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Meet David Brooks, fictional journalist.  To clarify, he's not fictional, but he engages in a style of fiction posing as journalism--also shared by former NYT colleagues Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair.  This University of Chicago educated writer asserts that he used to write based on facts, but now considers it "dishonest".


When his first book "Bobos In Paradise" was published in 2000 as a sociological journalism book, a sharp and enterprising reporter named Sasha Issenberg ("Boo Boos in Paradise", Philadelphia Magazine) thought the data cited rang false.   He decided to do a little of his own research.  What he found was that David Brooks wrote a book of made-up-facts, known by those outside the public intellectual pantheon as fiction.  


I will begin with the end of the story.  Issenberg called him up regarding his research of Brooks' research.  This was Brooks' response,

"This is dishonest research. You're not approaching the piece in the spirit of an honest reporter," he said. "Is this how you're going to start your career? I mean, really, doing this sort of piece? I used to do `em, I know `em, how one starts, but it's just something you'll mature beyond."


I love the power of the narrative, and Issenberg wields it well.  I will let Issenberg tell his own story:


As I made my journey, it became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home. "On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu--steak au jus, `slippery beef pot pie,' or whatever--I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most-expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee's," he wrote. "I'd scan the menu and realize that I'd been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and `seafood delight' trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it."


Taking Brooks's cue, I lunched at the Chambersburg Red Lobster and quickly realized that he could not have waded through much surf-and-turf at all. The "Steak and Lobster" combination with grilled center-cut New York strip is the most expensive thing on the menu. It costs $28.75. "Most of our checks are over $20," said Becka, my waitress. "There are a lot of ways to spend over $20."


So why is it that all of the fawning book reviewers and "intellectual establishment" did not care to notice this?  What is the responsibility that journalists have to the public?  Do we even have the expectation that any publication has a desire to do anything other than package its readers as a product to its advertisers?


Here is Issenberg's ensuing conversation with Brooks:

I called Brooks to see if I was misreading his work. I told him about my trip to Franklin County, and the ease with which I was able to spend $20 on a meal. He laughed. "I didn't see it when I was there, but it's true, you can get a nice meal at the Mercersburg Inn," he said. I said it was just as easy at Red Lobster. "That was partially to make a point that if Red Lobster is your upper end ... " he replied, his voice trailing away. "That was partially tongue-in-cheek, but I did have several mini-dinners there, and I never topped $20."


I went through some of the other instances where he made declarations that appeared insupportable. He accused me of being "too pedantic," of "taking all of this too literally," of "taking a joke and distorting it." "That's totally unethical," he said.


Ok, here's where you pause for breath.  Unethical, did you say?  Mr. Brooks, I think I can rustle something up for you.  


Here is the Code of Ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists:  Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.


Back to Issenberg:


I looked at another of Brooks's more celebrated articles, an August 2002 piece in the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard in which he discerned a new American archetype he dubbed "Patio Man."


... Brooks's suggestion that Patio Man's brethren would become the basis of a coming Republican majority found many friends. Slate identified him as a "new sociological icon." The New York Times Magazine 2002 "Year in Ideas" issue cited Patio Man in its encapsulation of "Post-Soccer-Mom Nomenclature."


Unfortunately, as with the Red/Blue article, many of the knowing references Brooks deftly invoked to bring Patio Man to life were entirely manufactured. He describes the ladies of Sprinkler City as "trim Jennifer Aniston women [who] wear capris and sleeveless tops and look great owing to their many hours of sweat and exercise at Spa Lady." That chain of women's gyms has three locations--all in New Jersey, far from any Sprinkler City. "The roads," Brooks writes, "have been given names like Innovation Boulevard and Entrepreneur Avenue." There are no Entrepreneur Avenues anywhere in the country, according to the business-directory database Referenceusa, and only two Innovation Boulevards--in non-Sprinkler cities Fort Wayne, Indiana, and State College, Pennsylvania. There is also an Innovation Boulevard in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


Brooks is the Microwave Intellectual--he's an instant "scholar" with fresh research pulled out of his ass, enabled by the Public Intellectual establishment.


Unfortunately, a public spoonfed with this garbage has shifted from malnutrition to starvation--and is losing the ability to have any control in what the government does with our money, our environment and our lives.  And corporations are only too happy to fill this vacuum that nature abhors.


More from Issenberg:

Brooks could be dismissed as little more than a snarky punch-line artist, except that he postures as a public intellectual--and has been received as one.


I said I would begin with the end of the story, but I didn't.  The real end of the story is this--the New York Times continues to employ David Brooks as an Op Ed columnist although this article was published in 2004.  And according to Brooks' Wikipedia entry, Brooks is scheduled to join Duke University's school of Public Policy this fall, 2006.

Originally posted to alivingston on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 04:25 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So, I'd like in response (8+ / 0-)

    a statement from Brooks, or any of the other bobbleheads in the MSM, citing what ethical standard Kos is said to have violated.

    Q:"You've called Bush a loser." A:"And a liar." Q:"You apologized for the loser comment." A:"But never for the liar, have I?" - Rolling Stone with Harry Reid

    by alivingston on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 04:25:42 PM PDT

  •  well, let's see what the NYT (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alivingston, Elise, nonnie9999, slksfca
    actually prints tomorrow, eh?

    but your diary is a fine, articulate contribution to the salvo!

    Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

    by MarketTrustee on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 04:40:39 PM PDT

  •  Lovely work, A!! (4+ / 0-)

    Absolutely fab! I didn't really know anything about Brooks before 3 years ago...this explains a lot about his continuing dishonesty...what a shill!

  •  What I don't get - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elise, victoria2dc, nonnie9999
    • and no, I'm not going to read the book or even a critique of the book to find out - is what's his point? that you can barely spend $20 on the priciest meal in some areas of the country (an easily disproven lie) and so what? He reminds me of Laura Ingraham spouting off about cheap blouses at TJ Maxx(actually quite expensive compared to resale stores, where the merchandise is just as nice and not confined to what's "in style"), to what purpose? Something about conservatives in rural America? aren't exactly high flyers? To which I retort: and if they were, the easier for corporate types to exploit them, my dear.

    The subject strikes me as worthless. Please enlighten me if I've got this all wrong.

    •  the setup is the background (4+ / 0-)

      for David Brooks' story of "how the liberal elites are out of touch with the rest of america (meaning, rest of us, since he manages to shimmy over to the other side)."

      the real story here is to focus on what is going on with the mudslingers...whence their credibility and usefulness?  how did they become who they were?

      I find it interesting.

      Q:"You've called Bush a loser." A:"And a liar." Q:"You apologized for the loser comment." A:"But never for the liar, have I?" - Rolling Stone with Harry Reid

      by alivingston on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 05:17:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm equally confused... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise, nonnie9999

      Is the point of the $20 diner supposed to show red staters can have their surf-and-turf and eat it to?

      Such a bizzarre anecdote, that in middle america people can dine like kings for next to nothing. It really seems pointless for Brooks to lie about the way middle america affords to live. These are people voting republican! These are republican supporters! Yet Brooks feels it wise to cram reality in their mouth?!? Look, these people vote republican because Bu$hCo. lies don't effect them directly. Yet here is one of the architects of modern-day republican cramming lies down the oblivious masses throats?!? What political playbook are they working out of, and how are these tactics that effect redstaters directly supposed to appease staunch republican voters?

      I'm just a somebody caught up in a nobody's life...

      by NeoconSemanticist on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 06:06:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's not meant to appease them, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard, Elise, nonnie9999

        it's meant to incite them, and marginalize us.

        funny this is, I don't know that it really has.  but they keep it going until they can come up with another distraction, a narrative, and on it goes..

        Q:"You've called Bush a loser." A:"And a liar." Q:"You apologized for the loser comment." A:"But never for the liar, have I?" - Rolling Stone with Harry Reid

        by alivingston on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 06:37:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And how much more wholesome and down-to-earth (4+ / 0-)

      his imaginary "heartland" is, compared to all us rich out-of-touch volvo-driving latte-drinking liberal elitists, and thus everyone should bow down and submit to his meta-narrative about how GWB is the bestest president EVAR and women should stay home and have babies and not checkbooks and everything that Middle-America does is by definition noble and worthy - even though a) he himself is a NY elitist who b) didn't even bother to investigate or accurately represent the realities of the places he visited and claims are his homogeonous "heartland" of real authentic America. Obviously he's never been to a Bickfords in brickbelt northern Massachusetts, which is full of rusty pickups and blue-jeans wearing blue collar workers - some of whom listen to Limbutt and others of whom listen to NPR, but you'll never know who just by looking at their outward economic or cultural indicators.

      "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

      by bellatrys on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 06:08:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you get the feel that it's deliberate, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elise, nonnie9999

        that there is an understanding that the only way to disenfranchise the whole electorate is by sleight of hand,

        and this is their move, their attempt at hypnotizing the public for just long enough to irreparably get the work done.

        also, read this over at mydd, Mat Stoller looked at the study Moran used to trash the Daily Show and Colbert Report, and saw that it led to the opposite conclusion.

        it's deliberate.

        Q:"You've called Bush a loser." A:"And a liar." Q:"You apologized for the loser comment." A:"But never for the liar, have I?" - Rolling Stone with Harry Reid

        by alivingston on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 06:24:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

    for following up on this little bit of dishonesty and conceit.  

    I'd give you a recommend on one of your comments since the time has passed to recommend the diary but unfortunately, the comment recommend buttons are missing in action.

    So consider yourself recommended!


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