The Imperial Messenger reveals the true value of this media darling, a risible writer whose success tells us much about the failures of contemporary journalism. Belén Fernández dissects the Friedman corpus with wit and journalistic savvy to expose newsroom practices that favor macho rhetoric over serious inquiry, a pacified readership over an empowered one, and reductionist analysis over integrity.
The Imperial Messenger is polemic at its best, relentless in its attack on this apologist for American empire and passionate in its commitment to justice.
About the series: Counterblasts is a new Verso series that aims to revive the tradition of polemical writing inaugurated by Puritan and leveller pamphleteers in the seventeenth century, when in the words of one of them, Gerard Winstanley, the old world was “running up like parchment in the fire.” From 1640 to 1663, a leading bookseller and publisher, George Thomason, recorded that his collection alone contained over twenty thousand pamphlets. Such polemics reappeared both before and during the French, Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions of the last century. In a period of conformity where politicians, media barons and their ideological hirelings rarely challenge the basis of existing society, it’s time to revive the tradition. Verso’s Counterblasts will challenge the apologists of Empire and Capital.
They must create the means of living with the broad popular masses, of sharing the thoughts and practical innovations of the new politics with them. They must give up the temptation to adopt, for their own benefit, the "Western" concept of democracy, meaning: the simple, self-serving desire for a middle class to exist in Turkey as an electoral and falsely democratic client of an oligarphic power integrated into the world market of capital and commodities. ...Without it, the admirable current revolt will end in a subtler and more dangerous form of subservience: the kind we are familiar with in our old capitalist countries.
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.