Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taibbi on Friedman Last Year

I'd missed Matt Taibbi's piece in the New York Press taking down Tom Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded last year. More the fool I. As an enormous fan of his legendary demolishing of Friedman's earlier The World is Flat, I should have expected that Taibbi would return.

And why wouldn't he? Apparently Friedman is an environmentalist now. Then again, according to Taibbi, he'd almost have to be. He has nothing left:

To review quickly, the “Long Bomb” Iraq war plan Friedman supported as a means of transforming the Middle East blew up in his and everyone else’s face; the “Electronic Herd” of highly volatile international capital markets he once touted as an economic cure-all not only didn’t pan out, but led the world into a terrifying chasm of seemingly irreversible economic catastrophe; his beloved “Golden Straitjacket” of American-style global development (forced on the world by the “hidden fist” of American military power) turned out to be the vehicle for the very energy/ecological crisis Friedman himself warns about in his new book; and, most humorously, the “Flat World” consumer economics Friedman marveled at so voluminously turned out to be grounded in such total unreality that even his wife’s once-mighty shopping mall empire, General Growth Properties, has lost 99 percent of its value in this year alone.

So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts.

What the fuck else is he going to be? All the other ideas he spent the last ten years humping have been blown to hell. Color me unimpressed that he scrounged one more thing to sell out of the smoldering, discredited wreck that should be his career; that he had the good sense to quickly reinvent himself before angry Gods remembered to dash his brains out with a lightning bolt. But better late than never, I suppose. Or as Friedman might say, “Better two cell phones than a fish in your zipper."
Little surprise that he came up as #3 in Salon's list of the top fifty hacks in journalism. And, like a lot of the hacks in question, the biggest problem is that he retains his position despite being constantly wrong. You'd think that that would be a problem. But Friedman, like his fellow Salon "hacks" Richard Cohen, David Broder, and Mark Halperin, acts like a sort of reverse Cassandra: his predictions are inevitably wrong, but everybody in Washington believes him regardless.

But why wouldn't they? He's defending the status quo. He's advocating the popular. Friedman's only challenging insofar as you have to decipher what the hell he's on about. Nobody ever got broke aiding the rich and powerful, and in Friedman's case, it made him wealthy as hell.

Maybe his real skill is being able to look himself in the mirror every morning. In his position, I doubt I could.

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