I Hate The New York Times has written the definitive analysis of David Brooks.
David Brooks is an idiot. His writing is terrible, and his “ideas” (insofar as he has any) are horrible. But analyzing the badness of David Brooks is a tricky proposition. There are three reasons why. First, because it’s been done before. Unlike such previous targets of my blog as Pamela Paul, Neil Ganzlinger and Philip Galanes whose writings are simply ignored by most readers with normal-range cognitive abilities, Brooks is often actively denounced by serious thinkers. His work, while no more thoughtful, logical or well-informed than that of the average Styles-section celebrity profile hack, nonetheless draws many times more commentary and debate simply because it appears in the Opinion section. However copious his lies, evasions and self-serving half-truths, political bloggers debunk them as soon as they appear.
Despite his cushy spot on the back page of the “A” section, David Brooks isn’t just interested in slamming Obama’s foreign policy and defending the Bush tax cuts. Brooks is just as eager to torment his readers with vague, knee-jerk reactions to movies, technology, sexuality, fashion trends, and philosophy. Indeed, that’s the second reason why the Brooks oeuvre is so hard to take. It encapsulates everything that’s bad about bad NYT writing: Pop-culture references that don’t make sense, high-culture references deployed to no purpose, sexism disguised as high-mindedness, fear of sex, ambivalent fascination with technology, unthinking science worship, and ignorance of history, all encased in a veneer of moderation and likeableness.
But some people must like his forays into film review and cultural satire. And indeed, some people do — just look at his Facebook page or the sales figures for his dumbass books. The veneer of likeableness is working. In fact, that’s the third reason that Brooks is so difficult to write about. The reasons why he’s horrible are indistinguishable from the reasons why he’s admired and praised. He’s the go-to conservative for liberals who want to feel open-minded, the guy they can “respect” for his apparent intelligence and moderation.
Indeed, the real question here isn’t “why is David Brooks such a smug, shallow writer?” That’s no mystery, there are plenty of smug, shallow writers out there. The real question here is “why do so many totebaggers love David Brooks so much?”
I doubt the answer to this is as simple as the answer to the age-old question “why do white people love Wayne Brady so much?”, but it’s the same type of question.