinger

bowtiejack said...

The graduates of the famed Columbia University School of Journalism these days go into public relations rather than scrivening because, well, the money's so much better. (And if that isn't American, what is?)

Mr. Brooks is the Sorting Hat (Harry Potter, you remember) for this crowd who diligently categorizes everything he comes across with his magic time-tested Manichean excluded-middle tool - "It's either this thing or the other opposite thing. Case closed!". After a while you figure out what he's doing and it just gets tiresome.

What he purports to be doing was already done much much much better and more honestly 2,000 years ago by the Stoics. I particularly recommend Epictetus and Seneca.

Neo Tuxedo said...

two intertwining, diametrically opposed realities coexisting but not touching.

What it reminds me of is not so much the Tomorrowland movie, or even a Bizarro version thereof, as Gordon R. Dickson's story "Delusion World".

steve simels said...

How stupid is David Brooks? He's a Jew who thinks the real Episcopalians think he's one of them.

wagonjak said...

Incredible column dg, thanks so much for the link...I think I might have finally found someone as brilliant as you are at snarking David "Diss the Poors" Brooks!

bowtiejack said...

steve simels

Nailed it!
Thank you.