Friday, July 01, 2005

Shut The Fuck Up

Tom Friedman, who occupies stylistically and ideologically that sick, sick place between the "Hold Your Nose And Do It" free-traders like Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman, and the unhinged, 19th century-throwback globalisation cheerleaders like Niall Ferguson and Paul Johnson, has really been over the top in his last two Times columns.

Both are quintessential Friedman: trite metaphors, witless snarls at the French specifically and socialism in general, a doe-in-rut presentation of his rump to gleefully-accommodating transnational corporations, pollyannish technophilia, cheery pride in his many superficial analyses. To make an atrocious pun, Tom Friedman could be called the high priest of neo-gliberalism. But as typical in theme as these two Friedman columns are, they strike my inner ear as being different, too, in that they are somehow more over the top, more attenuated.

That's it. Tom Friedman has become more shrill. Not that shrillness is ordinarily hard to detect, but with Tom Friedman, whose primary theme could be summed up as of "Outsource more, destroy your labor unions, and be ready to work 80 hours a week or your country will die!" any modulation from his direction is hard to recognise but worth the effort in doing so.

Because it means Friedman's arguments are extra sloppy -- even compared to his Jonah-Goldberg-at-Denny's-with-coupons usual standard.

His arguments are vile enough, of course. The sterilised way he writes of people losing their jobs here, or slaving at their jobs there (India, China), makes me want to puke. But what makes me angry is that his aim is to present the inherently deceitful viewpoint of globalisation as "Laissez-faire With A Human Face" and at the same time, condescendingly proclaim that resistance to globalism is futile (which neatly if implicitly nullifies the first argument: if globalism is so monolithic and irresistable, how can it be humane at all?). Icing on the cake is his execrable prose style. I wish Tom Friedman would shut the fuck up.

**Update: Matthew Yglesias deconstructs Friedman's Francophobia, while Atrios and Kevin Drum contrast European and American styles. Funny that Friedman's fanaticism is such that it even elicits rebukes from his neoliberal fellow travellers Drum and Yglesias (Atrios doesn't drink that kool aid).

I have personally seen and experienced what Atrios describes. Americans do and do not practice the Protestant Work Ethic, yet we believe in it wholeheartedly. What we do not, however, believe in but do in actuality practice is something that could be called "the art of conspicious production". We have to look like we are constantly working; we want to appear to be hard-working, yet would prefer to be on holiday. In other words, our hearts are with the Europeans, but we think we should act like the Japanese. This mentality explains a lot, I think. We take great pleasure in calling our own lower classes as well as citizens of other countries "lazy", yet we would prefer their model if no one else was looking -- which makes for poor productivity, job resentment, heart attacks, the "American condition" -- it's a contradiction we refuse to resolve.

Observe how Yglesias personally prefers the American model: he "likes hard work". But of course he does: he's of the technocrat class, and his work is something he enjoys. But if his work was manual labor, or something wrist-slittingly boring and ill-paid (like most jobs, especially blue collar and service jobs), odds are he wouldn't think the same way. For a technocrat, he has a high degree of empathy (he does, after all, defend the French), but that is damning with faint praise. Matthew Yglesias needs to work in a shoe factory.

***Another Update 7/5/05: See Digby, whose tolerance for Friedman's Randroid-like France-bashing has been pushed to its limit.