Drug War

The Five Worst Op-Eds of 2011

Thomas Friedman to Simon Winchester, the best worst hackery of 2011


Editor's Note: This column is reprinted with permission of the Washington Examiner. Click here to read it at that site.

An emergency root canal on Christmas Eve eve left me half a tank low on holiday cheer. Luckily, "bah humbug" is the right attitude to bring to my final column for 2011, which, like 2010's, will be a suitably surly look at the Five Worst Op-eds of the Year:

5. Thomas Friedman, "Are We Going to Roll Up Our Sleeves or Limp On?," The New York Times (Sept. 20)

If you think about it, we can do both. But thinking through the images your words create is too pedestrian for the Maestro of Mixed Metaphors.

Here, Friedman argues that we need fiscal austerity and President Obama's $447 billion "jobs program," and closes the column by landing the rare double mixed metaphor with a triple axle and a twist of lemon.

If partisanship rules congressional budget fights, Friedman warns, "the rest of us will just sit here … hunkering down for a bad century." OK, no more limping—but what do we do with our sleeves?

You know, Friedman's standard fee is $75,000 a speech. It almost makes you want to go join a drum circle in McPherson Square.

4. Peter Beinart, "Why Anthony Weiner Shouldn't Quit," The Daily Beast (June 12)

If you sniggered at Weiner's crotch-pic follies, you're a heartless jerk, says Beinart. "We live in a kick-them-while-they're down culture," with too little "humility and compassion." "Instead of being moved by [politicians'] suffering we revel in it."

Bah, humbug. Political sex scandals are entertaining and edifying—they remind us not to cede power to the political class, whose members are often less responsible and more corrupt than those they seek to rule. Why not kick them when they're down? They kick us when they're up.

3. Bret Stephens, "The Mexican Paradox," the Wall Street Journal (May 31)

Mexico's suffered some 40,000 drug-war casualties since president Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in 2006. Not to worry, says Stephens, the country's doing swell, and the "vast majority" of the victims were gang members anyway—a dubious claim apparently based on the government's self-serving assertions.

Stevens combines credulousness with callousness, quoting Abraham Lincoln's 1838 comments on five gamblers hung without trial: "a portion of population, worse than useless in any community," their deaths "never a matter of reasonable regret with anyone."

2. David Brooks, "The Modesty Manifesto," The New York Times (March 10)

This piece from the Times's resident "National Greatness Conservative," won largely on the strength of one line: "Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation." What can you say? Sounds better in the original German?

Brooks worries that selfish Americans may resist the budget cuts we need because they're no longer "conscious of themselves as components of a national project." It never occurs to him that past "National Greatness" projects helped get us in this mess in the first place.

And the winner is!

1. Simon Winchester, "There Are Lies on Both Sides of Korea's Border," the Times of London (Dec. 20)

Other than Hennessy, the cognac producer that lost its biggest customer in Kim Jong-Il, it's hard to imagine any Westerner getting wistful over the mad dictator's death. But last week, Winchester allowed himself "a small measure of melancholy" because prosperous South Korea has had "its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop, and every imaginable American influence," while "North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea."

Yes, let them eat … cultural authenticity. It's terrific seasoning for a bowl of grass soup.

And so, my friends, we roll up our sleeves and limp forward, hunkered down to face what 2012 holds, our boats borne back ceaselessly into the past, yet always, always, twirling toward freedom.

Examiner Columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and the author of "The Cult of the Presidency."

NEXT: Reason.tv: Crackdowns on Consensual Sex, Veggies, and more! Nanny of the Year (2011)

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hasn’t Friedman won the Lifetime Achievement award already?

    1. It’s honorary.

      1. Is that honorary without the “h” or with the “h?”

        1. It’s pronounced like a “z”, you unlettered little embarrassment.

            1. Jay-Ay-Zed-Zed, yes.

              1. Zed Leppelin.

              2. References to the Clash are always appreciated.

              3. Damn Warty. Sounds like someone is listening to London Calling right now?

                1. Actually, I’m listening to this.

                  1. This, you mean?

                    1. Sound off, jacking hand engaged, all systems are go.

            2. Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

  2. I bet I can find 5 worse op eds by google searching a bunch of idiots’ blogs, but I why would I read stupid stuff on purpose?

    1. I wonder what is required for a writer’s op ed to be considered.

        1. You think at least 1/5 would hail from a small-town newspaper or somesuch.

      1. All five are from the U.S. No Brits?

        1. um, Simon Winchester from Times of London.

          1. That’s not even a British sounding name, har.

            1. He told me he was a U.S. citizen living in New York and Mass! Friggin’ liar!

            2. Simon? Winchester? He might as well be named Bangers and Mash.

              1. I bet his teeth look like baked beans.

  3. Where are Frum and Krugman?

    1. Krugman has been disqualified. He would fill the top ten on his own, and how boring would that be?

    2. No Heather Mallick?

      1. Her lack of any cogency makes reading her drivel almost impossible.

  4. You know what I hate about the last week in December?
    Yup, the lists.
    Make it stop.

    1. ^ this

      Make. It. Stop.

      1. Anyway, and if you really want something to hate, The 34th Annual Kennedy Center Honors will be infesting the airwaves and cable tubes tonight. This year’s honorees include singer Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist Sonny Rollins…and Meryl Streep, The Greatest Actress of Our Generation?.

        But wait! There’s more! Hosting this Exhibitionist Extravaganza is…wait for it…Caroline Kennedy!

        Set barf bags to maximum capacity.

        1. Aww, I’m gonna miss it. I’m scheduled to spend at least four hours in the excremeditation chamber this evening.

          Tell me who won, wouldja, Hater? There’s a good chap.

          1. Tell me who won, wouldja, Hater?

            I’m not certain, but I think they’ve all won, tonight’s jackfest being merely a public affirmation of their collective brilliance, in case we the dull and ugly had, for an instant, forgotten.

        2. The Neil Diamond portion of the show should be interesting just because none of the people attending would have ever admitted to liking his stuff in a million years at their stupid little social soirees. Now they’re going to kiss his ass on television and call him a national treasure.

          I’ve also never gotten the hype over Streep. Is it just because she seems to epitomize what every modern feminist wishes she could be–unattached, no kids, and adored by millions? Because although she seems technically proficient, how many people other than bored housewives and cat ladies are really going to see a movie “because Meryl Streep’s in it”?

          1. Whenever I see Streep act (i.e., whenever I see her) I am painfully aware that she is acting. It’s a distraction. But then, I’m a hater.

  5. If I agree to yell “capitalism sucks and Obama’s a fucking ace”, can somebody pay me $75,000 per speech also?

    1. You have to have a PhD first.

  6. “Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation.” What can you say? Sounds better in the original German?

    Arbeit Macht Frei!

    1. Perhaps Italian instead?

      1. Tutti all’interno dello Stato, nulla fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato.

        1. See – doesn’t that sound nicer?

  7. Does anyone have a link to that last article? I really want to laugh at it.

    Can’t find it on google though.

    1. It’s behind a paywall at The Times. Here is a pretty good critique from The Spectator with the quote in context.

  8. “…its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop, and every imaginable American influence…”

    Well fuck Simon Winchester right in the ear. What a pompous, myopic, ungrateful asshole he is.

    1. Disgusting. I’m sure he would love to be in a total control camp.

  9. I thought that was Cliff Clavin for a second.

    1. Here’s a little known fact: Gingrinch is an asshole.

  10. …quoting Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 comments on five gamblers hung without trial: “a portion of population, worse than useless in any community,” their deaths “never a matter of reasonable regret with anyone.”

    It was probably a spoofer.

    1. Good thing there was no modern media in 1860. They’d have hung that one around his neck at every interview.

      1. Yeah right. Look at Perry’s comments and actions regarding the death penalty, even with the revelations in the Cameron Todd Willingham case and others. The media wouldn’t give a shit.

      2. No way, Lincoln didn’t have a newsletter that he “made” a million dollars off of.

        1. I have never been in favor of social equality for the Negroes.

          Free Negroes should be subject to voluntary deportation to some nice place like Liberia of Central America.

          General Sherman rocks, he is so dreamy with that beard of his!

  11. Amandine is a Parisian born Jewish girl. She teaches hip-hop dancing to teenagers at one of the many dancing institutes in Paris and also works as a show dancer. This caring and warm-hearted girl loves animals too.

    Amandine openly admits to being an exhibitionist and loves to wear skimpy outfits that show off her toned, dancer’s body, both during her dancing classes and when she goes out clubbing in Paris. She is very comfortable with her body but this petite brunette wishes she was taller. Amandine’s training as a dancer really shines through when she is being photographed or filmed. She literally performs a private dance for the camera, engaging the lens with her sensual movements and inviting eyes.

    With her upbeat attitude towards life and her sweet smile, Amandine is great fun to be around!


    1. But how does she get along with the Palestinian-Parisian strippers?

      1. The same way she gets along with your mom.

    2. I like your ideas and wish to subscribe to your…

      1. I will give you a full response as soon as you are sober enough to complete your…

    3. I wholeheartedly support this troll technique. H&R needs more porn.

      1. Rachel is a Jewish grandmother in Peoria. Her son never calls her, and her daughter-in-law doesn’t know how to raise her grandchildren properly. Her no-good son in law isn’t good enough for her daughter, who by the way could stand to gain a little weight, and would it kill her to call once in a while?

        Call Rachel on our special chat line, and she will be happy to discuss this or any other subject of her choosing.

        1. I believe you’ve just described the subtext of every Chuck Lorre television series.

        2. What is the number.

          1. Just for clarifacation, I don’t want it for personal use, Hegre-art wants to recruit her.

      2. I am glad that someone appriciates my hard work.

  12. onetime I found a hat on the ground and I took it home but it was a diaper instead.

      1. No, we have rather spoofer inflation. Soon you’ll need a whole wheelbarrow filled with rather spoofs to get one laugh.

        1. Tony-spoofing’s where it’s at. Nobody gives a shit about rather.

  13. Obviously, Simon Winchester has the last word on defining Koreanness.

    1. Used to be that the white intellectuals complained about foreign devils, now they complain that they’re neither foreign nor devilish enough. Sigh.

  14. “Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation.”

    I’m not sure that’s exactly what Nathan Hale had in mind.

    1. Lean Forward, Nathan.

  15. Hasn’t Friedman won the Lifetime Achievement award already?

    It only *seems* as if you’ve wasted a lifetime reading one of his columns.

    1. Back before he was obviously crazy, I wasted a shitload of time trying to figure out why everyone else liked The World is Flat. My eyes would reflexively slam shut after about a page and a half of his prose to protect my brain.

      1. Liking that book was a way for stupid people to feel smart and better about themselves.

  16. All of those op-eds put forth reasonable, well-thought opinions. Obviously, plutocratic hacks don’t give a shit about the greatness of our democratic project. Nor do they show any decency to those who’s personal lives are exposed by conservative hack media, as if their own personal lives are Leave it to Beaver.

    1. A Cesar by any other name…

        1. Yeah, we’re too busy being overly concerned with the Constitution, which we were told is, like, a hundred years old and junk.

    2. Babby’s first counter-critique!

    3. Die!!! republicans Die!!!
      For hates sake I spit my last breath at thee!!!!

  17. Civilization etymologically derives from “City-State.” And for good reason.

    We’ve never seen a civilization without State level politics. State level politics, because they are observed in every single civilization observed, are thus included in the five primary characteristics that define civilization in anthropological literature.

    So a stateless (voluntary) civilization is a contradiction in terms.

    Civilizations have state-level politics for many different reasons; a summary follows:

    1. The human evolutionary neurobiological limit describes by Dunbar’s Number makes pyramidal hierarchy necessary for Mass Society, and pyramidal hierarchy, such as in Chiefdoms, and leads to State politics at the City (~5000+) settlement size.

    2. Domestication, i.e., control of other species, always results in domestication and control of the human species itself. This is heavily documented all over the world in society after society. Domestication = increased violence, sacrifice, sacrifice religions, cannibalism, lowered status of women.

    3. Agriculture, which is intensive domestication over large areas, intensifies and expands those control on other species and the human specie too.

    Basically, agriculturalists are control-freaks, and they don’t limit their control-freakish behavior to only 99.9% of living organisms around them. They include humans in their domestication program too.

    City-Statists apologize for such control with Hobbesian mythology; i.e., life was once “nasty, brutish and short.” You’ve even parroted it. These lies, once formulated to apologize for the divine-right-of-kings, and government in general, has been completely debunked by anthropology and archeology.

    In fact, civilization makes us sick and reduces quality of life, in many ways, except for those few at the top of the pyramidal hierarchy. (Like you and I living it up here in the US, at the center of empire, while 3 billion go hungry from predatory “economic hitmen.” )

    4. Domestication didn’t come about because people were hungry. That view is completely debunked in archeology and anthropology. It came about for religio-political ritual reasons.

    5. Agriculture is by its nature a collectivist activity. What we saw in the last few hundred years in America has happened for 8000 years around the globe, as follows:

    American Capitalism has COLLECTIVELY:

    ? Formed government to kill off Non-State society natural inhabitants
    ? Aggressively invades and occupies the Land and survey it for agriculture.
    ? Collectively builds mass systems of roads
    ? Collectively builds mass systems of drainage systems
    ? Collectively builds mass systems of irrigation projects.

    And then, the mooching TAKERS divvy up the loot amongst themselves, rationalize their aggression, and call it…”Private” Property.

    6. Agriculture’s temporary bounty is the fuel for War. Armies march on what’s in their bellies. A professional violence class was one of the first specializations (divisions of labor) that the city-State (civilization) invented. And since agriculture “farms out” soil, agriculturalists must necessarily invade an conquer new lands and keep inventing more complex ways of staying ahead of the environmental destruction they cause.

    7. Agriculture is violence, all by itself, to Mother Earth. The Greeks recognized this in their mythology of the rape of Demeter, the goddess of the fields and grain, and later in the story of the Rape of Demeter, her daughter. The result is both destructive to the earth and, eventually, via unintended consequences, to humans themselves – shorter lifespan, shorter stature, more disease, worse health.

    Conclusion: stateless civilization is a contradiction in terms, and for good reason; agricultural civilization is by nature a control freak’s CULTure for the benefit of the few control freaks. A “voluntary” stateless civilization is about as likely as a necromancer conjuring an animated corpse.

    Are animated corpses absolutely, totally impossible? I’m not holding my breath waiting, especially while the stench fills the air while you and the Communists experiment with various contraptions to animate your stateless civilization. It’s time to bury city-Statism (civilization) and be done with it.

    1. Is this Godesky/rather’s attempt at getting an honorable mention?

      1. or RC dean
        Unlike you, I don’t have a another personality

    2. I USED to be an adVENTurer like you, then I TOOK an arrow to the knee.

      1. I blame Bush

      2. The current literature consistently reports that until the final stages of the Paleolithic Age?until just prior to the present 10,000-year era of domestication?there is no conclusive evidence that any tools or hunting weapons were used against humans at all.

        Arthur Ferrill, The Origins of War from the Stone Age to Alexander the Great (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985),

        1. Maba Man, 125,000 years old.

          Awww….did someone steal your sweetroll?

          1. …”might have had a run-in with an animal.”

            Well shit. “No conclusive evidence” still stands.

            See, the thing is, as domestication and then agriculture began to develop, we have conclusive evidence of “tools or hunting weapons” being used against humans.

            Go back and suck on your “intelligent design” thumb. Or is it “the invisible hand’s” thumb?

        2. Don’t worry White Indian, they would have used them on you.

          1. …being an aggressive agricultural city-Statist.

    3. We have a new winner.

    4. seriously, i feel dumber for having scanned that. “Agriculture is bad”


  18. And so, my friends, we roll up our sleeves and limp forward, hunkered down to face what 2012 holds, our boats borne back ceaselessly into the past, yet always, always, twirling toward freedom.

    This is the my favorite closing sentence of any article I’ve read all year. Yes, I am just that easily amused, but whatever.

  19. STFU LoneWacko.

  20. I think the one from the Neil Clark of The Guardian on the death of Vaclav Havel should have been in the top five. This is once a year stupidity, even at the Guardian.

    Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.


    1. In a rare moment of hope for humanity, the bulk of the comments on the first page are critical of the author and/or article. It’s so stupid that even British lefties know it’s stupid.

      1. It is definitely once a year stupidity even for British Lefties.

        1. Reminds me of the interview I heard on NPR a few years ago. It was with a woman who had lived most of her life behind the iron curtain. She explained that the economy was planned, by men, who had no use for feminine hygene products, so they didn’t produce any, and none were available.


      Wow, Stalin’s dead man, he doesn’t need you useful idiots anymore.

      That is astounding.

    3. The lefty mask slips. Havel helped bring down the dream of leftists everywhere, so they just can’t help but take their shots at him now that he’s dead.

      I bet his editor had to take out the line about the trains running on time.

    4. Anyone who espouses tripe like “the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe” needs to be slapped to death.

      1. I wonder what his apologia for Ceaucescu was after he and his wife got shot.

      2. I spent a lovely Christmas eve listening to my sister attempt to defend all of the “good parts” of communism. I mean she’s still my sister and I love her, but WTF? Why was she shocked when I took what she was saying sort of personally?

        1. That’s a shame you have to deal with that.

          1. Not only that, but if I start “winning” the argument too convincingly my dad jumps all over me like I’m the one that’s being an asshole.

            1. I don’t have to deal with that since my family is Cuban and all too familiar with communism

            2. I don’t have to deal with that since my family is Cuban and all too familiar with communism

              1. My sister of course is also one of those aspiring Marxists that would be first against the wall

      3. Anyone who espouses tripe like “the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe” needs to be slapped to death.

        Did he even consider, say, Belarus in that statement?

  21. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

    That is all.

  22. Friedman and Krugman are some of the best writers working in print today.

    1. They are out there in some of America’s toughest neighborhoods doing God’s work.

      1. #4 on the Worst Clich?s of 2011 list?

        1. Like chimps in suits some classics just never get old. Funny every time.

  23. Yeah….Friedman kind of reminds me of a chimp in a suit…..

    1. If you enjoy chimps in suits, might I suggest Monkeys With Diapers?

  24. Saying that Friedman is a terrible columnist is like saying you can’t fleece a turkey with a fishing pole in a 1950’s diner: the turkey doesn’t care who wins.

  25. Bailey bullshit should be in there somewhere!

  26. Bailey bullshit should be in there somewhere!

  27. Michael Moore’s HuffPo whining about bin Laden being killed, instead of holding a farce trial in which he is acquitted of any connection to 9/11 is SORELY lacking from this list.

  28. What about Kluggman’s “Let plan for a war against space aliens” editorial?

  29. What about Kluggman’s “Let plan for a war against space aliens” editorial?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.