Tom Friedman, museum exhibit

The NYT columnist offers up one of the most self-contradictory columns ever

Published December 17, 2009 12:18PM (EST)

This might be one of the most self-contradictory episodes in the annals of American punditry:

Tom Friedman, The New York Times, yesterday:

A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.

Tom Friedman, over and over and over, for the last two weeks, on Afghanistan:

I feel like we're like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby.

The person who has spent weeks depicting Afghanistan as a "special needs baby" is now lecturing us about the "corrosive mind-set" of "infantilizing" Muslims.  And the person who is now inveighing against seeing ourselves as "subjects" and Muslims as "objects" was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the attack on Iraq on the ground that our invasion would "put Iraq on a more progressive path and stimulate some real change in an Arab world."

The "point" of Friedman's column yesterday is to call for a "civil war" in the Muslim world.  Calling for wars is what Tom Friedman does most frequently.  Today's not one of those days when I'm willing to wallow in the muck of his "argument," but Daniel Larison's superb response makes that unnecessary.  Suffice to say:  if I had to identify one fact that would illustrate for historians the rot and destructiveness of American political and media culture in this era, I would point to the fact that the trite, sociopathic, and grotesquely muddled mind of Tom Friedman is widely considered by political and media elites to be deeply Serious, profound and oozing great wisdom.


UPDATE:  In addition to everything else, Friedman's views of the Muslim world are as stagnant as they are patronizing.  In yesterday's column, he wrote:  "How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few."  That is virtually identical to this false claim from a column he wrote more than four years ago -- on  July 8, 2005:  "To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden."   As Juan Cole documented the last time Friedman made that claim, there have been numerous such fatwas from some of the most influential Muslim leaders of various stripes and sects.

Friedman thinks it's wrong to "infantalize" Muslims.  That's why he spends so much of his time lecturing them on what they should do and/or urging that new wars be waged on and among them.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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