New York Times columnist David Brooks, supposedly a high-flown thinker who is above the social media stunts of his fellow right-wing pundits, was savagely mocked Wednesday night after trying to engage in the fad for pictures of underwhelming amounts of food with an outrageous price tag attached. While many social media posts in that vein are suspect and can be revealed as misleading or false with a little sleuthing, Brooks made it way too easy—and showed his cluelessness in the process.
Check it out:
Just a modest meal of a hamburger, some crinkle-cut fries, some packets of ketchup … and a large glass of what appears to be whiskey. Did Brooks think viewers would assume that was iced tea?
Airport food is expensive—and not just because of price-gouging—but not $78-burger expensive. In response, someone tweeted a copy of their own receipt from what may well have been the same Newark airport restaurant, showing a $24.54 burger and a $13 beer. It wouldn’t be hard to spend $40 or more on a whiskey at the Newark airport, though.
This was a ridiculous whiff—one so bad Brooks is likely to announce that he was joking all along—but what makes it interesting is that it was David Brooks. Brooks has long been framed as a public intellectual. His moralizing books are reviewed in serious publications. The American Sociological Association in 2011 gave him its Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues. He spent years as a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson School of Global Affairs. All of which goes to show how low the bar is for a conservative to be taken as intellectual. Brooks is a consistently lazy observer and thinker, and has been since fairly early in his career.
Republicans like to rail against affirmative action, and yet being on the right means you can be an intellectual lightweight and still be celebrated as a great thinker. You can be a Supreme Court justice with nothing much to say. The gulf between the median level of thoughtfulness, originality, and rigor on the left, broadly speaking, and the right, broadly speaking, in the media and the courts and elsewhere is staggering, and the elevation of people like Brooks as weighty thinkers (no, really, so, so serious and smart) is a central part of that. Nice liberals who want to show their breadth of thinking and tolerance convince themselves that David Brooks is the intellectual equivalent of Ta-Nehisi Coates or Tressie McMillan Cottom because it makes them feel better about themselves and because it shields them a little from the reality of just how bleak the U.S. political landscape is. Brooks has made a lucrative career at playing to those impulses.
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