By Ben Cohen
Writing is a competitive, cut
throat business with not much money being distributed around a lot of
people. Writing for the New York Times would probably put you in the
top 1% of earners, and would mean a good share of at least 90% of the
money. I'm a professional writer, and I manage to make about 1/3 to 1/2
of my total income from writing - and believe me, that isn't easy. I
would probably cut my arms off to get a chance to make a serious income
from writing (and write with my toes), but I'm relatively young, so
don't expect it any time soon.
Getting to the top can't be easy, and most of the time, I'm sure it
takes a lot of hard work, a good deal of sucking up, and an acute
ability to write for an audience. The Times conservative columnist
David Brooks is a perfect example of a writer who has spent a life time
perfecting all of those traits, writing vague, bourgeois opinion pieces
catered specifically to the upper middle classes.
Brooks distances himself from right wing blowhards like Bill
O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but essentially advocates the same policy
positions without the bombast, and a lot of fancy words. On Sarah
Palin's debate with Joe Biden, Brooks offered the following drivel:
On Thursday night, Palin took her inexperience and made a
mansion out of it. From her first "Nice to meet you. May I call you
Joe?" she made it abundantly, unstoppably and relentlessly clear that
she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little
about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole
East Coast, just to be safe. To many ears, her accent, her
colloquialisms and her constant invocations of the accoutrements of
everyday life will seem cloying. But in the casual parts of the
country, I suspect, it went down fine.
In any case, that's who Palin is.
Using the words 'invocation', 'accoutrements', and 'cloying' in one
sentence would probably have Christopher Hitchens scratching his head,
but Brooks managed to outdo himself in a remarkably self important,
Freudian opinion piece titled 'Thinking About Obama'. Brooks managed to
squeeze 'peripatetic', 'equanimity', 'homeostasis', 'sojourner',
'grandiloquent' and 'didactic' into the brief 850 word article on the
inner workings of Obama's mind, exposing a fragile psyche of his own,
and a desperate need to validate his position as a national talking
head. There is nothing wrong with using grand words once in a while,
but Brooks overload says more about his insecurities than his intellect.
Politics is not a particularly difficult topic to understand, and
there is rarely a need to complicate a simple point unless you are
trying to appear clever. Brooks has a very good gig going for himself,
and displaying his intellectual balls at every given opportunity is
clearly a self preservation technique designed to prolong and protect
his professional career. If you read between the lines, Brooks never
really says anything particularly interesting - he just says it in a
way that exudes intellectual superiority, inside knowledge and good
dose of snobbishness. It is cerebral masturbation at its highest form,
and Brooks gets away with it week after week for a sum of money most
writers won't see in a year.
Everyone has to make a living, especially given the current
financial crisis, and Brooks isn't doing anything particularly
offensive in the long term. He is fairly reasoned in his writing, and
will at least speak civilly to people he disagrees with. However, it's
a pity he uses his flowery language to support some of the most violent
tendencies of the neo conservative movement, and it would be nice if
you could read his columns without the help of a thesaurus.