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Abe J. Riesman

Top 5 Thomas Friedman-isms of 2007

By Abe J. Riesman, Crimson Staff Writer

It’s no secret that this reporter has a crush on Thomas L. Friedman. Last year, I assessed the 2006 literary corpus of everyone’s favorite New York Times columnist and part-time economic cheerleader. And now, it’s time to look at his most notable themes and motifs of 2007—a year that was actually pretty depressing for Friedman-watchers! Without further ado…

(5) Crushing Pessimism!

Whoa, this one came out of nowhere! Granted, it didn’t pervade all of his columns—indeed, he remains the king of pep when it comes to the march of technology, especially when it’s green-colored. But check out his Sept. 19 column, about energy-gobbling cities like Doha and Dalian: “Hey, I’m really glad you switched to long-lasting compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house. But the growth in Doha and Dalian ate all your energy savings for breakfast.” Tom! I imagine him waking up, staring at his hands, and saying, “My God, it’s all meaningless!” before writing this one.

(4) The Onion (?!)

What the hell? Thomas wrote two columns this year that copied whole paragraphs straight from The Onion. Dec. 2: “[A]s I slipped away for some pre-Christmas golf, I found myself thinking about a wickedly funny story that The Onion, the satirical newspaper, ran the other day.” He followed that intro with three whole paragraphs of quoted material. Which brings us to our next point...

(3) Outsourcing his metaphors

Now, we all know that T-Fried is the king of the pithy-and-possibly-wildly-inaccurate aphorism. But he really dropped the ball this year! He cited his best metaphors as being from people he knew instead of making them up himself. A prime example from Dec. 2: “I prefer the term ‘global weirding,’ coined by Hunter Lovins.” Sure, he did write some of his own, but they were sub-par, to say the least. “People don’t give up land for peace in a deal that comes over the fax,” he wrote on Aug. 19. Hey, I’ll tell you what’s faxed-in: Your metaphors, hombre.

(2) Crazed hallucinations!

There were some nutso columns this year. On July 8, he had an extended fantasy about something he would call “,” where you’d atone for sins by being environmentally friendly. I picture his pupils getting all dilated while he wrote that one. But he went even further off the deep end on Dec. 5, when his entire column was an imagined communiqué within the Iranian government. Fifteen whole paragraphs written “in character.” When was the last time a Times column ended with “God is Great. Long Live the Iranian Revolution”?

(1) Goodbye, globalization

The shocker. Back in my day, Friedman’s schtick was ranting about how the New Economy was “revolutionizing” every nook and cranny in the whole world. But this year, all we ever heard about was (a) “going green,” (b) how great/weird China is, and (c) how messed up the Middle East is. In April, he did two columns about Africa, but that was it. Did the Lexus break down? Because all I’m seeing are Olive Trees here, Tom! Don’t leave me hanging, bro!

—Abe J. Riesman ’08 is the other outgoing Arts Chair. He is supposed to look like Thomas L. Friedman in this photo, but he’s wearing a girl’s turtleneck.

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