Monday, September 12, 2016

Joey Tabula Rasa Revisited

David Brooks is back baby!  Back from traveling the country to talk to Real Murricans, touch Indians see the mountains and the prairies and the whole rest of that song...

...just in time to promote the paperback release of his book.

Which is weird, because for a very, very long time, Mr. Brooks has been dining out on his reputation for Deep Insights into the very soul of the inhabitants of the land of the free -- his nearly-superhuman understanding of the "heart has reasons that reason cannot know" business of the American people, which he vouchsafes to his Beltway colleagues every week in the reverential tone of a Yang chief incanting the E Plebnista to his tribe.

But it turned out that David Brooks never understood We The People.  Never.  Which is why, after completely and publicly screwing the pooch over the Trump nomination, instead of being sacked outright for gross and ongoing incompetence, Mr. Brooks appears to have cut a deal with his employers at the New York Times tin which he hurry-up-quick hikes up his petticoats and takes a series of short, bathyscaphic excursion down among the filthy rabble and reports back on the comings and goings of Real Americans.

I smell another best seller!  May I suggest "The Chardonnay Grapes of Wrath"?

Anyway, now that Mr. Brooks has figured out yet another tactic to avoid mentioning his many years of journalistic malpractice in the service of a party which he now confesses he does not know the first fucking thing about, I thought it would be fun (since no one else seems to have the balls to do it) to revisit the high-cotton  days of the George W. Bush administration.  Long before Mr. Brooks' latest prediction of a radical party realignment --
Time for a Realignment
-- Mr. Brooks was making exactly the same, sweeping predictions of political realignment based on the internal musings of an entirely-fiction, "typical", silent young American patriot named (I am absolutely not making this up) "Joey Tabula Rasa".

And who is Joey Tabula Rasa?
Joey doesn't know much about history; he was born in 1983 and was only 6 when the Berlin Wall fell. He really has no firm idea of what labels like liberal and conservative mean. But now he is in college, and he's been glued to the cable coverage of the war and is ready to form some opinions. Over the past months, certain facts and characters have entered his consciousness, like characters in a play he is seeing for the first time.

The first character is America itself. He sees that his country is an incredibly effective colossus that can drop bombs onto pinpoints, destroy enemies that aren't even aware they are under attack. He sees a ruling establishment that can conduct wars with incredible competence and skill. He sees a federal government that can perform its primary task--protecting the American people--magnificently.

The American system of government, moreover, is clearly the best system. In Joey's eyes, the United Nations is a fractious debating society. The European Union is split. The French are insufferable, the Germans both hostile and pacifist. The Arab ruling class is treacherous...

In Joey's eyes, the people who get to do the most exciting things are not members of the meritocratic elite--Harvard and Stanford alums who start software companies. They are the regular men and women of the armed forces, or, as he remembers from the days after 9/11, they are firemen and cops. They are people without prestigious degrees and high income prospects.

Joey likes to think of himself as fundamentally independent. He looks at the people living in their dream palaces--the Arabists, the European elites, the Bush haters--and he knows he doesn't want to be like them. He doesn't want to be so zealous and detached from reality...

Joey isn't one of a kind. There are millions of Joeys, and variations on Joey. Inevitably, then, in ways subtle and profound, the events of the past month will shape our politics for the rest of our lives.

Yes, back in 2003 -- at the peak of the Iraq War propaganda war, with his career firing on all cylinders -- Mr. Brooks confidently predicted that, based on the slow awakening of Joey Tabula Rasa's political consciousness. the very meaning of "progressive" and "conservative" would radically realign based entirely on the degree of support for George Bush's Awesome Iraqi Adventure.  It would be a change so tectonic that leaders of the new "progressive" movement will --
...include Christopher Hitchens, Dennis Miller, Paul Wolfowitz, Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, Richard Holbrooke, Charles Krauthammer, the staff of Fox News, Bernard Lewis, and George Bush.
-- and leaders in the new "conservative" movement will include:
...Brent Scowcroft, Joe Klein, the State Department, John Kerry, Chris Matthews, Robert Novak, and most of the press corps.
There would also be a third group -- the "marchers" -- which would slowly fade into irreverence. 

And who's the leader of this club that's made for you and me?  

Hollywood-types and academics!  

And what does Joey Tabula Rasa thinks of the marchers?  

That the're kinda anarchic and weird, just like they were in the 60s!
The final group Joey sees on the political landscape are the marchers. These people are always in the streets with their banners and puppets. They march against the IMF and World Bank one day, and against whatever war happens to be going on the next. Joey is not sure what these people are for. They don't seem to have any alternative to globalization. They don't seem to know how to deal with the Taliban or Saddam. They just march against. Joey figures it must be part of their personality.

Joey knows that this is what people did in the 1960s, and he regards the marchers as vaguely archaic. He knows that they tend to come from Hollywood and academia. Joey is not hostile to those worlds. He loves movies and likes many of his professors. He just senses that they are cloistered worlds, removed from day-to-day reality, and he doesn't plan on spending his life there. Marching for peace is something people in those worlds do...
And now, 13 years later and a thousand failures later, and we find the Sage of the Acela Corridor still revered by his Beltway tribe and still prospering from plying the same old trade: spinning and selling the fairy tales his tribe wants to hear as if they were holy writ.

You know, perhaps as a public service, we could give Joey Tabula Rasa the Michael Apted "Up" treatment.  Document the ongoing mental and emotional disintegration of Mr. Brooks' imaginary Regular Murrican every seven years as the bright Republican future Mr. Brooks invented for him in 2003 gradually collapses under the weight of the horrifying Republican reality which Mr. Brooks has worked so hard to enact.


Unsalted Sinner said...

Oh Dog, I remember that column! Definitely one of the (unintentionally) funniest things Bobo ever wrote.

"He sees a ruling establishment that can conduct wars with incredible competence and skill." Clearly, Joey was doing a lot of drugs.

Bob Muir said...

As Unsalted Sinner noted - that has to be the most grimly tragic and at the same time hysterically funny in a coal black manner that Brooks has ever written.

meantime this line "He just senses that they are cloistered worlds, removed from day-to-day reality" is as apt description of where our Ms. Brooks has found himself as any. of course he wants to stay there and is building intellectual pillow forts to shield himself from the howls of the army of mutants that is the gop base.

Benjamin Feddersen said...

I mean, tellers of popular fairy tales are quite well remunerated and held in quite high esteem in our society. David Brooks is like the J.K. Rowling of the Beltway.

konarider said...

The NYT should be required to re-release his articles so that we can just laugh and laugh.

Andrew Johnston said...

Speaking of Brooks and his awful book, and by way of self-promotion, I've been trying to push my own review of that thing up to the main page on Amazon. I feel that it's accurate without being too inflammatory, and it's about the only critical review that's not kissing the great man's ass.

So please vote me helpful. If I can get a couple hundred, then maybe I'll see daylight.

dinthebeast said...

I love the way he invents a way where it is definitely possible that he was always something besides wrong. Now that I think of it, there seems to be a lot of that going around lately.

-Doug in Oakland

trgahan said...

Awh yes, that glorious zenith of conservative media (debatable range, but ca. September 11, 2001 to two weeks after Mission Accomplished) when, in the Beltway/public square the following "truths" were uncontestable to anyone who wanted to keep there fucking job!:

FoxNews wasn't a right wing propaganda network;

Women(Security seekers)/Hispanics(a monolith of Pro-life Catholics) were the next conservative majority voting blocks;

Tom Delay was a brilliant Speaker of the House;

Tax cuts WERE going to pay for themselves;

Liberalism had been finally and ultimately rejected by the voters worldwide;

even Limbaugh briefly returned to prime time TV Sports;

and my relatives and conservative friends honestly believed the Democratic Party would no longer exist within two election cycles and the U.S. would have one party rule for a generation.

Guess you kinda can't blame Brooks et al. for getting carried away in the myth making in such an environment.

bowtiejack said...

Andrew Johnston

Got my vote. Very nice work.

And is it just me or does anyone else get the feeling that Brooks is basically just repackaging and selling the same mythos as the Andy Hardy movies and Mayberry RFD?

Chan Kobun said...

Stupe Davey Dave can't let go of the 60s. I assume it's because the hippie chicks thought he was a narc.

I mean, he was and is, but still.

Pablo in the Gazebo said...

Andrew Johnston - I just love voting on the internet. Why? I ask myself why. It's not the anonymity because I don't care anymore, and it's not every clicking for damn thing that show up on my screen. Maybe it's just being able to find and support a good cause. Some days pickin's are slim; sometimes you find a keeper.

RossK said...


It seems to be a reverse Apted.

As in "Thirteen (waywaywaywaywayway) Down".


Unknown said...

Oh. My. Dog.

I've read a lot of stupid Brooks over the years. You yourself DG have been a fine chronicler of his village idiocy [as has Brother Pierce via Moral Hazard]. But this unearthed column you feature which I've never read before has to be thee single stupid stupid stupidest thing I've ever seen him attach his name to. And I'm not talking wrong, as in predictive wrong [which he is AWESOME at], I'm talking Ninja-level derp. Mind-melding Jedi derp. Stupid all the way down to absolute Kelvin and all the way up to maximum Richter. The kind of blithe unawareness that can't be measured with a DSM-V. A stupid that surpasses the level of even Drumpf's narcissism. This is beyond weapons-grade. It's beyond pure golden-triangle uncut. It's a center-of-the-universe black hole high point for him, a flag planted on the peak of the pointy head of Mount Brooks. It's almost beautiful to behold until you really think about what's there and you have to go running for the toilet because you're going to puke and shit at the same time and blood is pouring out of your orifices because the stupid is Ebola-strength and if you read too much more of it your brain is going to implode.

By which is I mean, boy is that an idiotic column. What fucking editor in her/his right mind greenlit that poo as fit to print? Did they do it because they were punking him, knowing that anyone with basic reading skills would laugh their ass off at the ridiculousness of it? Or did they truly believe that it was a valuable and needed voice in the conversation?

Oh. My. Dog.

- lifeat45rpm

Robt said...

I find it so incredible that Brooks with al the tools of a writer has the imagination level of a Louie Gohmert.
It seems Brooks write in parables to hide his inner most masochism. Instead of a whip Brooks self flogs himself. In the public square no doubt.
Yearning to believe, that others are like him. That they too yearn to believe conservatism is the new Christianity that changes the world finally and makes him part of the superior race. He will not be at the top of conservative elitist stature. Just knows for his efforts he will be land at a comfortable level. That level of comfort where you can always look to the suppressed and think to himself, "at least I am not as bad off as those slobs".

It must be that conservatives that make sure Brooks has a prominent soap box to type on. The ones he must write to. Gobble up his cream of corn. Feeding them the nourishing assurances that the conservatism they sell is providing dividends for their investment.
Perhaps Joey was weak minded and susceptible to the hate served up in heaping right wing media. It is as joey lives through Brooks, eh?

Makes one just bursting with anticipation for the next expedition where Brooks talks to another cabbie that provides him with the secrets of life.

Neo Tuxedo said...

What fucking editor in her/his right mind greenlit that poo as fit to print?

They do it because, despite 45 years of evidence to the contrary, they believe that there is some amount of right-wing boot-leather they can lick which will induce "the Pig People and their overlords" (as some pixel-stained dirty fucking hippie once called them) to stop squealing about "liberal bias" every time actual facts about them make it into any media outlet in MURKA NUBBER WUN!

jim said...

My callow youth included being a Marcher.
Yep, facing a riot squad unarmed is weird to say the least.

In retrospect, clearly we made a splendid dive but chumped the landing.