Ever since someone gave me Tom Friedman’s book From Beirut to Jerusalem in the early 1990s, I’ve been trying to figure out the journalist’s appeal. To be sure, he can write well and offers some interesting anecdotes from his “decade of reporting in the strife-ridden Middle East.” But then, so do a lot of journalists writing about the regions they’ve covered.
Perhaps, it’s because the Mideast is such a hot spot that caused his book to stand out. But, just because he writes well about aninteresting region doesn’t mean he’s a particularly gifted pundit. I never really got his reputation as being one of the most, if not the most, thoughtful columnists in America.
Whenever I read his column, even when I do manage to finish it, I rarely find that he offers an original — or even interesting — insight. He tends to repeat the conventional wisdom with just a little bit of a twist. It’s almost as if people believe him to be an insightful and original pundit because they’ve heard that he’s an insightful and interesting pundit.
Calling Friedman “one of the most overrated people in the world“, John Hinderaker cites Rob Long’s post on Ricochet reminding us of a 1999 column where the supposedly sage columnist warned of the coming demise of amazon.com.
And then there’s his infatuation with the People’s Republic of China.
To be sure, he’s not the first columnist to get something wrong. Look, maybe I’m missing something, but it just seems Tom Friedman is not so much a penetrating and thoughtful analyst of world affairs as he is perceived to be just such a pundit.