Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Left's Malignant Narcissism

Over at MSNBC they aren’t even pretending to be journalists any more.

As the network continues to enjoy bad ratings its tone becomes more shrill.

Chris Matthews is competing for the honor of being the most shrill. Matthews called Mitt Romney’s speech and the Republican convention: “very dark, very jingoistic, very anti-scientific…” even “piggish.”

Of course, it didn’t much matter because no one was watching MSNBC anyway. The major networks were not doing much better. They were all beaten by Fox News, which garnered the lion’s share of viewers.

Doubtless, they are now even more convinced of the vast right wing conspiracy.

Perhaps it was because the people watching a Republican convention were more likely to lean right, but Fox was also offering fair coverage and balanced commentary.

There is more diversity of opinion on Fox News than there is at MSNBC or even on the New York Times op-ed page.

MSNBC, in particular, is functioning like an echo chamber for people who cannot bear to hear an opinion that does not sound just like theirs.

If you will pardon a brief excursion into diagnostics, such at attitude bespeaks a malignant narcissism.

Allow me to explain. In Greek mythology Narcissus, the youth who gave his name to narcissism, was loved by a nymph named Echo.

For reasons we do not need to elaborate Echo was cursed to echo whatever was said to her. Whatever he said she echoed. It’s almost as though she was training to be a therapist.

The relationship between Narcissus and Echo was neither fulfilling nor consummated. Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a lake, and, trying to embrace it, drowned. Echo pined away for Narcissus.

When people are only willing to listen to ideas that confirm their own opinions, they are, I would say, narcissists.

They have no use for people who think differently.

Liberals listening to liberal media received constant confirmation of their own personal prejudices.

Nowadays, they are in panic mode. In their heart they know that Obama is going to lose, and with the loss, their own claims to power and authority will be discredited.

Only Michael Moore had the courage to tell his supporters to get ready for President Romney. When Michael Moore is the voice of reason, liberals have a problem—pathological narcissism, by my lights.

And then there is David Brooks. To believe Roger Simon, Brooks’ sojourn at the New York Times is not working out very well.

In one sense, it is working out great for Brooks. He is enjoying the prestige that comes from being a Times columnist.

In another, he is suffering the influence of the Times. Simon explains:

Consciously and unconsciously, he writes with a gun to his back or, perhaps more accurately, a fog machine blowing across the back of his brain and up through his occipital lobe while some barely heard hypnotic voice recites “remember not to go too far… remember not to go too far… contradict… contradict….

There is an especially pungent irony here. Brooks fashions himself as something of an authority on cognitive neuroscience. He believes that he actually knows something about what motivates people.

And yet, he seems blissfully unaware of the fact that he has been churning out drivel that echoes the thinking of the people who surround him.

Simon’s remarks were elicited by a column Brooks wrote yesterday. It’s called: “A Nation of Strivers.”

Intellectually, the column is a calamity. Believing that he is a deep thinker, Brooks takes it upon himself to define nothing less than America.

In his words:

America was built by materialistic and sometimes superficial strivers. It was built by pioneers who voluntarily subjected themselves to stone-age conditions on the frontier fired by dreams of riches. It was built by immigrants who crammed themselves into hellish tenements because they thought it would lead, for their children, to big houses, big cars and big lives.

One does not know where to start.

This charge has often been made against Americans. It is slander, an effort to diminish and demean the nation and its people.

Americans worked hard because they believed that it was virtuous to work hard. But Americans also loved their country. Many of them were fiercely patriotic, willing to sacrifice everything for their country.

People from around the world wanted to come to America because they believed that America would give everyone a fair shake. They knew that in America everyone played by the same rules.

America’s Founding Fathers were not “superficial strivers.” The men who went to war to end slavery were not “superficial strivers.” They greatest generation was not made up of “superficial strivers…” except in the minds of the intellectual elites who did not like the reduced status that a great military and industrial hegemon granted to them.

Americans love their country. In particular, Republicans believe that America is an exceptional country.

After denouncing Americans as “materialistic and sometimes superficial strivers” he goes on to criticize the Republican convention for its emphasis on what he calls its “hyperindividualism.”

In his words:

It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.

Perhaps Brooks was watching the convention on MSNBC, because he is clearly lost.

Roger Simon responds:

On Thursday evening, one after the other private citizen came forth to testify to Mitt Romney’s extraordinary personal charity and deep community spirit. I have never seen anything like it at a convention, Republican or Democrat. I don’t know if you would call it Burkean, but you would certainly call it eminently decent and highly laudable.

On the one side you have Mitt Romney, a man who seems like the ultimate organization man, a man who seemed to some to be a throwback to the community-minded spirit of the 1950s, a man who had served his community and his business and his friends, a man who has five children, five daughters-in-law and scads of grandchildren… being denounced by David Brooks as hyperindividualistic.

Where was Brooks when we heard the oft-reported story of what happened at Bain Capital when the daughter of one of the executives went missing in New York?

Mitt Romney closed up the company and took everyone down to New York to find the girl. Within a couple of days they succeeded… and David Brooks has the gall to say that the man and the Republican Party that celebrated him was filled with hyperindividualistic “superficial strivers.”

If Brooks were looking for a real hyperindividualist he could have looked toward Barack Obama. Isn’t Barack Obama one-of-a-kind, a unique individual, sui generis? How often have we seen Obama fail to lead, fail to negotiate, fail to make deals… because he prefers to govern as a hyperindividualist, by executive decree.

Republicans want to bring back the times when everyone could compete fairly and enjoy the rewards that they earned. They wanted everyone to be back in the game.

Governor after governor testified at the Republican convention to the effectiveness of policies that allowed them to dig their states out of debt. Where was David Brooks when this was happening?

There is nothing superficial about striving in the arena. It’s better than being forced to play a part in someone else’s narrative.

Republicans oppose the Obama program because it has made it more and more difficult to compete in the arena. It is forcing them to become bit players in a narrative that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is imposing on them.

In the Obama narrative, it’s not the striving or the work or the ability that counts. It’s not about giving everyone a fair shot on a level playing field. It’s about rigging the system to privilege some activities over others and in order to produce the right outcomes.

Republicans want to get back in the game. They want to save the nation from the narrative that Barack Obama and David Brooks want to consign them to.

Compare two representatives of their parties: Mia Love with Sandra Fluke.

Both are thirty-year old women. Love is married, with two children. She has devoted her life to public service. She is mayor of a city in Utah and is running for the United States Congress.

She was a star of the Republican convention. Is she a materialistic and superficial striver?

Sandra Fluke just graduated law school. She made her name and established her influence as a political activist by militating for free birth control pills.

In effect, Fluke is not interested in competing in any arena. She is too busy duping young women into voting for Obama ... for the price of the $8 a month it costs to buy birth control pills.

Love wants all Americans to be able to participate freely in the great game of America. Fluke wants them to sell themselves for  free birth control pills.


JP said...

Well, one positive aspect of the Mormon church is that it basically requires a certain amount of community involvement. Basically as a box that has to be checked in order to qualify as a "basic Mormon" and Romney was required to continue to perform this.

So, even if he was inclined to be "hyperindividualistic" he still has unavoidable obligations to community.

philwynk said...

David Brooks complains that community was left out of the Republican view. He is, indeed, becoming infected with the dementia surrounding him.

Like so much of that about which the Left lectures, we are annoyed by the lecture, not because it is false, but because it is trivial. The Left wants to elevate community because they think it is something they recently discovered, like pre-teens who have just discovered World Peace. Republicans do not yap about community, not because they do not believe in it, but because it is so deeply embedded in the fabric of their being that yapping about it would be fatuous.

One does not go about waving what one does for the community like a flag, to win points. One does not, as Jesus said, "sound a trumpet before you, like the hypocrites do in the synagogues, so that they will be honored by men." One simply does it. It's part of life.

The greedy, self-involved Republican fat cat is an invention of the fervid, progressive mind. Such people seldom exist; and when they do, more than likely they're Democrats. The rest of us speak of individual responsibility because it's taken such a beating in our culture, but the community that we call home is something we take as a given. We don't ignore it, and we don't imagine it does not exist; we simply take it for granted, because we all know that it's our bedrock.

David Brooks probably understood that once. He should leave the Times. After a few months of recovery, he'll probably remember that he did.

Sam L. said...

I used to be slightly concerned because I couldn't keep straight the difference between David Brock and David Brooks. Having now found there is no real difference, my mind is at ease.

You say of Brooks, " He is enjoying the prestige that comes from being a Times columnist." And he doesn't seem to know the disdain that many have for Times columnists. He may not be as bad as Paullie "The Beard" Krugman, but he's catching up.