Hamilton Nolan over at Gawker picked this up on Wednesday, but Tom Friedman’s latest column at the New York Times is so brilliantly stupid it is worth going over in a little more detail. Why? Because millions of Americans read Thomas Friedman and they should know better.
Nolan simply laughs at Friedman these days, letting Friedman’s hilariously inane metaphors speak for themselves, but I do see there being value in getting to the bottom of what goes on in Mr Friedman’s very unique head.
Here’s Friedman on the biggest challenges the world is facing today in a wonderfully childish column with a wonderfully childish title: ‘The World is Fast’:
How about the biggest challenge we’re facing today: The resilience of our workers, environment and institutions.
Why is that the biggest challenge? Because: The world is fast. The three biggest forces on the planet — the market, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law — are all surging, really fast, at the same time. The market, i.e., globalization, is tying economies more tightly together than ever before, making our workers, investors and markets much more interdependent and exposed to global trends, without walls to protect them.
Firstly, what does that even mean? ‘The resilience of our workers, environment and institutions’? Friedman’s penchant for pulling random lists out of his ass is legendary, but even for him, this is a stretch. Everyone understands the environment is a big issue, but what the fuck does he mean by the resilience of our workers? Why is this a challenge? And ‘institutions’? I have my own suggestion about the three biggest challenges we are facing today: Food, people and buildings, but I digress…
Friedman then outdoes himself by pulling another even more random list out of his ass declaring the biggest forces on the planet are ‘the market, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law’. Of course they all begin with ‘M’ so it makes for a neat essay, but what about dark matter, nuclear energy, and say, the ocean? I’d bet the ocean is a lot more powerful than the free market. Anyway, on to the logic behind Friedman’s challenges.
Friedman says these are all a big challenges because ‘The World is Fast’, and ‘interdependent’, definitely not rewriting the same article he has written for decades.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write a Tom Friedman essay. First, you make up a random list of problems. This makes you seem like an expert because you have declared them ‘The Biggest Challenges’, or something to that effect. Then, as a self declared expert, you provide the reasons why they are problems with another completely random list, preferably underpinning it with an incredibly vague assertion about things being ‘fast’ or ‘interdependent’ so that no one can argue otherwise.
Of course Friedman has the solution to all these problems by offering up more vague assertions (but not before going off on a tangent about Brazilian rain forests, mind you).
His article ends:
One day, we’ll have an election about how we cushion, exploit and adapt to them — an election to make America and Americans more resilient. One day.
Get that? The solution to the resilience of our workers, environment and institutions is to ‘cushion, exploit and adapt’. Then we will have more resilience. Or something.
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Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.