What Are They Smoking At the New York Times That They Allow David Brooks to Keep Writing?



There are two things everyone is talking about today. Two very important things. There’s the snow in New York. There’s a lot of it. You can blame de Blasio for that. And don’t go soft on him just because he shovels his own sidewalk. All that means is that he’s a homeowner. Socialist? Yeah, right. More like snow-cialist. Because of, you know, all the snow. Anyway. Also, weed. Everyone is also talking about weed today because New York Times columnist David Brooks confessed today that the rumors were true! He once had sex. Oh, wait. No. That hasn’t been verified. He used to smoke weed! And unlike so many other potheads, Brooks lived to tell about it.

Brooks gets right to the point: “For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.” Yes. I know. It’s pretty scary to have to seriously consider not only what Brooks looked like as a teenager or that he ever had friends, but also that he unironically used the word “frolic” to refer to his drug-induced actions. At least he didn’t talk about his “shenanigans” or about being “hepped up on goofballs,” but that’s only because Brooks isn’t even close to being as cool as Ned Flanders. Not even close.

No, Brooks isn’t cool at all, despite having dabbled in recreational drug use. Brooks is the kind of person who likes to talk about that one time that he gave a high school English class presentation when he was stoned and it, like, totally did not go over well. In fact, it went so poorly that Brooks didn’t even get into the University of Chicago, and then he didn’t have a successful career, including teaching at Yale having a twice-weekly platform at the New York Times from which he can do things including recycling ideas from his students and condemn the legalization of marijuana. Except wait, Brooks has done all those things. He does have a successful career, baffling though it may be. In fact, Brooks really didn’t suffer any consequences at all during his “frolics.” No, Brooks escaped scott-free, even after he was pulled over by a cop while driving high. Brooks doesn’t mention that in his column, but—lucky for us!—Gary Greenberg*, one of Brooks’s stoner friends, wrote a blog post today expanding a bit on what happened back in those halcyon days. Greenberg (who still smokes pot) is pretty sure that he knows why Brooks quit, and recalls the night that they were driving in Brooks’s mom’s Vista Cruiser and got pulled over. Brooks “pulled himself together then. He didn’t beg for mercy or fight with the cop. Somehow he knew exactly how to go all bar mitzvah boy, how to talk to authority, how to flatter and impress and toady, even stoned to the gills, like his inner Eddie Haskell was deeper down than the pot could get. And it worked. The cop let us go, told us we were lucky he knew Dave and that we were white kids from Radnor, and later on, at the pizza house taking care of our munchies, chattering and cackling over our good luck and trying to figure out how Dave and the cop knew each other, busting on him for being a narc, Dave was quiet and pale and barely touched his hoagie.”

Yeah, that’s right. Dave Brooks (of course he’s really a Dave) got scared straight, and he wants to save the rest of America’s youth from the dangerous path that he had started to go down. Except, you know, Brooks was never really in any danger, because, as the cop pointed out, he was white. What Brooks doesn’t talk about as he rails against weed and its legalization is that one of the major reasons that people have pushed to decriminalize marijuana is that African-Americans have been overwhelmingly disproportionately arrested for possession. It’s all utterly stupid well and good for Brooks to warn his readers that marijuana gets in the way of being ” funnier or more creative” (because who doesn’t want to take advice on humor and creativity from David Brooks?), but to ignore the fact that the most Brooks ever personally risked because of pot’s illegality was a poor grade on an English project is not just obtuse, it’s outright offensive.

Brooks has been roundly—and deservedly!—mocked across the Internet today, not only because of the disingenuous tone he strikes when talking about his past drug use, but also because he genuinely doesn’t seem to recognize that in place of the weed use that he details, someone else could just as easily talk about their past alcohol use or, really, just about any other drug. And it is also absurd that Brooks doesn’t mention the race gap that exists when it comes to drug arrests, it is not surprising. Brooks has never seemed to care to look far outside his own bubble of existence, which is maybe just a requirement to being at Times Op-Ed columnist? (See also: Tom Friedman) But what is perhaps most unsettling here is that this column was even green-lighted by anyone else at the Times. Didn’t anyone else read it, pause, and think that it was indefensibly and risibly stupid? Like, stupidity on par with Tina Brown’s tweet that legalizing pot will make us a “fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese,” which is very, very stupid. I can’t really blame Brooks for writing this and being the weasel that he is, but I can certainly blame the Times for continuing to publish this crap. And I can also blame Paul Krugman for taking the week off. Wherever Krugman is, though, I bet he’s smoking something good.

*Turns out the Greenberg thing was a hoax. But, you know, oh well. Brooks is still a weaselly narc who could have gotten out of anything because he was a well-off, white kid.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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