[Despite being about the pompous and boring Tom Friedman, this is not an appropriate post for the under-18 crowd.]
I don’t think that there’s any doubt BUT that Tom Friedman is an idiot. His worship for Communist China — which in typical Friedman fashion routinely takes the form of acknowledging its failings, yet nevertheless lusting after the same power that creates those failings — is manifest evidence of his idiocy. He’s coy, but he can’t disguise his unwholesome passion for totalitarianism.
It’s not just his totalitarian yearnings, though, that make Friedman stupid. It’s also his blatant inability to align facts and conclusions. Friedman made his reputation as a fact guy. He’s written lots of ostensibly fact-based books. Certainly, he impresses the self-styled intellectuals on the Left with his mastery of facts. But the reality is that, in his columns, he frequently ignores painful facts, fakes real facts, and misuses actual facts, all of which adds up to stupid. He is the living embodiment of 2+2=5 (except that he often functions in the realm of imaginary numbers).
If you’re wondering why I’m harshing on Friedman with such venom this morning, it’s because of a column he wrote yesterday about Israel and the Palestinians. The whole column exists in a parallel reality universe. Taking his usual irritating, condescending stance of wise father lecturing recalcitrant children, he essentially demands that Israel just get with the Obama program and make concessions that will inevitably lead to the lion and the lamb lying in peace together. Evelyn Gordon neatly dissects the factual vacuum in which Friedman’s fatuous demand exists:
Thomas Friedman argues in today’s New York Times that Israel should extend its freeze on settlement construction because when a key ally like America “asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security … there is only one right answer: ‘Yes.’” Friedman is, of course, correct that countries should help allies anytime they can do so without great cost to themselves. Where he’s wrong is in saying that no vital Israeli security interest is at stake.
It’s true that Israel has no real security interest in a few more houses here or there. But it does have a vital security interest in ultimately securing defensible borders, which can’t be done without retaining some territory on the other side of the Green Line under any deal. And continuing the settlement freeze would undermine Israel’s negotiating position on this issue.
Not only does Friedman deeply misunderstand the actual facts on the ground, he ignores the ones that conflict with his overriding need to support Obama in pushing a course of action that is antithetical to reality. Per Rick Richman:
Friedman writes that he has “no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel” but thinks Abbas should be tested with another moratorium. No idea?
He knows that Abbas’s term of office expired nearly two years ago and that Abbas is “President Abbas” only in the sense that George Mitchell is “Senator Mitchell.” He knows Abbas declined an offer of a state on 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) with a shared Jerusalem. He knows Abbas has stated he will “never” recognize Israel as a Jewish state nor negotiate any land swap. He knows Abbas cannot make peace even with Hamas, which controls half the putative Palestinian state. He knows Abbas has repeatedly canceled elections and that the idea of the Palestinian Authority as a stable democratic entity is a joke. He knows Abbas has declared he will never waive the “right of return,” which makes a peace agreement impossible even if every other issue could be resolved. He knows Abbas has taken no steps to prepare his public for any of the compromises that would be necessary for a peace agreement. How many tests does Abbas have to fail before Thomas Friedman has an idea?
So I’ve now provided proof that Friedman is an idiot. He doesn’t understand the facts he has, and ignores the facts he doesn’t like. From that foundation, he makes grossly (and gross) ideological arguments, assuming the preening, snide posture of a seasoned sage, condemned to deal in perpetuity with ill-educated louts. The question is why is Friedman like this?
Friedman wasn’t always such an idiot. He was always a pedantic, formulaic writer, but twenty years ago he actually used to make facts and theory mesh well together. The problem is the bubble. Friedman is encased in an ideological bubble, with no countervailing forces, that renders him the functional equivalent of an unpruned hedge: he’s wild and ugly now, instead of neat and compact.
The heart of the problem is Friedman’s gig at the New York Times. Week after week, year after year, Friedman has to churn out articles that suit the Times’ mentality. If he doesn’t do that, he loses his job. This won’t affect him financially, of course, but it will humiliate him. He likes being one of the Times’ most widely read columnists. He likes the fawning and the adulation. He wants to keep these emotional strokes going. No surprise there.
The problem for Friedman is repetition. There are only so many issues to be had, especially because, unlike a blogger, he’s subject to topical limitations. Much as he might want to, he can’t break free and write about weddings or recipes. (A blogger, by the way, can refresh him or herself with occasional forays into irregular topics.)
The only thing Friedman can do to stay fresh is to push the envelope. Since he can’t keep repeating himself, he has to come up with ever new and exciting ways to keep his audience’s attention. The result is that, while Times’ subscribers may think that they’re reading a staid, serious news organ, they’re actually getting the intellectual equivalent of a sleazy strip tease.
Think about it: When the audience gets bored with the 37th iteration of the glove being pulled off finger by finger, the next thing to do is to tease the buttons on the bodice. And when that gets tiring, bit by bit, item by item, the stripper finds herself inevitably pushed towards nudity. Once she reaches nudity, there’s nothing left, especially if that nudity reveals, not that she looks like some airbrushed Hollywood star but, instead, that her bra was stuffed and that the cellulite is wearing heavy on her thighs. At that point, all she can do is holler really loudly, in the hope that she deflects people’s attention from the fact that she’s not only stale and boring, but ugly too.
Friedman’s columns are exactly the same. When pedantic reasoning got boring, he resorted, still pedantically, to opinion. And when that got stale, he moved into the realms of fact free opinion. After that got old, there was totalitarian fantasy disguised as pedantic fact-free opinion. Column by column, Friedman is not only getting more extreme in his writing, he’s stripping himself bare intellectually, and revealing the padding and ugliness.
What makes it even worse in the world of Tom Friedman is the high wall that the Times has built around him. Because the Times decided to remove comments, Friedman doesn’t have the reality checks that, in the stripper world, tell that gal to go on a diet and keep her clothes on; and that in the political world, should tell Friedman that he’s got his facts wrong, that he’s missing facts, or that his conclusions don’t make sense. To keep my sexual analogies going, Friedman is getting all the feedback of a good masturbater. He knows how to make himself happy, something that does not require him to venture beyond the lining of his own brain, but woe betide anyone who has to share the experience with him. He’s accustomed to an audience of one, and he will brook no criticism or changes.
And that’s why Friedman is an idiot. And selfish. And mentally ugly too.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News