Every day, I check a blog called Marginal Revolution, which is famous for its erudite authors, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, and its intelligent contributors. Last week, one of those contributors asked a question that is fantastical but thought-provoking: What would happen if a freak solar event sterilized the people on the half of the earth that happened to be facing the sun? . . .You can read the rest, which only serves to highlight the "fantastical but thought-provoking" question that has haunted American journalism for years: "Why the hell is David Brooks getting paid to write a column?"
My pet theory is that Brooks has a cache of photos, acquired by nefarious and clandestine means, showing New York Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger in compromising situations with someone who is not Mrs. Sulzberger.
Casting no direct aspersions upon Tyler Cowen and the gang at Marginal Revolution -- it's certainly not their fault Brooks reads their blog -- theirs is hardly the most "thought-provoking" hypothetical ever entertained on a blog:
Swear to God, if they ever want a Gentile prime minister, my first order . . .Just a thought experiment, you see. Whatever follows such a fantastical "if" is no more to be taken seriously than that Marginal Revolution question was to be considered a hopeful wish that half the earth's population would be sterilized.
Furthermore, if one is going to write a column on such a theme, the diffident, philosophical approach taken by Brooks is the least interesting way to go about it. No, by God, make it passionate and intensely personal:
When he was 16, Bill McCain told his mother, “You won’t ever have to worry about me again.” He left the family farm in rural Randolph County, Alabama, and moved 40 miles away to West Point, Georgia, where he went to work on the night shift in a cotton mill.You can read the whole thing and, if you do, consider what was intended by the final sentence of that little essay. In an era when the newspaper industry is laying off newsroom personnel to the tune of a thousand people a month, David Brooks is paid a full-time salary by Sulzberger. In return for this salary -- his compensation package is rumored to be in the neighborhood $300,000 annually -- Brooks is required to produce only two 800-word columns per week.
You’ve heard of people who worked their way through college? My father worked his way through high school. Most of his cotton-mill pay went for room and board and books -- in those days, public-school students in Georgia had to buy their own textbooks -- at the school where he became a football star. . . .
Do the math, and this amounts to 104 columns per year, at nearly $3,000 per column, so that Brooks' rate is somewhere around $3.50 a word -- and yet he apparently cannot be bothered to do any actual reporting.
Byron York breaks news every time he files for the Washington Examiner, a tabloid that is distributed free on the streets of the nation's capital. Yet that ungrateful wretch Brooks is indulged as he wastes 804 words -- yes, I counted -- doing philosophy, rather than journalism. To borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, it's "enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for."
My grievance with Brooks is not merely because, as Sister Toldjah says, he's a phony political chameleon. Politics aside, Brooks is a goddamned disgrace to the profession of journalism.
Last week, I filed 3,000 words about IG-Gate for the September print edition of The American Spectator (subscribe now) and readers can rest assured that Al Regnery isn't paying $3.50 a word or whatever preposterous sum Sulzberger pays David Brooks for his predictable expeditions into newsprint wastage.
Frankly, if it weren't for generous readers hitting the tip jar, I couldn't afford the gas to drive back and forth to D.C. for my "shoe leather" trips to Capitol Hill, to say nothing of such other necessary expenses as cigarettes, coffee and $1.29 chili cheese dogs. (Legitimate tax-deductible expenses, I hasten to add. The IRS may not understand the vital role that chili cheese dogs play in investigative journalism, but I've got witnesses. And receipts.)
Meanwhile, with the filthy lucre he receives from the Sulzberger empire, Brooks can actually afford to live a $12 cab fare away from the Capitol. Yet the only time Brooks can be bothered to do anything remotely resembling reporting is when he's sucking up to Obama administration hacks at those Atlantic Monthly salmon-and-risotto soirees.
Last week, SIGTARP Neil Barofsky raised hell in a House Oversight Committe hearing, but I suppose that Brooks was too busy pondering existential philosophy to bother grabbing a notebook and hailing a cab over to the Hill.
Me? My e-mail inbox is overflowing and my wife cleaned my desk so that I lost the paper on which I'd printed out Gerald Walpin's phone number. Therefore, in between everything else I had to do yesterday, I spent a couple hours plowing through my e-mail until I finally retreived that number.
Brooks isn't merely wasting his time, he's wasting mine, and I've got important work to do. Why expend more than 700 words on him today? Everything that needs to be said about that disgusting stain on the soul of American journalism was summed up three months ago by an award-winning blogger: hit the tip jar. I'm planning another trip to DC tomorrow, and I'll need more chili cheese dogs.