Tuesday, July 05, 2005

the king of the obvious

I think it was Hercule Poirot who noted that some people have an unerring gift for pointing out the obvious. I have to wonder what he'd think about Thomas Friedman, who combines this gift with a similarly remarkable talent for overstatement, ludicrous sloganeering, and shameless self-promotion. This guy is the PT Barnum of political commentary. I use that phrase with full understanding of its pathetic antecedents. (Um, I'm referring to political commentary, not PT Barnum, by the way).


Shekhar Gupta's shameful adulation of Friedman on Walk the Talk was the pinnacle of this clown's absurd rise to become India's favorite foreign hack (how seriously can you take someone who says things like "Those who get left behind will put the walls back and that’s why you cannot be a globaliser without being a social democrat"?) and that's coming from a guy who can sycophant with the best of them. ATTENTION WORLD: Thomas Friedman writes absolute drivel. Read any of his columns or books to confirm this for yourself. Then promptly begin ignoring him. That is the only defence against pundits of absolute worthlessness and unmerited fame, dieticians with improbably successful and intolerably unpleasant eating regimes, and scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, television evangelists and propagandists of all sorts.

Friedman's success reminds me, as the success of many bad writers does, of the Emperor's New Clothes. (In that fairy tale, a clever tailor tells the emperor that only people who are qualified for their station in life can perceive his beautiful new togs; all goes well until the emperor is strolling naked through the crowd and a child--who of course has no social position--laughs at his nakedness). Please, people, do not be fooled by ridiculous theories with even more ludicrous titles ringing of pseudo scholarship ("The Dell Theory of International Conflict"), do not be fooled by this buoyant, Tom-Cruise-and-I-don't-need-the-same-meds optimistic mania. If any emperor was ever butt-ass naked, this is the guy.

The funniest proof of this point -- self-evident as it is from the Gupta interview, not to mention the books & columns -- comes from Matt Taibbi writing in the New York Press. Folks, Friedman likes India. That means he's friendly. Taking it to mean he's a genius is not only stupid, but also pathetically needy. Do you really need affirmation from this goof?

Worse still, as Jack Schafer writes in Slate, the dude just can't stop talking about himself.


Anonymous said...

hi - i love your comparison of friedman to the emperor's new clothes. and matt taibbi's column is a hilarious read. the problem with friedman is that he oversimplifies everything.

i met him once and he actually was going on about how broadband has changed the world. and how call centres are wonderful for india because eventually they're going to cut through social divisions and give everyone with ambitions a chance to realise their dreams. the fact that there's an entire generation which knows little more than answering a phone never seemed to occur to the man.

i liked his 'from beirut to jerusalem'. but 'the lexus and the olive tree' was pure tosh.

shyam said...

Jason, when Shekhar starts with a question that has a Google search as its peg, you really need to switch off or look elsewhere for quality entertainment.

This is the same chap who came looking quite alarmed into our part of the office during the IE days, saying "sabotage! someone has hacked into my computer; when I was shutting it off, it said 'one user logged into this computer.'"

Tom Friedman is not less of a crackpot these days. There is hardly any nuance left in the US when it comes to middle east politics anymore for him to flaunt his favourite line "I know the lingo and I've been there."

His CNN special on the outsourcing issue was nothing short of a comedy show. He was all gooey eyed, showing signs of being senile and seiously stupid.