Saturday, June 17, 2006

The 'revolutionary' Thomas Friedman

I blame Amy Goodman.

The last week or so, I blame it all on Amy Goodman.

Sometimes I curse her. I know it's not her fault. But I'm the one living with the problem.

Since Thomas Friedman did his call-in on "Democracy Now!," he can't shut up about it.

He barges into my study groups, mixers, you name it -- once I was emerging from a classroom and there he was in the hall entertaining people with, yet again, "As I was saying to Amy Goodman . . ."

It's all "Amy this" and "Amy that" -- all the time.

He's completely rewritten the exchange in his mind -- as I knew he would, as he was already starting to the day of the interview.

Now it's, "Well you know, Amy, Amy Goodman, did say to me, 'Thomas Friedman, you are the last hope for humanity, for the animal kingdom, for our solar system and beyond!'"

He'll usually shrug after making that statement, in an attempt at false modesty, a very showy attempt.

How much is it working?

So much that some of my classmates are buying the nonsense.

"Oh, Betinna, you are so lucky being married to Thomas Friedman! He is such a radical!"

Thomas Friedman? My husband Thomas Friedman? The man whose only act of 'civil disobediance' involved protesting the local cable company?

I ask that and suddenly I hear, "Oh, he's for digital freedom as well? He is so incredible!"

Digital freedom?


He protested outside the cable company about the cable going out! The sign he carried read: "Stop the censorship! Demand Manhattan Cable replay the 'Saved by the Bell' episode we missed yesterday when the cable went out!"

He even had a little chant:

Screech, Screech
I beseech
Zach, Zach
Bring him back
Slater, Slater
No one's greater
Manhattan Cable
You suck!

But ever since that embarrassing performance he gave on "Democracy Now!," he's convinced himself that he's now "conquered the new media medium."

We were shopping, for him naturally, last weekend, for new black turtlenecks, and he couldn't shut up about that to the saleswoman.

"Well, that is wonderful," she said smoothly, "but you do realize that you're in the women's department, Mr. Friedman?"

Thomas Friedman explained he had very weak muscles in his lower back and therefore needed to purchase his clothing from the women's department.

She looked at him, then at the black turtleneck he was holding, nodded cheerfully and led us over to the women's lingerie to show him the collection of women's thongs he had been inquiring of. If he showed half the enthusiasm for "Democracy Now!" that he did fondling the thongs, he might learn something.

Instead, he turns on the TV to 'watch.' But he never watches. He may glance at the TV while it's on as he makes countless calls.

"What are you doing?" he'll ask whomever is on the other end and, without giving them a chance to respond, declare, "I'm watching 'Democracy Now!' You know I was recently on. It's the largest independent media collaboration in the country, airing on over 420 radio and TV stations. On Pacifica Radio stations, community radio stations, some NPR stations, college radio stations, on public access TV, on some PBS stations and on satellite TV -- DISH network: Free Speech TV ch. 9415 and Link TV ch. 9410, DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375, and on the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, in addition to podcasting and streaming online at Monday through Friday."

Hopefully, with all the people he's calling, the program's getting some new listeners and viewers, but I'm not sure. Any interest they might have in the program is probably killed as soon as he explains that he's "taken Amy Goodman under my wing. I even wrote a column for her 'Access of Evil' that's in the current edition of 'The Nation' magazine. 'Access of Evil.' What's it about? It's about how we give too much access to a bunch of blowhards and not enough to the people like me. It was inspired by Amy, Amy Goodman, saying to me, 'Thomas Friedman, the world needs more you.' Of course, I attempted to disagree but she's a very intelligent and persuasive person so even I had to agree that, yes, the world did need more of me. She's begging me to do a weekly gig on her show and I'm telling her I'm too busy for that but we need to schedule a time for me to come back on where we can be face to face. She said, 'Oh Thomas Friedman, you opposite me? I'm not sure I could think straight!' I told her I'd carry her, the way I do everyone when I appear opposite them. You know how you could help her? You could e-mail her at and say, 'That Thomas Friedman is a hoot, a holler, and a gas. Thank you for having him on!' Or better yet, call 1-888-999-3877 and purchase a copy of the broadcast featuring me. Oh, gotta run! Talk at you later!"

And with that he's on to the next call, over and over throughout the hour. Tuesday night, I heard him on the phone with Simon Rosenberg discussing how to best care for wigs and pantyhose, when he slipped in, "Did you hear? Amy Goodman's trying to drop Juan Gonzalez as her co-host and give the job to me?"

As soon as he was off the phone, I confronted him.

"Thomas Friedman, how dare you spread lies?"

He looked hurt and replied, "Well, I couldn't tell Simon that the Farrah Fawcett wig looked bad on him! He's already bought a red one-piece bathing suit, Betinna!"

"I'm not referring to your shared tips on cross-dressing. You know damn well that Amy Goodman is not trying to replace Juan Gonzalez with you."

"She could be!" he screamed getting agitated. "She could be! You don't know every thing. You don't know every damn thing, Betinna. How dare you listen in on my private phone call! Who do you think you are anyway? Alberto Gonzales!"

With that, he tossed his head wildly to make the blonde ringlets on his wig bounce and shimmer.
That wig.

I'd almost gotten used to it in the apartment. Then I see him on campus without it and realize, the next time he's at home with the wig on, how ridiculous he looks. He doesn't think so. He's even found an artist to paint him wearing it. He's been sitting for the portrait in his "spare time." His life is nothing but spare time!

Mid-week, I was wishing he would show up on campus in that wig just so everyone could see a real side of him. But there he was, in his silk, black, women's turtleneck, with a brown beret perched on his head (he wanted green but it clashed with his blouse), an unlit Gitanes dangling from his mouth, as he spoke about the coming 'revolution' of which he is, of course, one of the leaders. As he poisoned young minds, I was prepared. I'd printed up the transcript of his appearance so that they could read what had really happened a week ago as opposed to the way he was portraying it.

As Thomas Friedman continued speaking, bit by bit, there were bursts of giggles as people read through the transcripts. Slowly the crowd vanished. As they walked away, his confused eyes trailed after them and then slowly came to rest on me.

"You!" he hissed. "Betinna, what did you do?"

I just waved at him and walked on to class with a broad smile across my face.

When I got home he was on the phone with Simon Rosenberg, attempting to explain to him why cotton did not make for good stuffing material when you were going to the beach. He eyed me for a moment, then clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clopped out of the living room in his high heels -- the phone cord trailing behind him. (We must be the only home in Manhattan without a portable phone!)

Why he even bothered is beyond me. The more excited he gets, the louder he gets. I could hear him throughout the apartment.

"She will not stop our goal! This revolution belongs to you and me, Simon. Us and all the other full figured boys."

I'd hear something like that and burst out laughing. But he was quite serious. I made a mental note to drop "fat ass" and use "full figured" the next time I needed a favor from him.

Who knows what Simon Rosenberg was saying, but Thomas Friedman was full of tossing out "morsels to the masses" that would let them think they were in control when, in reality, nothing had changed.

"Mark my words, Simon, we will get our war with Hugo Chavez!"

I'm sure he thought he sounded quite masterful, possibly even diabolical, but the reality is he sounded just as pathetic as any of the female characters on 'Desperate Housewives'.

But he puts the pathetic talk where his mouth is. I saw that Friday when a friend slid his latest column over to me in class. "Seeds for a Geo-Green Party" has all the sloganeering you'd expect from a fraud like Thomas Friedman. Just enough to make you think he might be doing something when the reality is that he's doing nothing. "Tax the people, not the corporations" is inscribed in his DNA. And, just as he promised Simon, he was pushing Hugo Chavez as the great, big-bad, even if it made no sense in the context of the sentence. (Unless the peroxide from his newly blonde wig has seeped into his head and damaged his memory, Thomas Friedman does know that Venezuela is not part of the "Arab-Muslim" world. He must have been so giddy on war pornography that he forgot that basic fact.)

My friend, Dona, a journalism major, asked me, "Why does he act like he's unsure of the Iraq war now while he's wanting war with Venezuela?"

I told her what my neighbor Rebecca had told me: If the detergent doesn't work, you don't keep claiming it gets clothes clean while you're trying to market your new product.

Thomas Friedman's new detergent is war with Venezuela, he can't promote that and still stand by the illegal war he cheerled us into -- not when it's gone to hell.