In March 2002, Palestinian-American activist Edward Said wrote in CounterPunch, "That pseudo-pundit -- the insufferably conceited Thomas Friedman -- still has the gall to say that 'Arab TV' shows one-sided pictures, as if 'Arab TV' should be showing things from Israel's point-of-view the way CNN does, with 'Mid-East violence' the catch-all word for the ethnic cleansing that Israel is wreaking on the Palestinians in their ghettoes and camps."
Indeed, Friedman has made a career of blaming the victim, and he stayed true to form during a Nov. 4 speech at the IU Auditorium when he explained why the United States is in economic distress. Using a Power Point, the New York Times columnist and author explained his "I'll be gone/You'll be gone" theory, blaming "people who make $50,000 a year purchasing an $800,000 home."
He ignored the use of derivatives, credit default swaps, and any of Wall Street's financial hocus-pocus that magnified the ill effects of the toxic loans.
Friedman's speech was presented by the IU School of Journalism Fall Speaker Series and IU College of Arts and Sciences Themester 2010's "sustain*ability: Thriving on a Small Planet."
The emphasis of Friedman's talk was his regeneration into an environmental analyst. Arguing that Al Gore brought the crisis of global warming to Americans' attention, Friedman stood on that giant's shoulder and talked about how this generation needed to be the "re-generation" and "act now, because to wait until later is not an option."
"Friedman explained that the Kyoto accord on climate change had failed, but he did not pinpoint the United States' refusal to sign as the reason for its failure."
Friedman said voting was not enough and suggested that the future of the planet was an issue of such importance that people should "take to the streets."
"It is going to be a struggle, and it can't wait until tomorrow," Friedman explained, noting that nature always had the last word.
Friedman did not mention issues such as the BP oil spills or mountain-top removal. He focused on the creation of some new energy source and said, "If 50,000 scientists were working on this, around 98 would come up with something of worth, and two would come up with the solution." He used Google and Apple to illustrate his vision.
When Friedman confided in sotto voice, "There are too many Americans living in the world," he was greeted with a smattering of applause. Holding up his hand, he explained what he meant: Others on the planet want to live the lifestyle of an American, which he said is unsustainable.
But in yet one more example of how corporate media accesses the same information as anyone with Internet and come up with a completely different spin, Friedman called for a "higher morality" from us as individuals, with no mention of the same standards for corporations.
"Friedman said the United States must take the lead on climate issues and that a failure to do so would have lasting ramifications globally."
He noted that the Nixon Administration passed the Clean Air Act and hoped that environmental issues would move to the forefront once again "now that the Republicans are back in power."
Friedman explained that the Kyoto accord on climate change had failed, but he did not pinpoint the United States' refusal to sign as the reason for its failure. He said Copenhagen in 2009 was "the worst-ever conference" he had attended.
Stating that American innovation and technology are unequaled globally, Friedman said the United States must take the lead on climate issues and that a failure to do so would have lasting ramifications globally.
China, he stressed, has a "five-year plan," while the U.S. has no energy plan at all. He did not discuss U.S. corporations focus on short-term profit.
The highlight of the lecture for many was the question-and-answer period, during which Friedman was asked, "Do you think that the amount of military spending that the U.S. is doing overseas takes resources from environmental research and action at home?"
The question momentarily stumped him, but Friedman gathered himself and said Americans had "won the lottery four times," listing foiled threats from the underpants bomber, the failed Times Square bomb, and the recent packages from Yemen.
He concluded that we need to continue our military efforts abroad to protect ourselves at home.
David Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.