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Book review: Fernández skewers empire’s messenger Tom Friedman

By David Cronin | The Electronic Intifada | November 4, 2011

It is unusual for politicians to namedrop journalists. And so it should be; our job as reporters and commentators is to expose the harm done by the powerful, not to curry favor with them. One exception I recall was during a 2003 press briefing given by James Wolfensohn, then the World Bank’s president, most of which he spent listing his influential acquaintances. Among them was Thomas Friedman, who, Wolfensohn reminded his listeners, “belongs to your profession.”

After reading The Imperial Messenger by Belén Fernández, the thought of sharing a profession with Friedman revolts me. Fernández demonstrates meticulously how The New York Times columnist seeks to make racism respectable.

That racism is directed at one ethnic group: Arabs. In 2001, Friedman even implied that Arabs are innately backward, writing: “In an age when others are making microchips, you are making potato chips (116).”

The following year, he effectively advocated the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians. Three days before Israeli troops went on their March 2002 rampage in a Jenin refugee camp, Friedman called on Israel to “deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay” (xv). Israel’s murder of 1,200 persons, mostly non-combatants, in Lebanon during 2006 was, in Friedman’s view, part of the “education of Hizballah” (142).

More Middle East than Minnesota?

Even though just one chapter is specifically focused on the “special relationship” between Israel and the US, Friedman’s commitment to Zionism is criticized throughout Fernández’s book.

While Friedman has claimed he learned he was “more Middle East than Minnesota” on his first visit to Jerusalem in 1968 (55), Fernández stresses that his refusal to analyze Zionism and its legacy from a critical perspective means that all his work on the region must be treated with circumspection (54).

In any event, his claim is a dubious one; a great deal of his travels are spent in the Westernized environments of golf clubs, luxury hotels or hamburger restaurants (Friedman’s most famous and ludicrous theory is that no two countries hosting a branch of McDonald’s have gone to war against each other (3)).

Perhaps the best thing about this book is how it highlights the shoddiness of Friedman’s research and how someone who has been lauded by Pulitzer Prize judges for his “clarity of vision” is frequently muddled and inconsistent.

Last year Friedman stated that “when widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem” (135). Yet his own copy is known to rely on sources of questionable veracity, in particular the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which, according to Friedman, offers “an invaluable service” by translating foreign-language articles written by Arabs and Muslims into English (61).

MEMRI is a somewhat shadowy neoconservative outfit, yet on its website it is candid about one of its goals: to aid the US government and military in their “war on terror.” By definition, then, the “invaluable service” is fighting a propaganda battle on behalf of American foreign policy.

Another telling example of why Friedman should not be trusted is that he concluded Yasser Arafat was a “bad man” based on a Google search, which yielded more hits when Arafat’s name was combined with “jihad” and “martyrdom” than when it was combined with “education” (106).

Meanwhile, Friedman’s view of Israeli settlements has veered from arguing their continued expansion was as irresponsible as drunk-driving (96) to dismissing them as “extraneous” to the underlying conflict (93) within the space of a seven-month period.


A strong indication that Friedman’s ego is out of control came in his 2002 collection of essays Longitudes and Attitudes. In it, he sought credit for the Saudi plan to establish relations with Israel in return for a withdrawal from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. Friedman has convinced himself that the genesis of this initiative was a column he wrote on transforming Saudi Arabia “from terrorist factory to peacemaker.”

Fernández derides this self-important twaddle by querying its pertinence: Friedman’s boast was pointless, given how he recognized that Ariel Sharon was always determined to reject the Saudi offer (124).

My only complaint with this book is that it doesn’t go into much depth in examining how Friedman is symptomatic of a wider malaise in the mainstream media. A reader unfamiliar with the American press could come away with the impression that Friedman is a singular buffoon, when, in fact, his prejudices are shared by many of his senior colleagues. But that is a tiny gripe. I fully accept that this is a brief polemic targeting Friedman and does not purport to be the definitive history of an American institution.

Few books on current affairs merit being called page-turners; because of Fernández’s witty and punchy style, this one does. Her conclusion turns to the urgent task of developing a counter-narrative to that of Friedman and other writers who pander to a corporate and political elite. The healthy growth of alternative publications on the Internet is certainly helping that task and hopefully this trend will continue.

Nonetheless, it is sobering to reflect on how Friedman remains something of a role model for aspiring journalists (at least, that is what I have gleaned from speaking to reporters younger than me). It is vital to explain that the high salary he commands is atypical of his trade and, the way newspaper sales are declining, is bound to become more so.

Even more fundamentally, it is vital to ask whether or not Friedman can really be considered a journalist. Fernández suggests that he has essentially become a copy-writer for big business, the US military and the State of Israel. Does America’s best-known columnist have trouble thinking for himself?

Read an exclusive excerpt of Imperial Messenger.

November 4, 2011 - Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular

1 Comment

  1. Thos FRIEDman is another khazar. another master race boy who sits at the drivel trough and pumps out the garbage that continues to legitimize the ‘affable jew’ versus the Gilad Atzmon ‘there is no jewish conspiracy’ bullshit.

    same goes for Chumpsky. and for that matter, Hartmann and Liebowitz (Stewart) and Goodman. time after time, you’ll find these guys getting far too much media blather publicity heaped on them, when none of them ever has anything truly relevant to ad to the discourse other than more crap that’s sole intent is to make their ‘chosen one’ tribe look like it’s a master race and all others amongst us are unable to discern truth from the lies without their expert guidance and tutelage.

    that’s why so many of them are embedded in MSM as they are. Take Hartmann for instance, who pretends to be a scholar but now has relegated himself to attacking only the GOP party and throws softball after softball to the dinocrats on the other side of the aisle who aid and abet the rampant pillaging and looting and war profiteering.

    FRIEDman’s stuff is always borderline incoherent and nonsensical. Here’s how it works: he gets a call from some dufus who tosses a few grand at him every other week to write some piece about economic matters or geopolitical stuff, and then he takes the cash first to the bank makes sure that cheque clears, and then at the last minute before the deadline approaches, sits down at the keyboard and composes bullshit.

    and he gets paid for bullshit. because like the rest of these Keynsian acolytes of ‘more debt means trickle down to you proles’ fun and more jobs.

    FRIEDman is another Judith Miller in drag. merely an Israeli mouthpiece that’s sole purpose in life is to stay on the payroll, pump out bullshit like the aforementioned gatekeepers who espouse themselves to be on the LEFT of things, and then sell that garbage to the MSM press which is wholly Israeli operated by the 2 percent of the khazarian fake jews who run everything in the U.S.

    next, they’ll have FRIEDman analyzing ‘Mein Kamph’ and talking about ‘anti semitism’ at the OWS occupations.

    Never will you see Abe Foxman denounce these khazars who work for his masters in Tel Aviv more than any other.

    they get paid to do bullshit pieces and host radio talk shows, but to the last person, they work for ISRAEL strictly, and
    their job is just to muddy up any clarification about what’s really happening with their idiot savant observations about
    history they have way too little understanding of or true knowledge of, but fraudulently convince others they are EXPERTS in the subject of. If this is the best we can do for experts, we are in seriously deep shit, and truly, is that not
    their goal anyway? to obfuscate truth and destroy it by pumping out drivel and bullshit like this FRIEDman and his khazar cohorts who get all the front page time and air time they want, and much more relevant people get told to pack sand because they’re not jewish enough to meet federal guidelines for ADL and SPLC disinformation for Israel first campaigns.


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