Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
www.exiledonline.com
Books / eXile Classic / What You Should Hate / October 19, 2009

david-brooks1

This article was first published in The eXile on June 22, 2000.

Reading Bobos in Paradise, I realized that it’s not so hard to make money by writing: all you have to do is suck and swallow several million people at once. It’s certainly worked for David Brooks, who sucks like a Black Hole, and could give Linda Lovelace swallowing lessons. He’s making a fortune from this book, which is nothing more than fellatio in print.

Of course, hard-working prostitutes from Night Flight to Tijuana trailer parks are performing the same service for petty cash—but that’s because they can only service one client at a time, while Brooks, with this book, has found a way to suck off every Boomer in America at once. Brooks’ message is simple: “Oh, you’re tho wunnaful. Oh, pleathe, more. Deepuh. Oh yeth, yeth. Let me gobble it all up.” It’s a little garbled—you can’t expect the man to enunciate perfectly with thirty million cocks in his mouth—but the thesis is clear enough: the “Bobos” (Brooks’ witty abbreviation for “bourgeois bohemians”) who control America are the most wonderful people ever.

If you know the story of the Three Bears, you know the argument of this book (Hegel stole all his ideas from the Brothers Grimm): Once upon a time there were three bowls of porridge. One was the beatnik/hippie/bohemian porridge, which was much too hot for the tame souls Brooks addresses. Then there was the WASP/Corporate porridge, which was a little too chilly (but only a little!) for Brooks’ readers. At last the third bowl of porridge arrived, a puree of hippie manners and old-school greed…and that bowl of porridge was the BOBO, the “bohemian bourgeois,” and lo! The BOBO looked upon him- or herself and saw that he or she was good. Was in fact, perfect.

bobo1

That’s the point of Brooks’ book: to tell his smug audience that, just as they suspected, they really are perfect. Brooks isn’t shy about his flattery. (Shyness isn’t adaptive in his business, as the girls at Night Flight will tell you.) He tells the Bobos how great they are over…and over…and over. In order to get on with the sucking-up, Brooks disposes of any potentially pesky issues such as elitism early on:

“[Bobos] are the new establishment….When I use the word ‘establishment,’ it sounds sinister and elitist. Let me say first, I’m a member of this class, as, I suspect, are most readers of this book. We’re not so bad. All societies have elites, and our educated elite is a lot more enlightened than some of the older elites, which were based on blood or wealth or military valor. Wherever we educated elites settle, we make life more interesting, diverse, and edifying.”

Well, that settles that: “We’re not so bad.” Of course, every other elite from the Mongols to the Oligarchs could say the same thing—has, in fact, said the same thing. Elites do tend to think well of themselves—a tautology which might have given a more thoughtful writer pause, but would never occur to Brooks. It’s difficult to suck off thirty million people and think at the same time; and when it came to the crunch, Brooks wisely decided that the sucking was much more important than the thinking.

In order to distinguish the Bobos from other elites, he defines them as an “educated” elite. This educated background is apparently what allows them to make life more “edifying.” There are a couple of little problems with this claim:. First, Americans of the late twentieth-century elite are in fact very poorly educated by comparison with, say, the German or French elites circa 1910. Second, there’s no reason to think that educated elites are any more compassionate than ignorant ones. Take those highly educated, early twentieth-century French and German elites: they did not, in fact, make life especially “edifying” for the several million men they shipped off to be turned into hamburger on the Western Front.

As for the notion that the Bobo-ocracy makes life more “diverse,” it’s plainly at odds with the Bobos’ many elaborate taboos and conventions, which Brooks spends whole chapters iterating in worshipful detail. How can a class which has such strict rules make life “diverse”?

To understand what Brooks means by remarks like this, I found I had to remind myself that in this book, all questions come down to the subject which actually matters to him and his readers: spending money. And of all ways to spend money, Brooks and his readers worry most about interior decorating and cookery. So, when he says that the Bobos make life more “diverse,” he isn’t talking about ethnic diversity, let alone intellectual diversity; he’s talking about diversity in styles of furniture or ethnic restaurants.

Brooks actually takes interior decorating so seriously that he makes the Bobos’ tastes in decor an aesthetic “end of history,” analogous to the claims Fukuyama made for contemporary political forms. Brooks dumbs down Fukuyama’s thesis for the tens of millions of Yuppies who don’t know Hegel from Hi-Tech, but do worry if they’ve bought the right sofa set, translating Fukuyama’s argument into Synthesis-via-furniture:

“The educated class has conquered all and hegemonized its Bobo culture…. Now the Babbitt lion can mingle with the beatnik lamb at a Pottery Barn, a Smith & Hawken, a Museum Shop, a Restoration Hardware, a Nature Company, a Starbucks, or any of the other zeitgeist-heavy institutions that cater to educated affluents. Today the culture war is over, at least in the realm of the affluent. The centuries-old conflict has been reconciled. “

Well, there it is: The End of History via Interior Decorating. That duvet isn’t just a duvet, folks—it’s a Hegelian synthesis! That fake medieval table represents the fall of the Berlin Wall.

By the way: Nice product-placement, too, David. You managed to name six furniture companies in one sentence. (I wonder if Brooks actually got paid to mention Pottery Barn et al, or if reciting corporate names just gives him some kind of sick auto-erotic pleasure.)

In the world Brooks and his readers inhabit, the names of interior decorators and furniture-makers are so eminent that he finds it shocking that they were once obscure: “In…1954, Russell Lynes could write of Gustav Stickley, ‘His name and his writings are now almost forgotten.’ But today you can’t walk 15 feet…without stumbling across some bit of furniture inspired by [Stickley].”

Who the Hell is Gustav Stuckley? No, don’t tell me. The day I start learning the names of furniture-makers is the day I hope some true friend will push me in front of a bus. I guess I’m not one of “us,” as Brooks defines “us.” “We” are distinguished from “them” by simple antithesis, a device uses again and again until, somewhere around page 100, you develop a Pavlovian wince every time you see a “we/they” sentence:

“[The old gentry] covered over ceiling beams. We expose them. They buried bulky stone chimneys in plaster and paint. We unearth [them]….They preferred marble. We prefer slate.”

Brooks doesen’t see himself simply describing a change of taste. He seriously believes that this change—from the things “they” liked to the ones “we” like—is permanent, millenial, the end of history. He truly believes that the Bobos are in charge not just for the moment but for all time, just as Fukuyama believes that present Western political conventions will endure forever. He says, with a straight face, “[I]t is hard to see how the rule of the meritocrats [ie the Bobos] could ever come to an end.” Wonderful: a thousand-year Lexus reich.

Not that they’ll get a thousand years, of course. They’ll be forgotten in a decade, and there’ll be a new David Brooks avidly sucking and swallowing whatever interior-decorating hegemony overthrows the Bobos. There’s always a job for a good blo-jo. In the meantime, the moment’s darlings have this book to remind them that they’re in Paradise. And what a paradise! Two careers, sensible cars, and a high-strung child who’ll be in therapy before she’s out of high school. Not much of a paradise at all, really. No wonder they need this wretch to tell what a glorious world they inhabit.

It all goes back to the New Yorker. I never did understand that magazine or the world it claimed to be describing. The articles and the cartoons were about horrible people, who were always shown in the cartoons being humiliated before their bosses in an office, or being sexually humiliated before their wives or husbands, or shown up in front of their neighbors over their ignorance of some outdated slang term. The stories were no better: they always seemed to be about some outwardly successful but numb, embittered couple waiting for their divorce on Cape Cod, relishing the landscape largely for the contrast it provided with their dessicated inner state. And yet there was a sick self-love in those cartoons and those stories. None of them were intended to make you feel revulsion at these horrific lives. They oozed a hopeless infatuation with the very misery they described.

And now this Brooks creature has crawled under the table at that Cape Cod beach house. In the lulls between the waves, you can hear the rhythmic lapping, as he services the homeowner, who flips lazily through the recycled Thurber cartoons for the tenth generation.

This article was first published in The eXile on June 22, 2000.

Share/Bookmark

Read more: , , John Dolan, Books, eXile Classic, What You Should Hate

Got something to say to us? Then send us a letter.

Want us to stick around? Donate to The eXiled.

Twitter twerps can follow us at twitter.com/exiledonline

17 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Hattie  |  October 19th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    The only good thing about the economic collapse is that many of the people described in this book are going to suffer. A lot. I’m already used to getting by with little. A lot of bobos are going to lose their shit in new and entertaining ways.

  • 2. DarthFurious  |  October 19th, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Brooks has never been anything but a cheap copycat hack. This book was just a bad regurgitation of Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” – itself a stroke-off hackjob – rewrit to stroke off the baby boomers, who are without question the most vile generation of slime to ever crawl across this backwater rock.

    Q: what’s the only thing you can say in favor of christians and baby boomers?

    A: eventually they die.

  • 3. אברהם  |  October 19th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Damn, Dr Dolan… you ever think about writing a book about the Beigocracy? Just imagine how much fun it would be shit on all the people Brooks sucks off…

  • 4. aleke  |  October 19th, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    These people need to be purged. To be made history. They’ve got to be the dumbest elites to have ever existed.

  • 5. Allen  |  October 19th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I read the Lexus and the Olive Tree once… I honestly thought the absurdly obtuse self-congratulatory “suck-off” (apt characterization, Mr.Dolan) neo-liberalism and its supposed cultural “virtues” genre couldn’t possibly have a more vile entry …

  • 6. porkers-at-the-trough  |  October 20th, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Very good essay, another Exiled classic that was prescient – timely, years ahead of its time!
    For a TEXTBOOK example of the ‘Bobos’ “We, the smug, upper-middle class NY/DC & West Coast intelligentsia are perfect in our greed & desires” bourgouise self-righteousness, see NPR’s ADAM DAVIDSON trying to defend the Goddamn-Sachs looting and destruction of the economy, by doing his “Heathers” (insider’s catty, backstabbing social club) act, trying to demean and dismiss TARP Oversight Chair Elizabeth Warren, for doing her job, trying to investigate the full corruption & insanity of the Bush/Paulson/Obama/Geithner “Bailouts” –
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/15/planet-money-reporter-pai_n_203890.html
    (link to the full 70 minute, now classic interview, where Ms. Warren has to raise her voice to fend off Nicholson’s smug, insider-superiority, here –
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2009/05/the_full_warren_interview.html
    ==================================
    The Sulzberger owned NY Times, and Meyer-owned Washington Post, are the enemey. It is they – the two most influential ‘news’papers in America – who push the corporate, Wall Street, GolddamnSachs loot, plunder, and pillage agenda, and give the other, lesser “major media” cover to follow suit. They, literally, helped the Republicans make a Constitution-wrencing IMPEACHMENT case of Monica’s blow-jobs against a Democratic, nominally populist president Clinton… then the SAME WashPost & NYTimes gave a huge FREE PASS! when it was discovered that President George W. Bush’s “favorite reporter” wasn’t a reporter at all, but a gay, homosexual prostitute, with an UP-and-RUNNING gay male prostitute web-site, who was spending late nights at the White House, after the regular White House press corps whores had gone home for the day – a guy who was using a pseudonym (hello? security red-flag?), and whom the Secret Service refused to give a weekly or monthly press pass, Gannon/Guckert had to renew his press pass daily, but the Times and Post WIPED the scandal OFF their front pages in one week flat!
    It doesn’t start or stop there. The Times & Post also helped Republicans TRY TO CRIMINALIZE the Clinton’s overnight guest list, the so-called “LINCOLN BEDROOM SCANDAL!” But when W. Bush had KEN LAY (later CONVICTED of FRAUD) over to the White House, and, worse, CONVICTED BRIBER of Congres JACK ABRAMOFF – not only could the damn Post & Times suddenly not be bothered to ask “What did Mr. Abramoff WANT from the Bush White House in his many calls to Rove & other WH officials,” but the Times & Post COULDN’T even get off their lazy, corrupt, enabling duffs, to find out just how many times Abramoff even visited the Bush White House!!
    The Reason for the above – the Times’ & Post’s criminal complicity with Republican bribsters, fraudsters, economy-gutting GoddamnSachs types, and Brooks upper-middle-class elitist fellatio – is that the owners, editors, publishers, and writers of the Post & Times really do see themselves as English nobility, in their ivory tower Olympus, as they rapaciously prey on African slaves, native Indians, and even their own colonists and countrymen. See the Great Famine in Ireland, 1845-1852 (and the other Irish famines that preceeded & followed it!), and the nearly equally brutal conditions that English, Scots, Welsh, and other Brits endured during the industrialization era.
    Well, at least one thing can be said for the brutal English industrialists of the Dickensian era: at least they had an INDUSTRIAL POLICY of producing things.
    Today, the insane Wall St/GoddamnSachs/Likudnik Neo-Cons (of whom the Post & Times’ Sulzberberger, Safire, Brooks, Kristol, Kagan, Krauthamer, & Kudlow are all textbook examples have a very simple economic agenda for America: DISMANTLE AMERICAN INDUSTRY, so GoddamnSachs can MAKE A SHORT TERM PROFIT, off of CHEAPER China labor!

    Never mind that, in doing so, we are bypassing the “socialism” (unions, health-care, job security) in America they claim to loath… they are instead enabling outright China-style Communism!

    nor that these Neo-Cons who CLAIM to be “experts” on all things National Security are also OUTSOURCING not only vital tech jobs, but the RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT that had for 5 decades been America’s military high-ground….

    To repeat, the insane Neo-Cons, of whom the Times and Post
    http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/031509.html
    are both in-sync, and collectively, the most influential media voice(s) in America, have a very simple economic agenda: DEREGULATE the markets to the GoddamnSachs financial lords can EXTORT the peons out of trillions every few years; and DISMANTLE American industry, so they can profit (short-term, at least) off of China’s communist/capitalism.
    (note: I haven’t even mentioned how the NY Sulzberger Times & WashPost have enabled the Neo-Con Likudniks to take over the US Department of Defense, for example, the Times & Post joining Paul Wolfowitz & Don Rumsfeld in SNEERING at combat experienced Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, when Wolfo & Rummy did their hatchet-job on Shinseki for daring to demand more troops for a post-invasion occuption force in Iraq.
    http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/167/35435.html

  • 7. Richard Sievert  |  October 20th, 2009 at 6:42 am

    . DarthFurious In one breath your wiser than a tortuous crawling into a pool of fish but in the next breath your q question turns the tortuous into a hare and it gets eaten by the fish.
    Nothing we do or say can Chang these people like me i have been provoking them but i have a reason whats yours seaside?

  • 8. DarthFurious  |  October 20th, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Like the man said, “you can’t imagine the power of the dark side of the force.”

  • 9. John  |  October 21st, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Dolan, I’m sure you won’t read this, but you really do need to publish some more books. I’ll be first in line to buy them

  • 10. Jesus Christ  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Nietzsche wrote that “anti-Semitism is another way of saying ‘underprivileged.’” Me, I’ve got it all figured out. That’s why I live with my mother still.

  • 11. mh  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Dolan is a genius. This is one of the best thing about the pop-media I’ve ever read. I don’t quite agree with the New Yorker part, but I’m going to think about it. Anyone that’s so right on about Brooks can’t be completely wrong about something else media-related.

  • 12. ADL  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 10:18 am

    This site has been Kosher approved.

    Hard not to be an anti-semite when they control everything through Communism, genocide and war

    Anti Semite = Anti-Communist

    Anti-War

    Anti-Genocide

    Anti-Racist

    Anti-Mafia

    Anti-Slavery

    Anti-Islamism

    Anti-Mass immigration

    Christian

  • 13. blo-jo  |  October 22nd, 2009 at 11:50 am

    You forgot an “anti-” there, number 12.

  • 14. ADL  |  October 24th, 2009 at 12:29 am

    @blo-jo

    No I didn’t why would why I put anti-Christian when Jews since the time of Jesus have been there greatest persecutors?

    Jews and the Bolshevik revolution.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfNAE-A_vfA

    Catch the lyrics to the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM8ClTgZgvY

    Professor Kevin MacDonald discusses Jewish intellectual movements and group strategy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9ScVv5PukA

  • 15. bEN  |  November 2nd, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    BEWARE! ADL is a Jewish double agent.

  • 16. Alex_C  |  January 2nd, 2010 at 2:09 am

    My older sis, 5 years ahead of me on this Earth, ahead enough to be on the other side of the Boomer/X’er wall, is one of these bobos. She had a Governess, we got to try to eat our PB&Js before one of the damn dogs grabbed ‘em. She went to high school with Obama, we learned to fight in public schools.

    I read the book when it came out and thought it was all satire.

    My sis has excommunicated me now; I’ve done two unpardonable things. One was have my business crash and become again what I was in the finer, more character-ful times of my life, poor. The other thing was to point out to her that she’s just like Hyacinth Bucket in the TV show “Keeping Up Appearances”.

    Yes the fall of the bobos will be a lot of fun to watch.

  • 17. учти  |  August 28th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    @ADL
    Kevin MacDonald is actually a comedian, so I wouldn’t pay too much attention.


Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)

Required

Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed