WHAT is it about David Brooks that makes him side with the most aggressively stupid faction in American politics, but to cobble up prissy little Just So tales out of snippets of pop sociology and historical biography in its defense?
Like any dabbler, bricoleur, or concocter of patent-medicines, Brooks never seems to notice the stuff he doesn't want, or the need for a fuller understanding before he makes sweeping pronouncements.
He lived a suburban existence and was sent to an elite school, wearing a blue blazer and being taught by European teachers. As a boy he watched “Bonanza” and became infatuated by another American show called “Fury,” about a troubled orphaned boy who goes off to a ranch and tames wild horses. He was a mediocre student but religiously devout. He made it to university, but didn’t last long. He married his first cousin when she was 14 and went into the family business.
I repeat these personal facts because we have a tendency to see history as driven by deep historical forces. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it is driven by completely inexplicable individuals, who combine qualities you would think could never go together, who lead in ways that violate every rule of leadership, who are able to perpetrate enormous evils even though they themselves seem completely pathetic.
Which, of course, might mean something if you'd established that Osama bin-Laden, make-believe bronco-buster, and not deep historical forces, was the reason we're refighting the Crusades.
But he wasn't. He's just a highly successful financier, the Richard Melon Scaife of Islamic radicalism. Or the Richard Branson, since he liked to do his own commercials. He's where he is, or was, because of your need to put a face--I mean a mask--on all this.
This isn't a way to understand things. It's a way to avoid thinking about them, and to direct hatred at a convenient target.
And ultimately it's meaningless, and self-defeating. How many articles were written yesterday assuring Americans that al-Qaeda still remained a threat?