In today's New York Times, right-wing columnist and perennial yakking head, David (Bobo-in-Paradise) Brooks, trashes Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason. Brooks labels Gore "a radical technological determinist" because the former Vice President draws upon the scholarly work of Marshal McLuhan, Neil Postman, and others to conclude that the printing press, radio, and television have had an enormous impact on our politics. "Gore's imperviousness to reality is not the most striking feature of the book," sniffs Brooks, "it's the chilliness and sterility of his worldview."Toward the end of his mushy-headed indictment of Gore, Brooks snivels: "Utterly at a loss when asked to talk about virtue and justice, [Gore and others] try to shift attention to technology and methods of communication. They imagine that by altering machines they can alter the fundamentals of behavior, or at least avoid the dark thickets of human nature." It's funny that someone like Brooks, who calls himself a "conservative" and an "intellectual" would be so downright hostile to The Assault on Reason. After all, aren't people like Brooks supposed to admire the framers of the Constitution and other people who have contributed to defining our nation's creed? In his book, Gore has peppered in an impressive compilation of powerful quotations from the following people: Socrates, Plutarch, St. Paul, Machiavelli, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton (including Federalists No. 73 and No. 78), John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison (including Federalists No. 10 and No. 51), Adam Smith, Thomas More, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Hugo Black, Upton Sinclair, Franz Kafka, Winston Churchill, Robert Jackson, Felix Frankfurter, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Brennan. Brooks is spewing absolute hogwash when he tells his readers that Gore ignores "virtue" and "justice" in The Assault on Reason in favor of a technological panacea for today's social ills. Brooks' take on Gore's book tells us more about Brooks' own ideological blinders than it does anything else. How could anyone claiming to be an "intellectual" read a book that takes on so many complex issues facing humanity and turn it into a cardboard caricature? Brooks creates a straw person, and then he gleefully tears it apart (how original). I guess Brooks is banking on the idea that no one in his target audience is going to bother to read Gore's book, and therefore he can just make shit up. I urge everyone to read The Assault on Reason. Once again, Al Gore has done us a service by compiling a cogent and thoughtful argument about how our politics have been degraded in recent years and how we might begin to move the nation in a better direction more consistent with America's core values and principles. Maybe Bobo is upset with Gore because he exposes the saccharine moralism of people like Brooks who are constantly lecturing us on the meaning of "virtue" and "culture" while they help the country descend into a Balkanized, mean-spirited, and shameful era. Gore writes:
"The essential cruelty of Bush's game is that he takes an astonishingly selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals and then cloaks them with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world. And in the process he convinces these Americans to lend unquestioning support for proposals that actually hurt their families and their communities." (p. 82)
Until so-called conservative intellectuals like David Brooks begin to address honestly the central disconnect between their actions and their words, they are in no position to criticize Gore for laying bare the illusions and lies of their world view.