Tuesday, October 12, 2004

David Brooks, Simpleton

I don't know why I bother taking apart David Brooks' editorials for the Times. Maybe they just rankle me just the right way, like a burr that gets inside your pants. But his editorial today really irritated me.

First, Brooks makes the statement that the physical landscape influences our view of politics and the world. Fair enough, I think, this could be interesting. And then Brooks' usual simplistic view of the world takes over. He goes on to argue that the sparsely populated South and West are more likely to have a Goldwaterian view of the world, meaning individualistic with little government interference in their lives. Well this would be a legitimate view if it actually made sense. What are the problems here? Well, the South isn't sparsely populated. Has David Brooks ever been to the South? Even the rural South has very few areas where people live miles apart from each other. Second, the South and West look nothing like each other. The landscapes of the South and the West have, approximately, nothing at all in common. Third, he blithely ignores the enormous influence of the federal government in the South and the West. I guess if you ask people in Arizona or Alabama if they want big government in their lives, they'd probably say no, but if you were to ask them what they thought about the federal government abandoning all support of water projects or taking all defense installations out of their states, they'd start having uncontrolled bowel movements. He opposes this idea with that of the cities--people in the cities, Brooks argues, like big government in their lives. For the sake of space I'm not going to get into this.

Next, Brooks decides that this dualistic frame of mind applies to how people view foreign policy. So somehow living in the same region as the Monument Valley means that people automatically think that the US should go alone in foreign policy and those in South Boston believe America should build international alliances before going to war. I shouldn't even have to discuss how this makes no goddamn sense.

I recognize the need for the New York Times to have conservative columnists. I don't like William Safire, but that's because I don't agree with his politics. David Brooks is simply an incompetent thinker. He consistently breaks the world out into 2 either/or categories. His mind seems to have little room for subtlety. Can't the Times find a competent conservative thinker in the world to write for them?