To be frank, I’m no fan of David Brooks, mostly because he posits himself as some kind of mouth piece for Middle America, but his version of the middle is a kind of insane Norman Rockwell portrait of America that has never really existed. But I particularly dislike Brooks today due to his nonsensical review of Al Gore’s book, ‘The Assault on Reason’ in his column on Tuesday (which sadly you must be a TimesSelect member to read). Bad enough he titles the piece ‘The Vulcan Utopia’, which tries to re-invigorate the myth of Gore as a passionless automaton (a myth that anyone who has ever seen Gore speak, either live or via An Inconvenient Truth or his recent press appearances, knows to be utterly and completely false), but he starts off with this lovely example of his own illiteracy:
If you’re going to read Al Gore’s book, you’re going to have to steel yourself for a parade of sentences like the following:
“The remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way — a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.”
Yes, David. Heaven forbid we be forced, forced I say to digest sentences that are concise, illuminating, and coherent. I mean, that’s just crazy talk. Brooks then goes on to highlight Gore’s apparent wackiness by pointing out that
In Gore’s view, TV immobilizes the reasoning centers in the brain and stimulates the primitive, instinctive parts. TV creates a “visceral vividness” that is not “modulated by logic, reason and reflective thought.”
Sorry David, but that’s not a view Gore came up with all by his robotic lonesome. That honor lies with gents like Marshall McLuhan.
It seems odd to me that anyone could argue that level of discourse in America is anything resembling civil or logical. Furthermore, it seems even stranger that a country founded by some exceptionally brilliant men could possess such a frighteningly prolific case of anti-intellectualism that the mere proposal of returning logic and reason to the arena of public discussion warrants ridicule and insult.
Speaking of ‘public discussion’, there’s been much hub-bub in the news about Hugo Chavez’s shutting down Venezuela’s most popular private television network. It’s certainly apparent that Chavez has embarked on a very dangerous path with this move, as replacing private media with state-run apparatus is no small step on the slippery slope to dictatorship. What strikes me, however, is the lack of reporting regarding said networks involvement in the 2002 coup attempt on Chavez, or its history of being ”notorious for lies, manipulation and anti-Chavez propaganda“. Not that such behavior abdicates Chavez from his reprehensible political maneuvering here, but it is telling that the incident is being potrayed so squarely as a mad grab for power, and not a leader wisely (or not) punishing a broadcaster that openly called for armed revolt and overthrow of a democratically elected government.
And finally, something that’s pissed me off for a while now (and brought up yesterday by reader Gorlog) is a little something called the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive which was put into effect by President Bush on May 9th. This directive serves to codify the continuation of government in the case of catastrophic emergency. Not a bad thing, I admit, but we, uh, already had something in place for that (otherwise known as the Presidential Decision Directive 67 of October 21, 1998, which this directive explicitly revokes). What specifically pisses me off about this is that, in the hands of an administration that has already displayed a naked lust for executive power and privilege that would make Nixon blush, this directive can easily (and lawfully) be interpreted as a document which consolidates the entire federal government into the hands of the president in the case of emergency (which is defined as ‘any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions’ ) .
Kinda makes you wonder what Bush thinks is heading this way, don’t it? And no, I’m not indulging in any kind of mad conspiracy thinking. I’m genuinely curious as to why a perfectly serviceable plan for the continuance of government had to be scrapped for one that puts an unprecedented amount of power into the hands of one man.
These things really do piss me off. That farm cult thing is starting to look better and better.