Recently in Al Jazeera, Belén Fernández, author of the searing critique The Imperial Messenger, interviewed award-winning author and essayist Pankaj Mishra about his new book From The Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. In his book, Mishra discusses the political awakening of Asia and challenges Western-centric narratives, referencing Thomas Friedman’s own delusions of Western grandeur as a prime example of neo-colonial journalism:
The other thing that influenced me was the post-9/11 political climate in the West. How such a wide range of politicians, policymakers, journalists and columnists could re-embrace the delusions of empire—those you thought had been effectively shattered by decolonisation 50-60 years ago; how they could bring themselves to believe that the Afghans and the Iraqis were just longing to suck on the big sticks proffered to them by American soldiers, as Thomas Friedman inimitably recommended...
In conversation with Fernandez, he goes on to offer further criticism of Friedman’s support for free trade as a be-all and end-all cure for poverty, stating:
I think to answer that one has to examine, in addition to individual trajectories of journalists like Friedman, the synergies that developed between politicians, businessmen, academics and journalists in recent decades: how each of these figures came to boost the other, how policymaking and opinion-making came to be complementary, how intellectuals came to be professionalised, Davos-ed and Aspen-ised and ended up whispering advice to power, and how defective but profit-maximising knowledge was produced and then widely disseminated.
Visit Al Jazeera to read the interview in full.
Thomas Friedman — recently immortalized in The Imperial Messenger — is hitting London this June to present his "manifesto for rescuing America". Intelligence² are billing him as "one of the most brilliant orators to have graced the Intelligence² stage". However he's been described elsewhere as "the silliest man on the planet" and a "dangerous fraud."
Want to decide for yourself? You can catch him in action at the Royal Institution on 13 June. Expect him to roll out those famous Friedmanisms — such as this gem on international relations and fast food:
For all I know, I have eaten McDonald's burgers and fries in more countries that anyone, and I can testify that they all really do taste the same. But as I Quarter-Pounded my way around the world in recent years, I began to notice something intriguing. I don't know when the insight struck me. It was a bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald's in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald's in Tahrir Square in Cairo and McDonalds off Zion Square in Jerusalem. And it was this: No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonalds.
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Can truth really be stranger than fiction? If anyone can answer that question definitively, it is Thomas Friedman, who occupies pride of place in the Counterblasts series in The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández.
Starting today, to celebrate the publication of Verso's new Counterblasts series, we will be posting three quotations every day relating to each of these three neoliberal defenders of empire and capital. All you need to do is spot the real one from among the fakes.
The prize is the full set of Counterblasts - Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? by Derrick O'Keefe, The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work by Belén Fernández and The Impostor: BHL in Wonderland by Jade Lindgaard and Xavier de la Porte - AND Britain's Empire by Richard Gott and Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo.