Tuesday, August 24, 2010

David Brooks: The Master of False Equivalencies

I usually avoid reading Brooks NYTimes column because its become so predictable and usually completely wrong or pointless. He's made a career out of pretending there's always a correct and moderate middle ground between the right and left in American politics and that he's the guy who sits in that perfect spot. Self-righteous and psuedo-intellectual, thy name is brooks.

So today i was reading the physical paper, which is rare, so i read the brooks column since i already had the page open and didn't really care about bob herbert's childhood hero. And not to disappoint, brooks was formulaic as usual.

1) Start with some random, archaic story which no one cares about but has emotional impact. this makes one seem smart and well read, while keeping the reader both interested and distracted from facts or logic. in this case he out did himself by writing several paragraphs about a woman undergoing a mastectomy while fully conscious and with no pain killers. i would call is disturbing at best.
2) Make a tortured analogy between the random story and some political or social event of today. In this case its a particularly tortured (pun intended) analogy between the woman's ability to endure pain and modern folks' inability to overcome confirmation bias. Or something like that. It really doesn't make any sense, but it does make Brooks think he sounds smart.
3) Present loosely two related examples of the thesis from step 2 from the Left and Right and create a false equivalence between them. This allows brooks to sound moderate, while falsely making it seem like both sides are wrong. In this case he compares the mindless bigotry, demagoguery and blatant lies of those who insist Obama is a Muslim with the reasonable and thoughtful (if in retrospect incorrect) opposition to the Iraq troop surge. We all know (those of us who are sane) the Barak Obama is Christian and American. At the time leading up to the "surge" in Iraq, the country was in a shambles, we'd spent years trying to prob up a government that seemed hopelessly corrupt and various factions within Iraq were busily murdering each other. I, for one, thought it was hopeless to try to occupy and rebuild the nation on any time frame acceptable to the American people. I thought adding more troops would be a waste of lives and money while inflaming anti-American sentiment around the muslim world. It turns out the surge so far has been successful (though i still harbor serious doubts about the long-term benefit and stability of Iraq once we complete withdrawal) but that does not mean my position was driven some mindless, partisan, anti-Bush sentiment. Unless you're David Brooks and its the time of the week when you need a fake left-right equivalency.
4) Close with something that sounds both pretentious and profound. Today's example

To use a fancy word, there’s a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate. A few people I interview do this regularly (in fact, Larry Summers is one). But it is rare. The rigors of combat discourage it.

Of the problems that afflict the country, this is the underlying one.


And that's how you write a New York Time Column.

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