Perpetual Friedman Redux Thread

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Since there obviously differing opinions on the editorial prowess of the famous NYT journalist, I thought I would start a thread where we can disucuss at random any of his writings that strike a chord with us (or not). Today's is a good example of the typical Friedman piece IMO.

On the one hand he obviously puts some thought into the larger picture - which is something all good editorial writers should do IMO - trying to find the general trends that have shaped / rocked our society over the last decade or so. And maybe trying to attribute lingering affects to them.

But I also see some naivety or maybe lack of follow-through on his part. For example, today he talks about the "corporate bubble bursting" and uses Enron and Andersen as an example of what had to happen before a "boardroom revolution" took place. I got news: there is no revolution. You show me most of the Enron execs responsible for this mess and I'll show you business as usual.

Sure the entire Andersen organization of 80,000+ (the VAST majority of which were ethical, hard-working suits) people got the axe [snip]. But that's called "trial by news media", not sweeping boardroom reform. The bottom line is, no sweeping changes have resulted as the Enron debacle, other than maybe the FASB instituting some changes to their bookeeping requirements. Hardly a revolution in the way our companies do business IMO.

...and Friedman goes on to talk about the "terrorism bubble"


In the case of the terrorism bubble, we were told that suicide bombing was the work of desperate people who had no other way to get America's or Israel's attention.

People across Europe and the Arab-Muslim world bought such theories. Some Muslim religious leaders even came up with rulings justifying the suicide bombing of civilians in pizza parlors. Arab media called the terrorists "martyrs." It was moral creative accounting: if you are weak, there is no limit on what you can do, and if you are strong ? like America and Israel ? you have no moral right to defend yourself. Worse, after 9/11, some in the Arab-Muslim world actually believed they had found a new balance of power with America ? through the suicide bomber.

And we in America believed them, so we blew up the bubble more. We contorted our whole open society, and imprisoned ourselves. My daughter's high school symphony orchestra trip to New Orleans was canceled because of the recent terrorism alerts. Insane.

Much of the above is good stuff. I agree with most of it in principle, except that I don't quite get why he thinks there's no validity to the idea that suicide bombers are desparate people who do what they do as a means of rejecting US / Israeli presence in Palestine. People without a voice is exactly what they are. Doesn't mean their behavior is by any stretch of the imagination justified, but this is essentially what these people are. They have no voice or forum in our society.

I'd like to ask Friedman, when's the last time you saw a palestinian family interviewed on 20/20? And how many times have we seen interviews with Israeli citizens over the years? Or for that matter, how many interviews with European protestors and dissenters did we see during the weeks that led up the war? Far more often than we ever see of the Palestinians or Saudi citizens or anyone else in the Arab world (sans the politicians obviously).

and later in his piece he says...


We are strong because of who we are. Iraq was weak because of what it was. So, yes, let's add a metal detector or two at the airports, but let's stop thinking we have to remake our whole society, constrict all civil liberties, ban all Arab students and throw out all our foreign policy doctrines that have served us so well ? from deterrence to collective security to the usefulness of the U.N. ? to meet this new terrorism threat. We do not, and we must not.

Who's talking about remaking our whole society and constricting all Civil Liberties? Did the ACLU take him out for lunch last week? Ban all Arab students? Show me a university or non-po-dunk school where this is happening? I'm sure there are isolated pockets and incidents of these kinds, but he makes it sound like these things are sweeping the nation -- that it's happening everywhere as we speak. And of course we shouldn't throw out all foreign policy doctrines just becaues a few don't work....

For me, Friedman attempts to draw borderline sensationalist conclusions - like the whole talk of WWIII a couple weeks ago, ridiculous - from piecemeal incidents and theories. His work and his reach would be greatly improved if he stopped trying to draw such grandios conclusions, and just focus one one topic at a time. Take your 600 words and write about the Enron scandal alone, or Civil Liberties alone, or suicide bombers alone. It's the only way you give each topic the proper amount of context and reach a sensible conclusion.


  • Reply 1 of 5
    scottscott Posts: 7,431member
    Was this posted today in the NYT? I can't find it.
  • Reply 2 of 5
    pfflampfflam Posts: 5,053member
    I read that article . . . in a way he may be right . . . about the "bubble' . . .however, I think that what he is talking about is only here in the USA: we now feel that somethhing definite has passed

    but we have been wrong before: a bubble is the hot air of wrongness

    and we may think that something has passed and end up smelling our own FLATUS

    I think something has definitely changed and what that is (and I will start another thread about this) is that we have come to accept (the populace, that is) that we had no excuses for war except the engagement in the 'Clash of Civilizations' that Freidman talks about.

    Now as far as suicide bombers and their motivations: I think that this is more complex then his analysis.

    of course there are many many interwoven reasons for the rise in this phenomena, but one of them is the feeling of disempowerment that comes from not having any political, economic or spiritual freedom (the latter part may be an internal and psychological responce to Fundamentalism)

    to deny that people resort to suicide bombing out os a sense of needing power .. . thus from a position of being without power, as a desperate measure, is absurd.

    the only thing that I could do to try and make Freidman's take palpable would be to say that the goal of empowerment in suicide bombing is not one of Real-World Power: rather some kind of Psychological-schizo empowerment parading as "Spiritual".
  • Reply 3 of 5
    toweltowel Posts: 1,479member

    Originally posted by Scott

    Was this posted today in the NYT? I can't find it.

    It was sometime over the weekend. Today's Times had Safire and Herbert.
  • Reply 4 of 5
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    Thomas Friedman is dreamy.
  • Reply 5 of 5
    scottscott Posts: 7,431member
    Okay I'm not sure I bought everything in the above op ed. For example terrorism against the US started long before the 90s.

    But todays! Yes! Get rid of Arafat. I'm too tired to read the whole thing now but thought I'd pull this back up.

    Regime Change, Part 2


    While the war in Iraq has rightly grabbed all the attention in the Middle East, another effort at regime change has also been going on in the neighborhood, and it's been quite a drama. It's the silent coup that Palestinian moderates, led by Mahmoud Abbas, have been trying to undertake against Yasir Arafat.


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