You can see the appealWhen your morning editor was browbeaten into blogging three days a week on this accursed site, he swore a blood oath to himself to never write a post parsing the rambling, overpaid opinions of Maureen Dowd or William Kristol or the beardy guy at the Post who simply does not care for anything that happened after 1975 or any of the rest of them. But that was before a heroic anonymous Wonkette reader sent in a link to the latest David Brooks column, at the midpoint of which you can see the exact moment where his mind completely falls apart and he starts gibbering madly about some abstract concept he calls “The Big Shaggy.”

As is fairly typical, Brooks’s latest column actually starts off fairly sensibly, in an effete upper-middle-class kind of way. He decries college students abandoning the liberal arts for other majors that might result in lucrative job offers, since the humanities equip you with critical thinking skills necessary in a complex world. But that only took up around half of his required wordcount, so that’s where he stepped away from the computer, ingested whatever substance David Brooks needs in order to get the creative juices flowing (our guess: Mr. Boston gin), and then returned hours later to type out the following:

Over the past century or so, people have built various systems to help them understand human behavior: economics, political science, game theory and evolutionary psychology. These systems are useful in many circumstances. But none completely explain behavior because deep down people have passions and drives that don’t lend themselves to systemic modeling. They have yearnings and fears that reside in an inner beast you could call The Big Shaggy.

You can see The Big Shaggy at work when a governor of South Carolina suddenly chucks it all for a love voyage south of the equator, or when a smart, philosophical congressman from Indiana risks everything for an in-office affair.

You can see The Big Shaggy at work when self-destructive overconfidence overtakes oil engineers in the gulf, when go-go enthusiasm intoxicates investment bankers or when bone-chilling distrust grips politics.

And it goes on like that! Perhaps, because of our unfamiliarity with the finer points of the Brooksian oeuvre, we have missed the definition of what exactly this big, shaggy Big Shaggy is. Our own humanities degree is no help in finding this “inner beast”! It may be that we will have to wait to really understand the nuances of this concept until Brooks’s long-awaited next tome, The Big Shaggy: How Americans’ Inner Hopes And Fears Are Like An Enormous Hirsute Manimal, arrives in 2011 from Simon & Schuster. (The book will contain nothing but yeti porn.) [NYT]

Donate with CCDonate with CC


  1. David Brooks has a degree in history from the University of Chicago. I suspect the ‘Big Shaggy’ is some sort of reference to ‘Bobos by the Dashboard Light’ or some such.

    Between David Brooks, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault it’s difficult to figure out what these eggheads are up to!

  2. Gee, Josh. While you’re trying to figure out wtf Brooks is talking about we hope you’ll reconsider and start to talk smack about Bill Kristol.

    If it helps, I believe “Big Shaggy” is a term that comes from furry culture.

  3. This is just Brooks’s oblique way of saying he is not supporting the U.S. against England on Saturday. Use of British sex slang proves where his sympathies remain.

    Also: if it’s not about sex/shagging, why were the first two examples men with untamed libido (Sanford, Indiana GOP guy whose name I never need to know again)?

  4. Sorry, but all I can glean from Brooks’s riposte is that he masturbates by using a Tickle Me Elmo puppet. Did he say anything else important?

  5. Call me naive, but somehow I don’t think that “self-destructive overconfidence [overtaking] oil engineers in the gulf” had anything to do with the BP mess. When a company intentionally uses the less-safe-but-more-profits! corner-cutting approach to conducting capitalist enterprise, neither overconfidence nor engineering has anything to do with anything – just as “The Big Shaggy” – by design – has nothing to do with anything other than deflecting responsibility onto cute abstractions instead of onto those actually culpable.

  6. If you go through college without reading Thucydides, Herodotus and Gibbon, you’ll have been cheated out of a great repertoire of comparisons.

    True, but no one else will understand what you’re talking about when you use them to impress your peers who majored in accounting.

    Few of us are hewers of wood. We navigate social environments. If you’re dumb about The Big Shaggy, you’ll probably get eaten by it.

    Today, we are all…well, you know.

  7. Wow — so Brooks considers everything that might pass for emotional life to be one giant, inexplicable creature that shows up, grabs control of your brain and makes you do whatever it wants for a while? Or is this just his way of explaining it to the out-of-touch technocrats who are now completely divorced from their subjective reality?
    Hmmm…well, when Brooks is searching his walnut-sized cerebellum for examples, he comes up with what a humanities-educated carbon unit is capable of achieving: branding. See, an engineer can create an mp3 player, but only a humanities expert can create a brand. This is the pinnacle of emotional life per Mr. Brooks. And now it makes sense why this writer is a crappy technocrat and also a crappy understander of human nature. Unless of course I’m sadly mistaken and brand campaigns really are the cathedrals of our time.

  8. My Asian Studies degree is also no help in determining the meaning of this term. However, I could probably translate “The Big Shaggy” into Chinese for you.

  9. Brooks had one fairly clever idea/meme, “bourgeois bohemians,” about 15 years ago. That was probably worth an 800-word op-ed at the most. Somehow he’s parlayed it into an entire career. You have to admire it, or wonder who he’s blowing.

  10. Let’s take a look at how the develops this argument:

    >Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write.

    Okay, sounds reasonable…

    >Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion.

    Yes, I suppose so…

    >Studying the humanities will give you a wealth of analogies.

    Very likely, they must have been on the SAT for some reason…

    >Finally, and most importantly, studying the humanities helps you befriend The Big Shaggy.

    This man must not have been paying attention when they were discussing the ability to write in the language of romance if the analogy he chooses to invoke brings a large cartoon dog immediately to mind.

  11. The Big Shaggy is a metaphor for getting caught due to cockiness. Yet the Yeti never gets caught. So Yetis would be better leaders for mankind.

  12. [re=594308]One Yield Regular[/re]: You are correct. Engineers are fascinating, no doubt. In fact they are more fascinating than, say, …. well, never mind.

    The point is that BP’s actions are powered by accountants, not engineers.

  13. [re=594303]Crazybroad[/re]: The id, of course! It was all explained by Dr. Ostrow in “Forbidden Planet,” which is just a rip-off of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which is just a rip off of some earlier work of classical genius. Why do we need David Brooks to explain stuff that the Greeks figured out 3,000 years ago? Now, if he had an idea about how to stop the oil gusher in the Gulf — that would be helpful.

  14. On a more serious note, it’s pure reductionism. The problem with Sanford? He’s a goddamned hippie. The problem with the BP company men? They were goddamned hippies. If you’ve got a problem, Brooks sees a goddamned hippie. Goddamned hippies.

  15. By referencing “The Big Shaggy” in regards to Mark Sanford and another cheater, Brooks means that their original excuse to their waives was, “It wasn’t me”. (I’m actually shocked no-one’s made that joke yet).

    Oh, and Brooks should know that economics, political science and evolutionary psychology (which is not actually evolutionary or psychology) aren’t actually useful in any circumstances.

  16. [re=594325]PineyWoodster[/re]: Yeah, I was wondering why he was talking about my cat instead of some awesome analogy referencing Hieronymus Bosch.

  17. I’ll just drop this acid, and I am sure I can bang this column out before it hits gnarsh krishna lubdud, curse of the living nipple.

  18. [re=594342]bago[/re]: Strangely enough, that explanation makes David Brooks sound just like Eric Cartman. I hate hippies! Respect mah author-i-tah! That makes too much damn sense.

  19. I know what he’s talking about, and it’s actually deeply personal. I know Big Shaggy from living in Chicago for a while. He lives under the Damen bridge just north of Fullerton, and he will bugger you if you don’t pay enough attention to his movements. I guess in the long run, some of his victims…aren’t.

  20. The only fine point about Brooks’ “oeuvre” you really need to know is, to qoute Josh, “completely falls apart and he starts gibbering madly about some abstract concept”. Full stop. Happens every column. That and that part about blathering on “in an effete upper-middle-class kind of way”.

    It’s the only way he knows.

    If anyone wants to see some really fine “David Brooks as Pasty-faced Pinata” bashing, read Driftglass, where every single week he deconstructs David Brooks’ incredibly plodding, pedestrian “mind”. It’s always an uplifting, viscerally exuberant experience.

  21. [re=594342]bago[/re]: [re=594353]Sparky McGruff[/re]: Bashing (mostly now nonexistent) hippies has been the main point of Brooks’ work for several decades now; the Post’s beardy old man too.

  22. “… a smart, philosophical congressman from Indiana …” Now who might that be? Certainly not the fool I saw here recently on a YouTube, rambling on about the wonders of virginity. Furthermore, how on earth would a smart, philosophical person be elected in Indiana anyway, unless perhaps he campaigned in a basketball uniform?

  23. smart, philosophical congressman from Indiana risks everything for an in-office affair.

    Ugh, he’s talking about that absurd, grotesque troll and his eminently bangable communications assistant he made the anti-sex vids with, isn’t he? Like that needs to explained by some deep, thoughtful thinking there.

  24. Okay so I only took one year of poli. sci./philosophy and spent the rest of my university career in the engineering building; does that make me more or less susceptible to The Big Shaggy? Because I can pick up some clippers on the way home tonight.

  25. i believe brooks’ reference is to ‘the legend of boggy creek ii.’

    be not an old man crenshaw, tendin’ to your fires and squirrelin’ away the little boggy creek creature. be a seeker, a man of the world, a professor brian c. “doc” lockhart.

  26. I am offended that you used an altered picture of the Shaggs.

    David Brooks KNOWS that Shaggy was all about Scooby. Fuckin’ effete mutherfuckker.

  27. [re=594377]Zorg[/re]: Hence the early Lampoon:

    “Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin.”

  28. Wow, seeing the exact moment when brooks’ mind runs off the rails, reminds me of when Bart shows Lisa the exact moment Ralph Wiggums’ heart breaks on the video.

  29. Here’s a thing: by this premise, David Brooks does understand the “Big Shaggy.”

    Now I got advanced degrees in unemployment. I have gotten as liberal arts an education as one may get, and, in fact, it would lead me to believe that Mr. Brooks is talking about something so mundane, so cliched, so quotidian, so utterly banal that it should be compared to his repressed memory of an elderly man who squeezed his thigh as a child. He’s referring to dissatisfaction.

    He wants us to think that this boring, normal sort of dissatisfaction is somehow akin to or masking or equivalent to existential dread, but that’s because David Brooks never finished reading those books he was assigned in college. He may have taken the classes, but he didn’t take the lessons.

  30. [re=594316]jus_wonderin[/re]: My first thought, too. Does that mean he gets turned on by short, bespectacled chicks in turtlenecks?

  31. Actually Freud’s “drive theory” has been pretty well discarded. Someone might want to alert David Brooks before he decides to take his fat weeble-like ass to the National Mall for a game of Suicide By Cop.

  32. Well, my favorite Shaggs song is “It’s Halloween” so maybe it has something to do with dressing up and collecting candy?

  33. [re=594308]One Yield Regular[/re]: Good point, it wasn’t the engineers who screwed it up, it was the cheapstakes in charge who wanted to spend as little as possible on safety. But these are the “money people” that Brooks doesn’t like to call out, so instead he blames it on the engineers, who tend to be docile and inarticulate and least likely to retaliate.

  34. At the State U. we called the Big Shaggy the Wooly Bully, and the hippies called it the Ya Ya, or getting your Ya Yas off, and Jack Daniels drinkers down at the blue collar bar that never had no education anymore than what they needed called it Getting Your Gun Off. I suspect the Walk About in down under has genetic and cultural links to the same phenomena. This may be the reason for the French Revolution.

  35. I always liked Foster Brooks and Our Miss Brooks better. David is writing his usual opaque version of some Jungian basics, though it’s pretty apparent that he didn’t know he was — which made him both intentionally and unconsciously opaque. Big Shaggy sounds like a bad guy in a not so good mystery novel, a genre that Mr. B. just might get around to one of these days. (Apologies to Carl, but Brooks’ persona is non grata.)

  36. As an anthropologist, I can confirm that we do, in fact, spend most of our time trying to capture the elusive Shaggus americanus. Oh, woe to the grad student who encounters such a beast in the wild, in the governor’s mansion, or on an oil platform…

  37. $200K for a U of C History BA? –I hope Big Shaggy brings some Big Scooby Snacks w/ him, otherwise I’ll be eating leftover copies of my awesome memos for the next 50 years.

  38. I enjoy hearing Brooks’ wisdom every Friday afternoon on NPR, especially since learning he does that show with no pants on. When he gets to the part about sending Iran a warning his hips do a little wiggle and the swaying of Big Shaggy commences. Someday people will have forgotten about Jim Morrison, but there’ll be a gigantic fence around the Brooks grave on account of excessive traffic.

  39. The great thing here is the premise that what undoes previously philosophical and/or spiritually austere Repugs is the smell of pussy. Did Our Miss Brooks actually think that Rational Choice Theory explained every iota of human history? Apparently, he did. And are we really supposed to believe that his road-to-Damascus moment was entirely second-hand? Really? Is this a rehearsal for a sequel to the Bobo text, or a cry for help? Seems like OMB has been doing a little primary source work and wants, in his inimitable style, to let us all know about it. I think the furry reference is a red herring, though. He’s an obvious shoe queen.

  40. Good catch Josh!
    Since you’re the comics expert, here’s my idea-r.
    The late great Bill Keane should rename his loveable ghost drawing “Not Me” as The Big Shaggy.

    Just imagine
    Father (Nobama Hussein): “Who’s ass should I kick for this oil mess?”
    adorable white children (BP guys): “The Big Shaggy”

  41. I was a business major so I’m well acquainted with The Big Shaggy, we’ve had lots of fun together as proven by divorce, disease, 12 step groups, broken hearts, shattered dreams and complete lack of retirement planning… This is why I now vote Dem, I want society to save me from myself!

  42. thomas friedman’s mustache has clearly gotten mr. brooks too randy to think about anything else besides big shaggy shagging shags

  43. there has never been a “smart, philosophical congressman” from indiana. unless “smart, philosophical” = truck nutz on an suv.

Comments are closed.

Previous articleGive Your Dad Bart Stupak, The Gift That Keeps On Giving!
Next articleNevada Chicken Costumes Exiled To Baltimore