Sunday, December 03, 2006


Just wanted to add my 2¢ to the universal thumbs-up for Greenwald's teardown of Flathead Friedman's unearned reputation. Friedman hit a moderate note for the peacefully mercantilist expansion spirit in The Lexus and the Olive Tree; since then, not so much. Taibbi explained pretty brutally just why The World Is Flat succeeds only in exposing Friedman for a prosaic bunco artist, but Friedman has further distinguished himself with abysmal foreign policy commentary for the past several years.

It's not entirely, or solely, the fault of Friedman himself. It's systemic. He's just another symptom of the pervasive malaise that infects the public thinkamators in our corporate media op-ed pages. Friedman is yet another product of the institutionalized conditioning that is always in play in these circles. Nowhere has that been more obvious in recent months than at the White House Correspondents Dinner back in May, where Stephen Colbert brought out teh funny in one Richard Dice Cohen.

As SF Comical Rude Girl Neva Chonin points out, none of that was accidental. The WHCD is only the most obvious of ritualized, painfully self-referential pseudo-satires that collectively serve to demonstrate the overall mentality. Colbert mistakenly thought the dinner was a roast, an opportunity to stick a comedic shiv between the ribs of a stupid man who has willfully fucked up the country and acted like it's no big deal. He did not understand that the meta-carnival is always on in that environment. Richard Dice Cohen and the rest of his merry band of idiots perceive the dinner merely as an opportunity to poke bland fun at a stuffed-shirt tabula rasa, and leave it at that, no matter the very real foibles and consequences of said shirt.

It is only going to get worse, as the professional commentariat, always something of a loss leader to begin with, become more and more marginalized. Friedman's mistake was thinking that he had something profound to offer, something greater than just the usual cheerleading homilies one comes to expect from the globalization evangelicals.

(To be fair, I am not opposed per se to globalization at all, but am at the very least agnostic as to its macro aspects. But let's face it, the redistributive factors leave a great deal to be desired. CEO-to-labor income disparity has increased almost geometrically. That was not in the boost prospectus back in the good ol' NAFTA days.)

Anyway, Friedman's big misstep was thinking he had something different to offer in terms of foreign policy commentary, when in fact it turned out to be merely the same punch-drunk bromides we have come to expect from the Serious Centrists. And the problem with them is that they believe that simply flexing rhetorical muscle is all that is required of them. They have scarcely thought through any of the consequences, because they had no real skin in the game.

Well, now they have reputational skin in it, which for them is everything, at least in the current timeframe. They continue to have trouble admitting their errors, and the errors of the people and policies they supported. But they benefit from Americans' forgetfulness, much like the Bush family, as the latter struggles to figure out how to get Mike elected in '08 or '12 after Fredo fucked things up so badly.

So what's the way out for Flathead (and Broder, and the rest of them), the iron path to at least partial redemption? A more intuitive understanding of how Bush and Cheney have operated would be helpful. Perhaps they are blindered, ironically, by their knowledge of the process. They think about the history and perceived grandeur of the institutions, and ignore the people pissing all over those things. They know so much about how the sausage has been made over the years, they just assume that Chimpco's merely a different team of butchers.

This ain't Arby's, folks. This is Motel Hell, and anything that can fit on a plate gets served.

No comments: