A piece at Quillette notes that it has been 22 years since David Brooks published Bobos in Paradise, the book that put him on the map. The article reviews the predictions that Brooks made in the book and how they have actually played out in practice.
My focus in this post, though, is on something Brooks wrote very recently:
Performative populism has begun to ebb. Twitter doesn’t have the hold on the media class it had two years ago. Peak wokeness has passed. There seem to be fewer cancellations recently, and less intellectual intimidation. I was a skeptic of the Jan. 6 committee at first, but I now recognize it’s played an important cultural role. That committee forced America to look into the abyss, to see the nihilistic violence that lay at the heart of Trumpian populism.
(excerpted by Tyler Cowen from the NYT column)
If I were looking for Nihilism, I’d look for it among those people who view human beings as nothing more than a plague on the planet…for example, those who circulate this meme:
…I doubt seriously if many of them have MAGA bumper stickers on their cars. I might also search for nihilists among those ‘activists’ who enter museums for the purpose of damaging our civilization’s greatest works of art. I might search for them among those who desire to reduce all aspects of human experience…knowledge, art, music, love, sex, families…to nothing more than tokens in an endless power struggle of group against group.
Trump supporters are motivated by many different things, some admirable, some not so admirable…but I don’t think ‘nihilism’ is a significant factor.
Brooks also refers to ‘populist authoritarianism’….there is apparently a style guide somewhere telling media people that the two words need to always be coupled. But seems to me that authoritarianism might be found about those who demand that social media work with government to suppress disfavored views, and those who use their former offices in the Intelligence field to imply a malevolent foreign origin for a story which has now been clearly shown to be true…and, especially, among those like Charles Schumer who warned that “if you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you”…but apparently felt no need at all to do something about reeling in this authoritarian abuse of authority. I’d also look for authoritarianism among those who are upset about Twitter Blue Checks being made so widely available that people can’t tell who is a real journalist who deserves to be believed unquestioningly.
Brooks also says that “Democrats restrained their more extreme tendencies while Republicans didn’t.” His definition of “extreme” must be quite different from my own.
I was surprised to see that Tyler Cowen, who is a pretty smart and thoughtful guy, titled his link “the wisdom of David Brooks.” While Brooks does occasionally write insightful things, I don’t think this column falls in that category. It reads to me like a recital of a catechism by someone seeking to provide reassurance of his orthodoxy.