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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thomas Friedman: Dense Metaphors Deflect Pies

posted by on April 23 at 13:05 PM

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman—a man whose surreal use of the English language can hold some of the same psychedelic properties as overdosing on codeine cough syrup—narrowly avoided having an Earth Day pie thrown in his face during a talk on renewable energy and green technology at Brown University.

From the Providence Journal’s harrowing account:

Friedman ducked, and was left with only minor streams of the sugary green goo on his black pants and turtleneck.

He stood in bewilderment and mild disgust as the young man and woman bolted from the stage and out the side door, throwing a handful of fliers into the air to relay the message they apparently were not going to deliver personally.

“Thomas Friedman deserves a pie in the face…,” the flier said, “because of his sickeningly cheery applaud for free market capitalism’s conquest of the planet, for telling the world that the free market and techno fixes can save us from climate change. From carbon trading to biofuels, these distractions are dangerous in and of themselves, while encouraging inaction with respect to the true problems at hand…”

After five minutes, Friedman returned to the stage undeterred, with only faint traces of the green cream on his clothing.

While the pie-thrower’s manifesto may having lacked any discernible sense of humor, it still led to the the publication of the sentence, “Friedman returned to the stage undeterred, with only faint traces of the green cream on his clothing,” which is totally fantastic.

My personal favorite analysis of Friedman is still pie-throwing connoisseur Matt Taibbi’s piece about Friedman’s book The World is Flat, written for the New York Press. The piece is calle ‘Flathead,’ and it ends thusly:

Four hundred and 73 pages of this, folks. Is there no God?

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I would have paid money to have seen security beat the shit out of the pie thrower. These guys are total assholes, and deserve a solid beating down.

Posted by bma | April 23, 2008 1:18 PM

So Ryan, are you saying that you don't believe dear old Tom when he tells you that it's a mega-super great thing that your job got sent to India and you're now wearing a potato sack and eating uncooked, dry beans from your cardboard box near the intersection of Shantytown and Junkyville?

Posted by Original Andrew | April 23, 2008 1:18 PM

Friedman is only moderately interesting, but he's a better writer than Taibbi is in that piece. He's deliberately not getting the point, for effect. That's cheap. Friedman is a clumsy writer with a flaccid metaphor, but the things he talks about are real. Taibbi isn't talking about anything at all.

Posted by Fnarf | April 23, 2008 1:18 PM


That's the critique I hear the most about the Taibbi response, and I think its valid so long as you're asking Taibbi to have a counterpoint to Friedman's economic arugment.

If the point is simply to tear down the veneer of 'Thomas Friedman: Serious Thinker and Author', then he's done his job in the limited capacity he was looking to do it in.

Posted by R, Jackson, Intern-for-Hire | April 23, 2008 1:38 PM

What a pity that the only climate change those fruitcakes will ever see in their lives will be the coming ice age.

Posted by A Brown Alumnus | April 23, 2008 1:40 PM

Thomas Friedman concerns himself with real solutions to real problems, and to me he comes across as an insightful and decent person. The pie throwers of the world, on the other hand, deserve nothing but contempt from educated people, and I'm having a hard time understanding why this intern is using this incident as an excuse to attack Friedman.

Posted by PJ | April 23, 2008 2:10 PM

This is why crazy lefties will NEVER amass any power in our nation, and will never affect real change in this country. They think change can be had by throwing pies in the faces of those they disagree with. Dorks...all of them.

Posted by CA | April 23, 2008 2:25 PM

A find description of Friedman's tribulations from Wonkette:

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a decent book many years ago and has since made a living by promoting the Iraq War, going on sabbatical, and coming up with useless concepts like these: "the world is flat," "a Lexus is like an olive tree, in that both are on my book cover," and "I used my NYT corporate Amex credit card to buy a trinket from this Pakistani, which I'll conflate into a hackneyed worldview cliche." This modern day soothsayer spoke to some kids at Brown University last night about the environment and got pelted with green pies, which is what happens in the Global Marketplace of Ideas.

Posted by lorax | April 23, 2008 2:26 PM

Here is a video of the Pie incident yesterday!

Posted by Mark | April 23, 2008 2:32 PM

Yeah, those crazy radical leftists with their pies, oh noes, how uncivilized! Better pies than bullets.

Posted by Jay | April 23, 2008 2:43 PM

Sounds fair to me.

Pie is good.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 23, 2008 2:46 PM

@11 Pie is good to eat, I'm not sure it's that good to wear. Well, except maybe in the bedroom...

@6 because he can. Slog power and all that.

Posted by PopTart | April 23, 2008 2:57 PM

@4: but if you don't have any ideas, how are you qualified to tear down the ideas of someone else? "Friedman is a schmoe" isn't an idea. Taibbi can do better than this, I know he can.

Posted by Fnarf | April 23, 2008 3:18 PM

Friedman isn't much of an economist. I've read his work at length and a lot of it's blind faith in free markets. He buys into a teleological view of history dominated by markets. He doesn't seem to realize that we're actually in the third global system, and that the same old story about how free trade is going to make the economy equitable, sustainable and competitive on a global scale is just the same old shit warmed over.

Countries have every right to be protectionist, interventionist and nationalist when it comes to managing their economy, especially when their stability is dependent on it. Free markets can create prosperity but not without international laws forcing the market to play fair. Simply opening one's border might generate extreme wealth, but with that wealth comes extreme inequality, environmental degradation and social instability. I would not recommend that any country just open the floodgates.

Faith in the free market blinds him to what I consider readily identifiable problems. The idea that capitalism will somehow miraculously generate clean energy without the state setting absolute limits on emissions is starry eyed foolish and irresponsible. By time you develop that kind of technology through free market incentives and distribute it across the globe (it ain't gonna be cheap), climate change will be largely irreversible.

The governments of the world need to act, even if it means slowing down their precious growth and curbing over-development. Relying on capitalism and some light incentives on part of the government is impractical, and only some ideological commitment to free markets could possibly justify it. Action, the kind that liberals would call radical, is now necessary.

People like Friedman are pied pipers, yes man ala the Chicago Boys in Chile, telling the business and economic leaders what they want to hear about themselves. We shall see in the end whether there's anything to the idea of global competition saving the day.


It ain't gonna.

Posted by Jay | April 23, 2008 5:38 PM

Krugman should take a piss in Friedman's mouth.

Posted by Jay | April 23, 2008 5:42 PM

@14 - it's like the fake "free market" we have with China, where it costs $46,000 in China to buy a car sold for $26,000 in the US ....

Anyone sucker enough to believe that we have free trade with China deserves lots of pies in their face. Blueberry ones.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 23, 2008 5:43 PM

Also, why is it with the last name Friedman that makes people into true believer free marketeers?

Of course Milton was a lot smarter than old Tom.

Posted by Jay | April 23, 2008 5:49 PM

@14: Yes. But what a pity that the only climate change you'll see in your lifetime is the coming ice age. So much intelligence, so much stupidity.

Posted by Yerhudi | April 23, 2008 7:23 PM

"The governments of the world need to act"

"the kind that liberals would call radical, is now necessary."

How very Keynesian of you. I might suggest you read a little more Hayek, rather than Keynes. An international economy where competition is kept fair(which includes some regulation)is the only way to appropriate capital in any efficient and meaningful way.

Will there be losers and winners? Absolutely. But once you start down the path of planned economies, you're well on your way to using newspapers to wipe your ass.(the soviet economy was incapable of mass producing cheap toilet paper for middle class citizens)

Posted by CA | April 23, 2008 10:24 PM

No, sorry, I'll stick to Keynes, thank you. But I guess that means I'm on the road to serfdom oh noes!

Posted by Jay | April 24, 2008 3:06 PM

#18: You're a fucking retard.

Posted by Jay | April 24, 2008 3:07 PM

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