David Brooks is in the weeds


After reading David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times, I have a theory.

It was minutes before deadline, and what with all the holiday doings, David Brooks had put off writing his column. Sitting at his desk New Year’s Day, suffering from a hangover, he had nothing. The phone was ringing, his editor wondering where the damn copy is.  He panicked. But instead of pulling up some evergreen story he kept in his hip pocket for days like this, he typed up a dimly remembered “Just Say No” lecture and hit send.

It’s got everything you remember from the most laughable hygiene class anti-drug “rap session” (or a “very special episode” of a Reagan-era sitcom). First, he tries to establish his “I was cool once, really” bona fides: he opens by admitting he used to get high. Why, he even has fond memories of those days—proving, I guess, that pot does not impair memory. At least if you’re David Brooks. But then, David Brooks, and his pot-smoking pals, whose  bro-ship had been deepened by their group inhalations—giggling conspiratorially whenever Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” came on the radio, and dreaming how cool it will be when they can light up pipes with real tobacco—came to their senses and stopped smoking that weed.


And David Brooks is a Very Serious Person, sitting on his perch on the Times’ Op-Ed Pages, handing down advice to those unlucky enough not to be David Brooks. While getting high with his buds was fun, but it was not for Very Serious Personages such as himself. As everyone who is David Brooks knows, the whole point of getting stoned is to act really stupid. Even worse,  David Brooks had a traumatic experience while stoned. He tried to give a book report and was “incapable of putting together simple phrases,” which left him feeling like “a total loser.” It’s a memory that haunts him to do this day (more proof that weed doesn’t affect memory…It’s also odd that a man who lives in fear of being depantsed  while delivering his thoughts to a large audience would become a NYTimes Op-Ed columnist).

But not everyone is David Brooks, unable to develop “higher pleasures.”

(I’ll leave that phrase hanging for a moment, so you can appreciate its unintended beauty.)

They can’t comprehend  Very Serious Ideas, because they haven’t become “integrated and interesting.” So David Brooks has come up with a theory: “Weed Was Fine for Me But Not For Thee.” Since David Brooks has smoked the wacky tabacky and decided it wasn’t for him, it’s not for you either. People should seek out more David Brooks-approved,  “uplifting forms of pleasure.”

(again, I’ll leave you a second to again admire his tin ear)

So of course the new laws legalizing pot in  Colorado and Washington State have David Brooks very worried. After all, not everyone has had the benefit of being David Brooks, or even reading him, and some of them might go to a dispensary, and buy weed just as easily as David Brooks buys a martini. David Brooks wants them to be discouraged.

More than the condescending attitude (which comes with the territory when you’re reading David Brooks), is the way he embraces the worst aspects of nanny state conservatism.  For the column’s kicker,  he’s forced to admit that even though Colorado and Washington are “enhancing personal freedom,” it’s not a freedom David Brooks thinks you should have. They’re also enhancing a “moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

I may not be the person I wanted to be, but I’m glad I’m not a small-minded person like David Brooks.




















About Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS. He currently edits Obitmagazine.com. View all posts by Steven Mirkin

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