The internets are sick and tired of David Brooks

For some reason, all I’ve seen over the past few days are takedowns of New York Times columnist David Brooks.  Here’s one excellent, high-minded example over at U.S. Intellectual History by Robin Marie:

David Brooks is a special kind of stupid. How can we describe it? It is a skilled stupidity, really; Brooks, more than any other conservative posing as not-completely-delusional and/or shameless, is extremely talented at transforming thoughtless middle-class biases into what thoughtless middle-class people then take to be wisdom.

.        .       .        .        .

I do have something to say, however, about Brooks’ latest masterpiece. In a column entitled “The Nature of Poverty,” where he recycles nearly every lazy assumption and distortion about “the culture of poverty” that the Right has been spouting for half a centuryhalf a century folks, that’s half of 100 years of this stuff! – he ends, after explaining that poverty is not really about money but “relationships,” with this gem: “The world is waiting for a thinker who can describe poverty through the lens of social psychology.”

Apparently, Brooks has never heard of Albert K. Cohen. In 1955, he wrote a book calledDelinquent Boys, which explained deviant behavior in the working class as the product of social failure.

She then goes on to review the half-century of social science that David Brooks has internalized in order to blame the victims of poverty for their poverty, but of which he is entirely ignorant.  I learned a lot!  (So would Brooks, if he bothered to read up on the stuff he writes about once in a while.)  For years, I’ve thought that Brooks was yet another conservative resentful of actual scholars but too lazy and too well-rewarded where he is to, you know, do the coursework and research that it takes to become an actual scholar.  Marie’s work here makes me even more confident in this assumption.

Here’s another takedown, this one a lot less high-minded (h/t Lawyers, Guns, & Money).  

When David Brooks’s marriage collapsed, reportedly, around the end of 2013, it should have freed him to enjoy the spoils of pundit-class celebrity. He would be Out There, America’s most eligible thinkfluencer, thinkfluencing a perky publishing assistant onto his elbow for mutually rewarding committed relationship action and/or love!

It has been a whole damn year since then, but where are the hot online singles? David Brooks sought them on their dating websites, but they were too busy ogling each others’ believable smiles and firm abdominal muscles.

People who date online are not shallower or vainer than those who don’t. Research suggests they are broadly representative. It’s just that they’re in a specific mental state. They’re shopping for human beings, commodifying people. They have access to very little information that can help them judge if they will fall in love with this person. They pay ridiculous amounts of attention to things like looks, which have little bearing on whether a relationship will work.

Apes! Intellectual lotus-eaters! This is a source of bitter disappointment for David Brooks. Why won’t they ogle his firm belief in the importance of social psychology? What is a “six-pack,”compared to a regular seat on the “Meet the Press” panel?

HA-hahahaha!!!  Don’t click on that link unless you’re OK with the repetitive invocation of the words “wiener” and “dick webs,” as in, cobwebs covering your codpiece.  You’ve been warned!

13 thoughts on “The internets are sick and tired of David Brooks

  1. Marie’s 1st paragraph is name calling. Very high-minded indeed. As for “skilled stupidity,” most the people I worked with in my department fit that definition to a tee.

    Scholarly knowledge and typically well read people live in almost disjoint worlds. Alfred Cohen will be unfamiliar not only to Brooks but to most laypersons.

    Brooks should make our blood boil because of the elitist approach he takes. You see, he isn’t like them, i.e. the poor. That’s disgusting. My parents grow up poor. They didn’t attend high school. They were warm, decent, hardworking and exceedingly intelligent people.


    • This: Brooks should make our blood boil because of the elitist approach he takes. You see, he isn’t like them, i.e. the poor. That’s disgusting.

      is Robin Marie’s point exactly! He’s recycling the same old, same old, pretending like it’s a fresh, contrary opinion rather than the last half-century of mediocre social science. You’re right that calling someone stupid isn’t super-high-minded, but in her post she earns the right to call him that.

      Plus, she doesn’t speculate on his personal or emotional life, unlike the author of the other blog post I link to! (He speculates hilariously, I might add.)


    • HA-hahaha!!! I’m almost not smart enough to follow that, but I like it.

      The problem with academics is that they know a lot and are trained to be super-cautious about venturing beyond the limits of their dense knowledge because outside of that, they know how little they know. The problem with newspaper columnists is that they might know a lot about something, but they don’t let that stop them from writing about pretty much anything without ever coming to terms with the limits of their knowledge.


      • Well put.
        Is it that journalists are trained to be generalists, but don’t realize that even being a generalist requires some basic competence? I mean, being a generalist requires keeping in touch with the specialists.


  2. I’m a long time reader (lurker? Too creepy). Voila an academic mad lib.

    Imagine in 2047 this scene:

    Graduate student: “I am really surprised no one has written an intellectual history of David Brooks’ career. He was such a seminal figure! I am thinking of making him the main focus of my thesis. He really deserves more attention.”

    Elderly faculty adviser: (fill in the blank)

    My personal answer – a stroke. I’d never recover.


    • An intellectual history of David Brooks would be a little bit like Gopal Balakrishnan’s biography of Carl Schmittt, except much shorter. Brook’s columns are limited material, probably only sufficient for a MA thesis and a journal article. (Thomas Friedman’s collected works, by way of comparison, would provide a relative bounty in terms of folly and arrogance.) In 2047 I would advise this student to pursue the Brooks angle as a chapter in a larger business/ cultural history of Applebee’s and late Capitalism. That would be a project with legs.


    • EEEWWWW. Didja have to use the word “seminal?” (Although it fits, of course, with the Deadspin blog post’s theme.)

      Agree with Matt’s idea of grouping Brooks in with his Red State/Applebees analysis, athough “late stage capitalism” are three words Brooks would never string together, I’m sure! (If he even gets the reference?)


      • Re: late stage Capitalism… Perhaps David Brooks would be more comfortable with a Brezhnevian euphemism like, “real, existing Capitalism”?


    • Although beauty standards for male actors are astonishingly low, I’d have to say that even I can’t think of an actor who could play DB. And that’s saying something in a world in which Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman have/had major careers.


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