Thomas L. Friedman’s Brain is Hot, Flat and Crowded

I am not a Thomas L. Friedman fan. We’ll start there. Oh, and here too: since I have, in the past, written reviews of things I haven’t seen or read (like my virtual review of the Sex And The City movie) I ought to tell you up front that I have NOT read Hot, Flat and Crowded and have absolutely no intention of doing so.  I’m also quite sure that it’s entirely unnecessary.  I’ll get to why in a moment.

But first, back to what I was saying before, which is that I am no fan of Thomas L. Friedman. I know this because I did read as much of his last book “The World is Flat” as I could stomach (which was about five pages.)  I also saw him speak a couple of years ago.  Don’t do that.  He’s bad enough in small doses on television, but hearing him regurgitate the bad metaphors and boring anecdotes on which he’s built a fan-base of sycophantic Barnes & Nobel browsers and editorial page writers was enough to cause me to consider the consequences of thrusting my Pilot V5 pen into my left eye.

Because Thomas L. Friedman is exactly the sort of huckster I hate most: taking what is immediately apparent to anyone that thinks about it for a minute, recasting it in a metaphor that makes an audience feel smart for understanding it, then serving it up with a “gosh, isn’t this brilliant of me” verve to the bottom-feeders that hang starry-eyed on every word.  People can leave the event (or finish the book) feeling like they’ve gotten smarter and sporting one more conversation starter for the next cocktail party they find themselves feeling inadequate at: “Hey, have you read the new Friedman? He says the world is FLAT!”

One of these things is flat. It's not the world. I've provided additional visual clues to aid you.

One of these things is flat. It’s not the world. I’ve provided additional visual clues if you have trouble with the process of elimination.

That book, which other NY Times columnists bravely called “brilliant,” seems to have built on a statement made to him by the CEO of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, while Thomas L. Friedman was in Bangalore.  During a conversation about doing business globally, Nilekani used the phrase “the playing field is being leveled.”

Thomas L. Friedman relates how he stewed on it until he decided that what Nilekani was actually saying is that world is flat.  He delivers this experience in the book as if he’s realized that Nilekani has purposely passed on a piece of very secret, very powerful information:

I kept chewing on that phrase: “The playing field is being leveled.”

What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened… Flattened? Flattened? My God, he’s telling me the world is flat!

Eureka!  A premise for a book to be sold to lazy, wanna-be intellectuals. The next time Friedman wants a concept for a book, I suggest he save the airfare to India and just sit in on a marketing meeting in a SOHO loft: there’s no shortage of silly idiomatic expressions and metaphors being bandied about at one of those.

But wait!  My advice isn’t necessary (stupid Brad.)  Thomas L. Friedman doesn’t need new metaphors.  He’s actually able to recycle his shitty ones, which he’s done with his new book “The World is Hot, Flat, and Crowded.”  I hope I’m not ruining it for you if I tell you that in this one we learn (ohmigod!) that that the world isn’t just flat, it’s hot and crowded too!

His work here is done, for now. But fear not, citizen! Whenever and wherever there's a need for bad metaphors and books about things you should be able to figure out yourself, Captain Obvious will be there.

His work here is done, for now. But fear not, citizen! Whenever and wherever there’s a need for bad metaphors and books about things you should be able to figure out yourself, Captain Obvious will be there.

Let’s hear it in his words though:

The world also has a problem: It is getting hot, flat, and crowded. That is, global warming, the stunning rise of middle classes all over the world, and rapid population growth have converged in a way that could make our planet dangerously unstable….

I am convinced that the best way for America to solve its big problem – the best way for America to get its “groove” back – is for us to take the lead in solving the world’s big problem.

Heady shit, right?  And it goes on for 448 pages.  O.K., so the world’s hot (global warming) and crowded (global fucking.)  And?  And then Friedman drops this bomb: the next big global industry is ET.  Not E.T., with the finger, and the bike, and Elliot, and the Reeses Pieces product placement.

Thomas L. Friedman’s ET is Energy Technology.  As in wind, solar, etc.  That’s it.  That’s the book.  The world is hot, flat, crowded and there’s a big opportunity in energy technology (I refuse to support his attempt to get another meme attributed to him, especially one as stupid as “ET”).

The rest you can probably figure out on your own.  Only Thomas L. Friedman can take an idea that could almost fill a four page pamphlet and expand it into a 448 page book.  Do I even need to explain why it’s entirely unnecessary to read the thing now?

Anyway, he’s shilling it all over the television so reading it is doubly unnecessary.  I’ve seen him on Maher (who is skilled: he conducted the entire interview with his lips on Friedman’s ass,) I’ve seen him on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and if I see him again I’ll take it as a sign of the apocalypse.

If you’re still with me, you might be asking yourself: “Why are you being so pissy about it, Brad?” So let me say this about that:  The crap in Thomas L. Friedman’s book, the tripe he spouts on television (did you know that you can fit “ET” into an answer to any question? I didn’t.) is exactly the sort of pseudo-intellectual poo that passes for intelligent conversation these days and that makes me nuts.

You wonder why people have stopped thinking for themselves?  Maybe because verbose gasbags like Thomas L. Friedman will do all their thinking for them, no matter what the subject.  Thomas L. Friedman’s books remind me of bad self-help books: all the obvious answers for why mommy didn’t like you without having to figure them out for yourself.

By the way, maybe mommy didn’t like you because you did things like read bad self-help books.


  1. Robey

    Um, wow…I’m sitting on the tarmac here in ATL wondering if you might be James Taranto’s evil twin.

  2. Brad

    I think I might be taller. Not sure.

    Feel free to point him here though – I wouldn’t complain about a link from WSJ.

    1. Jayden

      Walking in the presence of giants here. Cool thinnkig all around!

  3. Teresa

    Uh, haven’t read his books, haven’t heard him speak. I was just here for the photo of him in his Captain America outfit since I don’t have Photoshop and so never have any fun at home.

  4. Brad

    I’m sorry for you. Feel free to vicariously enjoy my MAD Photoshop SKLIZ if you wish. And it’s Captain OBVIOUS.

  5. Joe

    Captain Obvious….love it! I know a few Captain Obvious’s……the most annoying sort. And I too enjoyed your Photoshop skillz….you are mad tallented with the cuttin’ and pastin’. Somebody made the national news on TV this week with a c & p of Obama and Palin pasted on to a dancing with the stars couple. Maybe you will be as lucky with Capt. “O”.

  6. Joanna

    the talent is constantly radiating from his being, folks. I wear sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can…

  7. Joe


    If you keep talking like that, your going to have to hire some balloon handlers from Macy’s Parade to keep Brad grounded…lol

  8. jane

    I like Friedman’s editorials & find him interesting on talk shows, but I don’t have the attention span for one of his books. And your post was kind of getting on my nerves UNTIL you wrote that E.T. was the entire book, in 2 words. Thank you!
    I hate books with nothing but fluff & I’m assuming this one has a lot, like over 400 pages of it?
    The difference between Friedman & us is people will pay for his opinion. Us? Not so much. (Actually I shouldn’t speak for you)

  9. Nina

    Thank fucking god! It is about time that someone exposed this schmuck for the worthlessness that he is. I am sick of him.
    I am no longer speaking to my mom because of this guy. She’s one of his loyal worshipers, quotes him continuously, records his television appearances etc. (I would be far too embarrassed to admit this fact in public)
    The final straw was a couple of months ago when I paid her a visit. After an hour of listening to her try to convince me of how much of a progressive liberal she has become, (“You MUST vote for Obama! Nader knows nothing about politics! He is the reason that Bush was elected!”) as she force fed me hideous A Capella college music, she proceeded to make me watch Friedman on Charlie Rose’s show.
    She was not at all pleased with my response.

    My mom is the perfect example of the cardboard cutout television spoon-fed nutters that walk around proclaiming that they are “progressive” “liberals.”

    Deprogramming satanists seems like an easier task that getting Friedmanists back to their normal selves. I think I will send him a bill for breaking my mom. Fucker.

    Rock on, Brad.

  10. PC

    Good thing you didn’t see him on the Daily Show last night then. Jon Stewart did all he could to prevent the “wtf are you on about you spewer of obvious banalities” from bubbling up to the surface. My favorite part of his argument is comparing developing new energy technologies to Internet startups in the late nineties, etc., where in the latter case you did not have pesky things like the LAWS OF PHYSICS in the way of progress.

  11. Brad

    Don’t get me started on Friedman again or I’ll have a fucking aneurysm.

  12. Tholan

    I saw that guy on Morning Joe this morning… Somehow I just knew to turn on the TV before I went to work… All those Mo’Joe types… they were practically going down on him. I swear that blonde swallowed Friedman’s a few million of his unborn sons on national TV. No offense to TLF, he had some good points about tying government bailouts to “green” agenda items… But lets get to the meat of the situation: FUCK THE BAILOUT. Who the hell is going to bail out the government? If the national debt doesn’t actually mean anything… why the hell do we keep track?

  13. Tholan

    And just to ramble a little more on this topic… is this guy serious? those Mo’Joe guys thought he was the second coming. Like TLF is Al Gore with GOP membership card and “I love Jesus” tattooed on his ass. TLF made a good point about firing all the GM and Ford executives, but a better point would have been “Let the company fail and then those cuckolds will be out of a job.”

  14. Jack NYC

    Friedman is a guy we thought was smart…and arguably was smart when he was figuring out Lebanon in the 80’s. He explained why at a point in time everybody in Beirut was kidnapping and killing each other and blah, blah.

    When he became the flavor of the year at the NYT and TV PA shows he got delirious.

    Soon he will announce that the Earth is 70% water, that it’s the heat not the humidity, that the industrial revolution was a big deal…..maybe even that “you can’t go home again”

    He needs pundit rehab.

  15. Jack NYC

    BTW… out for Fareed Zakaria. He’s next.

  16. Brom Keifetz

    I make it a rule to treat the words of every foreign policy pundit as stale popcorn, completely worthless.

    The only useful information I’ve ever gotten about foreign policy from any source, aside from some rare exceptions of independent journalists of either a far left or far right bent, has come from people who invest or move money in many countries.

    To me, it’s kind of a handy heuristic device that unless you have something significant at risk you have no incentive to do a good job of research or investigtion.

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  18. Koye

    I just want to say THANK YOU! I am being forced to read his pile of shit for one of my courses. I literally fall asleep after five minutes every time I try to sit down and read it. Surprisingly, I’ve made it to page 100, and you are absolutely correct – it says the same things as page 12, but with a slightly different metaphoric twist. Gag me.

    1. Bradford Schmidt

      Hope my review made it *slightly* more bearable for you. Sorry you’ve been forced into reading this hack; doesn’t say much about your professor though, does it? Reminds me of a teacher at my daughter’s school – she’s taking a cooking elective and the teacher spells roux “rue.” Idiot.

      What school has forced this fucking fraud upon you?

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  23. seth

    I agree with just about every word you say Brad, with the exception that the problem I see is not that Friedman’s head is flat, it’s that there’s nothing of substance inside. He’s like a cheese puff: bland, cheesy, and hollow. I too had to read “It’s A Flat World After All” for a contemporary history class. Unfortunately that article started him on his career of high paid bull—-ing. My professor is a free trade liberal who I tend to agree with otherwise. I always knew when I read Friedman there was a smell of manure about it. It is very entertaining that he went to Oxford. Just because it’s the oldest English-speaking university doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a mistake from time to time–like letting him in.


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