Trending Topics:

David Brooks’s track record on lesser cultures and religions that lack the ‘democratic mentality’


The song never ends, and the melody lingers on. David Brooks’s paternalism, racism etc. have an impressive consistency. The phrases that most give away the attitudes are in boldface.

“The Long Transition,” January 29, 2006

. . .While Fatah and Hamas are rivals, neither has a democratic mentality. Democracy in its everyday manifestation is bourgeois and unheroic. It is about partial victories, partial defeats and issues that are never resolved and never go away.

Yet a democratic tide is sweeping the globe, promoted not only by the U.S. but by the spirit of the times, and an election came to Palestine. Voters had to choose between two revolutionary movements, one corrupt and one attentive to their needs.

Such bad choices are becoming common across the Arab world. Democratic success depends on democratic voters and leaders, but those voters and leaders can’t be created amid tyrants and terrorists. Under these conditions, the transition to democracy is like building a plane during takeoff.

But flight has begun and the democratic transition hurtles on. Palestine is entering the most traumatic phase, when a romantic, revolutionary people is compelled to transform itself into an ordinary, democratic polity. . . .

. . .Europe never held Arafat and his successors accountable for their corruption, lies and killing. But Palestinian voters, beginning their democratic self-education, have.

The first thing we can do now is to in turn hold the Palestinian people accountable for their choice. By clearly and steadfastly isolating Hamas, we can remind Palestinian voters that their choices too have consequences, that in democracy radical options are self-destructive, even if they make you feel good at the time. 

“The Underlying Tragedy,” January 14, 2010

. . .Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not. . . .

. . .As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10.

We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

“Defending the Coup,” July 4, 2013

. . .Those who emphasize process have said that the government of President Mohamed Morsi was freely elected and that its democratic support has been confirmed over and over. The most important thing, they say, is to protect the fragile democratic institutions and to oppose those who would destroy them through armed coup.

Democracy, the argument goes, will eventually calm extremism. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood may come into office with radical beliefs, but then they have to fix potholes and worry about credit ratings and popular opinion. Governing will make them more moderate.

Those who emphasize substance, on the other hand, argue that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are defined by certain beliefs. They reject pluralism, secular democracy and, to some degree, modernity. When you elect fanatics, they continue, you have not advanced democracy. You have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy. The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup. The goal is to weaken political Islam, by nearly any means.

World events of the past few months have vindicated those who take the substance side of the argument. It has become clear — in Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere — that radical Islamists are incapable of running a modern government. Many have absolutist, apocalyptic mind-sets. They have a strange fascination with a culture of death. . . .

. . .Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern. Once in office, they are always going to centralize power and undermine the democracy that elevated them. . . .

. . .It’s no use lamenting Morsi’s bungling because incompetence is built into the intellectual DNA of radical Islam. We’ve seen that in Algeria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt: real-world, practical ineptitude that leads to the implosion of the governing apparatus. . . .

. . .This week’s military coup may merely bring Egypt back to where it was: a bloated and dysfunctional superstate controlled by a self-serving military elite. But at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office. . . .

. . .There are large populations across the Middle East who feel intense rage and comprehensive dissatisfaction with the status quo but who have no practical ideahow to make things better. The modern thinkers who might be able to tell them have been put in jail or forced into exile. The most important thing outsiders can do is promote those people and defend those people, decade after decade.

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seemsto lack even the basic mental ingredients.


Anonymous Contributor

Occasionally authors will request to publish pieces anonymously. Where possible, we respect this request. Articles published under this account are from multiple authors.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

14 Responses

  1. just on July 5, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Well done!

    I bet there’s plenty, plenty more of his racist, supremacist, and “paternalistic” bile. Nice to see the collection begin!

    PS– are you a “mutt”, Anonymous? I am, and am very proud of it.

  2. Betsy on July 5, 2013, 3:38 pm

    Why if Egyptians ‘lack the basic mental ingredients’ do we keep hearing such eloquent statements about democracy and republicanism coming from ordinary people in Tahrir Square over the past 2 years?

  3. surewin on July 5, 2013, 4:44 pm

    I haven’t looked around for a site or a writer that tenaciously shines a disinfecting light on the complex and dangerous discourse of David Brooks. It’s good to see it happening here, but I think it would be appropriate to increase the effort and make him more of a focal point for mondoweiss than he already is.

  4. MHughes976 on July 5, 2013, 5:05 pm

    O mi God, not that ‘death culture’ line again? Not again!

  5. Reds on July 5, 2013, 5:14 pm

    Did Brooks explain himself on NPR’s ATC round up yet?

  6. Reds on July 5, 2013, 5:15 pm

    “Such bad choices are becoming common across the Arab world. Democratic success depends on democratic voters and leaders, but those voters and leaders can’t be created amid tyrants and terrorists”

    Lehi? Likud? Stein Gang?

  7. Krauss on July 5, 2013, 5:41 pm

    If someone went through all of his columns with more than Ctrl+F and “culture” and “mental” as key words you could probably dig up a lot more.

    Still, good work. Brooks, like the racists and islamophobes of Europe, understand that using “culture” instead of race is acceptable, even encouraged, when lashing out against muslims.

  8. HarryLaw on July 5, 2013, 5:54 pm

    How many US journalists have lost their jobs for saying things far less inflammatory than this racist garbage, Helen Thomas comes to mind.

  9. just on July 5, 2013, 6:29 pm

    More Brooks:

    ” Most people select stories that lead toward cooperation and goodness. But over the past few decades a malevolent narrative has emerged.

    That narrative has emerged on the fringes of the Muslim world. It is a narrative that sees human history as a war between Islam on the one side and Christianity and Judaism on the other. This narrative causes its adherents to shrink their circle of concern. They don’t see others as fully human. They come to believe others can be blamelessly murdered and that, in fact, it is admirable to do so.

    This narrative is embraced by a small minority. But it has caused incredible amounts of suffering within the Muslim world, in Israel, in the U.S. and elsewhere. With their suicide bombings and terrorist acts, adherents to this narrative have made themselves central to global politics. They are the ones who go into crowded rooms, shout “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” and then start murdering.

    When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan did that in Fort Hood, Tex., last week, many Americans had an understandable and, in some ways, admirable reaction. They didn’t want the horror to become a pretext for anti-Muslim bigotry.

    So immediately the coverage took on a certain cast. The possibility of Islamic extremism was immediately played down. This was an isolated personal breakdown, not an ideological assault, many people emphasized.

    Major Hasan was portrayed as a disturbed individual who was under a lot of stress. We learned about pre-traumatic stress syndrome, and secondary stress disorder, which one gets from hearing about other people’s stress. We heard the theory (unlikely in retrospect) that Hasan was so traumatized by the thought of going into a combat zone that he decided to take a gun and create one of his own.

    A shroud of political correctness settled over the conversation. Hasan was portrayed as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness.

    There was a national rush to therapy. Hasan was a loner who had trouble finding a wife and socializing with his neighbors.

    This response was understandable. It’s important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts. If public commentary wasn’t carefully policed, the assumption seemed to be, then the great mass of unwashed yahoos in Middle America would go off on a racist rampage.

    Worse, it absolved Hasan — before the real evidence was in — of his responsibility. He didn’t have the choice to be lonely or unhappy. But he did have a choice over what story to build out of those circumstances. And evidence is now mounting to suggest he chose the extremist War on Islam narrative that so often leads to murderous results.

    The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality. It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.

    It denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil. It sought to reduce a heinous act to social maladjustment. It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation. ”

  10. amigo on July 6, 2013, 3:56 am

    Why is it that racist slime like Brooks get the space to write this excretion.

    Dare I suggest that there are certain media outlets controlled by entities with an agenda.

    Imagine the uproar if Jews were dissed in this way.

    It,s not as if Israeli Jews are running a democracy that is an example to the rest of us.

    Anything but.

    Typical Zionist whataboutery.

  11. amigo on July 6, 2013, 4:03 am

    “When you elect fanatics, they continue, you have not advanced democracy. You have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy. The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup.”Brooks

    Surely this should have been printed in the J,Post.

  12. Donald on July 6, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Here is David Brooks predicting–in fact, recommending–Abu Ghraib.

    David Brooks November 4 2003

    “It’s not that we can’t accept casualties. History shows that Americans are willing to make sacrifices. The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence.

    Somehow, over the next six months, until the Iraqis are capable of their own defense, the Bush administration is going to have to remind us again and again that Iraq is the Battle of Midway in the war on terror, the crucial turning point where either we will crush the terrorists’ spirit or they will crush ours.

    The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away. It is our responsibility to recognize the dark realities of human nature, while still preserving our idealistic faith in a better Middle East.”

  13. RoHa on July 10, 2013, 1:28 am

    “that in democracy radical options are self-destructive, even if they make you feel good at the time.”

    We saw that when the American colonists took the radical option of independence from Britain.

  14. RoHa on July 10, 2013, 2:16 am

    Why is it racist to say “some cultures are more progress-resistant than others”? It makes no reference to race, which is biological, but rather to culture, which is learned. Perhaps saying that is paternalist, but so what? I would say exactly the same thing about the cultures (in various historical periods) of my European ancestors and my wife’s Far Eastern ancestors. And why not? Are we never to be allowed to criticize cultures?

    The important question is “Is it true?”

    And now, moving from informal logic into an area notable for my lack of expertise, I would say, tentatively, that it is true.

    The areas of the world that seem most “progress resistant” seem to me to be those which were controlled and exploited, but not greatly colonized, by imperial powers.

    These are most of Africa, most of the Islamic world, the Indian subcontinent, and some parts of South East Asia.

    My guess is that the control and exploitation degraded the civilized societies in such a way as to make them culturally resistant to progress, and, in those societies which were not civilized, prevented the emergence of cultural traits which would make them accepting of progress.

    A weakness with this speculation is that it doesn’t seem to apply to Afghanistan.

    But I will let the sociologists and historians wrangle that one out.

Leave a Reply