Naked in the Halls of Empire
Posted on Feb 23, 2012
A plucky new author has arrived on the scene to take down one of establishment journalism’s most revered figures. Robert Jensen speaks with Belen Fernandez about her new exposé on NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, “The Imperial Messenger,” published by Verso Books.
Why “plucky”? Because Fernandez does not succumb to pressure to dress her critique in language suitable to the powerful—a must for most beginning writers nowadays looking to land a secure, decent-paying job. She writes as she sees it, particularly in refusing to treat Friedman’s warmongering views simply as sincerely held beliefs, or in other words, as merely ideological:
BF: I don’t think it’s possible to reduce this to a clash between political views. As I point out in the book, it is not up to Friedman to decide that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting collective punishment and targeting of civilians in wartime is illogical. Given his influential position in foreign policy circles, I don’t classify his promotion of the notion that some human beings are inherently inferior and more expendable than others, and that corporate profit supersedes human life in importance, as merely politically misguided. I classify it as criminal, and I consider him to be personally responsible and not just a product of the system in which he flourishes.
Robert Jensen at Truthout:
How does a journalist with a track record of bad predictions and a penchant for superficial analysis - a person paid to reflect about the world yet who seems to lack the capacity for critical self-reflection - end up being treated as an oracle?
The answer is simple: Friedman tells the privileged, and those who aspire to privilege, what they want to hear in a way that makes them feel smart; his trumpeting of US affluence and power are sprinkled with pithy-though-empty anecdotes, padded with glib turns of phrases. He’s the perfect oracle for a management-focused, advertising-saturated, dumbed-down, imperial culture that doesn’t want to come to terms with the systemic and structural reasons for its decline. In Friedman’s world, we’re always one clichéd big idea away from the grand plan that will allow us to continue to pretend to be the shining city upon the hill that we have always imagined we were/are/will be again.