Nice Work If You Can Get It

Thomas Friedman is fascinating. Not his work itself, of course. Rather, the mere fact of his existence, and the mystery of what function he could possibly serve in the social system that created him. Friedman's ongoing crimes against both rational intellect and the English language make him a challenging problem in whatever the secular-humanist equivalent of theodicy would be.
Matt Taibbi suspects that the material cause could be as simple as the op-ed editors at The New York Times having an addiction to drinking rubbing alcohol. He may be on to something. It would explain making Bill Kristol a columnist, for example, and it's encouraging to suppose that Kristol's departure now means they are at least admitting they have a problem.

The next step is that they should read Taibbi's review of the latest Friedman opscule, Flat, Hot, and Crowded

Many people have rightly seen this new greenish, pseudo-progressive tract as an ideological departure from Friedman's previous works, which were all virtually identical exercises in bald greed worship and capitalist tent-pitching. Approach- and rhetoric-wise, however, it's the same old Friedman -- a tireless social scientist whose research methods mainly include lunching, reading road signs and watching people board airplanes.

Like The World is Flat, a book borne of Friedman's stirring experience of seeing an IBM sign in the distance while golfing in Bangalore, Hot, Flat and Crowded is a book whose great insights come when Friedman golfs (on global warming allowing him more winter golf days: "I will still take advantage of it -- but I no longer think of it as something I got for free."), looks at Burger King signs (upon seeing a "nightmarish neon blur" of KFC, BK and McDonald's signs in Texas, he realizes: "We're on a fool's errand."), and reads bumper stickers (the "Osama Loves your SUV" sticker he read turns into the thesis of his "Fill 'er up with Dictators" chapter). This is Friedman's life: He flies around the world, eats pricey lunches with other rich people and draws conclusions about the future of humanity by looking out his hotel window and counting the Applebee's signs.

So, to repeat: Why does Thomas Friedman exist, rather than nothing? And how is it that we can tell?

Taibbi's response to TF on Gaza is a study in proportional response.

January 28, 2009 11:47 AM | | Comments (2)



To my ears, much of his career sounds like variations on a theme from Network.

In short, I see Friedman as an author of pop reification.

Why does Thomas Friedman exist, rather than nothing? And how is it that we can tell?

It is indeed a troubling question, but you just have to have faith that we live in the flattest of all possible worlds.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Quick Study published on January 28, 2009 11:47 AM.

NBCC Meeting was the previous entry in this blog.

There's a Warning Sign on the Road Ahead, A Lot of People Sayin' We'd Be Better Off Dead is the next entry in this blog.

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