Why Is Everyone Mocking David Brooks Today?

Solent News/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA

David Brooks writes today about ways the upper middle class dotes on its own children but denies working class children the same opportunities. He provides two examples: residential zoning restrictions and the “college admissions game.” Fine. But then he says that informal barriers might be even more important:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

….To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

This has come under enormous mockery from liberal Twitter. Can someone please tell me why? I can’t think of a single word in this excerpt that deserves it.

If I were to criticize Brooks’s column, it would be only on grounds of chestnutitude. This is city-mouse-country-mouse stuff, and it’s not only been a feature of every society ever in human history, it’s been the theme of widely-read tales for at least several millennia. Like, um, “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” allegedly composed by Aesop around 600 BCE.¹ The problem it describes is neither especially American nor especially 21st century.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with pointing it out again. I’m not sure there’s much we can do about these kinds of informal barriers, but it’s surely worthwhile to at least acknowledge them every once in a while.

¹See also: The Prince and the Pauper, Trading Places, Pygmalion, The Quincunx, Poor Folk, Upstairs Downstairs, and thousands of others.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.