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FLATHEAD The peculiar genius of Thomas L. Friedman.

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MSgt213 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:05 PM
Original message
FLATHEAD The peculiar genius of Thomas L. Friedman.
By Matt Taibbi

I think it was about five months ago that Press editor Alex Zaitchik whispered to me in the office hallway that Thomas Friedman had a new book coming out. All he knew about it was the title, but that was enough; he approached me with the chilled demeanor of a British spy who has just discovered that Hitler was secretly buying up the worlds manganese supply. Who knew what it meantbut one had to assume the worst

"It's going to be called The Flattening," he whispered. Then he stood there, eyebrows raised, staring at me, waiting to see the effect of the news when it landed. I said nothing.

It turned out Alex had bad information; the book that ultimately came out would be called The World Is Flat. It didn't matter. Either version suggested the same horrifying possibility. Thomas Friedman in possession of 500 pages of ruminations on the metaphorical theme of flatness would be a very dangerous thing indeed. It would be like letting a chimpanzee loose in the NORAD control room; even the best-case scenario is an image that could keep you awake well into your 50s.

So I tried not to think about it. But when I heard the book was actually coming out, I started to worry. Among other things, I knew I would be asked to write the review. The usual ratio of Friedman criticism is 2:1, i.e., two human words to make sense of each single word of Friedmanese. Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays. I'll give you an example, drawn at random from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here's what he says:

I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.

Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.

http://nypress.com/18/16/news&columns/taibbi.cfm
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MADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:07 PM
Response to Original message
1. I wonder if Matt is related to Mike
...who started out as a beat TV reporter in Boston, and now, poor soul, is covering the Jacko trial....
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kcass1954 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 10:16 PM
Response to Reply #1
9. Yeah, I wonder who Mike pissed off...
He did some awesome reporting in Afghanistan, especially Tora Bora, and then just disappeared for a while.


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Paul Hood Donating Member (717 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 06:19 PM
Response to Reply #1
16. Matt is Mike's son.
I heard him say so on The Majority Report.
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whistle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:15 PM
Response to Original message
2. Friedman was on Hardball this evening and Chris Matthews...
...was throwing out softballs to Tom, then pretending that Friedman had hit them over the fence! The bullshit was really flying....

Friedman actually claimed that for decades American professionals, engineers, architects, lawyers, writers, you name them, all were recipients of out-sourced jobs from abroad. Wow! Now it's payback time I suppose. Except that it has been U.S. corporate fascists who have been making the decisions as to where and how that out-sourcing flow moves.
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TomClash Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 05:54 AM
Response to Reply #2
18. Did hack journalists benefit from outsourcing too?
Reminds me of Al Franken's story about outsourcing journalism.
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Maple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:16 PM
Response to Original message
3. I hate cutesey-poo critiques
The critics have always read a copy of 'Variety' in their youth, and were seduced by the 'hip' writing, and have spent a lifetime imitating it.

Hate Friedman's politics all you like, but if you miss this book you won't know about the freight train...make that a maglev train...hurtling toward the US.

No matter what minor grammatical errors he makes. Sheesh.
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RoyGBiv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:28 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Grammatical Errors ...

The critic is not highlighting any minor "grammatical" errors, nor any major ones for that matter. He's highlighting the fact that Friedman is a shitty writer who does insanely idiotic things such as build a metaphor about a flat earth based on the physical image of an ice cream cone ... and then tries to formulate a mathematical explanation for all this nonsense.

This leads, or should lead, a reader to question the logic that is the thrust of these metaphors.

Yeah, the writing style of the critic is a bit cutesy, but as a long-time critic of Friedman's *writing*, which I have been forced to read for various reasons, I found it refreshing.

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ixion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-05 09:41 AM
Response to Reply #6
26. I agree...
Friedman is a hack, at best, and not a good one at that. The fact that he has a book deal in the first place is disturbing, IMO.

It's people like Friedman attempting to pass themselves off as intellectuals that has contributed to the degradation of journalism in the US.

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TabulaRasa Donating Member (223 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 07:34 AM
Response to Reply #3
10. Let me get this straight.
You're a fan of Thomas Friedman, and you're criticizing cutesy-poo writing? Seriously? I really don't know what your problem with the review is. I think the person who wrote the review writes quite well, judging by what I read. Namely, he has a cogent idea he wishes to express (i.e. that Tom Friedman is a pompous windbag) and he expresses it quite reasonably. While reading the review, I felt utterly immersed in Friedman's douchebaggery.

And btw, I hate a lot more about Friedman than his politics. His pseudo-intellectual style, smug demeanor, and the complete insipidness of everything he says and writes, are all equally loathesome features of the complex amalgam that constitutes the festering pile of shit that is Thomas Friedman. (And the fact that "liberals" think he's a good guy is just icing on the cake, or turd, if you will.) Friedman is the mighty pharoah of a cottage industry devoted to making stupid people feel smart. I think the author expressed all of this rather well.
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Boo Boo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 08:44 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. Preach on...
Friedman blows.

:puke:
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 08:45 PM
Response to Reply #10
25. Well put.......enjoyed your additional critique of that windbag...n/t
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SweetLeftFoot Donating Member (905 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 09:20 AM
Response to Reply #3
13. Maglev
A maglev train wouldn't hurtle, it would glide.
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Cocoa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #3
19. don't worry about the train, whatever that is
Tom Friedman is completely full of shit. If he's warning about something, it can very safely be ignored.
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idlisambar Donating Member (916 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 03:35 PM
Response to Reply #3
23. There are many other sources for learning about the train
No need to wade through Friedman's vague metaphors.
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housewolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:23 PM
Response to Original message
4. Tom Friedman, Sun 5/1 3 hrs on Book TV (c-span2)
Tom Friedman is scheduled for May's "In Depth" program on BookTV, Sun 5/1 at noon ET, shown on c-span2. Three hours of Friedman, live. The open the phone lines and take questions.

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NJCher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:26 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. thanks, housewolf!
I have to work but i'll be taping it.


Cher
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:40 PM
Response to Original message
7. Peculiar, yes, genius, no. nt
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punpirate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-21-05 09:46 PM
Response to Original message
8. Very funny...
... review--one of the best I've read in a while. Of course, I probably think that because I think Tom "Give War a Chance" Friedman is one of most vacuous and silly propagandists still on the surface of this round earth.... :)
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Boo Boo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 08:55 AM
Response to Original message
12. This was a great read
Taibbi just mercilessly hammers the guy.

On an ideological level, Friedman's new book is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horseshit. If its literary peculiarities could somehow be removed from the equation, The World Is Flat would appear as no more than an unusually long pamphlet replete with the kind of plug-filled, free-trader leg-humping that passes for thought in this country.


I rather enjoyed that!

:7
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SweetLeftFoot Donating Member (905 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 09:20 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Manganese
I liked the bit about the British spy finding out that Hitler was buying up the worlds supply of manganese.
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TabulaRasa Donating Member (223 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 09:47 AM
Response to Reply #12
15. Ha! That was my favorite bit too ...
also the Hitler metaphor (Friedman should stare at that one for an hour, and try to understand what an apt metaphor looks like.) Other favorite bits that weren't mentioned ... the quote from the Indian CEO. It's so vintage Friedman to take the most mundane, insipid cliche, uttered by some boob he's met in a third-world country and act as if it's the most profound thing ever uttered (this, I suppose, is meant to demonstrate his great "liberal" generosity and multiculturalism). That he could write an entire book after being moved by such a quote, is utterly surreal. Also, the "mathematical" model story is hilarious. What a buffoon. I bet CEOs and middle-managers everywhere are reading that gibberish and thinking they are great intellectuals. I would think it was a parody if the guy didn't swear on his life that it was true ... and if it weren't so damn close to what I have come to expect from Friedman.
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Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-22-05 11:41 PM
Response to Original message
17. This thread is hilarious!
Edited on Fri Apr-22-05 11:43 PM by repeater138
How does someone like Friedman get to be so prominent that it's necessary to point out that he's incompetent?
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stopbush Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 02:45 PM
Response to Original message
20. INCREDIBLE Send Up of Tommy Friedman by Matt Taibbi (NY Press)
Here: http://www.nypress.com/print.cfm?content_id=12841

Here's a sample:

Thomas Friedman in possession of 500 pages of ruminations on the metaphorical theme of flatness would be a very dangerous thing indeed. It would be like letting a chimpanzee loose in the NORAD control room; even the best-case scenario is an image that could keep you awake well into your 50s.

So I tried not to think about it. But when I heard the book was actually coming out, I started to worry. Among other things, I knew I would be asked to write the review. The usual ratio of Friedman criticism is 2:1, i.e., two human words to make sense of each single word of Friedmanese. Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays.
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Boo Boo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 02:45 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. This wil prolly get locked 'n' merged soon
But, yeah, it was a great piece. Taibbi is my new hero. A fearsome public spanking, indeed.

Here's the other thread:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
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JAbuchan08 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 02:45 PM
Response to Reply #20
22. THat was hilarious
"Friedman not only speaks in malapropisims he HEARS them"
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-05 08:41 PM
Response to Original message
24. What a great read! The Great Literary GURU Friedman has "No Clothes!"
Edited on Sat Apr-23-05 08:43 PM by KoKo01
I loved this article! Friendman has become sillier and sillier since his big push up supporting the PNAC'ers for Iraq Invasion. His "Lexus and Olive Branch" was his ruminations on Globilization with an agenda.

I'm glad to see him "caught out," and not slavered over the way he usually is with his fans. :D

On Edit: corrected subject line which said "Friendman" which was a Freudian slip of my fingers....Friedman=Friend of the Bushies&NeoCon Light.
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