The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work (Counterblasts) Paperback – 14 Nov 2011
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The hubris, sophistry, consistent hypocrisy, and buffoonery of the New York Times s most widely read columnist is systematically deconstructed and laid bare. A must-read. --Dahr Jamail, journalist and author of 'Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq'
Filleting the silliest man on the planet needs a sure scalpel, and Belen Fernandez wields hers with deadly finesse. --Alexander Cockburn, editor of CounterPunch
Belen Fernandez is a revelation to those who don't know her yet and a confirmation for those happy few who have known her sublime sense of political satire subdued, innocent, piercing, frightful. She is a political satirist of the generation X vintage low-key, self-effacing, happenstance, what-ever -type who crawls under your skin and begins to tickle and before you know it bite. She insinuates so effortlessly, you think she is just chilling she is not. Her book on Thomas Friedman is an act of restitution, a declaration of independence from a young, idealist, brave, and defiant generation of Americans who have had it up to here with barefaced banality that has been fed to them for too long. She is talking back boldly, patiently, chapter and verse, going in for the kill. --Hamid Dabashi, author of Iran, the Green Movement and the USA: The Fox and the Paradox
About the Author
BELEN FERNANDEZ is an editor and feature writer at Pulse Media. Her articles also have appeared in CounterPunch and many other publications.
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That Friedman has as his perch from which to pontificate the editorial pages of the leading U.S. "quality" newspaper can only be regarded as a stunning indictment of the mainstream media of that country. When appointed chief diplomatic correspondent of the Times, having served for years as their lead correspondent in the Middle East, he claimed to know nothing about the modus operanda or institutions of international relations despite the relevance the world at large has to accurate and informed reporting of that region! This is but one specimen of Friedmans ignorance which he more or less regards as a badge of honour. Examples of this litter "Imperial Messenger" along with other Friedman phenomena such as his casual racism (reserved for Arabs) and crude machismo; weird anecdotes and surreal mixed-metaphors; flippant and fatuous analysis; the numerous occasions in which he contradicts himself (even within a single piece of writing); as well as his role as cheerleader for the Neo-Liberal project (he states that he wrote an article in favour of the Caribbean Free Trade Area treaty, even though he knew nothing of the contents of the treaty, solely because it contained the words "Free Trade"!). On the U.S., Israel and the Arab world he is quite capable of momentarily recognising some of the reality of the actions of the U.S. and Israeli governments before excusing them of any significant responsibility for the regions woes.
Fernandez records the contradictions, crudities and falsehoods of Friedman in a straightforward manner. Thankfully, given the depressing nature of her subject, she also exhibits a fine line in caustic wit that spares him no blushes. In short "Imperial Messenger" is a fine addition to the growing body of work that critiques the mainstream media in the Anglo-Saxon world, and one that I'd recommend to anyone who privileges reality over rhetoric, or as an antidote for those who believes that Friedman is some sort of visionary uber columnist rather than the smug, servile and pompous windbag exposed within the pages of this short (145pp + 60pp of notes) book.
Ms Fernandez manages to carefully unravel Mr Friedman's writings as products of someone who is only superficially informed of serious and protracted issues he is writing about, thereby conveniently ignoring underlying causes which might otherwise shed a different light on these same issues.
This book is another stark reminder of the fact that one should not stick to only one information source alone - even if that source is The Imperial Messenger - but instead search for additional and critical material on the subject to improve one's understanding. A service to the reader that the current level of corporate journalism hardly provides. This is apparently a fact in the US, but it is definitely also here, in the Netherlands.
People who are interested in a nicely and sharply written, debunking critique of an internationally respected columnist on international affairs, plse do read it. The way Ms Fernandez writes is an indication that she is way more informed than Mr Friedman, and, moreover, knows how to elegantly formulate her critique. It will surely open up some eyes.
This excellent book by journalist Bélen Fernández dissects Friedman's writings on economic matters, the Arab world and the special relationship between the USA and Israel. She details his writings and compares what he writes one day with what he writes on another. She also compares his opinions with the facts. Using these straightforward methods, she proves him a fraud and a fool.
For example, in an article on Ireland's economy, Friedman claims, "the easier it is to fire people, the more willing companies are to hire people." Fernández points out, "Actually, the easier it is to fire people, the easier it is for Dell to close its manufacturing center in Limerick, lay off 1,900 employees, and transfer major operations to Poland in 2009, invalidating do-it-yourself guides by New York Times columnists on how to `become one of the richest countries in Europe' through globalization."
Friedman stated, "because of all the tax revenue and employment the global companies are generating in Ireland, Dublin has been able to increase spending on health care, schools and infrastructure." In the real world, the government's investment in education was falling and it was piling up huge debt.
He reduces politics and economics to emotions, for example, the Arab, or `Ahmed' as he writes, is always `angry'. Rather than analyse a country he tells a story about someone he met there.
Over and again, Fernández exposes Friedman as inaccurate, inconsistent and downright stupid, a muddlehead whose self-deception makes him a sower of deception and confusion.
In sum, Friedman has the brains and morals of Private Eye's Glenda Slag. Fernández concludes that Friedman's writings amount to `warmongering apologetics on behalf of empire and capital'.