comments_image Comments

NYT Columnist David Brooks Has Written the Stupidest Thing You Will Read All Year

Share

Just as it’s hard to find an individual turd in a mountain of cow crap, so too is it tough to choose a spot to start criticizing David Brooks’ latest New York Times column.

The piece, titled “The Culture of Exposure,” makes the argument that Stanley McChrystal’s vocal disdain for executive authority (Brooks simply calls it “kvetching”) shouldn’t have gotten him fired. The bigger problem, Brooks insists, is a media culture obsessed with personal drama and “inside baseball.” Witness the man at work:

The system is basically set up to maximize kvetching. Government is filled with superconfident, highly competitive people who are grouped into small bands. These bands usually have one queen bee at the center -- a president, senator, cabinet secretary or general -- and a squad of advisers all around. These bands are perpetually jostling, elbowing and shoving each other to get control over policy.

Amid all this friction, the members of each band develop their own private language. These people often spend 16 hours a day together, and they bond by moaning and about the idiots on the outside.

Sure. Everyone can sympathize with a few construction workers talking smack about their Boss’ B.O. after a tough day on the site. And yes, media do tend to harp on politicians' personal lives with an infuriating vigor. But the difference in this case is that those “idiots on the outside” are you, me, President Obama, Congress and pretty much every single entity that the military is supposed to be acting on behalf of. McChrystal’s comments point to a disconnect between the U.S.’s interests and those who are using lethal power to enforce said interests. This is dangerous.

Brooks, apparently hastening to complete his monthly “defend-the-bankrupt-status-quo-quota,” goes on to claim that we ought to return to the “culture of reticence” that prevailed during World War II and directly afterward -- those good ol’ days when “Reporters suppressed private information and reported mostly -- and maybe too gently -- on public duties.”

The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.

Just so we’re all on the same page: This is a New York Times columnist telling us that journalists ought to be less nosy. This is a New York Times columnist responding to a groundbreaking story -- a piece of reporting that may very well unravel the longest war in American history -- with laments about how things used to be. Since when are “impurities” in government ever worth protecting?

Don't get me wrong: I respect David Brooks. Sometimes I even agree with him. But this is beyond ridiculous.

See more stories tagged with: