David Brooks knows nothing

Brooks was invited to opine on the American Indian boarding schools horror, and of course he fucked it up. Because he is David Brooks.

I think what strikes me, looking back, one, it’s there are so many levels to what happened. One is just the raw racism. I mean, they weren’t taking Ukrainian kids and ripping them from their parents. They were just taking Native American kids.

The second was the ideology. There was — after Darwinism, there were all these pseudoscientific crappy beliefs in races and in some civilizations were better than other civilizations. And, therefore, the idea that you’re doing somebody a favor by taking them away from their heritage is — that was a pseudointellectual belief system that was pervasive, not only in the fringes, but pervasive in Western society, this crazy, really garbage science Darwinism.

And then the final thing which is to be appreciated, which they did not have then, but hopefully we’re getting now, the idea that cultural diversity is a plus, and not a minus. And this is a — it’s not a recent phenomenon in world history. The Book of Jeremiah embraces cultural diversity.

For a group of people dedicated to preserving a certain vision of the past, conservatives have no sense of history. While I agree that evolution was readily seized upon, and is still happily used by racists, as a rationalization for racism, racism seems to have thrived throughout history before Darwin. Recall that Darwin went public with his theory in 1859. But Gobineau published his An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races in 1853…how did he do that? Did he have precognition? Thomas Jefferson, a slaver, was convinced that black people were “dull, tasteless, and anomalous”, and called for scientific research to establish the inferiority of the black race. Arthur Schopenhauer had a whole theory of racial virtues; but he died in 1860 (maybe The Origin killed him?). Hey! 1859! That was when the American Civil War, a war fought over slavery, was started. Darwin must have triggered it with this sudden revelation that racism was scientifically valid.

Indian boarding schools in America started with the Indian Civilization Act Fund, established by the US government in 1819, when Charles Darwin was ten years old. He was an ambitious and busy little boy, I guess. And then he turns around when he’s 15 and creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs! He wasn’t even American! I am so impressed.

I’m sorry, David Brooks, you don’t get to pretend that “raw racism” and racist ideology was spawned by “Darwinism”. Colonialism and the Enlightenment appeared side by side long before Darwin was born. You can be appalled at the crappy beliefs in races and in some civilizations were better than other civilizations, but Darwin didn’t invent it — he was living in the middle of it, soaking in the smug attitudes of Victorian England that were there long before he came on the scene.

As for Jeremiah, I’m not going to believe you, and I’m not going to waste my time reading through an old prophet’s screed looking for hints of multiculturalism. Besides, by the iron law of post hoc ergo propter hoc, which seems to be the guiding principle of conservative understanding of history (although they don’t seem to believe in any chronology besides “when I learned about it”), I’m going to have to blame every intolerant act since the 7th century BCE on Jeremiahism.


  1. says

    Wow, it’s really weird that Brooks forgot to mention religion, when the majority of these schools were founded & run by professional religionists.

    I mean, he blames evolution when I doubt any of the school teachers or school heads ever worked as professional evolutionary biologists.

    What a bizarre oversight. I’m certain he’ll correct that immediately in a follow up.

  2. raven says

    The second was the ideology. There was — after Darwinism, there were all these pseudoscientific crappy beliefs in races and in some civilizations were better than other civilizations.

    Racism is a lot older than Darwin as PZ just pointed out.
    The North American colonies were bringing slaves from Africa in the 1600’s.

    It’s all through the bible, especially the Old Testament.
    God cursed the descendants of Ham forever to be servants. This myth was used as a reason to commit massive injustices towards some human racial and ethnic groups, including justifying the slavery of Blacks. The Southern slave owners quoted it often.
    The OT is the story of the Israelis conquering Canaan and genociding the Canaanites and taking their women, land, and stuff.

  3. DrVanNostrand says

    In addition to being just completely wrong here, Brooks is also being extraordinarily lazy this time. Pretty much any American history class you take covering the colonial period will inevitably cover “Manifest Destiny”. It was far more religious in nature than it was scientific, and one of the explicit motives was to spread Christianity to the godless savages. Of course, Brooks is in love with religion, so instead he blames a time-traveling Darwin. I must have missed that episode of Doctor Who.

  4. stuffin says

    They were just taking Native American kids.
    First, minimize them by calling them JUST NATIVE AMERCAM KIDS.

    this crazy, really garbage science Darwinism.
    Next, blame science for what happened.

    The Book of Jeremiah embraces cultural diversity.
    Lastly, give credit to the bible for fixing it.

  5. numerobis says

    stuffin: in this setting it clearly doesn’t mean that these kids were unimportant; it means they were targeted.

    The rest is all about trying to blame the scientists for what the church did, but that first part is entirely accurate.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Brooks was invited to opine … by “PBS Newshour” – who apparently couldn’t find anyone who researched, or lived through, aforesaid American Indian boarding schools horror.

    Why blame Brooks for PBS’s failure to take this issue seriously?

  7. says

    Jeremiah? WTF? From Skeptics Annotated Bible:
    If I were God, I’d be really pissed. Here are some of the awful things Jeremiah says about, or attributes to, God.

    Circumcise the foreskin of your heart or God will burn you to death. 4:4
    He will bring evil to entire cities, destroying them and wipe out all of their inhabitants. 4:6-8
    He will send lions, wolves, and leopards to tear people to pieces. 5:6
    He just can't hold in his fury any longer. He will kill everyone: husbands and wives, children and old people. 6:11
    He will punish the men by taking away their property, including their wives, and giving it to others. 6:12
    He will kill pretty much everyone: fathers and sons, family, friends, and neighbors. He plans to kill them all after laying a stumbling block before them. 6:21
    He will pour out his anger on both man and beast. Not even the trees will be spared from his wrath. And the ground itself will burn forever. 7:20
    He will feed people to the birds and the beasts and no one will scare them away. 7:33
    He will cover the earth with dead bodies that will not be buried. "They shall be for dung upon the face of the earth." 8:2
    People will choose to kill themselves, rather than be killed by their vicious God. 8:3
    To punish men, he will "give their wives unto others." 8:10
    He will send serpents to cockatrices to bite you. 8:17
    He will give the people bad food and water, and then kill them with a sword. 9:15-16
    He will kill children and young men, and the dead bodies "shall fall as dung .... and none shall gather them." 9:21-22
    He is the source of evil. 11:11, 16:10-11, 19:3, 23:12, 26:3,13,19, 32:42, 35:17, 36:3, 36:31, 40:2, 42:10, 44:2, 45:5, 49:37, 51:64
    He forbids others from praying for his victims. Such prayers would be useless anyway, he says, because he "will not hear them in their time of trouble." 11:14
    He will punish people by killing their young men in war and starving their children to death. 11:22
    God will kill the young men in war and starve their children to death. 11:22-23
    His sword will "devour" everyone until "no flesh shall have peace." 12:12
    He will make everyone drunk and then "dash the fathers and the sons together." He vows to "not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them." 13:13-14
    He tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people. God has decided to kill them all and he doesn't want to be talked out of it. 14:11-12, 15:1
    God promises to kill everyone by war, starvation, and disease. 14:12, 24:10, 29:17-18, 42:17-18, 22
    He will destroy by famine and sword those who are misled by the prophets. 14:16
    He plans to kill people with swords, tear their flesh with dogs, and feed their bodies to the birds and beasts. Why? Because of something some former king did. 15:2-4
    He will kill children, make more widows than there are grains of sand, terrorize cities, and then kill the survivors. 15:7-9
    He told Jeremiah not to get married or have children, because he will kill everyone (mothers and daughters, fathers and sons). They all "shall die of grievous deaths," and that shall neither "be lamented" nor buried, but "shall be as dung upon the face of the earth." For he has removed peace, "lovingkindness," and mercy from the people. 16:1-7
    When the people ask why God is killing everyone, he answers by saying, "Because your fathers have forsaken me." 16:10
    He will make parents eat their own children, and friends eat each other. 19:7-9
    He will kill everyone, "both man and beast," with a "great pestilence." 21:6
    He will force all of Israel to get drunk. Then, he'll kill them all with a sword. 25:27-29
    He will kill so many people that the entire earth will be covered with their dead bodies. No one is to mourn them or even bury them, "they shall be as dung upon the ground." 25:33
    He will bring evil on all flesh. 45:5
    On the day of the Lord, God's sword will become drunk with blood. 46:10
    He plans to kill just about everybody. "No city shall escape" and "cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." 48:8-10
    He will cause the daughters of Rabbah to be burned to death. 49:2
    He will "break in pieces" pretty much everyone and everything he can think of. 51:21-23
    He will get the Babylonians drunk and then kill them all, leading them "like lambs to the slaughter." 51:39-40
    God will force the Babylonians to get so drunk that they die from alcohol poisoning. 51:57

  8. specialffrog says

    It has been a while since I have read the book of Jeremiah but isn’t it about how the Israelites deserve their exile by their embrace of paganism? Seems more like it is against cultural diversity.

  9. says

    That’s actually what most of the Tanakh is about, starting with Judges. It’s kind of Groundhog Day. They keep apostasizing, get enslaved by another people, a champion rises up to massacre the enslavers and restore them to the cult of Yahweh, then it happens again. And again. And again. And again. . . . . .

  10. stroppy says

    @6 etc.

    “Brooks and Capehart” is a regular Friday feature of The News Hour. It’s a mild mannered point-counterpoint segment on the week’s news. It’s a little misleading to suggest that Brooks was brought in as an expert on indigenous history.

    Bottom line, you’re going to have a hard time finding somebody representing the conservative point of view who doesn’t say a bunch of stupid stuff. Capehart, representing the liberal viewpoint, was probably remiss in not interjecting, though.

  11. raven says

    Seems more like it is against cultural diversity.

    He treats all tribal groups equally.

    He will kill so many people that the entire earth will be covered with their dead bodies. No one is to mourn them or even bury them, “they shall be as dung upon the ground.” 25:33
    He will bring evil on all flesh. 45:5
    On the day of the Lord, God’s sword will become drunk with blood. 46:10
    He plans to kill just about everybody. “No city shall escape” and “cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood.” 48:8-10

    God the genocidal maniac, is going to kill everyone, men, women, children, beasts, destroy all the cities, and cover the entire earth with dead bodies.

    Explain to me again, why we worship this Sky Monster god?
    His best feature is that he is imaginary.

  12. unclefrogy says

    yes what he said is a lot of what is general conservative thought is it is what he usually says. It is the rationalization that covers conservative thought. it has been fun watching him squirm around trying not to completely disown the current conservative behavior the last few years. The bald racist authoritarian anti- democratic nature is now front and center instead of only spoken behind close doors, his nice guy personality is really having a hard time. It was echoed on his comments mentioned above, he had to struggle with the rationalizations instead of the true underling racism and domination that are at the root
    uncle frogy

  13. billseymour says

    cervantes @9, yeah, that was my thought, too.

    Shorter Joshua:  The Israelites move in, massacre everyone in sight, and destroy all the cultural artifacts; although they do spare the lives of girls who are virgins (wink, wink):  their god is totally on board with that.

    Shorter Judges and both Kings:  You win some, you lose some.  #GodDidIt

    Shorter first part of Isaiah:  Everything’s a complete mess and we need to make Israel great again.

  14. ORigel says

    @2 Raven

    If you read closely, even though Ham was the one to look at his father passed out naked in his tent, Noah cursed not Ham, but Ham’s son Canaan specifically. Canaan was the ancestor of the Canaanites, not Africans. (Ham had other sons not specifically included in the curse, who were the ancestors of African peoples.) So that passage was being misued by racist xtians.

    As for Jeremiah, I think that the so-called multiculturalism was the common prophetic refrain to care for the most disadvantaged in society, including resident aliens.

    But Jeremiah didn’t like foreign customs– or even traditions among the Israelites that didn’t conform to his ideology. Most Israelites were polytheistic until the exile, worshipping YHWH, Asherah, Baal, El (who became identified with YHWH), household idols, etc. in their own homes and at “high places.” Jeremiah’s elite group, in contrast, thought that the Israelites started out monotheistic, and that YHWH was to receive his sacrifices in Solomon’s Temple alone. That group was a minority, but included King Josiah before he was killed.

  15. ORigel says

    @11 Raven I think Jeremiah, though awful, was at least sincere because his book includes stories of himself getting embarrassed by opponents. Like in one chapter, he preaches against worshipping the Queen of Heaven but his opponent points out that before King Josiah’s reforms, his fathers worshipped the Queen of Heaven, and that it after his family abandoned polytheism that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the remaining population fled to Egypt. What a great putdown– that Jeremiah’s scribe included in the book of that prophet!

  16. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Hey. At least he didn’t try to ignore the evidence, excuse it, say that America fixed it, etc. He faced the reality of the evil head on. He just ignored that racism is mutable because it’s about an excuse to treat people like crap, not an actual ideology based on evidence or even internal consistency.

  17. KG says

    racism seems to have thrived throughout history before Darwin – PZ

    While various kinds of ethnocentric prejudice and discrimination have indeed thrived throughout history, the specifics of European racism seem to have derived from a clash between two features of western Christianity. In the medieval period, canon law allowed Christians to hold and even trade in slaves, but not, in most cases, if the slaves concerned were Christians (there were exceptions e.g. slavery could be imposed as a punishment for crime). But Christianity also includes a very strong injunction to proselytise, and convert non-Christians to Christianity. When slavery became economically important from the 15th century onward (initially with the Spanish and Portuguese transporting black Africans to Atlantic islands to cultivate sugar cane), this created a dilemma: it was a Christian duty to convert these slaves, but once they converted, it would no longer be OK to keep them enslaved. The solution that emerged was to decide that black people were essentially inferior, fitted only to be slaves – so even if they became Christians, the slaveowner was not obliged to free them.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    KG @ 20
    I am going to be copying and pasting this comment a million times in future discussion over here in Sweden.
    PS In the British empire, the subjugation of India played a big role in introducing overt discrimination at all levels. Thus, racism in the colonial administration was put on a legal footing.