Troglodytes, Weasels and Young Turks
I’m a leftist, but I have a weakness for my brothers and sisters on the right. For some reason, I’m compelled to see what troglodytes like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly are thinking. They’re all quite entertaining as they do their best to un-man Barack Obama and advocate day-in, day-out for war with Islam. They are masters of malicious fog.
Then there’s a writer like New York Times columnist David Brooks, a man who must sit around observing current events until he figures out a safe, center-right position he can express in the most reasonable, muddled language possible. Reading David Brooks is like trying to get a grip on jello.
In this current political swamp there’s also writers like Cenk Uygur, a Turkish naturalized US citizen who left the Muslim religion behind to become an on-line journalist. He did a stint with MSNBC and now is the main man on The Young Turks show. Once a Republican, he's moved left to the progressive side. His recent effort at clarity concerning the question whether “Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas” was brilliant. The topic was a TV exchange among Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Ben Affleck. Harris made the "motherlode" remark. Maher compared Islam to the Mafia. A pissed-off Affleck said they were both talking bigotry.
Brooks’ October 3rd column was called “The Problem With Pragmatism.” Annoyed at “people who try to govern without philosophic or literary depth,” Brooks linked Liberalism with Pragmatism and, with some help from Lewis Mumford and an essay in the 1950s New Republic magazine, trashed pragmatism as not up to speed for our moment in history, a moment suddenly taken over by more military adventure in the Islam-saturated deserts of Iraq and Syria. Citing Mumford, Brooks writes of our national mission and how “only people with an aroused moral sense will be properly mobilized to stand up for humanity.”
Lewis Mumford seems an odd inspiration for Brooks’ soft, center-right paean to our current moral mission. Mumford wrote a lot about cities and architecture. He felt human communication, more than the use of tools, was the secret of human advancement. One imagines he would be appalled how secrecy now impedes so much human communication. Mumford was critical of advertising and marketing and of the growing use of credit -- all now on steroids in the holy pursuit of corporate profit. He didn’t like things like built-in obsolescence and product changes based on superficial fashion; again, fundamentals of our dysfunctional national condition. Mumford advocated well-made products that would last and be re-used by succeeding generations. He advocated biodiversity. He is said to have influenced people like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan. How such a writer could be critical of pragmatism I can’t fathom.