David Brooks and the Endless Grift of the Conservative Commentariat

How do you get rich? Writing last month in the preferred mode of his late career—the hastily written commencement address—David Brooks let his readers in on one weird trick that will help them enter the upper crust of the upper crust. If you want to make bank, Brooks wrote, forget tech. The real money is in medicine, law, and private equity. A shocker, I know. 

But while Brooks wrote those words, he was engaged in a different, more quotidian scheme to enlarge his bank account—he had taken on a side hustle. In addition to the New York Times column he has penned for the last 17 years (and the book deals and speaking engagements that flow from it), Brooks had been leading Weave, a project affiliated with the Aspen Institute that aimed at “repairing our country’s social fabric.” Its website helpfully informs the curious that “weaving is a way of life and state of mind, not a set of actions.” Weavers, it notes, are caring people seeking to build connection with others. It is a quasi–think tank, with just enough of Brooksian psychobabble to make it also seem like a bit of a cult. 

Brooks had used his Times column to promote Weave on numerous occasions, with few batting an eye. After all, using a column to promote an outside project is a well-established move in the long-in-the-tooth newspaper columnist’s repertoire. Secondary work is one of the most appealing benefits of high-profile columning. 

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