Words of the Times: Is David Brooks Calling Britain’s Big Society a Cephalopod or a Feeble Explosive?

While he waits for

Mitch Daniels

to decide whether or not to run for president, New York Times columnist David Brooks has taken his quest for a non-laughable yet “conservative”-branded example of government over to Britain. There’s nothing beyond the

“LONDON” dateline

to indicate that Brooks has left his desk in Washington to observe anything or talk to anyone there in Edmund Burke-land—come on, get out of the hotel, already. Do like Friedman and chat with a cabbie, at least. The taxicabs are fabulous.


But the British don’t really like the new conservative model over there, either—though Brooks, ever

exasperated by the masses

, writes that it “substantively…has been a success.” On the non-substantive grounds where non-Brooksian thinking takes place, prime minister David Cameron’s program of a “Big Society” is unpopular:

It has turned out to be something of a damp squid politically.

As opposed to a savory

dried squid

? But that was in the print edition. Online, Brooks’ column now describes the Big Society as

something of a damp squib politically.

Whither the mollusk? “Damp squib” makes

more sense

, idiomatically. But how did it get into the column? There is no note to indicate the reason for the switch. If Brooks was looking for a phrase to capture the

misguidedness of the average Briton

, someone really should have stetted the “squid.”