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Taibbi reviews Friedman's latest
January 17, 2009 12:17 AM   Subscribe

A review of Thomas Friedman's latest book, Flat, Hot, and Crowded, by Matt Taibbi.
posted by mr_roboto (108 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 


I'd pay cash money to see these two in a cage match.
posted by rokusan at 12:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Taibbi's review of The World is Flat is one of my favorite pieces of criticism and ought to have single-handedly ended Friedman's career. This article is good but it's a tough act to follow.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:30 AM on January 17, 2009 [21 favorites]


As allen noted, the Flathead evisceration is simply awesome, and this falls a little flat (muted trombone) by comparison.

That said, Taibbi on Friedman is like Thompson on Nixon (or, for that matter, like Charlie Parker on smack): A level of pure, evil virtuosity that should compel us to do nothing but sit back and groove in wide-eyed blissful wonder.
posted by gompa at 12:39 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


S'OK guys, I think the Gaza-Israel thing will be over in six months.
posted by bardic at 12:48 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh a little Shadenfrued, his wife's company was eviscerated by the economic collapse. Friedman started the year as a billionaire and now most of that wealth has been wiped out almost completely. It's down 96% over the past 12 months.
posted by delmoi at 12:52 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


S'OK guys, I think the Gaza-Israel thing will be over in six months.

Actually, a new ceasefire will probably be in place before Obama is sworn in.
posted by delmoi at 12:53 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked this from the article: And who cares if it doesn’t quite make sense when Friedman says that Iraq is like a “vase we broke in order to get rid of the rancid water inside?” Who cares that you can just pour water out of a vase, that only a fucking lunatic breaks a perfectly good vase just to empty it of water?

delmoi, I was attempting to make a nyuck-nyuck about the infamous "Friedman Units."
posted by bardic at 1:00 AM on January 17, 2009


I really like Matt Taibbi's writing, but does he ever really like anything? Not that I'm defending Friedman's book (I haven't read it), it's just that Taibbi seems smugly derisive about pretty much everything. Just curious.
posted by dhammond at 1:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I saw Thomas Friedman give a talk once. God that guy is an asshole. Everything he comes out with is either fucking obvious or not correct. Nice post.
posted by w0mbat at 1:15 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Taibbi doesn't write that prolifically, but he does carefully pick his targets and skewers them with great gusto. Deservedly so.
posted by markkraft at 1:24 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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?

worthy of MeFi snarkhood
posted by infini at 1:27 AM on January 17, 2009


Thanks, very enjoyable.
posted by Wolof at 1:34 AM on January 17, 2009


Does it strike anyone else as horribly wrong that my political science professor assigned The World is Flat as required reading?
posted by dunkadunc at 1:34 AM on January 17, 2009


i hate to ask, but is your prof from some small midwestern location ... say, like Manhattan, KS?
posted by infini at 1:40 AM on January 17, 2009


Or perhaps your professor is using it in a subtle way to encourage free thinking, disagreement, discussion, etc.. first "A" to anyone who stands up and goes "Professor, I was reading this Flat book, and, well, HEY WAIT A MINUTE.."
posted by cavalier at 1:42 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I sure hope so, but he sure did seem to like it. Maybe he was playing devil's advocate.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:43 AM on January 17, 2009


What's the difference between Thomas Friedman and Sarah Palin?

Lipstick.
posted by grounded at 1:52 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Don't miss David Rees' cartoon based off the article.
posted by JHarris at 1:54 AM on January 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


As others have said, Taibbi's review of The World is Flat is seared on my conciousness; it's about as hilarious as brutal critical evisceration can ever be. He's still on form with this one. Nice use of the 'mustache' tag, btw.
posted by hydatius at 2:04 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hold the Schadenfreude, delmoi; Friedman still has $25 million or so and is still raking in money from appearances and book sales. If anything, the evaporation of his wife's fortune will make him the nominal "breadwinner" in that terrifying family, pulling the penultimate stop from his massive ego — the last stop would be the dim awareness that he's wrong about everything — while of course making him quite sure he has a revelatory new perspective on what it's like to lose your savings.
posted by nicwolff at 2:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Friedman killed my entire family. And his writing is awful!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:10 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


will make him the nominal "breadwinner" in that terrifying family, pulling the penultimate stop from his massive ego — the last stop would be the dim awareness that he's wrong about everything — while of course making him quite sure he has a revelatory new perspective on what it's like to lose your savings

that's GWB's new role, yah?
posted by infini at 2:12 AM on January 17, 2009


I really like Matt Taibbi's writing, but does he ever really like anything? Not that I'm defending Friedman's book (I haven't read it), it's just that Taibbi seems smugly derisive about pretty much everything. Just curious.

He's sticking with his core competency.

If anything, the evaporation of his wife's fortune will make him the nominal "breadwinner" in that terrifying family, pulling the penultimate stop from his massive ego

Hahah. That's actually pretty funny.
posted by delmoi at 2:48 AM on January 17, 2009


infini writes "that's GWB's new role, yah?"

Somebody has to put food on his family.
posted by orthogonality at 2:48 AM on January 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


This book bummed David Letterman out for months. I'm not sure he's totally over it. At one point, he looked into the camera and talked for seven minutes about how we're all screwed.

I hope he reads this so he can dial down the apocalyptic visions. I like happy Dave.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:55 AM on January 17, 2009


Eh, Friedman's a better writer than this guy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:28 AM on January 17, 2009


I can't stand tattoos. I think they're tacky, and I hate the pain of needles. However, if I were to get one, it would read, in big letters in a highly-visible place:
Forget the Cinnabon.
Name me a herd animal that hunts.
Name me one.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


Like The World is Flat, a book borne of Friedman’s stirring experience of seeing IBM sign in the distance while golfing in Bangalore...

haha sums him up perfectly. Friedman gives you that bland nowhereworld feeling you get when you watch CNN International in your airport hotel.

Odd that he thinks that's the best place to be. I feel sorry for him.
posted by dydecker at 4:08 AM on January 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I wish I had the balls to first spend six long years madly cheering on an Iraq war that not only reintroduced Sharia law to the streets of Baghdad, but radicalized the entire Islamic world against American influence—and then write a book blaming the spread of fundamentalist Islam on the ignorant consumers of the middle American heartland, who bought too many Hummers and spent too much time shopping for iPods in my wife’s giganto-malls.

Outstanding writing- one concise sentence to summarize the stupidity of Friedman and of the administration that gave us the Iraq war.
posted by francesca too at 4:19 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The review is deep-gray-pot-calls-kettle-black, but the David Rees cartoon absolutely nails it (thanks JHarris).

The penultimate panel is particularly perspicacious.
posted by hexatron at 4:54 AM on January 17, 2009


that review was enjoyable until I was about half way down the second paragraph, then it became redundant and I got bored by the unabashed juvenile hate displayed by the author. he has a gap. boo-hoo. he has a huge house. wah-wah. I did finish the piece but learned little else about friedman that would cause me to see him differently.

thomas has held objectionable opinions. I disagreed with him on iraq and I disagree with him on many other issues. he's a bit too conservative for my taste but I appreciate that he talks about environmental issues to a part of society that usually does not hear about them. he convinces people who otherwise wouldn't have entered the discussion to begin with. his arguments deserve to be discussed on their merit. taibbi is incapable of that. every argument he makes is based on an ad-hominem attack. that makes him a bully, a loonie, a 'get off my lawn' type guy.
posted by krautland at 5:20 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


...that makes him a bully, a loonie, a 'get off my lawn' type guy.

if you're going to criticize someone for ad hominem, this is not the best way to end your post.
posted by dydecker at 5:23 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


"MATT TAIBBI IS A CORPORATE WHORE" -- I think this says more about IndyMedia than Taibbi.
posted by waraw at 5:30 AM on January 17, 2009


I read The World Is Flat some time ago and have to say that Taibbi's last line sums up the book perfectly:

Four hundred and 73 pages of this, folks. Is there no God?
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:36 AM on January 17, 2009


haha sums him up perfectly. Friedman gives you that bland nowhereworld feeling you get when you watch CNN International in your airport hotel.


You know, I've always found Friedman unpleasant, but I couldn't pin down why until recently. He likes a lot of the things I do: rational environmentalism, the long term benefits of globalisation. He also evangelises them to a mass audience, something I usually respect, and yet... there has always been something a little irritating about him.
So when I saw a profile of him in the New Yorker recently I read it eagerly, trying to figure it out. I don't remember the precise quote now, but he said something like "You know, I basically an evangelist. I want everyone to be an American."
Reader, a shiver ran down my spine. That was it, that was just the thing that I didn't like about him.
posted by atrazine at 5:58 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The penultimate panel is particularly perspicacious.
posted by hexatron


*melts* alliterations do something to me
posted by infini at 6:02 AM on January 17, 2009


Friedman has always come across, to me, as a guy who has these mini-revelations, every ten days or so, about something either a) completely obvious, b) utterly wrong, then spends about half an hour shaking in the sudden realization that, no, seven billion people probably cannot all live like Americans, then spends the next three days sidling up to people and discussing his discovery in the kind of hushed whisper you heard in playgrounds when kids are asking one another, "Have you heard about this sex thing grownups do?"

The final six days are devoted to trying to work this grand observation into absolutely everything, like those emails you'll occasionally receive from someone who has worked out a Harmonic Mathematical Formula Describing Man's Relationship to Nature and Technology, and ends up finding data points between DNA and the human form ("Can it be a coincidence that we have twenty amino acids and twenty fingers and toes? It strains credibility!"), or constellations and technological progress, or whatever strikes their fancy.

Then, bam, the maid puts some more acid in his tea and he's off again. It could be a refinement of his old idea, it could be something divergent, could be completely contrary. We just don't know what happens. I like to envision this process as a spider monkey plucking magnetic poetry off of a refrigerator door. It looks down in its tiny, fuzzy fist and sees the words crowded and flat and hot. Then the monkey drops the words into Friedman's ear and the next revelation comes to pass.

I can forgive his horrible writing, if only because it makes me laugh. Especially that bit about the steering wheel, because I had a vision of Friedman chucking it out the car window into the dust, then hitting a pothole and the steering column punches through his chest in a bloody spray. His writing does all of the mocking for you.

I will give Friedman one thing: whenever I find someone who is completely jazzed by something he's written, I'm pretty sure that they'll go on and be completely jazzed by something else some random Person of Authority says four months later.
posted by adipocere at 6:13 AM on January 17, 2009 [31 favorites]


Burned!

... Totally reminds me of Tom Wolfe's most brutal stuff. In a good way.
posted by ph00dz at 6:22 AM on January 17, 2009


God, I love Matt Taibbi.

I wish I had the balls to first spend six long years madly cheering on an Iraq war that not only reintroduced Sharia law to the streets of Baghdad, but radicalized the entire Islamic world against American influence—and then write a book blaming the spread of fundamentalist Islam on the ignorant consumers of the middle American heartland, who bought too many Hummers and spent too much time shopping for iPods in my wife’s giganto-malls.

Teachers should assign Taibbi to their helpless charges, and then when it's sunk in, they can join in burning down the prison-schools and moving on to the giganto-malls and McMansions.

Friedman's a better writer than this guy.

what
posted by languagehat at 6:24 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


About ten years ago I was at an especially well fed, high powered corporate event and the speaker was Tom Friedman. The event was in a big tent outside and one of the caterers sort of scuttled around the back, bringing in new coffee or whatever. But as a speaker, there is no way you should ever notice it. Friedman stops talking , berates this poor kid about disturbing his speech for a minute or so and goes back to what he was saying. I was instantly relieved of the need to ever read what he wrote or have an opinion about his opinions.
posted by shothotbot at 7:01 AM on January 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


Normally I like a good pile-on as much as the next snark-addict, but this review was sloppy, loaded up with expletives, and seemed too personal to come off as anything other than ranting instead of a real review.

I doubt that I will go out and read Friedman's work, but I'm just as likely to not read Matt Taibbi again, either. It's a ton of bad language strum und drang between two corporate hacks, so great.

That David Rees cartoon is fantastic, though. It said more in a couple of panels than this entire review could.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:38 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd pay cash money to see these two in a cage match.

LOL. But I want a fair fight. Taibbi, the king of snark, vs. Malcolm Gladwell, the king of earnest.

My money's on Matt.

Jonathan Swift for our times.

Oh and Friedman? I can't decide who's the bigger dick, him or David Brooks, but between the two of them and their fans, they could start a Dick Army.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The World is Flat should probably have been titled Theif he had wanted the book’s title to match its “point” about living in an age of increased global interconnectedness?

Is there something I'm not getting here? What is a "Theif"?

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”),

This made me laugh. He does come across like an absolutely clueless mega-consumer who is greatly concerned about how the un-washed masses are spoiling his good time with their consumerism. It reminds me of sumptuary laws imposed because the aristocracy want to be set apart from the commoners.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:51 AM on January 17, 2009


...they could start a Dick Army.

Heh. Dick Armey is also a dick or so says Barney "Fag."
posted by ericb at 7:51 AM on January 17, 2009


fourcheesemac: "
Oh and Friedman? I can't decide who's the bigger dick, him or David Brooks, but between the two of them and their fans, they could start a
Dick Army."


I see what you did there....
posted by notsnot at 7:57 AM on January 17, 2009


Yeah, they're totally both corporate hacks. I mean, they both get paid for their work! By corporations!!! And Taibbi's just a hypocrite for criticizing Friedman for being rich!

... oh wait, that's not what he criticizes at all. It's the whole career based on urging and applauding conspicuous consumerism, followed by the revelation, "you people are consuming too much!" Think about it, who is Friedman to write about environmentalism? He knows nothing, he doesn't even understand what it means to know something ---that's the point of the belabored example with graphs. If he's recently converted to environmentalism, then let him use his (unearned) fame to recommend a book written by someone who possesses knowledge and insight.

And that's not even getting into his whole "suck on this" advocation of war crimes based on an ignorant xenophobic view of the middle east, as inhabited by a monolithic race of subhumans. The fact that Thomas Friedman is a famous "intellectual" is a damning indictment of our culture.
posted by Humanzee at 7:58 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, why debate a man's ideas when you can use juvenile vitriolic derision: The language of impotent lefties with no ideas of their own and no grasp of how the world works.
posted by freshundz at 8:02 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


if you're going to criticize someone for ad hominem, this is not the best way to end your post.

you consider that an attack? I thought of it more as a conclusion or a description. I was describing my impression and reason for not taking his word to mean much. it's pretty much the same with bill o'reilly. I don't watch him because I know from his demonstrated behavior what type of person he is.
posted by krautland at 8:08 AM on January 17, 2009


Normally I like a good pile-on as much as the next snark-addict, but this review was sloppy, loaded up with expletives, and seemed too personal to come off as anything other than ranting instead of a real review.

You say that as if it were a bad thing. Or, rather, as if Friedman's shallow mangled metaphors deserve anything more.

Read Taibbi's World Is Flat review. Here's the "real" review section of the piece, which is essentially a summary of Friedman's whole oeuvre:

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. It is a tale of a man who walks 10 feet in front of his house armed with a late-model Blackberry and comes back home five minutes later to gush to his wife that hospitals now use the internet to outsource the reading of CAT scans. Man flies on planes, observes the wonders of capitalism, says we're not in Kansas anymore. (He actually says we're not in Kansas anymore.) That's the whole plot right there. If the underlying message is all that interests you, read no further, because that's all there is.

And on preview: Yes, why debate a man's ideas when you can use juvenile vitriolic derision

Because his ideas have no merit. Offer no insight. Aren't even internally consistent. And are communicated in a glib mess of analogy and metaphor that is an insult to the writer's craft. And because nobody would take anything this middling hack said seriously if it weren't for his presence on the New York Times op-ed page, which apparently obliges the Charlie Roses (and Charlie Rose viewers) of the world to treat even the columnist's most delirious blatherings (again, this is Friedman's idea of a justification for the Iraq War: "Suck on this") like the pronouncements of a latter-day Plato.
posted by gompa at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


Freshundz - project much?
posted by notsnot at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm reading the book right now, and certainly with a grain of salt. Really, Friedman is speaking to the red-state American conservative types and executives... people like him (who are probably not like most of us). Yes, it strikes me as strange that most of his revelations come while flying to and fro (on golf expeditions and such) and his track record as a virulent supporter of the Iraq fiasco dampens his credibility when addressing the issue of "freedom" in the Middle East.

But his argument is that as people gain access to technology and become part of a world-wide middle class, they're going to start living more like Americans, and it'll be hard to sustain that on a global scale. His point, ultimately, is that if America wants to remain in its position as an economic heavyweight, it needs to take a lead in practicing sustainability. He certainly approaches it as someone who has had the revelation but hasn't actually implemented any sustainable measures himself - a bit of a hypocritical evangelist.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 8:24 AM on January 17, 2009


To be honest, I think they're both lousy writers. Lousy in different ways, of course, but still lousy. I wouldn't mind seeing them in a cage match, but with the cage welded shut.
posted by tommasz at 8:26 AM on January 17, 2009


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


Wolves.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:30 AM on January 17, 2009


I also read World Is Flat and didn't like it.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2009


Wolves hunt in packs.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2009


Yes, why debate a man's ideas when you can use juvenile vitriolic derision: The language of impotent lefties with no ideas of their own and no grasp of how the world works.

Troll.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:36 AM on January 17, 2009


Someone once noted of Friedman that he manages to grab onto what everyone knows, suspects, is beginning to believe and writes a book about it, but since he is first out of the starting gate, he is considered a guru. His think is in no way of much value or original.

But that having been said: why worry about what guy A says about author B? Why not instead read Author B and make up your own mind. If your answer is that you first have to know if Author B is worth reading, then how do you know that Writer A is worth reading on Author B.

Just read the Thing Itself. Then decide and eschew both 2nd hand sources and odd words.
posted by Postroad at 8:37 AM on January 17, 2009


Does it strike anyone else as horribly wrong that my political science professor assigned The World is Flat as required reading?
Unless there was some serious classtime devoted to eviscerating it, yes. One of mine assigned The Lexus and the Olive Tree - despite some minor criticisms, the class overall seemed to enjoy it. I saved my copy only because I was sort of amused by the amount of rude things I wrote in the margins. I couldn't quite put a finger on why I hate Friedman so much until Taibbi's first review, though. Wow I love Matt Taibbi. I almost posted this one, but was too lazy.
Since David Rees (also one of my favorite people) has come up already in this thread, it's worth noting that Taibbi wrote the intro for the latest Get Your War On collection.
posted by naoko at 8:39 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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


"Herd of seals" seems to have the most ghits. "Pack of wolves" obviously trounces "herd of wolves".
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2009


Interestingly, "pod of dolphins" is far more popular than "herd of dolphins", but "herd of dolphin" is substantially more popular than "pod of dolphin". "Herd of dolphin" is much more popular than "herd of dolphins", too.

Nobody says "herd of seal", though.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:49 AM on January 17, 2009


"Herd of Friedmans"

(Well, they don't actually do the hunting themselves, but they enable it.)
posted by Dumsnill at 8:51 AM on January 17, 2009


Actually, it's a "friedman of jackasses."
posted by gompa at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


What does "porn-starched" mean? I know what porn is and I know what starch is, but, and I know this betrays some great lack of imagination on my part, I can quite picture them together. There must be a website somewhere that everyone else knows about that I missed.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2009


What does "porn-starched" mean? I know what porn is and I know what starch is, but, and I know this betrays some great lack of imagination on my part, I can quite picture them together.

You misread. It's "porn-stached". It means, roughly, "mustachioed in the manner of a actor in pornography".
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:16 AM on January 17, 2009


One of the above comments made me look up this Letterman rant (either before or, likely, after Friedman's appearance) on how we're all screwed. "Deat meat," he says, numerous times.

It is uncanny to watch and listen to this with the disembodied voices of Paul affirming Letterman's every word and the audience laughing at the most utterly inappropriate and dismal moments of the speech. Guh.
posted by nosila at 9:29 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


funny article, the other one was funny too, friedman's an idiot, don't care to argue about taibbi. i'm into compactness today.
posted by facetious at 9:41 AM on January 17, 2009


What I find interesting is that the drugs and the emulation of Hunter S. Thompson are now being replaced by Taibbi channeling Strunk & White's Elements of Style. Still love the review though. It's like a combination of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" and E.B. White's warnings about mixing metaphors.
posted by jonp72 at 9:48 AM on January 17, 2009


why worry about what guy A says about author B? Why not instead read Author B and make up your own mind. If your answer is that you first have to know if Author B is worth reading, then how do you know that Writer A is worth reading on Author B.

For the same reason, we should all ignore criticism of music, movies, etc, and use our infinite time on this earth to consume all available media.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:03 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


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

Wolves.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:30 AM on January 17 [+] [!]
also,

lions, hyenas, orcas, bats, chimps (yes, they're predators) and... people.
posted by klanawa at 10:24 AM on January 17, 2009


Taibbi's reviews of Friedman are overall pretty enjoyable skewerings, but when he starts starts going on about the mixing of metaphors, I was reminded of this... and also felt a little like I had suddenly discovered that the smart and funny person I was listening too was also a little disturbed. Or maybe just obsessed.
posted by theefixedstars at 10:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


My jackass of a brother handed out Hot, Flat and Crowded, The World is Flat, and Ron's Paul's Manifesto to everyone at Christmas. Those were the only presents he gave.

His birthday is coming up and I'm considering wrapping them up and giving them back to him.
posted by chiababe at 10:29 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


You misread.

I'm not sure if I'm relieved or disappointed.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:36 AM on January 17, 2009


How dumb are most people that Thomas Friedman seems smart to them?
posted by I Foody at 10:59 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


You've gotta love this line: "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."

... I guess I feel that way about a lot of the people in the chattering class. I mean, who gives a shit?
posted by ph00dz at 11:06 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually, for the people who read Friedman, Taibbi's snarky graph about the correlation between "happiness" and the size of "Valerie Bertinelli's ass" is probably about right.

I spit out my coffee when I read that part with the graphs. Sorry for those who don't like ubersnark, but that was priceless.

(And what does it mean that I'm the kind of professor who assigns Matt Taibbi articles to my students?)
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:06 AM on January 17, 2009


lions, hyenas, orcas, bats, chimps (yes, they're predators) and... people.

Pride/coalition/pack, pack, pack, flock, group, and... morons
posted by Dumsnill at 11:07 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


That was thoroughly enjoyable.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:07 AM on January 17, 2009




I Foody writes "How dumb are most people that Thomas Friedman seems smart to them?"

Let there be no doubt.

theefixedstars writes "Taibbi's reviews of Friedman are overall pretty enjoyable skewerings, but when he starts starts going on about the mixing of metaphors, I was reminded of this..."

Great stuff. Never read that before. Gives me hope for the future of writing in the US.

This is germane:

"Shouldn't a dumbed-down America be more willing to confer literary status on straightforward prose, instead of encouraging affectation and obscurity?

"Not necessarily. In Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves (1925) a character named Mr. Cardan makes a point that may explain today's state of affairs.
Really simple, primitive people like their poetry to be as ... artificial and remote from the language of everyday affairs as possible. We reproach the eighteenth century with its artificiality. But the fact is that Beowulf is couched in a diction fifty times more complicated and unnatural than that of [Pope's poem] Essay on Man.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:25 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is a difference between being a herd animal and being a pack hunting animal people. People don't say "Herd of wolves" because there's no such thing
posted by delmoi at 11:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have about as much respect for Friedman as I do for my bland uncle who watches too much of the History Channel. He's the master of the obvious, but his analysis is more superficial than CNN Headline News. I have had a great deal of trouble participating in discussions about him at family gatherings; before I can articulate even a basic counterpoint I've lost interest in making the effort. It's not that he's wrong like a Bill O'Reilly, it's just that he's an incurious overly serious intellectual child who's trying really hard to be interesting and that's what's so grating about him. A guy with this much talent, at most, should be a high school vice principal, not a columnist at a respected newspaper.

The example of Friedman is just so generalizable to everything that's wrong in American politics. I realize he probably self-identifies as a democrat, but this is the Bush constituency in a nutshell. He's just another dumb American in a position of power who thinks his opinions on everything around him are Really Important Revelations yet he doesn't realize that the golf courses, airports, shopping malls, and hotels that he finds himself in all the time represent a tiny fraction of the real world.

Seriously, fuck Thomas Friedman.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Man, those graphs killed me.
posted by brundlefly at 11:57 AM on January 17, 2009


Those magnetic poetry sets that were so kitschy/trendy a few lifetimes ago ended up bit by bit in the trash, after having clogged the sink and been curiously transported to the most unpredictable places, but of course I never did manage to procure the spider monkey of my childhood longings, so I now understand that's why I am yet to come up with a best-selling title--And by way of nothing, as I was waiting out a delay at Heathrow with one of Gordon Brown's oldest friends, I watched my latest book flying off the shelves at the book kiosk and wondered, what should I do tomorrow?

Hands off, editors! I have a Pulitzer, remember?

Chiababe--by all means, return them, preferably with printouts of these reviews as wrapping paper.
posted by emhutchinson at 12:07 PM on January 17, 2009


I was going to report the predatory behavior of a herd of turtles, but they were too fast for me.
posted by Cranberry at 12:10 PM on January 17, 2009


For those who might have missed it the first time around, the Yes Men also did an excellent evisceration of Friedman in their mock New York Times.
posted by carrienation at 12:18 PM on January 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thanks carrienation, that's magnificent.
posted by imperium at 12:39 PM on January 17, 2009


Herd of mudkips?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]




Name me a herd animal that hunts.

A pig.

Collectives of pigs are herds.

Pigs hunt truffles.

*finishes cinnamon roll*
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2009


Just read the Thing Itself. Then decide and eschew both 2nd hand sources and odd words. -- Postroad

I'd rather do something productive with my time. Seriously, isn't the entire point of criticism to help people avoid wasting their time?

Secondly, there's something called a proof by counterexample. If you can show a single instance of gross idiocy on the part of an author, it ought to indicate the rest of their ideas aren't that great either. For example, Friedman's graph of "unfreedom" indicates a pretty serious intellectual failure. Why waste your time one someone who could come up with that and put it in a book even.


Actually, a new ceasefire will probably be in place before Obama is sworn in. -- me

Tada!
posted by delmoi at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2009


Just for the record, Taibbi's wasn't the only scathing evisceration of The World is Flat; it was savaged as a "dreary failure" in The Economist, too:

...Mr Friedman has discovered his metaphor for globalisation, and now nothing will stop him. He shows his readers no mercy, proceeding to flog this inaccurate and empty image to death over hundreds of pages.

...Mr Friedman's problem is not a lack of detail. It is that he has so little to say. Over and over again he makes the same few familiar points: the world is getting smaller, this process seems inexorable, many things are changing, and we should not fear this. Rarely has so much information been collected to so little effect.


Glenn Greenwald's post this Wednesday about Friedman's "refreshingly honest" full-on support for terrorizing Palestinian civilians is just as pointed and on-target, going after what Greenwald calls "the sociopathic lust of a...war cheerleader."
posted by mediareport at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, a new ceasefire will probably be in place before Obama is sworn in. -- me

Tada!


Too late for Dr. Aish's daughters. Would Friedman say their deaths were part of Hamas's education?
posted by homunculus at 5:06 PM on January 17, 2009


Jesus.
posted by cavalier at 7:01 PM on January 17, 2009


Taibbi's a one-trick pony, as far as I've been able to tell, but Friedman's a no-trick pony, so hey, Matt the enfant terrible wins.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:28 PM on January 17, 2009


for those who'd like to step back a bit from the actual reviews/topic and take a look at precursors of the current state of Friedman

Paul Fussell's Class


Steve Allen's Dumbth
posted by infini at 8:30 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dear God that's horrible.
posted by bardic at 8:32 PM on January 17, 2009


The video homunculus linked, that is.
posted by bardic at 8:32 PM on January 17, 2009


The Solon article homunculus linked is pretty stomach-turning as well.
Friedman acknowledges that the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians was not an unfortunate and undesirable by-product of that war, but rather, was a vital aspect of the Israeli strategy -- the centerpiece, actually, of teaching Lebanese civilians a lesson they would not soon forget: "Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:49 PM on January 17, 2009


It should be noted that in that exert he doesn't actually support state terrorism, he just says it's 'logical'. However, earlier he does say he 'hopes' for an 'education of Hamas' that uses this technique.
posted by RufusW at 9:02 PM on January 17, 2009


friedman may be an jerk, but if he can get millions+ people who thought global warming was left wing conspiracy to take it seriously, that can't be all bad.
posted by nangua at 9:03 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's even sicker. Friedman never believed that there were WMD in Iraq, but he just thought we should invade anyway, based on the "suck on this" theory.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 PM on January 17, 2009




I'm not sure if people just don't understand the (failed) wordplay that Taibbi is referencing or what, it's not exactly nuanced:

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.


It's not a herd of animals, but an animal that is herded. Docile, & domesticated don't make for good hunters.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:52 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


> There is a difference between being a herd animal and being a pack hunting animal
> people. People don't say "Herd of wolves" because there's no such thing
> posted by delmoi at 2:44 PM on January 17 [2 favorites +] [!]

You're describing linguistic practice, delmoi, not a factual discovery about something real in nature. When people see a bunch of animals that are both predators and also social animals that tend to hang out together, they pick some collective noun to refer to this bunch that isn't "herd." Such as, oh, "pod." As in pod of killer whales. The word choice determines the absence of predator herds, not the other way around.

Hordes, now...


> Docile, & domesticated don't make for good hunters.

Everybody shouts WAKE UP SHEEPLE. But not many really want that to happen. Too anti-collective.
posted by jfuller at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm not sure if people just don't understand the (failed) wordplay that Taibbi is referencing

Oh no. I understand perfectly, and I think he's right about Friedman being an irredeemable hack. It's just that Taibbi dared us to name a herd animal that hunts, and we can't help but take him up on it.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:53 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm pretty sure wolves can't be herded. Neither can dolphins, lions, or bats. No-one has ever held the job of hyenaherd. There are no orcaherds reclining on rafts floating in polar seas, watching over their charges. (Although I wish there were.)
posted by Ritchie at 2:54 AM on January 19, 2009


I keep going back to these articles - they're hilarious. They keep on giving.
posted by WPW at 4:47 PM on January 26, 2009


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