Top Five Thomas Friedman-isms

I heart Thomas L. Friedman. I mean, the guy’s completely full of crap 87% of the time, but his writing style has basically changed my life. Dave Eggers can go suck a dong—Tommy Friedman has the most interesting narrative voice in print today. You know why? Because, like all good fairy-tale children’s-book writers, he understands the power of repetition.



So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite Thomas L. Friedman tropes of 2006.



5. Exclamation Points!

Tommy travels a lot. He talks to “entrepreneurs” in magical places like India and China. And whenever he does, people are really excited to talk to him. So, naturally, he wants all of his readers to know just how damn exciting these exotic encounters are. Thus, a Chinese solar-energy mogul’s quote about how the government came to his factory transforms from “They said, ‘This is an industry’” to “They said, ‘This is an industry!’” See? Now the world is so much more wonderful and exciting because of the yelling.

4. Friendship.

Everywhere Tommy goes, he makes friends. And lest we forget how important friendship can be, he reminds us that his friends are the friendliest friends that a friend ever befriended. Sure, he could open a column about China with “I met someone who told me an interesting anecdote about pollution”… but why do that when he can open with “A friend of mine here wakes up every morning and does his own air quality test” and show us that he has friends? Ones who live in China, no less. Eat that, readers.

3. Stevie Nicks.

Okay, this only happened once, but I’m including it because I really hope it happens again. He was writing about realizing how far technology has come while sitting in a cab in France. “I got out my iPod and listened to a Stevie Nicks album,” he wrote. LOL to the max, people. Can you just imagine Thomas L. Friedman lightly bobbing his head up and down while listening to “Edge of Seventeen” in some foreign land? I can. And I LOL’d.

2. Made-up Laws.

Since at least 1982, Tommy has been inventing names for phenomena in the geopolitical and economic world, and calling them “rules” or “laws,” for some damn reason. And it’s always with a definite article at the beginning. “Russia is a classic example of what I like to call, ‘the First Law of Petropolitics,’” he wrote in October. More recently, he dictated his “Pottery Barn Rule” for Iraq. I don’t even want to bother telling you what these titles mean, because they’re wonderful enough on their own.

1. Metaphors, metaphors, metaphors, metaphors.

You can’t knock a classic. Since the mid-1980’s, Thomas has cranked out the most ridiculous metaphors this side of the Mississippi. Confused about the relationship between the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and the wider Islamist conflict with the West? “It’s Off Broadway to Broadway.” Wondering about the different ways Congress can treat China? It’s “either scapegoat or Sputnik.” Want to understand subtleties of diplomatic theory? “Trying to do diplomacy without the threat of pain is like trying to play baseball without a bat.” Voila.

—Abe J. Riesman ’08 is outgoing Comp Director and incoming Co-Chair. He firmly believes the world is flat, and that Harvard women are also flat.