The second thing that disgusts me is Friedman’s attempts to win applause by sucking up to his Egyptian audience. He tells them that the U.S. Congress is profoundly corrupt. Aside from demeaning his own country and civilization, the signal that statement sends is: Hey, democracy doesn’t really work!
And what does an Egyptian audience think of when it hears this line about money ruling? Not insider stock-trading but rather the old Arab assertion that the Zionist lobby directs U.S. policy, that’s what.
If Friedman actually was knowledgeable on the Middle East he would have understood the message he is conveying to Egyptians and might have avoided such statements. Oh, wait, Friedman himself has made such a charge, saying that the Jewish lobby bought Congress’s enthusiastic reception of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, being saved from accusations of antisemitism only because he is the son of Jewish parents.
“Money will kill your democracy like it did ours,” said Friedman. So Egypt is now a democracy but America isn’t? And, again, who do Arab ideologues identify with using “money” to control politics? Answer: Not Tony Rezko.
Friedman calls Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum an example of an American extremist. This tells Egyptians: We have no right to criticize you! You now have leaders who openly call for genocide against Jews. Well, we have people who don’t favor gay marriage!
Friedman (and Obama) can’t think a move ahead. If (ok, when) the Brotherhood starts to crack down and at some point even Obama might feel inclined to criticize its repression, Egyptian leaders and writers will respond: How dare you criticize us! According to your own Friedman you are ruled by money, don’t have proper democracy, and are full of extremists. So mind your own business.
And yet at the end of his lecture in Cairo the audience was still reportedly critical of Friedman, one more proof that you cannot win over those who hate you on the basis of a seriously constructed worldview by flattering them and bashing your own side.
I’m almost done but there’s one more thing important for you to know. It’s from a column I wrote a year ago, in the midst of the revolution. The radical blogger Angry Arab made fun of Friedman back then. Referring to Friedman as a “Zionist,” the blogger mocked him for claiming that the revolution would produce a moderate pro-American Egypt ready to keep the peace with Israel. Every Arab understood, said Angry Arab, that the exact opposite would happen.
A humorous example of Friedman’s lack of self-awareness is the fact that he called his column, “Watching Elephants Fly.” Can many Americans hear that phrase and not think of a certain famous animated film by Walt Disney?
It’s title is most appropriate: Dumbo.
Also read: “Tom Friedman vs. Israel“