Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

The Definitive Collection of Thomas Friedman Takedowns

I’m Thomas Friedman and I think…hard.

As my colleague and current couchmate Trevor Timm pointed out, it is ironic that today of all days I have chosen to compile the definitive collection of hilarious Thomas Friedman takedowns. Why today, you ask? Because today Thomas Friedman actually made sense. Mull that one over for a moment. It’s okay, take your time.

As anyone who has seen me speak publicly knows, I delight in nothing more than a good jab at ol’ Friedman. And just because he’s written one intelligent piece doesn’t mean I’m going to stop…so, in traditional JCY style, I have compiled The Definitive Collection of Thomas Friedman Takedowns, an immaculate collection of parodies, jabs, and totally straightfaced teardowns of the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.

As I’m sure more fantastic gems will eventually come our way, I will later issue a boxed set, then perhaps a B-side. But for now, here goes:

New! As of September 2014:

FRESH! New as of September 2013:

Now with MORE FRIEDMAN!  Newly added as of May 31, 2013:

NEW! As of May 2, 2013

NEW! As of October 10:

NEW! As of July 25:

Some fresh takedowns.  From now on, new pieces will be added by date:

I think the primary occasion for surprise is already upon us: Why does Mr. Friedman not seize the opportunity presented to him by his last sentence and run with it? There is a midwife, a country, Syria, and a name, ‘Mandela.’ Endless recombinatory possibilities present themselves

  • And of course, Friedman’s latest, Syria is Iraq, wherein Friedman practically parodies himself.

Original List:

  1. Matt Taibbi’s seminal takedown, “Flathead”. It has style, it has pizzazz, it has the sentence “On an ideological level, Friedman’s new book is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horseshit.”  It is a classic work of art, and Taibbi’s writing, the anti-Friedman.  You’re welcome.
  2. Sarah Carr’s “This is just the start and it never fucking ends.” Perhaps you didn’t expect an Egyptian blogger to come in second place.  But lo!  Who better to tear apart Friedman’s Egypt inanities than the blogger who writes Inanities, an Egyptian who actually protested in Tahrir Square?  Key line: “You might ask why, since I am in Egypt, I don’t ask an Egyptian – possibly two Egyptians – about what inspired them to completely ignore my theories on the Arab peoples and take to the streets. The answer is this: I am Thomas Friedman and I write a column in the New York Times.”
  3. Thomas Freetrademan”‘s “The Datsun and the Shoe Tree.” Some people name-drop, Friedman place-drops.  This parody captures his essence–”What’s my point? I don’t actually have one–but opening my columns with strings of clichéd cultural juxtapositions really cuts down my workload”–perfectly.
  4. Andrew Ferguson’s book review of “That Used to be Us.” Opening of second paragraph: “As a writer, Mr. Friedman is best known for his galloping assaults on Strunk and White’s Rule No. 9: “Do Not Affect a Breezy Manner.”  ‘Nuff said.
  5. Daniel Drezner’s “Suffering from Friedman’s Disease in Beijing.” If Foreign Policy were Weekend Update.  A classic parody.
  6. The New York Observer’sWrite your own Thomas Friedman column.” A paint-by-numbers to writing Friedman-style.  Includes gems such as “Thomas Friedman is the Carrie Bradshaw of current events. Think Sex and the City , write ‘Sects and Tikriti.’”
  7. Matt Taibbi’s “Flat N All That.” What could be better than a Taibbi takedown?  Two Taibbi takedowns!  “I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now,” admits Taibbi.  “Good!” reply us.
  8. Joshua Foust’s “The Toms Talk ISAF Raids” and “The Only Way to Discuss This (tie).  There’s only one thing better than a Tom Friedman monologue, and that’s a Tom Friedman/Tom Ricks dialogue.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Foust was probably high while writing these, but consider that a good thing.  Complete with sleep-mask-wearing-Andrew-Sullivan intervention.
  9. Justin E.H. Smith’s “Thomas Friedman Clogged My Toilet.” A subtle, creeping parody full of toilet humor and complete with an appearance by a long-dead Mike Royko.
  10. Michael Sweeney’s “Create Your Own Thomas Friedman Op-Ed Column.” Not only is it delightfully condescending (a Friedman must!) but includes the choose-your-own-adventure style multiple choice technique that Friedman’s columns sometimes seemingly employ.

Serious Critiques:

Not exactly B-sides, the following is a list of the more serious critiques of Friedman. Equally enjoyable to the true connoisseur, but less punchy and certainly not Thomas Friedman takedown party reading material.  Wait, you don’t have Thomas Friedman takedown parties?  Ah, nevermind.

  1. Belén Fernández’s “Thomas Friedman’s Confusions.” Frankly, Fernández deserves more than an honorable mention, given that she actually wrote the book on Friedman, but since I haven’t read it yet (c’mon, Nook store!), I’ll just say of her aforementioned piece: Brilliant. (Update! Excerpt of book now available!)
  2. Greg Marx’s “Tom Friedman’s ‘Radical’ Wrongness.” The inclusion of Marx’s piece is almost meta, as he compiled within this post the first collection of Friedman takedowns.  And oh, it’s so sweet.
  3. Matt Welch’s “The Simpletons.” Scathing, accurate, and references Taibbi. See also: “Capturing Tom Friedman.”
  4. Steve Benen’s “Has Thomas Friedman met Barack Obama? Pointing out Friedman’s lack of originality and occasional outright disingenuousness.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Daniel Drezner’s “If world politics pundits covered the Women’s World Cup.” The whole thing is a delightful read, but as only one graf is dedicated to Friedmanism, an honorable mention it gets.  Bonus points for the loving yet punchy parody of Glenn Greenwald.
  2. Dan Murphy‘s fact-check of Friedman’s January 2012 Cairo speech. Though Murphy tweeted that the piece was “de-snarked” (presumably by editors), it still makes its point.
  3. Jennifer Rubin’s “Thomas Friedman, hitting rock bottom.” The best part of Rubin’s recent critique of Friedman in which she implies that Friedman sits upon an anti-Israel perch?  She’s totally fucking serious.

Bonus Points:

  • Matt Welch, Friedman bête noire extraordinaire, offers up an artistic reenactment of a Friedman column, complete with robots.

11 Comments

  1. Read every piece and ROFLMAO’ed the entire time. Even reread Matt Taibbi’s two pieces for the umpteenth time, which should be archived and taught in every journalism school to give up-and-coming writers an idea of how you can painstakingly analyze a book while being just as hilarious as George Carvin (RIP).

    I forever wondered why The New York Times would let such an imbecile write a column for them, but journalism too has become sort of like reality tv thanks to the internet. And if there ever was a journalist that took his profession to the level Snooki took reality tv, it’d be undoubtedly Thomas L. Friedman.

  2. Thank you so much for all this delicious Friedman put down stuff. I enjoy other writes expressing their utter annoyance with the pompous Mr. Friedman. I will never forget Friedman saying what the Iraqi people need is armed American soldiers entering their houses and saying “suck on this”. Now it is your turn for literary humiliation,Mr Friedman. A great collection here Jillian.

  3. I think I’ve wet my pants….hilarious. To see it in the aggregate is simply too much. Old Gray Lady, have Mercy with us

  4. Great list. Also, though less funny, this is one of the truest critiques of Friedman’s latest windmill tilting, and probably deserves mention, though I wouldn’t argue that its the best by any stretch.

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_10/has_thomas_friedman_met_barack032710.php

  5. I remember, or possibly made up, someone on NPR saying rather exasperatedly “I am not responsible for the fantasy structures of Thomas Friedman.” I want to believe it was Fareed Zacharia, and I do love it.

  6. A few of the posted authors are pretty dumb hacks of their own right (Rubin, Foust for starters).

    This was a fun experiment:
    http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3076512

  7. In the first 10 minutes of this Ha-Joon Chang lecture he has a look at the history of Toyota, to show how ridiculous and ignorant Friedman was to use the Lexus as the symbol of free market globalization. According to Chang it’s a little bit like writing a book on self-made men and starting it “Chapter 1: Henry Ford II”.
    Why the World Isn’t Flat:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5-ojv5-b3U

    Other things you might perhaps want to include:
    http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/friedman-mustache.gif
    http://www.mnftiu.cc/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/blog_friedman.gif
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedman_(unit)

  8. Your link to the “seminal takedown” is broken!
    Maybe update it to http://nypress.com/flathead/

    This Rees cartoon is pretty good too: http://www.nytexaminer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/How-Green-Was-My-Mustache.jpg

    “have you read Friedman’s new book about people are putting too many toppings on their pizzas?”

  9. Not as fun, but extremely rigorous: http://www.uclaforecast.com/reviews/leamer_flatworld_060221.pdf

    By the excellent UCLA economist Ed Leamer.

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