Every time I read something by David Brooks, the first question that springs to mind is, “How the fuck does that guy have a job with the New York Times?” Then I remember the reality of the NY Times – in stark contrast to its self-professed status as being the gold standard of journalism – and Brooks’s ability to retain his position suddenly makes much more sense.
The second question that presents itself is, “Does Brooksy actually believe all the bullshit he writes?” I mean, really, how could anyone possibly buy into the fantasy world he describes in virtually every one of his columns? The answer to this question becomes obvious when one recalls a 2008 column in which Brooks described, in all sincerity, his deep-seated fear of The Big Shaggy. In light of such repugnant drivel, it becomes readily apparent that David Brooks is certifiably insane. So yes, it is highly likely that he does believe all the platitudes and pseudo-centrist gibberish that spew forth copiously from his brain every time he attempts to write or speak.
So Brooks’s latest “Conversation” with Gail Collins, in which he attempts to answer the dubiously phrased question “Have We Learned Anything From the Leaked Cables,” suddenly makes a lot more sense. He begins with the following observation:
“Gail, I’ve begun to worry about what you might call the Caligula Gap. When you look around the world, or at least around the leaked State Department cables, you see world leaders living full, decadent lives. Muammar el-Qaddafi has his voluptuous Ukrainian nurse. Vladimir Putin has his power and his muscles. Silvio Berlusconi has everything. Even aging Saudi princes go around talking about cutting the heads off snakes, like Clint Eastwood movie characters.”
In fairness, Brooks’s perspective here is somewhat entertaining, and not entirely absurd. However, he quickly goes careening into Never Never Land when arbitrarily places American officials in a separate, more innocent arena:
“I’m trying to imagine what other foreign ministries have been cabling about our leaders: George W. Bush liked to go to bed at 9 p.m. President Obama has a perfect family, plays golf and his most raucous activity ends with him getting 12 stitches in the lip — from a guy. I’m afraid we have not been providing foreign diplomats with enough good cable material — at least since Bill Clinton…
Do you think it is because we are Puritans or because we keep electing people with insufficient imaginations? They say that power corrupts and that may be true, but in the U.S. it doesn’t corrupt in very colorful ways…”
Did David Brooks actually suggest that the most scandalous aspect of George W. Bush’s presidency was that he liked to go to bed at 9 p.m.? Astonishingly, ridiculously, yes he did. The Bush era represented eight years of rampant corruption and mass deception, and Brooks has the tenacity to suggest that American officials are Puritans with uninteresting flaws. Brooks may be correct in asserting that power in the U.S. “doesn’t corrupt in very colorful ways,” but it corrupts in predictably, unthinkably brutal ways. American corruption is the kind that leaves millions unemployed, without health care and without welfare. It’s the kind that allows the obscenely rich to obtain record profits in a time of widespread destitution. It’s the kind that spawns ruthless, unending wars which claim hundreds of thousands of civilian lives, and maims tens of thousands of young Americans. And it’s the kind that dares to label wanton war criminals as Puritans whose only fault is going to bed early and being too “perfect.”
But this quote is just the icing on the idiocy cake for this particular piece of madness, for Brooks’s lunacy continued unabated:
“I wrote a column this week saying that I don’t think we should have access to the cables. I fervently believe that and find myself repulsed by the folks at WikiLeaks. They are bad for the world because they destroy trust, which isn’t in great supply to start with, and I wish the establishment still had enough self-confidence to marginalize this sort of behavior and protect the social ecology.”
In other words, ordinary plebes should just stop paying attention and allow the masters to continue their work without interruption. According to Brooksy, we should simply trust government – and by extension corporate – officials, because in Brooksy’s world the powerful elite are just good, honest people who are acting with everyone’s best interests in mind.
I genuinely wish that Brooks’s painfully naive perspective were accurate, but clearly this is not the case. Our corporate overlords, working hand in hand with their government representatives, have fought relentlessly to accumulate maximum profits for themselves regardless of the cost that the rest of us must pay. Their insatiable greed has brought the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse, and the world itself the edge of a precipice of environmental destruction and unpredictable climate change. And yet somehow, we are expected to just trust them.
Transparency is the only way for Americans to accurately gauge the actions that their government is taking on their behalf. In a political system based on truly democratic ideals, there can be no secrecy, since by its very nature secrecy negates the possibility of democracy.