David Brooks Is Always Wrong-Yeshiva Bocher edition

Brooks’ trick, the one he’s mastered as his inferiors on the Right bloviating bench have not, is to present sentences that seem to imply great learning, whilst never falling into the temptation to make specific claims of fact that can be shown to be wrong. It’s an important skill, and it fools lots of people who should know better. Not so long ago, I was talking with a reporter from the Great Grey Lady herself — a good one, a real journalist covering a difficult beat and doing it well. Douthat, my interlocuter agreed, was an embarassment. But Brooks. Now there was someone, said my companion, who even if you disagreed with him, always managed to surprise you.

Well, I suppose, but not in a good way.

After I recovered from blowing bourbon though my nose, I put it to the room that the problem was that Brooks arrived not at unanticipated conclusions, but at pre-determined ones, to which he gave unmerited weight by grabbing the lustre of some intellectual antecedent or another whether or not that purported authority actually bore on the case at hand.

He does some variation on this gimmick over and over again. It can be an appeal to anonymous “culture” — as in this catastrophe of a column — or it can be a more direct invocation of some exceptionally learned, and often obscure source.

So it is with Brooks now infamous column on Jeremy Lin, basketball and Jewish Modern Orthodoxy.


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