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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: September 24, 2009 09:52 AM

An Idiot's Guide to Tom Friedman's Idiocy

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Tom Friedman may be the single stupidest figure in American public life, and certainly is the stupidest writer with such a large platform. I don't mean that he's wrong on everything (although he is substantively wrong on a lot of things) - I mean that he's actually an extremely dim bulb in that he displays a stunning lack of basic cognitive function. Specifically, he shows almost zero ability to realize that the arguments made by Tom Friedman often undermine the arguments made by Tom Friedman.

A great example of this is Friedman's recent column, decrying the truly lamentable fact that federal stimulus money is subsidizing job off-shoring and foreign green industries, and not building jobs and green industries at home:

So, right now, our federal and state subsidies for installing solar systems are largely paying for the cost of importing solar panels made in China, by Chinese workers, using hi-tech manufacturing equipment invented in America ... if you like importing oil from Saudi Arabia, you're going to love importing solar panels from China.

He's right on the substance, of course. Stimulus money is subsidizing all of that, as many of us predicted well before the stimulus passed. Why? In part because Tom Friedman, other pundits and corporations all made sure that the stimulus's "Buy American" provisions were severely watered down. Here was Friedman not-so-subtly attacking "Buy America" provisions as "protectionist" back during the stimulus debate:

President Obama has been doing his best to keep the worst protectionist impulses in Congress out of his stimulus plan. ... Each Indian state tries to protect its little economy with its own rules. America should not be trying to copy that. ... Protectionism did not cause the Great Depression, but it sure helped to make it "Great."

So here you have the same pundit who helped water down the "Buy America" provisions in the stimulus bill now complaining that the stimulus bill is being used to buy products from other countries. Likewise, this same pundit continues to aggressively support "free" trade policies that encourage the outsourcing he now decries - the policies that he admits he doesn't even bother to read.

Clearly, Friedman also doesn't bother to read his own columns - or perhaps he does and doesn't care that he contradicts himself all the time. Frankly, while I think Friedman is so self-obsessed he probably does read his old columns over and over and over again, I also think his contradictions are not so much a product of dishonesty as they are of sheer stupidity. Putting all (admittedly strong) desire to insult aside, I've genuinely come to believe that he's just an extraordinarily unintelligent and incurious person - a 12-year-old mind trapped in a pudgy, 50-something body. Only this isn't the movie Big and we're not talking about a toy company headed by Robert Loggia - Friedman is respected as a Great Thinker worthy of advising the President of the United States and influencing U.S. government policy.

Maybe that says all you need to know about the American Idiocracy and why we're so far up shit's creek.