I don’t read him these days unless something particular points me there, and I saw a reference to a column he wrote on his favorite topic these days, humility, mentioning Pauline Kael and how she didn’t “suffer fools gladly.” Hah! I thought, who is she to suffer or not suffer fools? (I don’t like her film reviews much.) He dissects the meaning and use of the phrase, and I agree with him there. People who speak foolishly out of naivete, simple ignorance, and the like, should be treated with graciousness and respect. We’ve all been in that situation, and will be again, but…
As with so much of Brook’s ‘deep’ commentary, I can’t help think that there’s something autobiographical here, some secret wound he’s nursing. Heavens, did somebody not so nice maybe treat him shabbily, like a damn fool? Maybe it was someone really smart, who knows a lot about something that Brooks was remarking on (and perhaps knew very little about.) Maybe, could it be, somebody like Paul Krugman, or some other intellectual?
Let’s face it, people who treat badly the kind of fool I described here are not looked upon well by thoughtful people. But there is also the other kind of fool, the kind who is ignorant, and prefers to remain so. The kind who is quite arrogant in, even about his ignorance. The kind who loves to hear him or herself talk, even when he or she knows nothing about the topic. Yes, there’s that class, of which Brooks is a premier member, of the pundits, the pedants, and the talking-heads. They often speak as fools, and you can hardly blame them; it’s their job to keep talking to fill up the air time. Or to fill up those column inches. And they do seem to get it into their heads after a while that they actually have powers of intellect which they consistently fail to display.
I’d put Brooks in this latter class of fool. He’s also paid a huge amount for his chatter. So if someone takes him down in print or on the air, I will not feel he’s been treated badly, despite his pleas for humility. It just goes with the territory.