I first discovered David Brooks 12 or 13 years ago in the shitter where I worked. I went to take a dump and noticed that somebody had left a copy of The Weekly Standard on the toilet paper dispenser, so I opened it up and leafed through it and started reading what seemed to be a satirical essay about exburbanite drones living in cookie-cutter developments and filling the void of their purposeless existences with riding mowers and fancy outdoor cooking equipment. I say “seemed to be” because I recall that the tone of the piece had an edge of mockery to it—albeit an extremely slight edge—and the title, “Bobos in Paradise,” when “paradise” consisted of suburban subdivisions and office parks, just had to be irony. Except, as I kept reading, it became increasingly clear that the author wasn’t really ridiculing these “Bobos” at all, but rather applauding them for their conformity to late 20th-century upper-middle class values (that is, for being obedient corporate automatons and purchasers of stuff).
If I had only known who David Brooks was at the time, I could have spared myself the effort and confusion. For David Brooks, respect for the authority of existing institutions is the supreme virtue, and suspicion—or god forbid, cynicism—towards them is the ultimate vice. So no big surprise then that David doesn’t like the actions of our latest leaker, whose selfish individualism has put us all in danger by revealing (something that was already known, but never mind) to the citizens of a “free country” that their government is spying on them (or compiling shitloads of data that could later be used to justify spying on them). You see, a society isn’t corrupted by the selfish behavior of those who control its major institutions, it’s corrupted by the distrust and (“corrosive”) cynicism of those who are getting shafted by them. You’re not suffering because Jesus is indifferent to your pain; it’s because your faith in Him is weak.
My favorite part, though, is the first paragraph wherein Brooks refers to Snowden as “the ultimate unmediated man.” This is because “he could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school” and because he “failed to navigate his way through community college.” Wasn’t there a time when being independent-minded was considered an indispensable trait in this country? Even if largely a myth, at least it was something to aspire to. Now we have schoolmarm David Brooks telling us that the measure of success is our willingness to submit to the yoke. No wonder I couldn’t figure out whether “Bobos” was meant to be a satire—like everything written by Brooks, it was a satire of itself.