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New York Times' Tooting Tom Friedman - (Boffo piece here! Friedman's "World is Flat" uh-huh!)

Posted on 06/16/2005 9:27:50 PM PDT by CHARLITE

The New York Times surely once had an institutional policy against cronyism. But between then and now, something must have happened to the Times, or to ethics. Maureen Dowd, whom I actually like when she gets off politics, published a collection of her Bush-bashing columns and the Times, her paper, got it quickly reviewed and (mostly) praised. I thought that strange.

Maureen is a big girl now and she ought to hunt and fight for coverage and praise like the rest of us.

Stranger still is the saga of Tom Friedman. Those of us in the writing and opinion business are forced to read Friedman, as once we were forced to eat spinach. Friedman is a very bad writer. This is no crime. Friedman is a fourth rate thinker and that is also no crime.

Friedman is part of this new generation of journalists (and movie stars like Sean Penn and Richard Gere) whose agenda is to Repair the World, from the Hebrew imperative of Tikkun Olam. My humble suggestion is to Tikkun Yourself first, then the world. Most of the world’s problems begin with idealists who have no questions but all the answers. So, to the “humanitarian” folks at the International Solidarity Movement and their fellow travelers, Tikkun This!

It is perfectly acceptable for a journal to promote its own reporters, as long as that reporter is deserving.

If ever a book deserved the Times’ full PR machinery behind it, it is Ellen W. Horowitz’s spanking new The Oslo Years: A Mother’s Journal. I’ve just received my copy and what can I say but “WOW!” Horowitz, a leading Israeli writer and artist, has produced a powerful account, in prose and photos, of Israel as viewed inside and outside. This book is a treasure. More later on this Horowitz masterpiece. Meanwhile, before it goes into full distribution, the book can be ordered at -

Alas, back to Friedman. He does have a particular skill, or perhaps it’s a trick. Or maybe, like a wino, he just can’t help himself. He begins his opinion pieces well-reasoned, but then abruptly staggers to his leftward default position. The root cause of everything is usually the United States and always Israel. That’s when he turns to blathering. (Gitmo is bad for America, the “settlers,” true blue Zionists in other words, like Ellen Horowitz, are bad for Israel.)

But, according to Walter Russell Mead, Friedman is “the most important columnist in America today.” Now, that IS a crime.

As true writers go hungry, frauds like Friedman get overfed and overindulged. Mead’s day job is the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in US Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations. Novelist Joseph Heller, parenthetically, had no use for Kissinger, “The Little Prussian.”

In his book, Good As Gold, Heller accused German-cultured Kissinger of being a shameless self-promoter, of his puerile compulsion for “Teuton his own horn.” That sums up Friedman as well, plus the Times, which has raised corporate high-fiveing above journalistic integrity.

Jack Shafer, writing in Slate, registered his disdain as follows: “Tom Friedman is flat. He can’t stop plugging his best seller.” Friedman’s book “is the worst, most boring kind of middlebrow horse-bleep.” That assessment appeared in the New York Press by journalist Matt Taibbi.

But the Times gushed all over Friedman’s “The World is Flat” the instant it rolled off the assembly line.

From the May 1, 2005 review in the Times, written by Fareed Zakaria, we get dutiful fawning like this: “Thomas L. Friedman’s excellent new book [use of] the metaphor of a flat world is ingenious.” Praise like that, of the Times, by the Times, for the Times, can only zoom a book to the top.

No inhibitions at the Times in tooting its own Tom Friedman. Is this ethical?

This would all be defensible if the same time and space were offered to non-members of the literary CLUB. (We know there is a club. We just don’t know the password.)

Slate’s Shafer wondered how kosher it was to find Friedman all over the talk show firmament, using the Times as his marquee. Proving that it is better to be lucky than good, Friedman also got four full hours on C-Span2, where readers got a chance to phone in and worship. (Friedman thinks it is all about him. No, Tom, it’s the Times.)

Friedman (like Dennis Ross), is the I’m Available Any Time “expert” for TV news programs, the go-to guy for “why they hate us.” Answer: American “policy” and Israeli “occupation.” (Never mind that American policy favors the Arabs, especially the Saudis, and that the Arab world was at war against Israel even before Israel “occupied” this territory or that territory.)

These days we learn, from the Times, that Maureen Dowd is again “on book leave.” We can only expect more heavy breathing when she’s back and the book is published.

The pity of it is that people believe in Friedman and Friedman believes in Friedman. He does not know that without the Times he’s just another crackpot who came to dinner.

The shame of it is that, given our dumbed down culture, Thomas L. Friedman may well be “the most important columnist in America today.”

About the Writer: Jack Engelhard is the author of the bestseller "Indecent Proposal," the award-winning "Escape from Mount Moriah," and the novel "The Days of the Bitter End," which is being prepared for movie production. Jack receives e-mail at

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections; US: New York; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: bushbashing; henrykissinger; isflat; maureendowd; newbook; newyorktimes; theworld; tomfriedman

1 posted on 06/16/2005 9:27:51 PM PDT by CHARLITE
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Very, very good article. Jack Engelhard really nails the pathetic Friedman and Dowd.

4 posted on 06/16/2005 9:52:57 PM PDT by PGalt
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