If your looking for a diversion from the more troublesome aspects of your own life, and/or the failure of the Republic, the latest David Brooks essay titled The Moral Diet can supply something that almost resembles serious human thought. We are reading America's premier fake political moralist who has discovered the work of social scientist Dan Ariely, and his book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. In this book Mr. Brooks discovers that his Conservative belief in the sinfulness of man is borne out by the research that Mr. Ariely has conducted. To put it mildly Mr. Brooks is elated with the scientific proof that confirms his foundational belief in that inherent state. In this intellectual mode Mr. Brooks speaks the part of an eager Christian Fundamentalist. But Mr. Brooks being who he is, a status conscious self-promoter, wants to assure his readers that Mr. Ariely brings with him the appropriate intellectual pedigree, so this assurance to his readers is offered:
“Ariely, who is one of the most creative social scientists on the planet, invented other tests to illustrate this phenomenon.”
When Mr. Brooks sites his sources he cannot resist the hyperbolic assertion. Since he, a self-assured pundit, would not quote a scholarly source, that didn't match or exceed his own self-perceived, indeed, unquestionable, a priori high status. A reader of this highly garnished essay, by apt stories that illustrate the dishonesty of their fellow citizens, demands the adoption of a critical attitude of skepticism, because it fits too neatly the conservative master idea of a demonstrable, corrupting American Decadence. Here is a quote from near the end of the essay that illustrates succinctly Mr. Brooks moralizing position:
“Next time you feel tempted by something, recite the Ten Commandments. A small triggering nudge at the moment of temptation, Ariely argues, is more effective than an epic sermon meant to permanently transform your whole soul.”
Mr. Brooks cannot resist placing his arguments in the moralizing vocabulary of American Religious Fundamentalism, which retains it's shopworn quality, although the rhetorical frame is shifted from an anecdotal moralism to the realm of the social sciences. This shift can only enhance his status as the “thinking man's” Conservative: in a political culture that, above all, reveres a cultivated political respectability.