March 7, 2010

"[T]he key to understanding David Brooks is that he hates the culture war."

"But when he says the 'similarities are more striking than the differences,'" Jonah Goldberg thinks "he gets it backwards. The differences are more striking than the similarities."
The Tea Partiers, fundamentally, love America. The hardcore New Lefters, simply, did not.

Towards the end, Brooks offers  this rhetorical flourish:
...both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings.
Some Tea Partiers may get all sorts of things wrong. No doubt conspiracy theories find fertile soil at Tea Party rallies. But unlike the New Left, they do not believe in starting over with a plan hatched from a new cultural avant-garde. They believe in getting back to basics. They take the founding, the Declaration and the Constitution seriously....
For years — decades — I've found insight into the way other people think with the simplification that there are 2 kinds of human minds: Those that focus on difference and those that focus on similarity. I think most people, like Jonah, figure things out by observing and heightening the ways in which things are different. We're taught to pursue that tendency from an early age. Think of the kindergarten/"Sesame Street" quizzes asking which of these things is not like the other. But the skill of likening things to others is also useful. Perhaps it should be encouraged by repurposing those old quizzes and asking kids: If you had to explain why all these things are alike, what would you tell me? And then you could grow up to be David Brooks.

40 comments:

Chip Ahoy said...

Ha ha. I like your presumption that David Brooks is grown up.

rcocean said...

Thanks to Althouse for reading Brooks and Goldberg so we don't have to.

Hard to take Brooks seriously Didn't he call Palin a "cancer on the Republican party" and vote for Obama?

Of course, Brooks doesn't like the "culture war" - he's not a social conservative. In fact, Brooks is "conservative" in the same sense that Andrew Sullivan is.

SteveR said...

Alike? They exist......ummm...ummm

Lincolntf said...

The fact that David Brooks exists is a testament to the fact that "conservatives" have a tent so freakin' big Paris Hilton could have her wedding in it. Like most DC "conservatives", he's just a Liberal who realizes he's getting screwed on his taxes.

paul a'barge said...

Ooohhh, can I play too? Here:

David Brooks is like a moron.

NewHam said...

"I've found insight into the way other people think with the simplification that there are 2 kinds of human minds: Those that focus on difference and those that focus on similarity."

I've done something similar. I've found profound insight in listening not to what people are saying, but in listening instead to what people are not saying.

It is incredibly revealing.

For example (from a recent comment I made): We keep hearing about how the federal deficit is a problem ($9.8 trillion in 10 years! ZOMG!)

What they are not saying, however, is this: "Because this deficit is such a problem we're going to freeze federal salaries."

They're not saying: "Congress won't accept its raise this year because of the deficit."

They're not saying: "Nancy Pelosi has given up her jets because of this deficit."

They're not saying: "Harry Reid has agreed to forego his salary because the deficit is too large."

They're not saying: "Barack Obama has agreed to postpone health reform because the deficit is just too large."

Oftentimes, it's what they're not saying that reveals real incredible truths about our society.

Pogo said...

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.

Sorry, couldn't resist that old chestnut.

edutcher said...

Maybe Brooks doesn't like the culture war because he thinks his side is losing.

BTW, if he thinks the Tea Partiers are anti-conservative, how does he explain all the stuff about fiscal responsibility and American exceptionalism?

The New Left, if you read about some of the old (pre-WWII) Lefties, has always sounded a lot like the Old Left. They say a lot of the same sort of thing as the people who shilled for Stalin until the truth finally came out.

dbp said...

There are two kinds of people:

1. Those who think everyone falls into one category or another.

2. Those who think people are fundamentally unique and thus cannot be categorized.

I fall into the 2nd group.

dbp said...

Darn you Pogo, you beat me to it!

AllenS said...

There are three kinds of people in the world:

1. People who think that the government will pay for abortion.

3. The Oscars are on tonight.

--Nancy Pelosi

Pogo said...

Brooks is like the Stalin apologists who saw no difference between communism and capitalism, except that the West was more culpable for human misery than Marx was.

He's like the educrats and teachers union who see all kids as a blank slate lumpenproletariat, all equally capable, refusing to see the bell curve.

It can be a bit of genius to find similarities between things that seem so disparate.

But Brooks isn't it.

Henry said...

@paul a'barge

Funny, my most liberal friend thinks the same thing, using the same term.

c3 said...

Disclaimer: I like Brooks. (And I like Goldberg)

At least he tries to make connections between political and social phenomena. He often is too glib.

Maybe what he was trying to suggest is summed up in this clip

Chip Ahoy said...

No, wait, wait, wait. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't.

Ann Althouse said...

Of course, I *didn't* say there are 2 kinds of people. I said I used a "simplification" to help me gain insight and even in the simplification I referred to the "focus" of thinking. I didn't say some see only difference and some see only similarity. These are only tendencies.

But this makes me want to add another simplification I see. There are people who tend to make the statements of others sound absolute so that they can disagree with them and those who tend to notice the moderation and qualifications in the statements of others so that they can find a basis for agreement.

Der Hahn said...

those who tend to notice the moderation and qualifications in the statements of others so that they can find a basis for agreement.

Not buying it. Moderation and qualification tend to create a passive-agressive veneer of agreement that eventually blows up by making it difficult to determine what are the other party's deal breakers.

Is it easier to figure out where to go to dinner with someone who tells you 'I don't like Italian food', or 'I sort of like tomatoes, but not really when their hot, and sausage, so long as it's not too spicy....'

vw - ligiu :)

dbp said...

Aww Althouse, we were just having fun.

Or rather, there were two types of commenters: Those looking for trouble and those looking for fun.

Howard said...

For situations where emotions play little or no role, people look for both similarities and differences and place them on a mental scale to make decisions. This is common sense.

In politics, all bets are off because emotions rule. Goldbarb in his rant against the RINO Brooks is just protecting his pathetic turf. If his readers (the unblinking lockstep Catholic Right) focused on the vast commonality of red and blue voters instead of the relatively minor differences, he would be out of work. Not a grand conspiracy, it's just human nature, like the parroted slogan Pavlovian responses that dominate blog comments.

NewHam's observations are a perfect example: He/She complains that leading democrats are not making symbolic and meaningless gestures in the face of staggering debt.

The popularity of superficial and bitchy logic is evidence that America is lost.

edutcher said...

Chip Ahoy said...

No, wait, wait, wait. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't.

Close. there are 10 kinds of people...

From Inwood said...

Prof A comments:

...[A]nother simplification I see. There are people who tend to make the statements of others sound absolute so that they can disagree with them and those who tend to notice the moderation and qualifications in the statements of others so that they can find a basis for agreement.

I understood Prof A’s original point about the glass is half full vs….

Mine would be that the ass (Brooks) is half full.

Specifically to her comment, then,
I feel that a friend of mine had attacked me at a dinner party, under the guise of explaining & apologizing for my response to a Loony Liberal who had snarkly dismissed a (brilliant) point of mine.

A few days later, I sent the following e-mail to him, which is similar to Jonah G’s point:

Thanks for nothing. You claim that you are a right-of-center moderate. Fine. Why seem to side with that extreme Leftist then & condemn only me as outré?
With all due respect, could it be that you’re afraid & insecure?
Insecure self-styled right-of-center moderates (closet Liberals?) like you are simply embarrassed by the “culture wars”. They know that

The Vagina Wars is junk & a glorification of pedophilia.

That even before the Climategate e-mails were revealed, giving up our standard of living for chicken-little scares about unproven AGW was unscientific, nay unmodern, as well as a violation of Economics 101.

Mirandizing terrorists is not the way to fight a War.

Life doesn’t begin in the Fourth Trimester.

A bad play updating Shakespeare with condemnations of LBJ & Vietnam or Bush 43 & the Iraq war is a bad play & not “culture”.

&

Approving of an alleged playwright’s use of the word “fuck” in an amount equaling 1% of the text was neither articulate nor sophisticated.

I could go on.

My point is that they are never prepared for the inevitable boor at a dinner party, Bar-B-Q, or book club discussion who sneers &, without answering intellectually, simply engages in name-calling & cuts anyone down who simply expresses such thoughts, while no one dares come to the victim's defense.

This has led many (most) right-of-center moderates to (a) always disassociate themselves from & blame/condemn both sides in the culture war (tho mostly placing the blame/shame on the Right – clinging to guns & religion, you know), (b) declare that the culture war is déclassé, irrelevant, immaterial, & borrrrring, or (c) both.

Here, you failed to find that balance & you let this jerk off the hook while going after me, in the guise of explaining what I really meant when I said what I said.


He replied:

“There you go again. I am not insecure or afraid. I was defending what you had said. It’s getting hard to for me to have a civilized conversation with you.”

************************

For the record:

I was snarkly dismissed at a dinner party by a Loony-Liberal hater while all my friends sat mute ‘til the guy above (a David Brooks lover) said something like:

"I can see where [Inwood’s] defense of, that statement by [some Republican/conservative] was, um, basically meant to, you know, be uncontroversial, but, you know, because of Republicans’/Conservatives’ reputation toward the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, not to mention the way it was said, [Inwood], you know, just didn’t, um, clearly foresee the consequences of his words, taken in good faith, of course, &, um, why such words can cause thoughtful concerned people on the other side like [this perpetually aggrieved bozo who’d just condemned the well-known Republican/conservative (& by implication, me) as a meanie] to, um, feel, um, defensive. But that's just my opinion, gurgle, gurgle.”

Someone than said “How ‘bout them Mets?”

And it was over.

From Inwood said...

Good grief, it was Howard’s doppelgänger at the dinner I was at!

michaele said...

When I read Brook's column earlier this morning, my reaction was, "What a bunch of nonense." He doesn't have a clue what the heart and soul of the Tea Party movement is all about. I enthusiastically attended a tea party event this spring in Knoxville TN and, by golly, my husband and I carried our hand made signs.The driving protest sentiment is about the Federal Gov't getting waaay too big and spending waaay too much money.We are so different from the protesters of the sixties although many of us are of the age where we could have been marching back then as radical youth. We are mostly rule abiding types whe feel that the Federal Gov't is breaking the rules of being fiscally responsible. We find it offensive and appalling and believe it's our civic duty to speak out. Yes, it takes us out of our presumed (by us) comfort zone to be seen as trouble makers but somebody has to start pushing back against this juggernaut of spending. We don't want revolution or social collapse. We want our elected representatives to grow a pair and behave like responsible grownups who understand financial reality. Yes, it's hard to not always be giving away free goodies to the electorate. Such benevolence is really weak and evil becuase it is not sustainable.

Jason said...

Inwood,

You've got to get better at this.

Let it go. Enjoy dinner. Laugh it off. Poke fun at the right and the left.

I'm as rocked ribbed and libturd-loathing as they come, but that shit NEVER happens to me and I routinely hang out with lefties.

We'll fight like cats and dogs on Facebook or on blogs, or whatever, but we're still good friends.

Lighten up.

sunsong said...

Interesting topic :-)

It may be too simplifying to reduce things to “two kinds of people” – though I may well understand your point. There certainly are people who look at the world with a bent toward exclusion. And if you are not *in* by their definition of things – you do not matter. And there are people who look at the world and see the human race and see us as all in this together. But I think there are plenty of variations between those. Most people still, I think, prefer to have an enemy – or at least a scapegoat to blame and battle. The battle itself is a major reward for them, though I acknowledge that the direction of the future is gravely significant.

I like Brooks and I also like the Tea Parties. Brooks gets me thinking and I appreciate that. Goldberg does the same. I don’t need to agree or disagree with them or take sides. I’m forming my own views as I go along :-)

To try to truly understand American politics and why it is like it is right now – is, imo, an overwhelming task. And it’s harder to understand because I am a part of it. I am not unbiased or without prejudice. I tend to prefer those who side with greater freedom and self-determination over those who think they know what is best for me and the country – and they are rare. I am convinced that the polarization and the amount of hatred and rage expressed is as serious a national problem as our broken healthcare system. So I appreciate those who look for things that bring us together.

I also realize that most of us are attached to our positions because we are sure we are *right* (as opposed to wrong). And that divide – being right – is nearly as concrete as a brick wall :-)

Calypso Facto said...

Ann said: "There are people who tend to make the statements of others sound absolute so that they can disagree with them"

And Michaele said: He doesn't have a clue what the heart and soul of the Tea Party movement is all about.

Both about the use of a straw man argument, right? Because if you don't really want to talk about the Tea Partiers goals of government transparency and tax reform, you simply caricature the movement for the social views of some of the attendees or call them Teabaggers (with your best Beavis heh heh heh immaturity).

Trooper York said...

Well Inwood what I do is mock them unmercifully until they are ready to cry. They are a target rich environment.

I mean you can do half an hour on AL Gore and Polar bears alone

Howard said...

Inwood:

Nice confession. Your mistake was expecting normal well adjusted people to defend a whining wimp from a blowhard idiot. I love the diatribe you sent to your "friend". When you see that glazed look and frozen grimace of a smile, that's the clue they are not comfortable with your insanity.

Joe said...

Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence.

I'm still trying to figure out that claim. The left, new or old, believes in the innate rightness of government. Most importantly, they believe that our rights emanate from government.

Tea Partiers (and conservatives and libertarians) in general believe all government will abuse its power (as will anyone with that amount of unrestrained power.) In part this is because of the above; that government assumes they grant rights, not are delegated them by the people.

(I am not a Tea Partier, though I agree with many of the general positions of the movement.)

Trooper York said...

What I do Inwood is mock them unmercifully until they cry.

You can do a half an hour on Al Gore and polar bears alone.

Trooper York said...

I always thought David Brooks was a wedgie waiting to happen.

From Inwood said...

Jason

So you fit into the type described by Prof A in her comment as “people who tend to make the statements of others sound absolute so that they can disagree with them”?

How about this:

There are two types of commenters on a blog: those who say what they believe & attack commenters who oppose them & those who say what they believe but feel the need to distance themselves from commenters who agree with them but who can be useful as a foil.

Your blog post is a trite and obvious misinterpretation, cast as a dazzling insight, of my brilliant comment. You’re saying that you don’t let bother you the things I just shared with you, by which you mean “my life is so much more full than yours, you insignificant s**t”.

C'mon, you do realize that I didn't say it happens at every dinner, etc that I go to or I wouldn't be going to many dinners. Reason: there are two kinds of people who are at dinners: those who want to start trouble & those who don't. I believe myself to be in the latter group, thbe majority.

LonewackoDotCom said...

Despite what Goldberg says, the tea partiers don't fundamentally... love America. They're just pretend-patriots who, at the most, care about those in their own circle. They aren't part of the larger country: they aren't even acknowledging problems affecting those outside their circle, they aren't looking for any kind of solutions but simply play games, what they ignore (and many of their leaders support) has a devastating impact on their fellow citizens but they don't give a whoop, and you've even got loons like Glenn Reynolds threatening to "go Galt".

The last - turning your back on the U.S. - is the opposite of patriotic.

From Inwood said...

TY
Of course if they're doing their moral preening, I mock people like the chicken-little Agore AGW extremists (otherwise, Jason, no), but that only produces more of a reaction from the self-styled right-of-center moderates.

From Inwood said...

Howard

You must learn the difference between confession & recognition, here my astute observations of inappropriate behavior on the part of the loony Lib & the insecure Center-right moderate (or is a moderate-right centrist; hard to get this mushiness straight?).

And you who wrote the following diatribe, both inane & insane:

Goldbarb [ps: it’s “Goldberg”; who are you C4?, oh, I get it, a pathetic attempt at humor] in his rant … is just protecting his pathetic turf. ..his readers (the unblinking lockstep Catholic Right) …are focused on the … the parroted slogan Pavlovian responses that dominate blog comments.


NewHam's observations are a perfect example [of]…The popularity of superficial and bitchy logic [as] evidence that America is lost.


You, that is, think that

the diatribe [I] sent to [my] "friend"… [represents my] insanity.

01010010 01001111 01000110 01001100!

From Inwood said...

TY

Actually, I've found it to affect Loony Libs more when I'm skeptical of them than when I mock them.

And to affect center-right moderates ever so much more when I'm skeptical of their motives in criticizing me than when I mock them.

Anyway, I prefer to call it reductio ad absurdum rather than the prosaic “mockery”, to, you know, let them understand that they are dealing with a deep intellect rather than someone from Howard’s “unblinking lockstep Catholic Right”, Howard’s unthought from the Koskids.

traditionalguy said...

Feel goodism can always be sold like hotcakes at the NYT's Central Park kiosk. But a differential Dx skill is the guardians skill that a traditionalist relies upon. Actually the Germans working with in the Third Reich had lots of genetic similarities and cross-cultural kinship with every Jew that they brutally murdered. So there was no difference worth mentioning just to be rude to Germans in public. All you Tea Party guard dogs need to quiet down now. Once everbody forgets what Obama has planned to do to us, then he can get back down to business. Obama has a porpose in life just as the Hitler loyalists had a purpose in life... but look at how similar he is to us: two legs, a wife and children, a fabulous smile, and great strength...so Brooks thinks we should just ignore Obama's purpose and let Arbeigt Macht Frei and Re-distribution ring out all over this land.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Oh, I see! So Sesame Street, in teaching children to notice distinctions between inanimate objects or abstract categories such as numbers, is also teaching us to categorize people into (luckily only) 2 different sorts! (At least in Althouse's mind).

What an, er, creative interpretation.

But good thing Pogo picked up on what is apparently "an old chestnut" before I had to see it for myself.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Based on Inwood's need to register disagreement wherever he might possibly find it, I'd say he's the insecure one.

Intellectually secure people are okay with some degree of uncertainty in life. And socially secure people are okay with considering the impact of how a point is raised or discussed; they are not so obsessed as to feel that the only thing that matters is whether they just got a chance to open their mouth and be heard on it.

Of course, I'm much more oppressive in my opinions here than elsewhere, but for Chrissakes, it's the internet! (That and the fact that (______) hates to be wrong on anything.)

From Inwood said...

Ritmo proclaims:

The Ritmo Uncertainty Principle:

Intellectually secure people are okay with some degree of uncertainty in life. And socially secure people are okay with considering the impact of how a point is raised or discussed; they are not so obsessed as to feel that the only thing that matters is whether they just got a chance to open their mouth and be heard on it.

Hard to disagree.

The Inwood Certainty principle:

A Mushy Wimp winds up having people on both sides of the political spectrum think that he/she agrees with them.

Works for him/her.

More principles

Petty partisan political points: when a conservative is embarrassing a respected intellectualoid Liberal who’s apparently used to mouthing Moveon.org bromides & preening morally.

True moderate: One who understands why it’s rude to refute a respected intellectualoid Liberal who’s apparently used to mouthing Moveon.org bromides & preening morally.