Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's David Brooks Fisking Day!

"Educated elites have taken over much of the power that used to accrue to sedate old WASPs with dominating chins. . . . The educated elites have even taken over professions that used to be working class. The days of the hard-drinking, blue-collar journalist, for example, are gone forever. Now if you cast your eye down a row at a Washington press conference, it's: Yale, Yale, Stanford, Emory, Yale, and Harvard."
-- David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise (2000)
On behalf of my fellow alumni of Jacksonville (Ala.) State University: Fuck you, David Brooks.

Things have been so busy lately -- Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, Arlen Specter -- that I've scarcely had time even to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. And so you probably hoped I'd forget our regular rendevous, didn't you?

No such luck, you arrogant son of a bitch. People pay good money to watch me smack you around every Tuesday, providing a fee-for-service incentive that delightfully enhances my enjoyment. There's no escaping this weekly engagement, so long as the New York Times can afford to continue paying you $300,000 a year to write your columns -- and who knows how much longer that will be?

Shall I flay your latest column about Mexican swine flu? It hardly deserves the effort -- a Seinfeldian column "about nothing." Health officials battling the pandemic aren't reading the op-ed pages of the Times in search of advice, and what manner of advice would they get from you, anyway? Name-checking a Princeton professor and referencing the World Health Organization (predictably brown-nosing the elite) en route to a buzzword-clogged whiffle-ball conclusion:

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.
Swine flu isn’t only a health emergency. It’s a test for how we’re going to organize the 21st century. Subsidiarity works best.

If David Brooks is paid $300K/yr. for 2 columns/wk. (104 columns/yr.), simple math tells us that each column earns him $2,884.62. Since this latest outing is 799 words, this means Brooks earned $3.61 each for his first use of "dynamic" (ka-ching!), "decentralized" (ka-ching!), "emergent" (ka-ching!), then cleverly doubled his $10.83 to $21.66 by immediately repeating the same three buzzwords -- ka-ching! ka-ching! ka-ching!

My, how the money rolls in. And as to what Their Mister Brooks has added to the reader's understanding of the Mexican swine flu threat -- hey, next time, David, why don't you rack up a few bucks by quoting some Dire Straits lyrics about "money for nothing"?

It's the lack of value, you see, that makes you so useless. Suppose, purely as a hypothetical exercise, that I could be persuaded to accept the Walter Duranty-tainted Sulzberger cash and consent to have my byline appear in the credibility-impaired New York Times. Suppose, further, that I accepted this unfathomable $3.61-per-word rate for mere op-ed opining, but under the special condition that I write no more words than the topic deserved. What might that column look like?

How to Avoid Mexican Swine Flu
By Robert Stacy McCain

1. Avoid swine.
2. Avoid Mexicans.
3. Otherwise, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

My count: 14 words, not including the title, byline or numerals. So that's a $50.54 paycheck for a "top Hayekian public intellectual." You see, perhaps, why Old Media dinosaurs like yourself are an endangered species, David.

However, exposing the overblown emptiness of your latest column is such a simple task as to be unworthy of my attention on this, the 20th anniversary of my wedding. No, by God, when Jax State sends forth a man into this world, he is expected to acquit himself manfully. Therefore, I'll direct my readers to the work of a real journalist, Howard Kurtz:

Last Tuesday evening, Rahm Emanuel quietly slipped into an eighth-floor office at the Watergate.
As white-jacketed waiters poured red and white wine and served a three-course salmon and risotto dinner, the White House chief of staff spent two hours chatting with some of Washington's top journalists -- excusing himself to take a call from President Obama and another from Hillary Clinton. . . .
For more than a year, David Bradley, the Atlantic's soft-spoken owner, has hosted these off-the-record dinners at a specially built table in his glass-enclosed office overlooking the Potomac. . . .
Among those in regular attendance are David Brooks and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Gene Robinson and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, NBC's David Gregory, ABC's George Stephanopoulos, PBS's Gwen Ifill, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum, former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson and staffers from Bradley's Atlantic and National Journal, including Ron Brownstein, Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch.

Well, well, well! We see now why dear Dave has such upscale notions about what's to be seen when you "cast your eye down a row at a Washington press conference." Dare say you're nearly the low man on the totem pole at those clubby little elite get-togethers at the Watergate, eh? David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos are both multimillionaires, just for starters.

When a fellow starts hanging around with all those bigwigs, chowing down on salmon and risotto, it's easy to see how he could imagine himself a Platonic archon, solving the world's problems one $3.61 word at a time.

Oh, don't think I begrudge you the risotto, Dave -- as a strictly neutral, objective journalist, I'm mighty fond of a free meal myself. The second-rarest sentence in the English language is, "Gee, Stacy, thanks for picking up the tab." (The rarest sentence is, "Gee, Stacy, why don't you tell us what you really think?")

When I went down to Alabama for Tax Day Tea Party a couple weeks ago, I had a free dinner at the Five Points Grill, ate free barbecue the next day at Jim 'n Nick's, and then a free dinner with Tito Perdue and his wife at Dusty's Diner. Then I swung on over to Georgia and stopped by the Village Church in Hapeville for more barbecue before heading to the state Libertarian Party convention, but what happens in Norcross stays in Norcross, as they say. One thing I can guarantee you: I didn't pay a dime.

Now, if we count the fine breakfast Stephen Gordon's mother fixed me whilst I was in Hartselle, that's at least six free meals in four days. So I've got you beat all to hell in that department, Mr. Brooks -- even if I had to drive 1,700 miles and sleep in my car to earn it.

I didn't notice any white-jacketed waiters offering to pour wine for me, but then again I don't reckon The Atlantic Monthly gives a damn about folks in Alabama and Georgia. So you just report whatever Rahm Emanuel tells you to report, David Brooks, since that's all anybody who really matters cares to read about.

Just one question, Mr. Brooks: When you were chowing down with Rahm at the Watergate, did you happen to notice if any of those white-jacketed waiters were Mexican?

Take two aspirin and call me in the morning, Dave.

And the rest of you: Hit the freaking tip jar! This lunatic gibberish may not be worth $3.61 a word, but man cannot live by free food alone.


  1. Umnnnhhh...the blind squirrel DID find "subsidiarity."

    THAT part is right.

  2. He's just got a bad case of dominating chin envy. Because you went a little overboard wiping the smirk off his face.

  3. He bought my loyalty by putting Emory next to Stanford and Yale.

    You might say I like the cut of his jib

  4. "create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies"

    So, is he for or against the bulldozing of the Constitution currently underway? Does he think people should be governed by equally intelligent local officials whom they elected, or Ivy League weenies whom they did not elect?
    Is such debate utterly lost on a man of his refined abstraction?

  5. Today's fisking was far more tasty and satisfying than any Watergate Risotto. Kudos!

  6. "Fuck you, David Brooks."

    Hmmm... So tell us, Stacy, how do you really feel?

    The thing is this: One Hell of a lot of mediocrities graduate every year from colleges at all "prestige" levels. "MIT" might mean something in Engineering, but what does "Yale" mean in Journalism? All it means is "statist." "Yale" tells me nothing about investigative potential, critical thinking or commoonikashun skills. The Ivy League brand has been harmed - perhaps for generations to come.

    What is telling is that Brooks cares about the label, not the cloth. Well... fuck Brooksie.

  7. Brooks: ...chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

    Is he kidding? As flexible as the problem itself? Bureaucrats, agencies, and governments - flexible? And the only way "international bodies" could be flexible is if Brooks is referring to Rule 5 babes from Europe. But I don't think that was his point.

    Anyway, Stacy, that was a brilliantly written and most enjoyable thrashing. Thank you.

    And Happy Anniversary, sir.

  8. "...Yale, Yale, Stanford, Emory, Yale, and Harvard."

    And it took the humble "Joe the Plumber" to get Obama to show his colors during the campaign.

    Put a lipstick on a pig... er, give a poseur a "prestige" diploma...

  9. Perspective:

    "At that time I was scrambling along, earning the family's bread on magazine work at seven cents a word, compound words at single rates, just as it is in the dark present. I was the property of a magazine, a seven-cent slave under a boiler-iron contract--"

    Mark Twain, 1906, address to the Associated Press

  10. Well done, good sir. Look me up if you're ever in this end of Alexandria. No reason you need to drive all the way to Alabama for a free lunch. :)

  11. If you ever come to Orlando again, free beer is on me.