Back by Popular Demand! It's Tom Friedman One-Paragraph Animated-Robot Theater!


Inspirational Thomas L. Friedman column here. First episode in this series here. Reason on Friedman here.

NEXT: Ayn Rand & The World She Made - Q&A with Anne Heller

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So, uh… was there even a point to his article? I read the whole thing, and came out of it with no insights whatsoever.

    1. …as opposed to all the other times you’ve gotten insights out of something that Tom Friedman wrote?

      1. Around 2002 when I read “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”.

        Since then, aside from understanding the logic of an idiot, nothing.

        1. Were you twelve at the time? Jesus.

          1. It is not a bad book. In fact it was pretty good even though it definitely had an expiration date of 2005 on it. It was written as an observational work. As was “From Beirut to Jerusalem”.

            Friedman got bad when he stopped being a reporter and started being an opinion writer.

            Look he got famous for essentially writing these two books. What you think he is listened to because he praises China?

            No…right now he is flailing around and trying to sound profound….if this was the stuff he was writing about back in the late 90s and early 2000s he would be as famous as lone wako.

    2. The only points are that Friedman loves him some Chinese gummint, and that he thinks someone in power there actually listens to him.

      This is the exact same point he’s made in previous columns.

      1. This column is actually not that bad, but only because I’m grading on a curve. Friedman is a terrible writer and a terrible reasoner. To his credit, Friedman decided not to go full retard this time. This column only features one bungled metaphor, and it’s relatively benign. (“China has put on a sound and light show these past few weeks that underscored just how much its rising economic clout can be used to warp the U.S.-led international order when it so chooses.”) My guess is that someone took him aside after last week’s Indian-nanny-getting-a-free-ride-to-MIT metaphor disaster and told him to dial it back a bit.

        So the writing isn’t as bad as it could be, but what about Friedman’s reasoning? That too isn’t quite as bad as it’s been of late. It looks like the same guy who told Friedman that his metaphors were getting out of control also informed him that his boner for Chinese autocratic pseudocapitalism was ruining the lines of his Dockers. So there’s less of that today.

        Given that Friedman elected not to go on a terrible writng bender, and decided to cool it with the ChiCom leg-humping, he ended up cranking out a column that contains no argument and barely has a thesis. As far as I can tell, his thesis is “if America doesn’t learn from Communist China and idiots on 4chan, it will lose its global leadership role to Chinese communists and /b/tards.” I doubt that America has much to learn from or reason to fear a website devoted primarily to rickrolling, getting girls to stick Sharpies in their rectums, misunderstanding the Gunpowder Plot, and Pedobear, but if Friedman wants to make that argument, fine.

        But Friedman doesn’t actually make that argument. Instead, he starts to criticize China for bad behavior surrounding the award of the Nobel to Liu Xiaobo. “Not bad,” the reader mutters, “it’s nice that Friedman has finally gotten around to criticizing the Chinese government.” Ah, but do not be fooled, gentle reader. Friedman is just setting you up, and that where Matt Welch comes in. Let’s look at that paragraph, shall we?

        “Honestly, I thought China’s leaders had more self-confidence than that. Clearly, they are feeling very insecure. Think if China had said instead: ‘We disagree with this award and we will not be attending. But anytime one of our citizens is honored with a Nobel, it is an honor for all of China ? and so we will pass this on to his family.’ It would have been a one-day story, and China’s leaders would have looked so strong.”

        Got that? This column isn’t about criticizing the ChiComs for stifling dissent and imprisoning those who advocate for democracy. It isn’t about how China strongarms its trading partners into abetting its boycott of the Nobel award ceremony. It’s about how China botched the optics of the Nobel award. If only they had listened to Friedman, they would have scored a PR victory and looked “so strong.” Best of all, China’s abysmal human rights record would have been a one-day story.

        You can practically hear the disappointment in Friedman’s voice. “Come on guys, I thought you were confident. You had the chance to look so strong and you missed it. Dudes, if you had only listened to me, you would have known how to paper over your human rights abuses and made the western press ignore your tyranny. Come on, you’re better than this!”

        Friedman’s detour into disappointment with China’s public relations performance might seem strange when I describe it, yet it fits perfectly with the rest of a disjointed, directionless column. I don’t know what China’s PR ineptitude has to do with its ability to replace the U.S. on the global stage, nor do I know what the U.S. is expected to learn from China’s messaging mistakes. But I also don’t know why we don’t get an actual argument as to why or how China and a group of morons posting Advice Dog macros will inherit America’s position in the world. Friedman is horrible. That’s all there is to it.

        1. You’re pretty good at this.

          1. Matt Taibbi is the star of Friedman takedowns. At best I’m a benchwarmer on the JV squad. What Taibbi taught me is that the key to Friedman criticism is to ignore the substantive argument (to the extent that he has one) and go after the bad writing.

            What’s remarkable about Friedman is that he is perhaps the world’s most successful bad writer. His politics aren’t that awful; center-left technocrat knob-slobbering is hardly out of the mainstream in Washington. But my goodness, he cannot write his way out of a paper bag. I don’t expect smart politics from the New York Times, but I do expect their writers to know their craft. Friedman doesn’t.

    3. Halfway through, Friedman states, “It gets worse.”

      He’s absolutely correct on that point.

    4. My thoughts exactly

  2. The animated dude looks mildly hipster, but needs a porkpie hat to really top it off.

  3. Oh god, the article is even worse than the video makes it look. Friedman is caught between his desire for what appears to be an American Empire and his admiration of China in all things.

  4. Friedman seems to be ignorant as to exactly why Liu won the prize, and China’s general interest in public relations.

  5. Didn’t progressives back in the day admire Mussolini because he made the trains run on time? And employment was high? Creepy.

  6. I bet Friedman has posters of Uncle Joe hanging on his wall.

  7. Friedman can’t move to China. That would be giving up on the dream of a strong, corporatist, nationalist AMERICA!

  8. Flash Poll: Who is worse, Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman?

    1. *ponders….considers….ruminates….head explodes*

    2. I’m considering this. Pondering. Ruminating on it, even.

      *head explodes*

    3. Paul Krugman can do math. (although admittedly, he does not use it in his political columns for the NYT)

      Friedman has no skills at all beyond vapid cliche-manufacturing.

      1. I actually think that makes Krugman worse. He has the ability to do math. He just ignores the answers. Friedman’s just a douch, no harm, no foul. Whenever he talks about China he reminds me of someone who spends a weekend in Paris, and then spends the rest of their lives talking about how stupid Americans are and how Europeans are so much more sophisticated. No one’s listening to their stupid pretentious ramblings except other stupid pretentious people.

    4. Flash Poll: Who is worse, Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman?

      I think Friedman is far worse. It’s really difficult to be as grating as a Thomas Friedman column. Brooks manages it sometimes, but I don’t think anyone else in the NYT stable pulls it off. Even Dowd looks good next to TF.

    5. Krugman, hands down. People take him seriously because he does know quite a bit about the economic theories that are fashionable among the left.

      Friedman? Please. I don’t think he’s fooling anyone with his whole I-stayed-at-a-five-star-hotel-in-Shanghai-and-my-bellhop-had-an-iPhone-and-here’s-what-that-means-for-economic-growth-in-American schtick. I can’t imagine that anyone looks to Friedman’s columns for policy prescriptions; they probably just come for the awful metaphors.

    6. Flash Poll: Who is worse, Tom Friedman or Paul Krugman?

      Krugman, until Freidman wins a nobel prize.

      1. Good point

  9. Why don’t you just move there fucking already


    Um….that really is not funny at all Matt.

    Two weeks ago i was telling the some county commissioners that the Tri-cities did not have a housing bubble yet East Wenatchee did.

    One of the commisioners asked me “why don’t you move there?”

    Of course someone can also ask you “Why don’t you move to France if you love their health care so much.”

    It is a shitty thing to say. And comparing one government to another is a fair analysis.

    I agree Tom is an idiot about China…but that does not excuse your flippant idiotic response anymore then it excuses the county commissioner’s or the random person telling you to move to France.

    1. Friedman is obsessed with the Chinese government, though. If it had a dick, he’d suck it.

  10. Wait, I have a fundamental problem with the headline of Matt’s post: “Back By Popular Demand”. Surely not the popular demand of his loyal commentariat, right?

    Because if so, the rest of you sadden and disgust me.

  11. At least he isn’t like apologists of tyrants of the past. He is telling them that what they are doing is bad rather then telling us why it is OK for tyrants to be…well…tyrants.

  12. I admit, I’ve become a Friedman addict – I can’t bypass one of his descents into coherence hell. It is just so morbidly fascinating.

    1. I’ve submitted your name to a prayer circle at my former church – perhaps God can help your affliction.

      Good luck….!

  13. Inspirational Thomas L. Friedman column here. First episode in this series here. Reason on Friedman here.


    The next time you post links about Tom’s love affair with China you should include the link to the article you guys did about how china’s economic reforms came from the bottom up. I think Moynihan wrote it and he had quotes from a book or article about the subject. Great stuff and very Germain IMHO.

    1. Here it is and it was Jesse Walker who wrote it.

      It is even better after a year’s time…..pontaneous

      Throughout the reform process, the Chinese Communist Party simply reacted to (and wisely did not oppose) bottom-up reform initiatives that emanated largely from the rural population. Deng Xiaoping’s famous description of Chinese reform as “fording the river by feeling for the stones” is not incorrect, but it was the Chinese people who placed the stones under his feet.

      The reason article links to an even better article here:…..97307.html

  14. Have your fun. Tomorrow morning you’ll still be dumb and poor, whereas I’ll still be fabulously wealthy. Don’t you hate America for loving me so?

    1. we won’t respect you in the morning…

      1. Your respect isn’t worth what I’ve earned in the time it took to type this sentence. I’m a money machine. Snark cannot stop me. Nothing can stop me.

  15. posses of “cyber-hacktivists” who can melt down the computers of people they don’t like

    Notice that “cyber hacktivist” is in quotes. That means that somewhere out there, someone is attempting to coin even dumber expressions than Friedman. If this is not a sign of the end of humanity’s days, I doubt that it will be long before we come to wish it was.

    1. Who still says “cyber”? Don’t let the GOP House takeover fool you; it’s not actually 1994.

      It’s a small miracle that Friedman didn’t say that the cyber-hacktivists were using onramps to the Information Superhighway.

      1. It’s a small miracle that Friedman didn’t say that the cyber-hacktivists were using onramps to the Information Superhighway.

        In souped up Smart Cars. But souping up shouldn’t use MSG as that gums up the smarts. And a real Information Superhighway really out to be more of a high speed train so that more riders could get on board.

  16. It’s like someone gave Emo Phillips a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and nine column inches on the NYT opinion page.

    1. Except that Emo has a sense of humor…

  17. I wonder if the Xtra Normal folks knew from the beginning that, because of the poor quality of text-to-speech technology, the vast majority of videos produced would be self-taunting.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.