Friday, August 08, 2008

David Brooks Tore Me A New One Today

I nearly spewed my iced, grande, triple latte as I read David Brooks' latest New York Times column at Starbucks this morning. It was hard not to recognize myself in Brooks' withering takedown of today's smug, elitist, psuedo-intellectual, poseur, wannabe, (liberal) tastesmakers (or as a poster here recently referred to us "the smugnoscenti"). Per Brooks:

...prestige has shifted from the producer of art to the aggregator and the appraiser. Inventors, artists and writers come and go, but buzz is forever. Maximum status goes to the Gladwellian heroes who occupy the convergence points of the Internet infosystem — Web sites like Pitchfork for music, Gizmodo for gadgets, Bookforum for ideas, etc.

These tastemakers surf the obscure niches of the culture market bringing back fashion-forward nuggets of coolness for their throngs of grateful disciples.

While this site doesn't attract "throngs" and isn't as well-known as Pitchfork, I like to believe that's because I deliberately focus on the most obscure "nuggets of coolness," therefore establishing myself as more elite than those mass-market peddlers of pre-fabricated hipness. Far from being a blemish on my prestige, I consider this site's extremely low readership a mark of honor. And you, my grateful disciples, should congratulate yourself for having the discerning taste that allowed you to stumble upon my words and the "nuggets of coolness" with which I bless you in order to bolster my own sense of hipness.

But I digress, Brooks continues:

Second, in order to cement your status in the cultural elite, you want to be already sick of everything no one else has even heard of.

By this measure my status among the cultural elite is virtually assured. Not only am I already sick of everything no one else has heard of, I've rediscovered the hidden coolness in the things my cultural lessers have gotten sick of (stay tuned for my series of posts on how Britney's genius was misunderstood by the coarse vulgarians who once embraced her).

When you first come across some obscure cultural artifact — an unknown indie band, organic skate sneakers or wireless headphones from Finland — you will want to erupt with ecstatic enthusiasm. This will highlight the importance of your cultural discovery, the fineness of your discerning taste, and your early adopter insiderness for having found it before anyone else.

[Sigh] Wireless skate sneakers from Finland are so ten minutes ago, but I suppose that's the price you pay when your writing is tied to the horse and buggy that is print journalism.

Then, a few weeks later, after the object is slightly better known, you will dismiss all the hype with a gesture of putrid disgust. This will demonstrate your lofty superiority to the sluggish masses. It will show how far ahead of the crowd you are and how distantly you have already ventured into the future.

If you can do this, becoming not only an early adopter, but an early discarder, you will realize greater status rewards than you ever imagined. Remember, cultural epochs come and go, but one-upsmanship is forever.

It's not often I agree with Brooks, but I think he's got me pretty well nailed here. There's little I can say in my own defense. I feel nothing but putrid disgust for myself. David Brooks has forced me to come face-to-face with the fact that I'm a smug asshole. Touché, Mr. Brooks, touché.

I had always considered this site a harmless diversion from work and my other responsibilities, but Brooks has helped me see my actions in a new light. I found refuge in sharing my forgotten "nuggets of coolness" in much the same way Brooks' real (Republican) Americans find refuge from the everyday in NASCAR (or whatever it is Brooks believes real Americans enjoy doing these days). But I now see the error of my ways.

I will say one small, possibly inconsequential, thing in my defense: As annoying as I may be, nothing I've ever written on this blog has directly or indirectly contributed to an innocent person losing his or her life. My words didn't help lead us into an ill-conceived and disastrous war. Unlike the infinitely humble David Brooks, I may be a smug asshole, but I can sleep soundly at night knowing that I've never written a word that has resulted in a daughter losing her father, a husband his wife, or a mother her son. How Brooks sleeps is his own business, but beyond my comprehension.

Perhaps this is a good time to announce that I'm going on vacation. Check back for more "nuggets of coolness" like these from June Christy and George Jones delivered (as always) with a heapin' helpin' of smug condescension the week of August 25th.

June Christy - Kicks [right click to download]
George Jones - Play It Cool [right click to download]


andrew123 said...

Yes,I always considered this site a harmless diversion from work and my other responsibilities, but Brooks has helped me see my actions in a new light.
Thanks for useful posting .

wireless stereo headphones

Anonymous said...

My mom like brooks. I think he's an asshole.