A NOVEL IDEA

I did my best to try to subject David Brooks' latest to a proper FJM Treatment, but I couldn't. I've done Brooks too many times (phrasing) and his column is too mean, condescending, and deceptive to be a source of any real humor. This kind of shit just isn't funny anymore. If you're interested you can read up on how every number he cites in his piece is either distorted or flat-out fabricated, but I just couldn't get past this paragraph. It killed all the funny. I don't like to be Brooks' favorite creature – the Very Serious Person – but I did a serious face and it ruined any attempt to make this enjoyable.

Despite all these efforts, there are too many young men leading lives like the one Gray led. He was apparently a kind-hearted, respectful, popular man, but he was not on the path to upward mobility. He won a settlement for lead paint poisoning. According to The Washington Post, his mother was a heroin addict who, in a deposition, said she couldn’t read. In one court filing, it was reported that Gray was four grade levels behind in reading. He was arrested more than a dozen times.

Here is where we introduce David Brooks to the novel idea that even people who are not on the path to upward mobility deserve to not be killed by the police.

Look, this is how poverty works. That's why anyone who knows their ass from the Grand Canyon calls it a "cycle." Freddie Gray, like 9 out of 10 males growing up in a shit neighborhood have, had a criminal record. Petty drug stuff for the most part, which is to be expected once young men realize that selling weed / making meth / etc is about 1000% more lucrative than any other financial opportunity available to them. It's not, as an old white person like David Brooks might say, like Freddie Gray was slitting old ladies' throats in alleys for thrills. There is nothing to suggest that he was a Bad Person, just another person who had to raise himself predictably taking to a life in the gray market economy.

But here's the thing: none of that matters. Poverty – and say this part as Tim Curry's character in Clue talking about Communism – is just David Brooks' red herring. It doesn't matter if Freddie Gray was an altar boy who spent his spare time saving endangered owls or the second coming of the Boston Strangler. There is no excuse for him dying in police custody. Wonderful, rich, upwardly mobile people don't deserve that. Poor, evil people wallowing in the underclass don't deserve it either. That's what someone like Brooks can't grasp, the idea that a person's social status and life experience should not dictate the kind of treatment afforded them by a system that is supposedly blind, impartial, and fair.

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37 thoughts on “A NOVEL IDEA”

  • But, no, see, here's the thing: If Brooks is right–and this is the brilliant part–we don't have to feel bad that Freddie Gray is dead. Because, you see, he was going to be, like, totally miserable and poor anyway. So, just to be clear, it's OK that he's dead–don't mourn him, because he wasn't going to do anything with his life anyway.

    Pretty awesome news, am I right?

    OK, I can't keep up the sarcasm; it's too exhausting.

    Is Brooks a monster? Well, maybe–but one of the stupid ones, like the Blob or those worm-things from TREMORS. On the other hand, I've begun to suspect that Brooks knows about your FJMing, and is currently trolling you to see if you bite again–that two-fisted handjob he gave to Rubio a couple weeks ago* absolutely screamed "FJM me, Ed–You know you want to."

    I so want to imagine that Krugman and Kristoff regularly corner this asshat in the elevator and just wedgie him until he bleeds out the ears.

    *http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/opinion/david-brooks-the-talented-mr-rubio.html?_r=0

  • HoosierPoli says:

    David Brooks's lies helped lead us into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and cost 4 trillion dollars. But at least he doesn't have a record of misdemeanors!

  • What blows my mind is that he references an excellent piece by David Simon that pretty much illustrates how West Baltimore is a goddamn police state, and his only takeaway is that blacks used to be allowed to call cops "cocksuckers" but not "assholes," but now that kind of excellent social decorum is gone and Charles Murray yadda yadda.

    What a fucking disingenuous prick.

  • In the Brooksoid mindset, police brutality, like poverty, is just something that happens. It's like the movement of the stars and planets. Nobody is responsible, and no human agency can change it.

    So the rich and powerful can continue to do what they like, because that's the natural and inevitable order of things. For a long time, priests have told us this was the will of God. Instead of appealing to a supreme being, Brooks tries to make his case by sheer force of stupidity.

    Is this petty, ridiculous man the best our overlords can find to justify their positions? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Right-wingers should be standing up and cheering the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" life that Freddie Gray led. According to what you quoted, he was born to a heroin-addicted mother and was permanently poisoned in childhood by lead paint (there's tons of research of the lifelong disabling effects of lead poisoning). Despite that, he managed to grow up and find himself a job (for which he was arrested for petty–not horrific–crimes, as Ed points out).

    I live in a suburban cul-de-sac where a dismaying number of adult "children" his age who had all the advantages of an upper-middle-class upbringing are still dependent on and living with Mommy and Daddy (hey, someone's gotta pay the bills for the latest cellphone and monster SUV).

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Such is the fate of the centrist in the Obummer era. He has to concede that the right, such as it is now, has a lot of great points. That means spending about half his time submerged in the sort of reactionary sewage that would make Goldwater puke.

  • I'd seen this point made before about Ferguson and Michael Brown. In the eyes of the law, everyone is equal. Police do not have the power to "judge" anyone, or determine guilt or innocence. Rather they are, allegedly, the power that detains citizens before they have their day in court. Mother Teresa and Jeffery Dahmer are both equals before the law, just as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jamal Crawford, etc., are equal to Bernie Madoff. Funny how people call someone a "thug" who deserves to get shot in the street after stealing $40 bucks worth of cigars, but Madoff steals millions and gets a court date.

    There is a book by a sociologist William Julian Wilson called "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor" in which he argues, with great success that the breakdown in family structure does not come from a "lack of morals", but poverty and joblessness create the breakdown in family structure. Any of you who live in the Rust Belt or in Appalachia know that poverty and joblessness created by the destruction of industry has created the same exact situations that have occurred in the inner-cities of America. Jobs leave, poverty and drugs rise up. Single parent households may correlate with poverty, but the causation is where people like Brooks get it wrong.

  • Sorry for the double post…
    @Dryden- you think just Krugman and Kristoff hate Brooks? I would imagine that Brooks just doesn't come to the office the days that Charles Blow is in.

  • @ Khaled: I sincerely hope that is so, and that Blow decides to move into the building. Also worth noting: Despite the NYT policy of not ragging on other columnists, Krugman's latest submission pushes that envelope to the point of breaking, calling out Brooks in terms so explicit that all that's missing is "that asshole I have to share space with."

  • @talisker In the Brooksoid mindset, police brutality, like poverty, is just something that happens. It's like the movement of the stars and planets.

    When I hear or read people saying that Gray, Brown, and others who have shared their fate bear responsibility for it because they didn't submit to police authority, it reminds me of animal experts warning people not to make eye contact with certain wild creatures because they will take it as a challenge and attack you. I think there's a good satire waiting to be written comparing police to wild animals, but I'm not talented enough to write it, plus it would probably just be depressing.

  • David Brooks was, is and will always be, a fucking hack and a piece of shit. Beating up on teh black is not new for him.

    I pray (well, fervently wish for, maybe) assholes like Brooks to have their "15 minutes" being mistaken for a perp. And, if they move the wrong way and get shot–tsk, tsk.

    I had somebody tell me on Sunday that if those "thugs*" had just kept their powder dry it woulda all worked out. Right, like those 6 cops were gonna get indicted without the fires and looting happening.

    * S'okay, the mayor sez that's what they are!

  • @Emerson Dameron

    It what sense is Brooks a 'centrist', even with the degredation of the term as you've described?

  • For certain values of "centrist." For example, Brooks would be a centrist in Congress. And by "Congress," I mean the Congress of Vienna

  • There's this thing called "custodial responsibility". I had it drilled into me when I worked at a prison: we are responsible for the health and welfare of these people, whether they deserve it or not. I met some of the most worthless wastes of oxygen and skin and edible food ever created, but they were all human beings with the same rights as you, me, David Brooks, and Ted Cruz.

  • ZeroInMyOnes says:

    Take a look at the stock chart for the NYT Company (NYT) from the 80s until now. You'll see why they retain a writer of click-bait infamy like Brooks.

  • Skepticalist says:

    Just because David Brooks makes nice on PBS every week doesn't mean that he gets a pass for being increasingly stupid.

    He lives in the 1950s when everything was just super.

  • cromartie says:

    which is to be expected once young men realize that selling weed / making meth / etc is about 1000% more lucrative than any other financial opportunity available to them.

    Except it was determined a couple of years ago that they don't really make any more money than any other financial opportunity available to them, was it not?

    Although, that said, the clientele is more respectful, the commute is better and you can make your own hours, so you have that going for you, I suppose.

  • @cromartie Except that many of these young men have absolutely no financial opportunity available to them. Nade. Zip. Zilch.

    Hell, I have white, middle aged friends with college degrees and impressive resumes who have no financial opportunities available to them.

  • There's an expectation that law enforcement should only be nice to you if you've lived a perfect life and it's only right to complain if they're mean to someonee who is "respectable". The problem is that respectable people do things like kill once in awhile and often have some bad things in the past (DUIs, killing ex-boyfriends with their cars like Laura Bush) and we forget that. Sometimes they have bad children, like Mike Hukabee and that knucklehead kid of his, Dave. Expecting cops to know that "good people" aren't so good isn't fair. But it also isn't fair to kill people who are under regular police surveillance and have gotten caught doing bad things. We have laws so that cops don't have to engage in guess work–if they're going to kill someone like Freddie, they also should kill bankers who mouth off for a speeding ticket. If they're not going to kill mouthy bankers or other entitled pricks, then they shouldn't be killing guys like Freddie Gray. It's that simple. Yes, they have a tough job but no one said it would be as easy as selling subprime loans.

  • This change in attitude – that a "thug" has no right to expect anything other than brutality from the cops once he is arrested – seems to me to be of a piece with the preceding change in attitude that took prison rape from an utter horror to a gleefully satisfying bit of poetic justice for the prison-bound.

    Try to think of all the TV shows and movies featuring a cop or prosecutor promising some defendant or convict that he'll become someone's new "girlfriend" behind bars real soon, said with a good bit of bile in the voice, as if we, the audience, can't wait for the bad guy to start taking hes "real" punishment from Bubba. It's standard boilerplate now, and it'd be a pretty long list of shows to compile.

    Recently, we've seen the general public become increasingly at ease with the idea that if you are stopped by police, you'd better instantly comply with their every command and not resist even when they start roughing you up, or you'll "get what you deserve" as just another thug. And now it seems that, even when totally under police control and custody (as in the back of a transport van) you should expect no treatment better that the infamous "rough ride". If you didn't want to get bounced around the back of a van, you shouldn't have stolen that gum!

    I guess people are still so angered by the existence of crime that they will take bloody pleasure in any awful treatment of those in police custody, because EFF those thugs anyway.

  • Brooks on NPR:

    "I was really struck at this supreme moment of American triumph that they weren't beating their chests," he tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "They weren't super proud of themselves; they were deeply humble. And I found that so beautiful and so moving. And I thought there's really something to admire in that public culture."

    So what do you think he says next? Does he examine himself and "national greatness conservatism"? Sean Hannity banging on about American exceptionalism? No. "It occurred to me that I'd seen more self-puffing victory dances after a two yard gain than after world war II." So there you go. David Brooks on humility.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @DrS:
    He's a Beltway Intellectual! A pragmatist who Listens To Both Sides. The Kommissar In Chief himself is a Brooks fan and consults him.

    This is where we're at now. DB will have to spout *a lot* more bigoted nonsense before he can really tarnish his "even-handed" rep.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Just to be clear: I don't check this space every day because I believe we DESERVE a post as good as this on a daily basis. It's just that Ed sometimes provides two or three terrific posts in a row, and I don't want to miss out.

    It's tough making up for a hundred thousand morons, but he does as much as one person can.

  • I imagine that if BoBo were to discover the Judge Dredd books, he would see Dredd as the hero. Heck, if he had Watchmen read to him, he'd think Rorschach was the hero.

    Mr. Magoo saw things more clearly.

  • There was an article where one of the officers involved says "the arrest was legal."
    That sound you hear is my head hitting the table.
    It obviously misses the point of the whole thing. That if I or anyone else gets arrested for whatever reason—legal or not—I should NOT have to worry if I'm going to be killed or walk again.
    Point is, the officers have duty of care to the arrestee, ONLY a court appointed executioner is allowed to send someone home in a box.

  • @Xynzee – my point exactly. if you take someone into custody under lock and key, you have sole and total responsibility for the welfare and safety. is this not standard policy? Is it not enshrined in law? Do we truly not expect that those who detain us have a duty to see that we are not illegally harmed while in their custody?

  • ZeroInMyOnes says:

    New!: ”What is David Brooks' Purpose?" by Matthew Pratt Guterl in The New Republic

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