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  • Lance Mannion
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There's one more aspect of the Brooksian POV I think you've neglected: American exceptionalism. We'd all like to think we Americans are above torture, locking people up with no recourse, etc. until Gitmo and Abu Ghraib show the rational among us that we're not. That's where Brooks and his ilk go wrong: they keep the exceptionalism blinders on in spite of good hard evidence to the contrary.

Kevin Wolf

Only in the most ridiculously reductive sense can you argue that all men are potential rapists.

By the same token, only in the most unrealisitic terms can you argue that all Conservatives are good and all Liberals bad. (Or substitute any dichotomy: right/wrong, etc.)

I don't read Brooks but I've seen enough commentary and quotes to know that I'm not missing much. I refuse to be lectured to by idiots.

Shakespeare's Sister

I don't actually think we disagree, Mannion. I'm just a mush-mouth. I believe we all have a capacity to do things wrong; I've done plenty myself. It's more the posture that all of us have an equal likelihood of committing some of the darker acts in which humans engage with which I take issue, because it strikes me as reducing all men (for example) to potential rapists, as Kevin notes. That, presented with an unconscious woman and no possibility of getting caught, every single man will have to wrestle with the decision of whether to rape her. I just don't believe that's true, and the premise has always struck me as exceedingly disrespectful to men.

When someone operates from that presumption, it strikes me as a little worrying.

We all have a dark side, but they're not all equally dark. Or something.


I seem to vaguely remember something about conservatives preaching personal responsibility, not blaming society when you commit a crime, etc. Maybe that's just for poor black people that commit crimes.


There is no tradition of self-examination or self-criticism supporting Conservatives' assumption of moral superiority, only a lazy assumption that having been born to it or having risen to it, a certain level of worldly success automatically confers a the fruits of a tradition of self-examination and self-criticism

Its interesting to me that this one of the essences of conservatism, especially for those who adhere to Christianity.

Its always seemed antithetical to me (as an observer of religion and not so much a participant) that Christians take up the mantel of moral superiority so readily--when their role model (Christ) comes across in Biblical scripture as Mr. Humility.

I don't recall a time in my scriptural readings when the Christ eschewed self-examination. And while perhaps this isn't your point Lance (and maybe I've strayed entirely off-topic) I think it goes toward answering the puzzle of Brooks' beliefs.

People aren't all equally bad. But because so many Conservative Christians aren't even on the reservation that Christ (even the Roman version--with its flaws) originally set out, there's no real motivation to get back to where they once belonged. They've become black vs white..even though Jesus never was...because its simpler and easier to take those baby bites than to deal with the nuances that Christ created.

Ivan K


Mike Schilling

I haven't trusted anything Wolfe says since he wrote a book saying that El Cerrito is arid and Danville green and leafy.


Hoowhee I hope this things gets some circulation, this is a rather amazing post.

My own two cents is that the type of self-deception that permeates Brooks's offerings and those of other "conservatives" is certainly something that I engage in myself.

In my weak moments, when I am in denial. In short, when I am wrong.

It isn't my platform, and it isn't my moral foundation. It is a rather huge shortcoming of mine that I lapse into once in a while, and try to fix when I get my brain together and functioning properly.

I'm rather ashamed of it when I recognize it. Mr. Brooks refines its deployment as a rhetorical tool with every column, and I think he takes pride in it. That says a lot about something.


How dare you mention Fitzgerald and Wolfe in the same post!

See? All men are potential literature rapists.


The only appropriate response to a little nostalgic sermonette on chivalry is a horse laugh. I don't think it was any more prevalent in my grandma's day than it is now. You can go to the transit museum and see signs from the 1930s pleading with men to give up their seats. And the Titanic, where women and children went first? Sure, it pretty much worked that way--because once it became clear the ship was sinking fast, the crew was standing around with guns to enforce the rule.

Every Brooks column I read makes it increasingly clear that the man must live in Cinderella's castle or something.

Kate Marie

You make some good points, Lance, as usual, but -- perhaps like Brooks himself -- you paint with rather a broad brush. The conflation of privilege with moral authority that you describe is not unique to conservatives, nor is it any more ubiquitous among conservatives than liberals -- nor even, necessarily, more prevalent among the idle rich than the poor. For every Tom and Daisy Buchanan, there's a Paul and Rosy Muniment or a George Kittredge.

Your post reminded of a passage from Robert Warshow's brilliant critique of The Crucible (in Warshow's great book, The Immediate Experience) that can apply to *some* conservatives and *some* liberals:

"The Salem witch trials are in fact more relevant than Arthur Miller can have suspected. For this community of 'dissent,' inexorably stripped of all principle and all specific belief, has retreated at last into a kind of extreme Calvinism of its own where political truth ceases to have any real connection with politics but becomes a property of the soul. Apart from all belief and all action, these people are 'right' in themselves, and no longer need to prove themselves in the world of experience; the Revolution -- or 'liberalism' or 'dissent' -- has entered into them as the grace of God was once conceived to have entered into the 'elect,' and, like the grace of God, it is given irrevocably. . .

For the Puritans themselves, the doctrine of absolute election was finally intolerable, and it cannot be believed that this new community of the elect finds its position comfortable. But it has yet to discover that its discomfort, like its election, comes from within."


Ezra linked - again.
You rather deconstructed Brooks with the quip about not disagreeing with his his ideas as he doesn't have any.
A straight assessment that conservatives rally 'round to protect priviledge works for me ( there really is an old boys' network ).


Ezra linked - again.
You rather deconstructed Brooks with the quip about not disagreeing with his his ideas as he doesn't have any.
A straight assessment that conservatives rally 'round to protect priviledge works for me ( there really is an old boys' network ).


Yeah, save yourself the trouble of reading I Am Charlotte Simmons. I have enjoyed Wolfe's nonfiction works, and I even got a kick out of A Man in Full because he got some parts of the South right (yeah, Mike, he blew it big time when he visited El Cerrito).

But I Am Charlotte Simmons reminded me of a scene in Waiting for Guffman in which the locals try out for the musical. And I imagine Tom Wolfe coming in and impersonating a shrill, female, 18-year-old. Oh, the image burns my retinas!

cereal breath

you touched on an important point that i think needs more stressing. the "life was simpler when..." conservatarians of whom brooks is a charter member, are fundamentally dishonest in their approach. what they simply cannot come out and say is that the reason they yearn for these "simpler" times is that once upon a time in the u.s.a. the illusion of simplicity was provided for by the fact that only white men had access to power. not just political power mind you, but the whole ball o' wax, the power to speak with authority. shit is always simpler when you have one consistent narrative to describe reality. the major victory of progress/liberals/"the left", which is still smarting the conservative brain apparently, is the notion that maybe, just maybe, there are several variants on the experience of humanity and the one true celestial story of "life as an american" as told by whitey q. powederteeth, esq. is possibly just so many shadows flickering on the wall.

being that their philosophical house of cards is built on the foundation of mr. powderteeth's sterling, uncorruptible narrative, the shit starts to crumble once you begin to allow other folks access to a little power and consequently, their own narrative building tools. the only recourse then to reconstructing mr. powderteeth's place in society is to indict the opposition as conspirators in the desctruction of america,as brooks and his ilk regularly engage in. and if mr. powderteeth's story equals and defines america for them, then yes we are/and have destroyed america, as they wish it and need it to be. they so desparately want to reclaim that narrative, it had served them quite well for so long.

Heywood J.

Over the course of last year, before the Times got the bright idea that people should pay to read Brooks' nonsense, I fisked a fair number of his scrawlings, just for the exercise. After a while though, it finally dawned on me that deconstructing Bobo is not terribly unlike decanting Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill.

At least he's consistent, in that he always lives down to expectations. He oughta be asking me if I want fries with that; instead, he gets to soapbox in major media markets, and hob with his fellow nobs. Truthiness, as always, is stranger than fiction.


cereal breath, I am totally stealing this line: whitey q. powderteeth, esq.

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