January 12, 2010
NYT & David Brooks: Intellectuals Я UsBy Stuart Schwartz
David Brooks is upset.
And when the New York Times columnist, this Obama-designated conservative intellectual, the National Public Radio/MS-NBC-anointed voice for America's conservative masses, is upset, he does what comes naturally to those who regard themselves as born and educated to lead the rest of us.
He screams. A trendy, effeminate, New York Times scream. A spotlight-hugging, power-seeking, northeast corridor scream. The high-pitched kind that bounces off the glass-paneled bar at Le Cirque and shakes the Wedgewood water goblets. It's not fair, whines Brooks -- we "should have the power to implement programs to solve the country's problems" by virtue of "intellect" and "expertise."
"We" are "big government, big business, big media, and the affluent professionals" who comprise the "educated class." Obama and his Ivy League appointees, The New York Times and legacy media elites, the newly progressive Democratic Party -- a regular Intellectuals Я Us.
Brooks rages at the "fringe" Americans who are so stupid as to deny the wonder of a nation run by its elite, "educated" betters. "Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year," he laments, tears dripping onto his University of Chicago diploma.
Educated? Does that mean that Sarah Palin, with her University of Idaho degree and best-selling book, is a member of the "educated class"? Or the millions of Tea Party sympathizers who can count to twenty without using their toes? No, Brooks says, Sarah Palin is "a joke," a "fatal cancer," and the Tea Party movement is simply an ugly fourth for the Three Stooges: Moe, Larry, Curly...and Adolf.
Brooks views Palin and Americans opposed to the Obama remake of "Government Gone Wild" as "crude, sloganeering, lemming-like, heartland Bible-Beltists who don't understand policy or David Brooks' subtleties." This is the way one New York University professor puts it for the Daily Beast. He makes this point: Brooks's "educated class" is more of an aesthetic expression, a way to describe those who are...well, better than others.
And so David Brooks is upset. And he screams the view from Manhattan, from expense-account Georgetown and 90210, the White House and Harvard Square, from the New York Times, and from General Electric Headquarters in Connecticut's "Gold Coast."
How dare they? These bozos, these ingrates, these rabble whose only job is to allow themselves to be governed by an "educated class"...and they can't even accomplish that, choosing instead to do something so inane as think for themselves. Brooks's comrade-in-brains, HBO's Bill Maher -- with the soaring, insightful rhetoric one expects from Brooks's "educated class" -- agrees: America is a " stupid country".
Oh, the shame. It's enough to make you weep -- which Brooks does regularly on behalf of The New York Times and political elites. For Brooks and brethren, the "educated class" is the repository of wisdom, the purveyor of all the thinking that America needs...or should want.
How dare they reject draconian taxes on energy consumption, taxpayer-subsidized abortions on demand, gun control, and surrendering sovereignty to the United Nations? Don't these people understand that the "educated class" knows what's best for them? That our knowledge comes from a superior ability to think, to empathize, and be jes' folks when we need to?
Jes' folks. Brooks prides himself on his New York Times-like understanding of ordinary life. Why, only last week he moderated a symposium on global warming sponsored, in part, by the National Hockey League. Hockey -- you can't get any more common than that! He looked around him and was "infected by their passion."
The hockey players' passion? Uh, no -- the "academics, business leaders[, and] activists" on the panel. He didn't actually go to a game or meet any players; that's something Sarah Palin does, after all. But he did have a piercing "educated class" insight for Times readers: "Hockey players like ice."
He understands jes' folks. Just this Sunday, Brooks congratulated himself, saying that "I feel a frisson of pleasure" when unexpectedly feeling empathy for the average American who is pushing back. It was one of those "aha" moments that sometimes intrudes upon the pages of the newspaper of record for Manhattan's Upper West Side and inside-the-beltway Washington: The non-educated class is restless.
But "frisson"? "Frisson"?! Now, outside the Times building and congressional corridors, rare is the American who freely feels a frisson of anything -- or anyone, outside of a committed relationship. All that messy middle-class morality, you know.
But Brooks's "educated class" is another matter: Witness Harvard graduate Barney Frank (D-MA)'s affair with a male prostitute, or Brooks's frisson of affection for President Obama's pant leg ("I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant and I'm thinking...he'll be a very good president."), or the vast array of scandals resulting from the pursuit of frissons by our ruling class.
So Brooks starts the New Year with anger, upset that Americans are digging in their heels -- that the ruled class does "not have faith" in its superiors, "the political class generally." And when he's upset, he gets analytical. His insight for Times readers: You have all these "fringe" people, those not belonging to the "educated class" "from states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs ..."
"Toffs"? "Frissons"? "Toffs"?!
In Brooksworld, in Timesworld, in a world where "hockey players like ice" is a Pulitzer-worthy insight, people may refer to "toffs," which is British for a member of the wealthy elite. But in "mediocre" -- his word -- America, very few jokes start with "a rabbi, a priest, and a toff walked into a bar..."
Brooks is upset, and when he is upset, he talks "toff." The "educated class" must stop these very average Americans who are pulling the nation in an "angry direction." Otherwise, they may throw out the most educated and enlightened leadership the nation has ever had.
Brooks asks, in a mixture of anger and wonder, What is happening to our "educated class"?
And we the people answer: Simple -- you're in for some toff times.
So hands off our frissons.
Stuart H. Schwartz is on the faculty at Liberty University in Virginia.