In response to my mentioning Thomas Friedman in my post The World is Mad, Prashant Kothari posted a comment and included an article from the NY Press titled Flathead. He did not warn me to fasten my seat-belt before reading the article and I ended up rolling on the floor laughing my head off. I was tickled but also felt envy: wish I could write like that. Then I consoled myself with the thought that since I had not actually read Tom Friedman’s books (only those articles that my friends enthusiastically send over), I can be forgiven. If I had taken the trouble to read him, I told myself, perhaps I would have written something like what Matt Tiabbi wrote:
To recap: Friedman, imagining himself Columbus, journeys toward India. Columbus, he notes, traveled in three ships; Friedman “had Lufthansa business class.” When he reaches India—Bangalore to be specific—he immediately plays golf. His caddy, he notes with interest, wears a cap with the 3M logo. Surrounding the golf course are billboards for Texas Instruments and Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut billboard reads: “Gigabites of Taste.” Because he sees a Pizza Hut ad on the way to a golf course, something that could never happen in America, Friedman concludes: “No, this definitely wasn’t Kansas.”
After golf, he meets Nilekani, who casually mentions that the playing field is level. A nothing phrase, but Friedman has traveled all the way around the world to hear it. Man travels to India, plays golf, sees Pizza Hut billboard, listens to Indian CEO mutter small talk, writes 470-page book reversing the course of 2000 years of human thought. That he misattributes his thesis to Nilekani is perfect: Friedman is a person who not only speaks in malapropisms, he also hears malapropisms. Told level; heard flat. This is the intellectual version of Far Out Space Nuts, when NASA repairman Bob Denver sets a whole sitcom in motion by pressing “launch” instead of “lunch” in a space capsule. And once he hits that button, the rocket takes off.
Read the entire article but be warned: it is funny. Thanks Prashant. It is the wonders of internet that gives one access to the writings of far off people from the comforts of one’s home.