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The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work

Factual errors, ham-fisted analysis, and contradictory assertions distinguish the work of the Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times columnist and author.

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.

Reviews

  • “Filleting the silliest man on the planet needs a sure scalpel, and Belén Fernández wields hers with deadly finesse.”
  • “A long overdue takedown of a dangerous fraud. Fernández deserves great credit for having the stomach to digest all of Friedman’s oeuvre and for her witty, fact-based and ruthless deconstruction of all his contradictions, incoherence, jingoism and inane aphorisms. You read it and you are amazed how a clown could rise to such dominance in American culture and how such drivel could pass for insight, and what that implies about us. The book is a vaccination that should be given to all college freshmen lest they too get infected, an antidote for those suffering from admiration of Friedman and a palliative remedy for those of us who have had aneurysms in reaction to his every latest bloviation.”
  • “Via razor sharp analysis and meticulous research, Fernández reveals the consistently disastrous effects of the neoliberal policies Friedman cheerleads. The hubris, fallacy, consistent hypocrisy, and buffoonery of the New York Times' most widely read columnist is systematically deconstructed and laid bare. A must read.”
  • “Belén Fernández is a revelation to those who don't know her yet and a confirmation for those happy few who have known her sublime sense of political satire—subdued, innocent, piercing, frightful. She is a political satirist of the generation X vintage—low-key, self-effacing, happenstance, ‘what-ever’-type who crawls under your skin and begins to tickle and before you know it bite. She insinuates so effortlessly, you think she is just chilling—she is not. Her book on Thomas Friedman is an act of restitution, a declaration of independence from a young, idealist, brave, and defiant generation of Americans who have had it up to here with barefaced banality that has been fed to them for too long. She is talking back—boldly, patiently, chapter and verse, going in for the kill.”
  • “Thomas Friedman is a representative for the peculiar, yet self-serving nature of American political, business and media elites. His patronizing, over-simplified (often self-deceiving) style came to define him, as a person, but also an entire era of patronizing, hegemonic and often bloody American foreign policy in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The Imperial Messenger is a superb dissection of the character of Friedman, and all the representations he snootily imitates. Belén Fernández’s style is witty and unique, and her book is the antithesis of Friedman’s various attempts at logic.”
  • “Fernández skewers empire’s messenger Tom Friedman. . . .Few books on current affairs merit being called page-turners; because of Fernández’s witty and punchy style, this one does.”
  • “[A] meticulously researched book, written with wry wit and an unrelenting critical eye, that should be read by both Friedman's fans and critics alike; not just for what it reveals about his journalism or the New York Times, but for what it says about the state of American journalism as a whole. In short, if New York's 'paper of record' wanted to start rectifying its own journalistic deficiencies, it would do well to start by replacing Friedman with Fernández.”
  • “There is no wittier or sharper account of Thomas Friedman’s intellectual and moral atrocities than Belen Fernández’s The Imperial Messenger.”
  • “[C]arefully argued, relentlessly well-written polemic...there is something compellingly honest about Fernández’s attention to the material context within which Friedman’s ideas find succor.”
  • “[R]aises thought-provoking questions about the objectivity of mainstream media when it comes to US economic and foreign policy interests.”
  • “[S]hould be the companion volume to any and all reading of Friedman.”
  • “Journalist Belén Fernández’s new opus Imperial Messenger effectively eviscerating the NYT’s Thomas Friedman (whom Alexander Cockburn, not one to pull punches, has called “the silliest man on the planet”) strikes me as an example of the kind of book that a supine establishment,mainstream media herd must exert some effort to avoid paying even minimal attention.”
  • “Fernández subjects Friedman to careful scrutiny and assigns him failing grades for logic, consistency, and integrity. After reading Fernández dissect Friedman column by column, the unavoidable question is: How did Friedman ever pass himself off as a journalist? Why isn’t Belén Fernández the New York Times' lead columnist? The answer is clear. Fernandez won’t lie for the establishment.”
  • “[A] systematic, detailed take-down of the neo-liberal bias, myopic US-Israeli chauvinism, and general intellectual shallowness that almost scream to be noticed in Friedman’s writing. Throughout, [Fernández] bolsters her arguments with detail so profuse and tightly packed that a brief review such as this can hardly do it justice. Deserves to be read widely and discussed in depth. After doing so, one may be much less prepared to say the same for the work of Thomas Friedman.”
  • “Those searching for a more thorough and academic destruction of Friedman's career and philosophy would enjoy The Imperial Messenger, an incisive dismantling of the man and his message.”

Blog

  • COMPETITION: Win the complete Counterblasts series!



    Counterblasts is Verso's renowned series of punchy, polemic titles attacking the apologists of neo-liberalism and Empire. From Hitch to Bono, no sacred cow or globe-trotting celeb is immune to the excoriating verdicts of these often amusing, always trenchant books.

    To mark the latest in the Counterblasts series, Japhy Wilson's book on Jeffrey Sachs, we're offering the chance to win all the books in the series to one lucky entrant. We will also be offering a copy of Jeffrey Sachs to three runners up. Other books in the series include The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens, The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at WorkThe Impostor: BHL in Wonderland, and Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil?

    Jeffrey Sachs is famous for forging the doctrine that came to be known as 'shock therapy'. Shock therapy is both an economic and political strategy, which entails the sudden implementation of a set of reforms designed to shock an economy from one based on state planning to that of free markets. To read more about the strange world of Jeffrey Sachs, check out our abridged extract from Wilson's book.

    To enter the competion simply answer this question: On 2 January 1992 in which country was Jeffrey Sachs' programme of shock therapy implemented?

    Email your answer with your name and address to enquiries@verso.co.uk. Please use the subject line JEFFREY SACHS. The deadline is 5pm GMT on Friday 6th June and the winner and three runners up will be chosen at random from the correct entries.
  • Belén Fernández Al Jazeera op-ed: "From banana republic to banana democracy"



    Belén Fernández's latest Al Jazeera opinion piece takes on American fruit distribution giant Chiquita's claims of ethical conduct in Latin America, the disturbing effects of globalization on agricultural workers in Guatemala and Colombia, and of course, Thomas Friedman.  

    Continue Reading

  • Alain Badiou and Belén Fernández on Turkish Resistance

    Today, on a blog run by Kyrenia-based academic Cengiz Erdem, Alain Badiou weighed in on the uprising currently ongoing in Turkey. Calling the moment a "rebirth of History," his insight is also an open letter asking the Turkish youth to expand their movement as to incorporate the broad popular masses. In order to create true innovational change, Badiou asserts there are certain requirements:

    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.

    Journalist and author of The Imperial Messenger Belén Fernández provided a dispatch from Turkey in  Jacobin, recounting her recent experiences in Istanbul, where riot police engaged in full violent force against the protestors. In the whirldwind of rhetoric and analysis currently surrounding the situation, Fernandez points out that the heart of the matter "can be understood without the invocation of previously-labeled phenomena: they are, quite simply, an assertion of humanity in the face of inhumanity".

    Visit Erdem's blog and Jacobin to read the articles in full.