Alex Massie

Thomas Friedman’s War Against Writing, Logic, Readability...

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One of the first rules of punditry is Thou Shalt Disdain New York Times Columnists. Some of this, naturally, is a product of some jealousy; rather more of it a consequence of the sheer gawd-help-us ghastliness found on the Gray Lady's op-ed page every day. Still, connoisseurs of this particular (minor) genre will enjoy Matt Taibbi's (pleasingly profane) takedown of Thomas Friedman. Wisely, Taibbi remembers that it's vital to play the man as well as the ball:

I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

"The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the f*** is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense?

Quite so. Thanks to Matt Welch, who has his own issues with Mr Friedman, for alerting me to Taibbi's diatribe. I made my own contribution to this ever-popular genre many moons ago when I was mean about Maureen Dowd.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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