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January 15, 2009

Educating Thomas Friedman

As Glenn Greenwald points out, Thomas Friedman endorsed terrorism yesterday in his New York Times column:

Israel’s counterstrategy [in 2006] 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...

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to educate Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population...If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.

That's an interesting theory about using massive force to "educate" people. I wonder how well it worked on Thomas Friedman himself after the 9/11 attacks? His immediate reaction to the "heavy pain" inflicted on New York City's population was to try to restrain America's nationalistic right wing, right?

Tim Russert Show, CNBC
October 13, 2001

THOMAS FRIEDMAN: So it's time we got tough. It's time that we looked people in the eye. It's time that the terrorists were the ones who are always afraid, always looking over their shoulder, and to create that, you do have to fight a different kind of war. I was a critic of Rumsfeld before, but there's one thing...that I do like about Rumsfeld. He's just a little bit crazy, OK? He's just a little bit crazy, and in this kind of war, they always count on being able to out-crazy us.

Huh. Well, I'm sure it will work differently on the filthy wogs, given that they're subhuman.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at January 15, 2009 01:03 AM

WHY is Thomas Friedman considered intelligent by anyone? Why does he have a column anywhere? Why does he appear on television as an "expert" on anything?

These are mysteries to me.

Posted by: Steve in Los Angeles at January 15, 2009 02:37 AM

You know the answer to that: he consistently defends power and the interests of large corporations. Viz., his last six books. Duh.

Posted by: saurabh at January 15, 2009 03:02 AM

I'm really impressed with Greenwald's transformation from mere progressive to uber-leftist. Why, I even caught him quoting Noam Chomsky the other week!

At this point, I think Greenwald holds the title for most prominent left blogger (or most left prominent blogger).

Posted by: SteveB at January 15, 2009 10:32 AM

Friedman is a one man demonstration of everything Chomsky has ever said about the mainstream liberal press. He's an obvious buffoon--even if you don't know enough to be able to tell that he's lying, he talks down to his readers with his pathetic folksy analogies and he is constantly fantasizing about the tough guy act he would pull if he were President or Prime Minister or otherwise in a position to kill people, and in economics, he sided with "the Market" in all its wisdom and used to gloat about the austerity it imposes on the poor for their own good. All of which has made him a great success.

I was about to say it's a mystery why he appeals to enough ordinary well-educated liberals so that he's a best-selling author, but the answer must be, in part, he channels their own thinking.

Though to be fair, many online liberals despise him.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 15, 2009 10:40 AM

I'd say Greenwald has a bit of a ways to go before he's an "uber-leftist."

My liberal father used to send me Friedman clippings from the Times. I was never quite sure if it was because he agreed with Friedman or because he just wanted get my goat. I think probably a bit of both. Now that he's stopped, I'm not sure if it's because he's now disagreeing with Friedman or because of my bitter complaining. Once again, probably a bit of both.

Posted by: Rojo at January 15, 2009 11:16 AM

This man is a noxious goon. I cannot look at him now - after years of unearned 'Seriousness' and therefore face time - without seeing the childishness in how he holds himself, speaks and gesticulates (steepled fingers; I am a big, important person....) He looks to me to be someone who recognizes himself at least sub-consciously as way out of the league of people who actually do have unique, inspired things to say. It's painful to watch in contrast to someone as piercingly intelligent as Greenwald, say, or Billmon. There should be plastered across the bottom of the screens he appears on - 'This man has over a billion dollars and that is why you are sucking on this.'

Posted by: Anonys at January 15, 2009 01:01 PM

Greenwald definitely seems to be moving to the left. He seems a critical reader & he, unlike many, esp. in the liberal blogs, notices things like Friedman advocating terrorism. Compare other libloggers complaining about Friedman being an idiot, saying we'll be done in Iraq in 6 months, saying "suck on this", Friedman has a rich wife, etc.

My complaint is that Greenwald, unlike Chomsky, takes one example (of Friedman advocating terrorism) and then goes on and on about it, instead of walloping you over the head with example after example of libs advocating terrorism, like Chomsky.

Posted by: erik at January 15, 2009 02:25 PM

I've tried and tried to come up with an adjective to describe Thomas Friedman, but I can't.

I got nothin'.

Posted by: catherine at January 15, 2009 03:15 PM

To anyone who believes that Greenwald has "moved to the left," can anyone quote just ONE example of an actual leftist argument from Greenwald? His support of the U.S. Constitution? His warning about lawless government and tyranny? His pointing out that the government's policy of endless war is destroying our nation? His pointing out the corruption, incompetence and pathological lying in the news media?

If the right says the sun is blue and Greenwald says they're wrong, has he actually "moved to the left" in doing so?

Posted by: SB at January 15, 2009 09:28 PM

Friedman is a dip.
Stupid jack bauer fantasies.
Glory that we have killed US manufacturing (now everyone will become innovators!, let the Indians and Chinese make things).
Stupid pro-collateral damage - education through seeing your uncle blown up.
And the Friedman Unit - just give Iraq six more months to turn around, then repeat ad nauseum. There is no problem that can't be given six more months - try that with a tootheache, dip.

Posted by: Tom at January 15, 2009 10:07 PM

I guess it's kind of like how Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the Janjaweed have been educating the Sudanese.

Friedman makes sense, though. After all, it explains why Israel has bombed schools and left children maimed and orphaned. That's a lesson those little fuckers will never forget.

Posted by: ChrisV82 at January 15, 2009 10:31 PM

To anyone who believes that Greenwald has "moved to the left," can anyone quote just ONE example of an actual leftist argument from Greenwald?

I'll give you two:
1) His consistent criticism of the Democratic party, and pointing out how, on most issues of consequence, there's really not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties.
2) His criticism of Israel, and of the slavish support Israel gets from our political and media elites.

Posted by: SteveB at January 15, 2009 10:55 PM

On Greenwald, it depends on what you mean by moving to the left.
He doesn't come out in favor of socialism or even social democracy--no calls for universal health insurance that I remember. I think he might be a libertarian.

But a real libertarian, one who is anti-US imperialist. And he has gotten more Chomsky-like in his criticisms in the past year or so. I remember I used to think he was a little too fixated on Bush as being really bad, rather than recognizing that it's a bipartisan problem, though Bush is worse. But I haven't thought that about Greenwald in a long time now.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 15, 2009 11:22 PM

re. moving to the left, what Donald said. It was a lazy way of me saying that his media analysis is beginning to sound like Chomsky.

But think of it like this: if you become left-liberal, you have moved to the left of liberal. If you become a serious libertarian, you have moved to the left of being a vulgar libertarian.

Posted by: erik at January 15, 2009 11:43 PM

And now, Mr. Friedman, Israel is trying to educate the United Nations as well?

Posted by: Hermeric at January 16, 2009 03:23 AM

[Greenwald] doesn't come out in favor of socialism or even social democracy--no calls for universal health insurance that I remember.

Let's remember that Glenn Greewald is a blogger, and not a candidate for office. So he has the luxury of focusing on a few topics that interest him. Lots about civil liberties, the Democratic party, the media, and, most recently, Israel. Not so much on the environment, health care, labor issues, etc.

By the way, my definition of "left" includes that a person has a systemic analysis of the problems we face. So their analysis of Iraq goes beyond "George Bush is evil"; their analysis of the Democrats goes beyond "Harry Reid is a coward", and their analysis of the media goes beyond "Thomas Friedman is an idiot." Greenwald passes this test with flying colors.

He also gets "left points" from me for linking to this obscure blog twice in the last week. Pretty soon all the Hoi Polloi will be coming over here, and polluting our comment threads with the kind of jackassery you see at Atrios. "First!"

Posted by: SteveB at January 16, 2009 05:17 PM