The popular Gawker website ran an excerpt today from my book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, introduced as follows by Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan:
We enjoy pointing out to the world that mustachioed simpleton New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is, for the most part, a shockingly dull one-trick pony. Those searching for a more thorough and academic destruction of Friedman’s career and philosophy would enjoy Belén Fernández’s “The Imperial Messenger,” (part of Verso’s “Counterblasts” series) an incisive dismantling of the man and his message.
I’ve been responding to reader comments and questions on the site; click here to check it out.
The following is an excerpt from my latest piece for Guernica Magazine.
Last week, in Washington, D.C., Honduran President Pepe Lobo was honored with an International Leadership Award from the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI, endearingly pronounced “chili”).
This is the latest in a sequence of preposterous euphemisms emitted by the U.S. political establishment with regard to the Honduran regime, described by Hillary Clinton in 2010 as being committed to democracy. All this despite Lobo’s ascension to power via illegitimate elections conducted in the aftermath of the coup d’état against democratically elected President Mel Zelaya.
One possible explanation for CHLI’s enthusiasm is that the organization’s Board of Directors includes Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, former Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen—who paid a joint visit to Tegucigalpa in 2009 to reaffirm the democratic nature of the military coup. The Board also includes corporate representatives from AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart.
David Wearing of New Left Project has written a brilliant review of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work. The following is an excerpt:
Why, in the midst of a historically severe depression caused by a crisis in the least regulated part of the private sector, is the political class of the global north prioritising an assault on the free-market bogeyman of “big government”? Why, after a decade of military disasters in Western Asia, are so many prominent voices advocating a military response to the non-existence of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iran? One answer is that the material interests of class and state power are reinforced by an intellectual culture which advocates policies that serve those interests, irrespective of “externalities” such as the costs to the non-powerful. Power and wealth use the louder voice they can afford to drown out dissent and hardwire a set of assumptions, a conventional wisdom, a conceptual framework into the political discourse, which will tend to produce the same answers irrespective of the question, or the facts. It follows then, for those of us who choose to challenge power, that undermining, critiquing and disrupting that conventional wisdom is a vital task – a prerequisite to persuading the general public that another world is possible.
Few single voices play a greater role in propagating the dogmas of neoliberalism than Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and leading columnist on international affairs for the world’s leading English-language newspaper, the New York Times. In his articles and books, Friedman articulates a world view firmly grounded in the core assumptions of the dominant ideology. Corporate-dominated capitalism is seen as a progressive force for the general good, Western civilisation is taken to be obviously superior, and Western military power is viewed as a benign actor, securing and extending the reach of that civilisation. What Edward Said described as the “comic philistinism of Friedman’s ideas” is unavoidable. But so too, unfortunately, is their reach and significance. In engaging with Friedman’s body of work, and subjecting it to forensic critical analysis, Belén Fernández has produced a book that is sometimes entertaining, sometimes horrifying in what it exposes, always readable, always thought-provoking, and of clear political importance.