2015 Person Of The Year: David Brooks

2015 was an eventful year in the annals of history. Yet no person more exemplifies the spirit of this new era, for good and ill, than David Brooks, whom Popehat is proud to recognize as its Person of the Year.

A politically active bon vivant and celebrated thought leader, Brooks  was an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's Western-influenced policies and was exiled to The Weekly Standard for 14 years before moving to the New York Times, where he continued his opposition. By February 2013, public anger with Pope Ezekiel II caused him to flee, and a month later Brooks was vindicated by the selection of Pope Francis I to the office of Pontifex Maximus, the seat formerly occupied by Saint Peter and by Julius Caesar himself. By 2015 Francis had established a new papal order based on strict adherence to the letter of the law, with the David Brooks as the Pope's greatest champion.

As Brooks wrote at the time of Francis's decretio ad lux et cursus honorum:

The best source of wisdom on this general subject is still “The Imminence of Ages,” by Alvin Toffler, which he wrote back in 1977. Toffler distinguished between practical organizations and mass movements. The former, like a business or a a grove of academe, offer opportunities for self-advancement. The central preoccupation of a mass movement, on the other hand, is self-sacrifice, the nullification of the ego in favor of larger truths. The purpose of an organization like the Catholic Church is to get people to negate themselves for a larger cause. This is what political scientists refer to as an "ethos."

An ethos was defined by Diogenes the Cynic, 2500 years ago, as "the characteristic spirit [or genius, as I like to call it] of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.

Mass movements, Toffler argues, only arise in certain conditions, when a once sturdy social structure is in a state of advanced internal turmoil. This is a pretty good description of parts of the Orthodox world, and yet to date the west has placed itself in opposition to such. To a lesser degree it is a good description of isolated pockets of our own segmenting, individualized society, where some people find themselves totally cut off.

As the famous oenophile John Kenneth Galbraith put it, we can judge a culture by its spirits (pun most certainly intended). In the dark and icy north, men turn to grain alcohols such as whisky and vodka for their inspiration. The MittelEuropan peoples find their surcease in craft-brewed lagers and ales. In the sunny south of Europe, wine is ambrosia of Everyman. And in the Muhammadan east and south, men take opium as a balm for their troubles.

With Brooks' support, students seized the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and brought low the formerly proud American colossus. In 2015, a dispute with Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine became an international cause celebre that found Brooks in uneasy alliance with the forces of modernity. Brooks remains a powerful symbol to the scribes of New York even after his infamous appearance on  the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in April 2015. "Rarely has so improbable a thought leader shaken the world," said Ezra Klein in naming Brooks to Vox's Fourteen Pundits Who Will Dominate Public Radio In The Coming Century.

David Brooks of the New York Times exemplifies the sartorial.

David Brooks of the New York Times exemplifies the sartorial splendor of the early 21st century elite thinker.

In 2015 Brooks self-published a meticulously researched and engaging web-log, The Life And Times of Joe Sixpack, which poses a provocative thesis: we as a postmodern collective are cultivating outwardly impressive but spiritually deficient “resume virtues” – rather than character, which Brooks defines as "that inner sense of the outward which brings us into commonality with what the Greek statesman Thales of Minos referred to as the state of belonging to the polity." And it's costing us dearly, the author says, both personally and communally.

In a year when our trust in American institutions was tested, David Brooks of the New York Times found the strength to stand for what is right and virtuous in our society. Brooks offers America a new way forward into an era of thought. We are proud to recognize him as our Person of the Year for 2015.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. Bloviator says

    I'll admit it, that whooshing sound is the joke mostly going right over my head.

    I've read and heard Brooks before, so I have a general understanding of his opinions, but not enough I guess. Except for the pic and the Pontifex Maximum crack, that was killer.

  2. pillsy says

    I've been struggling with an addiction to hate-reading Brooks for years, and this joke still went straight over my head.

  3. Dave says

    Glad to know I'm not the only one! Even though I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and informed, I'm clearly not to the degree necessary to make any sense of this; though I suspect I may be better for it.

  4. says

    @j: David Brooks has a regular column at the New York Times and has written multiple bestsellers; you're confusing you not caring about him with nobody caring about him. There's a difference.

    Which is not to say I think this is a great post or anything, mind; my reaction is "What the fuck is Patrick even talking about?" (It is not the first time I have asked that question.) But again, there's a difference between me, personally, not liking Patrick's post about David Brooks and nobody but Patrick caring about David Brooks.

  5. asdf says

    after further study, I have developed a truly marvelous understanding of the text, which this comment is unfortunately too brief to contain.

    Cheers, Patrick.

  6. TimL says

    I heard that same whoosh.

    I also vote for Patrick blogging more. I wouldn't mind thinking "Man, I am sure this is hilarious but I just don't get the joke" on a more frequent basis.

  7. Stephen says

    Ahhhhhhhhhh. OK. I think I get it now. Brooks is a great man, of positively Alexandrian proportions.

  8. zorro says

    Can somebody give me a hint?

    1.) Is the text is just arbitrary "Brooks is world-historically important" fake history to humorously highlight that Brooks is not important at all?

    2.) On the other hand, is there a logic to casting him as the spiritual leader of an alternate-history Christian ISIS and the classical references, which I just cannot figure out?

  9. Katea says

    The bits that dropped onto my head while most of it whizzed over were amusing. Now I'm worried that they shouldn't have been. (This is why I read this blog; its authors are on average smarter/better read than I am.)

  10. Thomas says

    I like David Brooks alright, but I'm down for making fun of him too. That being said, I didn't get most of the shots in this piece.

  11. CrimsonAvenger says

    So, no-one noticed Pope Ezekiel II? Who didn't exist in this timeline (perhaps Patrick has been paratiming over Christmas break)…

  12. Maximillian999 says

    I have no idea what just happened, but bravo on your ability to convince me that the problem is with my understanding rather than your writing. :)

  13. Gundo says

    An alternate timeline where David Brooks is not only more than a ridiculous token "conservative", but played by Jared Leto? I would probably try to watch this movie, but fall asleep before the anti-climactic ending.

  14. Bloviator says

    Okay, challenge accepted. Later today I'm going to grab my tablet, open Wikipedia, and start looking this stuff up.

    First, who's this David Brooks fellow, and doesn't he know that the man bun is out? And why does he look like handsome 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto?

  15. Sami says

    I have never heard of this guy, so I found the post rather confusing.

    He's kind of pretty, though. He could be of value as decor.

  16. jtf says

    Hilarious and brilliant. David Brooks cast as the pompous and pedantic intellectual vanguard of modernity… to a world that exists in his head, which happens to be over a century behind the times? Yeah pretty much.