When thinking about Mr. Brooks it becomes self-evident that he shares much in common with the self-hating, relentlessly hectoring tradition of Paul, Augustine and Jerome, with the addition of the Puritan religious politics of Cotton Mather. The notion that worldly success has turned to ashes, for this man, reflects the kind of spiritual/ethical/political melodrama that Mr. Brooks revels in.
It has always struck me that he identifies himself, in his guise as Pundit, as part Old Testament Prophet, part Platonic Guardian and as the natural successor to Walter Lippmann. A daunting set of aspirations or simply self-delusion? Reading one of Mr. Brooks’ essays then becomes the challenge of assimilating the constantly shifting registers, which ends in a kind rhetorical vertigo, experienced as some how insightful and or just intellectual muddle, yet serving the cause of Conservative ideology. Is it confusing? Perhaps that is the point of the exercise.
I read the first thirty pages of The Social Animal and decided that what was really needed to execute what Mr. Brooks aspired to, but did not possess, was the talent of a novelist rather than his penchant for the practice of an ersatz politicized sociology.
The quote from Michael Kinsley seems utterly misplaced, as Kingsley now writes a monthly column for Vanity Fair that if it represents Liberalism demonstrates that that Liberalism has transmogrified itself into the most reprehensible of political creatures, The Neo-Liberal. Also the fact that Mr. Brooks in his ‘Humility Course’ teaches Reinhold Niebuhr leaves one unsurprised, as Mr. Niebuhr has gained ground as the favorite ‘Philosopher’ of President Obama. The critical reader might just opine that Niebuhr, given the insights offered in Mr. Richard Fox’s very friendly biography appears as the complete political conformist: whose call to Christian proselytizing meant more than his dabbling in the radical politics. Niebuhr during the height of the McCarthy era made it clear that he repudiated that radical past. It should come as no surprise that Mr. Niebuhr and Mr. Ilya Kazan shared a belief, a conviction, that their very successful practice, in their chosen fields, was more important that the political delusions of their impetuous youths. That Niebuhr represents humility, or any such civic virtue, leaves no other conclusion than that Mr. Brooks teaches, not about the actual practice of the Christian Realism of Niebuhr, but the carefully sanitized version, that appeals to the political orthodoxy of this historical moment, wedded to the mendacious apologetics of erasure.