New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s metaphorical pile-ups, hollow analyses, and factual inaccuracies have garnered him three Pulitzer Prizes, and frighteningly unchecked power. Alas, the point of my new book on Friedman is not to laugh at… the number of times he devises foreign policy prescriptions based on experiences in hotel rooms, restaurants, and airplanes. Rather, it is to demonstrate the defectiveness in form and in substance of his disjointed discourse, and in doing so offer a testament to the degenerate state of the mainstream media in the United States.

As the world becomes ever more interconnected, Friedman appears to be under the impression that he is licensed to extrapolate observations of select demographic groups, such as Indian call center employees pleased with the opportunities provided them by U.S. corporations, and to issue pronouncements like the following on behalf of humanity: “Three United States are better than one, and five would be better than three.” Not surprisingly, Friedman does not respond favorably when elements of humanity fail to internalize the aspirations he has assigned them, resulting in anthropological revelations such as that one of the impediments to freedom in the Arab world is “the wall in the Arab mind.” Friedman explains in 2003 that “I hit my head against that wall” while conversing with Egyptian journalists who “could see nothing good coming from the U.S. ‘occupation’ of Iraq” and who are thus written off as proponents of “Saddamism.”

Belén Fernández: Errata, Flattening Friedman (2011)

David Rees: Get Your War On

To recap: Friedman, imagining himself Columbus, journeys toward India. Columbus, he notes, traveled in three ships; Friedman “had Lufthansa business class.” When he reaches India—Bangalore to be specific—he immediately plays golf. His caddy, he notes with interest, wears a cap with the 3M logo. Surrounding the golf course are billboards for Texas Instruments and Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut billboard reads: “Gigabites of Taste.” Because he sees a Pizza Hut ad on the way to a golf course, something that could never happen in America, Friedman concludes: “No, this definitely wasn’t Kansas.”

Matt taibbi: Flathead, the peculiar genius of Friedman

Illustration: NY Press

Just when you begin to lose faith in America’s ability to fall for absolutely anything—just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts— along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene 11,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism. Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”?

Matt Taibbi: Flat n all that (2009)

The critically funny element in this paragraph is buried in the word “some.” As if there could be more than one person on earth thinking the following: “I know when the market hits the wall because of the red numbers on the Dow, but Mother Nature doesn’t have a Dow and besides, my 401K is collapsing and I don’t care about the rising sea level.”** Friedman does this a lot and it’s the weirdest goddamned thing. He has these Socratic dialogues in his head between imaginary dream-people who sound like they’ve been forced at gunpoint to conduct a Crossfire-style political debate in a room pumped full of rubber cement fumes.

Matt Taibbi: Friedman Strikes Again


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