SATURDAY, JUNE 17, 2023
...than the one David Brooks wrote: How rational are we rational animals, even at the highest end of our upper-end mainstream press corps?
At long last, you ask!
For an answer to your question, we direct you to David Brooks' latest column for the New York Times.
For the record, we aren't bashers of David Brooks as a general matter. For us, that makes his latest column especially puzzling, and especially instructive.
Has any column by any journalist ever made so little sense? Slightly peculiar headline included, the column started like this:
I Won’t Let Donald Trump Invade My Brain
I try to be a reasonable person. I try to be someone who looks out on the world with trusting eyes. Over the decades, I’ve built up certain expectations about how the world works and how people behave. I rely on those expectations as I do my job, analyzing events and anticipating what will happen next.
And yet I’ve found that Donald Trump has confounded me at every turn. I’ve found that I’m not cynical enough to correctly anticipate what he is capable of.
I have consistently underestimated his depravity. I was shocked at how thuggishly Trump behaved in that first debate with Joe Biden in 2020. As the Jan. 6 committee hearings progressed, I was stunned to find out just how aggressively Trump had worked to overthrow the election. And then, just last week, in reading his federal indictment, I was once again taken aback to learn how flagrantly he had breached national security.
So far, so basically rational! We're looking at a type of confession:
Like a great many other people, Brooks admits that he has consistently been astonished by the depravity of Donald Trump's acts.
So far, so basically rational! That said, as Brooks continues directly, he moves past the boundaries of confession. The spinout is already underway here:
And yet I can’t quite feel ashamed of my perpetual naïveté toward Donald Trump. I don’t want to be the kind of person who can easily enter the head of an amoral narcissist.
I’d rather not let him infect my brain. I’d rather not let that guy alter my views of the world. If occasional naïveté is the price for mental independence from Trump, I’m willing to pay it.
Consistently, Brooks has been wrong in his assessments. But he wants to remain that same way!
Brooks doesn't want to let Donald J. Trump "alter my views of the world." To what view of the world does Brooks want to cling? Bizarrely, he offers this:
I cling to a worldview that is easy to ridicule. I hold the belief that most people, while flawed, seek to be good. I hold the belief that our institutions, while fraying, are basically legitimate and deserve our respect. I hold the belief that character matters, and that good people ultimately prosper and unethical people are ultimately undone.
I don’t think this worldview is born of childish innocence. It comes out of my direct experience with life, and after thousands of interviews, covering real-life politicians like Barack Obama, John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Over the coming months, we face not merely a political contest, but a battle between those of us who believe in ideals, even though it can make us seem naïve at times, and those who argue that life is a remorseless struggle for selfish gain. Their victory would be a step toward cultural barbarism.
Like the teenaged (and brilliant) Anne Frank before him, Brooks wants to maintain "the belief that most people, while flawed, seek to be good."
Also, he wants to cling to a second idea:
He wants to retain the belief "that good people ultimately prosper and unethical people are ultimately undone."
Earth to Brooks: As history unmistakably teaches, good people do sometimes prosper. But also, sometimes they don't!
Surely, all rational animals understand that basic fact.
Concerning his desire to believe in the basic goodness of most people, it's astonishing to see the way Brooks relates that belief to the deeply unfortunate case of Donald J. Trump.
Let's agree with David Brooks. Most people, while flawed, seek to be good.
Let's agree with that view of the world, as we actually do! But because we ourselves aren't wholly irrational, medical science has presented us with a second basic understanding:
Some people—people like the vastly disordered Donald J. Trump—do not seek to be good because, just as a matter of fact, they're severely mentally ill.
We've been writing, for years, about the refusal of the mainstream press corps to consider this fairly obvious fact about Donald J. Trump.
As 37 psychiatrists warned in a best-selling 2017 book, Trump is likely afflicted with antisocial personality disorder, a severe disorder which may be inherited. That's the clinical term describing the affliction of people who are colloquially described as sociopaths.
It's easy to read about sociopathy. Online, one medical authority after another describes its horrible characteristics.
For whatever reason, Brooks wants to go on believing that no such people exist. We recall a line from Nietzsche we can't take the time to search, in which the dreamer knows he's dreaming and says he wants to continue.
The robots of our upper-end press corps went to the finest schools. In 1983, Brooks graduated from the University of Chicago.
Our journalists are the kinds of people we think of as being "educated." And yet, from 2011 on through to the present day, they have agreed to abide by a dictum of their unimpressive guild:
We must not discuss that obvious fact about that deeply dangerous person.
Earth to those who can hear:
David Brooks is a good, decent person. On the other hand, Donald J. Trump is almost surely severely mentally ill.
Donald J. Trump is severely afflicted. We've recommended pity for Trump on that point, even as we all should continue to work to strip him of his considerable power.
Brooks doesn't have to follow us there. Also, he doesn't have to surrender his preferred view of the world to accept the obvious fact that a certain percentage of people are profoundly disordered.
Has any column ever been stranger than the one David Brooks wrote? He prefers to keep pretending that sociopathy doesn't exist!
Warning! Nonrational animals crossing! You can see them every day on your favorite cable channel.
These people went to the finest schools. They've all agreed that we mustn't discuss the actual state of the world!