Matt Taibbi is the writer as slasher. When you finish with one of his pieces you feel a little light-headed, as you might feel if you were a tough guy, and had just rolled some local thug. But the thing is, in Taibbi's case, the thug (be it Bush, Palin, or Erica Jong) always seems to deserve the mugging. So it feels good, in a slightly sick, pro-wrestling sort of way.
Taibbi's latest effort, in which he tears the hypocritical Tom Friedman to shreds, is, as they say in Hollywood, very funny. Which is true of Friedman, too, but Friedman doesn't realize it.
First Taibbi begins with Friedman's often ludicrous rhetoric:
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.
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.”
of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly,
what the fuck 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?
Then he moves on to a more substantive complaint, that Friedman has remade himself as an environmentalist, when his lifestyle is all about chewing up the planet:
a means of transforming the Middle East blew up in his and everyone
else’s face; the “Electronic Herd” of highly volatile international
capital markets he once touted as an economic cure-all not only didn’t
pan out, but led the world into a terrifying chasm of seemingly
irreversible economic catastrophe; his beloved “Golden Straitjacket” of
American-style global development (forced on the world by the “hidden
fist” of American military power) turned out to be the vehicle for the
very energy/ecological crisis Friedman himself warns about in his new
book; and, most humorously, the “Flat World” consumer economics
Friedman marveled at so voluminously turned out to be grounded in such
total unreality that even his wife’s once-mighty shopping mall empire,
General Growth Properties, has lost 99 percent of its value in this
So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts.
the fuck else is he going to be? All the other ideas he spent the last
ten years humping have been blown to hell.
Color me unimpressed that he
scrounged one more thing to sell out of the smoldering, discredited
wreck that should be his career; that he had the good sense to quickly
reinvent himself before angry Gods remembered to dash his brains out
with a lightning bolt. But better late than never, I suppose. Or as
Friedman might say, “Better two cell phones than a fish in your
And for a funny cartoon version of the same argument, called How Green Was My Mustache, see the cover of the New York Press here. (And by way of contrast, here's a disappointingly uninformative profile from The New Yorker of the same famous mustachioed opiner…they're better than that.)