Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Saturday, July 18, 2015

David Brooks, Liar

David Brooks is my name
America my nation.
Fantasy is my dwelling place
Reverie my destination.

David Brooks is a liar. It is both his job and his inclination. It is the only way he can be one of the elite, in every sense.  He lives in the Fantasy Island in his head where rich people can grant his wishes. But there was always a catch on the island: be careful what you wish for because you have no idea what will the fantasy will cost you. Brooks has lied so deeply and for so long and with such fervor that he now believes his lies and can no longer tell reality from fantasy. He is deeply and utterly confused by the cognitive dissonance and he would really like all y'all to just shut up and stop trying to force reality into his fantasy.

Brooks can't keep out everything, however. The times, they are a-changing,  just as they did in the 1960s. The era of white privilege is under attack by interlopers who don't belong in Brooks' America. Sure, the white rich still control the country but Brooks is not one of them; he is merely a well-paid servant, the butler who answers the door and keeps out the riff-raff, serves the wine in a silver bucket, and supervises the lesser servants.  The rich don't mind making little sacrifices to appease the peasants and keep the peace because people like David Brooks are the ones who will actually do the sacrificing.

Brooks know this. Servants understand their master' needs quite well; that is how they keep their jobs--anticipate the needs of their master and carry them out before the master has to ask. But now the rich need something that Brooks can't give them. He can't diffuse Black anger or undercut the power of mass action. He cannot force his fantasy on these Others' reality. 

Brooks' job is to whitewash economic exploitation of the masses. Because he is not especially intelligent he uses the same method as everyone else to control other people: morality. But White (Judeo-)Christian authority will not achieve the rich's goals. They need a minority to give them moral authority over minorites.

They need Ta-Nehisi Coates, who does not want to lead a movement or tear down the power structure. Like Obama, he wants to join it. He does not speak violently; he can be reasoned with and he is careful to protect his career. Brooks sees the writing on the wall and it terrifies him.

So he lies his fool head off.
Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White  
Brooks is not listening; he is lecturing.
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates,  
The last year has been an education for white people.
This last year scared me to death.
There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.
The conversations about the above utterly bypassed me and made me look useless. That frightens and angers me.
Your new book, “Between the World and Me,” is a great and searing contribution to this public education.
I have to say this so I can tear you down later.
It is a mind-altering account of the black male experience.
My mind was not altered but it made an impression on me; is this the future? Will I no longer be of any use?
Every conscientious American should read it.  
When you read Coates remember my disapproval. That is what counts.
There is a pervasive physicality to your memoir — the elemental vulnerability of living in a black body in America.
Black people are so... physical. And there is no way I can exploit their experience to my own benefit!
Outside African-American nightclubs, you write, “black people controlled nothing, least of all the fate of their bodies, which could be commandeered by the police; which could be erased by the guns, which were so profligate; which could be raped, beaten, jailed.” 
Written as a letter to your son, you talk about the effects of pervasive fear. “When I was your age the only people I knew were black and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid.” 
But the disturbing challenge of your book is your rejection of the American dream.
My job is to sell the American Dream. My job is in jeopardy!
My ancestors chose to come here. For them, America was the antidote to the crushing restrictiveness of European life, to the pogroms. For them, the American dream was an uplifting spiritual creed that offered dignity, the chance to rise. 
Nothing is more conducive to social advancement than being a Jew in the 1800s.
Your ancestors came in chains. In your book the dream of the comfortable suburban life is a “fairy tale.” For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus. African-American men are caught in a crushing logic, determined by the past, from which there is no escape. 
You write to your son, “Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.” The innocent world of the dream is actually built on the broken bodies of those kept down below. 
If there were no black bodies to oppress, the affluent Dreamers “would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.” 

Look at how angry he is, White America!  He blames you and your ancestors and your culture--the greatest in the world--for his people's exploitation!
Your definition of “white” is complicated.
Your definition is "white" is wrong.
But you write “ ‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies. Sometimes this power is direct (lynching), and sometimes it is insidious (redlining).” In what is bound to be the most quoted passage from the book, you write that you watched the smoldering towers of 9/11 with a cold heart. At the time you felt the police and firefighters who died “were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.” 
You obviously do not mean that literally today (sometimes in your phrasing you seem determined to be misunderstood).
You are an angry Black male, the third most frightening thing in the universe after Muslims and pretty young white women. You have a belligerent chip on your shoulder. You are a liar; you do not mean what you say.
You are illustrating the perspective born of the rage “that burned in me then, animates me now, and will likely leave me on fire for the rest of my days.” 
I read this all like a slap and a revelation.
I felt insulted. How dare you call my superiority exploitation?  But the publication of this slap was a revelation. Am I still relevant? Is my job really in jeopardy?
I suppose the first obligation is to sit with it, to make sure the testimony is respected and sinks in.
I guess I have to listen to you. It's part of my highly paid job as Inspector Of Public Morals.
But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree?
Am I going to be attacked by the Twitter mob if I try to attack to protect my job? They are legion; I am merely one servant.
Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions?
What do I do here? I'm totally lost. Do I listen? Attack? Pretend to understand? Just give you my Moral Authority badge and give up?
Does a white person have standing to respond?
Am I passé?
If I do have standing, I find the causation between the legacy of lynching and some guy’s decision to commit a crime inadequate to the complexity of most individual choices.
Okay. Gear up, soldier. This isn't our first rodeo. Let's pull out the same arguments that have served me well for decades.
I think you distort American history.
Oooh, good one! I studied history, I can pretend to pull this off.
This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. 
We are all sinners. That always works!
There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one.
It doesn't make any sense but my readers have been so thoroughly trained in "both sides do it" that they won't even notice.
Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America. 
For me. For you, who cares?
In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam.
Yeah, innocence is good. We're not venal, we're innocent. We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood. Deep down inside of us is good!

Damn, where is my West Side Story album? Did the ex get it? Sigh. 1960 was a great year.
But a dream sullied is not a lie.
Sure it is but that dream is my bread-and-butter. Without it I would be Lou Grant instead of David Fucking Brooks.
The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past.
See, if you sell hope and dreams you don't have to actually change the present. It works great.
It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow. 
You can drag it out forever. It's a Freidman Unit!
This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide.
Dream, dreams will keep us together. Think of me babe, whenever some sweet talking Coates comes along, singing a song. Hear with my words and you wont hear a sound!

Damn, I'm good.

I bet she took my Captain and Tennille album too.

Ahem, I mean that a divided house will not stand and a falling house won't pay my bills.
It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements.
Your dreams give you noble energy to be heroes. Social progress comes from believing that America is fair and good, not from anger and riots and protests. Sounds good (::fistpump::), and it'll undercut Coates' authority.
By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future. 
Reality destroys fantasy. Fantasy made me rich. Reality is destroying me. Exterminate the Doctor Coates! Exterminate!
Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.
Maybe I shouldn't say anything. If I ignore him maybe he'll just go away. In either case I pretended to listen and what else does he want from me? My job?

Shit, man. He wants my job and he might get it.


Downpuppy said...

Killer finish.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh, thanks. I just read that Coates is going to work in Paris for a year for the Atlantic. I'd be very surprised if he didn't join the Times before too long although taking Brooks' place might be too much to hope for.

Unsalted Sinner said...

Excellent translation.

Susan of Texas said...

Thank you kindly.

Kathy said...

He kind of makes Arglebargle look like a piker.

Anonymous said...

"The era of white privilege is under attack by interlopers who don't belong in Brooks' America."

Riots good, "white people" bad. "White Privilege" is racist doublespeak. The media has in my opinion obviously been biased in looking for "black" victims of "white people."

"Nothing is more conducive to social advancement than being a Jew in the 1800s."

Jews in America did well, I believe. I don't know what you intended to say here, maybe that "being black" today is like being a Russian Jew in 1890?

Also can you define "exploitation"? Is this a reference to slavery?

Susan of Texas said...

I am willing to discuss almost anything with almost anyone but "you racist--grunt!" is not a discussion.

Let's take a look at the problem.

'"White Privilege" is racist doublespeak."'

What does racist mean?

"a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another."

What is "white privilege"?

"White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.[note 1] According to McIntosh and Lee, whites in a society considered culturally a part of the Western World enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience.[1] The term denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.[2] These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.[1] The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts.[3] The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.[4][5]"

So you are saying: If you say that white people don't give themselves advantages in society that they withhold from non-white people, you are saying that white people think they are superior to non-white people.

Surely even you can see the illogic of this position? If not I will spell it out for you.

Susan of Texas said...

If white man not mean to black man, white man no think he is better than black man.

This is necessarily an *extremely* general statement but sometime nuance is not your friend.

The opposite is also true:

If white man is mean to black man he think he is better than black man.

If I say, "White people are being mean to black people" you can't call that racism.

By definition. (Of racism, which I defined above.)

This is racism: 'The media has in my opinion obviously been biased in looking for "black" victims of "white people."'

It is racism because at lot of people are gathering information about the media and the way they cover black victims and you do not even think to find out the facts. Perhaps you were just a babe back then but it has been a joke for years that the media covers every missing blonde teenager 24/7 and ignores missing girls of color. No doubt you thought that suggestion racist as well and here is why:

You think it is racist for white people to be criticized, especially by black people. Which means you think that black people don't have the right to question white people. Which means you think white people are better than black people. Which means you are racist.

So what does "you are racist" mean?

It means that you don't feel good about yourself because you are a good person. You feel good about yourself because you are white. True, you had absolutely nothing to do with that fact but since you have absolutely nothing else you will take what you can get.

Whenever you feel bad about yourself you remind yourself that you are white and therefore good--important, valuable, desirable. Superior.

But the words in your head aren't enough. You want other people to say those words too. That will prove you are right and that will make you feel very good.

You find those people and being part of a group makes you feel strong. You want very much to stay in the group.

But you still feel bad about yourself. Nobody every appreciated you. Nobody ever helped you. Nobody ever told you that you are special or showed that you were loved by putting you first and caring about your feelings.

That makes you angry. Your group is angry too.

You will feel better by letting out the anger on the group that is keeping you from being important and loved.

You will punish the black people for being everything your parents/group/internet chat buddies said they are. For dragging you down and keeping you from being special in the eyes of a world run by whites for whites.

God forgive you

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm not a conservative, nor do I like David Brooks. I support things like full-employment policy (higher wages!), and paid family leave and vacation time (I voted for Obama twice). I'm also familiar with Peggy McIntosh: you appear to have copy and pasted text from Wikipedia. But you don't know anything about me, who I am, or where I'm from.

I'd suggest rather than trying to win "by definition" you look at how language is actually used, else, try to marshall evidence in favor of your theories. (I prefer descriptive dictionaries.)

If I said Jews control the media and Hollywood, therefore they must have "Jew privilege" perhaps you'd agree that'd at least be something worth discussing?

"Missing Girls of Color"

Most murder victims are men not women. Maybe you have a link to study on media bias? Admittedly I'm going of "impressions," too. And I suppose you'd get a different impression if you watched Fox vs MSNBC, but I'm more thinking about regular NBC and The New York Times, and places like Slate, The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

I've always found the media's interest in stuff like Casey Anthony and Jon Benet Ramsey strange, I don't know if that's the kind of thing you're referring too, though. I don't know what the relevance is though, other than the media sucks in many ways.

Also not religious.

Susan of Texas said...

Go somewhere else to have racist discussions.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what you're talking about. Sorry if I bothered you.

Susan of Texas said...

You didn't bother me at all.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry. I was thinking and maybe there was a misunderstanding regarding my "Jew privilege" comment. Maybe you took that as a sincere statement on my part, when the purpose was to get you to understand the intuition behind thinking accusations of "white privilege" are racist.

I perhaps should have said: If you had said that. I said, "If I had said that" to see if you would agree that it was anti-semitic and to see how you might distinguish accusations of "Jew privilege" from "White Privilege."

Obviously I could have (from the beginning) tried to get into the weeds of the details of the concept of "White privilege," but was hoping to find some point of agreement to build off of: first by using the term "doubletalk," then by the "Jew privilege" analogy.

Also seems hypocritical that you said saying "you racist--grunt" was "not a discussion" but then you (appear) to say "you racist" to me. Perhaps this was "tit for tat"?

Susan of Texas said...

This is why I do not argue with racists. There is a reason you cannot make a sincere, straightforward argument. You will lose, and you want to win.

I seldom make analogies when arguing, for a reason. The analogy is usually a means by which the arguer thinks he can move the debate to more amenable levels. Perhaps he needs to move the debate from reality to theory, or perhaps he needs to substitute a hypothetical that seems to be the same but is actually just different enough to confuse the issue and make the moral issue less clear or clear-cut.

From my own point of view I find that the other person in an argument usually gets bogged down arguing the hypothetical and forgets the main issue. And of course there are those who try to inject a new topic using other methods, for example accusations of bias that will derail the argument away from the truth.

Were you a prize-winning debater at your Catholic high school? I find that these young people often the tactics you are using. They never understand why they lose in real life.

Susan of Texas said...

Also seems hypocritical that you said saying "you racist--grunt" was "not a discussion" but then you (appear) to say "you racist" to me. Perhaps this was "tit for tat"?

I am not discussing your racism with you. That is what both those statements mean. You are racist. I feel sorry for you. But you are dangerous (doesn't that make you feel good?) because fearful people lash out and try to hurt others to protect themselves.

You have absolutely no idea how wonderful it is to let go of fear. It will give you everything you ever wanted and more. It will make you everything you want to be.

You have a choice. You are making the wrong one. Nobody will tolerate or understand or agree with you except for the other poor lost souls who made the same wrong choice.

Go back to your group. There is nothing for you here.

Anonymous said...

What group? What are you talking about? I didn't go to Catholic school. Why do you insist that you understand my mental state? Have you ever heard of psychological projection? Has no one ever disagreed with you here before? I actually once "recommended" your blog on Noah Smith's blog on his blogging heroes post.

Are there any examples from past posts where you engage with someone who disagrees in productive way? Or do you always respond this way. Your response to me is in the style of the blog, but I thought that was probably just because you didn't get much negative feedback or whatever.

This seems to be an example of dishes it out but can't take it.

Susan of Texas said...

You are losing the point. You want to tell me that '"White Privilege" is racist doublespeak. The media has in my opinion obviously been biased in looking for "black" victims of "white people."'

I disagree. White privilege is real. It is not racist to say that whites gained, kept and have privileges in our society that blacks do not. We could discuss the facts regarding that statement. You choose not to. We could discuss whether or not you really are racist. You choose not to. You want to discuss why I won't have a discussion, moving the argument around the level of fact into a squabble about personalities.

I appreciate your recommendation but I am afraid it was given on mistaken grounds.

You mental state, alas, is so common that it doesn't take a brain surgeon to understand it. The world is filled with people who think they are better than (fill-in-the-blank) and the reason is almost always the same: they feel bad about themselves.

My blog is not about Megan McArdle or economics or politics. It is about authoritarianism, particularly how authoritarian parenting affects every aspect of a person's life; his views on family, gods, politics, economics, even entertainment. The more repressed a person was by an authoritarian upbringing, the stronger his need to reform the world into the authoritarian image in his head.

The real world is racist. White privilege exists. You are trying to find a way to force others to accept that fake world in your head in which whites are not oppressive. You are scarcely unique and I'm afraid your actions are clear as a bell.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the facts: obviously some people have it worse than others however you define it. Obviously in my opinion this distribution is not uniform across racial lines, and just about anything bad that has happened to members of one race (or any group) has happened to members of any other group. Race itself is a fuzzy category.

I fail to see what is served by the term white privilege that isn't present in terms like racial bias, disparate impact etc.

You're asking why I'm not talking about specific facts regarding the term white privilege (or my own alleged racism) but you haven't presented any facts to address. I wouldn't necessarily even dispute those facts, whatever they are.

Anyway, I'm giving up since you wouldn't engage on the "Jew privilege" thing. I don't believe I'm better. I also fully expect to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

"...some people have it worse than others however you define my opinion this distribution is not uniform across racial lines, and just about anything bad that has happened to members of one race...has happened to members of any other group. Race itself is a fuzzy category."

There is a lot of daylight between the uniform distribution of advantages and a strictly non racial distribution of them. Of course bad things happen to all kinds of people, but, on average and in general, more bad things happen to Black people in our society than to White people.

The last bit about the fuzziness of racial categories, while true, to some extent, is not particularly relevant. In the reality, again, of our society (meaning the society of the USA), racial categories are readily apparent, in most cases, and certainly do matter to most people. Whether there is really a biological basis for the categorization is not the point. The questions here are economic, political, social and cultural, not biological.

"I fail to see what is served by the term white privilege that isn't present in terms like racial bias, disparate impact etc."

Then what is your beef? Semantics?

White privilege simply means that the dominant, majority racial group (ie White folks) in our society exercises a bias against other racial groups, particularly Black folks. That there is a disparity in how White and Black folks are treated by official, semi official, and private institutions and persons. That, indeed, leads to a disparate impact. And White folks, as the preferred group, are thereby privileged.

I actually agree with you, to a degree, that "privilege" can be a misleading term. A poor White person born into a broke, dysfunctional family in a depressed area, deprived of most if not all of the good things in life, is not really well described by the term "privileged." In addition, some of the things that are considered to be privileges, because they are not afforded to Black folks, like being treated fairly, with respect, and even sanely, by the police, are not "privileges" in the classic sense of unearned advantages, but should be (even though they are not) afforded to everyone, as a matter of right.

Still, again on average and in general, the term "White privilege" does make sense. Again, White folks, in the main, are treated better than other folks, particularly Black folks. And that is a privilege.