I’ve come to the conclusion that when people really, really enjoy conversation with a person who is great at conversations, and they agree with them, they label that person “erudite” and “articulate.” When there is a disagreement, that same person is “a pompous ass.” A great case in point is Thomas Friedman.
Thomas Friedman has become so famous, and controversial, that there is a cottage industry of sorts that has emerged to refute him.
First, we have The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, by Belén Fernández: wherein we read that “Factual errors, ham-fisted analysis, and contradictory assertions—compounded by a penchant for mixed metaphors and name-dropping—distinguish the work of Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman.”
Ms. Fernández has taken time out of what must be a very busy career to skewer Friedman. And then a whole slew of writers reviewed her review of him. He’s the handmaiden of the elite! She has succeeded in “filleting the silliest man on the planet!” A dangerous fraud, that’s what he is. He needs a really really effective eviscerating. Aljazeera reviewed “Imperial Messagner”, summing up their opinion by leading with this: “Thomas Friedman’s writing on the Middle East is condescending and often misleading.” Now were getting somewhere. Some famous names in there, but I’m too modest to name them.
Some of these are, heck most of them, are so vitriolic they are hilarious. This from Matt Tiabbi reviewing “The World is Flat” (Flathead! hahaha!) is perhaps the funniest line from a book review I’ve ever read. After lambasting Friedman for being a sappy, sloppy, weak minded fool,
“Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears malapropisms…This is the intellectual version of Far Out Space Nuts, when NASA repairman Bob Denver sets a whole sitcom in motion by pressing “launch” instead of “lunch” in a space capsule. And once he hits that button, the rocket takes off.”
he then delivers this verbal assault:
“God strike me dead if I’m joking about this. Judge for yourself. …[the] baseline argument begins with a lengthy description of the “ten great flatteners,” which is basically a highlight reel of globalization tomahawk dunks from the past two decades: the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Netscape IPO, the pre-Y2K outsourcing craze, and so on. Everything that would give an IBM human resources director a boner, that’s a flattener. “
God strke me dead! Globalizaton tomahawk dunks! IBM HR guy with an (ahem!) erection. You have to love that level of angst. That kind of exasperation does not come cheap. I can only imagine how many vodka martinis it took to relax at the end of that day. Someone should rewrite Camus’ “The Stranger” with Tiabbi and Friedman as the protagonists. Why stop there? Let’s redo “Les Mis.” It’s that good. Thomas Friedman is giving journalists fits of existential hernias just by being alive and writing columns. God strike me dead if I’m wrong.
Some of the critique is so harsh it’s embarrassing. Conservative writer Debbie Schlussel is absolutely apoplectic. She reaches a level I would say goes beyond anger.
“I don’t begrudge the gentile and Arab Muslim Jew-haters and Israel-attackers as much as their Jewish anti-Semitic comrades. … Thomas Friedman … would race from his DC-area mansion and run over his own mother if it meant the chance to eat shawarmeh with King Abdullah (either the Saudi or Jordanian King Abdullah, take your pick as he bends over for both) and attack Israel.
In truth, Tom Friedman isn’t a Jew in any way shape or form. Instead, he’s a far-left radical in a tweed coat with a BS Pulitzer Prize. And if you ask his patrons in the Gulf states and the Middle East, to them, he’s just the pet camel . . . bending over and assuming the position. I’m not sure who paid for Friedman’s mansions, aside from many gullible dumbasses who bought his cliche-filled, toilet-paper-worthy books. But I wouldn’t be surprised if his writing and commentary was bought and paid for by the Arab Muslim lobby. Someone needs to look into that.”
Ouch! That’s gotta hurt! She even compares him unfavorably to porn star Ron Jeremy. Whoa Nelly! Time for a cartoon!
The list goes on: Thomas Friedman Wants YOU to Sacrifice from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Tom Friedman’s losing battle from Caroline Glick, Thomas Friedman = Captain Obvious from Business Insider.
I almost need a cigarette. Anyway Friedman has been a reporter for a long time — since 1980, starting out at UPI and shortly thereafter at The New York Times. He’s written thousands of columns and articles, several books, and has the distinction of having been on Charlie Rose 18 times. In other words he is well known. Not just well known, but prominent. And he is very, very much in love with writing his opinions. That may be the problem.
And he is, (ahem! in my opinion) a conversationalist. He loves words. I’ve read two of his books (“The Lexus and the Olive Tree“, and “From Beirut to Jerusalem“) and found them interesting in parts, and trite in others. I think his columns are a better read then his books. I suppose that’s because I see his columns as op-ed pieces. In others words, as with all op-ed pieces, I come prepared to watch for the sleight-of-hand that goes with that kind of writing.
The problem is that when he gets into bigger projects his opinions get stretched really thin by the reality that some facts don’t fit the framework of his arguments.
This will give you some idea of what I mean. Here we have a whole blog devoted to reinterpreting Friedman’s columns: The Mustache of Understanding:
“Essentially, what we have here is Friedman recognizing that, however reasonable his proposals are, very few other pundits and political figures have spoken up in support of them. To compensate, he engages in the time-honored political tradition of projecting your views onto others and casting them as cheerleaders for your approach. … Tom Friedman writes things and then feels a need to include a quote from some guy he probably met at a cocktail party repeating whatever point it was he just made. It’s really irritating.”
Can you imagine? Whole books and blogs devoted to ripping apart every article you have written? Every day, right after it’s published? Now that’s famous. When you have that kind of adrenalin rush going who needs recreational drugs?
Seriously, all this has given me an idea. What if I just read every book review and then evaluated the reviewer? Never mind reading the books, the heck with that. I can make money riffing off the quirky, exasperatingly hilarious writers writing about other peoples writing.
Well that’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!