15 Feb 2009

Glenn Greenwald Analyzes David Brooks

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In another great article, GG takes an apparently innocuous statement by David Brooks:

What I’m really annoyed by, though, is the withdrawal of Tom Daschle. What are we, a nation of virgins?…Of course, Obama asked for all this with his cynical promise to ban lobbyists from his administration. There’s a word for lobbyists: experts. Some are sleazy and many are quite admirable, but the idea of trying to run Washington without them is absurd.

GG then quotes Brooks who also said:

I assumed Obama understood all this [that lobbyists were good and necessary] and the campaign blather was just for show. But it turns out he’s created a climate of Puritanism in which any error is grounds for disqualification.

Now had I just read Brooks’ quote on my own, I would have thought it ridiculous. But GG really drives home just how revealing it is:

Those with rewarding positions inside an imperial court (such as Brooks) naturally view the masses outside of the court with condescension and contempt — as ignorant, dirty, irritating rubes who need to be pacified with empty, deceitful words (“campaign blather,” as Brooks admiringly calls it), in order to keep them placated and believing (at least enough to enable hope) that the imperial court actually cares what they think. But all Serious, savvy, sophisticated royal court members know that none of that is supposed to matter. Not only do political elites have the right to ignore the claims they make to pacify the masses, they have the affirmative obligation to do that. That’s how the worst nightmare of the political establishment is avoided: namely, having mass sentiment affect and infect what they do.

It’s amazing how explicitly Brooks here is endorsing — and demanding — deliberate deceit of the public. There is, for obvious reasons, extreme anger among the American citizenry towards the piggish sleaze, systematic corruption, and wholesale destruction permeating the political establishment and our political and financial elites. In order to pacify those sentiments, political elites tolerated, perhaps even desired, a presidential candidate with credible outsider pretenses who claimed to empathize with that popular anger and who wanted to combat the political elites who were the targets of it — but only on the condition that he didn’t really mean any of it, that it was all just a means to deceive people into believing that they still live in some sort of responsive democracy and they retain even a minimal ability to shape what the Government does. The anti-Washington rhetoric Obama was spouting was tolerated by media elites only to the extent that none of it was sincere.

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