Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As always, he leaves out the most interesting points

David Brooks does what he does best--superficial sociological analysis that never grapples with the serious issues or interesting questions.

High-Five Nation

There was a mass hunger for a public style that was understated, self-abnegating, modest and spare. Bing Crosby expressed it perfectly on “Command Performance,” as Gregory Peck, Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall would come to express it in public life.

And there was something else. When you look from today back to 1945, you are looking into a different cultural epoch, across a sort of narcissism line

Brooks is careful to neither decry nor explain this transition from a public style that valued humility and self-effacement to the “expressive individualism” that prevails today.

The passive voice is telling:

But that humility came under attack in the ensuing decades. Self-effacement became identified with conformity and self-repression. A different ethos came to the fore, which the sociologists call “expressive individualism.” Instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within.

Contra-Brooks, America did not drift across the “narcissism line”; she was pushed. The intellectual, activist, and media classes waged a thirty-year war on decorum, religion, tradition, patriotism, duty, and self-sacrifice.

The brilliant David Gelernter explored this theme in two books:

1939: The Lost World of the Fair

Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber

Sadly, both are out of print, but they are well worth searching for a copy.

Just One Minute busts Brooks on another telling oversight.

Brooks wrote:
Baseball and football games are now so routinely interrupted by self-celebration, you don’t even notice it anymore.
JOM replies:
"Baseball and football games"? I take it he has tuned out from NBA and its "Enough about my last slam-dunk, let's talk about my jumper before that" knuckleheads.

Brooks left out another telling point about football. The media, most especially ESPN, fueled this bad behavior. They made celebrities out of the miscreants and rewarded misconduct with attention.

Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are a fixture on the WWL. This despite the fact that neither has ever played on a championship team. By rights, Troy Brown should be the most famous wide receiver of this era. But ESPN finds it easier to cover the antics of the self-obsessed than the contributions of the greatest big game player of his generation.

Why does ESPN love sports rebels? Because they provide cheap and easy content. That may be why the whole MSM loves celebrities and self-promotion. It pads the bottom line.

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