Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The wisdom (ROFL) of Tom Friedman

Tom Friedman: in this video he applies his legendary Seriousness to the Iraq War in 2003 - now he's being Serious about the BP oil catastrophe

Tom Friedman is actually one of the most influential pundits in America. And that's really, really frightening. Because this cheerleader for globalization and Very Serious international strategist (of the Suck.On.This. variety) is even more shallow and unreflective than David Broder or David "Bobo" Brooks. In This Time Is Different New York Times 06/11/2010, he babbles along breezily about how we're all to blame - equally, it seems, for BP cutting corners at being reckless with the lives of its workers and the environment of the entire Gulf of Mexico:

We cannot fix what ails America unless we look honestly at our own roles in creating our own problems. We — both parties — created an awful set of incentives that encouraged our best students to go to Wall Street to create crazy financial instruments instead of to Silicon Valley to create new products that improve people’s lives. We — both parties — created massive tax incentives and cheap money to make home mortgages available to people who really didn’t have the means to sustain them. And we — both parties — sent BP out in the gulf to get us as much oil as possible at the cheapest price. (Of course, we expected them to take care, but when you’re drilling for oil beneath 5,000 feet of water, stuff happens.)[my emphasis]
As Jay Rosen explains at some length in Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: On the Actual Ideology of the American Press PressThink 06/14/2010, a key part of the pathological ideology of our punditocracy is that they are the serious, hard-headed realists steering reliably between the left and the right, both of whom are equally to blame for any pathology in our politics.

It's hard to imagine a greater symptom of pathological dysfunction in our general political environment than the fact that Tom Friedman is actually take very, very seriously by people who can read beyond the third-grade level. And he used his rationally-inexplicable influence to promote the kind of neoliberal, let-the-corporations-run-wild policies that gave us BP's oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe instead of renaming it the "Gulf of Cheney", we should call it the "Gulf of Friedman."

Friedman embedded his name in American English in the phrase "Friedman unit", which I believe Duncan "Atrios" Black actually coined. It came from Friedman's fatuous prediction, repeated over and over again every few months, that the next six months would be decisive in the Iraq War. Somehow the decisive moment always passed without being decisive. And Very Serious Pundit Tom Friedman kept making the same prediction.

Our Deep Thinker does take some share of the blame by using a reference that must be 50 years old (does anyone under 45 even understand it?), saying, "As Pogo would say, we have met the enemy and he is us."

Uh, no, Tom. BP is the enemy who created this oil geyser. They had accomplices, sure. Few of them so influential as Tom Friedman, cheerleader for the Brave New World of neoliberal economics.

Notice that our Great Philosopher Pundit didn't say it was time to tell BP to Suck.On.This. He reserves that judgment for the victims of the wars he cheers on, as we see in the video clip at the beginning of this post.

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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