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.
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