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Asian socities drive like this...
August 14, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

David Brooks, Social Psychologist, Mark Liberman at Language Log looks at the science behind David Brook's latest column in which he claims there is a fundamental differences between the thought processes of individuals in Asian "collectivist" societies and Western "individualist" ones. (via)
posted by afu (68 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
My David Brooks impression:

People in blue states eat Special K, and people in red states eat Cheerios. Until a Cheerios politician finds a way to eat Special K, and until Special K politician finds a way to Cheerios, people will never eat bagels. Also, everybody in America now lives in an exurb. This means that people drive to work and do all of their shopping at Barnes and Noble. This is why America is different from Europe. In Europe, people ride scooters. But in America, every election is decided by the people who have either already moved to, or are planning on moving to Phoenix, Arizona.
posted by billysumday at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2008 [29 favorites]


And, additionally, great link. I really, really dislike it when David Brooks pull this kind of garbage out of his ass, and it's awesome to see someone put in the time to debunk the endlessly incorrect assertions of Dr. Brooks.
posted by billysumday at 8:04 AM on August 14, 2008


Can anybody tell me why David Brooks is taken seriously. Is it entirely because other people take him seriously? The first thing I ever read by him was "One Nation, Slightly Divisible", which read better as satire of the conservative urban perspective on the rest of the country, rather than an attempt at investigating it. Since then, I haven't heard or read anything by him that convinces me that he could even bluff his way out of a parking ticket.

I would say that he's the Paris Hilton of political commentary but she recently proved that she's more convincing at pushing energy policy.
posted by ardgedee at 8:08 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


This trash is easily spread, because people find it interesting enough to forward to each other, but not interesting enough to use their critical faculties to realize what horseshit it is.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:13 AM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dr. Brooks?? Must be a classmate of Corsi's.
posted by DU at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brian: You've got to think for yourselves! You're ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
The Crowd: Shhh!
posted by chillmost at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I completely agree, of course THEY think differently than US. Otherwise, wouldn't we be monsters when we attack them? THAT IS RIDICULOUS! (and of course he doesn't LIVE on Endor, he's just visiting!)
posted by blue_beetle at 8:18 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


If there is one defining American characteristic, it is the tendency to see things as all or nothing. David Brook and the NYT reporter provide evidence for this tendency by doing it themselves.

Mark Liberman provides a much more nuanced and accurate (and therefore unAmerican?) look at the data:
If mental gymnastics were an event in the Beijing Olympics, this passage would certain qualify the authors for the medal round.
posted by eye of newt at 8:18 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was indeed a great link. And that the huge deconstruction of his nytimes article was produced in 2 days is phenomenal. You wish Liberman had as big a stage as Brooks. Misinformation is annoying because of how time consuming it is to walk down the wrong path to get people and direct them all the way back to the starting point. Then sending them in the right direction is a whole other task.
posted by cashman at 8:19 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I approached the Brooks article from the point of view of someone who thinks that languages and cultures make huge differences between thinking processes. But what crap. As I keep saying recently, I can't believe the Times prints this garbage.

The Liberman article had me in stitches, I have to say.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2008


If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank, the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim.

Dinner!
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:28 AM on August 14, 2008


confirmation bias.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2008


Brooks aside, it is true that culture affects not only perception and cognition, but also the a function and anatomy of the brain. There's a good post about this on the Neuroantrhopology blog today that reviews a new article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. (The article discussed actually cites many of Nisbett's studies, but also reviews other literature.)
posted by imposster at 8:32 AM on August 14, 2008


I've never found linguistic determinism/relativism arguments all that interesting. Person A comes along and says: Culture influences the way you think...what you say, buy, wear, eat...how you act, when you wake, sleep, exercise, and on and on. And then me, being Person B, thinks: Yeah, so?

Until we can prove some grand sweeping generalizations, such as "Americans are greedy because we eat cheese and that changes our brain chemistry, which incidentally also makes us say obnoxious things" I will continue to be unimpressed.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:45 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note that each Japanese subject actually mentioned one of the focal fish, on average, 130.32 times in describing 10 vignettes — an average of 1.3 "focal fish" mentions per vignette — while each American subject mentioned one of the focal fish merely 117.91 times on average across 10 vignettes.

Although the Japense have a higer count in the focal fish category, they have a higher count across the board for all categories - apparantly the are just more chatty when it comes to fish. So in order to compare the relative importance of the various categories to the different groups, you need to look at the percentages. And percentatge wise, the Americans did indeed mention the focal fish more often and the the backgroud objects less often than the Japenese.

Whether it is statistically significant or not, I don't know, but the analysis in the article seems incredibly flawed.
posted by jpdoane at 8:45 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dr. Brooks?? Must be a classmate of Corsi's.

Yes, by jokingly referring to David Brooks as "Dr.", I am a right-wing merchant of hate! Astute!
posted by billysumday at 8:53 AM on August 14, 2008


Brooks is a fucking idiot.
posted by trondant at 8:57 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes, by jokingly referring to David Brooks as "Dr.", I am a right-wing merchant of hate! Astute!

It's hardly worth clearing this up, but:

1) I didn't realize you were joking. I thought you were saying he really did have a degree.

2) I meant that BROOKS must be a classmate of Corsi's. I.e. that he could only get a degree from whatever irresponsible institution (*cough*harvard*cough*) gave Corsi his.
posted by DU at 8:58 AM on August 14, 2008


The Japanese people could have mentioned fish a bazillion times...they're still not Chinese people talking about fish!*

*Not that we shouldn't hold any persons who misrepresent data accountable for their errors. In this case though, we have bigger fish to fry the more important and obvious misrepresentation to contend with.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2008


And then me, being Person B, thinks: Yeah, so?

Person C: What interests me is that much attention is given to understanding the brain in terms of "what does this part do?" An oversimplified example: the Broca's area is for language production and the Wernicke's area is for language comprehension, or the right hemisphere is for music processing and the left hemisphere is for language processing. Personal experience (culture: language, writing system, music, etc.) profoundly affects our minds and how different parts of the brain are recruited for cognition. Our model of how the brain works is deeply biased by the predominance of research on Western subjects who speak Indo-European languages. Cross-cultural research is necessary to fully understand how truly plastic our minds are.
posted by imposster at 9:06 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can anybody tell me why David Brooks is taken seriously.

One wonders. My favorite TV news program is "News Hour with Jim Lehrer." I love the commentary, I love the fact that they don't focus on fluff features and celebrity bullshit the way the networks do, I love the fact that they care a lot more about what's happening outside the US. But when they have their round table discussion with Brooks, that's when I fire up the Wii or get down on the floor and play with my kid. The man rarely contributes anything that's not either transparent agenda-pushing or really just kind of dumb.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:10 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I saw the Focal Fish at my favorite pub the other night. They did a great version of "Rock Lobster".
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:11 AM on August 14, 2008


In a nation filled with buffoons masquerading as journalists Brooks, no one, not Matthews, not Friedman, not even O'Reilly can touch Brooks.
posted by any major dude at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2008


Let me rephrase that: In a nation filled with corporate shills masquerading as journalists, no one, not Matthews, not Friedman, not even O'Reilly can touch Brooks - now that Tim Russert is dead.
posted by any major dude at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked this from the article:

Those who've followed our previous discussions of David Brooks' forays into the human sciences ("David Brooks, Cognitive Neuroscientist", 6/12/2006; "David Brooks, Neuroendocrinologist", 9/17/2006) will be able to guess what's coming.

Who knew citations could be so funny.
posted by ferdydurke at 9:16 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


He tends to get goofy in his columns but when he pairs up with Mark Shields on the Newshour it is great stuff, although David Gergen was much better.
posted by caddis at 9:18 AM on August 14, 2008


My journalism experience way back in the day showed me that, yes, columnists actually wrote their columns. But I wonder about these "celebrity" journalists, among which Brooks is actually only a minor player. Do they still write their columns? Or do they have a small staff that does the heavy lifting, while Brooks is on TV?

Should we vilify these guys for bad writing, or vilify them for hiring bad writers and allowing them to write?

Either way, they can most often be vilified.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2008


Neuroantrhopology blog

Good fucking neurolord, I am neurosick of neuroeverything. Can neuropeople just cut it the neurohell out! I can't hear anything you say if you put neuro in front of it because I switch you over to the adult voice in Charlie Brown. This really suppresses my dopamine and agitates my amygdala.
posted by srboisvert at 9:24 AM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would just like to say that I was a participant in one of the university of michigan fish studies. That is all.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2008


I have no idea who David Brooks is or the author of this intellectual smackdown but it was pretty piss poorly done. Oh they used students as subjects in their test, just like every fucking psych experiment ever. Oh the proportional results support Brooks' interpretation but not the absolute results. This Brooks fellow is so stupid and I am so smart. I will write a 5000 word blogpost making fun of him like he is a Russian Commie. IN YOUR FACE
posted by norabarnacl3 at 9:58 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I grouped the cow with the hay. Does that make me Asian?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:58 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


While it is interesting to consider how culture effects the brain, I worry people will miss the larger point of such research. Undoubtedly, culture influences some aspects of behavior, but does it follow that culture influences perception? Or even cognition? Some studies imply it does, others imply it doesn't, but theoretically speaking the idea that minds are some form of 'blank slate' shaped more by nurture than nature seem pretty flawed.

Just an example - in order to acquire knowledge, one must already have some frame or schema in which to contextualize knowledge. To use a linguistic example, the human mind has certain expectations (or rule sets or categories or what have you) that allows children to learn language at a nearly alarming rate. Culture will influence what language a child ends up speaking, but the language itself is bound by certain rules - rules universal across cultures. And further, these rules are not borne out of cultural needs, but biological ones - humans are built with a facility for language as an evolutionary adaptation.

Also, and less theoretical, when people from different cultures look at a fish tank, and then deliver different descriptions, how does is follow they are perceiving differently. Do they not both see a fishtank with fish in it? Does it really look different one culture to another? How could you even begin to prove that it does?

And more on topic:

Isn't the recent rise of the Chinese economy attributable to Chinese culture embracing individualistic approaches to the marketplace?
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:04 AM on August 14, 2008


I agree with caddis and therefore disagree with middleclasstool. Brooks can be tongue in cheek, but he presents a good argument (talking about newshour commentary). And I think he's funny as fuck sometimes.
posted by punkbitch at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2008


i also agree with norbarnacl3.
posted by punkbitch at 10:09 AM on August 14, 2008


Hack. It kills me that both David Brooks and Maureen Dowd get such prime real estate in the NYTimes.

My favorite recent moment in David Brooks hackery was his column about how he had insight into how less educated, regular (white) folks felt about Obama, that they felt he wouldn't fit in at their local Applebee's salad bar, presumably because he's a an elitist. These weren't Republican talking points, you understand, this was David Brooks out pounding the pavement, giving voice to the people. But then somebody had to go and point out that Applebee's don't have salad bars, so maybe old Dave was just talking out of his ass yet again.
posted by tula at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


Oh they used students as subjects in their test, just like every fucking psych experiment ever.

That critique is psychology's equivalent to "Throughout the ages" and "Since the dawn of time".
posted by srboisvert at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2008


And Gail Collins? My god, gag me with a SPOON!
Really the whole columnist contingent needs to get run out with pitchforks and torches. (Except, of course, Bob Herbert, who should be kept on to rebuild the staff in his image.)

(and, btw, it was the Saffire and Shields pairing on news hour that was my favorite; once a week seeing saffire wax rhetorical was really wonderful.)
posted by kaibutsu at 10:51 AM on August 14, 2008


Remember those people in high school, a little above average in intelligence and socially clumsy but outgoing anyway? The ones that wanted to be on committees and always tried to answer questions in class? Ones that always seemed to feel like they had something to contribute and so pushed their way into things and mucked up the works by misunderstanding the purpose, their role, other people's role, their own value, and the importance of the task? Well, David Brooks has always struck me as one of those guys. How he got into a position of writing a regular column is beyond me. I read him for the high humor he provides.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:54 AM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Although the Japense have a higer count in the focal fish category, they have a higher count across the board for all categories - apparantly the are just more chatty when it comes to fish.

Japanese are island people - fish is their life. You'll find people from the Canary Islands, Hawaii, Iceland, and Madagascar probably equally as chatty about fish as the Japanese.

What bothers me about people like Brooks is that in their quest to understand the world - a fine cause if their ever was one - they probably came to a point where they realized that gathering data, over and over, sifting through it, turning it over, and repeating the process many, many times is actually hard work. Actual social scientists - well, any researcher, really - spend years and years doing incredibly tedious work in order to get a little bit closer to understanding something a little bit better. So, instead, Brooks and others like him will take some information, pieces from here and there, slap them together, bang out an article and inflate it to the bursting point with an authoritative tone. And the worst part is, people eat this crap up.

Fortunately, there are thinking people ready to dissect his BS, and humorously so. I only wish that sort of rebuttal got as much exposure as the original trumpet of ignorance.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:10 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


They say that individualistic societies tend to do better economically.

Then why were the richest and most productive areas of the world until c1800 in the Indian subcontinent and East Asia? (Not that much richer per person, but not poorer per person, and able to support many, many more people, which is the nature of regional wealth and productivity in the pre-modern period).
posted by jb at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2008


Isn't someone supposed to say "Christ, what an asshole?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:12 AM on August 14, 2008


(I'm interested in the idea and the findings - but I find the economic conclusions laughable given economic history looking at any respectable time-scale.)
posted by jb at 11:13 AM on August 14, 2008


Who is David Brooks, and why should I care about him enough to read a very long (and detailed) article debunking him, rather than just continuing not to give a shit what he said because I've never heard of him?
posted by Eideteker at 11:15 AM on August 14, 2008


Mental Wimp: Thomas Friedman is like that too, even more so. Whenever he's on Charlie Rose he keeps using Charlie's name, because Charlie, that's a great question Charlie, you know Charlie, it's like this, Charlie. He sounds like a slimy telemarketer, like he just came back from a weekend workshop called 'How to Sell Everyone on YOU!'
posted by tula at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2008


okay - I finished the deconstruction, and I'm a lot less interested in the idea (since it seems to be muddle of probably poppycock). But the language effect between English and Chinese is very interesting.
posted by jb at 11:22 AM on August 14, 2008


kaibutsu: "Really the whole columnist contingent needs to get run out with pitchforks and torches. (Except, of course, Bob Herbert, who should be kept on to rebuild the staff in his image.)"

Largely agree (anyone remember Abe Rosenthal?) but hands off Krugman.

imposster: Neuroantrhopology blog

Thanks, excellent link:
neuroscientists are now beginning to consider cultural effects on the neural substrates of human cognition… The meaning of ‘cultural differences’ could be extended to include not only groups with different social contexts and languages, but also groups with different religious beliefs.
and see from the same source: Today in the NY Times: Interactions or Causes? (including the Brooks article).

But can we focus on the question:

Is there any truth to the Western/Individualistic - Eastern/Collective duality, at least in historical terms?
posted by psyche7 at 11:33 AM on August 14, 2008


Remember those people in high school, a little above average in intelligence and socially clumsy but outgoing anyway? ... Well, David Brooks has always struck me as one of those guys.

After class I'm shoving Brooks in a locker. Pass it around.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can anybody tell me why David Brooks is taken seriously. Is it entirely because other people take him seriously?

Why do people take Tomas Friedman seriously? Or Maurine Dowd?
posted by delmoi at 1:00 PM on August 14, 2008


Is there any truth to the Western/Individualistic - Eastern/Collective duality, at least in historical terms?

There are lots of experiments you can do which indicate that there is some difference, with westerners being more individualistic, and easterners being more collectivist. But um

Brooks is still a moron.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on August 14, 2008


After class I'm shoving Brooks in a locker. Pass it around.

The library nerds are in.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:15 PM on August 14, 2008


James Fallows has a nice reaction to the Brooks vomitus. My own take on it, after having lived in China for years and been generally disappointed by foreign media coverage of the country, is that:

(a) Brooks came here knowing what he would write. Yellow hordes! Collectivist society! Ant-like self-abnegation!

(b) He took a not-very-remarkable observation - that there were a lot of people doing the same thing during Zhang Yimou's opening ceremonies last week - and extrapolated from that that all Chinese people must be mindless drones. By which logic, of course, Super Bowl halftime shows would show that Americans are mindless, tit-obsessed drones.
Um.
Moving on.

(c) His "Asians are more likely to see relationships" bullshit is based on the same superficial nonsense one is always hearing foreign commentators spout about "guanxi" and how it is an untranslatable concept that is somehow fundamental to the Chinese experience. (Of course, being David Brooks, he is unable to distinguish between "China" and "Asia.") This isn't totally without basis, except that "guanxi" is totally translatable (I could swear I once saw a piece that referred to "guanxi, an untranslatable word meaning 'relationships'"), and that it really isn't the end-all, be-all it's cracked up to be.

(d) Ignoring his apparent inability to distinguish between, say, "Chinese" and "Indians," much less between "Beijingnese" and "Shanghainese" or "moneyed urban Chinese" and "lower-class migrant workers," or anything of the sort, did he ever, at any point in the writing of this article, stop and think to himself, "hey, wait a minute -- I'm making essentialist generalizations about a fifth of the world's population" or anything like that?
Here's a test I wish more people would apply: when writing "the Chinese," stop for a moment and mentally replace it with "the Chinese race." if it passes that test, mentally replace it with "the blacks." If it's a generalization that you're still comfortable making, then go right ahead; otherwise some rethinking may be in order.

(e) Christ, what an asshole.
posted by bokane at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Given David Brooks, I'm surprised he didn't adduce this hoary passage as evidence for Chinese thought.

"These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies. The Bibliographical Institute of Brussels also exercises chaos: it has parceled the universe into 1,000 subdivisions..."

Not enough people recall that this passage is part of one of Borges' essays, in which fact and fiction traverse a dissolving boundary.

I am tired of reading the rubbish in the op-eds about "China." Given a nation of 1.6 billion, you could adduce almost anything by searching for the right sub-population.
posted by bad grammar at 1:59 PM on August 14, 2008


srboisvert: Good fucking neurolord, I am neurosick of neuroeverything. Can neuropeople just cut it the neurohell out! I can't hear anything you say if you put neuro in front of it because I switch you over to the adult voice in Charlie Brown. This really suppresses my dopamine and agitates my amygdala.

That's a nasty neurotic you are have, there.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:19 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


jbokay - I finished the deconstruction, and I'm a lot less interested in the idea (since it seems to be muddle of probably poppycock). But the language effect between English and Chinese is very interesting.

Definitely. Even with my almost zero acquaintance with Mandarin, I can think of two very strong semantic classifications that are implicit in the language. The first consists of "counting words", the word you need to place between number and noun. Sorry, but its been years since I have used Mandarin, so examples are hard to come by. There is a loose equivalent in English when we say things like "give me 2 packs of smokes and three rolls of toilet paper.

The second comes from how Chinese dictionaries are typically organized. A written language of 4000+ ideograms has no "alphabetical order" but is rather categorized according to a part of the character that carries (or used to carry, hundreds or thousands of years ago) semantic meaning. The radical for fire, accompanies many characters for fried dishes on menus, eg. So right away, if you're doing these tests in Chinese, its impossible to ignore this pre-existent classification scheme that comes -- free! -- with the language but may have little or no impact on cognition.

Again -- I Am Not A Linguist or Speaker of Any Chinese Language. Anyone with expertise in this, please don't hesitate to make fun of my dumbassery. Of course, I would like to think that I would be far more careful if I were trying to publish in the Journal of Culture and Cognition or was a columnist for the NYT.

Oh, and Brooks is shallow twit.
posted by bumpkin at 2:48 PM on August 14, 2008


Racial essentialists are like gender essentialists--they have no trouble pontificating about the "true" nature of huge categories of people (Asians, women) based on the flimsiest and stupidest of evidence.
posted by emjaybee at 3:05 PM on August 14, 2008


This is hillarious. I almost feel sorry for Brooks. Almost.
posted by homunculus at 3:10 PM on August 14, 2008


Hi bumpkin -- The idea of measure-words in Chinese making a difference here is an interesting one, and I suppose it could be a possible influence. Ditto with character radicals. That said: (nerdy derail: ACTVATE)

The thing that many people - including most Chinese people - forget is that Chinese is spoken long before it is written. Character radicals make great mnemonic devices, and serve to distinguish some characters from others - but they don't necessarily contribute much. Consider some of the more common characters containing the fire radical (火 and its derived form 灬) as an example:
勞, labor. (The traditional form of the simplified 劳; in the simplified form it has the 'grass' radical.)
營, camp. (The same simplification holds true here -- it's a calligraphic simplification rather than a semantic one, I believe.) Arguable here, since one can think of "campfires" and the like, but really it's a case of an earlier, now obsolete character 熒 "shining" (pronounced yíng, acting as a phonetic here) over 吕 a pictogram of two walls or tents.
伙, a group of people. 火 here is phonetic, though I guess one could argue that people gather around fires, etc.
秋, autumn. Comprised of 禾 grain plus fire. Which could describe the color of leaves in autumn, or burning fields after a harvest, but that's pretty conjectural.

Anyway, sorry - nerdy derail over, I promise. Language may well have an effect on cognition - that's the whole basis of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (I forget whether it's fashionable or not at the moment) - but written language is an entirely different beast from spoken language.
posted by bokane at 3:46 PM on August 14, 2008


Ah! Very cool!

The reason this came to my mind is that in the test described, the subjects are given the three objects they are to categorize in written form. So the respondent could have thought to herself "well these two go together in the dictionary" just as easily as "these are categorically similar" as per the interpretations of the test designers. Of course, I shouldn't have written "impossible to ignore", clearly that's way over stating it.

I do wish I had had the patience to stick with learning Mandarin. But I was in grad school, and the amount of free time I had....
posted by bumpkin at 4:10 PM on August 14, 2008


The great thing about this take-down is that Liberman's critique put about a hundred times as much work - and intelligence - into the question than is shown in Brooks' original piece.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:50 PM on August 14, 2008


I think you're turning Japanese.
posted by wobh at 9:13 PM on August 14, 2008


I always find it amazing when I read such rubbish in the media, and I think it's a holdover from pre-internet days. Columnists used to have so much more prestige, because even if they were wrong, whoever knew they were wrong typically didn't have a way of responding (other than a snippy Letter to the Editor). But now anyone can respond through the internet, and fools like Brooks are revealed for the hacks they really are. It's a shame newspaper editors haven't figured that out yet.
posted by awfurby at 12:20 AM on August 15, 2008


I generally take newspaper editorials the same way I take pub chatter. Which is not seriously at all. It's fun to argue and get riled up and debate but nothing ever comes of it. If I want to know something with some certainty I investigate it using other sources. Sources that mean something. It's kind of like the difference between masturbation and sex. When you masturbate you can imagine yourself adopting impossible positions and they work. When you have sex you find out there are constraints that are not present in your imagination.
posted by srboisvert at 2:08 AM on August 15, 2008


It's not that Brooks is an asshole, or that neuroscientists set things up to reinforce their preconceptions, it's that the media machine/corporate interests find it easier to deal with these collective shorthands-- Asians (Chinese) subvert individuality to the greater good, Westerners (Americans) seek personal gain, however each person defines it. It's all part of the great rightwing corporate conspiracy for short term profit for the individuals raking in the bucks (or yuan for that matter). Reinforce the appropriate cultural stereotype-- "I'm an American, you can't tell me what to do" "I am Chinese, my blood for the collective"-- in order to achieve the same end, namely sell as many widgets as possible. Then you couple that with a state education system that is either impaired by heavy handed state control or impaired through through inadequate state control in order to appease political donors, and you can keep your consumers (I hesitate to call them citizens) ignorant and therefore maleable.

Brooks is apparently in their pay. (Good thing we're so smart. Sent from my Blackberry wireless)
posted by nax at 5:41 AM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


My David Brooks impression:

People in blue states eat Special K, and people in red states eat Cheerios. Until a Cheerios politician finds a way to eat Special K, and until Special K politician finds a way to Cheerios, people will never eat bagels. Also, everybody in America now lives in an exurb. This means that people drive to work and do all of their shopping at Barnes and Noble. This is why America is different from Europe. In Europe, people ride scooters. But in America, every election is decided by the people who have either already moved to, or are planning on moving to Phoenix, Arizona.


Valiant effort, but it needs more snappy neologisms.

The two cereal-eating politicians will never capture the hearts of the Bagelstocracy, those Patio Men and Real Estate Moms who form the Barnes-and-Noblemen of Bobo America. Old World Scootrification will never catch on in America, not during the Age of Migratory Tempe-rence and the Chipotle Villafication of America.

For the record, three of the preceding are actual Brooks neologisms. I'll leave it to other scholars to point out which ones.
posted by gompa at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think Brooks is an annoying writer with bad arguments. I rarely read his columns, and when I do, I'm quickly disappointed -- in him for writing them, in myself for reading them. But Liberman's would-be takedown is shitty. It relies on mockery and nit-picking to make us laugh at Brooks, while its review of the experimental literature actually tends to support Brooks's generalizations.

IOW I agree with norabarnacl3.
posted by grobstein at 9:20 PM on August 15, 2008


It relies on mockery and nit-picking to make us laugh at Brooks, while its review of the experimental literature actually tends to support Brooks's generalizations.

What I mean is, this looks like an intellectually dishonest bait-and-switch. "Look, look, I'm rebutting Brooks, the idiot pssss brooks is right in substance isn't he a buffoon guys omg!"
posted by grobstein at 9:31 PM on August 15, 2008


It relies on mockery and nit-picking to make us laugh at Brooks, while its review of the experimental literature actually tends to support Brooks's generalizations.

But it doesn't - the actual results are not very conclusive, and what effect there is appears to be affected strongly by language. Which is in itself a very interesting idea, but not the point he was making.

What is offensive is the way that Brooks completely distorted the studies in question, implying that they were both larger and more conclusive than they were -- also, getting the ethnicity of the participants incorrect, in a column about ethnicty/culture. His grasp of economic and techology history is also poor, and the reality of this history further undermines his point. He is not right in details, or in substance.
posted by jb at 10:09 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


while its review of the experimental literature actually tends to support Brooks's generalizations.

No, they don't. As Lieberman shows, they contradict his assertions almost down the line.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:30 PM on August 16, 2008


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