I read that Bobo piece that soonergrunt linked to, and while I have no opinion about the Egyptian coup, this struck a chord with me:
Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them.
Nathan Brown made that point about the Muslim Brotherhood recently in The New Republic: “The tight-knit organization built for resilience under authoritarianism made for an inward-looking, even paranoid movement when it tried to refashion itself as a governing party.”
Minus the ability to provide street-level services, this sounds a lot like many of Bobo’s American conservative fellow travelers, especially the teahadists and the neocons. Not I would have favored a coup against W.
On foreign policy matters, for example, Bush has attracted the policy wonk version of the 1927 Yankees. You look at the people who will fill key slots in his administration, from Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice down through less-prominent advisors such as Bob Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz. They are the best out there.
Quaker in a Basement
“They lack the mental equipment…”?
They are the best out there.
The bestest and the brightest. It’s always the bestest and the brightest that fuck up the best.
“Heh indeedy.” Indeedy.
If by ‘out there’ he meant ‘out in the GOP foreign policy establishment’, the sad and frightening fact is that BoBo is probably correct that Bush got the best of the bunch.
@Quaker in a Basement: Yeah, I couldn’t believe that, either. Next he’ll be talking about the White Man’s Burden.
the 1927 Potsdam Yankees, perhaps.
@Quaker in a Basement: I know, it completely explains why there are no Muslim managers in Major League Baseball.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@Quaker in a Basement: Wincing here, yet not surprised.
Doug J, have you considered seeking treatment for this Bobo, er, problem you have? I can ask my sources at the college of medicine if they know any good clinicians in your area.
The best and brightest never had to pick up the trash. Further, by account of being the best and brightest, they never had to consider the guy whose job it is to pick up the trash. It all happened by some dissociative magic that wasn’t worthy of their attention. Then when everything goes to shit, they sit there perplexed that the magic stopped working the moment they bombed the shit out of the trash collectors.
@Doug Milhous J:
Also: “Not that I would have favored a coup against W.”
Takes one to know one, Bobo, you fuckface.
Only if Bush, Cheney and company had been duly executed. That alone would have made it worth it, come what may.
They hate us for our higher IQs.
Ah, the golden days of summer 2000. Hindsight is a bitch, as I believe Gandhi once said.
The further “out there” we put ’em the better all of us here will be.
New NASA mission?
What does that even mean? How does one have the “mental equipment to govern”? Do governing-capable brains have little crowns and scepters in them somewhere? Is there some kind of leadership brain gym their brains go to? Bobo manages to be both insulting and inane. Thought that was Thomas “when you’re in three holes, keep digging” Friedman’s territory.
The only people coup-ing here was the Supreme Court ;)
The odd thing is that if Bobo wasn’t such a kneejerk bigot about Muslims, he could have almost had a point. I’ve read plenty of analysis making the point that the Muslim Brotherhood was organizationally unprepared to govern, and blew their chance. But of course if Bobo had written that, he would have just been another voice making that point, and making it several months late after it was painfully obvious. Much better for the wingnut cause, I suppose, to be out in front talking about how there’s something mentally defective about those people.
Brooks (stupidly) used a loaded phrase, but the notion that the ‘behavior repertoire’ of the Islamists doesn’t include the skills needed to run a country could be right. And, of course, the same could be said of the US right wing.
Why, it means having the right parents who bequeath you the genetic “equipment” that makes you destined to rule! The essence of conservatism is that the aristocracy are born with the ability to govern, and the rest of us are hopeless rabble.
Pat Lang thinks then same thing and he continues to be linked right here at Balloon Juice.
@MattF: if the skill is “compromise” than neither group does, and one could argue that it is the fundamental skill needed for a dynamic democracy to thrive.
Brooks and his neocon friends don’t care much about democracy all they want is puppet regime that will do their bidding.
Just One More Canuck
@eric: More like the 62 Mets, except Casey Stengel would have made a better president than Bush
Just Some Fuckhead
It’s the market’s fucking job to provide street-level services, whatever the hell they are.
Bobo’s subtext reminds me of the Tom Lehrer song: “Send the Marines”: “They’ve got to be protected, all their rights respected – ’til somebody WE LIKE can be elected!”
Also, Bush’s appointees were more reminiscent of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team – corrupt and motivated by personal gain rather than public service. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sox_Scandal)
Bobo appears to be suggesting that the political philosophy these groups espouse doesn’t map very well onto the problem of actual governance. Why he didn’t just say that is beyond me. Page hits for the win, I guess.
@Just Some Fuckhead: the Google is probably there already, hoovering them all up with oh! looky! How’d that little bit of code get in there and active?! Well Gee Golly.
Can’t help think back to that near mythic Arab Street we also so recently heard much about. They do rather obsess about the roadways elsewhere. Nor can I avoid thinking of the collapsing infrastructure of a more domestic nature, the ones not being discussed by those with the reputedly proper mental equipment. (Any bets McCain’s is a swingset? Who’s got the slipperly slide and the jungle gym?)
@Steeplejack: Fixing for you:
I am not a kook
Is “1927 Yankees” some kind of well known shorthand for a great team? Because I’ve never heard of it before, but I’ve only been in the US for 15 years and to a baseball game once (I got drunk on the company tab bored out of my skull).
Or is it typical Brooksian douchebaggery because lesser souls would have used “Dream Team” or “Miracle on Ice”?
@Just Some Fuckhead: I live on the second floor. Am I not eligible for Social Security now?
@I am not a kook:
The ’27 Yankees is well known shorthand for a great team.
Plus, I’d add that nobody trusted Mubaraks people after he was deposed, and nobody in MB knew a fucking thing about running a country because Mubarak’s people had been doing it for the last few decades, and because MB was Mubarak’s main internal nemesis for much of that time.
Governing requires at least some experience. Most countries can use their local and state governments to build that experience, but when that gets short circuited, it’s a bit of a mess. Even here illustrated nicely by the Tea Party, most of whom never actually went in with practice at governance.
Paul in KY
@Violet: Being charitable to Bobo, maybe it means you have to compromise to get things done.
Just like GWB & company did…
Paul in KY
@RepubAnon: They were motivated to try & fuck over Charlie Cominsky, who they knew had bet alot of money on White Sox winning series.
just more evidence that we need to colonize the solar system so the rest of us can leave this fucked up place and try and move on from the climate change deniers and the invisible sky buddy will solve all our issues crowd.
@Paul in KY: But Bobo can’t actually say that as it’d be an indictment of the GOP. He’s not about to compare the GOP to the Muslim Brotherhood, as appropriate as that might be.
An inspired idea. They can pilot the Mars supply ship that has to precede the first actual manned Mars mission.
For the Greater Good and all.
Paul in KY
@I am not a kook: Yes, you could consider it shorthand for a great team. Or a team with 3 or 4 transcedent stars (out of 9).
@I am not a kook:
@I am not a kook:
The ’27 Yankees are somewhat well known as a great team. The beauty of the reference is that it is has a bit of a classy antique patina on it—even a Burkeian modesty, if you will—and it’s about baseball, which is more acceptably Brooksian than hockey (blue-collar ruffians!) or basketball (Negroes!).
Just Some Fuckhead
@Citizen_X: That’s up to the market, bub.
Paul in KY
@? Martin: I was making that comparision. Knew he would not.
@I am not a kook:
Am guessing he was in class, copying from George Fucking Will’s midterm exam. Any shitty idea becomes respectable when dressed with a bowtie and baseball aphorism.
Yes those were my thoughts exactly.\
Reminds of how the RWNJs all said Obama was secretly Muslim.
This is not a case of the Brotherhood “lacking the mental equipment” (i.e. being too stupid) to govern; Bobo has just noted otherwise. This is the result of their winning an election by deceiving voters about their real Islamist plan.
Even Bobo doesn’t read what Bobo writes, so why should we?
@Southern Beale: Someone should create a “wingnut similarities around the world” website, where statements like that are compared across countries and cultures.
No, they love democracy! As long as it’s the wingnut version of democracy, defined as “elections are held, and the right people win.” At home or abroad, it doesn’t matter who got the most votes, if the right people don’t win, they’re doing it wrong.
@Amir Khalid: Exactly. It’s as though Bobo “lacks the mental equipment” to make his point properly and to further point out that the deception that the Islamists are guilty of is the same deception used by our right wing politicians here in the states.
What did MB do to undermine democracy, except for being shitty at governing? I thought they won power by being the best organized in participating in democracy.
Mental equipment sounds rather similar to the Aussie “wedding tackle,” which makes Bobo much more amusing for my tiny mind.
How he’s employed by the grey lady rather than, say, Gannett shall forever mystify me.
Just Some Fuckhead
Can we have a new thread that doesn’t suck?
Villago Delenda Est
Yes, yes, I’m sure von Ribbentrop, Keitel, Jodl, Goering, and the rest of them were the ’27 Yankees of Berlin in the 40’s.
War criminals need to hang.
Bob In Portland
@Quaker in a Basement: I would have said “the moral inclination”. The Muslim Brotherhood’s roots go back to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Handschar Division and other Nazi ornaments back in WWII. When you see the CIA using various Muslim Brotherhood offshoots, going back to Mujahideen, the al Qaeda variations in Syria, even Turkey’s somewhat conservative standing government, you can see an unspoken philosophical bond with our current Republican Party. Fascists just can’t help but accumulate power, deny diversity, etc. The Muslim Brotherhood were just too extreme for the average Egyptian.
Mike in NC
I seem to recall after Obama was elected in 2008 there was suddenly quite a bit on fantasizing of wingnut blogs about the need for a military coup to ‘set things right’ in the US of A.
Bob In Portland
@Southern Beale: When all else fails…
From Bobo’s 2000 piece:
In other words we are lucky to have a relatively normal person running for president.
Relatively, in the sense that there are a lot of sociopathic egotistical lazy scions of wealth and power running around?
Lacking a severely overinflated confidence in my own abilities, I too lack the mental equipment to govern. As for street-level services, the answer is obvious. Trash collectors and pothole fillers are getting paid too much. Break their unions and pay them less than what they are getting paid now, and all the trash will be picked up and the potholes filled by the invisible hand of the marketplace.
@Mike in NC:
Yep – because if there was anyone in America who fully understood the dangers of socialized medicine, it was our military.
Because they’re the ones with the most experience with socialized medicine, of course…
and all the trash will be picked up and the potholes filled in the neighborhoods of the wealthy white folks by the invisible hand of the marketplace.
Am I the only one who hears an echo of this in Brooks’s comments
@Quaker in a Basement:
Poutrage over a poor choice of words. Sadly predictable. If he had said “skill-set,” would you be freaking out? Well, of course you would, but over something else.
Paul in KY
@Villago Delenda Est: At least thru Summer of 42 they were.
@Quaker in a Basement: Seems Bobo is having another one of his “turns.”
Just Some Fuckhead
@burnspbesq: What are you up to today, dawg? Whatcha got planned for this weekend?
@burnspbesq: Yeah, there’s not an ounce of semantic difference between “mental capacities” and “skill sets.” Contrarian troll is contrary.
Exactly: in the crowd that Bobo runs in, that’s the very definition of normalcy.
@burnspbesq: “skill set” would amount to nothing more than blowing the dog whistle with slightly less air.
@Just Some Fuckhead:
Mocking you, baiting Corner Stone, and cleaning up my home office.
Just Some Fuckhead
@burnspbesq: Excellent. How about the weekend?
Brooks is an ass, but if you couldn’t decode what he said, you’re even dumber than he is.
@Just Some Fuckhead:
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
“Women don’t have the mental equipment for controlling their own bodies.”
“Gays don’t have the mental equipment to keep their hands off little boys.”
“Blacks don’t have the mental equipment to properly select the person who will represent them.”
I’d say this phrase completely defines Republican philosophy.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): “David Brooks doesn’t have the mental equipment to write a non-specious column.”
Just Some Fuckhead
@burnspbesq: We’re playing bocce on Sunday if yer interested.
Dunno about that. “Lacking the skill-set to govern” sounds like a pretty accurate description of the Morsi government. Was the average Egyptian better off, in his or her day-to-day life, under Morsi than under Mubarak? That seems to me to be a tough case to make.
That is not really what he was getting at, although he would have done better to say “They lack the cultural conditioning”..
Democracy, liberal democracy in particular, is very much a western cultural artifact and it makes cultural assumptions that are not universal to everyone else. Conservative Salafist Islam is especially hostile to many of those assumptions.
Should we be surprised to see that our notions of a pluralistic state with equal rights…and Salafist notions of a theocratic state run to specifically benefit certain people and punish others…really do not mix that well?
What you end up with is the classic trope where democracy becomes two wolves and one sheep voting on what is for dinner.
Without the enculturation (living with assumptions of liberal democracy) and the associated apparatus to make it viable (relatively non corrupt state institutions, educated populace, middle class), you are going to have a pretty hard time getting a functioning democracy off of the ground.
@burnspbesq: You’re missing something: there’s a bit of a difference between Brooks labeling an entire category of people as too dumb to govern and your charge that a specific group of individuals are incompetent.
The semantics don’t matter as much the broad brush does.
(Edited to turn convert certain passages into valid English sentences.)
In all fairness, while I don’t think much of the Egyptian branch of the Wingnuts R Us brand, it’s not clear that any Egyptian politician/political group is going to do much for the average Egyptian. Egypt’s economy ain’t great, there’s rampant corruption, their infrastructure is a mess.. you see where this is going.
@Baud: Well, they allowed the economy to crash around them.
Morsi decreed that he was immune to the rulings of the judiciary. (I think he had a reasonable beef with the Mubarak holdovers, but did not handle it well.) Things like that.
They showed they were best organized for elections, but not for what comes after (not to say that someone else will be, there).
A great deal of the blame for this clearly goes to the NYT for not subjecting Brooks to an editor and fact checking.
If he’d just added the qualifier “fundamentalist” … as in “fundamentalist Islamists … lack the mental equipment to govern”, Bobo would have been closer to the mark.
But then people might have started wondering which descriptor – fundamentalist or Islamist – really needed consideration.
As much as I despise Bobo, this is probably more an example of his sloppy, pull-it-out-of-my-ass writing style than his racism or elitism, which he has amply displayed elsewhere. The reference to the New Republic article suggests he meant the psychology of the MB as a banned opposition group in a dictatorship made it difficult for it to govern in a democratic fashion because it has no experience in coalition and compromise, which may be true. Revolutionary groups have often had this problem.
Exactly, and I despise Bobo passionately.
Nevertheless, I could see where he was making something beginning to resemble a cognizant argument…but still managed to utterly fuck it up.
What’s the difference?
I mean, it’s pretty cynical to suggest that Brooks was going straight to a racist ‘Egyptians are retards’ claim here, and that it got through the editorial process. I’m not saying its wrong to read those two words in that way, but in the context of the NYT, I think it’s highly disingenuous to do so. ‘Mental equipment’ can refer to all manner of things – experience, education, temperament, tolerance, and so on. Yeah, shitty writing, I’ll grant that. Brooks is undeserving of his job, but I don’t take him as a straight up racist as you’re suggesting.
@Just Some Fuckhead:
How could we tell?
I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with any of this. How is “cultural conditioning” iany better an euphemism than “skill set” or “mental equipment”? Egypt may not be the best-run place in the world; but it is still a functioning society, and one in which democracy is not altogether alien. They may not have it, but they do know what it is and they want it. And the fundie politics you rightly speak of is hardly alien to the West, or even America. It seems to the subject of half the blog posts here.
@Redshift: Yeah, I was reading recently about other Egyptian Islamist parties walking away from the MB recently, and TPM had something about how the MB itself initially intended to slow-walk its way into running the country and then talked itself into shifting into high gear right before Morsi emerged as the MB Prez candidate.
@celticdragonchick: So can I apply this lovely theory to India too, which despite all it faults has been a democracy since 1947.
The same is equally true of fundamentalist Christians. Absolute unquestioning belief in anything is not a foundation for a free and open society. The old bumper sticker “Question Authority” was never needed more than today.
Brooks quite often is an aspirational writer, in that he aspires to a level of cognition higher than his evidenced abilities.
That said, he was not dumping on all Egyptians:
He’s right. Like Iraqi society, Egyptian society may have too many highly energized fractions to successfully nurture a nascent democracy.
@Amir Khalid: Yeah, “cultural conditioning” goes too far, but Bobo may really have been talking about the psychology of a relatively isolated group that developed certain authoritarian modes of operation because of a need for organizational solidarity. If he’s specifically talking about the leadership of the MB, which is just a subset of the Egyptian population, he may have a point. I don’t know enough about the MB to say for sure and you can be damned sure Bobo doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground about the MB. Admittedly, Bobo is a lazy writer and an even lazier thinker (a kind of Jonah Goldberg of the bowtie set), so it’s a little hard to know exactly what he meant. Bobo’s racism is of the lazy or myopic entitled rich guy sort, but I don’t think he’s dumb enough to re-enact Rudyard Kipling. The real takeaway is Bobo has no business opining on shit like this and why he has a job is an ongoing mystery.
I found it very interesting that Buckley’s admirer, Andrew Sullivan, said precisely nothing on his own account about the gutting of the VRA by the Roberts court.
The Athenians managed to get the most radical democracy the world has ever seen off the ground with, arguably, none of the conditions you cite in place.
A silent bell (curve) is our Sully,
I expect he’s (silently) rooting for Zimmerman.
I thought it said a great deal that the only reaction he allowed on his blog was Douthat’s very predictably happy reaction to the butchery perpetrated by the Roberts’ court i.e. the decision was “updating a successful law to reflect contemporary realities”.
To clarify, I didn’t mean to imply that specifically. But whether he went for it, or he brushed up against it accidentally, it’s a pretty dumb thing to say.
My guess would be that he didn’t intend racism, but it’s kind of a tell about how he views the world. I don’t believe he sits there and goes, “These Arabs are all morons, how can I put that in a PC phrase” or something. It’s more like he’s got this vague notion of them not being as advanced as us and he used a phrase that’s uncomfortably close to something you’d hear from bell curve advocates. “Mental equipment” makes one think, “inferior brains” — something inherent. In this day and age it’s really an ignorant blunder for someone who’s supposed to be enlightened.
I would say that perhaps it was one of histories most restrictive democracies. At it’s height there were, what, about 40,000 eligible voters?
Textbooks speak of the “soil of democracy” for good reason. celticdragonchick was not off the mark.
pseudonymous in nc
I’m going to take issue with “they lack the mental equipment to govern”, which comes across like orientalist claptrap. The AKP in Turkey may have shed a lot of its Islamist dress, and the protests in Istanbul point to its flaws, but it has definitely shown the mental equipment to govern while dealing with the entire shadow government looking on with twitchy fingers.
Even if you say that groups like the MB lack governing skills — and others have pointed out the reasons why — then you still don’t address the issue that they win elections. They have the organisation born from days of opposition to get people to the polls and win democratic elections legitimately. Sectarian groups in Iraq won elections over loose baggy groups that could give good interview in the US media and appealed to idiots like Friedman and Bobo.
Here’s where you make the comparison. In the GOP, you can be shitty at governance and still get elected, because your true believers don’t believe in government. They don’t care if there’s high unemployment or the streets are filled with shit, because that’s someone else’s job. Government’s job is to fuck over the poor and the browns and to stick things up women’s hoohas.
pseudonymous in nc
That seems to me to be a high fucking bar to set.
What was the total citizen population of Athens? Hint: not that big. And yes, it was radical – far more than our own in terms of ensuring citizen participation, no monopoly of offices by an individual or group – and the public posting of all laws. By any standard, it was and remains a radical democracy. Celticdragonchick was wrong -and very clearly so. It’s ridiculous to make democracy its own precondition.
@pseudonymous in nc:
Why would you think so? The average Egyptian is not especially well off, even by global standards, and Mubarak didn’t do much to change that for the better.
@Amir Khalid: Thank You! I mean, were the Egyptians supposed to wait until the MB had a full fledged Islamist state in place to make a change? Just because they aren’t as passive as Americans under Bush doesn’t mean they are terrorists.
@burnspbesq: When a well-paid columnist for the New York Times makes a poor choice of words, it’s malpractice. If Mr. Brooks can’t express himself carefully and get his ideas across clearly, it’s time to outsource his job to somewhere such as India. I’m sure we could find someone in India with just as good an understanding of current events as David Brooks, and that person would have an excuse for choosing words poorly…
It was a democracy where about only 30% (some say 20) of the resident population could be voting citizens. That would be comparable to an American democracy where only the populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois could be voting citizens.
No doubt what they did was an important milestone, but it was a very selective “democracy”. It’s that selectivity, and I dare say limited scope, which allowed Athens to essentially function within the ideas that celtic chick pointed to.(and are stated in many texts)
1. Active citizenry
2. Favorable economic activity
3. Widespread educational achievement
4. Strong civil society
5. Strong social consensus*
By limiting who could be a voting citizen, Athens essentially narrowed the attainment of suffrage to those people who matched the above characteristics.
*Unfortunately, not all societies who want a democratic government are able to live up to the needs of the rigorous mechanics of such governments.
Only if you’re willing to consider a polity that enfranchised less than 15% of its population a radical democracy. I’d say Egypt under Morsi was more democratic than the Athenians
What’s it called when a president does it?
@Steeplejack: Morsi turned out to be not that good at the street-level services, either, though MB did a pretty good job when they were outlawed.
@NickT: Yes, but the bar was pretty low at the time. The vast majority of the city’s population (women and slaves) did not have the right to vote. These days, we’d call it an oligopoly – as only the oligarchs could vote.
Interestingly, the Republicans seem to want to bring back classic Athenian-style democracy to the US, by enacting laws making it difficult for poor people to vote.
@pseudonymous in nc: It is orientalist claptrap pure and simple.
@Keith G: Poor choice of speechwriters?
Seriously, there are plenty of things to criticize about the Obama Administration – but presidents, unlike pundits, are better judged by their deeds rather than their words.
@RepubAnon: Hey RepubAnon: I’m pimping my take on mental equipment. http://yastreblyansky.blogspot.com/2013/07/brooks-mental-equipment.html
Then you would be wrong, but sure, let’s throw around a few ludicrous comparisons.
Look, I’m going to be kind about this: you’re not fucking stupid but it’s acting momentarily fucking stupid to think that David Brooks or absolutely anyone who is allowed to write for The New Republic has anything to say about anything that involves Muslims anywhere in politics that isn’t a bunch of shitheaded bigot nonsense
Personally I believe the only hope for Egypt and for Egypt’s eventual reestablishment of relations with the U.S. is resurgent anti-IMF neo-Nasserism under Sabahi’s camp (which incidentally are the people that in-country Israeli propagandists ID as the force behind the National Salvation Front, to their horror and my disbelieving delight) so let’s hope that happens. Polls show the steady reemergence of transnational Arab identities so maybe, just maybe, knock on wood.
You’ll know it’s happening because the Economist and the New Republic and all these same shitheads will say that things are now worse in Egypt then they have ever been in history. They will act like Al Nour is in power except the people running the show will be these perfectly sane leftist populists who don’t like big banks (and thus don’t want our Republican/Democratic Party proxy organizations back there anymore than the Haitians really want them in Haiti)
Egypt is really goddamn important, no fooling
Egypt has about the same capacity for democracy as North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas. And we let them stay in the Union.
It was also, highly, highly restricted to make sure that only the “right” people could participate. It was utterly impossible become part of Athenian society without having been born into it.