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10 of Thomas Friedman's Dumbest "Big Ideas"

You know the world is flat -- and hot and crowded -- but that's just the tip of Friedman's iceberg of hackery.

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As it turned out, the inverse relationship between a U.S. presence in the region and Arab admiration for the scholastic exploits of the offspring of their domestic servants found corroboration in Islam itself: “Only when the Arabs focus on how their maids’ children are doing in the world, not what the Americans are doing in their region, will they revisit one of the most famous sayings of the Prophet Muhammad: ‘Seek knowledge, even unto China. That is the duty for every Muslim.’”

5. Saudi Arabia suffers from an excess of democracy.

In the same 2003  column in which he confessed to having “a soft spot for the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah,” Friedman explained: “The problem with Saudi Arabia is not that it has too little democracy. It’s that it has too much.”

The homeland of 15 of the 9/11 hijackers received the additional  benediction in 2007: “Of course, we must protect the Saudis.” This was approximately four years after the homeland of 0 of the 9/11 hijackers was told to suck on things.

6. Massacres of Muslims are a sign of freedom.

In his  response to the 2002 government-incited  slaughter of over 2,000 Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat, Friedman determined that the fact that “[t]he rioting didn’t spread anywhere” indicated India was worthy of the subtitle “Where Freedom Reigns.”  Continuing impunity for those behind the massacre suggests this may be the case.

As for Friedman’s deceivingly platitudinous  postulate according to which Indian Muslims “are, on the whole, integrated into India’s democracy because it is a democracy,” the evidence he supplied—“There are no Indian Muslims in Guantánamo Bay”—raised the possible need for a reconsideration of the democratic credentials of places like  Britain and the U.S.

7. The fall of the Soviet Union was propitious for Russian wardrobes.

In a 1995  column that began with a recounting of the story of how Russia’s salvation from communism had prompted the neighbor of a Moscow journalist to cease repetitive singing of Ace of Base songs while drunkenly beating his wife, Friedman noted additional perks to life in the transformed city: “New shops mushroom every day and people now dress in a rainbow of colors, instead of different shades of cement. I ate fajitas at a new chain of Moscow-Mex restaurants, where the menu said: ‘We worship our customers like the ancient Aztecs worshiped their gods.’ (Is that capitalism, or what?)”

8. Jeffrey Sachs is African.

Reporting from Accra in 2001, Friedman  informed readers: “Africans themselves will tell you that their problem with globalization is not that they are getting too much of it, but too little.” Aside from the director of Ghana’s Institute for Economic Affairs, the Africans quoted in the column consisted of an Indian trade economist and Harvard’s resident neoliberal shock therapist.

No Africans were meanwhile quoted in Friedman’s 2009  memo datelined Chief’s Island, Botswana, in which he pondered the future of Africa while on safari. Charles Darwin and Dorothy of Kansas merited mentions, however, as did a  leopard in a tree—the protagonist of a 121-word description of the demise of an antelope.

9. Karl Marx knew the world was flat.

See The World Is Flat, pp. 233-4.

10. In addition to being part of a neocon strategy and anti-liberal, the Iraq war was the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched. It had nothinga little bit and everything to do with oil.

Belén Fernández is the author of  The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work , published by Verso in 2011. She is an editor at  PULSE Media and her articles have appeared at the  London Review of Books blog  and Al Jazeera .

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