FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 2021
Brooks emits lunatic slanders: Way back when, David Brooks wrote a column in which he said that same academics may possibly be just a trifle too "Woke."
"Woke" was the ugly, insensitive term the insensitive columnist used. In an early part of his column, he pretended he thinks that "the thing we call wokeness" is actually great at its core:
BROOKS (5/14/21): The thing we call wokeness contains many elements. At its core is an honest and good-faith effort to grapple with the legacies of racism. In 2021, this element of wokeness has produced more understanding, inclusion and racial progress than we’ve seen in over 50 years. This part of wokeness is great.
The thing we call wokeness is great at its core? No one believes that the columnist meant that! As he proceeded, Brooks revealed what he actually feels and believes:
BROOKS (continuing directly): But wokeness gets weirder when it’s entangled in the perversities of our meritocracy, when it involves demonstrating one’s enlightenment by using language—“problematize,” “heteronormativity,” “cisgender,” “intersectionality”—inculcated in elite schools or with difficult texts.
In an essay titled “The Language of Privilege,” in Tablet, Nicholas Clairmont argues that the difficulty of the language is the point—to exclude those with less educational capital.
People who engage in this discourse have been enculturated by our best and most expensive schools. If you look at the places where the splashy woke controversies have taken place, they have often been posh prep schools, like Harvard-Westlake or Dalton, or pricey colleges, like Bryn Mawr or Princeton.
The meritocracy at this level is very competitive. Performing the discourse by canceling and shaming becomes a way of establishing your status and power as an enlightened person. It becomes a way of showing—despite your secret self-doubts—that you really belong. It also becomes a way of showing the world that you are anti-elite, even though you work, study and live in circles that are extremely elite.
Brooks continued on from there, spreading his various poisons. At this point, we'll proceed to reveal what we ourselves truly believe.
We tend to agree with one part of Brooks' criticism of the soaring moral commitments he disparages as "wokeness." We tend to agree with his overall claim, though not with a point of emphasis.
We tend to agree! Almost surely, academia's absurdly jargonized lingo will perhaps and possibly tend to drive "Joe and Jane Sixpack" away. These "others" will find the new, improved jargonized language strange. They may tend to feel excluded.
We're less inclined to agree with the point of emphasis Brooks attributes to Clairmont. According to experts with whom we consult, such specialized language principally serves to identify the elect—but only in the tribal or ideological sense.
The constant churning of specialized language serves as a way to identify those who belong to the ideological group. According to the experts with whom we consult, this churning principally serves as a marker of tribal allegiance and obedience, not of high "educational capital."
People employing the jargonized lingo don't all come from Bryn Mawr or Princeton. But they do let us know they belong to the tribe when they emit their new language.
Whatever! Quite plainly, Brooks had revealed his ugly worldview with this ugly attack on academia. Before he was done, it got worse.
Before he was done, Brooks even went so far as to claim that he supports the part of "wokeness" which "focuses on concrete benefits for the disadvantaged—reparations, more diverse hiring, more equitable housing and economic policies."
It was easy to see how phony that was. It was easy to see that Brooks' attack on the movement was all.
Let it be said that, early on, Brooks also slandered "critical race theory" (CRT), an academic framework of long standing which has been in the news of late.
CRT has been in the news, but what the heck is it? In many ways, that doesn't really matter, but the question is perfectly sound.
What the heck is critical race theory? Also, what sorts of complaints have been lodged against CRT?
In last Sunday's Washington Post, Marisa Iati offered an amazingly clear-spoken overview of such current questions. To peruse her report, just click here.
Iati is seven years of out of college (Notre Dame, class of 2014). Her overview was so well-written—was so fair and was so balanced—that it almost seemed to have emerged from some alternate world.
Having said that, let us also say this:
It doesn't exactly matter what critical race theory is. It doesn't matter what the theory is on its best days, in its best manifestations.
What matters are the applications of CRT—or perhaps, the manifestations of "wokeness"—emerging from the hallowed halls where critical theory may reign. We rubes will encounter those applications and manifestations, not the pure theory itself.
Critical theory makes perfect sense in its most pristine forms. Often though, its applications may not.
Angry parents, seizing on "tidbits," may respond to those applications. They may think they're responding to "critical race theory" itself when, at least in the idealized sense of the term, it may be that they aren't.
Once again, whatever! Those angry parents will seize on certain "tidbits." Just to be perfectly honest, those tidbits—those manifestations—may not always make perfect sense.
Here in Our Town, in response, righteousness may tend to boil. Knowing how perfect Our Town's motives are, we may be inclined to seize on The Dumbness of Others.
Here in Our Town, we can see how stupid those angry parents are, how pure Our Town's motives are. This ancient reaction was on full display in the news report from the Washington Post we discussed in yesterday's report.
Here in Our Town, we can see how perfect our thought leaders are—even those who may be engaged in acts of "ethnic fraud!" We can see how stupid The Others are, and we're sometimes inclined to go into print to tell each other about it.
In our experience, Our Town has been noting The Dumbness of Others since at least the mid-1960s. The Others have been dumb for a very long time. We've sometimes been eager to say so.
Today, we send our Harvard kids out to talk about their "tidbits." These journalists are two years out of college, but they've memorized all the plays. Their editors don't seem to exist.
Meanwhile, is it possible? Is it possible that top academics here in Our Town may sometimes lack perfect insight? The ugly column published by Brooks gave us a chance to assess that silly idea.
While showering praise on the core of wokeness—while voicing support for reparations!—Brooks had dared to suggest that the jargonized lingo of Our Town may come from a "privileged" place.
He'd even suggested that Our Town's academics may do the darnedest things. Insensitive headline included, he had started his column like this:
BROOKS (5/14/21): This Is How Wokeness Ends
My friend Rod Dreher recently had a blog post for The American Conservative called “Why Are Conservatives in Despair?” He explained that conservatives are in despair because a hostile ideology — wokeness or social justice or critical race theory—is sweeping across America the way Bolshevism swept across the Russian Empire before the October Revolution in 1917.
This ideology is creating a “soft totalitarianism” across wide swaths of American society, he writes. In the view of not just Dreher but also many others, it divides the world into good and evil based on crude racial categories. It has no faith in persuasion, or open discourse, but it shames and cancels anybody who challenges the official catechism. It produces fringe absurdities like “ethnomathematics,” which proponents say seeks to challenge the ways that, as one guide for teachers puts it, “math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist and racist views” by dismissing old standards like focusing on “getting the ‘right’ answer.”
I’m less alarmed by all of this because I have more confidence than Dreher and many other conservatives in the American establishment’s ability to co-opt and water down every radical progressive ideology...
Truly, that was ugly stuff. It seemed to say that we in Our Town may sometimes be inclined to "divide the world into good and evil based on crude racial categories." Brooks said he wasn't hugely alarmed by this tendency because the movement in question will eventually be co-opted by the nation's establishment.
Forget that complexified claim! Along the way, Brooks even suggested that academics in Our Town can sometimes produce "fringe absurdities."
As an example, he dreamed up a crazy idea. He suggested that someone has offered a crazy type of "ethnomathematics."
"Academia, do we have a problem?" Sarah Viren, herself an academic, posed that question last weekend in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Earlier, Brooks had crazily seemed to say that the answer can sometimes be yes. Luckily, two academics responded to this silly, ridiculous claim.
At times like these, reactionaries like Brooks are willing to do and say anything. Angry parents will seize on "tidbits," but people like Brooks will be worse.
Tomorrow: Two academics responded to Brooks. Each is a good, decent person...