NYT: David Brooks vs. The Wizard of Beck

It took long enough. The evidence has been there for years. Somehow it has been inadvertently missed or deliberately ignored by most of the Conventional Media. But the truth has a persistent habit of elbowing its way into the public consciousness.

Today’s New York Times published an editorial by conservative pundit David Brooks that breaks news that most observant analysts have known for months or years: The uber-rightist blowhards on Fox News and talk radio are phony commanders of a tiny, but rabid assortment of fringe-dwelling followers. And the more they are appeased, the farther they venture from reality.

Brooks: “It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche – even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as “The Wizard of Oz,” of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.”

Better late than never. The revelation that Brooks is boasting is simply the notion that it’s better to win at the ballot box than on the idiot box. Two months ago I wrote an article that illustrated just how contrary were the concepts of media and political success: As Fox News Goes Up, The GOP Goes Down. A month before that I published an article on how Fox News Is Killing The Republican Party. It explored in detail how the embrace of lunatics and their demented ravings, along with a misunderstanding of the television marketplace, was literally dragging the Republican Party down to some of its lowest historical depths:

Me: “The more the population at large associates Republican ideology with the agenda of Fox News, and the fringe operators residing there, the more the party will be perceived as out of touch, or even out of their minds.”


“Republicans are riding the coattails of Fox News as if it were representative of a booming conservative mandate in the electorate. They are embracing Fox’s most delusional eccentrics. This is leading to the promotion of similar eccentrics within the party. Which brings us the absurd spectacle of the network’s nuts interviewing the party’s pinheads.”

I could even go back to May of 2007 when I wrote The Cult Of Foxonality™ Part I, that argued that Fox viewers had become more attached to the network than to the Republican Party or conservatism.

So Brooks is joining a rather recent parade of pundits who are stepping back from the wacko contingent. Last month the American Enterprise Institute’s David Frum took a swipe at the “reckless defamation” practiced by Glenn Beck. Frum advised that it is beyond time that conservatives begin…

“…emancipating ourselves from leadership by the most stupid, the most cynical, and the most truthless.”

And Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs warned of

“…further marginalization of the GOP unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution.”

However, as Brooks appears to have attained enlightenment, he sadly slips back into pundit-speak that betrays his lack of insight. In lamenting the egotistical self-promotion of the ranting class, Brooks blames Democrats for their endurance:

“They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P.”

What Brooks fails to grasp is that Democrats aren’t enabling Limbaugh, Beck, et al. They are anchoring Republicans with the dead weight of these TV and radio clowns as a means to define an otherwise personality-less party. It isn’t an accident – it’s a strategy. Just as Brooks recognizes that the association of media nutcases with the party is harmful, he should figure out that that is precisely why Democrats are encouraging the association.

The most profound observation in the column was Brooks’ assertion that the problem for Republicans is that “They mistake media for reality.” That is undeniably true for the Party as well as for most of the media. In fact, it is an even bigger problem that the media mistakes itself for reality. And the consequences are devastating for both the practice of journalism and for democracy.

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Addendum: Neal Gabler has an outstanding editorial in the the Los Angeles Times that addresses these same issues: Politics as religion in America. Highly recommended.


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