David Brooks Bites

I regret that I’ve had to be working on something else today, because David Brooks is off the Oblivious Scale today. He has reached a level of cluelessness remarkable even for Brooks.

I mentioned a few days ago that Charles Murray has a new book out to complain po’ white folks is gettin’ as lazy and shiftless as th’ colored folk, an it’s all ’cause they’s losin’ their moral compasses.

Of course, they probably had to hock their moral compasses to keep their lights turned on. That said, let’s continue.

Brooks heaps praise on Murray’s book, saying “I’ll be shocked if there’s another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society.” And he buys into Murray’s argument that the white underclass is losing its connection to the traditional (e.g., white) culture they are supposed to be part of, which is why they are not as productive as they used to be. And rising income inequality is the result of this, not the cause.

Brooks simply dismisses any argument that economic injustice is tearing the country apart. In fact, Brooks blames the “liberal members of the upper tribe” for stoking the resentments of the lower classes, which to Brooks is the real cause of the problem. If the white trash lower classes would just work harder, and get married, they’d be living in the Hamptons, too!

And he concludes by saying we should all go to the same summer camp to get to know each other:

We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

Un-freakin’-believable. There hasn’t been this much upper-class-twit obliviousness concentrated in one person since Marie Antoinette.

Fortunately Charles Pierce is back in the saddle, heaping all the snarky contempt on Brooks he richly deserves. I also love this comment from Zandar:

It’s like Brooks is some sort of Sisyphean device that has one purpose: to take any possible social paradigm observation, smash it with a sledgehammer, and reconstruct the bits in order to fit his god-awful worldview of bipartisanship, even if the pieces don’t fit and had nothing to do with the original observation in the first place, and he has to repeat that until the end of time. There are people that just don’t get it, people that don’t get it on purpose as satire, and then there’s David Brooks (who should be regularly harvested for the rich oil of contempt for anyone who makes less than six figures that he drips with) who somehow manages to make “not getting it” into an exciting new field of scientific endeavor. I’ve got a fiver that says if Brooks was jammed together with any actual American middle-class salt-of-the-earth family for more than 3 hours, there would be blood all over the carport and a Garden Weasel shoved in a very uncomfortable place upon his person.

First rate snark, Zandar. I salute you.

15 thoughts on “David Brooks Bites

  1. It’s pretty hard to “work harder” when you don’t have any work. Or, if you lazy, indolent people would only work harder you’d find work?

  2. Brooks simply dismisses any argument that economic injustice is tearing the country apart.

    That’s straight from Murray’s book, as you can see in the Wall Street Journal article Murray adapted from the book.

    Why have these new lower and upper classes emerged? For explaining the formation of the new lower class, the easy explanations from the left don’t withstand scrutiny. It’s not that white working class males can no longer make a “family wage” that enables them to marry. The average male employed in a working-class occupation earned as much in 2010 as he did in 1960. It’s not that a bad job market led discouraged men to drop out of the labor force. Labor-force dropout increased just as fast during the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as it did during bad years.

    Does that jibe with your experience of living in this country over the past few decades? He’s lying with statistics — statistics that will be revealed as bogus, or grotesquely distorted, any minute now.

  3. Off topic but I just read (Harper’s Index) that on average 18 military veterans commit suicide every day. When will we Americans face the fact that we are living in a broken country inhabited by millions of broken people.

  4. Ah, yes, David Brooks!
    Because no one can tell me more about American politics, bipartisanship, and centrism, than a Canadian expatriate!

    Didn’t any Canadian LIBERAL’S come over here to write Op-ed’s for our f*cking newspapers?

    Is there a more useless turd in the whole pundit sh*thouse than David Brooks?
    God, I’ll take the partisan Op-ed hacks any day over this insipid and clue-free assclown.

  5. Brooks, Murray, Tea-Constitutionalists, Tea-Federalist Papersists — just the beloved veneer of respectable academic terms and names that, after a while and enough mainstream-media-ignored debunking, will develop the patina of eternal wisdom that the elites “don’t want you to know” but will be quoted fearlessly at fundraisers, turning the red meat into charcuterie for the donors.

  6. Zandar also hit the nail on the head. When I read Brooks I scan for the “money quote” towards the end of the article. It is usually some rehash of conservative prejudice or boilerplate. Then I go back to see how he tries to produce the semblance of logic that leads from some topical event or anecdote to money quote. For conservative true believers, it’s just one more confirmation of what they already believe. A genuine intellectual is validating it. He plays the part well, but if I were his high school teacher, I’d make him do a rewrite.

    Despite this, I believe he is a clever man, because his function is to do just what he does so well, present a superficially logical case for some conservative talking point while posing as an objective, rational and well intentioned observer.

    Murray’s book has a quiz which purports to answer the question, “How thick is your bubble?”. (Maha, you should take the quiz, since you grew up in the Ozarks.) Basically, the test reduces American heartlanders to a cultural stereotype, which would more likely come about from an overdose of “The Dukes of Hazzard” than any genuine experience. Of course it pushes the right wing assertion that only evangelical Christian, NASCAR watching, beer swilling underachievers are the “real” Americans. I find this offensive. As much as I might disagree politically with many of my neighbors here in the rural south. They have passions, talents and curiosity and they waste precious little time on the nonsense that Murray seems to think is their sine qua non.

  7. I didn’t find Charles Murrays Quiz to be passing a value judgment in any way. It seems to making a rough attempt to identify which of two Americas a given person lives in, each having little awareness of the other. And my “creds” have me growing up in a small southern town of 12,000. We’re all products of our respective environments which shape both our outlook and understanding. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that, for example, it’s beyond an urban dwellers capacities to recognize the validity of other’s experiences. When seeking scapegoats or convenient others in roder to explain one’s own situtation it’s much more common to blame the one on the next rung down than to blame upwards.

    It’s hard to cast discussion of class differences along any single line or dimension. David Sirota in his book Back to Our Future traces the iconography of the last 3 decades and has a lot to say about the popularity of TV shows like Dukes of Hazard and The A-Team which conjure up images of inherently evil status quo and good heros working outside the law. There’s a version of this myth for all classes.

    I personally find good people everywhere even among fundamentalists who when not buoyed by the anonymityof that they perceive as a vast majority of conventional like-minded would never attack persons manifesting some behavior of choice they’d otherwise vote to ban. Some are different in that respect but the minotiry of extremists make for more entertaining anecdotes.

    There are many scales, such as the one for being an “authoritarian follower” in Bob Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians. Neither do I think an examination of which groups tend to score high on this scale is an offense as long as one is open to the fact that there are exceptions and that you can never accurately judge a book by its cover.

    I have one friend in the south who worked construction for years and he swears that certain behaviors are clustered or more prevalent among the lower class good old boys he worked with. According to him, almost without exception they did not heistate to throw the McDonalds garbage out the window of their pickup eacha and every day. Doesn’t mean everyone does it but the stats can hardly be denied.

    Sorting out what is cause and what if effect is something else.

    I can speak from experience with the south when it comes to the phenomenon of how a wealthy person can don an aura of authenticity by cultivating the image of a “cracker”. There can be a lot of hubris accompanying such a show. It’s as common as the disavowal of racism by citing proof of having one or more black friends.

  8. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years.

    I thought this was called servitude. It was described well in “A Little Princess,” “Great Expectations” and “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
    Still, I could see a reality show come from this. A Kardashian switches place with, say, Amy, my friend who earns $11K a year part time while her husband picks up day-labor jobs when he can and they support three boys. The telephone and cable are off again and they were relieved to get support from the gas company to help pay the winter bill. The show would be full of laughs, tender moments and learning opportunities.

  9. I was furious upon reading Brooks’ column. So now America has two tribes, the upper and the lower, he argues. And it is the upper tribe that carries the real American values and that really works hard and is productive. The rest of us peons, well, we are a bunch of disorganized, no-accounts who need to be brought into contact with the upper tribes so we can be taught about discipline, hard work, culture and real American values. The garbage was sickening, especially for someone like me who grew up as a farm worker, worked his way through college and landed a professional job. And you know, Brooks, I did it without the help or exposure to the elite snobs like you who look down on people like me. You right wingers accuse Obama of class warfare. Well, if this column does not spew class warfare, I don’t understand the meaning of the phrase. And forming some kind of program that forces the two tribes to intermingle so that we can learn the ways of your tribe and improve our values, discipline?!! Talk about crap! The so-called upper tribe of which you are a member would never stoop so low as to be with us. They would find a way to game the system and refuse to participate just as they have supported wars like Iraq and Afghanistan out of patriotic duty but allowed the mass of fighting to be done by our brothers and sisters. Incredibly shabby thinking based on a few stats! You should be ashamed!

  10. “We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.”

    In my day it was called the draft.

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