Friday, October 5, 2018

The Successful Rebranding of David Brooks

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

Everyone starting out in the salt mines of modern journalism has taken to heart one piece of advice: build your own brand.  You're not the former editor of The Daily Brewer in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. or whatever; you're an edgy millennial with a discriminating taste for viral videos and Brooklyn's best tofu burgers or some such.

Even the elders are getting hip to this trick, as demonstrated by the Times's venerable Op-Ed hack, David “Both Sides” Brooks, who has chosen to rebrand himself thusly:

Bold stuff, but as his column today demonstrates, he's right on brand.

Today, Complete National Disgrace Brooks surveys the sorry spectacle of a perjuring bitterly partisan sex offender within a keg's breadth of getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and draws the only conclusion possible (for him at least):  Both Sides.

Dispensing with trivia such as the dramatic, painful, and thus far unrebutted first hand testimony of Dr. Ford, he goes right to what he sees as the heart of the matter:  “What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life.”

By that he means that reaction to Dr. Ford's testimony was not based on its inherent credibility, but on the partisan inclinations of those who heard her:  Republicans regard her a crazy drunken slut; Democrats think she endured horrific sexual abuse.

Now you might think that central to any determination about which Side got it right would be an evaluation of whether she was in fact telling the truth.  If she was, then Republican support for Judge Creepy McBrewski must be based on a partisan lust to place a reliable reactionary on the Supreme Court notwithstanding sexual assault and perjury; Democratic opposition might be based on a fair evaluation of the available evidence, including Judge Creepy's alcohol-laden rant and equivocal denials about lifting weights with his fellow preppy assholes.

Wrong, says C.N.D. Brooks.  Because Democrats had mostly already opposed this raving political hack for other good and sufficient reasons, including his perjurious testimony, they have somehow forfeited their right to be persuaded by Dr. Ford's testimony.

Why is that?  Here's the short answer: it isn't.

Your prior opposition to McBrewski doesn't call into question your good-faith evaluation of credible charges and your contempt for the fraudulent “investigation” that ensued.  If her testimony was not credible, or falsified by other evidence, then your continued belief in her story (but not your opposition to C. McB.) might be suspect.

The core of the current debacle is not the partisan divide ante Dr. Ford's testimony; it's the partisan divide that followed, between Democrats who evaluated the evidence and believed her and the old white Republican men snarling at sexual assault survivors by telling them to “grow up.”

But as with most of CND Brooks's work product, there's so much more, at least in the way of intellectual dishonesty.  Desperate to focus on anything else besides the testimony of Dr. Ford, and the unheard testimony of Deborah Ramirez and Julie Sweetnick, he treats the charges as some airy exercise of epistemology (a word he learned at the fancy college he attended):
These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?
We can take the last question first: the prisons are full of young men, disproportionately poor and minority, doing hard time for something they did in high school.  In fact, the Grifter-in-Chief achieved brief notoriety by advocating the lynching of five high school students for a crime they didn't commit.  In any event, if Judge McBrewski perjured himself before the Senate, that didn't happened 36 years ago, it happened last week.

No one is more humble that your meta-content generator, but even he knows from watching NCIS: Cleveland and Dateline that the response to a credible criminal accusation is a complete investigation.  That way, the mystery is dispelled and the average person (like the ones seated everyday on criminal juries) can make a judgement about what likely happened.  When the accused and his apologists do everything they can to frustrate that complete investigation, us humble folk may infer that further inquiry would not assist the defense.

Tired: the ol' Perfesser.
Wired: Complete National Disgrace

But enough about the facts of the case – CND wants to plunge in to the warm, soothing waters of Both Sides.  You saw Judge Creepy rant and rave about how he was going to take his revenge on the Democrats who plotted against him (including presumably Dr. Ford's therapist, who joined the plot in 2012).  No less a critic than retired Justice John Paul Stevens thought that performance disqualifying, but CND wants you to consider the Other Side.

What Other Side?  Apparently, he didn't like the way that Senator Cory Booker addressed McBrewski.  CND thought it was so political, as indeed might be expected from an elected representative in a political branch. They want to be re-elected, or even elected to a higher office and therefore will consider the likely public reaction to their remarks.  That is called “democracy. ”

That is exactly what a Supreme Court Justice is not: he (and it's all he all the time for President U Bum's nominees) is not elected.  He is not supposed to be political.  You can't equate the remarks of a Senator and a nominee to the Supreme Court.  That would like comparing CND Brooks to a serious thinker.

Indeed, none of C.N. Disgrace's column qualifies as serious thought, or thought it all.  It's poorly-executed observation, like looking out at the horizon and concluding that the Earth is flat.

Just to round out the essential lack of seriousness in CND Brooks's argument, let's look at his prescription.  Hint: it's not to stop nominating sex offenders for high office.  It's reaching out to rapists and perjurers and those who flack for them:
It’s also clear we have to set up more forums for personal encounters between different kinds of people. You detoxify disputes when you personalize them. People who don’t have regular contact with people they disagree with become intellectually dishonest quickly.
We accept CND's expertise in the field of intellectual dishonesty, but we don't recall how the Civil Rights Movement was advanced by having regular contact with Jim Clark and George Wallace.  We don't recall how the New Deal was achieved by regular contact with Herbert Hoover and J.P. Morgan.  And was victory won in World War II  by regular contact with Hitler and Hirohito?  History conclusively disproves Brooks's Kumbaya thesis.

So to his final question – What are we going to do about it? – the answer is as clear as the hatred and contempt on Judge Creepy's loutish face:  we are going to fight harder to make sure that every single person who sought to advance a perjuring sex criminal to the highest court in the land is banished from public life.

As for their flacks and apologists, let's just say that we're going to bestow on them the epithet they deserve.  And we couldn't do a better job of that than ol' Complete National Disgrace himself.

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