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Author Topic: The "Foucaulf Bashes Tom Friedman" Extravaganza  (Read 1595 times)
Foucaulf
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« on: August 16, 2011, 09:55:58 am »
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I despise Thomas Friedman. He believes in magical technology, is a white apologist for China and pretends he knows anything about foreign affairs: a combination of everything I hate. There are others who make less sense than him (like fellow NYT columnist David Brooks), but there is a particular air of pretense around Friedman; it's his belief that he has figured out the political economy of our times, as well as harping about poverty while living in his mansion. Styled after Gully Foyle's outing, this topic is intended to make you never consider Friedman seriously again. Due to my passion for this issue, I will be using less than diplomatic language throughout.

With that said, let's go over Friedman's latest crap.

He starts off by describing the Arab Spring, Israelis "protesting ... the way their country is now dominated by an oligopoly of crony capitalists" and Europeans "railing against unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps". "What's going on here?" But didn't you just say they were protesting against injustice?

That's not the real problem, says Friedman! Globalisation is to blame, but not exactly; since the advent of stuff on the Internet, "the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected. This is the single most important trend in the world today." Thus he goes from BSing to hyper-BSing. This techno-globalisation is taking our jobs! What jobs nobody knows, but Friedman assures they can be done "with machines, computers, robots and talented foreign workers." I must assume he's talking about call centres and telemarketing, in which case I ask when the hell they supported a middle-class lifestyle.

Friedman's thesis is that techno-globalisation and the witchcraft of efficiency explains the growing disparity in income; how you like them apples, leftists? In Friedman's world, Chinese students come from beyond the ocean, waving their perfect SAT math scores and being snatched up by universities, taking those spots from Americans. In the real world, only the elite can afford to prepare for American schools, those Chinese students are rejected and many American college graduates are unemployed. Who knows if Friedman believes there's an economic crisis going on? Maybe he thinks the recession is caused by the foreigners.

According to the man, governments can no longer afford welfare and distribute cheap credit. Brilliant insights if this were written in the 1920s; insane after a crash caused by an excess of cheap credit. I would argue against the idea that governments today can no longer afford welfare, but that's too complex for a Friedman thread.

The kicker is when he talks about "the globalization of anger, with all of these demonstrations now inspiring each other." His only example is an Israeli sign referencing the Egyptian Revolution. I guess Mohamed Bouazizi decided to self-immolate himself after looking up Buddhists on Wikipedia? "Every leader and C.E.O. should reflect on" Mubarak's overthrow, since they too have ruled for 30 years and terrorized tens of millions of people. And he says technology-globalisation enables people "to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures", as if people weren't doing that two goddamn centuries ago! And he's using the Tea Party as example when there's a civil war going on in Libya?!

Let's review Friedman's style of argument. He loves to shoehorn his theory in everything. He throws out a bunch of claims, supported by one example or citation. He has the ability to state common sense and explain it in his own fantasy terms. All those words can be reduced to a modern xenophobia. What's frightening is that he can taint the most uncontroversial of statements with his theorizing.

And his theories don't even explain "today's front-page news!" Who knows how technology-globalisation is behind why Lady Gaga took pictures of her feet.
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Foucaulf
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 03:42:31 am »
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Thankfully Friedman didn't have a column for this Wednesday. The world is less inundated with his drivel, and I have a chance to work through his backlog.

Of course, I should have started this topic with a funnier Friedman article. Let's look at the one he wrote on August 9th.

Note:
  • The header. "Until you read the following news article, we'll be stuck in a world of hurt." Add the fact that Friedman's blackmailing me as a reason why I hate him.
  • How he thinks this is how an Associated Press news piece would look like, despite having been a reporter.
  • His paraphrasing what the President has said throughout the debt crisis and putting it in a good light.
  • His hard-on for the Bowles-Simpson plan.
  • The ending. "At that point, all five leaders shook hands and retreated into the Oval Office... One minute later, the New York Stock Exchange opened. The Dow was up 1,223 points at the open — an all-time record."
    I imagine there was a mass sell-off once everyone realised the Euro was still in the pits.

More Friedman themes emerge. Here we have a belief that political intransigence is another leading cause of this economic crisis. There needn't be any public debate over this important issue; the markets are reassured so long as the elites are planning behind closed doors.
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 07:57:28 am »
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This is an important and necessary thread.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 08:38:26 am »
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I didn't knew the guy, but the argument you make is rather convincing. Wink
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 05:26:34 pm »
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I didn't knew the guy, but the argument you make is rather convincing. Wink
The fact that you don't know who he is pretty much disproves his theories about the flattening of information.
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Foucaulf
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2011, 12:55:41 am »
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Today we focus on Friedman's writing style, which is an easier prey than his ideological nonsense for many. I'll let columnist Matt Taibbi do the describing for me.
Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident... It's that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it's absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius.

An example of such would be Friedman's article for Americans Elect, that website where people choose policies for a candidate and is most likely a Bloomberg operation. Let's not focus on his theory that any independent candidate will fix every problem. Instead, let's focus on the really stupid crap he writes.

Quote
My pledge is to never vote for anyone stupid enough to sign a pledge — thereby abdicating their governing responsibilities in a period of incredibly rapid change and financial stress. Sorry, I've signed it. Nothing more I can do.
Is this a joke? Who is abdicating his/her responsibilities: Friedman or whoever signed a pledge? Does Friedman and the NYT editors know that "anyone" requires a singular pronoun? Why did he use a hyphen when a comma would suffice?

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"Our goal is to open up what has been an anticompetitive process to people in the middle who are unsatisfied with the choices of the two parties,” said Kahlil Byrd, the C.E.O. of Americans Elect, speaking from its swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money
Friedman has a habit of throwing down parantheses, but does he ignore the irony in this?

The rest of the quotes will be shown without comment, though they all exemplify Friedman's anti-ear.
Quote
  • Here is how it will work, explains Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group.
  • (President Obama should dump the Democrats and run as an independent, which he is, at heart, anyway.)
  • Write it down: Americans Elect. What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies

By now some of you may be wondering who actually listens to Friedman. I'll write more on them later, but in short they are the same people that write comments like this:
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But I do like the idea of an Obama-Boehner ticket.
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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2011, 08:30:37 am »
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What is so dangerous about Friedman is his tendency to discuss some complex issue in light of some pithy quote or anecdote he pulled out of his hat. With this sort of amorphous experiential knowledge, he can throw empirical discussion out the window and focus the discussion around proving his warped ideology. Whenever Friedman or any other commentator offers you a simple, distilled, easy-to-remember explanation of economics or politics, run for the hills.
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Beet
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2011, 09:01:15 am »

I almost never read NY Times columnists, but it seems like a cushy job to me.
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Foucaulf
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2011, 09:59:48 pm »
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I almost never read NY Times columnists, but it seems like a cushy job to me.

The benefits are insane. None of them ever get fired, their books soar up the bestseller list, and they even get "book leave". Apparently all the columnists get x days off, but some use it better than others.

Anyways, f--k it, I'm bashing David Brooks too. These guys have done it better than me, though.

There are two sides to Brooks; one is being a pop psychologist who sort of realizes he has no professional credentials, but is still the first to explain what it all means. The other side is being "Principled Conservative #1." Both come into play in this column on July 15th in which he purely talks out of his ass.
 
"This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death — our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy"
The US isn't f--king bankrupt yet.
"We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality."
No, look at the f--king budget and see that Medicare and Medicaid are the ones costing money. Who the hell cares about immortality when they can't afford surgery that lets them live past 65?

"A large share of our health care spending is devoted to ill patients in the last phases of life. This sort of spending is growing fast."
For taking up a quarter of Medicare spending, American end-of-life care only ranks up at ninth; maybe there's something more going on here?
"[T]he cost of Alzheimer’s will rise to $189 billion and by 2050 it is projected to rise to $1 trillion annually"
And by 2050 Medicare will take up around 8 percent of American GDP from 5%, as fickle an indicator as GDP is; maybe there's something more going on here?

Holy christ, I guess Brooks is intent on pinning dying seniors as the next welfare queens. But this is Brooks at its best; an ignorance of facts and wildly hypothesizing. I didn't even get to mention how inane it is to believe medical research deserves no funding so long as it does not deliver a cure.
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I first thought it was Hashemite, who decided to off Harper for good.
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2011, 03:06:25 am »
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You'd be better off getting a blog and making a post about the guy. I mean what can I say.... there are journalists I hate. What if we all made threads attempting to deconstruct them. You might also just want to relax and not read anything by him. I avoid "libertarian" Stossel clones for example, life is better.
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Gustaf
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2011, 04:09:18 pm »
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I'm confused by this thread. I'm only vaguely familiar with Friedman (it's the Flat Earth guy, right?).

What's his main idea?
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2011, 03:44:04 pm »
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Friedman, as a simple matter, is right.

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Israelis "protesting ... the way their country is now dominated by an oligopoly of crony capitalists" and Europeans "railing against unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps". "What's going on here?" But didn't you just say they were protesting against injustice?

I belive this fits the definition of injustice.

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Techno-globalisation is taking our jobs.

It is. Look up the Luddite fallacy- it isn't as fallacious as it once was. Are there stenographers? Phone operators? Stationers? Can these people reasonably expect to learn some kind of certification in cloud computing, or the like? Look at the Postal Service falling apart. Don't tell me that this doesn't support a middle class lifestyle. Expect this kind of thing to happen much more in the future- technology rendering mass segments of the economy obsolete. I fear 9% unemployment may be considered "good in the future", and, compounded with an noncompetitive economic structure and a utterly ineffectual government, perhaps we'll see 25% unemployment and astronomical inequality. More advanced computers will be able to do more and more complex tasks and even management (Chile actually had such a system in the 70s. One day, maybe, we'll wake up and find that computers will be able to do all of our work for us. Then will follow the bitter realization that in a world where computers can do all the work we can, we are all out of a job. In short: the actualization of the Luddite fallacy.

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In Friedman's world, Chinese students come from beyond the ocean, waving their perfect SAT math scores and being snatched up by universities, taking those spots from Americans. In the real world, only the elite can afford to prepare for American schools, those Chinese students are rejected and many American college graduates are unemployed.

Half of Chinese applicants at one college got 800 on their SAT math. Hyperbole? Not quite.
I, for one, feel rather inaqadate with my 760 now.

Quote
"the globalization of anger, with all of these demonstrations now inspiring each other." His only example is an Israeli sign referencing the Egyptian Revolution. I guess Mohamed Bouazizi decided to self-immolate himself after looking up Buddhists on Wikipedia?


And I suppose the rash of self-iimmolations that folled Bouazizi's were completely independent and unrelated? And the revolutions as well? Surely the fact that Israel followed Egypt would be surpreising and mention worthy.

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globalisation enables people "to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures", as if people weren't doing that two goddamn centuries ago!

Quote
And his theories don't even explain "today's front-page news!" Who knows how technology-globalisation is behind why Lady Gaga took pictures of her feet.
 
 


The inernet gives people a greater choice in news, so now even the most traditional paper must pander to the lowest common denomiator.

\












Censorship is a lot harder with the internet.

Pardon my spelling, the syping screen is acting up.



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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2011, 07:00:23 pm »
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For Gustaf: Tom Friedman is the leading American voice for neoliberalism.  Friedman believes that the world is divided between nationalistic, ideological states that avoid the global market out of chauvanism and the people that want to further unite the global economic unification, an argument he first put forth in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree (the Lexus is international capitalism and the Olive Tree is nationalism).  Friedman argues that social turmoil can be understood as societies trying to get from one to the other: in his new language, to get out of the old round world and join the new flat world.  He points to the decline of tensions between India and Pakistan as a great example of what happens when Lexuses replace Olive trees (though recent events make one question that) and feels that the Arab Spring is the people of the Arab world demanding introduction into the economic vitality of the flat world and throwing off the Olive Trees of the old dictators.
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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2011, 07:02:16 pm »
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Also, one of the main criticisms against him is that he overextends metaphors to absurd levels.  See my post.
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« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2011, 07:03:12 pm »
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Lexus and Olive Tree? Wtf? Talk about revealing way too much about yourself without intending to...
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« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2011, 07:11:45 pm »
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My favorite unintentionally hilarious Friedman piece will always be how he wrote during the Egyptian Revolution this winter that in the 30 years he's been to Cairo, the skyline hasn't changed once.  This is Friedman's heavy-handed metaphor for his own metaphorical unflat, olive tree-loving description of the Mubarak regime.  He said that the skyline showed that Egypt had been asleep, and that its awakening and hopefully flattening will lead to drastic changes in Cairo's skyline.
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« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2011, 07:31:44 pm »
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But you agree he makes sense, yes?
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« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2011, 07:35:56 pm »
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He's the most predictable man on the planet.  Once you've read one of his books (I've read two) you can predict the Tom Friedman article on any subject.  It's not so much that I disagree with him as that I'm amazed at how facile and simplistic his arguments are.
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« Reply #18 on: September 13, 2011, 07:40:57 pm »
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He's the most predictable man on the planet.  Once you've read one of his books (I've read two) you can predict the Tom Friedman article on any subject.  It's not so much that I disagree with him as that I'm amazed at how facile and simplistic his arguments are.

It's consistent and the recurring themes are the same. I don't think the world has changed that much in the past half-decade to require a totally change in outlook. The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World is Flat are fairly dissimilar, I think.

Do you expect him to totally change his position every time he writes something?
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Gustaf
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« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2011, 04:32:24 am »
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Still haven't read him, so I can't comment on his style or the details of his argument. The general themes people are citing don't seem too far off though.

Technological advances has probably spurred unemployment within certain groups in the Western world (young men without education). And the world is becoming more global and interconnected.
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