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August 12, 2013

David Brooks: "New Media" Has "Plateaued," As Audiences Return Once Again to Professional Media Writers of "Quality" and "Authority"

Boy this is going to put a major dent in my whole ongoing New Class/New Aristocracy theory.

Via Hot Air, with video at RCP, David Brooks is more or less explicit about matters of Rank and Class and Persons of Quality.

In many ways I actually agree with him. There has been a general lessening of standards as so many (including myself) have succumbed to the song of the Drudge Siren. There is too much Buzz and not enough Feed.

One sees this in the alleged Elite Media as well.

But that said, that's a tendency, an impulse, a tic not actually central to a person; a person may choose to do that sort of thing, or he can choose not to.

David Brooks speaks, in his dreary wannabe nobleman way, of inborn "quality" and "authority," that is, attributes which are not defined by one's actions but by one's status and position.

And here to tell him he's not all that good, and neither are the bien pensants he believes constitutes the lesser lights in the constellations of the elite. Somewhat long ago he wrote, I'm told, one wry book about his own social cadre (the Bourgeois Bohemian), which apparently resonated with other bobos. And why wouldn't it? People love reading about themselves.

And since then, from his sinecure at the New York Times, he's written a weak soup of columns which tend to influence or enlighten no one at all, except to reinforce the strong belief among the vaunted elite that they alone, well, they, and other politically-credentialed members of the New Class, are talented and wise enough to speak upon American affairs, and that they are all quite right to ignore contrary voices and of the 88% minority.

This is a man, we should never forget, who presumed to induce the Quality and Authority of one Barack Hussein Obama from the crease of his trousers.

In the spring of 2005, New York Times columnist David Brooks arrived at then-Senator Barack Obama’s office for a chat. Brooks, a conservative writer who joined the Times in 2003 from The Weekly Standard, had never met Obama before. But, as they chewed over the finer points of Edmund Burke, it didn’t take long for the two men to click. “I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging,” Brooks recently told me, “but usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don’t know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me.”

That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” In the fall of 2006, two days after Obama’s The Audacity of Hope hit bookstores, Brooks published a glowing Times column. The headline was “Run, Barack, Run.”

Let me propose something obvious: We value most what we ourselves are good at. That is to say, a mathematician tends to champion mathematical logic and look a bit down on those whose math is limited to arithmetic; a writer tends, naturally, to hold those who are adept with phrasing in high regard; a religious man esteems reverence, a laborer praises those who work until they sweat, and so on, and so on.

None of this is a bad thing; it's human nature. And it probably has some positive effects. I imagine this sort of People Like Me Are Good and Wise thinking is a useful boost to the ego (and the ego, ultimately, is the captain of the spirit, and charged with keeping the ship afloat). I think that perhaps those who don't particularly value the things they're good at might at risk for depression.

But while this impulse is understandable, it is, of course, self-justifying and narcissistic. And the inverse of People Like Me are Good and Wise is the terrible and unavoidable corollary, People Not Like Me are Wicked and Stupid, which is essentially a sort of race-neutral Social Racism.

And I rather think the media has indulged its twin ego-boosting premises, both the one that elevates the self and the one that denigrates The Other, for far too long and with far too much enthusiasm and with far too little self-reflection.

A thinking man may not be able to avoid such narcissisms and bigotries but neither should he construct a worldview which explicitly justifies them and, by so doing, gives further license to his already-promiscuous indulgences.

David Brooks took a shine to Obama because, as he himself stated explicitly, "he talks like us," that is, talks like the New Class of which Brooks is a very proud and high ranking member.

A sharply-creased trouser leg is important to faux aristocrats like David Brooks. He perceived then in Barack Obama -- another man to whom Quality Drycleaning is apparently a sort of lesser sacrament -- a kindred spirit. A person like him, and thus Good and Wise.

But Obama's presidency has lurched from failure to disaster, and David Brooks sees, it seems, no reason to reflect upon the sort of thinking that caused him to insist that a state senator from Illinois run for the highest political office in America.

And so, it seems, David Brooks feels that to never reexamine one's premises nor scrutinize one's errors is a way in which a man demonstrates his Quality and Authority.

As President Trouser-Crease might say: I reject that premise.

David Brooks' New Class is fond of nattering forever on about diversity, and yet they're quite insistent that the only participants in the national debate should be people exactly similar to themselves, drawn from the same three fields, always, living in the same three cities, always, and coming from the same three schools.

Not always on that one. A lot of them actually didn't go to particularly prestigious schools.

But, they would each and all like to be mistaken for people who all came from the same three schools, always.

Ideas are like people, and if there are not enough newcomers in the idea gene pool then ideas will become inbred, stupid, and sometimes monstrous.

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posted by Ace at 01:53 PM

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