RUSH: I mentioned this at the top of the program, and it’s a genuine programming dilemma. At two o’clock in the morning as I was wrapping up show prep for today I decided, I mean, who knows why you do things. I never go to the New York Times website. The only time I ever see something is when somebody sends me a link in an e-mail or there’s something on Drudge, or something somebody else has seen something and linked it and said, “You ought to look at this.” Last night, early this morning, I don’t know what possessed me, I was totally sober, I was minding my own business, I wasn’t bothering anyone. Kathryn’s laying there on the couch watching television. And I got this David Brooks piece and I started reading it, and I think, “I’m drunk. I have not had a drop of an adult beverage, but I’m drunk reading this.” And then I composed my reaction to it and sent it around to some friends who are dying to have it published, but we can’t. It would be the end of me if it got posted. So I’m thinking of reading this to you. The problem is it’s… I can’t think of a word to describe it. It’s… well, bizarre doesn’t even come close. Senseless doesn’t get close. I can’t identify a reason why it was written. I can’t figure out what inspired Brooks to write it, well, other than he had to write something. I don’t know who he expected to read it and comprehend it. I don’t even know how he expected the editors at the New York Times to actually publish it. I know all of these are incredible statements. (interruption) Well, yeah, it could be that he was under deadline, but even that, I’m telling you, there is nothing that broaches sanity that explains this piece. There is literally no reason for it. The who, why, when, where, what, there isn’t any of that in it. The relevance to anything, it’s not.
The title of it is, ‘The Flock Comedies.’ I feel like I ought to read it to you, but then if I do, I’m risking the single greatest risk I’ve ever taken on this program. I’ve never done anything on purpose that might cause you to change stations. This would approach it. The only thing that would save me is if I have — you know, I don’t allow people to read on this program. It takes real talent to read and be compelling. Amateurs can’t do it. They sound monotone. I don’t allow people to read anything. If you’re gonna read something you have to be able to do it with passion. This would be one of the most supreme tests that I have ever subjected myself to. (interruption) What? What’s it? Well, it is a challenge. It would be a challenge to read this. It would be a challenge to read this, make it interesting to the point that nobody would — James Earl Jones could not pull off what I’m going to try here. Charlton Heston could not read this and hold your interest. James Earl Jones wouldn’t stand a prayer of holding your interest reading this. No. I reject the notion he’s trying to get fired by the New York Times so that Fox will pick him up for two million bucks. I’m still not certain I want to do this. But I guess I’m kinda committed now.
RUSH: David Brooks, New York Times today: ‘The Flock Comedies — For most of television history, sitcoms have been about families. From ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ to ‘All in the Family’ to ‘The Cosby Show,’ TV shows have generally featured husbands and wives, parents and kids. But over the past several years, things have shifted. Today’s shows are often about groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene. As Neal Gabler wrote in The Los Angeles Times this week, ‘Over the last 20 years, beginning with ‘Seinfeld,’ and moving on through ‘Friends,’ ‘Sex and the City’ and more recently ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘Cougartown’ and at least a half-dozen other shows, including this season’s newbies ‘Raising Hope’ and ‘Better With You,’ television has become a kind of friendship machine dispensing groups of people in constant and intimate contact with one another.’
‘These flock comedies serve an obvious dramatic function. In an age of quick cuts and interlacing, frenetic plots (think ’30 Rock’), it helps to have a multitude of characters on hand zooming in and out of scenes. But the change also reflects something deeper about the patterns of friendship in society. With people delaying marriage and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their lives…’ Does anybody remember what this started out being about? ‘With people delaying marriage and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes. These friendship networks are emotionally complicated and deeply satisfying — ripe ground for a comedy of manners.’ Does anybody have any idea what that paragraph is even about?
‘Then, when these people do get married, friendship becomes the great challenge. Middle-aged Americans are now likely to live in two-earner families. But despite career pressures, they have not cut back on the amount of time they spend with their kids. Instead, they have sacrificed friendship time. So these flock comedies serve another purpose for the middle-aged. They appeal to people who want to watch fictional characters enjoying the long, uninterrupted bonding experiences that they no longer have time or energy for.’ You feel me on this? ‘The shows also serve one final purpose. They help people negotiate the transition between dyadic friendships and networked friendships. Throughout history, the most famous friendships were one on one.
As Ruth says to Naomi in the biblical narrative: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” As Ruth says to Naomi. ‘Most essayistic celebrations of friendship have also been about the deep and total commitment that can exist between one person and another.’ Essayistic celebrations; where there is essay. ‘Most essayistic celebrations of friendship…’ Dawn, when was the last time you celebrated friendship? When was the last time you had a friendship celebration, essayistic or otherwise? (interruption) Do you even know what the hell an ‘essayistic celebration’ of anything is, much less friendship? (interruption)
Well, that’s because you’re not David Brooks. You’re not an elitist. (interruption) No, I don’t think she has more dyadic friendships. No, no, no. Dialectic friendships, maybe, but not dyadic. Don’t confuse it, because we’re talking about the essayistic. Distracting me here. ‘Most essayistic celebrations of friendship have also been about the deep and total commitment that can exist between one person and another. In his book, ‘The Four Loves,’ C.S. Lewis paints a wonderf…’ This is the New York Times. This is a conservative columnist in the New York Times today. ‘In his book, ‘The Four Loves,’ C.S. Lewis paints a wonderful picture of such an ideal: ‘It seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship” with a capital F ”as something that raised us almost above humanity.” Somebody tell me how I can ‘rise above humanity.’
Where is humanity so that I can look above, or down on it? How do I rise above humanity? ”It seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship as something that raised us almost above humanity. This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels.” How did that get past the editors at the New York Time? Angels live in heaven, and that means God. None of this is computing. ‘But today’s friendships — those represented in the flock comedies and perhaps in real life — are less likely to be one on one.
‘Instead, individual relationships tend to be deeply embedded in a complex web of group relationships. This creates a different set of social problems. Thanks to social network technologies, people have to figure out how concentrated they want their friendship networks to be. Those with low-density networks can have a vast array of friends, but if the network gets too distended you are left with nothing but a dispersed multitude of shallow connections,’ and who wants that! ‘People with a concentrated network have a narrower circle of friends, but if it is too dense you have erected an insular and stultifying social fortress.
‘Thanks to the segmentation of society, people have to figure out how rigorously they should segregate their different friendship circles: their work friends from their play friends; their artsy friends from their jock friends; their college friends from their religious or ethnic friends. Thanks to greater equality between the sexes, people are more likely to socialize within co-ed flocks. They have to figure out how to handle sexual tension within the group: whether the eroticization of friendship ruins the essential bond; whether sex between two people within a friendship mob threatens to destroy the entire chemistry of the mob.’
Are you still sober?
RUSH: All right. Just a few paragraphs remaining here in ‘The Flock Comedies,’ today’s conservative column from David Brooks of the New York Times. We now JIP this. We rejoin it in progress. ‘Thanks to greater equality between the sexes, people are more likely to socialize within co-ed flocks. They have to figure out how to handle sexual tension within the group: whether the eroticization of friendship ruins the essential bond; whether sex between two people within a friendship mob threatens to destroy the entire chemistry of the mob. Finally, there is the question of whether group friendships are more or less satisfying than the one-on-one, bosom-buddy relationships. In an age of Facebook, Twitter networks and geo-location apps, are people trading flexibility and convenience for true commitment’ or are they not?
‘In other words, group friendship is burbling to the surface of television life because the promise and perplexities of modern friendship networks are burbling to the top of national life. What’s striking is not that television is treating changing friendship norms so thoroughly but that other cultural institutions are treating it so sparingly.’ David Brooks in the New York Times. I read that last night, and said, ‘I have to be drunk.’ Now, what you have there, folks, is mental masturbation without a climax. That is somebody trying to prove to his editors that he is not a Tea Party hick. And now we go back to September 16th this very year. David Brooks on the Charlie Rose Show. Charlie Rose asked David Brooks, ‘How long are you going to do this?’
BROOKS: I used to think five years and I’m out. It seems easy and maybe it is easy, but it’s hard to come up with a column every three days, three and a half days. I hope people appreciate how hard what Maureen [Dowd] does is, to be that witty and that clever and that perceptive three days… It’s easy to write the columns I do. What she does is really hard. First sentences are famously important. I always… I actually try to read…who’s great at first sentences was Orwell.
ROSE: (whispering) Oh yeah.
BROOKS: Yeah. I sometimes go back to get the rhythms of his first sentences. But I don’t know how long I’ll do it. I’ll die at age 50.
RUSH: (tapping fingers) Well, he’s on to something here about how hard it is and not knowing how many columns he has in him. I think he’s reached it. He has just proven how hard it is. Can you imagine if this guy had to do three hours of radio five days a week? (interruption) Well, I don’t think he’d have time to contemplate the essayistic or the dyadic. At any rate, I had to share it with you, folks. Forgive me, but I had to share it with you. What was the first sentence of his piece? I already threw it away. No, I didn’t. Brooks talked about the first sentence. What is the first sentence? ‘For most of television history sitcoms have been about families.’ Oh! Oh, that’s a hook! That is some job. He had me from the opening line. I love the ‘rhythm’ of this one. Folks, no wonder I stuck with this. ‘For most of television history sitcoms have been about families.’ Damn, that’s good. Maureen Dowd couldn’t write that. Nobody could.