We’re very aware of the fact that the NYTCLOTD has basically become a “Stupid Shit David Brooks Gets Paid to Write” feature. That’s fine. Mostly because nobody gives a shit about Maureen Dowd’s gossip columns or Gail Collins’s basically this is correct but it’s kind of boring columns anymore. It’s okay. We’re fine with just picking on David Brooks, because the shit he writes is just objectively terrible. Maybe once upon a time there was a space for a right-of-center columnist who is informed by some kind of bland liberal arts. Hell, maybe there still is. But what David Brooks is doing these days is wonderfully close to criminal.
Due to some kind of illness, I didn’t have a chance to take on David Brooks’s column yesterday. Chances are, you’ve already either heard about it or hate-read it. It’s currently half-time in the USA-Cuba Gold Cup match, and the United States (by God) is up 4-0 in a rousing rout. So, I took the halftime intermission to read what it was that David Brooks wrote.
First of all, it’s titled “Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White.” Now, I know headlines are generally written by editors and not the columnists themselves, but I can’t help but assume that was precisely the name of the file that Brooks emailed his editor: “Listening.to.Ta-Nehisi.Coates.While.White.Rev.7.docx.” Ha, Rev. 7. There’s no way this wasn’t just written off the top of his head in a fiery six minutes before it was due.
There are so many lines, and there’s no way that I could possibly pick one out. I mean, the first line that I though for sure would be the line of the day is:
America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus.
I mean, what? That doesn’t make any sense and you know it. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt (and I have no idea why), so I thought on it a few minutes. Maybe you’re making an analogy to how black slaves sought comfort in the idea of the Jewish slaves of Egypt escaping by the grace of God and the leadership of Moses. If that’s the case, that’s the most superficial analysis of one of the most complex and horrific situations in world history, and you’re basically just hand-waving. Oh, well, that is what you do for the rest of your column. Let’s move on, though. Here’s another line:
You obviously do not mean that literally today (sometimes in your phrasing you seem determined to be misunderstood).
First, it’s not anybody’s fault but your own that you are a terrible reader. Why do you think Coates does not mean that today? Also: Coates is a terrific writer who writes more clearly than most of the people you read in college. And, I’d say that you are more determined to be misunderstood. I’m still trying to figure out why you wrote this column, and what the hell the point is you’re trying to make.
But I have to ask, Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree?
Jesus tap-dancing Christ, of course. Why the fuck do you think you wouldn’t be? Black man writes book about the experience of being black in America, and you, the privileged white guy who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, deign to disagree with what he wrote?
Does a white person have standing to respond?
Why do you think this might be acceptable? At this point you’re seriously sounding like some fedora-wearing men’s right activist about to tell a woman why she has taken away his rights by demanding her own. Now, let’s get to this, regarding the so-called “American Dream:”
This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide. It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements.
Did you ever think that if our country had not been founded on a edifice of racism, there wouldn’t even be a need for “heroic social reform movements?” No? Oh, right, you’re white. You think that being subjugated probably makes you a better person.
Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change.
I know you were under the gun (pun absolutely intended), and you had to throw together 750 words yet again on whatever subject about which you wanted to write, but honestly, that one sentence was what you should have submitted. Your column was bad and you should feel bad.
Also, in case you’re curious, The Deuce just scored his first hat-trick for the United States.