Monday, June 07, 2004

I Am No Bobo


Ever since David Brooks landed his cushy op-ed position at the Times, he has consistently produced trashy, logical-fallacy loaded fodder for critics of the op-ed form. His June 1st column was really no better or worse than the rest, and for that reason makes as good a target as any. His topic was the recent National Journal-sponsored ranking of the Bush administration's economic policy record. The Bush team was graded on a very scientific 'A+' to "F" scale, and received a handful of low Bs and a C- (the latter for "long term fiscal policy").

Having set this up, Brooks commences with:

"I thought it might be interesting to see what the Bush people themselves thought of their marks, so I brought The National Journal into the White House and asked a few senior officials to respond.

"Their first answer, not surprisingly, is that you have to understand the reality that confronted them when they took office in 2001. Business leaders were calling in to say that economic activity was falling off a cliff. The dot-com bubble was over, manufacturing was getting a hit..."

Et cetera. Et cetera. Can you spot the inanities in these paragraphs? First off, he "thought it might be interesting"? So he just bumbled on over to the White House to get their word on it. Where's the harm. "Their first answer, not surprisingly, is that you have to understand..." Is he joking? That has to be one of the most devious and yet most poorly constructed sentences I've ever witnessed in a major publication. "You have to understand" is not an answer to a question; it is a prelude to an excuse and a transparent evasion of the question. Surely, being the good Bobo that he is, Brooks is well-educated enough to note that distinction? But rather than interpret the excuse/apology, Brooks allows this unnamed "senior official" to run on and on, effectively giving Bush's folks free airtime..on the op-ed page, the place where, you know, this stuff is supposed to be--whether positively or negatively--interpreted, analysed, explained.

But then, where would Brooks be without his bumbling, faux-naif style? It allows him to pose as a fuzzy, socially moderate political centrist while selling a fundamentally conservative vision of America to upscale liberals, who yuk it up over his nasty and politically motivated (mis)characterizations of them in his bestselling works of "comic sociology," oblivious to the harm in it because, as Brooks is so quick to point out, he is one of them too! He lives in a blue state! He spends a lot of money on clothes! He's a flaming careerist who's never mowed his own lawn and probably wouldn't know how to even if he wanted to! He's just like us Bobos! Aren't we Northeasterners and West-Coasters total frauds? Howsabout next election we abstain and let the real Americans in the flyover region decide who gets to rule the country! I mean, because they're all so real and authentic and they wouldn't spend more than twenty dollars on dinner if you put a gun to their head.

Not because Brooks is secretly an arch-conservative or anything, oh no.

For more evidence on Brooks (half-conscious? fully conscious?) duplicity and mendacity, simply compare his pre-Times Weekly Standard articles with his work for the Times and his books. You get a nice sliding scale from fuzzy moderate to economic arch-conservative, all conveniently tailored to each formats' target audience.

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