If David Brooks didn’t exist, liberals would have invented him.
In fact, we did.
Maybe it’s more accurate to say he invented himself on our behalf.
Brooks’ job is not to provide a conservative voice to sing counterpoint in the generally liberal chorus of the New York Times editorial pages. It’s to provide liberal readers the fun of hearing the sound of our own voices.
He writes a column and we react, in derision, in scorn, in anger---although his usual stuff is so slight it’s hardly worth getting angry about---with laughter, with snark, with a self-congratulating recitation of facts, with a pompous and self-regarding reiteration of a lesson from our favorite college class, with a self-satisfying reference or quote, “reminding” Brooks of something he should have read himself or that he did read but misread or is misremembering.
Of course, there’s no expectation that Brooks will read what we wrote or give it much thought if he does. The point isn’t for him to get schooled. It’s for us to have fun being smarter than David Brooks. Brooks is writing for our amusement, just not in the usual sense of that phrase. He’s giving us material to amuse ourselves with. It’s a sport.
This is why his writing is so shallow and his arguments, if you can call them arguments, so easily refuted. What’s going on here is target practice, not big game hunting.
There’s no sign in anything he writes that he cares if readers agree or disagree with him. No sign he actually believes any of what he writes himself. He takes the same pride in one of his op-eds as a gamekeeper takes in skeet. You can practically hear him cry “Pull!” as he hits the enter key at the end of a paragraph.
He lets the words fly and we blast away.
And when it’s over we pack up our hampers with the columns we’ve shot full of holes and return home to sit by the fire with a drink and congratulate ourselves on a good day’s shoot.
What I’m saying is the New York Times doesn’t keep him around to write columns. He’s there to generate commentary. On blogs, on Twitter, in the Times’ letters page, in the space under his columns on the website. He’s good at it, too. And we enjoy it!
“Did you read what Brooks wrote today?”
“Yes! Did you see what I Tweeted about it?”
“That was great! I’m going to quote you on Facebook!”
“Be sure to mention Drum. He had a great post. Really nailed it!”
Here’s the sport in action.
Brooks’ column: Obama in Winter.
Kevin Drum’s take down: Isn't It About Time to Ask Republicans to Start Acting Like Adults?