Psychologically Ill-Informed Pundits: Et Tu, David Brooks?
Mahatma Gandhi fought for decades to promote civil rights for non-whites in British-controlled South Africa and India. When asked what he thought of Western civilization, having seen its aspirations marred by its daily practices, he responded, “I think it would be a good idea.”
That’s a knowledge of the world that will forever be beyond the reach of David Brooks, who today ends his column with this monumental averting of his eyes:
[America is] a nation that has been unable to come up with a humane mental health policy — one that protects the ill from their own demons and society from their rare but deadly outbursts. The other problem is this: contemporary punditry lives in the world of superficial tactics and interests. It is unprepared when an event opens the door to a deeper realm of disorder, cruelty and horror.
That’s a splendid use of the favorite handheld device in Mr. Brooks’ propaganda toolkit: an accurate statement of a problem – America’s abhorrence of recognizing and devising treatment for the mentally ill – followed by a passive-voiced lament: “We” have “been unable to come up with” a solution for it.
It’s not in the interest of Mr. Brooks or those who pay his bills to acknowledge that it is his Republican Party that has done its utmost to prevent government from making health care – and by inclusion, mental health care – more available, more affordable or more acceptable to need and to receive treatment for. The GOP-controlled House wisely canceled a vote this week relating to the repeal of Mr. Obama’s signature health care bill, but it won’t be dropping that goal between now and 2012.
Arizona is a poster child for that problem, having devastated its state mental health budget, along with other budgets, sold its state office buildings and closed or underfunded many of the state parks that generate much of its tourism income.
Perhaps Mr. Brooks’ myopia comes from inhabiting the world of “superficial tactics and interests”, which he decries today. That may prevent him from seeing his, his party’s and his ideology’s role in making America a more dangerous, less productive and less neighborly place to live in. He does, however, enjoy the life of a multimillionaire by being part of a news media in which, he claims, “the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons.”
Bobo explicitly calls out the Huffington Post, Keith Olbermann and Daily Kos for politicizing explanations of Jared Loughner’s allegedly murderous attacks. He labels as “very murky” the connection between the “angry political rhetoric” of Sarah Palin and other stars of the Republican Party and its pet media, and the likes of Mr. Loughner concluding that it would be right and just to act out their violent fantasies rather than keep them inside their tortured minds.
They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.
Uncomfortable defending Ms. Palin without reservation, Bobo retreats to a safe intellectual distance, claiming to have “no love” for her (an inside joke, apparently, given that sex appeal-at-a-distance seems to be her principal charm). Mr. Brooks’ interest is in “civil discourse”, despite being an avid supporter of today’s GOP and a charter member of a media that he describes as, “psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed,” and which “naturally leans toward political explanations,” instead of a more nuanced and less inflammatory truth.
Mr. Brooks, it seems, did not come to praise Ms. Palin’s rhetoric, only to bury it. As is true of Western civilization in general, a little self-knowledge for Mr. Brooks would be a good idea.