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!”
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!
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.