Thomas Friedman, for those who aren’t already familiar with him, has achieved enormous fame in the US as a columnist for the NYTimes. He wrote books that became instant top-ten bestsellers like “The World is Flat” and “Hot Flat and Crowded.”
I view his columns as the opposite of an attempt to think, inform, or analyze. Typically, they consist of a series of logical nonsequiturs and thin claims in support of freeze-dried conclusions – add water and consume. Plus a big dose of amateurism: highly representative of the American self-important tendency to think that if you say things louder, they get more true, Friedman makes claims that sound good (at least to him), without having any expertise, or doing any research to back them up. My main exhibit is his column this week in the NYTimes. It’s definitely worth a read, because you couldn’t make this stuff up. I’ll print a couple highlights in a sec.
Wikipedia tells me that his mother was a superstar bridge champion. Yay for her.
Friedman also apparently spent three summers in Israel living in a kibbutz, which explains his constant rallying cry for Zionism. And then he married into big money; his wife is part of the billionaire Bucksbaum family. He lives in a 10 million dollar house in Bethesda, MA, near Washington D.C.
And for the main event, here are some highlights from a guy who earns $50,000 for a speaking engagement, and is granted prized space at the top of the NYTimes.
TF can’t figure it out – so it must be unexplainable:
Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world.
And some material he meant to send to The Onion but accidentally sent to The NYTimes, who accidentally printed it:
I’ve been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I’d call the “not-so-obvious forces” that fed this mass revolt.
I’m convinced that listening to Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech …were more than a few young Arabs who were saying to themselves: “Hmmm, let’s see. He’s young. I’m young. He’s dark-skinned. I’m dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. My name is Hussein.
What do you think young Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics?
… something I’ve dubbed “Fayyadism.”
Add it all up and what does it say? … It says we’re just at the start of something huge.
Okay, and now the really funny stuff. Here is a devious parody by a great blogger over at Inanities:
This is just the start and it never fucking ends
After reading this gem in the New York Times, we prevailed on Thomas Friedman to provide us with a part two. And here it is.
Future historians will long puzzle over how I was given an international platform to freely pontificate on the Arab people and be remunerated handsomely for it. It is true that I am not the only person in the world who formulates dubious theories based on scant or no evidence which I then harangue people with. Other people do it. They are called taxi drivers. But they are not as rich as me and haven’t been awarded three Pulitizer Prizes.
Since I’ve been here in Egypt I’ve been putting together a list of “the-absolutely-irrelevant forces” that have captured the captive Arab mind and ignited the simmering coals of the instant garden BBQ that is the Middle East. You might ask why, since I am in Egypt, I don’t ask an Egyptian – possibly two Egyptians – about what inspired them to completely ignore my theories on the Arab peoples and take to the streets. The answer is this: I am Thomas Friedman and I write a column in the New York Times.
I started my last extremely important column with an introduction in which I listed tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media as the “big causes”. Rather than just stop there, I did a Google “surprise me” search and chose five of the random results for my special “mix of forces” which inspired the Arab mass revolts. These included Barack Obama, Google Earth and the Beijing Olympics.
But there are other critical factors integral to an understanding of my bollocks theory on the Middle East. Here they are:
MY MOUSTACHE – Americans have never really appreciated what a radical thing I did in growing a moustache, long the symbol of Arab male virility. I’m convinced that when Arab men catch a glimpse of my moustache as they bring me my breakfast in my hotel they are inspired and say to themselves: “Hmmm. Let’s see. He’s middle-aged. I’m middle-aged. He’s slightly tanned. I’m roughly the same colour. His name is Thomas. My name is Hussein. He is a prick. I sometimes act like a prick. He is not president of the United States. I am not president of the United States. Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. He has a moustache. I have a moustache. Both our moustaches have no voice in my future”. I’d put that in my special mix of hallucinogenic drugs and ingest it.
HOME SHOPPING NETWORK.com – While Facebook has gotten all the face time in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, don’t forget the Home Shopping Network which has never been particularly relevant to any Arab state but let’s shoehorn it in anyway. A big issue in Bahrain- particularly among nobody at all – has been access to home solutions. On Nov. 27 2006, the Washington Post ran this report from there: “Mahmoud, who lives in a house with his parents, 97 siblings and their uncountable number of children, said he became even more frustrated when he looked up the Home Shopping Network and saw huge numbers of spring cleaning ideas for the home. ‘We are 1798 people crowded into one small house, like many people in the southern district,’ he said. ‘And you see on Home Shopping Network how they have the best solutions for mess and free shipping.’ Bahraini activists have encouraged people to take a look at the crafts section of the website, which has $5 shipping on Cricut machines.
ISRAEL – The Arab TV network Al Jazeera has a big team covering Israel today. They frequently report Israeli incursions on Palestinian towns, illegal settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli killings, torture and illegal detention of Palestinians as well as Israel’s continual transgression of international law. I will ignore this and focus on a few incidents of domestic housekeeping (and include a completely irrelevant reference to Google maps!) in order to prop up my theory and ignore the fact that if Egyptians are in any way inspired by anything that happens in Israel, it is their ability to identify with Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. When you write a column for the New York Times and your name is Thomas Friedman, well, that’s what you do.
THE COOPER’S HILL CHEESE-ROLLING AND WAKE NEAR GLOUCESTER – Gloucester and Egypt both have G in their names. Today Gloucester is the host of this event and Egypt is still living on foreign aid. What do you think Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Cheese-Rolling competition? It was another wake-up call – “in a way that America or the West could never be” – telling young Egyptians that something was very wrong with their supermarkets, argues Whata Loadofbollox, who teaches recreational pot pourri mixing.
THE MUBARAK FACTOR – Former Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak introduced a new form of government thirty years ago, something I, and others, have dubbed “enlightened Western-friendly leader” and others call “oppressive, corrupt dictator in bed with the West”. It says: judge me on my foreign policy towards Israel, not how I treat my own people. Every Arab could relate to this. Chinese had to give up freedom but got economic growth and decent government in return. Arabs had to give up freedom and got the Arab-Israeli conflict and my columns and books in return.
Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a major US newspaper whose editor either has low standards or is taking backhanders so that my stuff gets published. It says that I am a huge, pompous twat. And it says that the difference between a good day a bad day for informed New York Times readers will continue to hinge on whether they open the opinion section and see my face staring out smugly at them.