Friday, January 06, 2012


Today's David Brooks column is about Rick Santorum. It includes the following sentence, which gobsmacked me with its sheer awfulness:

America is creative because of its moral materialism -- when social values and economic ambitions get down in the mosh pit and dance.

Wow. That's like one of those horrible accidents you have when you stumble and injure yourself in two separate places -- say, twisting your ankle while cracking your head on a low shelf. You just can't quite tell what the hell happened to you, but you know it's painful.

I'll just ignore the image of social values and economic ambitions getting sweaty and shirtless in the pit and move on to the first assertion. "America is creative because of its moral materialism"? Really? Were morals behind the development of the iPhone? The Model T Ford? The Bo Diddley riff? The collateralized debt obligation? And, of course, Bo, Henry, and Steve are all dead now, so it is in any way correct to say that "America is creative" at all? Is there really all that much creativity left in this country -- at least of the economically ambitious kind -- that doesn't involve the devising of financial instruments?


Apart from this, Brooks uses the column to remind us of the differences between his own paternalistic, patronizing, faux-humane conservatism and Santorum's paternalistic, patronizing, faux-humane conservatism. Silly Rick, says Brooks -- he thinks capitalism will function better if we suppress sex among gays and unmarried straight people! Hey, those are my friends! (Well, Brooks doesn't actually include that last bit, but it's implied.) If you'd never read Brooks, you might think he was going to reject moral scolding altogether. But then there he is, a few paragraphs later, giving us his version: capitalism will function better, he says, if we build infrastructure projects ... not because we need the roads and bridges, but because infrastructure-building "allows more people to practice the habits of industry"! The smell of road tar is good for your soul, lazy peasant!

I confess that, after reading Brooks, I still find it hard to tell precisely how Santorum's thesis differs from his own. Which one of them thinks we need a simplified tax code because "social trust is the precondition for a healthy society"? Oh, yeah, that's Brooks. Which one thinks Head Start instruction for children should include lessons on manners? Santorum. It reminds me of the way my eyes glaze over whenever I try to read an explanation of the exquisitely subtle differences in the judicial philosophies of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. What the hell's the difference? On the big stuff, they're going to screw us the same way.


proverbialleadballoon said...

steve, everyone knows that jazz and rock n roll were huge with the morality-types. as were ford paying his laborers a higher wage, hollywood, video games, etc and so on. and who can forget what a big fan brooks was of moshing? sure, he stood out a bit, trying not to spill his snifter of cognac while taking a stage dive, but a soundgarden show wouldn't have been the same without him. these people are cutting edge, man, and always have been.

c u n d gulag said...

Ah, Brooks,
The jokes just write themselves:
“I’m delighted that Santorum is making a splash in this presidential campaign.”
Yes, and you’d better have a HazMat suit, some industrial-strength Lysol, and a gross of the gross Koch Brothers paper towels, because you’re going to need all of that after a Santorum splash.

And here, in his final couple of sentences, he perfoms his typical Brooksian Pax De-dodo, where the odious and insipid dance with the simplistic and incoherent – all in an attempt to sound hipper than a guy who couldn’t get laid even if he had a couple of fistful’s of pardons in a Women’s (or, or for that matter, Men’s) Prison:

“America is creative because of its moral materialism — when social values and economic ambitions get down in the mosh pit and dance. Santorum is in the fray.”

If there’s Santorum in the fray in the mosh pit, you can bet most people would attempt to beat the land-speed record to get away from it.
But not “Our Miss(taken) Brooks” – he’s very well paid to dive right in.

Steve M. said...

who can forget what a big fan brooks was of moshing? sure, he stood out a bit, trying not to spill his snifter of cognac....


Betty Cracker said...

Yep, that's damn near Bulwer-Lytton-worthy...

M. Bouffant said...

allows more people to practice the habits of industry

Christ on a crutch, did Brooksie steal "the habits of industry" from an 18th or 19th century tract or something?

What is w/ these people?

The New York Crank said...

Once upon a time, newspapers, especially newspapers like the New York Times, used to have a copy desk where "copyreaders" would ferret out those Brooksian sentences and either clean them up, straighten them out, or send them back to the writer for reconstructive surgery.

Alas, one more difference between newspapers and blogging has disappeared.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank