Friday, May 21, 2010

The Angry NY Times reader

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mr_brooks_ver3 My first post is a collaborative effort. It’s based on Jim Poteet’s stunning assessment of David Brooks’ editorial skills peppered with some enlightening ideas from Patrick Moran. Keith contributed nothing.

Last week, Jim made the point that Brooks’ arguments all exist in a hypothetical realm populated entirely by people he creates. In Jim’s words “He always does this - turning real people into straw men to fit his narrative, fit into one of his made up bullshit social groups.”

Well yesterday, Brooks took it one step further and named the poor bastard.

David’s May 20th column introduces us to Ben, the “Angry Voter.” Ben goes to high school and college all the while not cutting class or smoking weed. He works hard and gets a job managing hotels. And one day Ben realizes that life sucks. Did he realize that all the fun was had while smoking weed and cutting class? No. He realized that there is no justice in the political system.

“For Ben, right and wrong is contained in the relationship between effort and reward. If people do not work but get rewarded, that’s wrong. If people work and do not get rewarded, that’s wrong.”

No Ben, that’s Life. Point me to one hotel manager baffled by that. This is Ben’s core ethos. So one must wonder what happens to Ben’s 4 year-old when Ben is hit by a bus. Does the 4 year-old inherit the house? After all, he didn’t work for it. Is the lottery immoral? Who the hell has an ethos this two dimensional?

Brooks then takes Ben on a field trip to Washington when he can see the political spectrum first hand. Here, Ben’s core values of blue-collar karma are defiled. Who has defiled them you ask? Is it the crazy nutters who want to privatize social security and edit the civil rights act? Is the it dirty, hippie eco-terrorists who blow up oil rigs to prevent more oil rigs from blowing up. No, it’s the moderates.

Those bastards in the middle trying to get something done among all the noise and the clatter of Capitol Hill. The wimps like Blanche Lincoln who back down on derivatives in the hopes of actually passing a freaking finance reform bill. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Arlen Specter but the guy was one of a precious few pro-choice republicans for over 40 years. Yes he was in the middle, but it wasn’t “genteel.”

But Brooks wants to paint all the moderates with the same unorganized brush. They can’t get their shit together so Ben votes for one of the outliers. Ben votes for leadership and big change, “a demolition man.” This drives the wedge even deeper, power seeps to the extremes where it stays. Compromise withers and dies in the halls of power. Who’s to blame? Fucking Ben.

“He’s going to find that he and voters like him unwittingly created a political culture in which compromise is impermissible, in which institutions are decimated by lone-wolf narcissists who have no interest in or talent for crafting legislation.”

That’s right. All the Bens out there with their University of Phoenix educations have condemned us to an apocalyptic future of legislative masturbation.

So let’s be clear. Who’s to blame for gridlock in Washington, Mr. Brooks? Is it a sensational media driving the country’s attention away from real issues? Is it ego-maniacal politicians who can’t swallow their pride in order to actually govern? Nope. Its hypothetical blue collar voters and unorganized moderates.

Patrick said he couldn’t believe the NY times printed this. Maybe it’s one of the institutions decimated by talentless, lone-wolf narcissists.

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