David Brooks’ ‘$120,000 Vacation’ Is No Joke

Bosphorus cruise (photo: Thibault Montamat)

The New York Times depicts a scene from David Brooks’ “$20,000 vacation.” (photo: Thibault Montamat)

David Brooks’ November 13 piece for the New York Times style magazine (11/13/15) reads like a joke. Is the Times columnist seriously regaling readers with talk of his “spectacularly expensive hopscotch” on a “self-contained luxury caravan”?

The piece, titled “My $120,000 Vacation,” details Brooks time flying around the world on a Four Seasons-branded private jet; and, yes, the paper paid for it. (Public editor Margaret Sullivan noted that the paper paid for “the portion of that trip for which Mr. Brooks was present”–which works out to about $35,000.)

So is the Times seriously asking for our interest in the “merits and demerits of such pampered high-end travel,” in how much Brooks enjoyed his “superfluous” second bottle of champagne, and how he “wished there had been a little more pretense and a little more intellectual and spiritual ambition” among his fellow travelers from the “lower end of the upper class”?

Are we meant to chuckle at his closing line: “Of course, we all have a responsibility to reduce inequality in our society. But maybe not every day”?

It’s almost a “no comment.” Almost.

Topkapi Palace (photo: Thibault Montamat)

Selfies at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace (photo: Thibault Montamat)

Because Brooks isn’t a travel writer. Most days, the Times wants us to take seriously his opinion on public assistance, which is that welfare “has served as a cushion, not a ladder,” because “the real barriers to mobility are matters of social psychology.”

Or on democracy: American politics has become “neurotically democratic,” Brooks has said, suggesting instead a process that would be

unapologetically elitist. Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms…and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through.

Or on college campus activists, whose “moral fervor is structured by those who seek the innocent purity of the vulnerable victim.”

So at a time when 92 million Americans are out of the labor force, the highest number in four decades, 14.8 percent of the population live below the poverty line, which is $24, 250 for a family of four, when global inequality is skyrocketing such that just 80 billionaires now control the same wealth as 3.5 billion people, the fact that a supposedly “serious” columnist at the country’s “paper of record” thinks it’s cute to talk about how “sometimes it is the structure of things that you shall be pampered and you have no choice but to sit back and accept that fact” seems pretty darn unfunny.

Janine Jackson is the program director of FAIR and the host of CounterSpin.

You can send a message to the New York Times at letters@nytimes.com, or to public editor Margaret Sullivan at public@nytimes.com (Twitter:@NYTimes or @Sulliview). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.


This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission from FAIR.