|Of course four-star sheriff Clarke, with his Soviet-style chestful of fake medals and murderous record as a jail manager, is literally a worse person than Brooks in most ways. Image via Wonkette.|
BREAKING: We have a David Brooks Plagiarism Watch situation ("The Alienated Mind"), where former New York Times columnist David Brooks appears, not for the first time, to be committing the same infraction Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke just got busted for.
Alienation, the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote, is a “state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.”Paragraph 6:
As Yuval Levin argues in a brilliant essay in Modern Age, “Alienation can sometimes make for a powerful organizing principle for an electoral coalition. … But it does not make for a natural organizing principle for a governing coalition.”Yuval Levin, "Conservatism in an Age of Alienation"
“Alienated” need not be a putrid, Marxist designation. The great twentieth-century sociologist Robert Nisbet defined alienation as “the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.” This is precisely how Trump and many of his most vocal supporters frequently spoke about America over the past year.What Clarke was busted for being, as you'll recall, that he'd lifted 47 passages from other writers without crediting them (in his 2013 master's thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School), even though he did credit the authors for other passages cited elsewhere in the thesis, which he seemed to think made it all OK: "only someone with a political agenda would say this is plagiarism," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but it seems unlikely that the Naval Postgraduate School ethics guidelines were composed with a political agenda). This is precisely what Brooks does when he presents the Nisbet quote early in the column as if he'd picked it up directly out of Nisbet's 1953 The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom and then, a bit later, cites the source he actually got it from, as if turning spontaneously from the Nisbet book to Levin's article. We've seen Brooks doing this before.
Some more, at a more conceptual level (Brooks takes the ideas and flattens the expression into the gentle Brooskian burble):
The alienated are a hodgepodge of disparate groups. They have no positive agenda beyond the sort of fake shiny objects Trump ran on (Build a Wall!).Levin:
Ryszard Legutko, a brilliant observer of modern democracy, noted that the American election revealed two subnations within our political culture:
On the one side there is the Obama-Clinton America claiming to represent what is best in the modern politics, more or less united by a clear left-wing agenda.... But there seems to exist another America, deeply dissatisfied with the first one, angry and determined, but at the same time confused and chaotic, longing for action and energy, but unsure of itself, proud of their country’s lost greatness, but having no great leaders, a strange mixture of groups and ideologies, with no clear identity or political agenda. This other America, if personified, would resemble somebody not very different from Donald Trump.Paragraph 7:
Alienation breeds a hysterical public conversation. Its public intellectuals are addicted to overstatement, sloppiness, pessimism, and despair. They are self-indulgent and self-lionizing prophets of doom who use formulations like “the Flight 93 election” — who speak of every problem as if it were the apocalypse.Levin:
The language of despair, of last chances and cliffs and abysses and crashes, has come to dominate our political talk more recently. And it was particularly prevalent this past year..... As one learned Trump backer, writing for the website of the prestigious Claremont Review of Books under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, memorably put it in September, "2016 is the Flight 93 election..."And not just from Levin:
we have a college educated elite that has found ingenious ways to make everybody else feel invisible, that has managed to transfer wealth upward to itself, that crashes the hammer of political correctness down on anybody who does not have faculty lounge views.Paragraph 2:
As Robert W. Merry put it recently in The American Conservative, “When a man as uncouth and reckless as Trump becomes president by running against the nation’s elites, it’s a strong signal that the elites are the problem.”Robert Merry, "Removing Trump Won't Solve America's Crisis":
Then there is the spectacle of the country’s financial elites goosing liquidity massively after the Great Recession to benefit themselves while slamming ordinary Americans with a resulting decline in Main Street capitalism. The unprecedented low interest rates over many years, accompanied by massive bond buying called “quantitative easing,” proved a boon for Wall Street banks and corporate America while working families lost income from their money market funds and savings accounts. The result, says economic consultant David M. Smick, author of The Great Equalizer, was “the greatest transfer of middle-class and elderly wealth to elite financial interests in the history of mankind.” ... And if they complain they find themselves confronting the forces of political correctness, bent on shutting them up and marginalizing them in the political arena.I'm pretty interested in the subject of alienation, and might like to discuss Brooks's errors in this piece as in those of the conservative colleagues he's stealing from, but it's hard to get past this stuff.