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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "The Square People, Part 1": The Idiot Columnist, Part 1

Doesn't anyone at The New York Times have the nerve to tell Tom Friedman that he is embarrassing himself?

Writing from Hanoi, Friedman begins his latest Times op-ed "The Square People, Part 1" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/opinion/friedman-the-square-people-part-1.html?ref=opinion) by arrogantly declaring:

"I think I’ll plan to go from Kiev to Hanoi more often. It’s only when you go to two seemingly disconnected places that you see the big trends, and one of the big ones I’ve noticed is the emergence of 'The Square People.'"

Make more trips from Kiev to Hanoi in order to discern the "big trends"? Go for it Tom, even if you don't speak Ukrainian or Vietnamese.

Friedman goes on to explain:

"To be sure, The Square People represent a diverse politics, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and ultranationalists in Kiev. But the dominant trend running through them all is this: 'We now have the tools to see how everyone is living, including opportunities abroad and corrupt leaders at home, and we will not tolerate indefinitely living in a context where we can’t realize our full potential. And also we now have the tools to collaborate to do something about it.'"

Interesting. But do you remember back in 2011 how Friedman was singing paeans to the Arab Spring from Tahrir Square in Cairo? Well, maybe Friedman would do well to return to Egypt in order to let us know how things turned out, i.e. how the Egyptian military is now firmly in control.

But more to the point, are smartphones empowering Egyptian women? I don't think so. More than 10 million Egyptian women are illiterate. More than 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone genital mutilation.

Friedman's sanguine conclusion:

"I gave a talk on globalization at the National University in Hanoi. Afterward I chatted with a young woman, Anh Nguyen, 19, a student who had asked several good questions. Her conversation was peppered with Square talk: 'I feel empowered. ... I think Vietnam can change. ... Please tell the world about the big embezzlement case [at a state-owned shipping company] that was uncovered here. Before people would have been silent, but the verdict came out and they sentenced the [bosses] to death. ... It really surprised people. ... Now not every big boss is protected by the government. ... We get many different sources of information from the world. It opens eyes.' She has a much greater chance to achieve her potential than her parents, she added, 'but not as much as I want.'

Move over Davos Man, the Square People are coming."

Ah yes, owing to the Square People, ship company bosses were sentenced to death for fraud. Sentenced to death? Isn't that a little harsh? Apparently not in Friedman's Utopian world.

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