People are talking about the new David Brooks column, People talk about op-ed columns only when they say something either significant or stupid, and in this case, Brooks has achieved both by saying something significantly stupid. He offers us a “biting” “satire” on the “Though Leader,” who is supposedly a “highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler.” Any resemblance to New York Times columnists, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Some folks on Twitter are saying that this column somehow marks a step forward for Brooks. But let’s get serious–this is the same kind of crap Brooks has been shoveling for well over a decade. It’s a “social profile” that combines New Journalism and academic analysis, minus the insight and vigor of New Journalism and the rigor of academic analysis. So it’s basically a bunch of dumb jokes dedicated to ridiculing some “type,” whether that type be “Bobos” or “Patio Men” or “Though Leaders” or whatever.
You might have noticed that “Bobos,” “Patio Men,” and “Thought Leaders” are all pretty much the same kind of person, which is to say, upper-middle-class white professionals. Which is also to say, people exactly like David Brooks. Aforementioned “folks on Twitter” are also trying to figure out whether Brooks is trying to mock other people or whether he has somehow gained a scintilla of self-awareness and is mocking himself. My answer: it doesn’t matter!
Because deep down, below all that BS, this is the problem with David Brooks. He seems utterly incapable of understanding the thoughts, feelings, and social worlds of anyone who is not within one standard deviation of being David Brooks. Knock Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman all you want–and you SHOULD knock them–but they at least sometimes try to get outside their own heads. Not so with Mr. Brooks. All three of his books are about the same kind of upper-middle-class white professionals, no matter what cutesy name Brooks gives them.
Imagine, for a moment, Brooks trying to understand and write about the experiences of an illegal immigrant from Central America living in California. Or an unemployed steelworker living in Ohio. Or a drug dealer living in New York. The mind boggles, and then breaks into laughter. David Brooks can only understand David Brooks, and that’s it.
Let me leave you with Sasha Issenberg’s masterful demolition of some of Brooks’ more outrageous lies.