Tom Friedman is the oracle of this crowd, the tormented fat kid with a wedgie who got smart in his high school years and figured out that all he had to do to be successful was shamelessly and relentlessly flatter his Greatest-Generation parents, stroke their outdated prejudices, sell them on the idea that the entire aim of the modernization process is the spreading of their amazing legacy through the use of space-age technology.The article is actually about Saddam Hussein's execution, described as a "fuckup" because of its PR effect on Iraq and the region. I think all these "oh-no-they-killed-Saddam-during-Eid" whines aren't terribly important to most people in the region (although they may become important to some Iraqi Sunnis), but perhaps I'm wrong. A very funny article nonetheless.
So he goes into America's sleepy suburbs with his Seventies porn-star mustache and he titillates the book clubs full of bored fifty- and sixtysomething housewives with tales of how the Internet is going to turn Afghanistan into Iowa. The suburban guys he ropes in with a half-baked international policy analysis -- what's "going on" on "the Street," as Friedman usually puts it -- that he cleverly makes sound like the world's sexiest collection of stock tips: "So I was playing golf with the Saudi energy minister last week, and he told me..."
This is just a modern take on the same old bullshit rap that traveling salesmen all over America have been laying on wide-eyed yokels at 99 Steak Houses and Howard Johnsons hotel bars for decades: So I was having lunch with Jack Welch at the Four Seasons last week when I heard about this amazing opportunity.... And these middle-manager types who live in Midwestern cubicles or in the bowels of some federal bureaucracy in Maryland eat it up: They buy every one of Friedman's books, treat his every word like gospel and before you know it they're all talking about Israeli politics and "the situation" in Yemen or Turkey or wherever like they're experts.
And so this is how we got where we are. You get a whole nation full of people who spend 99 percent of their free time worrying about their lawns or their short iron game, you convince them that they know something about something they actually know nothing about, and next thing you know, they're blundering into a 1,000-year blood feud between rival Islamic groups, shooting things left and right in a panic, and thinking that they can make it all right and correct each successive fuckup by "keeping our noses to the grindstone" and "making lemons out of lemonade."
(And don't forget his great first column on Friedman.)