Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Flat-earth society

I've long since learned to ignore Thomas Friedman, but unfortunately my job has brought me into direct contact with his toxic moronity. One wonders how many times he was told by various editors and well-wishers that "The world is flat," the meme he's chosen to pimp for globalization, makes no particular sense and in fact implies the opposite of his intended meaning. A flat earth suggests you can't get from one end to the other without great difficulty, whereas the discovery that the world was round was what vastly shorten distances and linked separate economies. A "flat earth" implies a refusal to accept new scientific technologies, not an eagerness to embrace the "reality" they predict. Am I missing something here? Isn't this really fucking obvious?

In reading through an exposition of his "thinking" in his own words, I was reminded of Thomas Frank's critique in One Market Under God, one reiterated in a recent Harper's book review -- free-trade mavens like Friedman are blinded by the ideology that technology produces some sort of inevitable future that there is no point in resisting. His answer to all criticism: I didn't make this happen, I'm just the messenger. On the one hand no one can do anything to stop the changes being brought on by technology, but on the other hand everyone must do all these things to adapt to it. It's clever really, making you responsible for the changes they wish to imagine by convincing you that it's already too late, it's already happened. If he was an ideologue and a flunkey like David Brooks, he'd have an excuse, but he's a free-lance fool, and that's much more dangerous.


  1. I assumed he meant flat in the pop-statistical sense of a flat distribution. Implying, i suppose, that there's not much difference between folks here in the US and folks in other parts of the world, so you might as well employ the cheapest. But you're right, it's a terrible metaphor.

  2. Friedman is so full of insight that, armed with vast knowledge of the region, he once declared himself "51 percent in favor, and 49 percent against", the Iraq war. Talk about hedging your bets!