Nihilism — Really?

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.

Zip it about the OBL raid already….

From the Weekly Standard:

We are very concerned about the security of our families – of your families and our troops, and also these elite units that are engaged in things like that. And without getting into any details … I would tell you that when I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families,’ Gates told the audience.
‘Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.

The above item reminded me of the widely-linked Walter Russell Mead blog essay (which I found via Instapundit):

The leadership class of a country like ours needs to exemplify and to teach smart patriotism: a deep love of country that expresses itself in a concern for the well being of our fellow Americans, a sense of personal dignity and economic restraint, a willingness to set the example of sacrifice for the common good.

I am not making a strictly partisan point. I’m channeling a popular mood. Call it a malaise of sorts. Twitter comes at exactly the wrong time for our Codevilla-elite populist moment. Twittering, “tweeping” glibness and DC chumminess on display for all to see, hand-in-hand with Hollywood celebrities and think tank favorites testifying on Capital Hill, “nerd proms,” and the rest of it. Or maybe it is EXACTLY the right moment because it allows the little people – that’s you and me, folks – to see elements of the sausage making.

A good for society in the long term, but nausea-inducing in the immediate term as we work our way back to some semblance of decent, practical governance.

Update: Hmmm….am I being too “elliptical” in my commentary? It is odd for a blogger – and a blogger that loves to share, at that – to make this point, but make it I will: we have a tendency to overshare these days and use all kinds of tools (Twitter, reporters) to do it. Mr. Personal Memoir President, loose lips in DC, and a culture of blabbing every little thing that enters into our heads. I’m as guilty as the rest. Except, classified information is a bit different than telling people what you had for lunch. So I guess I’m not as guilty as the rest.

Second Update: Thanks for the link, Instapundit! I sort of wish I hadn’t included the President in this particular post because I really did want to make a larger point about American culture as a whole and not just our largely feckless political class. (I’m still impressed that the President gave the “go ahead” for the raid. Somehow, I didn’t think he had it in him but I suppose all Presidents would have done the same).