Brooks in paradise
Let's face it, David Brooks isn't very bright. However he has a fine grasp of the obvious, if the obvious is conservative conventional wisdom, and it's taken him far. But when you substitute popular misconceptions for evidence and wisdom, you're going to end up saying stuff that's just stupid.
Let us enter, you and I, into the moral universe of the modern narcissist.
Immediately Brooks is in trouble, for he is using a word with an actual definition, and Brooks only fares well when he can make up his own words.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the diagnostic classification system used in the United States, as "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy."
The narcissist is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige. Narcissistic personality disorder is closely linked to self-centeredness.
The etiology of this disorder is unknown, according to Groopman and Cooper. However, they list the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities.
An oversensitive temperament at birth
Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents
Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem
Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback
Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents
Severe emotional abuse in childhood
Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or talents by adults
Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for poor behaviors in childhood
These characteristics were explained by Alice Miller. A sensitive child who feels deeply, a gifted child in Miller's words, who is given love and attention only when he satisfies his parents' emotional needs will grow up twisted and unable to love. Brooks, because he is ignorant, slurs neediness into vanity. Narcissism doesn't mean you think you are the greatest thing on earth. It means you constantly seek the attention and love you did not get in childhood by obsessing about yourself and what others think about you. You must constantly be praised and envied because you were never given attention and love for who you actually are, you only got them if you acted in ways that pleased other people. It is the opposite of excessive self-esteem and vanity.
The exploitative, sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, disregard for others, and constant need for attention inherent in NPD adversely affect interpersonal relationships.
And it also affect everything else about a person; their religious, political, social and even trivial entertainment views.
Some narcissistic traits are common and a normal developmental phase. When these traits are compounded by a failure of the interpersonal environment and continue into adulthood, they may intensify to the point where NPD is diagnosed. Some psychotherapists believe that the etiology of the disorder is, in Freudian terms, the result of fixation to early childhood development. If a child does not receive sufficient recognition for their talents during about ages 3–7 they will never mature and continue to be in the narcissistic early development stage. It has been suggested that NPD may be exacerbated by the onset of aging and the physical, mental, and occupational restrictions it imposes as can most personality traits.
Brooks acknowledges this definition, but, without making the slightest attempt to corroborate his claims, states that the definition is now considered wrong. By David Brooks, at least.
The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration, and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself.
There used to be theories that deep down narcissists feel unworthy, but recent research doesn’t support this. Instead, it seems, the narcissist’s self-directed passion is deep and sincere.
His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.
And because he plays by different rules, and because so much is at stake, he can be uninhibited in response. Everyone gets angry when they feel their self-worth is threatened, but for the narcissist, revenge is a holy cause and a moral obligation, demanding overwhelming force.
Brooks parrots the words but obviously doesn't understand their implication. Someone secure in his self-belief to the point of "deep and sincere" grandiosity isn't threatened by criticism. Someone with doubts is.
Mel Gibson seems to fit the narcissist model to an eerie degree. The recordings that purport to show him unloading on his ex-lover, Oksana Grigorieva, make for painful listening, and are only worthy of attention because these days it pays to be a student of excessive self-esteem, if only to understand the world around.
Gibson's father is a radically fundamentalist Catholic, Holocaust denier, and all-around extremist. (We are very fortunate to have Arthur Silber's thoughts on Hutton Gibson, a textbook example of parental abuse warping his son's outlook.) He said, "The greatest benefit anyone can have is to be a Catholic. You have the lifelong satisfaction of being right," and obviously has spent his entire life telling everyone else that they are wrong and he is right.
Gibson is an outspoken critic of the modern post-conciliar Catholic Church and is a proponent of various conspiracy theories. He disseminates his views in a quarterly newsletter called The War is Now! and has self-published three collections of these periodicals: Is the Pope Catholic?, The Enemy is Here!, and The Enemy is Still Here!
Gibson believes that the Second Vatican Council introduced explicitly heretical and forbidden doctrines into the Catholic Church in order to destroy it from within. He also holds that every pope elected since John XXIII, inclusively, has been an anti-pope or illegitimate claimant to the papacy. This doctrine is called "Sedevacantism", from the radices Sede ("See") and vacante ("vacant"), and affirms that from 1958 until the present the Holy See is being occupied by invalidly elected, imposter "popes".
At the January 2004 We The People conference, Gibson advocated that the states secede from the Federal government of the United States and that the United States public debt be abolished.
Gibson garnered widespread outrage when remarks questioning how the Nazis could have disposed of six million bodies during the Holocaust were printed in a March 2003 New York Times Magazine article.
[snip]"The entire catastrophe was manufactured, said Hutton, as part of an arrangement between Hitler and 'financiers' to move Jews out of Germany. Hitler 'had this deal where he was supposed to make it rough on them so they would all get out and migrate to Israel because they needed people there to fight the Arabs,' he said".
Gibson was further quoted as saying the Second Vatican Council was "a Masonic plot backed by the Jews" and that the September 11, 2001 attacks were perpetrated by remote control: "Hutton flatly rejected that Al Qaeda hijackers had anything to do with the attacks. 'Anybody can put out a passenger list,' he said".
In the early 1990s, Gibson and Tom Costello hosted a video called Catholics, Where Has Our Church Gone? which is critical of the changes made to the Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council and espouses the Siri Thesis that in 1958, after the death of Pope Pius XII, the man originally elected pope was not Angelo Roncalli, but another cardinal, "probably Cardinal Siri of Genoa" (a staunch conservative candidate and first papabile).
Gibson endorsed Ron Paul for President in the 2008 United States Presidential Election. In January 2010, he made an appearance on the far-right-wing radio show, The Political Cesspool, to promote his views.
The man who reveled in always being right brainwashed his son into hating Jews, women, blacks and himself. But Brooks has a different, imaginary interpretation.
[T]he sad fact is that Gibson is not alone. There can’t be many people at once who live in a celebrity environment so perfectly designed to inflate self-love. Even so, a surprising number of people share the trait. A study conducted at the National Institutes of Health suggested that 6.2 percent of Americans had suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, along with 9.4 percent of people in their 20s.
In their book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,” Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell cite data to suggest that at least since the 1970s, we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. They cite my favorite piece of sociological data: In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an “important person.” Twelve percent said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys said yes.
That doesn’t make them narcissists in the Gibson mold, but it does suggest that we’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline.
Authoritarian leaders do not want people to have self-esteem. It makes it much, much harder to manipulate and control them. Instead of merely pushing their buttons, you have to use facts and logic to persuade people, and that's a tiny problem when you are trying to convince them that we need to drill for oil offshore or neglect our infrastructure or invade other countries. Authoritarian followers are horrified at the idea of self-esteem because their leaders tell them it is bad, and they are terrified of being rejected for holding opinions that displease their leaders/God/parents, which all run into the same Disapproving Authority that must be feared and obeyed. The last thing in the world David Brooks will approve of is self-esteem.