Fear And Loathing In Falls Church


David Brooks

The silver 2001 BMW 535i roared through Adams Morgan, occasionally screeching over the sidewalks as my accountant wrenched both hands from the wheel for another toke at the weed-pipe. "Gadzooks, man!" I shouted. "Can you keep it together for another fifteen miles, or at least outside the District limits?"  We were halfway through our 35 mile journey from Bethesda to Falls Church, with enough dangerous narcotics to stun a grizzly bear in the trunk: We'd started with nine ounces of weed, six rocks of crack, a sugar jar full of blow,  36 vicodin tablets,  a cage filled with live Bolivian arrow toads, and two jars of ketamine. Plus two quarts of Beefeater gin, a case of Schlitz malt liquor, and a four ounce ball of Afghan hash: Surely enough to get this pair of degenerate drug addicts to Fall's Church. After that what man could say?

It was Edmund Burke, the English statesman and philosopher of the Good Life, who asked, "What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?" In the Burkean ethos, freedom unconstrained by wisdom "is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint." I reflected that Burke's wisdom had never been constrained by a head full of mescaline, or a heart thumping on two tabs of amyl nitrate, so perhaps there were things the grand old man of the eighteenth century British polity did not know.

"Keep your God-damned mitts on the wheel!" I shouted at my accountant as the BMW lurched off of the sidewalk, narrowly missing a parking enforcement officer who stood gaping in confusion at my accountant's attempt to achieve manned space flight using only the power of internal combustion and a brain tripping on liquid sunshine. "Do you want to get us busted?" There was madness in his eyes, but I couldn't help looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant. And I was thinking, a) he got into the ketamine before we left Bethesda and b) we'll be staying overnight at the DC Correctional Treatment Facility for Narcotics Addicts. I put those thoughts out of my head, distracted by the mescaline-induced vision of my accountant vomiting up, one by one, the collected works of British conservative thought leader Michael Oakeshott, all bound in the finest red leather.

Oakeshott famously said that as civilized human beings, we are the inheritors, neither of an inquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulating body of information, but of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves. I believe that if our national political conversation were better informed by the spirit of Oakeshott, and less by the spirit of Manichaeism, ours would be a happier society.

But ours was not a happier society. This was fascist (or more correctly, corporatist) George W. Bush's America. Two years after the dawn of the new millennium Jesus was nowhere in sight, because the Feds were cracking down like sledgehammers on the ecstasy dealers. As senior political editor for the Weekly Standard, I had been sent to cover Bill Bennett's address on education policy at the annual convention of the Young Americans for Freedom. I was here to cover the story! And cover it I would, fueled by the finest mind altering products that 21st century biochemistry had to offer.

As we hit the Virginia line, I mused on the fine line that exists between a state of ordered liberty, in which government serves the needs of the majority, gently nudging the masses toward the higher pleasures, and the state of shocking, bestial depravity that was the passenger compartment of my accountant's BMW: open liquor bottles, a rear windshield plastered with pictures cut from the pages of Hustler and Love Bondage Fantasy! magazines, and in the vomit-drenched back seat, Kareem, a crack dealer we'd picked up in Anacostia, vainly trying to sleep off last night's festivities as the BMW careened from lane to lane like some cocaine-propelled mule train that never existed except in John Ford's wildest dreams.

"Kids today just can't handle their drugs," my accountant muttered through the shroud of opium that fogged his brain. "WHAT?!?" I shouted, cutting down the volume on the "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" compact disc my accountant had fished out of Kareem's backpack. And that's when it hit me, like an electro-plated dung truck: We were not living in John Ford's America. You see, the greatest of all Western directors, John Ford, actually used Westerns to tell a story not of rugged individualism, but to celebrate the notion of civic order. At his finest, Ford teaches us all about the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind together to form a nation. The West of Ford is a lawless  and disordered place, requiring the prepoplitical virtues of a man who possesses the willingness to seek revenge, to mete out justice on his own. That kind of person hardly makes for an ordered polity. But, as this sort of classic western hero tames the West, he makes himself obsolete. Once the western towns have been pacified, there’s no need for his capacity for violence, nor for his righteous justice. As New York University film critic Sander Starr has pointed out, in the individual are planted the seeds of his own destruction. Only through the mediating agency of the panopticon state can this tendency toward self-destruction be averted and channeled into socially productive uses.

"That's some super-heavy shit," I croaked, seizing the weed-pipe from my accountant's lap. "How many miles til Falls Church?"

"We passed it five hours ago. We'll be pulling into Virginia Beach any minute now. Should be lotsa hookers in town this time of year. It's Bike Week."

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. says

    Saw the Patrick Non-White byline and an image of David Brooks, and immediately had high (no pun intended) expectations.

    Was not disappointed. Bravo, sir!

  2. Troutwaxer says

    Man, that's just beautiful. I tend to be very liberal, but Brooks is clearly a moron, and you've done a wonderful job of calling him out!

  3. Blaze says

    This article is stupid. David Brooks has said many times that he is in favor of sensible drug control policy. This article is neither "witty" nor is it "satire".

    It does not meet the quality we expect from Popehat.

  4. SassQueen says

    In the Brooks piece, replace "weed" with "booze", and tell me again why one is legal and the other isn't?

    What a maroon.

  5. jj says

    Excellent. Were you by any chance inspired by seeing "The Wolf of Wall Street"?

    I found that movie well made, and absolutely despicable, because the only sympathetic characters were his first wife and his dad. Everyone else deserved Attica, if not Siberia.

  6. Wesley says


    This article is stupid. David Brooks has said many times that he is in favor of sensible drug control policy.

    Any drug policy that includes the criminalization of marijuana — or, at minimum, discouraging states from legalizing it on their own — is not "sensible" by any reasonable definition.

  7. CJColucci says

    When Brooks gets to his destination, he can find an Applebee"s and pig out at the salad bar.

  8. wolfefan says

    The only time I ever read Brooks is at the Long John Silver's in The Little City once every two weeks. His column is in the Falls Church News Press, and I can finish it off while waiting for my carryout of clams and hush puppies.

  9. Caleb says

    Very entertaining. I've nothing substantive to add, other than: If you travel from Bethesda to Falls Church via Adams Morgan, you MUST be high.

  10. Bastardo Viejo says

    The West of Ford is a lawless and disordered place…

    Cultural genocide and mass slaughter of the indigenous peoples will do that to a place, but go on.

  11. Shane says


    It does not meet the quality we expect from Popehat.

    You may yet live up to your name.

  12. Shane says

    @David Brooks

    In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.

    Fuck off nanny, if I want to be Walter Mutherfucking White then you'll get over it.

  13. Philosopherva says

    The state is the actuality of the ethical Idea. It is ethical mind qua the substantial will manifest and revealed to itself, knowing and thinking itself, accomplishing what it knows and in so far as it knows it. The state exists immediately in custom, mediately in individual self-consciousness, knowledge, and activity, while self-consciousness in virtue of its sentiment towards the state, finds in the state, as its essence and the end-product of its activity, its substantive freedom.

    Hegel, Philosophy of Right, 1820

    If Hegel had written the whole of his logic and then said, in the preface or some other place, that it was merely an experiment in thought in which he had even begged the question in many places, then he would certainly have been the greatest thinker who had ever lived. As it is, he is merely comic.
    Søren Kierkegaard, (1844) Journals

  14. Oh hell no name says

    You were high when you wrote this, weren't you? (it's okay, you don't have to answer) lol

  15. Gbear711 says

    Very humorous. Reminiscent of a P.J. O'Rourke piece in National Lampoon. Any serious comments on Brooks are a waste of pixels.

  16. Jane says

    Huh. At the risk of revealing myself as an uninformed moron, I don't really know who David Brooks is (although the name is familiar), and I was so confused by the comments here because when I first skimmed his piece, I thought he was arguing in FAVOR of legalization. "My friends and I used to enjoy weed. We had fun and nothing awful happened, and eventually we decided on our own that we had better things to do…I'd say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship." I thought his argument was that legalizing pot allows citizens to govern themselves, temperately and prudently, the way he and his friends did. (And I skipped the last few sentences.)

    So he's actually saying that we should help citizens govern themselves by keeping pot illegal? Huh.

  17. Dictatortot says

    Brooks is so congenitally fatuous that I almost hate to admit he has a point about anything. But there might actually be something to his "moral ecology" assertion.

    As a libertarian-leaning group, by & large, we can grant that it's mostly okay to have your own ideas about the life you'd like to lead. But it seems to me that it also ought to be okay to have ideas about the kind of society you'd like to exist in. There's a kind of tension there … one that I'm not sure that orthodox libertarianism has an answer to.

    It's another way of asking: is there, in fact, such a thing as "civilization" or "society"–something that isn't government or the state, and isn't beholden to them, but is more than the sum of the individuals who comprise it? Every instinct I possess answers "yes" to that question. Maybe I'm just imagining things. But if not, I suspect that the ability to conduct oneself as a member of it requires something other than an ethos of raw volition. Not every stricture is a statist cage; sometimes it might be an armature, or a skeleton–the only thing that gives one a shape worth mentioning.

    None of this amounts to an argument for keeping pot illegal. But despite himself, Brooks might have stumbled onto serious moral turf. Hell of a place to be, with only half a balloon of ether left and a nine-assed cactus demon shambling towards one's car.

  18. JDworkin says

    A brilliant and spot-on tribute to HST and a simultaneous skewering of Brooks. We tried prohibition before and the unintended consequence was the rise of organized crime that took more than 50 years to quash. Drug prohibition is an expensive nightmarish failure and another phony wedge issue as we incentive police forces to seize properties and maintain populations at for-profit prisons.

  19. says


    As a libertarian-leaning group, by & large, we can grant that it's mostly okay to have your own ideas about the life you'd like to lead. But it seems to me that it also ought to be okay to have ideas about the kind of society you'd like to exist in. There's a kind of tension there … one that I'm not sure that orthodox libertarianism has an answer to.

    I thought the answer was, "you are free to exist in whatever society you'd like to, as long as it doesn't involve forcing others to go there there at gunpoint."

  20. Dictatortot says

    I thought the answer was, "you are free to exist in whatever society you'd like to, as long as it doesn't involve forcing others to go there there at gunpoint."

    My bad. Perhaps I should have said, "one for which I'm not sure orthodox libertarianism has any answer that's remotely compelling to folks outside the libertarian ghetto."

  21. 205guy says

    Dictatortot, that is one of the best anti-manichean statements I have heard recently, and it puts into words my own feelings on the meta-matter (including a criticism of libertarians).

  22. JTM says


    Completely off-topic, but tonight I keep reading "libertarianism" as "librarianism." And I am very intrigued by the idea of a librarian ghetto.

  23. Dictatortot says

    The "librarian ghetto"? Those are some mean streets, man. Mean, but quiet streets. And with way more than their fair share of smelly homeless dudes.


  1. […] Patrick Non-White imagines the late Hunter S. Thompson's reaction to that notorious bed-wetter David Brooks' recent screed opposing the legalization of pot and arguing that government ought "subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship" by sending out Gestapo teams armed with automatic weapons to break down doors and to nudge Americans in the direction of being better persons by throwing them into prison. […]