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Thursday, February 6, 2014

David Brooks, "Other People’s Views": You Miss Ann Landers and Dear Abby? Continue Missing Them!

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that its revenue in 2013 declined by 1.1% and that net income fell 52% to $65.1 million. Troublesome? Perhaps, but not to worry. David Brooks is here to save the Gray Lady from extinction.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Other People’s Views" (, David Brooks begins with four hypothetical questions intended to raise the issue of "When should you care about what other people think and when should you not?" In response to the case of a 40-year-old who wants "to leave accounting and become a hip-hop artist," Brooks writes:

"First, the hip-hop artist question. Here it might be best to defer to public opinion. People tend to make poor decisions at moments of life transition, so at these moments, lean in the direction of respecting to the wisdom of the crowd. Have a midlife crisis, but in less stereotypical form."

Fascinating! Have your midlife crisis, but conform to the wisdom of the crowd. Well, I've had several such "crises" over the past 60 years, and I will never give a damn what the "crowd" thinks. Mind you, I'm not advising you to "tell your buddy a dirty joke" (Brooks's example) or flatulate noisily (my example of what is socially acceptable throughout "progressive" Europe) in a crowded subway car, which in both instances could prove offensive to others around you. Yet bottom line, I still prefer Popeye to Brooks, i.e. "I am what I am and that's all what I am."

Brooks's astute conclusion regarding all of his hypothetical questions:

"To sum up, I can’t find any universal rules about when to defer to outside approval. It depends on the circumstances."

"It depends on the circumstances"? Sorry, Mr. Sulzberger, but David has no chance of replacing Eppie and Pauline and of saving your newspaper.

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