NONRATIONAL ANIMALS: We've never seen a less rational column...


...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!


  1. Has any column ever been stranger than the one written by Brooks? Yes, this one by Somerby is stranger.

    First, there is no evidence that Trump is a sociopath. Somerby has asserted this on the basis of a book with 37 essays in it, but there has been no examination of Trump, no real diagnosis based on even an interview with him. Somerby is willing to label Trump based on 37 remote analyses, but is that how psychiatry is done? Not in this world.

    Second, Somerby appears to want to consider Trump not responsible for his actions. Even if a personality disorder (including sociopathy) were considered a mental illness, it is possible for someone with a personality disorder to modify their behavior. This is different than schizophrenia, OCD, major depression, where medication is needed to help control symptoms. For that reason, people with personality disorders are held to be responsible for their dysfunctional behavior. So it wouldn't make any difference to Trump's culpability for his criminal acts.

    Third, most of Trump's followers do not consider him to be mentally ill and they do not even consider him to be a criminal. Those who might acknowledge that he does things that are over the line also consider him clever or smart for doing that stuff. They consider him strong, a good businessman, even when he refuses to pay his subcontractors, for example. They like him the way he is. That leaves Somerby in the position of having to call Trump's followers disordered too. But Somerby has never grappled with that problem.

    Fourth, the estimate is that 10% of people have serious personality disorders. All of us have some personality type that can be classified into a category. As Freud said, we all make a bargain with our id, and some bargains are easier to live with than others. Most mental health professionals consider all people to be struggling with an adjustment to reality, some more dysfunctional than others, but none of us is without dysfunction. So this is a matter of degree, not a line between normal and abnormal behavior. What Trump wishes to call crazy may simply be a consequence of Trump's adjustment of his own inborn personality and his environmental circumstances, which are somewhat unique.

    Somerby claims that he just wants the press to examine this stuff, but that is majorly inappropriate. It would be wrong to do that. It is time for Somerby to face what Trump has done and help hold him accountable for it, like everyone else would be held accountable. And Trump's followers need to be similarly held accountable for condoning illegal and immoral acts in the name of winning elections and adding to their wealth. These people are not crazy. They are being immoral and that is an important distinction that should be maintained.

    1. correction: "What Trump wishes to call crazy..." should be "What Somerby wishes to call crazy..."

    2. 10:57,
      Easy mistake to make.

  2. Yes. Hold Trump voters accountable. Too many to incarcerate, let them do community service.

  3. "even as we all should continue to work to strip him of his considerable power"

    What has Somerby said or done that would move us even a tiny step in that direction? Even during the presidential elections, Somerby devoted his essay to calling Hillary (the Democratic nominee) a terrible candidate. When it was Biden running, Somerby wrote about how Biden was the worst candidate among a terrible group of Democatic candidates. He trashed Kamala Harris too, for the sin of repeating the Dept of Labor figures about the gender pay gap, calling her several names. He spent no time urging his readers to make sure Trump didn't win, as most liberal bloggers were doing. He really spends no time now focusing on Trump's deficiencies or exploring the malfeasance on the right.

    Given that Somerby did nothing to help keep Trump out of office, it sounds ridiculous to hear him talk about stripping Trump of his power now. Somerby opposed the impeachments, he opposed the 1/6 Committee hearing and criticized their case. He has been critical of every effort to hold Trump accountable.

    Calling Trump mentally ill is not going to detach a single Trump voter in 2024. For one thing, it sounds subjective, like liberal name-calling, and that is what it must be without an actual mental health exam. As Trump keeps saying, he aced his mental status exam (intended to diagnose dementia). His followers will not believe such accusations and rightfully so. But Somerby will not discuss at all any of the many problems of Trump's administration and his ongoing campaign. Why not? That is the only way to strip him of his power. Nothing Somerby writes is going to help achieve that goal.

    1. Readers of liberal blogs needed to be persuaded to make sure Trump didn't win?

      What a bunch of f#ck%ng idiots.

    2. I think you are so used to content that is subjective advocacy that you get confused when any author deviates from a position of advocacy.

      Advocacy journalism like the kind you find on liberal blog is a completely brand new media occurrence.

      You have to be careful if you expose yourself to it a lot because it's not objective. They are happy to obscure truths from you that makes the object of their advocacy look bad, just like on Fox News.

      I don't believe this particular blog is intended to be straight advocacy. Actually it's meant to kind of be the opposite. To criticize. And criticism of course as we all know is very important to learn and grow. Therefore it should be respected and honored.

      But I know you have a weird fixation - and that's is cool. The validity of your criticisms won't change either. So it is what it is!

      Have a good weekend!

    3. What you view as "time urging their readers to make sure Trump didn't win" is really a misinterpretation of what liberal blogs are really doing: feeding you red meat - a non-stop demonization of Trump and his followers.

      No sane liberal needed to be urged to make sure Trump didn't win.

    4. “ non-stop demonization of Trump” … said by a commenter at a blog where the blogger engages in nonstop labeling of Trump as mentally ill. You can’t make this stuff up.

    5. I knew liberals in 2015 who thought Trump was funny and liked his disruption of normal politics. They were cynical about all politics and thought Trump would shake things up. They thought he had no chance of beating Hillary so they voted for him as a protest vote. The Bernie bros encouraged that by repeating all the right wing attacks on Hillary and using the rubbish concocted during the campaign as an excuse to either not vote or vote for Trump. The social media interference by Russia encouraged this, targeting left voters in the three states he won that were traditionally Democratic (MI, WI, PA).

      Of course left wing voters needed to be encouraged to go to the polls for Hillary. Somerby did the opposite, aiding the right in putting Trump across by knocking the left's candidates and giving people cynical reasons to stay home or avoid the political process. Somerby's misogyny here in his blog helps the appeal to misogyny on the right, and it stoked animosity toward Hillary in 2016. It is part of the right's appeal to traditional gender roles preached by the fundamentalist Christian nationalists and the white supremacists.

    6. You see a lack of advocacy as some kind of implicit opposition, which is a false dilemma. It speaks to your emotional investment in the topic which is completely understandable.

      It may also be due to an overexposure to advocacy related content that play on the same emotions.

    7. 12:45: you are mistaken if you think Somerby isn’t advocating something.

    8. Somerby was actively hostile to Hillary, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, while they were nominees of the party. Nothing implicit about it.

      What does a liberal do in an election year? He or she advocates for the Democratic candidate. This is an explicitly political blog devoted to media analysis. Somerby never pointed out the imbalance in substantive coverage of Hillary's campaign. It was one of the key factors explaining why she lost and Somerby ignored it.

    9. He wasn't actively hostile. That is your emotional overstatement to what he said. It's the same kind of emotional overstatement one would read on a 2002 era advocacy blog that still operates like it was 20 years ago.

      No liberal blog is required to advocate for the Democratic candidate. The liberal candidates are all open to criticisms from liberals whenever they want. That's just the way it is.

      You insist on advocacy and if not, you are kicked out of the club. That is a McCarthyite strategy that is really unproductive in the long run. You don't realize how bad it hurts the long-term cause. But you will eventually.

    10. Not all Democrats admire Hillary Clinton and the establishment, DNC party infrastructure as much as you do.

      Think of it like a football team. If the ownership in general manager are doing a poor job, a fan will criticize them. And it's good because if they're not winning, the ownership and management have to get their act together.

      And that's true of the DNC and the entrenched leadership infrastructure for the Democrats. They are not doing a good job and they need to get their act together. They deserve to be criticized. Hillary Clinton deserves to be criticized in many ways for her 2016 campaign.

      I get that you may not agree with that but it doesn't make someone not a liberal. For f***** sake what are you 5 years old?

    11. @1:20 No one calls the left McCarthyite except Republicans. You have outed yourself.

      Republicans did try to sic progressives on the mainstream Democratic party, especially in 2016 but also in 2020. Yes, some were stupid enough to engage in attacking their own candidates. That's one reason why Hillary lost, which is the point being made here. It was a bad idea that gave us a Trump presidency. I hope Democrats who voted for Jill Stein (Russia-funded) or Tulsi Gabbard (Russia-funded) or wrote-in Bernie (Russia-funded) have learned their lesson. You don't win an election by attacking your own candidate.

      Hillary Clinton wrote a book called "What Happened" in which she was frank about criticizing her own campaign. That doesn't change the FACT that the biggest influence on her numbers was Comey's last-minute statement, and the loss itself was due to 70,000 votes in three states (MI, WI, PA) where Democratic votes were suppressed, including black votes (via a social media campaign), Dems who voted for Jill Stein or Dems who didn't vote, including vocal Bernie supporters. Your rationale for handing the election to Trump ignores the much higher stakes for our nation than for a sporting event. And yes, there is a difference between liberals and progressives, and yet another difference between actual progressives and whiny Bernie Bros who used the right wing's propaganda to attack Hillary for having the nerve to be competent and female. If you guys on the left believed that propaganda, that is your fault. Traditional liberals understand important concepts such as solidarity and movement politics. Every bro who called the Clintons crooks can rot in hell, and probably will given what Trump did to the country as a result of their foolishness.

    12. Basically, you try to bully Somerby into not criticizing Democrats.

      It's extremely cultish. "Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders". You are cast out of the group if you don't support and advocate for the leader at all times. All must maintain complete advocacy at all times or they are exiled and forsaken. It's really gross and dumb politically. Long term it is disastrous.

    13. Hey - get me the source for you claim that it is a fact the biggest influence on the loss besides, your own mistakes was due to 70,000 votes in three states (MI, WI, PA) where Democratic votes were suppressed, including black votes.

      Just because according to Senate intelligence hearings, Russia spent less than $5,000 on Facebook ads in those States during the election.

      What is the evidence for your claim? How are factors for the loss weighed? Who weighs them?

    14. Oh, I forgot. You don't have any evidence for the claim you made because you don't have any ... because you're completely full of s*** and just make up s***.

    15. Go back and read what was written at the 538 blog by Nate Silver, analyzing the results. Then also read Hillary Clinton's book. She addresses some of the nonsense about her not visiting those states often enough with actual facts about her travel and that of her surrogates.

      I can't force you to read anything you don't want to read, but then you cannot say I have no evidence either.

    16. 1. Somerby repeatedly says he is a liberal but he does not ever express any liberal views, advances Republican talking points on the same days that all the other Republicans are doing so, defends Republican miscreants, expresses racist and misogynist views, and recently has been defending the culture wars (esp book banning).

      This isn't just about attacking Democrats. It is about advancing right wing talking points, defending racist behavior and saying misogynist things. Liberal curmudgeons and critics don't tend to advance and defend Republican memes, candidates and participate in the culture war (on the Republican side).

      And why are there so many right-wing trolls here defending him? If he were actually a liberal, he would have a faction here that is on the left, not these obvious Republican fanboys.

      My point is that Somerby should be honest. I don't care if he criticizes Democrats or even Democratic nominess if he were not also claiming to be liberal himself when he is obviously not. It is the lying that bothers me. There are plenty of critics of Democrats around and I don't spend any time debating them. They are what they are. Somerby lies about what he is. Some fools believe him for awhile, then they see the light after they've read enough of his essays.

    17. No one here is the purity police, making sure Democrats say the right stuff. That is a right wing fantasy that the left is as authoritarian as the right. The right is the party of party-discipline, not the left. But some of us on the left believe that truth must be defended and that when right wing disinformation is being floated, it should be called out. Somerby's claim that he is a liberal is right-wing disinformation.

    18. I'm sorry your preferred candidate lost in 2016.

      And I'm sorry you have been stuck for years, maybe decades, spending hours and hours every day attacking someone you think is lying about being liberal and achieving virtually no results at all from those criticisms and that time spent.

    19. In the time I've been doing this there has been a gradual shift from the majority of commenters taking Somerby at face value, to the majority understanding who he is. That is satisfying. Meanwhile, the number of conservative trolls increases during elections and decreases afterward. Mao left after the midterms, for example. Other people have been addressing Somerby's problems in comments, so I am happy it isn't just me any more.

      I learn things from doing this. I wouldn't have read My Antonia if not for Somerby, but I don't have time for Ulysses (the book he failed to reference yesterday). I read the indictment because of Somerby, watched the 1/6 hearings, etc. I bought Godel's biography. I learned about Curmudgucation from mh and now follow that blog. I spend hours and hours playing bridge, which is infinitely more fun and challenging. I do keep waiting for Somerby to stop rereading his old Harvard textbooks and pick up something new to read.

      I can't make Somerby tell the truth about himself. He has to want to do that. This is the ultimate problem with psychotherapy too. Why would Trump want to change a thing about himself? He is not a good candidate for treatment, which makes Somerby's claim that he is mentally ill moot.

      I am sorry for the country that Hillary wasn't president during covid. A lot more people would still be alive.

    20. That's why it's unfortunate Hillary ran such a horrible campaign and didn't even bother to visit or run ads in important swing States or address the economic anxiety of people in the rust belt.

      That's why her and her campaign deserve to be harshly criticized and have all of their power within the party completely stripped. For failing so horribly and making such dumb mistakes. It left thousands of people dead.

    21. Hillary retired.

    22. Good. I hope no American ever hears from her again as she screwed the pooch to the max.

    23. The problem with Hillary is she married into it. She was a legacy. She never would have been there if not for Bill. The power structures within the Democratic party that supported her candidacy should all be fired. We need leadership that is smart and doesn't make foolish mistakes like not visiting rust belt states that they need to win. But we definitely agree that she would have been better than Trump.

    24. Better trolling please.

    25. Yes, this country rejects political family dynasties. Just ask Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski, Chris Sununu, RFK Jr., The "Bushes", etc etc etc.

    26. @5:07 - wishful thinking.

    27. Absolutely the point. You think people were excited to have bush/clinton/clinton/bush/bush/obama/ obama/clinton??? NO!!!!

    28. No, the point is nobody ever expresses their problem with political family dynasties until it was Hillary, being married to President Clinton. Do you ever hear or read anybody attacking Murkowski, Rand Paul, Chris Sununu? No, only Hillary who was only related by marriage and is from the same generation as her husband.

      Yeah, I was quite thrilled with clinton/clinton, the best two-term democratic president in my lifetime.

    29. 12:45, and all the other time stamps of the same author, is a right wing troll bent on attaining the same goal as Somerby: manufacturing ignorance.

      That the troll consistently fails, triggers them into unintentionally amusing comments, trying to attack others for being “emotional” etc.

      They are the Black Knight of TDH. Defending the dishonored, while refusing to admit defeat even when they’ve been reduced to babbling nonsense.

      Somerby built his audience and influence by catering to the blue tribe, by attacking right wing nonsense repeated in the media. Then as he slyly shifted to the right, his commenters righteously and justifiably criticized him.

      Nobody has hauled Somerby off to jail. His lifestyle continues as it always has, perhaps even better, as some suspect he has minders that provide financial backing.

      All that’s changed is that others have been made aware that he pushes a right wing viewpoint that includes attempting to manufacture ignorance on a daily basis, and as such his influence has diminished to essentially zero.

      Cry me a river.

    30. It might be the same clown who tried to convince readers there was something purportedly alleged about Clinton being bad in the Durham Report.

  4. "On the other hand, Donald J. Trump is almost surely severely mentally ill."

    Someone who is severely mentally ill might go out in public without any clothes on. They might hear voices that no one else can hear. They might compose sentences that are word salad, not just histrionic. Instead of claiming to have won an election, they might have refused to leave the White House, continuing to act as president. They might go for weeks without showering, or they might get into bed and not get out again for weeks, showing no interest in anything around them. They might sit in a chair and stare at nothing for hours on end, without responding to anything around them. They might claim that there is an odor of brimstone coming from a loved one. And so on.

    Self-serving behavior that reacts to what others say and do is not mental illness. An inflated self-image is not mental illness. Using other people for one's own purposes is not mental illness. Placing money ahead of everything else, is not mental illness. Some of these things are not what a good decent person does, but they are what many many people do and are not abnormal behavior. Fomenting a plot to stay in power is unfortunately not mental illlness either. Neither is abusing women.

    Perhaps having grown up in the Catholic church, Somerby is unwilling to make moral judgements about behavior -- that is left to the priests instead. Perhaps Somerby thinks that calling Trump mentally ill absolves himself of the judge not admonition were he to call Trump amoral or evil. But calling Trump something that he is not, leaves Somerby a bit out of touch with reality himself, and that is not a good place to be.

    1. If it’s word salad it’s not sentences.

    2. "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" is a sentence composed by Noam Chomsky in 1957 as an example of a sentence whose grammar is correct but whose meaning is nonsensical."

      Word salad can be like this, grammatical and yet without meaning to other people.

    3. That’s not word salad.

    4. Suit yourself.

    5. Perhaps it’s a word salad with dressing.

      Some may like Thousand Island, others like French or Ranch; however, you can never go wrong with Oil and Vinegar.

      Beware of those offering to toss your salad, you may experience something quite unexpected.

    6. The symptoms of schizophrenic people are so hilarious!

  5. I thought Nicholas Kristof's opinion in today's NY Times is worth reading. Click the video link too, "Blue States, You're the Problem."

    1. He overestimates the number of liberals who were socialist or communist in the 1960s. Even so, part of that was a reaction against McCarthyism of the 1950s. Most liberals in the USA dropped support for communism (global totalitarianism Kristof says) when Stalin formed a pact with Hitler. Others saw what the red guard did and lost enthusiasm for Chinese communism, long before Kristof seems to have noticed. Today's attribution of sympathy for socialism or communism (other than democratic socialism in scandinavia) by the right is ridiculous. The vast majority of people who vote Democratic have no interest in either socialism or communism, which makes Kristof's professed "humility" an empty construct that doesn't reflect left voters much at all. Most Democrats I know profess humility as the right way to live one's life -- how to be a good, decent person -- not as atonement for past ideological sins.

      When Kristof starts out so mistaken, can the rest of his essay be valid? I'm not going to read any further, because this premise at the start is so stupid.

    2. Kristof says: "One lesson of history — and of ancient Greek playwrights like Aeschylus — is that it’s dangerous to become too full of yourself."

      First he lists all the failures of the right wing over the past 50 years, then he blames the left for hubris because the left was right about so many things, but has not solved all of society's remaining ills! So, we on the left are not allowed to point out what the right is wrong about, until we have housed all of the homeless, etc.

      And this echoes Somerby, of course, who says that the right hates the left because we are too goody-goody and always looking down on the right. Here is that elitism-bashing again. And why is Kristof doing the right's job for them?

      What are his examples? He says the left kept the schools closed too long. Never mind that 70% of adults who caught covid got it from their kids. Retrospectively blaming the left for something it is unclear was a mistake strikes me as reaching a bit too far for a lefty failing to equate to the many wrong things Republicans are doing.

      I lived in CA and saw how Governor Reagan created the homeless problem by closing the mental hospitals, with the promise of out-patient community mental health centers that were never built because they were not funded due to right-wing opposition. The newly released mental patients became street people, who were joined by returning Vietnam vets with untreated PTSD, who self-medicated using alcohol and drugs. And then we had the crack cocaine epidemic furthered by the right wing to fund the Contras and other paramilitary activities, which added addicts to the street population. All done by the right wing in CA and nationwide. And now we have a situation where housing is in such short supply that modest 50s small homes cost over a million $, and rents are similarly too high for anyone to afford except upper middle class professionals. Where do people live then? And if you are wondering why they do not move, where do you suppose the jobs are? At some point, someone may be employed but unable to scrape together first and last month's rent plus security deposit and moving expenses, so they drop out of the housing market and live in a car or RV, sliding into a tent on the street. And Kristof wants to blame this on the Democrats, who have consistently been the only ones fighting social problems in CA and the other states with current Democratic governors.

      When someone like Kristof makes an argument like this, he is obviously arguing in bad faith. He knows the same things I do about intractable social problems. So, why is he blaming the only people who actively work to address them? To excuse the right. And that is not the way to get Republicans to pull their heads out of their asses.

      If we were not all going over the falls in the same barrel, the left could just let the right find out its mistakes by suffering the consequences, but we cannot do that. Pretending the right wing is right

    3. Bob's idea that there is some liberal or Democrat who is more condescending to Republican voters than every Republican politician is, might be his stupidest idea yet.

  6. “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!”

    Ironic, given that Somerby also won’t discuss the actual state of the world. A mentally ill leader can get exactly nowhere without followers. It’s like blaming the Jim Jones cult exclusively on the mental illness of Jones without examining the affliction of his followers.

    Also, it’s pretty obvious that this journalistic discussion of Trump’s purported mental illness would have far more impact if it were carried out by Fox News and other right wing outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, because those are the media almost exclusively consumed by Trump followers. It would also help if the Republican Party were to acknowledge Trump’s affliction and distance itself from him.

    But hey, MSNBC doesn’t discuss Trump’s illness (except Lawrence O’Donnell, who frequently does … oops!), so I guess it’s their fault.

    1. Agreed that Trump getting so many followers (and how to counteract that) is the most pressing issue, and most perplexing.

      But that is certainly one of Somerby's main areas of focus: how certain styles of liberal political speech can have the effect (without intending to) of making it harder for some non-liberals to perceive Trump in all his vileness, and easier to (mistakenly) see in him simply a standard-bearer in the fight against those who hate them.

      You are free to disagree with the analysis, and we are all free to blame, if we must, whomever we wish. But political speech has political consequences. And in today's landscape, marginal effects can be decisive in the most regrettable ways.

    2. If only the evidence even remotely backed your claim, then we in the blue tribe would have such an easy time, merely needing to adjust our speech.

      In reality, we have to go through the grind of actually motivating our tribe (we well outnumber the red tribe) via rhetoric and policies that fight oppression and provide for people’s material needs.

      This will trigger the already triggered red tribe, but that’s of no electoral consequence.

    3. I made several claims, but not the one you seem to think.

      As for yours, count me in for rhetoric that motivates, and for fighting oppression and providing for material needs. I am in favor of these!

      But it would indeed be a shame if the rhetoric demeaned these noble and compassionate policies, or diminished the popular support they need and deserve. It needn't.

    4. Calling Trump crazy or mentally ill is also political speech, David. His followers consider this an attack on them, and condemn someone like Somerby. It’s the idea, stated most recently by people like Tucker Carlson, that you are attempting to belittle and silence people by accusing them of being crazy. I’ve never been clear why Somerby thinks it’s better to attack Trump as crazy, rather than a criminal/liar/unethical. Maybe you can explain it. The latter is what the mainstream media tend to focus on.

      I do know that it’s important to point out the vileness of the Republican Party and Fox News. Those are the followers I’m principally talking about. Why is that off limits? You can’t have a rational discussion without mentioning this.

      And as much as I sense you hate the Democrats, I don’t see the Republicans as a viable alternative.

    5. Thank you for your questions and comments. I enjoy reading your posts.

      Your sense is wrong: I am a Democrat and certainly don't hate "them." I agree that the Republican Party and Fox News are both vile entities, and have no problem characterizing them that way (I would say that truth demands it). For the same reason, I have no problem with Somerby calling Trump mentally ill (and deranged and disordered), while judging his statements and actions harshly (which he does consistently). I am mystified by the frequent charge that calling Trump sick is the same as exonerating or defending him. Try applying the same framework to John Hinckley.

      I don't presume to know your mind, but it would be consistent with many things I see in the blog's comments to accuse anyone who criticizes anything about (some) Democrats or (some of) their words or acts of siding with the enemy. I happen to regard it as a liberal virtue (one I aspire to while often falling short, and welcoming correction) to be able to reason self-critically based on evidence - what is done and said, and actual ramifications - without speculating about motives, predilections, character flaws, etc.

      Sorry to run on so long. Maybe I could put this point on it all: either (a) every Republican who supports Trump is a vile racist who wants to end democracy, or (b) some Republicans who support Trump are doing it for other reasons (possibly including just because other people they live their lives with support him).

      I think (b) is true. I think speech that entails (a) is inaccurate, immoral, and counter-productive. I think Somerby (and Anand Giridharadas) are right that we Democrats should be working to develop a way of talking about our values and policies that can do a better job of piercing tribal armor to reach those who can be reached. Not because "their vileness is our fault." It's not. But it is our problem.

    6. To be fair, mostly you are presenting a strawman; that a or b binary is pretty silly.

      Leftists are more concerned with racism, than identifying individual racists.

      There’s no evidence that criticism applied to Republicans (racism, for example) has any negative electoral consequence for Dems. (If it did, Republicans wouldn’t be constantly whining about it)

      A turning point, in the positive for Biden, in 2020, was when in the debate Biden turned to Trump, looked him in the eye and called him a clown.

      David, if you’re earnest, one should appreciate that, but your analysis on this issue is wrong.

    7. Well, yes, in fairness, it is "mostly" an exaggeration to make a point, a bit of rhetoric. But it is similarly a "straw-man" that I am (or Somerby is) against criticizing Trump or Republicans. I hope you (in your earnest) are not against criticizing Democrats. And Biden speaks eloquently about "healing the soul of America" and bridging partisan divides. I was an Elizabeth Warren diehard, but maybe you might hear him out (in full).

  7. Well, pretty damn bad stuff from Bob today. but at least he gives us something we can work with.
    First, the column in question is neither strange or surprising from Brooks. It’s not his worst work either( that would be the thudding stuff you get when he tries to be satirical).
    Secondly, Donald Trump is not a litmus test on all humanity. He’s just one guy. Standing alone without money, he be sitting at the end of the bar trying not to drool into his Diet Coke. What Brooks doesn’t want to acknowledge is that the way Trump has vexed America owes everything to ugliness in the hearts of supposedly decent Americans Brooks has looked away from his whole life. Some of said ugliness is garden variety sore loserism that can be seen in Americans of all varieties (hi Micheal Moore!) but some of it isn’t.
    How hard should we judge Brooks on this? Well, however the surrounding events have been distorted, I still find Bill Clinton’s behavior in the Monica Lewinsky matter almost beyond belief, and some of us were slow to accept it. I guess that’s something like the fools who thought Trump would grow up once in office(!). Such idiocy was entertained by many in the Press and for that they deserve the contempt Bob treats them with for other things.
    Which brings us to Bob and his almost freakish intellectual dishonesty. Trump’s mental problems is a catch all Somerby has embraced only fairly recently. Bob now has a years long record of rationalizing Trump’s cruel bad behavior, and doing all he can to belittle those who have approached the ugliness of the phenomenon like rational adults. He displays zero sympathy for Trump’s victims. Bob has certainly never held himself accountable for pushing them around, and he abandoned serious media review (yes, you could challenge the performance on all sides in a serious way) long ago.

  8. Has Brooks ever acknowledged the role he played in foisting the Republican shitshow on the US, or the throughline from yesterday’s Republican Party to today’s?

    1. Yesterday's Republican party are now Democrats. Look at David Frum Liz Cheney etc. Look at the policies themselves.

    2. No, and he was clearly terrorized by the notion of Hillary Clinton being President. I think we can forgive mainstream Republicans who got a shock to the system when the inmates took over the asylum. But that was years ago now, and it's time to fess up and stop pretending it's just one guy.

    3. Now all the major neocons that supported the Iraq war now support Biden and Democrats over Trump.

      The Democrats of 2020 are basically the same as Republicans of 2002 - unquestioning loyalty to the CIA and FBI, huge budget for military industrial complex and eternal war, imperialist foreign policy, wrapping themselves in the flag, demonizing anyone who doesn't agree with them.

      It took 20 years for one party to completely turn into the other.

    4. Democrats don't even let other members of their party make any criticisms whatsoever of the party leadership. That is how rigid and controlling they have become. Democrats are Republican dicks now. It sucks.

    5. That's why so many Democrats are saying Biden is too old and they want a younger candidate?

    6. Yes. We need great candidates. Not candidates that are merely better than Trump. Nominating an 81-year-old career politician couldn't be a more clear sign the party is stuck in a funk and needs to be reorganized and reinvigorated..

    7. No one can call Biden’s accomplishments so far “merely better than Trump” and be taken seriously. Wouldn’t you trolls have more fun playing Fortnite or riding your bikes?

    8. Well you can interchange the word electable then. Or popular. Or intriguing or interesting or inspirational.

    9. If he's so great he needs to get people to understand it and realize it. Because most Democrats don't even want him to be president. He has extremely low approval ratings and he's not even competent enough to give a live news conference. The guy is a total nightmare. It's a reflection of the strength and competency of the party.

    10. Yes, getting us into World War III was just wonderful.

    11. Now you’re being ridiculous.

    12. You think we can continue backing Ukraine and avoid a conflict with Putin? The Ukraine war is the start of WW3 and all the sides are being developed. You probably don't even know what BRICS countries are!


      bye bye dollar and US imperial dominance.

    14. The idiot leading this “Dems are the Republicans now” thread here is almost certainly our old degenerate pal Mao, who know doubt cheered the Iraqi invasion on in real time. This dumb reactionary pretending to be a dumb progressive is a bit of tired hack work design for Russel Brand fans. Discussion of Defense Spending was not hectored off our national discussion by liberal Dems, but by right wing bully boys and their press assets.

    15. For sure we are shaking in our boots over Egypt!

      Egypt, one of the smallest of US trading partners, is reacting to going through yet another currency crisis, they are consulting with the IMF!

      Egypt is 41st by size of economy, CA alone is 5th.

      As far as Putin/Russia goes, here is the kicker:

      The article tag line:

      China, India, Brazil and several other states close to Russia have unexpectedly voted for a UN Resolution which strongly censures Moscow.

    16. 5:39,
      Be honest. Can you ever see yourself forgiving Biden for the lowest unemployment rate in over half a century?

    17. It's not true that the Republican neocons of the early 2000s joined the Democrats because of Trump.

  9. What makes Trump seem mentally ill is his lack of restraint. Normal people might think and do all the stuff Trump does, but Trump's willingness to say things that no sane person would say is what brings the crazy.

    "Twice-indicted former President Donald Trump spent Saturday morning raging against United States Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, President Joe Biden, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

    "Smith is a sick and deranged sleazebag," Trump wrote at 9:45 a.m."

    And then he went on a tantrum saying similar things about several people. When Trump first did this, his audiences were delighted. Then they mimicked him, saying increasingly outrageous things to interviewers. This is the kind of behavior that used to be kept under wraps, for fear of losing a job or losing the respect of friends and relatives. But Trump made it all OK. Witness this guy:

    "Retired Major League Baseball pitcher-turned-right-wing commentator Curt Schilling told Fox News host Jesse Watters on Friday that "somebody is going to have to pull a trigger" in retaliation to the criminal charges that were filed against former President Donald Trump by United States Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith."

    This is the kind of out-of-control statement that has become routine, been normalized, in Trump's Republican party. And when you encourage such words, you also encourage the actions -- which is why those mass shootings by right wingers have increased steadily along with the rhetoric.

    But this isn't crazy. It is what happens when there are no boundaries to human impulses and then you tell people to let it all hang out. We normally use our frontal cortex to inhibit such words and behavior. Now everyone has permission to be uninhibited -- the way people are when alcohol disinhibits them (it too affects the frontal lobes).

    The adults in our country need to put that restraint back into place by enforcing limits. That is what is happening now and the right wing doesn't like it. Neither does Somerby apparently. He is pretending that the left made the right unhappy by calling them what they are -- children and bad actors, and that the right is now behaving badly because the left disapproves of them. That's silly garbage. The Republican party needs to punish those who are acting out and make it clear that those who engage in these theatrics will be punished. Then they can go back to doing their jobs instead of playing games to win the votes of the morons who get a thrill from saying what they really think.

    Look at the contriteness of those 1/6 insurrectionists who took their jail time seriously. They are going back to be normal people. The rest can too -- but someone needs to stop rewarding them for bad behavior and show them how to be normal again.

  10. Brooks is an effective wordsmith. He calls Trump’s behavior in the debate “thuggish”. A “thug” is a violent aggressive person. Historically, “thugs” robbed and strangled their victims. Did Trump physically attack Biden? Did he strangle Biden? No, he harshly criticized Biden.

    If harsh criticism is “thuggish behavior”, then does that label apply to Bob’s harsh criticism of Trump?

  11. Above comment from my David in Cal

  12. He has attacked the relatives of Judges and prosecutors. If you don’t think that is thuggish, you are very, very stupid.

  13. Brooks said that he won't let Trump invade his brain. Too late!

  14. "... I was shocked at how thuggishly he behaved..." You are purposely misreading the sentence. Typical word- mincing nonsense from a Trump supporter.

  15. I think it was thuggish of Trump and his family to arrive at the debate with covid and refuse to wear masks. Was Trump hoping that Biden would catch it and die, being in the highest risk group? We cannot know, but his actions suggest he didn't care about any of the other people at that debate. And that is majorly thuggish, in modern terms.

  16. Republicans are excrement.

  17. Some statements are true, some are false, and some are neither.

  18. To Heller with you!