Fear and Loathing at The New York Times

We've got Thomas Friedman all wrong. He's no button-down pundit trying to explain the outside world -- he's a gonzo madman who downs unlabeled pills & describes his hallucinations. Or at least that's one way to explain this lede:

When I was in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising, I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action and called the Marriott to see if it had any openings. The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: "Do you have a corporate rate?" I said, "I don't know. I work for The New York Times." There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: "Can I ask you something?" Sure. "Are we going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

I made a mental note of that conversation because she sounded like a modern person, the kind of young woman who would have been in Tahrir Square. We're just now beginning to see what may have been gnawing at her -- in Egypt and elsewhere.

God only knows what really happened in that conversation. Maybe he called room service. Maybe the phone wasn't plugged in at all. Maybe the exchange did happen, but he accidentally called a Marriott in Miami. Whatever Friedman experienced, he processed it from deep in Inner Space: some private world where helpless natives -- even the ones who sound modern! -- beg the Great White Father from The New York Times to tell their fortunes. And in that world, what the Arabs need is a strong guiding hand, the sort of firm paternal leadership that will ward off civil strife:

The Arab world desperately needs its versions of South Africa's Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk — giants from opposing communities who rise above tribal or Sunni-Shiite hatreds to forge a new social compact. The Arab publics have surprised us in a heroic way. Now we need some Arab leaders to surprise us with bravery and vision. That has been so lacking for so long.

Another option is that an outside power comes in, as America did in Iraq, and as the European Union did in Eastern Europe, to referee or coach a democratic transition between the distrustful communities in these fractured states. But I don't see anyone signing up for that job.

A coach. The Arabs need a coach. Or a referee. They're pretty much the same thing, right?

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  • rather retarded||

    I hope I might one day be as insipid and anti-insightful as Thomas Friedman. He's my hero.

  • Bill||

    It's like they're on a train track, but they have come off the track. And they need to lay some new track. And they need someone to help them do it.

    They need a conductor or an energy czar, because they will know how to lay track, right??

  • OO||

    if only the hotel clerk had asked jessie walker for info instead of thomas friedman.

  • ||

    The whole Great White Father meme is nice. Maybe we can send Samantha Power.

    Wonder if Friedman was able to reassure the Hotel Clerk?

  • Otto||

    If you were talking to Friedman, would you feel reassured?

  • JoshInHB||

    She probably asked him "Are you going to be alright?" after listening to 5 minutes of his babbling.

  • ||

    When I read her remark, I immediately thought she was concerned about Tom precisely because he works for the Times. After all, as a modern person, surely her concern for the crumbling Times corporate empire overrides her concern for the fate of her backward (except for her) country.

  • Restoras||

    Let's volunteer our Congress. The Arabs get experienced 'leadership' adept at reaching across aisles while we can just elect a new one.

  • ||

    Let's volunteer our Congress. The Arabs get experienced 'leadership' adept at reaching across aisles while we can just elect a new one.

    ftfy. ("Fry, remember what I told you about ending your stories one sentence earlier?")

  • ||

    "Are we going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

    "Honey, you live in a dictatorship, populated by savages and barbarians. The odds you are going to be OK are not good."

  • ||

    "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo."

  • ||

    Excellent.

  • sean||

    "Are we going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

    "Honey, you live in a dictatorship, just not a very ruthless or efficient one. If you emulate the Chinese, everything will be the tits."

  • pj||

    If we're on the subject of Indians... why not ask for some commentary from Kipling? He'd be more subtle and less patronizing.

    But in fairness to Friedman, he meant well--for a man who does nothing well...

  • spqr||

    This reminds me of a Kipling Poem, "The White Man's Burden". Scary thought

  • ||

    Somewhat instructive, though, that a liberal's first idea is a return to colonialism. These guys don't mind putting brown people (or anyone else) in their place, as long as that place is their collective. Oh, and lying about their motives.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Unbelievable quote. "Another option is that an outside power comes in, as America did in Iraq, and as the European Union did in Eastern Europe, to referee or coach a democratic transition between the distrustful communities in these fractured states."

    Yeah, a coach or referee who drops thousands of tons of bombs, kills tens of thousands of people, and occupies your country for the next ten years. That's what the Egyptians are looking for--at least, that's what they ought to be looking for.

    This isn't surprising analysis, really, not when you consider it's coming from a guy who calls a hotel in, you know, Egypt, and is surprised when he gets someone on the line who sounds, you know, Egyptian.

  • ||

    Yeah, a coach or referee who drops thousands of tons of bombs, kills tens of thousands of people, and occupies your country for the next ten years.

    Yeah, basically Bill Belichik writ large.

  • ||

    The yellow and red cards weren't very effective. The exploding cards did get their attention.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    As a side note, I gotta say, I admire Tom for remembering to ask for a corporate rate during a revolution. Talk about a company man!

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    The credit should go to the modern-sounding clerk. She asked him if he had the corporate rate.

    Extraordinary cognitive ability for a savage, no?

  • Devil Inchoate||

    She was clean and articulate.

  • ||

    I think he was talking about Friedman....

  • ||

    No, she asked if he had a corporate rate and he didn't know. He is either too stupid with China love that he doesn't know NYT is a corporation or he doesn't want to admit it because corporations are evil. What an idiot.

  • WTF||

    People still read the NY Times?

  • ||

    Only when they need a laugh, or a hook for a column.

  • ||

    Apparently only Upper West Siders and internet pundits.

  • DJF||

    Obviously someone at Reason Magazine does. That is probably why they keep advertising for unpaid interns, since if they go into catatonic shock from reading the NYT then its no big loss.

  • ||

    Where do you think the NYT gets its columnists from? When they need a new one, someone at Reason just pops down to the intern dept and picks one that isn't drooling too much and can still operate a word processor (somewhat).

  • ||

    Not since they tried to make me PAY for it!

  • ||

    He must have been caught up in the moment. He forgot to ask if they served lox in the concierge lounge.

  • Joh[nn]y Lo[n]gtorso||

    But don't all liberals think referees should take one side over the less politically useful one?

  • Devil Inchoate||

    referee = coach
    judge = partisan

  • ||

    So Friedman thinks it is some kind of insight to think that the Arab world needs leaders? Duh. The question has always been what *kind* of leaders. But the truth is that the Arab world often gets the kinds of leaders it deserves, in much the same way that Russia in the post-Soviet world has gotten the leader it deserved. Until the Arab citizens actually grow up, they're going to get totalitarian, belligerent, semi-insane dictators. Friedman would know this if he'd spent any time actually thinking about the issue.

  • ||

    But the truth is that the Arab world often gets the kinds of leaders it deserves, in much the same way that Russia in the post-Soviet world has gotten the leader it deserved.

    What do you think about America's leaders, ern?

  • Scruffy Nerd Herder||

    Be careful what you ask for

  • ||

    Ain't you in command?

  • ||

    The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: "Do you have a corporate rate?" I said, "I don't know. I work for The New York Times." There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: "Can I ask you something?" Sure. "Are we going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

    "As she spoke, I began to slowly unbutton my shirt, pushing aside my tie. 'This is the moment I've been waiting for my entire publishing career.' I thought to myself. I may have actually mouthed it silently as the words scrolled across my mind's eye, but I'm not sure.

    As she continued to ramble in her fear, almost incoherently, the warm intensity of this new feeling sweeping across my chest only increased with every heartbeat. The staccato rhythm of my heart was like a burgeoning crowd, chanting me onto something greater, 'Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.' It was incredible, like the first time you and your best freind played doctor together as children. Almost on cue, I look down, only to see my fully erect penis pointing skyward, straining against my pants as some sort of untamed beast. It wanted to be free, just as this poor girl does!

    My hands had been moving slowly until now and as I pulled my Kenneth Cole Reaction shirt apart, you could see the monochromatic fabric below it, with the large, old English 'T' emblazoned in the middle. It was beautiful, poetic, like Paris on a misty morning, as I walked through the streets of small shops, with Carla Bruni on my arm, whispering in my ear, between thrusts of her hot, moist tongue, 'China will soon be the master of the world, their high-speed trains spreading all over the globe, all thanks to you.' This only made my pride swell more, as I recalled the night before of how Sarkozy begged her not to leave with me. But she wouldn't listen to his sobbing pleas. She needed to be with a flesh and blood man, not some faux caracture of one.

    'Enough of this,' I thought, 'the world needs me, more than ever now.' With one fluid motion, I ripped off the expensed shirt to expose the full glory of my supersuit. The white of the fabric, offset by the black cuffs, positively glowed, with the 'T' in the center, filled the room and burst through the window of the Motel 6. as if announcing to the world, 'I'm here! You worries and the old world order will soon be a distant memory!' I could stand no more. As if by thought alone, my pants dissolved in a hot fury to reveal the rest of the supersuit. The moment was now.

    But, as I took that first step towards the door, through which I would rid the world of its misery, depose their old leaders who prey upon the world's people and make the world safe for print journalism once again, it happened. I ejaculated prematurely, again, as it always does, as it did that first time I played doctor with my best friend. The slick stickiness spread across my groin, intertwining with my ample body hair, even seeping above the elastic waistband a bit, and I stopped in my tracks. I was too late. I sat down on the bed and sobbed.

    The world will have to wait another day.

  • ||

    Good, but I prefer the Krugman fanfics.

  • Fitzroy||

    *Applauds*

  • ||

    A frightening trip into the mind of a madman. Could have used for Cinna-bon, though... but that is a minor complaint.

  • ||

    I sat down on the bed and sobbed, landing squarely on a half-eaten Cinn-a-bon. It's sickly, sweet smell only laughed at my feckless humiliation.

    I pulled the flattened pastry out from under me and mindlessly plucked at the now-unraveling swirl, which only reminded me of the sorry state of the world without my steadying hand, stuffing gooey gobs into my mouth between heaving sobs. The world will have to wait another day.

  • ||

    JW, this is Iowahawk quality. I'm laughing out loud; snot is shooting from my nose; I'm peeing myself. Stop, please! I'm begging you! At least until tomorrow.

  • ||

    So Friedman is against Obama's originally stated aim (however finally tempered by reality) that we should get out of Iraq ASAP rather than sticking around as a stabilizing force like we did in Germany, Japan and Korea?

    Is he realizing that, yes, the Muslim Brotherhood (and by implication AQ in Libya) is something to worry about?

  • ||

    "I made a mental note of that conversation because she sounded like a modern person, the kind of young woman who would have been in Tahrir Square." - and getting ganged raped.

  • ||

    That struck me in the same way. Clueless, thy name is Friedman.

  • Otto||

    We're just now beginning to see what may have been gnawing at her -- in Egypt and elsewhere.

    Uh, no, Tommy - you might just now be getting it (and I doubt even that), but the rest of us understand exactly what was "gnawing" at people who had been oppressed by a kleptocratic thug for 30 years.

    I think Friedman exists to make beginning writers feel better about themselves.

  • ||

    Ha! An excellent theory.

  • Bee Tagger||

    "I don't know. I work for The New York Times." There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: "Can I ask you something?" Sure. "Are we you going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

    I think he simply misheard her. She has heard about the new paywall at nytimes.com and is worried its a sign of desperation for a failing company.

  • ||

    Imagine what her reaction would have been if he asked for the Hebrew National corporate rate.

  • ||

    "Sir, I am going to have to contact Professor Finklestein".

  • ||

    "Do you have a corporate rate?"

    If the New York Times gets a corporate rate, that can only mean one thing; the Times is a corporation!

    Self-loathing; it's what's for dinner, Tom.

  • The Ghost of T. E. Lawrence||

    A coach. The Arabs need a coach. Or a referee.

    A little people, a silly people, ...

  • Paul A'Barge||

    Oh, the paternalism! Makes me all verklempt.

  • ||

    That should have read "Oy, the paternalism!" you shmendrick.

  • ||

    I have not read of behavior (self-confessed in this case) so boorish during a revolutionary situation since I read accounts of the Spartacist uprising in 1919.

  • Metal Prophet||

    Tom Friedman, the one person that liberals, conservatives, and libertarians can all agree is an idiot.

  • Colin||

    If only this were so.

  • SUM SUM SUMMARY||

    THE WORLD IS FLAT - best book review ever

  • ||

    What they really need is to become more like China!!!!

  • ||

    When I was in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising, I needed to change hotels one day because I had burnt up any good will, and credit, at this flea trap. I called the Marriott to see if it had any openings. The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: "Do you have a corporate rate?" I said, "Damn straight I do! And I want some fucking gin in my room, I work for The goddamn New York Times." There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: "Can I ask you something?" Here it comes, I thought, word has spread of the rum soaked gringo, and his poor credit. She was going to ask me for a reference, or to stay where I am until the authorities arrive. Ha! There are no authorities, only chaos; a perfect place for me to hunker down for a couple of weeks.

    Instead she asked, "Are we going to be O.K.? I'm worried."

    "Of course not honey, you're a savage living in a land without gin. Do you evven have to ask, jesus." I replied grumpily. How else is a civilized southern gentleman supposed to act with no booze and a quickly diminishing ball of hash and opium.

    "What?"

    "Oh, nothing. Do you have grapefruits?"

    I made a mental note of that conversation because she sounded like a modern person, not the kind of young woman who would call Mubarak's secret police, bored from beating hungry protesters, to come and get some real sport: a giant gringo with a head full of dangerous narcotics. I wanted to gnaw on her, to taste her skull...Christ man, get a hold of yourself. Better take a hit off of the opium, calm my nerves. I am going to need all of the calm I can get. Have you ever tried to walk across Cairo in a riot with a head full of mescaline? Maybe I'll wear my Nixon mask, that'll keep them safely away from me.

  • Charley||

    John? John Steinbeck?

  • ||

    I can't read this with out hearing Johnny Depp's rendition.

  • DJF||

    The reason why the NYT does not have a comic page is because the editorial page takes its place.

  • ||

    That's why I never buy a paper.

  • ||

    Kinda crazy when you think about it huh?

    www.total-privacy.it.tc

  • ||

    Only American libertarians know what's best for the people of Egypt it appears.

    Just don't call it paternalism.

  • ||

    Well, we know Tom Friedman is not what's best for Egypt.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know what's best for the people of Egypt. But I do like to speculate based on very little information, just like everyone else.

  • ||

    ...I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action...

    What a brave man...is this like adventure tourism?

  • Devil Inchoate||

    He was hoping to get gang-raped in the square.

  • thomas friedman||

    No, it's true. I heard about Laura Logan, and I was jealous as a mother fucker. Because I'm a douchebag like that.

  • Colin||

    The EU refereed nothing in Eastern Europe. He's delusional.

  • Flatuence Wednesday||

    Historical comment on the ability to fart at will is observed as early as St. Augustine's The City of God (5th century AD). Augustine mentions men who "have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at will, so as to produce the effect of singing." The fact that mankind in general has lost this ability he attributes to the first sin of Adam and Eve and its consequences with respect to body control. Intentional passing of gas and its use as entertainment for others appears to have been somewhat well-known in pre-modern Europe, according to mentions of it in medieval and later literature, including Rabelais.

    Le Pétomane ("The Fartiste") was a famous French performer in the 19th century who, as well as many professional farters before him, did flatulence impressions and held shows. The performer Mr. Methane carries on Le Pétomane's tradition today. Also, a 2002 film Thunderpants revolves around a boy named Patrick Smash who has an ongoing flatulence problem since he was a newborn baby. He eventually overcame his problems and fulfilled his dreams including being an astronaut.

  • Matt Welch||

    Not that it matters, but the EU didn't exist when Eastern Europe cast off communism. And while the EC did have a role there, it was not remotely as coach or referee.

  • ||

    It was only through the generous distribution of EC subsidized keys that the Velvet Revolution was even possible.

  • ||

    There used to be a leader something like that. I think his name was "Sadat". What ever happened to him?

  • John Smith||

    ...so there was this young Indian native girl. Pok-uh something... She said something in her native tongue. Something like, do you have a blanket? So I fucked her.

  • ||

    "I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action..."

    Next time just walk towards the gunfire.

  • ||

    Remember, Bernhard Henri-Levy is defending the new round of colonialism in Libya (those savage Arabs, only a tolerant, radical, principled Frenchman of the Left will guide them through the night, with the U.S. military at hand).

    Friedman could only aspire to such bloviating heights.

  • ||

    Q. Why doesn't the Times have comic strips?

    A. The Op-Ed page writers would be superfluous.

  • ||

    "The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department..."

    Please tell me her name was Charley.

  • ola||

    Somebody should punch Krugman's momma in da mouth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4F4w58NNv0

  • sirius||

    Another option is that an outside power comes in, as America did in Iraq... But I don't see anyone signing up for that job.

    Not after what the NYTimes did to queer that effort.

  • ||

    "And I would've gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling newspapers!"

  • neutrinoman||

    Ah, Mr. Tom-Sahib tours the darker corners of the world, again.

    "A gonzo madman who downs unlabeled pills & describes his hallucinations" -- sounds like Krugman. Maybe this is a general problem at the Times, or maybe the Manhattan water ....

  • ||

    This story would be more believable if Friedman had said we was changing hotels because the towels weren't fluffy enough.

  • ||

    I found the comments on this thread really funny and insightful (much better than Friedman) so I commented on the column at the New York Times, suggested readers go to this website, and provided a link.
    As most of you know, the New York Times moderates its comments, so if you're not cool enough, they won't post your comment.
    Needless to say, the New York Times was not amused, and they did not post my comment.

  • ||

    Apparently they have higher standards for posting comments than for printing opinion columns.

  • ||

    suggested readers go to this website, and provided a link.

    *Battens hatches, prepares for troll invasion*

    Oh, wait- they "moderated" you; thx NYT!

  • ||

    they have higher standards for posting comments than for printing opinion columns.

    Just the unmutual comments.

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    Friedman is an idiot. She was using the royal "we" like you would use it if you were talking to an insane person. "Are we going to be all right?" is what you'd say to a stranger who you were trying to stop doing something insane without tipping off that you think they are insane.

    And no, "we" aren't going to be all right.

  • ||

    Friedman wants Obama to appoint him ambassador plenipotentiary to the world, with an unlimited mandate to do whatever he feels like.

  • ||

    Sssshhhh......Thomas Friedman, sitting at a battered typewriter in a dingy hotel room smewhere in Egypt, is attampting to revive his tattered career by channeling Hunter S Thompson:

    "We were somewhere around Wadi Miftah on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel as if I've had a bit too much Chardonnay; Abu, perhaps you should drive...." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge shrieking Tea-Party activists, all swooping and screeching for fiscal restraint while diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Cairo. And a voice was screaming "Holy Prophet! What are these goddamn animals?"

    Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his fez off and was pouring espresso on his bald spot, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Ferrari sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Lexus toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those rapacious shrieking conservative beasts, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.....say, around 2012."

  • ||

    "A little people, a silly people, ..."

    Greedy, barbarous and cruel...

  • ||

    If you ever read the 7 pillars of Wisdom Lawrence is actually much worse then his depiction in the movie.

    And don't even ask how he describes the Turks or worse the English.

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    That's no way to talk about the Irish.

  • ||

    They need a coach? Is Josh McDaniels still available? He did a bang up job his last gig.

  • ||

    I made a mental note of that conversation because she sounded like a modern person

    I am now making a mental note that if i ever have a conversation with Tom or anyone working for the NYT I am going to ask "Are we going to be OK?"

    The response is virtually guaranteed to be entertaining.

  • ||

    Progressive douchebag prose: when every word and phrase is chosen exclusively to demonstrate your moral superiority, exquisite intellect, vast courage, heartrending compassion, etc. Unfortunately, you can't fake skills, but if you fake enough of the other stuff then you can get the other fake people to fake-like you so at least you'll be fake-popular.

  • ||

    "Are we going to be OK?" she asked?

    ¨Dunno¨ I replied, cooly flipping open
    the cigarette packet and raising one to
    my lips.

    I saw the fear in her eyes, and felt it in
    my pants.

    She had to know the truth.

    ¨You, maybe¨ I said.

    ¨Me¨ I added,¨I should be fine, I´m a hack excuse
    for a writer, married to a heiress
    and with a house the size of New Jersey¨

    The firing got closer, and mentally I
    noted that she was rather slim.

    Not a good thing, if I needed a human
    shield.............

  • ||

    "Are we going to be OK?" she asked?

    Tom Said "Do you want the truth or what will appear in my paper?

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