David Brooks issued a timely rebuke to the anti-Trump movement in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times. He argued that Michael Wolff’s pot-stirring book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, represented a decline into “lowbrow” argument — based more on anger than truth.
“The anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber,” Brooks confessed. “It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information.”
The Times columnist explained that “more anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a ‘Madness of King George’ narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.”
To his credit, Brooks attacked this smug mentality. “I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale,” he wrote.
The columnist lamented the anti-Trump movement’s “insularity” — few of them actually know or listen to those who support Trump — and its “lowbrowism.”
Brooks could not curb his own smugness in explaining lowbrowism, however. He pointed to Fox News, Sean Hannity, and Dinesh D’Souza as examples of it. He defined the phenomenon as “a style of communication that doesn’t make you think more; it makes you think and notice less.” Lowbrowism “offers a steady diet of affirmation, focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious vindication.”
In any case, Brooks admitted that anti-Trump lowbrowism dominates “late-night TV,” and “burst into full bloom with the Wolff book.”
“Wolff doesn’t pretend to adhere to normal journalistic standards. He happily admits that he’s just tossing out rumors that are too good to check. As Charlie Warzel wrote on BuzzFeed, ‘For Wolff’s book, the truth seems almost a secondary concern to what really matters: engagement,'” Brooks wrote.
He argued that opposing lowbrowism may be more important than opposing Trump. “This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?” Brooks asked.
He wondered whether Americans can “restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie.”
The descent into unthinking partisanship did not begin with Donald Trump, however. Brooks — who wrote an “I Miss Obama” puff piece during the 2016 election — seems to have forgotten just how easily the Obama scandals were dismissed by the press when the Ideologue in Chief declared, “Nothing to see here.” Obama may not have been “lowbrow,” but he certainly was no perfect truth-teller.
Also, is Brooks about to admit that the Russia investigation might not end with a Trump treason impeachment? That might be the most fanciful fairy tale the Left is telling itself right now, and they seem utterly convinced.
Even so, this op-ed is a step in the right direction. Brooks noted that “there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.”
Self-described anti-Trump writers like Brooks seem unable to realize that many of Trump’s policy victories likely did come from the president (SHOCKER!). Brooks did admit that “people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage.”
Hmmmm. It’s almost as if Donald Trump is not crazy. The Times columnist admitted “this is not an administration full of people itching to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Brooks remains anti-Trump, and it seems he may still be biased in favor of Barack Obama. Even so, this op-ed is an important wake-up call to the Left. Trump opponents need to dial back the rhetoric, understand what the president’s supporters think, and re-examine their premises. Brooks has begun this journey, and he should not stop there.