Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Irresponsibility of Thomas Friedman

I'm not a big fan of Tom Friedman. Evidently, Tikkun is fed up with this superfluous windbag too.

Tikkun | In the introduction to his 2002 book that reprinted many of his columns on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11), Friedman boasts that he has “total editorial freedom to take whatever stance I want on an issue,” that no one but the copy editor sees his column before it is published, and that the publisher of the Times has never commented on anything he has written. “I am completely home alone,” he writes in his preface.

It shows. In his columns on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, especially in the first three or four years after Camp David, Friedman utilized this complete freedom from criticism and accountability (1) to make arguments, statements, and charges that had been repeatedly demonstrated to be factually wrong; (2) to make a number of assertions for which there was no evidence, as if they were so self-evident that no evidence was required; (3) to oversimplify and even, on occasion, vulgarize the issues; and (4) on several occasions to indulge in emotional diatribes that managed to be simultaneously unpersuasive and self-contradictory.

At least on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then, Friedman’s unbounded self-confidence in his own views is an unearned one, for he has not been seriously interested in learning in depth about the events in recent years, or in correcting his many errors or poorly-grounded arguments as new information and analyses became available. As a result, Friedman’s discussions of the breakdown of the peace process at Camp David and after, as well as his analyses of the causes of the Palestinian intifada, are neither intellectually respectable nor, given his great influence, morally responsible.