Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mental Hygiene

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a column by Tom Friedman.

You can guess the reasons: life’s too short; there are only so many hours in a day; no one else does, so why should I?

Friedman’s been phoning it in for quite some time now, so, taking him seriously would be to encourage bad habits.

And finally, I don’t read Friedman for reasons of… mental hygiene.

In my view people do not pay enough attention to their mental hygiene. They obsess about whether what they are putting in their bodies is wholesome and natural but they do not notice that they are filling their minds with unadulterated nonsense disguised as profound thinking.

Once a Friedman column enters the mind it will begin its insidious work of undermining clear thinking and pellucid writing.

The more one reads him the more one risks believing that Friedman knows how to think and write. After all, he is a star columnist in the New York Times. The more one thinks that Friedman is a competent and capable columnist the more one risks emulating him.

Ergo, not reading his columns supports mental hygiene.

Then again, there is no need to read Tom Friedman. Hamilton Nolan, at Gawker, has done it for us. From time to time Nolan explicates a Friedman column to reassure us that we did the right thing… for our mental hygiene.

Here’s Nolan’s explication of Friedman’s latest:

Mustachioed soothsaying simpletonThomas Friedman long ago mastered a formula for justifying business trips all over the world by writing columns about them—columns that, while not genuinely insightful or even pleasant to read, contain a sufficient number of plausible-sounding platitudes to enable your average Xerox Corporation regional manager to sound informed during his morning meeting with underlings and sycophants.

The formula is pretty much like this: schedule a few interviews, fly on out there, and piece together a column with a bunch of quotes from people capped by a zingy opener featuring some jaw-droppingly obvious bit of conventional wisdom or common knowledge presented as revelation, combined with either something a cab driver said, or something that Tom Friedman saw in an airport. It should be superfluous in every way. Thomas Friedman is similar to Alicia Silverstone, in that he vomits up lightly chewed pap for his readers, who are babies. He can't just keep on doing this forever, can he?


The Ghost said...

the reason I avoid the NYT is that I can see the liberal position stated much more clearly at other outlets that report on it with a clear eyed view of those positions. The NYT doesn't even try to explore liberal opinions much less publish a conservative one. They just publish talking points ...

Anonymous said...

I'm Australian and so the fact that Friedman finds the political climate in Australia so much to his liking is fairly underwhelming. I don't know what to say...

n.n said...

All right, now you're just being funny, and it's not even midnight yet. That's the whimsical hour. At least for me. It establishes a threshold, where immediately preceding it is when a decision is made to either go to sleep or wait for the sun to come up tomorrow. In the meantime, it's dinnertime.

Sam L. said...

The few (OK, maybe one) time I started on his column, he made sense through the first paragraph. Then he went off the rails and off into the boonies of madness.

Speaking of Australia, here's Tim Blair: