David Brooks Authoritarianism Watch

I have previously written about the "banal authoritarianism" and "anti-anti-authoritarianism" of New York Times columnist David Brooks, who has been railing against the individual and in favor of bold state action since at least 1997. Today Brooks adds to his own increasingly eccentric subgenre by spending several paragraphs lamenting that Washington's monuments and memorials no longer radiate sufficient power:

Why can't today's memorial designers think straight about just authority? [...]

Those "Question Authority" bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves. Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don't believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.

Maybe before we can build great monuments to leaders we have to relearn the art of following.

The sentiment here is bizarre enough (lead me, o Great Men, lead me!), but what really sticks out is the sell-by date on the cultural critique. The "old adversary culture of the intellectuals" was indeed pretty adversarial toward authority in the Me Decade, but is nowadays openly cheering on Big Government and the virtuous Nanny State. It's gotten to the point where the center-left political media is doing the president's dirty work for him, jumping down the throat of Democrats who dare stray from the Obama administration's message of the day.

And Sweet Baby Jane Fancy Moses, when's the last time you even saw a "Question Authority" bumper sticker?

UPDATE: Radley Balko has more.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ChrisO||

    If they ever put up a monument to David Brooks somewhere, it will be a statue of a toad licking a boot.

  • Franklin Harris||

    And we have a winner.

  • Tonio||

    Yes.

  • ||

    You just know he has to have a dominatrix on speed dial. He loves to be told what to do, it seems. "Rule me!"

  • ||

    Nahhh...he wants to be one of the rulers.

  • The Hammer||

    He's not charismatic enough, and he knows that. I think he's actually shooting for toady.

  • Tonio||

    I think Epi nailed it, KK. Definitely a follower.

  • fish||

    The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something.

    Ding!

    Public servants are in it for themselves.

    Ding!

    Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

    Ding!

    Brooks....three for three! Well done sir!

  • JW||

    It's like a parody of a parody.

  • Tonio||

    That's called unselfconscious parody, JW. Deliberate self-parody is funny; when you don't even realize you've become a self-parody it's....sad.

  • The Hammer||

    No mention of Somalia anywhere in the column. I am disappoint.

  • ||

    Because great minds think alike, I'd just posted a link to this story in the morning links when I took a look at The Agitator and saw that Radley had posted it as well and came back here to see this. Personally, I think everyone with even half a brain should be calling attention to this monstrosity. Meanwhile, I'm off to read the comments at the NYT.

  • JW||

    Meanwhile, I'm off to read the comments at the NYT.

    Don't do it! You can never look directly at the face of madness and not come away changed!

    If that isn't a cry for help, nothing is.

  • ||

    I admit to some fear going in, but I've returned bearing unexpected news: Brooks has pretty much lost the Times commentariat with this one.

  • JW||

    You're missing the obvious here: the regular NYT commentariat are bound and gagged in a closet somewhere. Those astro-turfing tea baggers are behind this. I know it.

    If anyone has perfected the art of following, it's the NYT subscriber base. For those people, it's never a bridge too far.

  • The Hammer||

    I dunno, there are still those who are blaming Bush and the evil Senate Republicans for not doing what Obama wants hard enough.

  • ||

    Carrying Walter Duranty's torch is apparently not physically strenuous work.

  • LTC John||

    + a lot

  • Ken Shultz||

    Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

    He put his finger in the middle of it right there!

    There is no one in the whole wide world who is a greater authority on what Ken Shultz wants than me.

    The idea that some politician or institution, some other authority, would know what I want--better than me? Is the dumbest, most indefensible political position imaginable.

    The fact that each of us knows what we want better than anyone else possibly could is the very reason why each of us should be free to make our own choices rather than having them made for us by some other authority.

    "Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me"--with a capital "Me"? That's right, Mr. Brooks.

    And don't you forget it!

  • Pope Jimbo||

    There is no one in the whole wide world who is a greater authority on what Ken Shultz wants than me.

    Ken is your fondest desire to see libertarian gals stop wearing these dresses?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Can't say I'm a fan.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Me neither. I prefer girls with really big clits.

  • John||

    The people of America have failed their leaders. Expect a lot more of this as the blue model goes down the toilet.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Time to dissolve the people and elect a new one.

  • Chris Mallory||

    Why else do you think they have been importing hordes of 3rd world savages? This has been the plan since 1965.

  • pmains||

    Tell us how you really feel.

  • ||

    You're a fucking retard.

  • Ken Shultz||

    +1

  • Concerned Citizen||

    What 3rd world savages? The Somalians here in central Ohio are hard workers, which upsets the native victim class as it makes them look bad. Our inner cities have more than enough savages, (see Auburn party shooter) there's no need to import them, hell, we have enough to start exporting them.

  • JW||

    Why would they import them, when we clearly have a sizable domestic stock?

  • T||

    The imported ones will do the savagery our natives just won't do. And for less!

  • Devil's Advocate||

    Bunch of savages in this town.

  • tarran||

    John, I presume you've read Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich.

    Remember Hitler's attitude as everything was turning into ashes? The German People had failed him and deserved to suffer...

    It's the same mindset. No self examination asking how they went wrong. Nope. Their vision was prefect, and the followers failed them.

  • John||

    Same mentality. This started back in the 00s with What is the Matter With Kansas. The ideology is never wrong.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The people of America have failed their leaders. Expect a lot more of this as the blue model goes down the toilet.

    It's because they're too stupid to know what's in their own best interests.

    They don't know what's in their best interest better than we do.

    Partially becasue of all the money spent to deceive them.

  • Bill||

    Malaise, etc., etc.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether."

    In what way did the Tea Party want to dispense with authority? They want to dispense with reckless overspending and the health-care bill, but that is hardly the same as "privatize the roads, man!"

    And OWS anti-authoritarian? To the extend they have a coherent program, it's having the federal government rein in the corprashuns and Capitalism.

  • ||

    Anti-establishment = anti-civilization in the mind of someone like this.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Nah, I read it as more intentional, trying to throw in someone HE doesn't like with something NO ONE likes for guilt by association.

    Like Brooks and Sandusky's views on teenage boys.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I think he's talking about the internal "leaderless" structure of the TP and OWS, not their policy positions. Though both movements were coopted pretty quickly.

  • Pi Guy||

    ...relearn the art of following.

    uh, what?

  • Tonio||

    What's so hard about that, PG? Mandatory "training" for all.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    I will question their authoritah, as my psychotic bitch wife now wants a divorce. I'm self employed, barely making any $, and am on her health insurance through her job. Once I'm free, and off her plan, and if Obamacare hasn't been struck down, I'll not pick up any insurance myself. Fuck them, fuck their mandate, and may my wife die in a fire.

  • The Hammer||

    Hey Nicole, sounds like there's another option coming on the market!

  • Raston Bot||

    Once I'm free

    There's that silver lining!

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Silver, yes, but tarnished, as we have possibly the cutest 6 year old daughter ever born.

  • ||

    Those "Question Authority" bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

    Brooks' bumper sticker says "Fellate Authority".

  • ||

    "...relearn the art of following."

    FUCK OFF SLAVER!!!

  • Pi Guy||

    Left this comment at Radley's site:

    -------

    I would have to say that following your “betters” blindly is perhaps the most unpatriotic, unAmerican thing that any person in this great but slipping-thru-our-fingers land could possibly do.

    And to stand on the sidelines and preach it from the ivory tower is, therefore, an act of treason in my book.

    -------

  • tarran||

    Dude... In no way is bloviating in a stupid way treason. Words have specific meanings.

  • rac||

    Apprently, Mr. Brooks was absent during the lesson plan of every school he attended which discussed the Declaration of Independence.

    I really hate this retard.

  • Number 2||

    Please rac. The Declaration of Independence was written by middle-aged 18th Century wealthy land and slave-owning White males. No educated person would take that document seriously!

  • Hyperion||

    Maybe before we can build great monuments to leaders

    Wow. It's hard to even think about how to respond to a statement like that.

    I wonder if he has little statues of Mao and Stalin in his house? Maybe a pharoah statue? I mean, in North Korea, at least there is the threat of ending up dead or in a detention camp to coerce the North Koreans into that. This guy is willingly doing it, which is more than a little disturbing and nauseating.

    Maybe we can send him to North Korea, for his own happiness of course. I hear that there are plenty of giant statues of the KPA dynasty leaders there for him to grovel before like the wimpering whining wussy that he is.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I wonder if he has little statues of Mao and Stalin in his house?

    House? No.
    Colon? Yes.

  • MOFO.||

    David Brooks needs to eat my shit.

  • oncogenesis||

    And/or a bag of dicks.

  • Tulpa the White||

    The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves. Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

    I fucking wish. Each of those statements is true more often than not, unfortunately.

  • Tonio||

    Most people are ultimately in it for themselves. Realities like this don't conform to collectivist/statist narratives and must be ignored at all costs.

  • Loki||

    David Brooks: Asshole.

    Nothing more needs to be said.

  • Mr. Soul||

    the thing that always amazes me about Friedman how many people dont take their own lives after being subjected to him. We'd have to invent the word "douchbag" for him, if it didnt already exist.

  • Number 2||

    "The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves."

    Isn't that precisely the attitude that the Left, and self-titled "Progressives," have displayed toward private business and corporations for at least a century and one-half?

  • R C Dean||

    The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism.

    How dare the proles adopt the attitudes of their betters!

    Jeebus. What an embarrassment. If the considerable literary gifts of the commentariat were turned to creating a parody of the BosWash elite media commentator, we couldn't come close to what Brooksie has done here.

  • Tonio||

    the sell-by date on the cultural critique

    Spot-on, Matt.

    You hear this thing a lot from aging boomers - it was cool when they did it, but the kids today haven't got a clue.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.

    The Internet is about 100 years behind, then.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

  • Killazontherun||

    Shit, if Brooksie ever gets around to reading Twilight of the Idols he may never leave the house again if OWS and the Tea Party scare him.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement