Journal: Brooks on Assange, Others on Brooks

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EDIT of 5 Dec 2010 to add commentaries by various others.

David Brooks

Op-Ed Columnist

The Fragile Community


Published: November 29, 2010

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had moved 37 times by the time he reached his 14th birthday. His mother didn’t enroll him in the local schools because, as Raffi Khatchadourian wrote in a New Yorker profile, she feared “that formal education would inculcate an unhealthy respect for authority.”

. . . . . . .

She needn’t have worried. As a young computer hacker, he formed a group called International Subversives. As an adult, he wrote “Conspiracy as Governance,” a pseudo-intellectual online diatribe. He talks of vast “patronage networks” that constrain the human spirit.

Far from respecting authority, Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist who believes that all ruling institutions are corrupt and public pronouncements are lies.

Read the rest of this revealing assessment….

Phi Beta Iota: We like David Brooks.  He's less submissive than David Ignatius, less pretentious than Fareed Zakaria, and generally has something interesting to say.  In this piece, most revealingly, he displays his limitations to the fullest.  We are quite certain that David Brooks means well, but the depth of his naivete in this piece is nothing short of astonishing.  The below lists of lists of book reviews will suffice to demonstrate that David Brooks is not as well-read as he needs to be, not as intellectual as he pretends to be, and not at all accurate in his assessment of Julian Assange.  We share with Steven Aftergood of Federation of American Scientists (FAS) concerns about Assange's judgment in releasing some materials that are gratuitous invasions of rightful privacy, but we also believe that Assange is finding his groove, and the recent cover story in Forbes captures that essence.  WikiLeaks is an antidote to corporate fascism and elective Empire run amok.  It meets a need.

Other Commentaries on the Same Article:

Ben Levi

Hi John,
I would enjoy a dialogue on the ideas Brooks has put forth. Here are some initial thoughts:

  • Brooks is still advocating “leading behind borders” (basically a Blue paradigm)… e.g. “You can’t organize a movement like this around pain  —  around tax increases and spending cuts. But you can organize one around a broad revitalization agenda, and, above all, love of country. It will take a revived patriotism to motivate Americans to do what needs to be done. It will take a revived patriotism to lift people out of their partisan cliques. How can you love your country if you hate the other half of it?… The coming movement may be a third party or it may support serious people in the existing two. Its goal will be unapologetic: preserving American pre-eminence. It will preserve America’s standing in the world on the grounds that this supremacy is a gift to our children and a blessing for the earth.”
  • Clearly we need evolved forms of governance and vision that are focused not just on pride of country, but on pride of being a part of the first self-aware species of homo sapiens on the planet, and the responsibility we have to steward that awareness for the future generations of all humans, as well as all the species on the planet. That’s the level of focus we need to put forth, not that the U.S. be the self-proclaimed “hegemon” on the planet… that train has pretty much left the station (and rightly so, given the inevitable evolution of all the other countries). So many movements (including the Islamic ideologues) want to “recover” the memory of a better, brighter, more powerful version of themselves. Clearly those eras arose in a certain set of life conditions with a certain level of complexity that was left behind a long time ago. In order to continue to evolve, we must continually evolve our thinking so that it can manage the problems of existence caused by those previous systems (and the current one). That thinking is clearly global-centric, not U.S.-centric.
  • Don Beck reminds us of the adage that “articulating what you don’t want is a very different thing than articulating what you do want. The energy around what the country doesn’t want is palpably clear… what is not at all clear is whether the movement united against the current trajectory has any sense of being united on the trajectory it would like to see implemented.
  • Lastly, we’re in an epoch of transformational, 2nd Order Change. This is very scary for any entrenched political system that wants to maintain its own existence (and power — thus the fight between Democrats and Republicans on who has greater influence on the strings of power). We’re headed for a Gamma Trap (if we’re not in it already), and the only way is through it to a new way of governing ourselves and the planet… not going back to try to recover the dominant American “dream” of being the pre-eminent “meme” on earth.
  • All that said… here’s one idea: Gather together the aides of the most powerful and most 2nd-tier thinking people on the planet (the aides, because they will also hopefully resonate with their boss’ values, and because they are easier to get together) for a series of conversations on how to utilize the power they have to serve this larger global-centric vision (which hopefully all these leaders have in some form or another). One of the first areas of inquiry could be to examine how to counter-act the huge powerful forces of inertia which want to keep the status quo going (many of these are part of the military-industrial-congressional complex which is responsible for continuing the medium-level violent conflicts around the world… connecting in with the ‘Give Peace a Deadline’ folks).
  • Another topic for dialogue: how to strengthen the “radical middle” message in the media (and thus the public), and reduce the “radical flamethrowers” whose messages are dominating the media coverage these days (an unhealthy expression of the Green v-meme: “everyone’s perspective is valid”). All this has to do with the media’s meme of drama/conflict being more important (and more revenue-generating) than the meme of constructive solutions. I’m sure other topics of conversation will naturally arise as well.


“…in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.” — Matt Taibbi

Lawry Chickering

Ben's meditation on Brooks implicitly raises interesting questions about how transpartisans want to position themselves (ourselves) in the current political debate. One of the questions has to do with whether we will be able to move beyond the dominant dualistic assumptions that institutionalize conflict into every subject, or whether we will be able to engage people — especially people who share at least our basic commitment to reduce conflict, like Brooks — in ways that build on what we agree about rather than disagree about. A second issue is whether we want to engage the mainstream political debate at all,or whether we want to move away from it, embracing the purity of a vision that only the anointed will appreciate.

Brooks' effort, I believe, is deeply in the spirit of what transpartisans are about by analyzing a deeply conflicted situation and trying to find reasons, drawn from the mainstream debate, for bringing people together. His idea may or may not work. However, I think it should be judged not as an end, but as a means to bring people together. While I agree entirely with Ben's point about the highest ideal here, I doubt many people will disagree that his point is entirely detached from the mainstream debate and has no chance whatever to influence it.

The point is that there are two very different functions serving two very different purposes here. Both are right, in my view. But I think we need to be clear about what we are doing and what we are not doing when we speak on subjects like this. Especially I think we need to be cautious about reaching from one conversation into the other, implicitly depreciating the very idea that there are two conversations.

I would like to conclude by throwing out a subject that interests me very much and troubles me very much. I am referring to the dualistic habits of thoughts that are very difficult to avoid, even for people calling themselves transpartisans. I am concerned that the entire habit of color-coding people, drawn from Spiral Dynamics, itself comes out of Western dualism; and especially when the color-coding is used to put people down and to show that some people are “better” or “higher” than other people violates the deepest values that I think all real transpartisans share. Working as I do in the most traditional parts of tribal India (in the state of Rajasthan), I can say that our experiences absolutely refute >the idea of any linear grading system such as Spiral Dynamics' color-coding.

Hope this is useful.  Lawry

Robert Steele

Ben Levi's piece was helpful in that I continue to see a lack of structure across all reformist movements: if they don't have public intelligence, public policy, and public budget oversight networks that are holistic, pervasive, and persistent, they are nothing more than kum ba ya circles writ large….IMHO.

John Miller

I agree as to Spiral Dynamics. Some interesting insights, but dangerously over-generalized conclusions. As a longtime student of “evolution of consciousness” I see much more mystery than simplicity. I also share the concern that, while transpartisans argue fine points, the bus of change is departing and we will be left standing at the curb to continue our deliberations. Still, ever hopeful!  John

Lawry Chickering

You are right that I compressed much too much simplicity in my throwaway line about SD.  I am a student of “evolution of consciousness” too (partly from Rudolf Steiner), but the mystery, for me, has been mitigated by a combination of quantum logic from the new physics and experiences working in nearly 2,500 schools in Rajasthan with no variations in the pattern of response from any school — not a single one.  (The most important phrase in that last sentence is “the pattern of”, honoring the “uncertainty principle”.)  Lawry

Jeff Golden

Let me toss one elaborated idea into the conversation. It's been rattling around for me, and the Brooks material that John circulated helped pry it out into the world.   It's probably not the “match” you're looking for, at least in the fiery way we think of matches.  And it doesn't remotely pretend to be a comprehensive answer.  It is instead a doggedly non-theoretical, very simple (some will say ‘simplistic,' among other things) idea the deepest intent of which is to flip a switch, to shift dramatically the way we think about ourselves, our generation, America, Americans.  It tries to tiptoe up on the enormous crisis we're talking about instead of grabbing it frontally by it sharp daunting horns.  All feedback appreciated.   Jeff G

Robert Steele

Jeff's comment triggers what I think is the answer: the transpartisan and postpartisan movements, and No Label and America Elect and efforts, are all trying to do the wrong thing righter instead of the right thing (Russell Ackoff).  They are not, as Tom Atlee has written so beautifully, changing the game.  I am told Obama is not listening to anyone–I certainly hope he is not just treading water until his lucrative retirement as yet another President on the public dole who also gets richly rewarded by Wall Street for “going along.”  We have a chance to change the game, and I believe it starts with taking Joe Trippi's Big Bat to the next level (100 million giving $5 each) while implementing the public intelligence, public policy, and public budget oversight networks that Medard Gabel and I and others have visualized within the Earth Intelligence Network (a 501c3).  We have the vision, but we don't have the traction.  Electoral Reform, a Coalition Cabinet, and an end to the two-party tyranny that has corrupted the Republic beyond recognition as a democracy.  We must restore what Buckminster Fuller called Ideas & Integrities.  Electoral Reform is the center of gravity, the ONLY place where we can all do as Jeff suggests, and Francis Moore Lappe has written: get a grip!  To this I devote myself.  To this I devote myself.

See Also Lists of Book Reviews Bearing on Topic:


Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corruption
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Defense)
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Health)
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Dereliction of Duty (Other Than Defense)
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Disinformation, Other Information Pathologies, & Repression
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Empire as Cancer Including Betrayal & Deceit
Worth a Look: Impeachable Offenses, Modern & Historic
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Institutionalized Ineptitude
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Lack Of)
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Theocracy


Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Bankruptcy of US Economy, Federal Reserve Malfeasance
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Blue Collar
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Class War (Global)
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate & Transnational Crime
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Corporate Lack of Integrity or Intelligence or Both
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Elite Rule
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Middle Class
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Poisons, Toxicity, Trash, & True Cost
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Poverty
Worth a Look: Book Reviews on War Complex—War as a Racket

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