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It's amazing that in July of 2013, the New York Times would allow these words to appear on its public editorial column, courtesy one David Brooks:

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern.
Mental equipment? Now, most people would agree that Islamists lack the temperament to govern, and that their ideology is incompatible with constitutional liberalism. But then, Islamism is simply another form of conservative religious rule, one that Republicans hope to practice in the United States in their own way. David Brooks may want to take a look in the mirror. It's a known fact that constitutional liberalism is at odds with democracy in a society of religious bigots. That's why the national guard had to be sent in to desegregate the schools in the Old Confederacy.

But beyond that, did Brooks really mean "mental equipment"? As in, their brains don't have the capacity for democracy? Is Brooks a phrenologist? Perhaps it was just an unfortunate turn of phrase his editor failed to catch.

Oh. No it wasn't.

In reality, the U.S. has no ability to influence political events in Egypt in any important way. The only real leverage point is at the level of ideas. Right now, as Walter Russell Mead of Bard College put it, there are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical idea how to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail or forced into exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

In her tremendous book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes of how neoliberal villains destroy nation-states' ability to protect themselves from the predations of multinational corporations and open markets, "liberalizing" their economies while rapidly impoverishing societies, shrinking middle classes and generally immiserating their people.

When the great experiment in shocking nations into radical free-market economics erupts in failure, conservatives fall back on the argument that something in the minds and cultures of the people whose markets have been freed even as their persons have been impoverished, somehow lack the mental and cultural components required for freedom. That was the argument made when the plutocrats ensured Russia's transition into kleptocracy rather than social democracy. It was also the argument made by conservatives about Iraqis after the bombing of their country and the imposition of radical economic Objectivism on their people.

David Brooks is a racist. Brooks sees a middle east ravaged by oil imperialism from without and conservative religion from within, and declares its inhabitants mentally unfit for democracy by virtue of his singularly ineffable expertise on the subject.

If David Brooks and his ideological kin were ever allowed to fully take control of this nation, he might find us, too, mentally unfit for democracy. Fear, religious conservatism, jingoism, Objectivism and economic imperialism tend to be anathema to democracy wherever they go.

Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo

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Comment Preferences

  •  But we knew that (0+ / 0-)

    I can't get outraged about it because who the hell cares what he thinks!

  •  I think this is damning (6+ / 0-)

    ...of the New York Times.

    I mean, seriously? This past muster with an editor? The powers that be at the Times?

    At some point, my ire turns from the creep to the creep's enablers.

    He is where he is because legions of people who know he is this way pretend he is not for the sake of expediency and pain avoidance.

    David Brooks gets hired, and you are stuck with him unless he drops the 'N' word, or has a freak-out Harvey Wallbanger of a total mental breakdown on live tv.

    Because if you fire him, you get attacked by the Right.

    Which, of course, they do anyway. No matter what you do.

    They all knew that Pat Buchanan was a racist asshole, too.

    But the establishment conventional wisdom-driven beltway has rules.

    One of those rules is, Very Serious People are Very Serious.

    I am a Loco-Foco. I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

    by LeftHandedMan on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:39:57 PM PDT

  •  enough already. Isn't this the 3rd, or 4th, diary (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynChi, Kane in CA, Farugia, jgnyc, gramofsam1

    to flog this?

    Jeeesus, read his full column.  It's pretty clear Brooks (who I loathe)  is not talking about genetically determined mental capacity, or anything like that, but something more like "intellectual framework."

    Here is my prior comment.

    I see no reason to alter that.

    •  Ditto that! n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Farugia, jgnyc

      Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. Eric Hoffer

      by LynChi on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:59:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  which makes it SO much better (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      keirdubois

      glad you clarified that.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 06:43:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Glad you agree Islamists don't have a world view (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gramofsam1

        that is compatible with running a democratic society.  I doubt they would deny it themselves.

        Here is how they see a woman's role, for example:

        A husband must have “guardianship” over his wife, not an equal “partnership” with her, the group declared. Daughters should not have the same inheritance rights as sons. Nor should the law cancel “the need for a husband’s consent in matters like travel, work or use of contraception”
        from a recent Muslim Brotherhood public statement
        •  And please don't draw some absurd equivalency (0+ / 0-)

          with a few fringe crackpot Mormons or a tiny Christian sect of weirdos and claim we have essentially the same thing here.

          •  You mean the tiny "Christian" sect of weirdos who (5+ / 0-)

            are currently very busy shutting down debate and passing laws to restrict reproductive rights in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Wisconsin? That tiny sect?

            -4.38, -7.64 Voyager 1: proof that what goes up never comes down.

            by pat bunny on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:34:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you think wanting some abortion restrictions (0+ / 0-)

              is equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood's view on women's rights, well, I just can't find the words...

              •  At Least You Admit That You Got Nothin' nt (0+ / 0-)

                On the Internet, nobody knows if you're a dog... but everybody knows if you're a jackass.

                by stevemb on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:57:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  WANTING some abortion restrictions? (0+ / 0-)

                Our tiny sect is passing laws to enforce them.
                Anyway, didn't the Muslim Brotherhood just get removed from power?

                -4.38, -7.64 Voyager 1: proof that what goes up never comes down.

                by pat bunny on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:58:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Have you even read the Southern Baptist (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                unfangus, madhaus

                Convention's radicalized official teaching on women's place? Jimmy Carter left the SBC over this change of doctrine.

                …my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
                This is not a tiny sect. It is the heart of the Christian Right, and the Republican War on Women. They and their allies, including the Mormon church and much of the Catholic hierarchy, do not merely "want some abortion restrictions". They are determined to outlaw abortion and contraception in every way shape, and form, and a great deal more than that besides.

                They are also the chief oppressors of children, and very nearly the only oppressors of LGBTs. They are responsible in large part for every other regressive policy in play anywhere in the United States, particularly any that denies not only the results but even the existence of science, and declares that science is the world's greatest conspiracy against all that is good and true. Their Mammonism is, however, no match for corporate greed. It is just the essential enabler of income inequality, corporate irresponsibility, and so on.

                Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

                by Mokurai on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 12:39:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  glad to know (3+ / 0-)

          that all egyptians are islamists. which certainly explains the millions out in the streets to bring down a muslim brotherhood government. thanks for clarifying that.

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:04:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  As witness what he said in black and white (0+ / 0-)

      He said that people of the same culture and the same "race", as if there were such a thing, were capable of contributing to a healthy government system but were in jail or in exile.

      Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:57:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Authority/Responsibility (0+ / 0-)

    Imagine someone ruling a country. What would he want? Maximum authority with a minimum of responsibility. That way, she can do whatever she wants, and if something goes wrong, it's somebody’s eases fault. All power, no consequences.

    So, this works in Brooks' America too. Capitalist democracy is the best system in the world, and anybody who doesn't agree is crazy. It's really that easy to understand.

    If we abandon our allies and their issues, who will defend us and ours?

    by Bryce in Seattle on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 05:45:11 PM PDT

  •  spoon, my browser does not support facebook or (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thereisnospoon

    google.  It's not prudent to override the "block".  Therefore, I can't tip or rec on this site.

    Je adore Digby and you for the thoughtful insight.  David Brooks may be just another flawed Republican who holds his own right to be self evident, self serving, and full of self righteous caca.

  •  spoon, my browser does not support facebook or (0+ / 0-)

    google.  It's not prudent to override the "block".  Therefore, I can't tip or rec on this site.

    Je adore Digby and you for the thoughtful insight.  David Brooks may be just another flawed Republican who holds his own right to be self evident, self serving, and full of self righteous caca.

  •  No question he's a racist. (4+ / 0-)

    The bigoted contempt he has for people in general, but especially Muslims, just oozes from him. And with a perch atop a powerful newspaper, he is seeking to persuade others to his view, or reinforce them for those that already share it.

  •  Brooks often is put forth as the "reasonable man" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, Darwinian Detrius

    he just pooped on his brand.

    He's not stupid. Even if he believes as he does I'm surprised he'd try to share it publicly. Mental equipment. What a jerk--from him, racism seems to be the only possible cause.

    Many people in the Middle East do lack education, though less so in Egypt I think. Until recently (satallite TV and the internet, in the last decade or a bit more), they were very isolated from the rest of the world. No experience with how other countries are governed or what democracy looks like.

    Democracy has been longstanding in the US, and it had been developing for centuries prior in at least the UK. So our people have long practice with how to behave, what to expect, and how to deal with things.

    Yet often we expect peoples with no experience of Democracy to be able to set it up and maintain it. IT is not their inbred deficiency when they fail, it is experience that they lack. They are trying to make happen in a few years what happened in Europe and her former colonies in hundreds of years. Give them a break, Brooks!

    I'm always shocked when anyone says one people are more or less intelligent (or some other positive variable) than others. Human beings are genetically extremely similar. If I recall any two individuals with decent originating in two disparate continents are more genetically alike than many other animals are to each in the same local population group. That is because we had a population bottleneck thousands of years ago...the human population, scientists say, had shrunk to less than 1000 individuals....we almost died out. So everyone is descended from those people. We are very much all siblings.

  •  Applebee's lack the ingredients for a salad bar... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny, Calamity Jean

    ...David Brooks is just as inept at understanding populism in foreign countries as he is understanding American populism. He can't conceive of a truth that deviates from the winning argument at his cocktail parties.

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 06:32:34 PM PDT

  •  maybe he meant (0+ / 0-)

    "necessities." but being a newspaper columnist doesn't have the same standards of intelligence and decency and humanity as being a baseball executive.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 06:41:23 PM PDT

  •  this again? stop with a tired strawman (0+ / 0-)

    Brooks is talking about a fundamental flaw in militant Islam. I'm no Brooks fan but the poutrage around here on this is surreal.

    Yes I read the column. A Muslim I know describes what is going on in Egypt with the fundamentalists as "the 30 years war without literacy". I claim no special insight here but stick to criticizing Brooks when he's parroting group think on austerity or propagandizing Rhee-style non-truths about our culture. Or ... hell just wait the guy wants a Republican Party that doesn't exist.

    Give it a rest, blog warriors. It's an off year but at least frothing at the mouth about the Snowdon affair made sense (I didn't / don't agree with the import but that's a different thread). This is arguing with a column Brooks didn't write.

    If you didn't like the news today, go out and make some of your own.

    by jgnyc on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:02:05 PM PDT

  •  David Brooks is one of these people who can (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murasaki, pat bunny, Bryce in Seattle

    "appear" rational but is often deeply unhinged. The professional left likes him because he can sneer politely at Mark Shields on the NewsHour but anyone who really listens finds that he is the craven opportunist our diarist exposes him as.

    David Brooks continues to play this game, and is smug about doing so. He is shameless, and insults the intelligence of the American People.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 07:04:47 PM PDT

  •  David Brooks already does find Americans (0+ / 0-)

    immiserated by the savagery of capitalism unfit for the luxuries he enjoys.

    If David Brooks and his ideological kin were ever allowed to fully take control of this nation, he might find us, too, mentally unfit for democracy.
    No need to wait.
  •  Wrong. He's no racist. (0+ / 0-)

    He looks down on everyone equally. Smugness like his must be honed and nurtured.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:22:13 AM PDT

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