|(graphic by Kat Garcia)|
The conventional wisdom that the writing of New York Times columnist David Brooks sucks has taken on a whole new meaning with his most recent mishmash of a piece, titled The Big Decisions. The fact that he deliberately hides the conservative source of the funding for the author whose book on "transformational research" he peddles is just one of the problems with the column (more on that later.)
It's what poses as the subject matter. Let Count Brookula speak for himself:
Let’s say you had the chance to become a vampire. With one magical bite you would gain immortality, superhuman strength and a life of glamorous intensity. Your friends who have undergone the transformation say the experience is incredible. They drink animal blood, not human blood, and say everything about their new existence provides them with fun, companionship and meaning.
Would you do it? Would you consent to receive the life-altering bite, even knowing that once changed you could never go back?
The difficulty of the choice is that you’d have to use your human self and preferences to try to guess whether you’d enjoy having a vampire self and preferences. Becoming a vampire is transformational. You would literally become a different self. How can you possibly know what it would feel like to be this different version of you or whether you would like.Vampire Hunter D then seamlessly segues into how the choice to become a vampire is similar to the choice of becoming a parent, or joining the military. He shares links for a North Carolina philosophy professor named L.A. Paul and her alleged research into the "transformative experience." As Brooks tells it, she has concluded that life's major decisions are better made with your gut than with your rational mind. In other words, you should be more like George W. Bush, who readily admits to having invaded Iraq based upon his intestinal rumblings. Brooks seizes upon the Orwellian discovery (in the halls of academe, no less) that ignorance is strength, and he enthusiastically slithers into another one of his favorite haunts: the mysticism of moralism. (for thee and not for him and his ilk.)
Our moral intuitions are more durable than our desires, based on a universal standard of right and wrong. The person who shoots for virtue will more reliably be happy with her new self, and will at least have a nice quality to help her cope with whatever comes.Totally maddened by this drivel, I then clicked on Brooks's link to his philosopher to see if he was just making this shit up. And way, way down at the bottom of her page, in small print, is the notice that a billionaire's trust fund (the Templeton Foundation) has awarded her and some Notre Dame professors a multi-million-dollar cash grant to delve into "transformations". From there, it is ridiculously easy to follow the money into the true, religious right anti-science agenda of this grantor. (Whenever you feel puzzled by a David Brooks column, it is always best to look beyond the gobbledygook and search for the cash connection. You will usually not be disappointed.)
I will let my published comment to his column tell the rest of the story:
Following the links to L.A. Paul and her book, we learn that her research on the "transformative experience" is funded by a $4 million grant from the Templeton Foundation.
As Nathan Schneider wrote in "The Nation," this billion-dollar foundation also finances research on the "virtues" of the free market, intelligent design, and the inclusion of religious curricula in medical schools. It donates heavily to such conservative think tanks as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
Templeton's written purpose "is to encourage the top 1/10 of 1% of people and thereby encourage all people that progress in spiritual information is possible, desirable, can be done, and will be done."
Enter David Brooks, and his endless advice to the elite lovelorn, coupled with his relentless moralizing to the huddled masses.
In today's edition is the very subliminal message that all of you ladies on the Pill, or who might (gasp) even be contemplating an abortion, just go ahead and take the plunge into parenthood and maybe even some Brooksian nirvana on the side.
Left behind in the new "sharing" economy? Consider joining the military. Because let's face it, they're the only jobs the GOP is willing to fund.
How vampires factor into all of this is anybody's guess. Maybe it's because the GOP make it their life's work to coddle the plutocrats sucking the rest of us dry.
David Brooks is an integral part of the corporate-funded media/political/academic nexus, which is in the business of hiding the perfidy of late capitalism within the muddy churn of the "marketplace of ideas." It remains unaccountable to the public, because its various agendas are rarely in the public interest. It is just surprising that Templeton is so honest about its true purpose of instructing the elite how best to "trickle down" its plutocratic gospel to the masses. Brooks is the power broker, selling the agenda of the robber barons of free market conservatism -- which is now in especial overdrive with the imminent arrival of Pope Francis on American shores. The pope, you may recall, made a recent reference to capitalism as a great big pile of steaming dung.
Thus does David Brooks turn to "spirituality" as co-opted by neoliberal vulture capitalists, movement conservatives, and other "thought leaders" suffering from a galloping case of Dark Ages nostalgia. And he gets paid mega-bucks to do it, while more real journalists are being eased out of newsrooms every single day. But, as Brooks glibly says, at least they'll be "left with a nice quality to cope with whatever comes."
The subtext of his Cotton Mather-lite column is "Go &%@% yourselves, plebes!"
Always look for and read the fine print. Always follow the money. Whenever possible, disinfect the vampires with the sunlight of exposure.
(A necklace of nice quality garlic bulbs wouldn't hurt either.)