When I thin out (points at skeleton), I want to be well thought of. I know that it’s hopeless, in terms of what people think of me personally, but I’d like to think, as regards to what I do for a living, that future historians don’t point to this era as the time when universities degenerated into flashy TED talks about Big Data and buzzword-heavy, apocrypha-driven social pseudo-science. That’s why David Brooks bothers so much.
Yesterday’s column is based on a student paper in the class he’s teaching at Yale. Its thesis is that, whereas the last generation of young people were easily brainwashed order-takers, today’s kidz got disillusioned by all the neocon and free-market propaganda they were exposed to in those heady days before Iraq turned into a disaster and the economy went down the shitter (imagine that), so now they’d like to hear a few practical, empirical arguments before they support invading countries or putting an Ayn Rand fanboi in charge of monetary policy.
I hope she’s right. But it’s a bit astounding that Bobo — here and elsewhere — expresses no guilt for his own role in pimping Operation Irai Freedom and the Bush tax cuts. We all remember how much Bobo loved the war in Iraq but commenter Upper West also digs up this gem from Bobo at Driftglass, arguing in support of the the Bush tax cuts:
In other words, if you wade through the economic literature, it’s hard not to agree with the Cleveland Fed’s Jerry Jordan: We are living at a once-in-a-generation moment of economic opportunity. As productivity grows, the economy will grow. As the economy grows, revenues will grow, maybe beyond what the CBO projects. The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, Can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?
(I don’t why conservatives love the contrarian construct “the real question isn’t should we whatever less, it’s why aren’t we whatever more”. You can plug in cherished right-wing activity you want — bombing, polluting, repeating baseless rumors.)
It’s not surprising, Brooks is an innumerate idiot who knows nothing about economics and probably couldn’t estimate the CPI or GDP without using google. That would be fine if he restricted himself to Jeff Foxworthy-style “you might be a bourgeois bohemian if…” humor. But he doesn’t. He’s in my base, killing my dudes, where by “my dudes”, I mean my older totebagger friends and colleagues (and possibly parents).
I know, I know. It’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says “Fool them once, shame on…shame on Bobo. Fool them… You can’t get fooled again!” But I hate him the way someone might hate a radio huckster who scammed his father out of money.
Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin sell gold and guns. David Brooks sells tote-bags and books. Mutatis mutandis, they’re exactly the same.
Snooze Hour watchers don’t like to hear this but they’re just as easy marks as Limbaugh fans. The truth is everyone’s an easy mark if they let themselves be. I’ll close with a bit from Sasha Issenberg’s brilliant Bobo take-down:
By holding himself to a rings-true standard, Brooks acknowledges that all he does is present his readers with the familiar and ask them to recognize it. Why, then, has his particular brand of stereotype-peddling met with such success? In recent years, American journalism has reacted to the excesses of New Journalism — narcissism, impressionism, preening subjectivity — by adopting the trappings of scholarship. Trend pieces, once a bastion of three-examples-and-out superficiality, now strive for the authority of dissertations.
This culture shift has rewarded Brooks, who translates echt nerd appearance (glasses, toothy grin, blue blazer) and intellectual bearing into journalistic credibility, which allows him to take amusing dinner-party chatter — Was that map an electoral-college breakdown or a marketing plan for Mighty Aphrodite? — and sell it to editors as well-argued wisdom on American society. Brooks satisfies the features desk’s appetite for scholarly authority in much the same way that Jayson Blair fed the newsroom’s compulsion for scoops.