Tom Friedman must get paid by the word. Why?
Tom Friedman, sometimes known at this site as Tom Frymom, has a well deserved reputation for being unreadable, using idiotic and pointless juxtapositions, dropping myriad non sequiturs, and for pushing the same pap relentlessly.
And while we’re at it, let’s just say Friedman’s ability to make a living as a “public intellectual” is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Yet as Thomas Sowell points out, there are such things as bad—really bad—public intellectuals, just as there are really bad policemen, soldiers, and doctors. Indeed.
It’s a good life if you’re Tom, but the brain-stumper is two fold: 1) who hired the guy in the first place (and why) and 2) how does he manage to still earn a living by only providing high school-level observations (and junior high-level writing)? I suppose momentum, in part, explains the second, but I have no idea about the first. Is it possible Friedman was once astute and capable and has since devolved?
As a satirist, Friedman’s work presents a special sort of challenge: it’s simply so awful that it’s self-parodying to begin with. While Friedman’s self-parodying is no doubt unintentional, try to parody something that’s already self-parodying. It’s tough. I mean you write an article in the voice of Tom Friedman and think you’ve nailed it only to find your parody effort is actually less stupid, vacuous, and trite than an original Friedman column. Or book.
Below is a recent lead from Friedman. If you’ve ever read the guy, you quickly realize this is the same formulistic goo, perhaps facilitated through the magic of cut and paste or at least a template, that so many of his columns are:
I had to catch a train in Washington last week. The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal.
While it’s true Friedman is a cartoonish foot-soldier for progressive causes (less democracy, reduced rule of law, public transportation, green energy, government-induced market distortions, higher taxes, etc.), could a conservative writer as bad as the Frymom make a living in anything other than entry-level work in the housekeeping, lawn service, or fast-food industries?
This leads to a perhaps hopeful conclusion: based on merit, there should be plenty of work for conservative voices in the the arena of ideas.