Friday, March 14

Y'know, I Read The Thing Over Three Times, And I'll Be Damned, But That's What He Said.

David Brooks, "The Rank-Link Imbalance." March 14

HEY, I'm the first to admit there are some things no one should do for money:
They go through the oboe practice, soccer camp, homework marathon childhood. Their parent-teacher conferences are like mini-Hall of Fame enshrinements as all gather to worship at the flame of their incipient success. In high school, they enter their Alpha Geekdom. They rack up great grades and develop that coating of arrogance that forms on those who know that in the long run they will be more successful than the beauties and jocks who get dates.

Then they go into one of those fields like law, medicine or politics, where a person’s identity is defined by career rank. They develop the specific social skills that are useful on the climb up the greasy pole: the capacity to imply false intimacy; the ability to remember first names; the subtle skills of effective deference; the willingness to stand too close to other men while talking and touching them in a manly way.

For some time I've been toying with the idea that a strong undercurrent of our present social troubles is traceable to the collapse of the hegemonic Freudianism of the 30s through the 50s. On the one hand it was by and large a colossal mound of horseshit with a generous dollop of sexism and racism on top, but on the other was still more useful than the idiocy that tried to move into the resultant vacuum even though it was obvious that "vacuum" was both an improvement and unlikely to be improved upon. I think this especially at times when concepts such as "Projection" seem like just the ticket.  I mean, you gotta squirm a little as David Brooks, Republican insider, despoiler of forests, visiting professor at Duke, and television intellectual, pretends to be Joe Lunchcart clucking--more in sorrow than anger!--at the ruins of the Temple of Ozzy Mandus XIV, even if you're laughing your ass off at the time.  

That quote comes as part of a prissy little column on Eliot Spitzer that, among its other notable non-achievements, manages not to mention Eliot Spitzer, nor the high price of high-priced call girls. This is apparently meant to convince the reader that Brooks' water-added-ham-fisted pop psychoanalysis is the result of some serious musing on Our Times. It doesn't.

(Contrariwise, the smart boys on the "Left" used the opportunity to ponder Whether Prostitution Should Be Legalized, leading me, at least, to hope the practice of combining the temporalty of headline news with one's tiniest cerebral events continues into warmer weather, as it might provide us with the recipe for Matt's Favorite Potato Salad.)

Call me a skeptic, but I find it impossible to believe that such a large segment of the typing public is so utterly without feck when it comes to Sex and What People Might Do To Get Some. I mean, c'mon, I personally understand Larry Craig as far as that goes, though I wouldn't want to be seated next to him. Maybe the Young Guns of The Blogging House are still young and gunish enough to hope (irrationally, to judge by appearances) that a free sugar donut might fall out of this evening's sky and land on their dicks, but Brooks is as middle-aged as I. Oboe practice and grade competition and Alpha Male Bullshitism are not required to explain Eliot Spitzer's taste for pussy. It's pussy. Millions of Americans of any or all genders and every socio-economic strata enjoy some on a regular basis, whether or not they played soccer at the academy. For chrissakes.  None of these guys has ever gone to a strip club (which, to us, is a hell of a lot more perverted than paying for some close companionship)?  

At least with Freud we paid equal attention to what sort of pervert pretended he didn't understand what the attraction was.



15 comments:

Julia said...

FWIW, I had lunch at the same restaurant as David Brooks this week, and please believe me that if this is his affect after twenty years of fame and money, the people he's describing were almost certainly giving him swirlies in high school.

R. Porrofatto said...

And here I thought he was talking about Joey Buttafucco -- especially when I got to the part about "transactional relationships." Thanks for setting me straight (and shredding this shite).

Poor Bobo. Here he put all this effort into inventing "rank-link imbalance" and I don't think it's gonna catch on with Tweety and the rest.

D. Sidhe said...

...still laughing...


For the record, it's pretty clear that these guys are only pretending they don't get it. I'm not one of those every-man-has-hired-a-pro types, but I'd say very damned few straight men are of a personality so inherently foreign to the concept that they would never consider it even as a hypothetical. I can't speak to gay men, but I've recognized more than a few archetypal dick qualities in the ones I know there, too. I *can* speak to women, and I think most of us understand the power of a sex drive as well.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

So who was the more obnoxious kid in school, Eliot or David?

LittlePig said...

For the record, it's pretty clear that these guys are only pretending they don't get it.

In Matt's case, I'm honestly not so sure. Awfully earnest, that one.

I don't think that's Brooks' case either. No one could go that long without breaking character. I'm convinced Bobo deeply, truly believes his musings reveal deep insight into the Great American Subsconcious, not realizing the Times only keeps him to fulfill their performance art affirmative action quota.

aimai said...

I'm laughing so hard I can't figure out what to reply to. Does brooks think he invented this bizarre "rank link"thing? Its so hard to say, so experience distant, and so stupid (all of which also apply to david brook's columns, by the way) tht I have to think he borrowed it from somewhere, some half understood piece of socio-comicbook.

Over at stevem's I pointed out what others ahve--boorishness and sexual agression really aren't limited to eliot spitzer or people who scored highly on their sat's. au contraire, its associated with men, but oup and down the hierarchy, *when they can get away with it.* In fact, paying for it and trying to hide it is the exact opposite of "sticks tongue in ear during important dinner table negotiations."

aimai

D. Sidhe said...

Brooks has always struck me as about as disingenuous as it is possible to get outside a pinup photo shoot. Nobody's mannerisms are that oily without some significant roughness in their personality.

map106 said...

It's the oboe practice that is the tell. One of those double-reed instruments that's got to tickle the inside of your mouth when you play it. And think of the other "doubles" you know of...sexually speaking that is. Kinky stuff.

See, me, after I failed at the cornet, switched to the French horn, so I'm just an oral, cheese-eating, surrender monkey.

These youthful choices, instrumentally speaking, speak volumes.

Harry Cheddar said...

So then he's saying that many rich and famous guys hire high-priced call-girls? No. Way. If he ever comes to Indy, maybe he'll have the chance to meet the blonde twins who entertained Cheech Marin and other Hollywood types at one of last years 500 pre-parties.

Anonymous said...

I've come to the conclusion that anybody who starts musing on "alpha" males has to be a closet case.Bobo,Larry,Trent the whole bunch need to either come out or go into therapy.

Caroline said...

Julia, did he try to put his tongue in your ear? Sometimes I wonder about these guys who take such a sanctimonious view on the roving eyes of their peers ... he almost sounds like the Spitzer we used to know, the one who railed about the depravity of prostitution rings.

Anonymous said...

Although this brooks piece is tangentially about Spitzer, I really don't think he means this column in a democrat/republican way whatsoever (ignoring Brooks prior ramblings).

If you are in the legal or medical field, I think you can probably relate to what to what he is saying, and know someone like he is describing. Whether its an accurate portrayl of Sptizer or not, really doesn't matter -- people like this do exist.

D. Sidhe said...

I don't know that anyone is disputing that people like this exist, anonymous. I think the point that's being made here is that people like this exist across all class and educational categories. The fact that Brooks is behaving as though he's just stumbled into a troop of badly-behaved gorillas and bringing us back staggering news of their existence is laughable at best. We already knew about this, because we've been in contact with people like this our whole lives.

That Brooks is just now noticing it implies that this is either his Renault impression for the NYT talent show, evidence that he has spent damned little time around the Bobos he claims to have observed so meaningfully, or evidence that he is a classist asshole who has up to now assumed that Gentlemen of Education and Privilege do not behave this way. At the very least, it means he's a patronizing bastard who figures the rest of us have not noticed the tendency of some men to behave as though the world owes them anything they want.

Donna said...

Hey, wasn't there some mention of a potato salad recipe coming up? I didn't see it -- maybe I read through the post too quick. What about that recipe? It's assuredly more interesting than either Brooks OR Spitzer's blatherings and sex lives.

Grace Nearing said...

I find it impossible to believe that such a large segment of the typing public is so utterly without feck

You made me go look up the etymology of "feck." It's Scottish.