New York Times columnist David Brooks is one of the more effective conservative commentators, in that he is a master at making outrageous arguments with a professorial elan that suggests careful thought and balanced reasoning. And then you listen to what he's really saying ...
He's at his ludicrous -- and seemingly persuasive -- best when making arguments about gender, as when he blamed feminists for ruining fiction for boys. Slippery as he is, it is exceptionally satisfying when he finds himself wrong-footed by those inconvenient little things we call facts.
The most recent example was a July 10 column titled "The New Lone Rangers," where he argued that a recent rash of pop songs -- Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," "U + Ur Hand" by Pink and "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne -- suggested an alarming new cultural trend toward feminine rage:
"If you put the songs together, you see they're about the same sort of character: a character who would have been socially unacceptable in a megahit pop song 10, let alone 30 years ago."
This character is hard-boiled, foul-mouthed, fedup, emotionally self-sufficient and unforgiving. She's like one of those battle-hardened combat vets, who's had the sentimentality beaten out of her and who no longer has time for romance or etiquette. She's disgusted by male idiots and contemptuous of the feminine flirts who cater to them."
Yeah, well, there's nothing more unattractive than a pissed off woman, or more pathetic, as Brooks concludes, "The angry young women on the radio these days are not the first pop stars to romanticize independence for audiences desperate for companionship."
Brooks really means "socially unacceptable" in a woman and he's only talking the women in the audience, who are naturally "desperate for companionship," but he never says so explicitly, butsimply never mentions similar songs by male artists. Angry men in pop music? Unthinkable! And men angry at women? Fuggedaboutit! This is clearly one of those "female problems."
A number of liberal bloggers took Brooks to task for his column, but few seem to have noticed that each one of these songs were written primarily by men: Josh Kear-Chris Tompkins wrote "Before He Cheats"; Luke Gottwald, Max Martin, and Rami wrote "U + Ur Hand"; and "Girfriend" was co-written with Luke Gottwald, or more likely entirely so given Lavigne's suspect songwriting creds.
Say it aint' so, David.