In David Brooks' latest column, "Weed. Been There. Done That," the Times' elder conservative statesman cops to smoking pot as a youngster while also deriding the habit and those who encourage it. The column predictably aroused mockery from the peanut gallery, leading many to question whether or not he was actually high when he wrote it. (In the wake of Colorado's recreational marijuana rollout, commentators like Ruth Marcus, Joe Scarborough, and Tina Brown have expressed similar viewpoints, but Brooks has a unique way of evoking anger from the Twitterati.)
Did David Brooks inadvertently prove the opposing point? He smoked pot recreationally…and turned out to be David Brooks! Can't be that bad.
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) January 3, 2014
Others note that the fact that Brooks stopped using marijuana on his own is proof that his Burkean worries about the impact of society and culture are overwrought.
Brooks cites "embarrassing incidents," the fact that "one member of our clique became a full-on stoner," and the fact that he "graduated to more satisfying pleasures" as reasons why his weed use "just sort of petered out."
Of course, there are serious reasons to worry that any drug use might lead to more drug use, but aside from a casual mention of his "full-on stoner" friend, Brooks' personal experience seems to undermine that notion. As such — and as much as I'm sympathetic to his cultural argument — I'm left agreeing with the critics: Brooks' column is riddled with logical holes.
Now, had Brooks cited "fear of being arrested" as a reason he quit toking, his argument against legalization would at least have been coherent. Fear of arrest, he might have argued, was a deterrent to continued use. "As people age and start entering the workforce," he might have said, "fear of arrest becomes a greater liability, and preserving this fear is worthwhile."
As it is, Brooks' column only serves to prove that many kids will quit on their own, and — in any event — the experience won't stop them from going on to be highly successful pundits.
In fact, the only way his marijuana use might have hurt Brooks (and possibly ruined his life) would have been if he had been arrested. And that danger is now almost completely out the window in Colorado. And so, we are left with a very well-written and thought-provoking column that ultimately fails to make a coherent argument.
But at least we know David Brooks used to smoke weed.