Burkean bells and Brooksian star bursts

George Packer on David Brooks:

David Brooks is going to be one of the best critics the Obama Administration will have, because his reservations and attacks are based on a world view that’s not only viable and thoughtful but almost always proved right: the view that we human beings overrate our ability to solve problems through the application of reason. The return of liberals to power has driven Brooks back down to his philosophical roots in Burkean caution toward rapid change based on abstract principles (he had lost touch with this inner self during the early Bush years, especially around the invasion of Iraq). Today’s column is just one of many recent examples, prompted by the fact that the Obama White House is taking on massive challenges in the economy, housing, banking, health care, energy, and education—all at once. It is, Brooks writes, “the biggest political experiment of our lifetimes.” Obama should do what Bush never did and make sure he talks to a critic like Brooks at least once every few months.

Why do these guys have to jerk each other off so much? It’s worse than a British boarding school.

I know, Assassin’s Gate was a brilliant book, George Packer is a serious guy, and blah blah blah blah. I don’t care.






54 replies
  1. 1
    chrismealy says:

    Yes, absolutely, because if Obama doesn’t hang with David Brooks, how will he ever learn to use the salad bar at Applebee’s?

  2. 2

    @DougJ

    Why do these guys have to jerk each other off so much? It’s worse than a British boarding school.

    C’mon, who else is going to do it?

  3. 3
    baldheadeddork says:

    What a coincidence. I was just discussing Burkean restraint with a cab driver at the Applebee’s salad bar this afternoon.

  4. 4
    Andre says:

    Brooks and co are the worst possible critics because they care nothing for the content of any given position, all they care is that there is some sort of disagreement involved, so the truth must by necessity lie between the two positions.

    It’s the exact opposite of insightful analysis. It’s politics as performance, rather than as an activity where the different positions taken have real world consequences.

  5. 5
    JGabriel says:

    DougJ:

    Why do these guys have to jerk each other off so much?

    I don’t get it either. Especially since Brooks strikes me as the most boring, limp, prose stylist to ever appear on the Times op-ed page – and that’s really saying something.

    Brooks is like some sort of ideal example of Orwellian Politics and the English Language style writing: the perfect mediocre combination of soporific logorrhoea and outrageous stupidity.

    .

  6. 6
    Elvis Elvisberg says:

    Well put, Andre. As fake David Brooks once explained, "I have been critical of President Bush, not because I have actual convictions, but because I have a pathological need to seem reasonable."

  7. 7
    Krista says:

    Good god, David Brooks’ arsehole must be clean enough to shine after the thorough tongue-bathing that Packer just gave to it.

  8. 8
    Ben says:

    Steve Walt’s take on the same Brooks column and his phony invocation of Burke. As an academic, Walt’s not a member of punditry’s mutual jerk-off circle.

    "David Brooks’s insight and intellectual integrity have never impressed me much, but his column in today’s NY Times is a low mark even for him. After reminding us that he read Edmund Burke in college and used to be a liberal, he announces that the fate of Obama’s programs will be "the big test" between liberal and conservative views of the world. . . .{Obnoxious Brooks QUOTE}
    Such shamelessly partisan pseudo-intellectualism is Brooks’s stock-in-trade, but where he’s been the past eight years? . . .
    And let us not forget that Brooks himself was an enthusiastic supporter of these policies; I guess he forgot his Burke back when his party was in power."

    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/

    And, George Packer, of course, got Iraq every bit as wrong as Brooks.

  9. 9
    Dave says:

    Well…Packer is a bit of a disappointment now.
     
    We’re in the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes and all Packer/Brooks can say is "Boy, we really have to take this slow. Give us five or ten years and we’ll whip up a fantastic solution." And then they can tell us about it while we kill each other with spears over the last can of Spam.

  10. 10
    c u n d gulag says:

    Brooks is no Kristol, who was wrong EACH and EVERY time about any and everything. Brooks is also a much better writer than Kristol.
    If I were Obama, I would listen to him with a very, very large dose of salt. Or, better yet, save time and have an aid talk to him. You go sit down with Krugman.

  11. 11
    Jay B. says:

    Today’s column is just one of many recent examples, prompted by the fact that the Obama White House is taking on massive challenges in the economy, housing, banking, health care, energy, and education—all at once.

    Jeez George, why’s that I wonder? Maybe because the "Burkean" assholes shut the fucking mouths for 8 motherfucking years while the world burned and America crumbled. It’s not like Obama or the world has much of a choice in taking on these massive challenges all at once, as they were made untenable by the preferred policies of George Bush, and your boy David Brooks.

    What’s the fucking alternative to "rapid change" anyway, you disingenuous douchebag? A controlled nose dive into the abyss? Burke my ass. Just another word for a moral reject who sees the manifest problems, but doesn’t have the stones to do a fucking thing about them.

  12. 12
    El Cid says:

    How on Earth could anyone even pretend for a fraction of a second to be surprised that a conservative would cite Burke approvingly?

  13. 13
    Anton Sirius says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    Exactly. Those things don’t jerk themselves, you know.

  14. 14
    Napoleon says:

    I read that Packer post earlier this evening and it will be the last time I check his blog for some time. What is he smoking.

  15. 15
    georgia pig says:

    I think "Burkean bells" is something like a Dirty Sanchez, only with bleu cheese.

  16. 16
    TR says:

    Obama should pay close attention to Bill Kristol. And do exactly the opposite of everything Kristol wants. It’s a foolproof path to success.

  17. 17
    louie, louie says:

    The worst thing about assholes like Brooks is that they presume to be above it all. They make a living pontificating about the state of things while doing absolutely nothing to bring about a positive outcome. They have no idea what it’s like to roll up their sleeves and do anything useful

  18. 18
    Seanly says:

    "the view that we human beings overrate our ability to solve problems through the application of reason"

    Call me crazy, but that sounds like a pretty fucking stupid view. I’ve found when I use irrational means to solve my problems that things just get worse.

  19. 19

    DougJ

    I know you saw Joke Klein give a couple of tugs on Brooks also.

    http://swampland.blogs.time.co.....the-union/

    Faced with this swelling tide of activism, David Brooks makes his usual, intelligent case for Burkean conservatism–and against the innate optimism of liberals–in the Times today.

  20. 20
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    Two questions:

    a) Is John going to be live blogging the speechyfying tonight?

    b) are we going to be playing the Wonkette drinking game or are we making one up of our own?

    PS) My favorite ones from Wonkette:

    “Played by the rules.” — Ask somebody to get you another drink and then drink their drink while they’re in the kitchen.

    “Bipartisan” or “bipartisanship.” — One shot, feel up somebody else’s girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse.

    “Recovery.com” — Three drinks and punch anybody in the room who sort of looks like Biden.

    LOL

  21. 21
    valdivia says:

    I don’t know if you guys remember that back in may (or early june?) Packer did that big article in The New Yorker on the future of the Republicans/Conservatives. The article was very very sympathetic to McCain, almost sycophantically so. Packer sometimes goes that way I don’t know why.

  22. 22

    I can just see David Brooks saying

    Damnit! Packer. Damnit! Klein. Get your asses over here. My dick isn’t going to suck itself you know.

  23. 23
    AnneLaurie says:

    Brooks is like some sort of ideal example of Orwellian Politics and the English Language style writing: the perfect mediocre combination of soporific logorrhoea and outrageous stupidity.

    George Packer’s solution to all economic, political, and social problems: Add more Pangloss !
    Since David Brooks is today’s premier exemplar of the "All Is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" philosophy, it’s only natural that Packer should be promoting Brooks as the gentle, soothing, non-addictive (though quite narcotic) laxative panacea for when those harsh reality-based stimulants threaten the rosy-tinted Media Village bubble.

  24. 24
    RSA says:

    the view that we human beings overrate our ability to solve problems through the application of reason.

    Is this supposed to be a deep insight? Something that economists and decision theorists and psychologists have known for going on forty years now? Jesus. It’s Brooks’s shtick, and he only applies when convenient.

  25. 25
    Annie says:

    It’s their way of removing themselves from any responsibility for the Bush years.

    They are re-branding themselves, just like the Republican leadership is trying to do.

    They believe if they show off their intellectual prowess and write pithy little columns, everyone will forgive and forget their former positions.

    Meanwhile, they have jobs, retirement accounts, health care, and are not in fear of losing their homes and careers.

    They don’t have to look for solutions to this mess, because they are not in a mess.

    It’s sickening…

  26. 26
    El Tiburon says:

    Doug J- that was exactly my thought: Assassin’s Gate was a good book.

    But damn, what a fucking idiot. These people really do live upon cotton candy clouds.

  27. 27
    JGabriel says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    Brooks is also a much better writer than Kristol.

    Actually, he’s not. Or to put it less bluntly and more politely, I vehemently disagree with that assessment.

    Kristol’s third-grade-reading-level style actually makes his writing a bit snappier and less soporific than Brooks’s. It also means that Kristol’s constant wrongness is highlighted in easy to understand rhetoric.

    Even if Brooks is less wrong than Kristol on a marginal basis, he’s still a worse and more boring stylist.

    .

  28. 28
    jim says:

    David Brooks writes some of the most head-hurtingly illogical pieces I have ever read. At the same time he can be a very skillful writer. The way he slides over cognitive dissonance and deliberately leaves out contrary information and arguments is so smooth it can be genuinely impressive.

    I used to wonder, is this conscious on his part? Or is this camouflaged avoidance of logic and making connections the only way you can actually sincerely support his ideology? By having an ingrained habit of ignoring every single dead elephant in the room to focus in on the nonexistent Marsh mouse?

    But I’ve come to suspect he’s actually a deliberate propagandist. Which is even more baffling. He must sincerely believe the unspoken bedrock principle of conservatism: the peasants must be kept quiet, because their masters always know best. And if the peasants won’t understand the real explanations, then they must be deceived for their own good.

  29. 29
    colleeniem says:

    @baldheadeddork: Okay, that made me spit cold, delicious ice cream. Good comedic timing!

  30. 30
    JGabriel says:

    AnneLaurie:

    Since David Brooks is today’s premier exemplar of the "All Is for the best in this best of all possible worlds" philosophy, it’s only natural that Packer should be promoting Brooks as the gentle, soothing, non-addictive (though quite narcotic) laxative panacea for when those harsh reality-based stimulants threaten the rosy-tinted Media Village bubble.

    (Swoons)

    I’m in love.

    .

  31. 31
    MikeJ says:

    the Obama White House is taking on massive challenges in the economy, housing, banking, health care, energy, and education—all at once

    Worked out pretty damned well when FDR did it.

  32. 32
    JGabriel says:

    jim:

    The way he slides over cognitive dissonance and deliberately leaves out contrary information and arguments is so smooth it can be genuinely impressive.

    Why is it so few people understand that this is the very definition of bad writing? Just because its awe-fullness is awe-inspiring doesn’t make it good.

    .

  33. 33
    Waingro says:

    DougJ-

    I propose "Burkean Bells" as a tag, since we’re going to be seeing much more of this pseudo-intellectual jerkfest over the next 4-8 years. It fits in nicely between "Assholes" and "Clown Shoes".

  34. 34
    ksmiami says:

    But I thought we would be greeted with flowers and candy in Iraq and Afghanistan… and Brooks and his cohorts are Elitist fuckheads, all.

    I read Burke and I know people (esp ones in power) can be total shitheads, it is why I am a liberal and believe in liberal democracy to at least try and keep the playing field a little even… and accomplish things as a society that one person can’t like well actually defeating the Nazis, polio and stuff like that

    The Republicans and their go to catchers in the village media have once again led us to the brink with their petty avarice and complete disregard for reality, science, economic matters, diplomacy and well – everything. So fuck them and the beemers they drove in on.

    I’m going to have to find my old punk t-shirt that says Die yuppy scum

  35. 35
    DougJ says:

    I propose “Burkean Bells” as a tag, since we’re going to be seeing much more of this pseudo-intellectual jerkfest over the next 4-8 years. It fits in nicely between “Assholes” and “Clown Shoes”.

    I agree. I’ll run it by John.

  36. 36
    Tsulagi says:

    It’s worse than a British boarding school.

    Yeah, but those fucking Brits can’t measure up to Bush’s all-male prep school alma mater, Bendover.

    Country First

  37. 37
    John Cole says:

    @DougJ: Just do it, you don’t have to run it by me.

    I like Burkean Bells over assholes as a category anyway. I think we need to get rid of assholes and come up with something better.

  38. 38
    Mike in NC says:

    Obama should pay close attention to Bill Kristol. And do exactly the opposite of everything Kristol wants. It’s a foolproof path to success.

    That goes double for any advice from Doctor Strangelove Krauthammer.

  39. 39
    The Other Steve says:

    I actually thought Packer was being sarcastic.

  40. 40
    Wilson Heath says:

    A retrenchment into "abstract principles" for a guy who is so often utterly wrong about facts. Hmm. I’ll actually have to start reading Brooks to watch as he gets wronger.

  41. 41
    DougJ says:

    Just do it, you don’t have to run it by me.

    Thanks. It’s done.

  42. 42
    jenniebee says:

    Why read David Brooks? You can get the same effect from watching the Monty Python Argument Sketch over and over again, and even when the Monty Python stops being funny (it could happen) it still has a laugh track.

    Just figure that Cantor is the abuse guy. It all fits. Really, it does.

  43. 43
    Ben says:

    Tim Burke on the Brooks column:

    "David Brooks’ column today in the New York Times is a great example of his hackery. I suppose he irritates me even more than your average op-ed shill because he feints at having an interest in ideas and views that I’m sympathetic to, only to brutally toss all that intellectual infrastructure overboard in the second half of most of his pieces so that he can serve up some callow partisan spin."

    http://weblogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/?p=726

  44. 44
    jim says:

    "The way he slides over cognitive dissonance and deliberately leaves out contrary information and arguments is so smooth it can be genuinely impressive."

    " Why is it so few people understand that this is the very definition of bad writing? Just because its awe-fullness is awe-inspiring doesn’t make it good. "

    I never said Brooks was creating good writing. Just that Brooks is very skillful in his writing.

    I mean this in the same way that ripping off investors is bad money management – but not getting caught at it is still *skillful* money management. I.e., you know how to manipulate the books.

    What Brooks does is intentional and skillful. That it’s for a dark purpose doesn’t take away from the skill involved. It just makes it more of a shame.

  45. 45
    bob h says:

    "..the view that we human beings overrate our ability to solve problems through the application of reason."

    Brooks is back to the Republican non-reality/irrationality schtick. We didn’t hear much about the purported failure of rationality to solve problems when Bush was President. It seems that rationality has worked out pretty well for Americans generally.

    I know things are tough at the NYT, and I would suggest that tossing Brooks overboard is the next thing to do.

  46. 46
    tinat says:

    Why do these guys have to jerk each other off so much? It’s worse than a British boarding school.

    Oh man, that line is an instant classic!

  47. 47
    itsbenj says:

    hehe, well, Packer may be "serious", but Davey Brooks is most certainly not. it’s pretty funny that to right-wing crazies he is an "intellectual", but amongst the general population, he’s just a silly twit who everyone knows is completely disingenuous about any given issue. I agree with the sentiment that Obama should pay attention to serious criticism of him and his admin, but that info will not be supplied by David Brooks. it is much more likely to come from progressives and those further to the left than Obama is, let alone Brooks.

  48. 48
    gex says:

    If these people were ever serious about their "principles", I would grant them that we can’t solve all problems (yet) with reason. Especially at interpersonal levels.

    But good God! In governing philosophy and running a country, what other approach ever could be preferable? We’ve just had 8 years of governing from the gut and having plenty of faith. How’d that go?

  49. 49

    […] George Packer drooled all over David Brooks’ vacuous “Burkean bell” critique of Obama, which can be summarized as “it sounds […]

  50. 50
    Uli Kunkel says:

    I didn’t care for Assassin’s Gate — way too much "how was I supposed to know neocons were fools?", and a general disinterest in examining the obvious lies that led to the invasion while emphasizing the incompetent occupation in an effort to absolve himself of any culpability.

    I stopped reading Packer’s blog during the primaries — his dislike of Obama was more than just pro-Clintonism, and it’s unlikely to end now that Obama’s elected.

    He and Brooks seem well-suited to each other, both talented at writing lengthy vacuities.

  51. 51
    DonkeyKong says:

    "he had lost touch with this inner self during the early Bush years, especially around the invasion of Iraq"-Packer

    So Brooks has an innie, not an outtie. Good to know.

  52. 52
    DonkeyKong says:

    Instead of Burkean Bells, how bout catagorizing it under this……… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLHc-yIAPbg

  53. 53
    Barry says:

    "Why do these guys have to jerk each other off so much? It’s worse than a British boarding school."

    Professional courtesy, and because most of these people have only two talents – blathering several hundred words upon command, and s*cking up to power.

    Packer is unique because he’s actually written a non-fiction book which seems to be actual non-fiction.

    But in the end, there’s this small circle of third-tier intellectuals, and below that there’s only (shudder!) Honest Work.

  54. 54

    […] A few months ago I asked all of you what the deal was with Edmund Burke. I learned that he was a starburst-prone sovereign citizen and, more importantly, a new category for posts was born. […]

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