In making what may be the laziest argument ever committed to paper, Brooks engages in what must be the laziest (and, sadly, most common) rhetorical tactic in the Op-Ed writer's toolbox. He cherry-picks one singular example of evidence from his own life to support his weak-ass thesis, and then generalizes from that specific interaction. Tommy "Suck. On. This." Friedman is the absolute worst perpetrator of this crime against readers. If he weren't allowed to begin a column by writing, "I was in a Taxi in [insert foreign country] and my driver told me [insert awesome thing about Globalization]..." he might never be allowed to write again.
Brooks, in his column today, tackles the extremely complicated problem of latent racism in contemporary America. Psyche! Haha, he can't do that, because he's not very compassionate, and he adores, SIMPLY ADORES, "Centrism," which is short-hand for, "Good luck, minorities! Tell me how things turn out!" No, Brooks intelligently concludes that America is not racist any more in any way and why do the mean liberals keep bringing it up? Brooks helpfully presents this trite anecdote as proof-positive that institutional racism is a thing of the past. He writes about jogging past the Piss-Drinkers (Tea Baggers) march the other day, noting:
They were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, “End the Fed” placards and signs condemning big government, Barack Obama, socialist health care and various elite institutions. [Note he fails to mention any of the explicitly racist signs, belonging to the so-called "birthers."-JK]
Then, as I got to where the Smithsonian museums start, I came across another rally, the Black Family Reunion Celebration. Several thousand people had gathered to celebrate African-American culture. I noticed that the mostly white tea party protesters were mingling in with the mostly black family reunion celebrants. The tea party people were buying lunch from the family reunion food stands. They had joined the audience of a rap concert.
Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.
Problem solved! A race riot didn't immediately break out when some white people met some black people, so, um, what more proof do you need that America is great?
Brooks bravely rips race from its historical and cultural context, isolating it as merely one of many potential sources of strife, and then triumphantly (if inexplicably) concluding, "race is largely beside the point." [For a deep look about the intersection of race, class, and gender, see AK here.] Yes, yes, Mr. Brooks, how wonderful of you to throw in your two sense. Let's talk about the Obama backlash, whose de facto leader explicitly called Obama a racist, without giving significant weight to the issue of race. While we're at it, let's talk about the health care debate, without discussing race and class. And let's do the same thing when we talk about the ousting of Van Jones, and the vile, despicable targeting of ACORN by the Piss-Drinker movement. Why, the hatred expressed towards Van Jones and ACORN couldn't possibly be race-based, now, could it? Noooooo.
Brooks continues on, heroically descending further and further into a fever dream in which the new administration is solely responsible for the inseparable joining of the State and the Corporation.
"Barack Obama leads a government of the highly educated. His movement includes urban politicians, academics, Hollywood donors and information-age professionals. In his first few months, he has fused federal power with Wall Street, the auto industry, the health care industries and the energy sector."
I have written in this space many times about the destructive pact the Democrats have made with the health insurance companies, and I'm under no illusion that they are free in any way from massive corporate control. But to claim that the fusion of federal power with Wall Street is the result of the Obama administration verges on the deranged. The marriage of the State and Corporate Power goes back to the founding of this country, and, in the modern setting, at least as far back as the Eisenhower administration.
And then there's this lunacy.
"We now have a populist news media that exaggerates the importance of the Van Jones and Acorn stories to prove the elites are decadent and un-American, and we have a progressive news media that exaggerates stories like the Joe Wilson shout and the opposition to the Obama schools speech to show that small-town folks are dumb wackos."
What?! That block quote may reign supreme as the greatest example yet of the mindless (or worse, deliberate) equivocation between what is called "the Left" and "the Right." The "populist news media" is presumably Fox News and it's collection of inbred spin offs. Brooks plays a particularly deceitful rhetorical trick by subtly referring to Van Jones and ACORN as "elites" in the voice of the populist media. A casual reader, however, could very easily interpret that sentence construction to mean that Brooks himself--who is, in the mind of the casual reader, a respected centrist--considers Van Jones and ACORN the "elites," which is laughable. ACORN receives about 3 million federal dollars per year, a mere drop in the bucket compared to financial institutions.
Then he says part of the problem is the "progressive media," which is, I don't know, MSNBC and blogs, maybe. There is certainly a liberal blogosphere, but calling Joe Wilson an asshole and pointing out that Reagan gave a speech at a school too is a far cry from calling the president a racist. What he fails to mention, because he is fundamentally incapable of realizing it, is that people like him are what amplify the false claims of the Right, and make it necessary for the Left to fact-check the media.
Brooks' aim is so far off base here, one could use it as a jump off for an entire book about the broken media. He falsely asserts that race can be talked about separate from class and gender, subtly advances right-wing lies about Van Jones and ACORN, and presents an idiotic equivocation between Fox News and the liberal blogosphere, in essence saying, "they're both good and bad, but here I am in the center like an Adult." That's really a remarkable achievement, even for Brooks.