Fat Steve's Blatherings

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Man Survives Torture, Barely

      Warning, the following is not for the squeamish.

      The man in question is Matt Taibbi of the New York Press, and the torture is Thomas Friedman's latest bestseller, The World is Flat, which the poor man was forced to read.

      Desperately trying to warn us off, Taibbi describes some of the wounds he suffered:
      Friedman, imagining himself Columbus, journeys toward India. Columbus, he notes, traveled in three ships; Friedman "had Lufthansa business class." When he reaches India -- Bangalore to be specific -- he immediately plays golf. His caddy, he notes with interest, wears a cap with the 3M logo. Surrounding the golf course are billboards for Texas Instruments and Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut billboard reads: "Gigabites of Taste." Because he sees a Pizza Hut ad on the way to a golf course, something that could never happen in America, Friedman concludes: "No, this definitely wasn't Kansas."

      After golf, he meets Nilekani, who casually mentions that the playing field is level. A nothing phrase, but Friedman has traveled all the way around the world to hear it. Man travels to India, plays golf, sees Pizza Hut billboard, listens to Indian CEO mutter small talk, writes 470-page book reversing the course of 2000 years of human thought. That he misattributes his thesis to Nilekani is perfect: Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears malapropisms. Told level; heard flat.
      I used to work in a trauma center emergency room, and I have to tell you, that almost made me break down.

      It doesn't get any better:
      Predictably, Friedman spends the rest of his huge book piling one insane image on top of the other, so that by the end -- and I'm not joking here -- we are meant to understand that the flat world is a giant ice-cream sundae that is more beef than sizzle, in which everyone can fit his hose into his fire hydrant, and in which most but not all of us are covered with a mostly good special sauce. Moreover, Friedman's book is the first I have encountered, anywhere, in which the reader needs a calculator to figure the value of the author's metaphors.

      God strike me dead if I'm joking about this.
      Understandably, Taibbi nearly despairs:
      The walls had fallen down and the Windows had opened, making the world much flatter than it had ever been -- but the age of seamless global communication had not yet dawned.

      How the fuck do you open a window in a fallen wall? More to the point, why would you open a window in a fallen wall? Or did the walls somehow fall in such a way that they left the windows floating in place to be opened?

      Four hundred and 73 pages of this, folks. Is there no God?
      Pray for Taibbi's recovery, and thank God that no one told him the subtitle of the book: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.   What kind of warped mind comes up with a sick joke like that?

      As for Friedman's prose, forget it.  I think it's beyond even the help of prayer.



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