Wednesday, July 8, 2015

David Brooks -- wrong in the right way

Charles Pierce (writing in the canine persona of Moral Hazard) brings us another dose of godawful from David Brooks

Here's Pierce/Hazard:
"He's writing today about this amazing story of survival told by a woman who escaped the horrific slaughter in Rwanda back in the 1990s. What a saga! Of course, it wasn't enough just to tell a tale of genocide and the indomitable human spirit There had to be something in there that connected to the perilous life of a wealthy member of the American opinion elite, beset as he is by the metaphorical machetes of daily life."
And here's Brooks:
Clemantine is now an amazing young woman. Her superb and artful essay reminded me that while the genocide was horrific, the constant mystery of life is how loved ones get along with one another. We work hard to cram our lives into legible narratives. But we live in the fog of reality. Whether you have survived a trauma or not, the psyche is still a dark forest of scars and tender spots. Each relationship is intricacy piled upon intricacy, fertile ground for misunderstanding and mistreatment.
Take a moment to appreciate the metaphors as they mix. We cram lives into legible narratives despite living in a fog of reality in a dark but fertile forest of scars, tender spots, misunderstanding and mistreatment... or something like that. To be perfectly honest, I zoned out for a moment there.

Brooks is capable of extraordinarily sharp and elegant writing, but just as often his prose is abysmal. Sloppy, grandiose and badly argued. He is forgiven these stylistic offenses for the same reason that he is forgiven his substantive ones: because he's wrong in the right way. He plays to the pretensions and class prejudices of the New York Times (and, to a large extent, of the national press in general) while letting the paper congratulate itself for being open to conservative views.

Andrew Gelman recently asked how many uncorrected mistakes would it take for Brooks to be discredited? The answer is, as long Brooks makes his employers and colleagues feel good about themselves, anything up to and possibly including a bodies-in-the-crawlspace incident will be overlooked.

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