A world I never made

One of the reasons I can’t talk about politics at work or with my family is that they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that David Brooks would send all of us to a re-education camp if he could, but that’s exactly what he’s getting at here:

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.

If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.

The gist of the column — which Zandar ably summarized earlier — is that the strapping young crackers (the book Bobo cites focuses only on white people) are fucking and lying about too much while their tote-bagger overlords keep them down, presumably by drinking craft beers and avoiding strip-mall restaurants.

Bobo couches his tribe-jam as a National Service program but the word “force” is of course a tell. And you all know who else wanted to roust people from their “affluent enclaves” and force them to live in camps.

Dictatorial schemes to force people to adopt conservative values are now a staple of right-wing dialog in this country. Yet the same people who promote these schemes label mild, liberal programs — universal health care along the lines what exists in the rest of the wester world, traditional expansionary macroeconomic policies, mild efforts to slow down climate change, slight increases in the (historically low) marginal tax rates that the wealthiest Americans pay — as big gubmint terror. Norm Orstein and Thomas Mann recently wrote that:

[T]he GOP, which is now firm in its identity as the insurgent party, set upon blowing up policies and public responsibilities that enjoyed bipartisan support for many decades. The Democrats are the status quo party— protective and pragmatic. The asymmetric polarization of the two camps is the most significant feature of contemporary American politics.

There’s nothing wrong with being protective and pragmatic. The mass of men lead lives of quiet pragmatism. Some might call it desperation, but I’ll always take small, sensible improvements over remaking the world via reeducation camp.






69 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    Bobo needs to watch the first ten minutes of “Idiocracy.”

  2. 2
    mclaren says:

    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.

    No, I think Brooks is talking about the dire need for cheap maids and butlers here.

  3. 3
    jl says:

    If Brooks is publishing his pundit sociology again, time to post this link to an article that explores Brooks’ research methods, which some people might say are unsound.

    Boo-Boos in Paradise
    Wayne-bred David Brooks is the public intellectual of the moment. But our writer found out he doesn’t check his facts

    By Sasha Issenberg
    Philadelphia Magazine
    Posted on April 2004

    http://www.phillymag.com/artic.....n_paradise

  4. 4
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    It’s taken me this long to realize that Bobo lives in a Masterpiece Theater series and thinks the rest of us should, too. Of course, he wouldn’t let the likes of me come upstairs except to do the dusting and polishing.

  5. 5
    beltane says:

    What we really need is a program where spoiled, sheltered pundits like David Brooks are forced to get real jobs and live off the wages thereof.

  6. 6
    JPL says:

    Reeducation camps might prove useful. After all the upper crust can teach the benefits of cocaine rather than crack. That might reduce jail time for some.

  7. 7
    General Stuck says:

    Like I said in my comment on Zandar’s post, the book and Brooks mainlining it to the public from his high NYT’s perch in the ivory tower, was a obtuse clarion call that white supremacy in this country is threatened, now what are you prepared to do about it.

    We are moving on down the road of white backlash, galvanized by the Obama presidency that is loosening inhibitions to daily increases of racial dog whistling, and the fact the nations arguably most liberal newspaper allowing their newspaper to be used for such a blatant pander to white America, should not be lost on anyone.

    Brooks is what passes for a right wing intellectual, and he is dutifully passing the word that white folk better band together, or face permanent minority status in their own country.

  8. 8
    Raven says:

    Two threads on this douche?

  9. 9
    Maude says:

    While all of us are at camp, what will Bobo be doing?
    I can’t understand why he is paid to write such drivel.

  10. 10
    Mike in NC says:

    Dictatorial schemes to force people to adopt conservative values are now a staple of right-wing dialog in this country.

    Plus wingnut dogma that demands that on the one hand (1) we need a small, weak federal government that can’t raise taxes on anybody, anywhere, anytime; but (2) we also need to maintain a huge and prohibitively expensive military machine that can be deployed instantly to coerce or destroy any group or country that doesn’t appreciate Pax Americana.

  11. 11
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @beltane: Lets send him and MoU to work at FoxConn.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    @jl: Also, everyone should read the Issenberg piece on Brooks. It has some good bits, that should be dramatized by whoever fate decrees will be the next Marx Brothers or Monty Python.

    I like the part where Issenberg confronts Brooks with the frequent and very convenient discrepancies between his reporting and analysis versus what the reality is. Brooks accused Issenberg of being unethical for fact checking his work.

    Good times, eh?

  13. 13
    Samara Morgan says:

    Tribe-jam.
    im so stealin’ that.
    praps there is hope for DougJ.

  14. 14
    J says:

    One of the many dishonesties in Brooks’ latest effusion is talking about the top 20%. The charge that he pretends to be answering is that a greedy, corrupt and incompetent ruling class is grabbing more and more power and wealth for itself at the expense of everyone else. This is behind talk of the 99%. Paul Krugman thinks that perhaps it would be more accurate to say the 99.9%. For all the many and various faults of people in the top 20%–totebaggers as DougJ calls them–they are not the people accused of mucking everything up.

  15. 15
    jl says:

    Brad De Long recommends what he says is a much better book on the same topic:

    Cahn and Carbone: Red Families v. Blue Families

    On the De Long blog front page earlier today.

  16. 16
    eemom says:

    One of the reasons I can’t talk about politics at work or with my family is that they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that David Brooks would send all of us to a re-education camp if he could

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe they look at you that way because they have no idea who the fuck David Brooks is, or at best just a vague one?

    And/or, that when you explain that he’s a newspaper columnist, they think it’s crazy for you to talk about him sending people to re-education camps??

    To pick up on an argument from the other night, I just don’t buy the idea that these clowns have the level of influence you think they have.

    The fucked up emmessemm as a whole has influence, yes — but only in its collective echoing of the same tripe, and its collective failure to do the actual job of journalism.

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @trollhattan:

    He won’t get it. He’s too much an idiot to figure it out.

  18. 18
    Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor says:

    One of the reasons I can’t talk about politics at work or with my family is that they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that David Brooks would send all of us to a re-education camp if he could

    So?

    I mean, at work I can understand, IMO it’s bad manners to bring up religion or politics at work, with coworkers (though wingers seem to think it’s ok, for them).

    My family used to think I was crazy, too. But I’ve found that if you get a ‘track record’ at predicting the bad things that the GOP will do when given a chance, the sane ones do seem to turn around over time.

    (Anecdote, not data, etc).

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jl:

    Brooks accused Issenberg of being unethical for fact checking his work.

    This is why I think David Brooks’ head would look best rolling around in a wicker basket.

    Or on a pike.

  20. 20
  21. 21
    Waldo says:

    Bobo’s just farting into the wind. If his lame idea ever got close to becoming a reality, he’d suddenly remember he’s always been fundamentally opposed to social engineering — especially the kind that results in icky class mixing.

  22. 22
    me says:

    Sounds like Brooks wants a Cultural Revolution.

  23. 23
    Raven says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: It would have to be a pretty tight weave or the shit would just ooze out.

  24. 24
    joeyess says:

    The New York Fucking Times.

    We’ll never be rid of these people, will we?

  25. 25
    Slugger says:

    I live in a mixed class neighborhood (or voisinage as one of my Quebecker neighbor says). It was a formerly black inner city area of mostly smaller craftsman style houses built 100 to 70 years ago. It got gentrified by gay couples buying in and fixing up the homes of older African-Americans as they moved into the suburbs. Then white-collar professionals and well-to-do empty nesters who wanted the amenities of the city without having to commute followed the gay pioneers. We are less than a mile from cineplexes, shopping malls, fancy restaurants, and a big hospital yet the streets are quiet and tree-lined. There are four wine shops with great selections, a tatoo parlor, a dozen bars, art galleries, and delicatessens that carry foie gras within a twenty minute walk of my house.
    The neighborhood is 20% black, 20% gay, 50% white clerical workers with kids, and 10% rich mostly older whites.
    Here is the part that Bobo might not like. We’re pretty liberal. When I walk my dog the lawn signs all look blue. In 2008, I saw one McCain sign in about a 15 block radius.
    Has Mr. Brooks considered the possibility that mixed neighborhoods might turn people liberal? It gets harder to fear gay marriage, public schools, or social program in general when the recipients are your neighbors.

  26. 26
    jl says:

    One, out of many, problem with Brooks is illustrated in the passage below:

    ” It’s wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It’s wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites.

    The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids. ”

    In the context of the first paragraph, the first sentence of the second must be referring to economic productivity. Brooks’ assertion is in answer to the charges leveled in the first paragraphs, that unearned money and privilege going to the elites is the cause of the lesser peoples’ problems. No, Brooks says, the elites are productive, so they have earned the resources at their disposal honestly, and it is return for useful productive work.

    But, the rest of the second paragraph does nothing to back up anything said about productivity. It is about the elites having a fantasy Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver 1950s lifestyle.

    Does Brooks understand that he presents no argument and no evidence about the elite’s productivity at all? Or does he figure it will serve its function as political propaganda? Or does he just churn it out and send it off without a second glance or second thought?

  27. 27
    joeyess says:

    @eemom:

    To pick up on an argument from the other night, I just don’t buy the idea that these clowns have the level of influence you think they have.

    Two words: Judith Miller

  28. 28
    jl says:

    For a little balance, I will paraphrase the notorious US radical agitator and community organizer, Alexander Hamilton. From memory, but close enough for bloggity work.

    The rich are not more virtuous than the poor. They do have vices that are more conducive to the getting and preservation of wealth.

  29. 29
    Nancy says:

    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 used to have one. It was called the draft.

  30. 30
    Raven says:

    @Nancy: And a popular program it was.

  31. 31
    WereBear says:

    @Slugger: My DC cab driver loved to point out all the neighborhoods that “the gay couples” had moved into and gentrified. This waxing and waning of urban neighborhoods is the heartbeat of a city, and creates wonderful cohesion among folks who might not start out like minded, but become so.

  32. 32
    BruceJ says:

    I thought Pol Pot was dead…apparently he merely emigrated, changed his name and got a fucking NY TImes columen. This explains a great deal.

  33. 33
    eemom says:

    @joeyess:

    Right. Judith Miller lied us into the Iraq war all by herself.

  34. 34
    joeyess says:

    @eemom: Didn’t say that. But she did have influence. Deadly influence.

  35. 35
    Martin says:

    Shit, that’s easy dude. Make all the poor people richer and they’ll be together! Oh, wait, that’s too hard to do? Fine, we’ll just make all the rich people poorer instead.

    We’ll call it the Buffett Bobo Rule.

  36. 36
    MaxxLange says:

    You know, I saw this same vile theme – the plight of the middle class is due to their abandonment of discipline and traditional social values w/r/t marriage and sex – in a column in the AJC, over Christmas. That column spared not one line, my friends, for the influence of globalization, the decline of wages, the “reengineering” of the corporation, anything. The middle class failure to thrive is essentially a sign of moral failing. Pure crypto-Weberian Calvinist Capitalism, great stuff.

    I have been waiting for this to rise up the percolator, and come bubbling out of the Burkean spout, all over the clean countertop. This is possibly going to be the second line of the GOP 2012 attack on Obama and the economy: he has failed morally, as a leader, to lead the Middle Class out of sin.

  37. 37
    Mike G says:

    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.

    This from the ideologue of homogeneous car-dependent suburbs and gated communities to get away from all the scary brown people. BoBo is a walking Orange County circa 1955.

    Something tells me he thinks this is an awesome idea to impose on other people, but mysteriously he’ll be missing from the line to take in roommates from Appalachian coal towns, let alone South LA.

  38. 38

    One of the reasons I can’t talk about politics at work or with my family is that they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that David Brooks would send all of us to a re-education camp if he could, but that’s exactly what he’s getting at here:

    Doug, I think you vastly overestimate the extent to which Brooks has thought about the implementation of his ideas. He’s just throwing out word salad, trying to sound impressive. That your accusation is the logical consequence of what he has said not only hasn’t occurred to him, but he wouldn’t understand it even if you tried to explain it to him.

    As I said yesterday, this is a rampage of generalists who don’t understand anything like sociology or economics or arithmetic or public policy. They took classes in how to put words on paper, but one of the attraction of journalism school for many of them was that they weren’t required to take any classes that would expose them to subjects to write about. Those would be hard, and require thinking. And, god forbid, they might require you to take a math class.

    David Brooks has no fucking clue that he sounds like a Maoist in this column. That’s basically a job requirement, because anyone who did understand that, who was *capable* of understanding that, wouldn’t be convincing when he went on PBS to lecture us.

  39. 39
    mothra says:

    We already have that, Mr. Brooks. It’s called public education. But for some reason, the GOP is against it.

  40. 40
    jrg says:

    Yes, Bobo. The bottom 30% just decided to be a bunch of lazy bums one day. All of them, collectively. During or after the 1960’s, of course.

    Since they decided to do this on their own (increased industrial productivity and working conditions that prevent social mobility didn’t cause them to do it, they just did it, because, uh, hippies and Jersey Shore), the solution is to send them into camps with rich people.

    What a moron.

  41. 41

    And why is it that totalitarians all hate sex so much? It’s a universal element of all of the implementations? Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, you name them, they all hated sex. Sure, you get the occasional pervert, like Heydrich or Beria, but even most of the underlings are completely repressed closet cases.

    I don’t get it. What’s the point of being evil other than to get some?

  42. 42
    eemom says:

    @joeyess:

    Fair nuff. But there is a huge difference between a reporter claiming to have knowledge of FACTS from actual SOURCES……and acknowledged opinionators like Brooks writing opeds.

  43. 43
    KG says:

    @Nancy: Isn’t this sort of what college does now? It’s not the best example, but it seems like a decent one… especially with legacy admissions no longer being the norm.

  44. 44
    cmorenc says:

    During World War II there actually was a program in the US very much like the basic idea David Brooks hypothetically proposes, where sons (and some daughters) of the 30% mixed freely for two to four years as peers with sons (and some daughters) of the 20% and even the 1%. Best of all, the vastly overwhelming majority of young folks from both camps eagerly, willingly sought to join the program, all feeling that failure to join the program would be a shameful disservice to the country. That program was the armed forces fighting Hitler and Tojo. While currently, we as a country have regained our honorable sense of regard for those serving in the armed forces, especially those fighting abroad, there is no sense among young people generally of any obligation to serve the military or otherwise, nor any shame whatsoever in not serving.

  45. 45
    jl says:

    RE debate on Brooks’ influence.

    I think Brooks does have influence, both as an individual and as part of a corrupt and suborned pundit class.

    As an individual, this guy writes a very prominent column in the nations premier newspaper. He appears along side columnists like Krugman, Kristoff and Nocera, who whatever their other faults, actually put some research and thought into their columns.

    And, the guy is on several national TV venues as often as beer, shampoo, auto parts, and junk food commercials combined.

    And as part of a class, there are many others like him, on TV about as much, saying the same stuff.

    Once you “get it out there” (as some TV pundit put) half the work of social engineering and political propaganda is done. So, yes, I think Brooks and people like him have influence and are worth paying attention to. They attempt to shape the public’s conventional wisdom, and I think are fairly successful.

  46. 46
    joeyess says:

    @eemom: Yeah, opinionators like Brooks get to say what they want, free of facts and then get quoted by the pols he serves. He writes the songs the whole GOP sings. Trust me, when this clown writes a column, it gets discussed. Not only here, but in other forums, very seriously. He’s a solid Heritage foundation luminary, he’s a villager of the highest order, the Federalist Society invites him to dinners and speaking engagements, AEI is one of his wingnut welfare benefactors, the indictment goes on and on.

    I wouldn’t trust that crowd to run a Quick Trip, much less the country, but, they run the country and Bobo is a member in good standing.

    Like I said, he and people like him (coughchunkyreesewitherspooncough) write the music and lyrics for the god-awful GOP roadshow.

  47. 47
    General Stuck says:

    @jl:

    I think Brooks does have influence, both as an individual and as part of a corrupt and suborned pundit class.

    He has influence to which way the defeated conservative movement directs its energies into the future. The main ideas, especially economic, that was the prime glue that held that movement together as a cogent pol force, ended as that with Tarp one. The variant parts will re coalesce around some kind of prime narrative, and it seems an awful lot like that is largely going to be racial in nature as to who runs this country. My guess this was the main motivator for someone like Charles Murray to write a book about Americana, leaving out everyone but white people.

  48. 48

    We had something of what Brook envisions for a while. It was called the draft. It brought people together from all walks of life — by force — and taught them to work together. The downside was that on occasion a lot of them got killed. But hey, there’s a flaw in every plan, right?

  49. 49

    Quintiles work much better for Mr Brooks than deciles or worse yet centiles. Us against the Huns works much better for those included in than excluded.

  50. 50
    Heliopause says:

    Here’s what I’ve been puzzling about this whole thesis of elite whites not understanding poor/middle class whites; the data points they use to make this point are NASCAR, Applebee’s Coors, and so forth. All of those things are owned and disseminated by fabulously wealthy people. Seems to me the elites know all too well what the rubes consume. Am I missing something here?

  51. 51
    vheidi says:

    I love my social justice active Stepfather, and I know I am going to be listening to 1 this and 2 Americans whatever
    During the wedding weekend
    eergh

  52. 52

    @General Stuck:

    the defeated conservative movement

    It would be nice if this were so… I strongly doubt it. I didn’t buy it in 08 and don’t see it anytime soon.

    Practice for pool league calls…

  53. 53
    General Stuck says:

    @Heliopause:

    Seems to me the elites know all too well what the rubes consume. Am I missing something here?

    The problem for the republicans, that their cultural strategy is getting bypassed by economic reality of rank and file wingnut voters. The profit monster has grown so large, it is almost self contained and uncontrollable, that now is turning its insatiable appetites for concentrated wealth, into the right wing middle class, just like the left wing middle class. When that happens, and the middle class shrinks into a larger poor class, people start asking questions, and they can’t eat social issues nor racial privilege.

  54. 54
    jl says:

    @Heliopause: No, what is going is that you are NOT missing some parts of the puzzle that Brooks and his buddies want you to miss.

  55. 55
    General Stuck says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    You should maybe have read the rest of my comment, for qualification of the part you blockquoted.

  56. 56
    Larkspur says:

    I don’t read Brooks any more, but I love going over there to read the comments. Comments are closed now, after 459 were made. The first two under “Reader Picks” have each got about 700 “thumbs-up”, and, unsurprisingly, a lot of the top ones are much better written.

  57. 57
    Gustopher says:

    There are lots of neighborhoods I’d love to force the elites to live in. I know Brooks wrote only about crackers, so we will probably have an easier time placing him in the Ozarks somewhere.

    I think he’ll come away with a stronger character for the experience.

  58. 58
    MonkeyBoy says:

    We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

    What he leaves implicit is “So the lessers can learn to emulate their betters” i.e. a one way transaction.

    I’ve known missionaries socially who have worked with the poor overseas and have come to realize that many don’t like the people they are supposedly helping. Instead they see their role to be a shining example of how Western Christianity has created a superior person – something the poor natives cant help themselves from wanting to emulate.

    A good way to tell what sort of person a missionary is is to ask them what food they ate. I’ve met some who delighted in describing how disgusting the native dishes were and how excited they were when say a shipment of Kraft Mac and Cheese arrived.

  59. 59
    Luthe says:

    As I said in the last Brooks thread, doesn’t BoBo realize that the Murlocks ate the Eloi?

  60. 60
    General Stuck says:

    A last thought. By saying the conservative movement was defeated, that is as a cogent pol force that it was before the Wall Street bailouts. These people, and their voters will still be a viable pol power, that has proven they can at least win elections. But things are changing economically in this country, and if they don’t find a way to moderate their all pro corporate mindset, in favor of meeting needs of the middle class, they are, over time, going to weaken electorally.

  61. 61
    Splitting Image says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Doug, I think you vastly overestimate the extent to which Brooks has thought about the implementation of his ideas. He’s just throwing out word salad, trying to sound impressive. That your accusation is the logical consequence of what he has said not only hasn’t occurred to him, but he wouldn’t understand it even if you tried to explain it to him.

    In other words, David Brooks is Newt Gingrich: a dumb person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.

    Or rather, what Gingrich would be without the snarl and the penchant for obvious bomb-throwing.

    Note that Gingrich has been sounding like a Maoist lately himself on occasion. He’ll be back to normal soon enough, if he manages to get on the same stage as the near guy.

    Brooks will do so as well. The moment Obama (or Jon Huntsman, for that matter) suggests any kind of workable national service program, Brooks will remember that it’s secular-socialist Islamofascism.

  62. 62
    General Stuck says:

    @General Stuck:

    the defeated conservative movement

    i should have used “failed” instead of “defeated” as coming with Tarp one. Sorry for the confusion.

  63. 63
    Amir Khalid says:

    @J. Michael Neal:
    Simple, actually. Time spent thinking about/looking for/having sex is time wasted not thinking about/building up/demonstrating your devotion to their Noble Cause (and to them, if a personality cult is attached to Dear Leader).

    Although, if Dear leader is himself a True Believer in the abstinence part (sometimes that does happen), he might actually not be looking to get laid himself.

  64. 64
    DanielX says:

    @General Stuck:

    Brooks is what passes for a right wing intellectual, and he is dutifully passing the word that white folk better band together, or face permanent minority status in their own country.

    Actually, what is really pulling Bobo’s dick (and Murray’s too) is that white folk face permanent minority status in their own country anyway in a relatively few years. That’s not bloviation, that’s demographic reality. The only alternatives for retaining political power in the hands of whites are re-imposing a poll tax or property ownership requirement for voting or massive vote suppression, which has already happened on a de facto basis. Could just be coincidence that the drug war has resulted in so many blacks losing their votes due to felony convictions for minor trafficking offenses…or not. (I know, tinfoil hat time.) But there is no doubt that this is what’s behind open Republican vote suppression efforts nationwide – the higher the vote turnout, the more likely it is that Republican candidates lose.

    Which, of course, poses an interesting question: if, as so many say, my/your vote doesn’t matter, why is the former party of Lincoln spending billions trying to suppress it?

  65. 65

    […] just the last 24 hours.  Brooks’ call for the running dogs of liberalism to take their turn growing turnips in the camps.  A breast cancer advocacy group choosing to kill women (welcome back ABL!) rather than suffer the […]

  66. 66
    Bruce S says:

    David Brooks doesn’t include the Murray book’s complete title in his column – “…..The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

    Yeah it’s a book about white people because – as Brooks suggests in an aside acknowledging that Murray’s “data” on, in Brooks words, “the most important trends in America” uses “white” statistics only, Murray doesn’t want to complicate it with messy race stuff. Because, white is simply normative and nothing about that demographic has anything to do with race. Brooks avoids the title of Murray’s book because it gives the game away.

    Brooks is an idiot. But he’s doesn’t even rise to his own standard of idiocy here. This column is pernicious in it’s assumptions and arrogance.

  67. 67
    Paul in KY says:

    @J. Michael Neal: Lenin was happily married, if I recall correctly.

  68. 68
    someofparts says:

    All of my friends went to schools with rich kids. That’s because the rich have to offer scholarships to smart kids from poor neighborhoods to jack up the school performance statistics that their own slacker kids can’t be bothered to maintain by actually, oh, studying.

  69. 69
    someofparts says:

    I don’t think that happens in the South because rich people in the South take real pride in their stupidity.

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