Tuesday, January 5, 2010

David Brooks--the right wing's smiley face

New York Times' conservative columnist David Brooks knows how to obscure underlying truth with shallow truths. That is, Brooks’ sins are sins of omission.

In this case (a column on the Tea Party movement) he has omitted the financial interests that profit from promoting the anti-intellectual redneck populism of the Tea Party movement--and which have propelled and shaped it.

That would be America's hyper-rich, eager to hang onto the vast change they’ve wrought over the last several decades.

Back in the 1950s America's wealth distribution resembled that of other advanced nations. Back then a hardworking guy with a little education could buy a house and a car and support a family.

Today none of that is true. Our income distribution resembles that of Mexico, Russia, and Brazil, all with very small hyper rich classes, a hollowed-out middle class, and millions of working poor who play by the rules but still can't get ahead.

That didn't happen by chance. Key elements included a 40 year campaign that used anti-Communism and Ronald Reagan's faux populism to make ordinary Americans fear and distrust government. The hyper-rich don't need government services, after all, and they certainly don't want government regulation that might limit their limitless greed and sense of entitlement.

It was a master stroke to co-opt populism to make the little guy vote against what they imagined to be the Big Guy (big government), when that was the only force strong enough to protect them against the real Big Guys.

Lyndon Johnson helped by committing the Democratic Party to helping Blacks achieve legal equality. That guaranteed a White Southern anti-Federal government block vote that persists to this day, and shows up in the character of the nonstop attacks on Obama's citzenship, inteligence, family, etc.

The most telling was a poster imitating the famous "Yes we can" poster, only showing Obama uplifted chin, looking down on us, captioned "Snob: It's an elitist thing. You wouldn't understand." This combines Southern Whites' bete noir, the uppity Black, with general-purpose anti-intellectualism.

Because above all else the hyper-rich need Obama and the Democratic Congress to accomplish nothing. It's not that they love Republicans. They have nothing but contempt for the average Tea Partier, and treat Republican Congressmen as their house servants. Our ruling class isn't fundamentalist or ignorant. Just self-absorbed and brimming with a sense of entitlement that would make Paris Hilton envious.

These people like to stay out of the light, but I've seen interviews of some of the ones who are CEOs. They look upon the rest of us like you'd look at bugs.

Of course there are fellow travelers who don’t share the hyper-rich class’s narrow focus on its money and privileges and freedom from government interference.

The Christianists made a Devil’s Bargain with these people in the Reagan era, and it has served them well, even as it has corrupted them more and more.

And every right wing talk show host and think tank pundit is an entrepreneur out for himself ultimately, but more often than not it also serves their interests to play footsie with those who can bankroll them and hand them a megaphone. And make things very hard for them if they don’t play ball.

The hyper rich have spent a fortune in marketing aimed at making Americans reject government (this doesn’t excuse government’s failings, but this campaign goes on regardless of whether government serves the people or not).

Then, building on this foundation campaign, we get more specialized multimillion dollar campaigns designed to thwart reform of particular sources of the hyper-rich class’s riches.

Hence the anti-healthcare reform campaign that’s in full song now, swamping the cable news channels with advertising (against a dribble of pro-reform ads), along with much greasing of palms behind the scenes, along with whisper campaigns and chain email campaigns that say things that would be challenged in court if they were said in ads.

And rank and file Republicans and Independents fall for all of this because they’ve had no training in spotting manipulative political campaigns. They sure don’t get it in school. The Far Right wants nothing but the 3Rs taught in school, after all. And it has been remarkably successful in reducing the education system to vacuous pablum (aided by liberal demagogues who do the same pablum-ification in their areas of concern, in the name of Political Correctness).

So when David Brooks talks about public opinion swinging against healthcare reform and the burgeoning Tea Party movement, it’s telling that he leaves out all of this. Public opinion isn’t formed in a vacuum. It’s shaped by experts working for people with big fortunes and no scruples. None.

How could Brooks ignore all of this? Unless he’s the genteel, smiley face of this operation…the Good Cop.

[This comment--#169--was a New York Times editor's choice and got 120 reader recommendations]


Brian said...

Could David Brooks get a little more blog attention?
Glenn Greenwald:
Matt Taibbi:
Now your blog.

Anyway, on topic:
Wouldn't it be nice if the government didn't do such a good job of making us trust it less all by itself? The little effort that the "hyper-rich" add is nothing but a can of kerosene on a home already engulfed in flames.

Pearl said...

Thanks for your cogent and (God help me!) EDUCATED response to Brooks' NYT opinion!

Sean said...

Good post. The alarmingly quiet demise of the American middle class is truly a sight to behold. Of course, one has to wonder how we arrived here (and why this problem is still glaringly unresolved and ignored). It seems to me that our current situation is partially to blame on the convergence of a few policies that have lingered on. Ignored overpopulation trends (read: cheap Mexican labor), globalization (cheap Chinese mass production), and our never-ending obsession with quick, unsustainable growth are the big culprits that stand out in my mind. Oh, and a media that has the attention span of a 6 year old doesn’t help either. In this environment, it’s a small wonder that a few savvy businessmen were able to rise to the top and have a huge influence on social policy by exerting pressure on the government and media. Even an 800 pound gorilla can be controlled with a few small incentives.

With this in mind, it seems that David Brook’s ranting against the so-called anti-intellectual tea party seems rather useless. You’ve made a compelling point: Mr. Brooks should consider following the puppet strings. However, in a NY Times column, it’s far easier to point fingers at a demographic that will likely let him rant undisputed.

My personal feelings are that people who sympathize and relate with the tea party movement are simply getting tired of the status-quo. This is quite possibly the reason that a bona-fide leader hasn’t emerged from the tea party movement. From these tea parties, there doesn’t seem to be a focal issue, or even a unified opinion (other than government = bad). If anything, I’d venture to say that these tea party supporters are just ordinary folks who are happy to have a way to express frustration with a government that seems to be broken.

So who’s really at fault here? Sure, it’s easy to blame the right, but I think they’re simply a product of malignant social policies. Right wing human mega-phones may just be opportunists in this convergence of bad policy. More than anything, a resurgence of rational thought and dialogue is the best cure I can think of. In my opinion, the opposite of rational dialogue and civilized discussion is blind support for a partisan political party.

I always enjoy reading your well-thought responses!