Monday, April 23, 2007

The Mustache of Understanding takes on China's environment

The Xinhua news agency has a snippet of Tom Friedman's latest wisdom, this time on the environment in China.
Friedman discussed a popular Chinese saying in his article: "Black cat, white cat, all that matter is that it catches mice" --forget about the ideology, all that matter is that China grows.

"Now the cat better be green, otherwise it is going to die before it catches the mouse," writes Friedman, quoting Dan Rosen, an expert on China's economy.
This proves that there is no analogy so straightforward and simple that Friedman cannot make total hash out of it. A green cat? That starves because it can't catch mice?

This belongs in the archives with some of Friedman's other great similes. Like this classic:
The walls had fallen down and the Windows had opened, making the world much flatter than it had ever been—but the age of seamless global communication had not yet dawned.
Matt Taibbi has a good reply to this remark
How the fuck do you open a window in a fallen wall? More to the point, why would you open a window in a fallen wall? Or did the walls somehow fall in such a way that they left the windows floating in place to be opened?
Kieran Healy also has a justly famous response.
Amazing. Tom Friedman is a God. No, not a God so much as a moustachioed force of nature, pumped up on the steroids of globalization, a canary in the coalmine of an interconnected era whose tentacles are spreading over the face of a New Economy savannah where old lions are left standing at their waterholes, unaware that the young Turks—and Indians—have both hands on the wheel of fortune favors the brave face the music to their ears to the, uh, ground.
Here's another Friedman simile mentioned by Taibbi
I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.
Taibbi's response:
Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.

This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It's not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It's that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it's absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that's guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.
There are many many classic mockeries of Friedman's prose out there, and I encourage you, the internet, to reread them all, because really there is no greater tool out there than Mr. Friedman. You must remember the Mustache of Understanding. Also important is the Making Light post that first lead me and so many others down this thread, where Theresa compares Friedman to some of the worst artists of all time, putting him in a league with Ed Wood. Also check out the poetry written about Friedman.

3 comments:

C.A said...

Of course we already know as Antoine Roquentin proves:

"I do not think, therefore I am a moustache."

Anonymous said...

And there should be so much more to say about this.

Or maybe it was entirely exhausted 15 years ago:


Easy as an easychair. Poop as hard as rock.
I don't like you anyway. Seal it in a box.
(Damn) you. (Damn) you...aaaahh! aaaah!

Vox Populi said...

LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!moustache of understanding. LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!
If you don't ever say another word your entire career is worth it on that comment alone. Go forth and .... continue.

Gad, that was funny as hell.