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Our Mr. Brooks (Richard): part of the story, all of the time


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By Lee Russ, Section OpEd
Posted on Sun Nov 19, 2006 at 04:03:01 PM EST

Richard Brooks probably sets a new low for many aspects of columny: insight, narrowness of view, consistency, and, in my mind, basic fairness of analysis.

And these are all flaws that he seems to see in everyone else. Take his November 16 NY Times column titled "Heyday Of Snobbery As The 'educated' Class Finds Easy Targets." (the NYT column is restricted to registrants, but an unrestricted copy can be found here)

And so we enter the era of mass condescension. Thanks to the creativity of our cultural entrepreneurs, we enter a time when we can gather in large groups and look down at our mental, social and spiritual inferiors.

Sounds like a wide condemnation of self righteousness, eh? And who could in good conscience argue against the idea that America is slipping ever further into quicksand made of self righteousness?

Hey, it's our Mr. Brooks. He has nothing so wide and unarguable in mind. He's only after what we can probably label "the intelligentsia" ( or "the hip" or "those in the know," etc.) The group of people whose condescension is based on the other group's ignorance, pettiness, superstitions, etc.

So he takes a bunch of folks & institutions to task, many of them truly deserving of being taken to task: the Jackass movie franchise, American Idol, Bill Maher, and, especially, the Borat movie currently out. Oh yeah, he's also after people who are such critics of the president that they think there's something wrong with you if you voted for Bush.

Forget about the fact that American Idol and Jackass the Movie have nothing to do with people who think that you have to be a moron to vote for Bush. Forget that there is, in fact, a pretty good chance that viewers of both American Idol and Jackass the Movie tend to be Bush voters.

Even if I forget all that, Brooksie, if you're going to talk about condescension, if you're going to talk about those who think they can look down on their "social and spiritual inferiors," you can't quit there.

What Brooksie really is talking about in his rant is a form of self-righteousness. He just doesn't want to look beyond his blinders at all the other forms of self-righteousness. In fact, what he's specifically after is the group he is always specifically after: liberals, the "blue-staters" especially the ones who have good educations.

What about the vast array of Right wingers who demonize all of us who disagree with them? Isn't painting others as unpatriotic weak-minded traitors based on their opinions every bit as bad (or worse) than being cruel to some American Idol contestant who has no talent? The right wingers are extremely self-righteous in their attitude: they're right and you not only are wrong, you're an evil emissary from hell and/or a terrorist organization.

Then there are the extreme Christians, Brooksie, a group you seem quite drawn to. Self-righteous is their middle name (last name, too, usually.)

The dead giveaway for me that Brooks had no ability and/or intention of really being honest was that Brooks, who memory tells me has been a big supporter of most things Bush, has the audacity to say that:

Finally, there's blue-America snobbery, as people on the coasts try to fathom those who would vote for George W. Bush. The only logical explanation is that they are racist, anti-Semitic idiots who can be blamelessly ridiculed.

He follows that a few paragraphs later with:

Popular culture has traveled from "The Grapes of Wrath" to Borat the magnificent.

So he's insulted by those who think Bush voters are unfathomable fools, but he bemoans the trend of culture away from "The Grapes of Wrath."

Interesting. Especially since George W., according to his college professor, dismissed the movie version of "The Grapes of Wrath" as "that commie movie."

So, Brooksie, was George W. at that moment portraying the incredible condescension toward the poor that you now purport to loathe? If so, and assuming that he has remained a loathsome self-righteous ideologue, couldn't there be just a teeny chance that it's reasonable to think that you have to be deficient to vote for him?

In closing, Brooksie, just let me say that I personally do not advocate condescension. But unlike you, I also do not advocate the kind of greed that allows the wealthy and powerful to ignore the deprivations of others in their own country, especially when the "others" tend to come form families that have fought and died to keep the wealthy and powerful in that condition. Unlike you, I do not wear blinders that prevent me from seeing that ordinary people can be brave and noble in some respects and virulent, dangerous bigots in others, or compassionate and reasonable in some respects and condescending and superior in others.

Unlike you, I do not try to artificially reduce the world to a simple morality play where blue state Americans are smug, condescending shmucks and red state Americans are proud, upstanding protectors of all that is good and objectively righteous. In fact, if you feel that way and are yourself a "red state American," I think that means you suffer from the disease of self-righteousness.

Try adding a third dimension to your perception and your analysis, Mr. Brooks. Your position on the editorial page of the nation's most prominent newspaper demands it.


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