Friday, April 18, 2008

It’s All About Them

I was all set to open a can on David Brooks and his pronouncements in his column today on how Barack Obama is just “a more conventional politician and a more orthodox liberal” who doesn’t see why the trivial and insipid questions he got from Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous in the debate in Philadelphia were really important, but Glenn Greenwald does a much better job.

As always, David Brooks knows how “they” think and what’s important to “them” — so much so that no proof is ever needed for his claims. As always, it’s not David Brooks and his childish colleagues in journalism who are interested in insipid, Drudge-like storylines. No, not at all. They so wish they could be covering weightier matters. But they can’t, because those stunted, unsophisticated Americans out there — the ones Brooks is able simultaneously to look down upon and understand and speak for — don’t want to hear about any weighty matters. They are capable only of thinking about whether Obama can bowl and whether Edwards likes his hair too much (and, of course, it’s the very same media stars who spout this condescension about the Regular Folk who have decreed that Barack Obama — and Al Gore, John Kerry, Mike Dukakis, etc. etc. — are elitists because they look down on Regular Americans).

Leave aside the question of whether those who hold themselves out as political journalists ought to report on substantive matters and be guided by objectives other than maximizing profits. Even with regard to what “Americans” want, David Brooks has no idea whether what he’s saying here is true and he also doesn’t care. He asserts these matters as fact because his only goal is to defend his “profession” and his colleagues. Thus, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos and all the rest of them have no choice but to be as petty and vapid as they are because that’s what “Americans” want.

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Journalists like Brooks and his friends fixate on these issues because they’re what interests them, because it takes no work and no thought to chatter about it, because they have been fed their trashy storylines by right-wing operatives ever since they formed their partnership with them during the Clinton sex witch hunts, and because the people who become media stars become media stars because this is what they do best (Digby has more on that here). Blaming the American public for the behavior of these journalists only compounds the deceit and scurrilousness of it, particularly given that nobody is more removed and insulted from what “Regular Americans” think than the coddled, pack-mentality media stars who fantasize that they are their spokesmen.

David Brooks will probably show up on NPR’s All Things Considered today in his weekly polite duet with E.J. Dionne, followed by his appearance with Mark Shields on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and then on some Sunday talk show, and regurgitate the same stuff. Dionne and Shields et al will nod their heads and agree solemnly with him, thus enabling the meme that Barack Obama is out of touch with “real” Americans. Meanwhile, “real” Americans will either be screaming back at their radios and TV’s that Mr. Brooks is making up anecdotal evidence to make his case, or they’ll move on with their lives without hearing a word he says because everybody knows that only elitists listen to NPR or watch PBS.

It’s not necessarily that the rest of the pundits agree with him on a political level, but more out of a sense of job security. If any one of them turned to David Brooks or any of the rest of their fellow bobbleheads and told him that he was full of it, they’d be tut-tutted and reminded to play nice. It’s not their job to go against the Conventional Wisdom, and besides, what really matters isn’t the election or getting the candidates to explain their stand on the issues. What really matters is that they get to keep on doing whatever it is they do so they’re assured that for the next four years and the four years after that, and so on, they can keep telling us what really matters to Americans is hair cuts, flag pins, and bowling style. So it’s no wonder they can say Barack Obama is out of touch when all he talks about is the economy, the war, health care, and education. Who cares about that?