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"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

June 13, 2012

The Aristocrats!

Lots of people like Atrios and Dean Baker are complaining about yesterday's column by David Brooks headlined "The Follower Problem." And it first glance it does seem pretty gross:

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power...our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect [makes it hard] to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves…

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem … people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else...

But what's going on here is that David Brooks—as widely celebrated as Richard Cohen for being an extremely funny man—is telling his own version of the classic joke:

DAVID BROOKS: Okay, so our act starts with us inflating a giant internet bubble. Then that collapses, taking the country's economy with it, just as we massively cut taxes on millionaires because, we say, if we don't the government will have too much money. Right after that we blow off warnings about terrorism and let 3,000 Americans get slaughtered. We use that as a chance to lie the U.S. into invading a country that had nothing to do with the attack, killing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions into refugees. In the middle of all that we borrow torture techniques from the Inquisition and use them on people in secret sites around the planet. Then we make billions off another financial bubble, the biggest in human history, and do nothing as it collapses, plunging the world into the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. To fix that we open up the national bank vault and shovel out money as fast as possible to all the criminals who made it happen in the first place. Then—as the amazing finale—we refuse to prosecute anyone for that, for the war, or for torture, and we start killing U.S. citizens with flying death robots.


AGENT: ...That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?

DAVID BROOKS: The Aristocrats!

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at June 13, 2012 10:35 AM

I always knew I was a jerk for believing in that form of equality where I'm both equal to and better than everyone else. Brooks has my number.

Posted by: Royal at June 13, 2012 10:51 AM


Posted by: Aaron Datesman at June 13, 2012 10:53 AM

It needs a few f-bombs.

Posted by: JeffC at June 13, 2012 11:42 AM

Greatest post in the history of this site. Hits all the major issues in a way that is nuanced, yet easily understood; and delivers a take that only you would have. Wonderful work!

Posted by: Mike of Angle at June 13, 2012 12:22 PM

At least Brooks didn't slander Joe Franklin.

Posted by: Freddy el Desfibradddor at June 13, 2012 12:36 PM

JeffC has a point -- it'd be (even) funnier.

Posted by: Nell at June 13, 2012 01:00 PM

This is - awesome.

Posted by: Rob Patterson at June 13, 2012 01:01 PM

missing beastiality references. As Hunter S. Thompson observed writing about Herbert and Roxanne Pulitzer divorce, even stupid servants figure it out when you wake them at 2 am and send them out for 2 mature billy goats and pond of animal stimuant.

The rich are different.

Posted by: Dan Hill at June 13, 2012 01:05 PM

i'm pretty sure that david brooks is immeasurably superior to little tommy friedman - but where do george will and charles 'the hammer' krauthammer fit in?

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at June 13, 2012 01:07 PM

he may be right, eg dimon is immeasurably superior to brooks (even ethical accountants have trouble quantifying those stock option packages)- we cant use IQ only because the gulf between dimon and brooks is, after all, measurable

Posted by: frankenduf at June 13, 2012 01:25 PM

Good to know Brooks has committed to henceforth recognize, trust and respect the leadership in the White House.

Posted by: boingdeboing at June 13, 2012 01:26 PM

Good one, Jon.

Posted by: par4 at June 13, 2012 01:41 PM

I am agog at how full of win this post is. You sir, are a master.

Posted by: Fezzik at June 13, 2012 02:01 PM

You win.

Posted by: Kat at June 13, 2012 03:05 PM

This is one of the great blog posts.

Posted by: Lee Baker at June 13, 2012 03:37 PM

I say David Brooks has a "Reader Problem" - that is, there are far too many of them.

"followership"? Really?

Posted by: Rob at June 13, 2012 04:41 PM

I think we can finally close the internet, everyone. This sums it all up nicely!


Posted by: Truth at June 13, 2012 05:05 PM

I don't agree that it needs the f-bombs, bestiality, etc. The whole point is that it is obscene as it stands.

Posted by: livex at June 13, 2012 05:16 PM


You are THE "Just Authority" on blogging Mr Schwarz! And, you definitely have your followers!!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at June 13, 2012 05:41 PM

Too Soon?

Posted by: Enrico Malatesta at June 13, 2012 06:00 PM

@ Truth

No, we can not close the internet. I am waiting for the second act!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at June 13, 2012 07:02 PM


How I got distracted into thinking Brooks was juicing his resume as art critic of national memorials, I'll never know after reading this.

Posted by: Bill at June 13, 2012 07:24 PM

I have just been waiting around for the Next Great Thing to hit the internets and

Posted by: Caroln de Lurking at June 13, 2012 07:36 PM

Such an act can be assured of getting great reviews from all the critics that matter.

Posted by: Reklam at June 13, 2012 07:37 PM

And so much was left out!

Posted by: Grytpype at June 13, 2012 08:04 PM

Well, that was truly inspired. Thanks!

Posted by: Don wow at June 13, 2012 09:05 PM

Jon Schwarz, you are a genius. We are not worthy.

Posted by: robuzo at June 13, 2012 09:16 PM

I'm sharing this widely....

Posted by: Rojo at June 13, 2012 11:18 PM

Damn, man, you're on a roll. This and the suffering post are two of your best ever, but this one is absolute perfection, a tiny revolution. Bravo.

Posted by: Batocchio at June 14, 2012 12:19 AM

You forgot the part where Grover Norquist shits in the mouths of the American people while Dick Cheney fucks his unborn grandchildren up the ass.
Otherwise, LOL!

Posted by: labradog at June 14, 2012 07:24 AM

I respect our betters... as a source of protein in the coming apocalypse. Never having to do any real work means they'll be very tender.

Posted by: Felonious Monk at June 14, 2012 11:49 AM

Nice job, as always.

I'm a bit sensitive to any Aristocrats reference. The film highlighted the cover of Mr. Mike, but left off my name.

"Who wrote that book that's onscreen?"

"The Aristocrats!"

Comedians are funny people.

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at June 14, 2012 12:48 PM

"Comedians are funny people." !!!

Posted by: Freddy el Desfibradddor at June 14, 2012 12:58 PM

hi i'm not a regular reader i came here cuz my tap-dancing frog told me this was really funny

Posted by: hapa at June 14, 2012 05:39 PM

OK. This needs to get wider circulation. Revise and extend it. I think we need a personalized version for each of the sociopaths currently in power....

Posted by: Nathanael at June 14, 2012 08:04 PM

If we Germans have a fateful flaw in our national character, it is forgetfulness. This failing speaks well of our human decency and generosity, but not always for our political wisdom or intelligence. We think everyone else as is good natured as we are.

-- Goebbels

Posted by: Lewis at June 14, 2012 08:33 PM

HERE at The Institution For The Promotion Of The Evolution Of Revolution WE find quite a loooong laundry list of CRIMES perpetrated against a WHOLE NATION (300,000,000+ persons) of legal gun owners of which NONE seem to lift a hand to "Just Say No". One can ONLY surmise that said nation needs no Constitution nor any "rule of law" as they will do nothing to enforce same. No, said nation need only invest in Vasoline(tm) to ease the screwing its gotten for its ignorance and short sightedness and to add pleasure and enjoyment for the ROYAL fucking its SOON going to get.
IMHO, should some fool even attempt to correct the sad situation of this putrid corruption, the neighbors, the VERY citizens to be helped, will sic the dogs on the fool.
It leaves one to conclude---"They just ain't been fucked enough yet".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 15, 2012 12:39 AM

Yes, Mike. Yes. Yes. I've been saying this since the '08 crash (i.e. smash and grab). Few things will change significantly until we reach 25% unemployment, soup kitchens are measured by the mile and cardboard shacks become the norm. But even then, the masses will misplace their anger against each other as long as the cardboard shacks are wired for Fox News telling them who's REALLY to blame.

Posted by: Paul Avery at June 17, 2012 08:21 PM

Once again, Schwarz's UN-funny projects specious faux-comedy into the ether. Hey, here's something really funny! That Republican over there? See him? He took donations from Klan members! HAH HAH HAH those Rethuglicans are such stupid bigoted rednecks! Glad I'm not an Evil Rethuglican! HAH HAH HAH! See how subtly I advance my own profile in the public sphere, by running others down! HAH HAH HAH! I'm a master of subtle comedy! I can reference dead comedians who were really "out there" and by so referencing, establish myself as a Scholar of Laughs! HAH HAH HAH!

Posted by: Oxidizing Leukocytes at June 18, 2012 12:57 PM

Paul Avery: The Healthy, Wealthy, Well Fed talk, write, promote, and spend treasure on revolution. The Hungry&Beaten Down fight for revolutions. Until there are Fighters, there are no revolutions, no matter what is written, spent, nor endlessly discussed. THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT is a devil to face, to fight. Until there's a name and a face for that devil, for the oppressed to see, there's no revolution.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 19, 2012 02:36 AM

Ugh, you're all wrong -- here, let me explain why it isn't funny.

Why are looking at me like that?

Is there something on my face?

Posted by: Oxidizing Leukocytes at June 19, 2012 01:29 PM

Oxidizing Leukocytes, your parody of The Producers is excellent. To success!

Posted by: Lewis at June 20, 2012 06:41 PM