I feel so humble with you tonight

I’m jetlagged and everyone’s sending me the syllabus for Bobo’s “Humility” course at Yale.

I’ll say a few things. First off, David Brooks has no training in, or knowledge of, science, yet he wrote a book claiming to explain the science of how we “Social Animals” live…how exactly is that humble? Secondly, and here’s the more troubling point, why do totebaggers love this right-wing propagandist so much?

I understand why Andrew Sullivan predominately liberal readership gave their hard-earned ameros to fund Sully’s brave venture into “mutualised” unaccountability (h/t mistermix). After all, Sullivan is now primarily an Obama booster with a blog that updates regularly….not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But David Brooks is still representing for the neocons all around the world, even if he does it with a polite more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, pox-on-both-houses way. I don’t understand how people who hated Bush more than I did can possibly enjoy his Burkean glove, Straussian fist routine.

Maybe it’s essentially the same reason that white people like Wayne Brady so much; maybe it’s just the everyone likes political opponents who seem like such harmless nebbishes (a lesser blogger would have used the p-word here, my friends). Or is it — and this is part of my theory — that the tote bag crowd is crypto-conservative? A lot that I talk to love the broken windows, school uniform type shit and share wingers’ fears that teh kidz are sexting Western civilization away.

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53 replies
  1. 1
    M. Bouffant says:

    I reached the same crypto-con conclusion (Well, “bunch of incipient junior fascists” was the exact conclusion.) when you asked why they like Brooks. And you agreed later.

    But why shouldn’t they be protectors of the system? They’ve made an investment in it, & it’s rewarded them enough they can be tote-baggers, so they’re not interested in rocking the boat.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Doug Galt says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    That’s a good way of putting it.

  4. 4
    MikeJ says:

    fears that teh kidz are sexting Western civilization away.

    When I was a kid just talking about it wouldn’t get you anywhere.

  5. 5
    Catfish N. Cod says:

    So, as I understand that link on Sully’s sordid past, when a neocon wises up and realizes he’s been used — the proper thing to do is to thank him, then shoot him and publicly display his head on a pike. I’m sure that will encourage further defections to the cause.

  6. 6
    NotMax says:

    Uriah Heep lives.

  7. 7
    Waldo says:

    It’s not that they love Bobo. It’s that they love to think of themselves as being open-minded enough to give both sides a fair hearing. Bobo, being more palatable than, say, El Rushbo, makes the process downright pleasant.

  8. 8
    geg6 says:

    I think it’s because they have never had fear or want in their lives. Totebaggers are, by definition, upper middle class or wealthy by birth and so, probably like their parents, they think of themselves as liberals but are too comfortable to really internalize liberal values. They love Brooks because he’s just like them.

  9. 9
    Keith G says:

    Maybe it’s essentially the same reason that white people like Wayne Brady so much; maybe it’s just the everyone likes political opponents who seem like such harmless nebbishes (a lesser blogger would have used the p-word here, my friends). Or is it — and this is part of my theory — that the tote bag crowd is crypto-conservative? A lot that I talk to love the broken windows, school uniform type shit and share wingers’ fears that teh kidz are sexting Western civilization away.

    I’m thinking this is more attributable to selection bias on your part as you seem to need a certain type of “totebagger” crowd to rail against. That is a very human thing to do – define our opponents in the way that is most useful to us whether our not that definition conforms to reality.

    Ironically, I just listened to a Yale professor (certainly a tote bag type as she has been on NPR/PBS) crush one of Brooks central thesis.

    Some while ago, I heard Brooks opine that all of our leaders, and especially Obama, had to become bigger/greater leaders. They needed to stop being pulled down into the mire and muck of daily political concerns and focus on the big picture – that being the looming debt. Our Founders (said Brooks) put aside the pettiness of daily politics and made great sacrifices as they built our government.

    Someday, David Brooks may want to listen to Yale’s Professor Joanne Freeman’s course on the American Revolution. It’s free on iTunes and I highly recommend it. In the last part of her last lecture of the course, she talks about the mindset of the founders as described by John Adams. Simply…Brooks’ generalization was very, very wrong.

    And I would argue, so are the generalizations nested in the above block.

  10. 10
    AnonPhenom says:

    why do totebaggers love this right-wing

    Daddy issues…

  11. 11
    jayboat says:

    Want to take a moment, D-Galt, and thank you for starting my day with this. And I mean that most sincerely.

    After clicking the link, I experienced a mild sense of euphoria. I’m overcome with a feeling of humble calm, completely at peace now.

    More often than I care to dwell on, I am confronted with information, usually on the subject of republicanism or some such modern malady, that it fills me with a burning desire to punch someone in the nose. Although the scenario to date has only played itself to conclusion in my fevered imagination. (Pies and rough rider coats are necessary props.)

    I fully expect it to happen in real life someday simply because of my current geography and the nature of fate: Naples, Florida- home to one Rick Scott and also, sir johnny boo-boo spends a LOT of time here. And when I say here, I mean right here in my neighborhood. My neighbor and his daughter ran into him a couple nights ago at dinner about 12 blocks from my house, and he hosts an annual conclave at the ritz (6 blocks away). It is a target-rich environment- during a short period last spring, we were graced with the presence of Rove(twice), gnoot, Palin, Rmoney, Santorum and others, all with their hands out to all the 1% that live here.

    I get a funny feeling in my pie hand when I know they are only blocks from me. 8-]

    I also get that same feeling when I learn of the future location/schedule of a person that I would travel to visit. bobo is one such person.


    also, too- bail money bleg (in advance)

  12. 12
    Johannes says:

    Brooks would actually be improved by the Cybermen conversion process.

  13. 13
    TR says:

    Totebaggers are like libertarians.

    They’ve fashioned out an intellectual space for themselves that lets them believe they’re not aiding and abetting the GOP fucktardery but no matter what they say, they are.

  14. 14
    Schlemizel says:

    I think you have hit on it Doug. I know I have felt that way about a lot of people who call themselves liberal but luvs them some Bobo. They know that cons are close minded, little people and they don’t see themselves that way. But they are terribly frightened of the great unwashed taking “what is rightfully mine”. They have no concept of how they got all that in the first place, how much the government their parents built helped them.

    I was fairy active in the peace movement in the 60’s and what I learned over time was many (perhaps most) of the participants were not nearly as interested in ending the war as they were in wanting the war to not affect them personally. I was not surprised when those same people became Reaganites – “its all about me” is their motto.

  15. 15
    Patricia Kayden says:

    That “mutualized unaccountability” article is powerful. Didn’t know Sullivan was so trifling as I only started reading him after 2008. He always struck me as overly dramatic from time to time (i.e., reaction to President Obama’s poor 1st debate performance), but never as evil.


  16. 16
    kindness says:

    As for those sending you Bobo’s syllibus, well, either they are trying to tell you something or they just plain don’t like you and wish you nightmares.

    How much is the course anyhow? It might be fun just to go in and be a fuck up and completely blow his narrative out of the water.

    Brooks lives in that rarified world where I don’t believe he actually sees the criticisms others give. No, I suspect he doesn’t care what we peons think. We really don’t matter and in his world we should know our place. But he’s polite about it. If we have a French Revolution here, I want to see the video of Brooks at the guillotine.

  17. 17
    Aimai says:

    I’ve got a grad degree from Yale. If I felt anything other than estrangement from the place I’d be humiliated. It reflects the outsize place given to marketing and to “names” and the impoverishment of the concept of a public intellectual. I should also add that when I was at Harvard as an undergrad Marty Peretz was teaching a course in my department. Twas ever thus because that was thirty years ago.

  18. 18
    Anya says:

    Welcome back, DougJ.

    I swear, you gave me a permanent complex about owning a tote bag. Yesterday, I was at Lord & Taylor and saw this gorgeous tote bag but couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Kept remembering your condescending sneer towards ” totebaggers.”

    About Bobo, he annoys the crap out of me. He comes off so phoney. Under neath all the calm and reasonableness, he’s nothing more than an apologist for a racist misogynistic party.

  19. 19
    jibeaux says:

    I admit that white people love them some Wayne Brady, but I’m not ashamed of that. He’s talented and good looking and he poked fun of himself to good effect on the Chapelle show once. It’s fine if you’re too cool for that, but sheesh, what have we done to be lumped in with David Brooks-lovers?

  20. 20
    vtr says:


    As an employee of public media for thirty years now, I need to point out that I have no knowledge of the existence of a totebagger who doesn’t run screaming from the room when Brooks makes his weekly appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition. It’s not a matter of agreement or disagreement with his sophistry, it’s that it is merely sophistry which is of no use to the audience – liberal or conservative.

  21. 21
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    What? No travelogue on your trip to Japan? Color me disappointed.


    Bobo’s on NPR and PBS because he sounds reasonable to people who don’t dig into the details. They need to present both sides to keep support in Congress. Who would you recommend in his place?

    Brooks is infuriating, but one grins and bears it. I say that as someone who graduated from the same class as him (Chicago ’83). (AFAIK, we never had a class together.)


  22. 22
    jamick6000 says:

    Week 8: Burke (March 5)
    Edmund Burke argued that the power of reason is weak and that people are wiser to rely upon just prejudices and tradition. Given his tendency to distrust reason and rapid change, how did Burke believe politics and reform should be pursued?

    Reading: Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke Parts 1-8

    don’t cut class that week, kids or you’ll miss something extra frothy

  23. 23
    different-church-lady says:

    I think maybe he’s using the term “humility” in the same sense a dominatrix uses it with her clients.

  24. 24
    Anton Sirius says:

    @jibeaux: Brady didn’t just make fun of himself… he savaged his whole public image:


    Let’s see Brooks pull something like that off. Or does he not possess the requisite humility?

  25. 25
    Ohio Mom says:

    Nothing really to add, just that I often find myself surrounded by people who are impressed with Brooks or have other tote-bagger characteristics, and it’s always befuddling to me. How can they fall for all that? But I console myself that as long as they all keep voting Blue, who cares what silliness they espouse over dinner.

    Anyway, posts like this one hearten me, always good to be reminded I’m not alone, others share my consternation.

  26. 26
    jayboat says:

    @Ohio Mom:
    I’ve experienced the same thing. It’s a kind of reflexive “well, it’s not Fox, so it can’t be all bad” behavior for polite society.

  27. 27
    redshirt says:

    Isn’t Bobo just a less “intellectual” Tom Friedman? Are those two mining the same demographic?

  28. 28
    Jamey says:

    @Catfish N. Cod: What, exactly, does “the cause” get from converts like Sully? I’ve parsed the bill-of-lading top-to-bottom and six ways from Sunday, and still cannot see the value in winning over a histrionic, navel-gazing courtesan whose signature accomplishments are thwarting universal access to health insurance and making legitimate the rancid premises of The Bell Curve.

    Others like Cole, Brock, et al seem to have had a sincere “Road to Damascus” moment or two in their lives, and are doing tremendous good. But, near as I can tell, their “conversions” have brought tremendous force and vitality to liberal thought and action. Sully has given “us” what, a Palin/Trig birth conspiracy? Really, am disinclined to win over more Sullys or Brookses…

  29. 29
    schrodinger's cat says:

    How was your trip to Japan, DougJ? I find MoU popularity even more inexplicable, I haven’t met a single person in real life who likes MoU, but there he is on NYT and on TV all the damn time.

  30. 30
    Doug Galt says:


    The Chappelle bit was apropos of “Why do white people like Wayne Brady so much? Answer: Because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.” Hence, the reference here.

  31. 31
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Why do you make taxi drivers in Mumbai cry?

  32. 32
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Yutsano: I have met taxi drivers in Mumbai who are smarter and more intelligent than MoU, they have better mustaches too!

  33. 33
    PeakVT says:

    @redshirt: I think Bobo tries to be more of an intellectual, while the MoU is more of a globe-trotting trend-spotter. But the main difference is that the MoU explicitly lays claim to the center (which is well on the right to begin with), while Bobo spends a lot of time pretending to be just a wee fraction to the right of the center, which of course he isn’t.

    The main similarity is that they are a menace to anyone who doesn’t pull down at least six figures.

  34. 34
    Yutsano says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I’m coming to the conclusion Sikhs get a very bad rap in the West. It’s actually a very progressive and peaceful religion that might yet gain some more traction in South Asia. Oh and most mammals are more intelligent than the MoU.

  35. 35
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @PeakVT: Bobo is an imitation intellectual not the real deal. He frequently misinterprets research that he refers to, to underscore his ideological biases.

  36. 36
    PeakVT says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Of course. His real role is turd polisher. He does whatever he can to try to make conservatism look acceptable to self-styled “centrists” and “moderates”.

  37. 37
    catclub says:

    Isn’t college where you read original sources, rather than cliffs notes?

    No syllabus book dated before 1990.

    Why not read Augustine himself, rather than a biography? Likewise for the Greeks?

    I feel like a parody of VDH.

    Also pride is the first sin and humility is the first virtue, does Bobo even know that?

  38. 38
    jamick6000 says:


    Modern societies have become economically and socially more unequal. This trip will provide jumping-off point for a discussion on two conflicting desires: social distinction versus being the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee’s salad bar, and fit in naturally there.

  39. 39
    jake the snake says:

    I believe that qualifies as a win.

  40. 40
    CaseyL says:

    I read Brooks’ “Bobos in Paradise” when it came out in 2000 (?), thought it was a hoot (he totally nailed the yuppification of BDSM, and that chapter is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever read) and looked forward to more of his work. I don’t remember when I realized he was an intellectually dishonest dipshit, just as I don’t remember the last time I bothered to read him.

    I can tell you when he first creeped me out big time: I saw him on one of those gasbag talk shows, probably on CNN. I had never heard him speak before, and it was a watershed moment.

    Brooks’ voice is the creepiest I’ve ever heard on TV. That maddening, oily, see-how-evenly-I-speak, you-can’t-upset-me oh so carefully modulated drone. It’s the voice of someone who believes he will always have the upper hand, who can’t be bothered to even contemplate walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s the voice you hear in nightmares, calmly explaining how you’ll never escape.

    Ever since, I’ve wondered what demons he’s got hidden under that calculated calm.

  41. 41
    Gus says:

    maybe it’s just the everyone likes political opponents who seem like such harmless nebbishes

    I think it’s mainly this. Also, tote baggers are mostly liberals, and they need a way to try to figure out what conservatives think. Who wants to wade into the Redstate/Newsmax/PJ Media fever swamps to do that?

  42. 42
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Gus: He may look harmless but Bobo is anything but. He mainstreams the bile of 27% in easily digestible sugar coated pills.

  43. 43
    Rex Everything says:


  44. 44
    Biff Longbotham says:

    the tote bag crowd is crypto-conservative

    Damn if you didn’t just describe my (otherwise) eco-conscious, Obama-voting, wingnut-hating wife! And Bobo is OK in her book because he is so “reasonable”. Ugh!

  45. 45
    jamick6000 says:

    @Biff Longbotham: ha! IMHO, totebaggers are the backbone of the Lieberman for Connecticut coalition.

  46. 46
    David in NY says:

    I just learned that “predominately” is a word, having a pretty long history, but less common than “predominantly” in the past. Anyway, I hate “predominately.” I think most people say “predominant” not “predominate”, though the latter seems to have some usage history as well.


  47. 47
    David in NY says:

    Look, only about 20% of the electorate will even deign to call itself “liberal.” If the totebaggers among them are actually “crypto-conservative” then it’s getting pretty lonely out here on the edge.

  48. 48
    Bruce Baugh says:

    There’ve been good discussions here in the past about Fox News Derangement Syndrome, how a lot of apolitical or otherwise not-loony people were lured into looniness by constant exposure to a particular source of crap. NPR and PBS are vectors of exactly the same kind of thing. They’re conservative media organs; of course people who expose themselves heavily to that message without making some serious, sustained effort to get alternative takes, debunkings, etc. will end up more conservative as a result.

  49. 49
    BC says:

    I think the reason totebaggers like David Brooks so much is that the “liberal” opposing him doesn’t really give a liberal counterpoint. If there were someone like Krugman, who would push back against Brooks’ conservative line, the totebaggers would be more likely to understand how stupid Brooks is as he pushes the conservative point-of-view. Instead, we have Mark Shields and E.J. Dionne who tend to think their job is to be civil in the face of stupidity. Sometime I would like the “liberal” to just laugh and laugh at the stupidity of Brooks and then show how he’s stupid. Bring charts to the PBS show that back up the reality.

  50. 50
    dollared says:


    They are white. They have enough money. They don’t know any actually poor people. They wonder about all the “others.” It somehow must be their fault.

    Bobo helps them “understand” that. Even if the totebaggers don’t agree with his policy prescriptions.

    There is no higher quality racism than de facto racism. It’s the racism of choice in places like Minneapolis, where you must drive downtown to see a person of color.

  51. 51
    cokane says:

    Week One from his class:

    How did American leaders in the 1940s and 1950 conceive of their obligations to their country? We will survey episodes from the lives of George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and various “Wise Men.” We will pay special attention to those who attended elite prep schools and universities.

  52. 52
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Is anyone on BJ auditing Bobo’s class?

    ETA: Bobo’s drivel is 300 level class, it seems like an easy A.

  53. 53
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @cokane: Neofeudal Bobo is neofeudal.

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