Thursday, May 26, 2011

Britain Discovers David Brooks and Vice Versa

At least one Briton doesn't appear to be a fan. Daniel Knowles has what appears to be a very entertaining time ripping up Brooks' babbling paen.

It honestly couldn't be difficult no matter where you are. "Britain is working"? Really, David? The country is living proof that the sort of austerity you've advocated is absolute rubbish (as the Brits would say), and it's been convulsed by protests and, yes, out and out riots.

But Daniel, well, he knows better:

Let’s take a few choice bits, starting with the opening section. Apparently, from 1900 to 1920:

Britain faced an enormous task: To move from an aristocratic political economy to a democratic, industrial one. This transition was made gradually, without convulsion, with both parties playing a role.

Gradually? Without convulsion? I don’t know if you’re aware of this David, but most British historians believe that the First World War was pretty convulsive. And definitely not very gradual. He seems to think that Britain cast off her aristocratic rulers by a process of “constructive competition.” In fact, what happened was that we went to war, conscripted millions of young men and sent them to France to be machine-gunned. Simultaneously, our government was taken over by a clique, led by Lloyd George, which ruled autocratically from a garden shed in No 10 Downing Street. Meanwhile, a whole part of the country – Ireland – descended into civil war. Somehow, I don’t see that as a “gradual” transformation.
I'd noticed that too. What on earth would possess Brooks to opine that British history is "peaceful"?

And then there's this:

But perhaps he has a better grasp of our politics? Well, no. Take this:

Britain is also blessed with a functioning political culture. It is dominated by people who live in London and who have often known each other since prep school. This makes it gossipy and often incestuous.

Prep school? I’m afraid I think Mr Brooks is referring to public school (Eton, I expect) though Boris Johnson does, of course, share a primary school with Ed Miliband. That aside, the statement is still ludicrous – is being ruled by a clique of Oxford PPEist ex-public-school boys really what you would call a functioning political culture? And if so, how does that chime with the claim that we’re “democratic”?

It is obvious why this man is popular in Westminster – he is telling us how perfect we all are. But this self-indulgent ego-boosting nonsense is just what we need to get away from. While our politicos go around slapping themselves on the backs about how utterly indescribably and uniquely brilliant they all are, the British public hates them more than ever. In fact, it’s all a little bit like that place Mr Brooks knows so much better – the United States!
This really is outrageous. So the reason why the British system is supposed to work is because the country is ruled by an incestuous mob of upper-class twits? I can see how that would appeal to Brooks, considering his day job as an apologist for America's own incestuous mob of upper-class twits. But the fact that America's twits aren't all singing from the same hymnbook isn't something to moan about, especially considering how sad and useless those hymns have been.

(How sad and useless? Just ask Paul Ryan.)

Daniel ably points out that it just means that the public hates the lot of them. That's one of the reasons for that temporary Cleggsplosion in the last election, though that's long since dead now that Clegg decided to prop up Cameron for reasons which still escape me. It's the reason why the Scottish Nationalists kicked ass in the last election. Hell, it's not even just an British thing: anti-European parties are getting votes and seats all over Europe thanks to the ECB's obsession with austerity at the expense of all else. They're at the point where the Euro itself may be endangered, and Brooks thinks that this WORKS?

Well, no. He probably doesn't. He did mention those past local elections. He focused on Cameron's numbers and steadfastly ignored the Scottish embarrassment and the way that the Lib Dems were punished for propping up Cameron. He ignores what that suggests: that a majority of Britons think that he's a disaster, barring his True Believers, and that those with another option (like, say, the Scots) are picking it. And he's ignoring the riots that have convulsed Britain, that show that those who don't like Cameron REALLY don't like Cameron, just as people REALLY didn't like Thatcher.

No, it's just Brooks. He is, once again, ignoring anything and anybody that might contradict his banal little stories. He's playing his little game of pretending that if only everybody got along and agreed with David Brooks, things would be so much better. They wouldn't—but don't try telling HIM that.

Edit: And here's Greenwald!
It has long been the supreme fantasy of establishment guardians in general, and David Brooks in particular, that American politics would be dominated by an incestuous, culturally homogeneous, superior elite "who live in [Washington] and who have often known each other since prep school." And while these establishment guardians love to endlessly masquerade as spokespeople for the Ordinary American, what they most loathe is the interference by the dirty rabble in what should be their exclusive, harmonious club of political stewardship, where conflicts are amicably resolved by ladies and gentlemen of the highest breeding without any messy public conflict.
Very elegant way of expressing it. It's funny how many Americans seem to have this really deep envy of Britain's class system. Sure, they lionize the founders and all, and they don't want a King, exactly...but wouldn't it be nice if the oiks just learned their place?

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