Tuesday, June 18, 2019

David Brooks Protests Layoffs at the Privilege Factory

For you budding Brooksologists out there, one thing that's very helpful to understand when parsing David Brooks' terrible writing is that virtually every David Brooks column is about David Brooks. 

These columns are usually occasioned by one of Mr. Brooks' many, barely-contained insecurities or loathings being dislodged by events in the world, which then comes pouring out refracted and sublimated under the cover of an op-ed on ... whatever.

So for example, when you read this by Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times --
Harvard’s False Path to Wisdom
Sometimes sin is an opportunity for redemption.
-- you can be damn sure that something has happened which feels like it threatens the equilibrium of ecosystem in which Mr. Brooks operates.

Today's inciting incident was Harvard's revocation of Kyle Kashuv's admission to their university based on some incredibly racist and antisemitic (h/t Yastreblyansky) things he wrote when he was in high school and which have only recently come to light.

For Kyle Kashuv, this means he has once again joined the billions of human beings on Earth who won't being going to Harvard. Sad!  After all, Harvard is a Privilege Factory with more money than God and Mark Cuban (it is frequently referred to as a "hedge fund with a university attached") and when it comes to admissions it can do pretty much whatever it wants to do.

But for David Brooks, this is his nightmare scenario.

The nightmare of a Conservative who had made his way into one of America's most elite Privilege Factories --
Most of the famous Parkland students lean progressive and support gun control laws. Kashuv leans conservative. He’s appeared on conservative media, got to meet Donald Trump and lobbied for the STOP School Violence Act, which would create an annual $50 million grant to schools for training programs and reporting systems. He became a student face for the gun rights crowd.
 -- only to find himself suddenly kicked out because of things he had written in the past.  

The nightmare that someone other than a few nobody Liberal bloggers might actually take a look at the shit David Brooks has actually written over the decades -- the saccharine schlock, the incompetently researched/cherry-picked propaganda, the hypocrisy, the venomous hippie-punching and the interminable Both Siderism.  

The nightmare that someone with actual, decision-making authority within the privileged Beltway media ecosystem might open the books on Mr. David Brooks and discover that he is almost always horribly wrong about everything and then decides that the time has come for Mr. Brooks to seek employment elsewhere.

A nightmare which has already almost happened.  


The first time it happened was when the scale of the failure of  George Bush's Iraqi Debacle became so overwhelmingly obvious that some of the people who had been critics of the Iraq War (and of its loud and unremitting supporters) began to make some measurable headway.

So when I see Mr. Brooks using his column in The New York Times to sermonize on the subject of moral formation --
Moral formation is not like learning math. It’s not cumulative; it’s inverse. In a sin-drenched world it’s precisely through the sins and the ensuing repentance that moral formation happens. That’s why we try not to judge people by what they did in their worst moment, but rather by how they respond to their worst moment. 
-- I cannot help but be reminded of  examples like this of Mr. Brooks as a forty-five-year-old paid professional grown-ass man on The Chris Matthews Show in 2006 continuing to slander Liberals like me as crazy even as the Bush Administration and its Iraqi Debacle were collapsing around his ears just as Liberals like me had warned it would:

I cannot help but wonder when Mr. Brooks' own "moral formation" will kick in.  Because the implosion of the Bush Administration sure as hell didn't move him to any greater moral awakening.

Instead Mr. Brooks coped with this change in the weather by withdrawing behind the protective shield of the Beltway media where he could be confident that none of his fellow members of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild would ever be rude enough bring the subject up.  And on the rare occasion when when he was accidentally caught out in the open by someone who had read his Weekly Standard bilge and wanted to know how he justified attacking anti-war activists now that history had proven them right and him wrong, he simply lied about it and moved on

Lied about it while lecturing on Reinhold Niebuhr and the importance of moral clarity and holding ones on team to the highest standards  ("All The Lies That Are His Life".)

Also, since the Iraq War had been just one element of the comprehensive failure of the GOP and the Beltway media on every front, Mr. Brooks and the rest of his Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild colleagues labored mightily to build a more durable buffer between their privilege and their critics by making Both Sides Do It the Beltway media's official state religion.

And by ordaining David Brooks as the Pope of their new church.

From that day forward, all Republican bed-shittings would be blamed on the Extremes on Both Sides.  All Republican atrocities would be the fault of "Washington" or "Congress" which only a Sensible Centrist Third Party stood any chance of fixing.  Relentless Republican obstruction and sabotage would be blamed on the failure of Barack Obama to "lead".  And no matter how many concessions Democrats offered or how adamantly Republicans refused to compromise on anything under any circumstances, Mr. Brooks and his colleagues would always find a way to conclude that it was because Democrats were somehow insufficiently flexible.  

The second time Mr. Brooks almost got kicked out of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild was that day in March of 2016 when all of the toxic Both Siderist sludge that Very Serious Beltway public intellectuals like David Brooks had been pumping into our politics finally bore its awful fruit.  Or, as it says in book of Hosea:
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind
By this point, David Brooks had already spent decades on what I call his Great Project:  lying to his readers over and over and over again about what was really happening inside his Republican Party.
...it is now painfully clear that Mr. Brooks is engaged in a long-term project to completely rewrite the history of American Conservatism: to flense it of all of the Conservative social, political economic and foreign policy debacles that make Mr. Brooks wince and repackage the whole era as a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.
And during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Brooks continued single-mindedly spewing Both Siderist claptrap casting Democrats and Republicans as equally sinister and untrustworthy, and making sweeping election predictions with 100% confidence that always turned out to be 100% wrong.

For example:
DAVID BROOKS:  It's going to be Rubio. I'm telling you, it's going to be Rubio. Right now, you have the conflict between the conservative, the philosophical conservative wing, which is the National Review crowd, and the rogue wing, which is talk radio and Trump. And so it's interesting to see how that breaks down.

Right now, Trump has the advantage in that, because the conservative movement is less conservative than it was ten years ago. The financial crisis has hit people hard, and they want a government that's on the side of the little guys, as long as it's not filled with liberal values. So Trump, in the short term, but we’re prepping the establishment. Do not panic. There are going to be months of this. Wait for Rubio.
And so, with the nomination of Donald Trump, the world was once again provided with unequivocal proof that Mr. David Brooks has been a fraud all along.   That he never actually had the slightest fucking clue was was really going on inside his Republican party, which was literally his only fucking job.

That instead of facts and sage, insider insights, he had been spinning comforting fairy tales about the the state of our politics to feed the biases of a small clique of powerful CEO/university president/TED Talk/Aspen Institute readers who underwrite his career.

And when that all blew up in his face and he had to publicly beg to keep his job and promise to do better.

Then, just as he had after the collapse of the Bush Administration, Mr. Brooks' columns began to reflect the desperate scrambling of a man looking for cover under any narrative which would stress the importance of not judging people like David Brooks.  This time around it's was under the guise of Christian virtue.  And not a lot more time than it takes to remove the mote from one's eye, much of Mr. Brooks' writing started sounding a lot like this:
These days many people seem to think that the way to prove virtue is by denouncing and shunning, not through mercy and rigorous forgiveness. 
As I have written many times before ("The Madness of Mercy") if Republicans like David Brooks were to come to us...
...in the spirit of genuine confession, repentance and atonement, terrific. We're a forgiving bunch. But if they cannot form the words "The Left was right about the Right all along" and will not lock their loyalty to our cause down with anything more than nods and winks, then we have no reason in the world to lend them our hard-won credibility or give them our trust or show them an ounce of our mercy.

Because if they are not with us all the way by now -- if they have not genuinely seen the error of their ways by now -- then all they are doing is biding their time and enjoying the hospitality of our fox hole until the immediate danger has passed
To date, Mr. Brooks has never confessed to or repented of anything he has said or done.  He has never apologized for anything.  He has never atoned for anything, because it's clear that, deep down, Mr. Brooks does not feel he should have to.  After all, if leading members of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild were forced to start admitting that the Left had been right about the Right all along, the whole guild would be as dead as Dillinger within a month and, for the first time in his adult life, Mr. Brooks would have seek honest employment.

So fuck that.

Instead what Mr. Brooks wants for himself is what every bunco artist who has been busted over and over again fantasizes about.  A line of credit -- Forgiveness Credit -- which is both inexhaustible and which costs him nothing.  In the Christian faith, this was described by the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer as "cheap grace":
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?...

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate...
And that kind of grace is not on offer here.

Oh, and one more thing. 

The narrow argument that Mr. Brooks was making -- that Harvard is the epicenter of the meritocracy and therefor should also be in the moral formation business -- was blown to flinders by the brilliant Parker Molloy with a single photo here:

Behold, a Tip Jar!


noexitlovenow said...

Is it unusual that a college would take into account what one did during high school in their admissions criteria? No it is not.

Davis said...

A corollary to Bth Sides would be false equivalence. Daily Kos = Pat Dobson. Both equally crazy.

Lawrence said...

It might turn out OK. Maybe the kid's safety school was Duke.

Rothda said...

Driftglass, I care a lot about you. Your writing is brilliant and your life seems great. Which is why I urge you not to watch this video of Biden talking about David Brooks. It would be too much for your heart and brain to handle. Please do not watch this Biden speech.

Merkwurdigliebe said...

What is Brooks saying? It sounds like he is saying that sinning makes one moral. So, does he now assert that Stalin and Pol Pot are his moral exemplars?
But if sin alone does not cause moral redemption without evidence of remorse, then where is Brooks's evidence of any moral remorse in the racist student? Brooks points to equally zero evidence of remorse in the student as in Stalin. The Brooks morality-meter seems to be Brooks-failing (again).

Lawrence said...

DFB's morality meter is like Captain Jack Sparrow's compass. It always points towards what he wants the most.