The New York Times’ David Brooks phones another doozy home to Planet Manhattan as the American imperial class get a little toasty this long, hot summer over cosmos and caviar waiting for Hurricane Trump to blow over
By Mark Cromer
For the corporate globalists and neocon imperialists that have long ruled the governing roost in Washington D.C., the Summer of 2017 is shaping up as feverish a season as that sweltering Summer of 1977, when the Son of Sam made Gotham’s blood run cold and another political outsider had pulled up a chair in the Oval Office to send shivers down the spine of the Beltway establishment.
It’s just a shame the Big Apple is missing Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat this go’round, but the social sauna of forty years ago in some respects seems just like yesterday, at least if you tune into cable news or pick up one of what remains of the major metro daily newspapers. As veteran journalist Sam Roberts succinctly observed in The New York Times many years ago: “In the summer of 1977, New York lost its mind.”
Judging by the contents of the Old Gray Lady’s op-ed pages of late, it would seem the stash of psychotropic meds is running perilously low in Midtown Manhattan during this simmering stretch of mid-2017.
David Brooks has been casually smirking at what he views as the peons of the proletariat for decades now, successfully harnessing his utter contempt for the American working class into regular op-ed missives that are published in periodicals that have long catered faithfully to the refined tastes of the member’s only crowd from Oyster Bay to Pacific Heights, earning a pretty penny for his dismissive yet suitably patronizing thoughts on the troublesome rabble that underpinned the electoral convulsion which delivered Donald J. Trump to the White House.
But last week he dropped a deuce of epic proportions even for him.
A decade ago, Brooks glared smugly down his nose at working class America to declare that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was “a cancer” unfit to serve in any national leadership capacity, though Palin’s position on the Republican ticket in 2008 was not enough of a cultural malignancy for Brooks that it fatally polluted his support for Sen. John McCain, perhaps because Brooks sensed that McCain’s unwavering commitment to the expansion of the American empire across the globe and the perpetual state of war that it bakes the country into overseas was something Palin’s nationalist viewpoint wouldn’t be able to weaken.
“He lobbied relentlessly for a change of strategy in Iraq, holding off the tide that would have had us accept defeat and leave Iraq to its genocide,” Brooks gushed of McCain. “He negotiated a complicated immigration bill with Ted Kennedy. He helped organize the Gang of 14 and helped save the Senate from polarized Armageddon over judicial nominations.”
Now that’s damnation by glowing praise.
Iraq in 2017 remains a cratered hellhole of blood and death that has sucked in trillions of American dollars and thousands of American lives with no end in sight fifteen years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. The “complicated immigration bill” that McCain cooked up with Kennedy would have very simply provided the largest mass amnesty in the history of nation-states to tens of millions of illegal immigrants already in country and given the green light to tens of millions more ready to cross the republic’s frontiers—which is precisely what McCain and Kennedy had hoped to trigger in order to destroy already stagnated wages and perma-freeze the American working class into a state of economic subjugation.
Now nearly a decade later, Brooks was a marquee name in the vanguard of the ‘never Trump’ city-state clique of elites that saw real danger in allowing any candidate of either party to ever seriously embrace, channel and give a nationalist voice to the working class’s angst, anger and agenda.
If Palin was a cancer, to Brooks Brothers Ltd. the candidacy of Trump was something more akin to a political Necrotizing Fasciitis, an antibiotic-resistant flesh-eating bacteria that could accomplish the unthinkable: seriously imperil Imperial Washington’s international show-runners. For here was a candidate that in a matter of weeks on the stump dared not only suggest America define in bright lines its national sovereignty, but actually enforce it by securing its borders, ending the global predation of American markets and reassessing whether old alliances struck in a world that no longer exists serves the American nation that continues to foot their bill and pay the ferryman in the coin of American blood on foreign shores.
Trump dared to question the geopolitical necessity for NATO—which may as well be an acronym for No Amount Too Overbilled for the Europeans when it comes to demands for American money or muscle—and whether America’s national security interests were served by the Middle East wars that have relentlessly devoured our nation’s resources and our country’s soldiers for the past two decades.
So naturally Trump’s ascendance seemed like a bad joke turned existential threat in six short and oh so sweet months as the twilight of 2015 faded into a deadly spring for the elitist class in 2016 and Brooks watched in helpless disbelief as a crowded stage of ‘mainstream’ GOP henchmen fell one after the other while Trump filled 25,000-seat arenas with roaring supporters across the country. Since January, Brooks horrifying nightmare of a Bizarro World has come to life and his resentment over the job-working, rent-paying, pick-up driving, gun-owning men and women from the rural heartland that actually believe in an American identity and that are responsible for it has been fertile ground for him to plow and seed with plutonium pellets ever since.
Thus readers of The New York Times, whether political fellow travelers or not, were surely not terribly surprised when they made their way into the back pages of the newspaper last week to find Brooks breezily musing about how ‘we are ruining’ the country, which he still has the chutzpah to call America as if he actually believed in the republic.
If Trump’s often Tourette-like wee hour Tweets ostensibly reveal how untethered his critics claim he is, then Brooks column last Tuesday was yet another of his well-considered big screen projections of an intellectual bowel movement all over what Brooks is now describing as ‘high school educated people,’ aka the working and want-to-be working Americans he undoubtedly refers to as ‘low-information voters’ or ‘know nothings’ when he is not in polite public company but rather safely huddled over his martini during the evening salons at Grillfish in Washington’s Dupont Circle.
At first blush, Brooks’ column appears to be taking upper-middle class Americans to task for accumulating their wealth and lavishing it upon their children and he then follows it with a moral indictment for their allegedly rigging the system in order to prevent the less affluent from flooding their world and thus imperiling the privileged playing field of their own kids. While Brooks does not clearly identify what the financial qualifications of the demographic strata he calls ‘upper-middle class,’ one can assume any family with combined annual earnings of more than $100,000 would likely make the cut.
But in attempting to make the case that drastic wage inequality and wealth hording is a self-perpetuating dynamic produced by an evil upper middle class that has corrupted virtually every aspect of American society, Brooks reveals once more his own take on the ‘high school educated’ citizenry of this nation and the transparently phony concern for them that he displays for his own benefit—and surely his own amusement. In a fantastically but unintentionally hilarious segment of his column, Brooks reprimands himself for “insensitively” taking a friend of his who only had a high school diploma out for lunch and “led her into a gourmet sandwich shop.” Confronted with a menu board that featured what Brooks declared to be exotic sandwich fare such as Padrino and Pomodoro, Brooks wrote that his friend’s face “froze” in a terrible angst, much like a five year old lost in a teeming Midtown Manhattan would be, locked in a silent terror of doubt as to what to say or do before screaming bloody murder.
“American upper-middle class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class,” Brooks wrote. “I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.”
Such was the exquisitely rich, indeed almost priceless revelation from Brooks’ as to just how he demarcates the American people and it is worth considering for a moment more as it captures at its essence just how the elitist class relates to those around them—that is when they deign to be around the other inhabitants of the American landscape.
In his column Brooks sets up an unnamed and ostensibly under-educated friend that he took out to lunch—either as an act of charity or lab experiment, perhaps a field test dressed up as a benevolent gesture—and then marveled in publication at how her face contorted into a mask of terrified confusion over sandwiches she did not recognize by name.
Then Brooks drops the real social bomb.
Fearing for her limited-intellectual safety, he inquires whether she would feel more comfortable elsewhere and notes “she anxiously nodded”—like a frightened child.
Enter the hero: Brooks rushes her out of the high-altitude vapor lock she experienced in a gourmet deli and into the warmer and more familiar climate of Mexican food, where the recognizable words ‘tamales,’ ‘enchiladas’ and ‘tacos’ restored her pulse. Had that not worked, Brooks would have had to shout ‘Code Blue!’ and rushed her via his rickshaw to the nearest pop-culinary ER at an Arco AM/PM for a defibrillation of hot dogs, potato chips and a vat-sized Coke followed by some Hostess Zingers.
While Brooks’ column reaffirms much of what is already known about him and the elitist class he represents, it also raises some basic journalistic questions about Brooks and The Times, such as whether what he wrote ever happened at all or was Brooks in fact ‘pulling a Mike Barnicle’ and creating characters and events to serve an editorial narrative? (Barnicle is the MSNBC commentator that was fired by The Boston Globe after a plagiarism investigation into his work at the newspaper determined that Barnicle had made up a serialized racial reparations story about a white family that had paid for the medical treatment of a child of a black family.)
Over the past week Brooks has been called upon to identify his ‘friend’ that he painted as panic-stricken by the complex menu of a brazenly oppressive bistro serving interestingly named sandwiches, but as of this writing he has refused to do so. It’s also unclear whether he has informed his editors of the woman’s identity, or whether they have chosen to ignore this latest episode of his writing much in the same manner they looked the other way as the newspaper religiously published Jayson Blair’s epic run as a fiction writer at The Times before the sky finally fell in the spring of 2003 and the newspaper was forced to print a more than 7,000-word front page retraction/correction/disclaimer/apology/warning label/suicide note once Blair’s make-it-up-as-he-went-along journalistic style guide was exposed.
But whether or not Brooks fabricated this Jim Crow lunch counter moment of 2017 is perhaps less important, or at least less informative, than what he intended to illustrate by its telling, real or creatively imagined.
And that is his ongoing narrative that middle America has built and continues to operate a vast and oppressive system that by its very nature is designed to not only exclude virtually anyone not already in it but punish them as well. Brooks cites an argument made in Elizabeth Currid-Halkett’s The Sum of Small Things, which was published as ‘a theory of the aspirational class,’ that “the educated class establishes class barriers not through material consumption and wealth display but by establishing practices that can be accessed only by those who possess rarified information.”
Apparently Brooks believes deli menus are a culturally encoded apartheid practice created to prevent the ‘high school educated’ classes from violating the boundaries of the Forbidden Zone and keeping them comfortingly confined to their tribal homelands of multifamily housing and limited to the radius their public bus pass allows them. So if Brooks potentially imaginary friend smokes he must be careful not to offer her a Djarum, lest she grow dizzy and faint before he even lit it for her.
If a fancy-schmancy deli menu paralyzed Brooks friend with fear, just imagine what a Thomas Guide map might do to her and her ilk in the high school diploma and GED class.
“The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out,” Brooks wrote last week. “It’s not really the prices that ensure 80-percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.”
That’s a fine bit of Martian screed for an Elitist Terrestrial like Brooks, but no match for reality’s rules of gravity.
While no doubt Brooks enjoys his hammock of elitist privilege here in America, just who has been “eased out” of their chance to climb the socioeconomic rope ladder even one or two levels northward toward his penthouse level? It’s the working and middle class Americans that the policies Brooks has so vigorously championed throughout his career have targeted for elimination through unrelenting mass immigration and ‘free trade’ pacts with countries that do not and will not enforce minimum wages, workers rights and environmental protections. They are the very same class of Americans that supply the majority of the boots on the ground in all the wars that Brooks has so passionately sought to keep the United States embroiled in and those wars he is still working at plunging the nation into across the globe.
They are the class of Americans that have watched their paychecks shrink even as their taxes and fees escalate as trillions of their dollars are poured into wars abroad and funneled into support services for the newly arrived at home, only to be mocked, ridiculed and labeled as ‘racists’ and ‘xenophobes’ for their trouble.
All the while these working and middle class Americans haven’t been “eased” out of anything, but rather aggressively run out of entire industries and job sectors that once provided citizens with a shot of a better life, one that wasn’t defined by Brooks bellwether of shopping at Whole Foods or waiting in line to order complex equation and designer-topped lattes from Starschmucks.
They’ve watched their jobs vanish, their housing options shrink, their hospitals implode, their public schools collapse and their so-called social safety net fray to disintegration not as a result of some cryptic social coding but rather under the weight of a shameless betrayal at the hands of the governing elites that are of this world but simply no longer live among the ordinary population of terrestrials.
“We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible,” Brooks snarked. “The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there.”
The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them, they just know they’re there.
Actually, the vast majority of Americans fully understand the treasonous crimes that the governing elites have committed against them and they can damn well name them.
Elitist Terrestrials like Brooks would do well to remember just that.