A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tom Friedman, Advice Columnist

The omnipresent, unforgiving, and parody-producing Thing Known as Social Media and the Internet is joking about Tom Friedman of the New York Times again. (For an earlier example of a Friedman parody, see here.) One reason is that Friedman does sort of ask for it, with his omniscient tone and sometimes overdone rhetorical devices, so that he crashes his Lexis right into an olive tree, to use a Friedmanian metaphor; and the other reason is that Friedman probably makes more money than all the rest of us combined, so we figure he deserves it.

This time credit for starting this goes to Joshua Keating, who posted this at Foreign Policy: "When the Young Women of Egypt Need Advice, They Turn to Tom Friedman." He noted this passage in Friedman's column this past Sunday:
I had just finished a panel discussion on Turkey and the Arab Spring at a regional conference here, and, as I was leaving, a young Egyptian woman approached me. “Mr. Friedman, could I ask you a question? Who should I vote for?”
and it reminded him of this, from April 2011:
When I was in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising, I wanted to change hotels one day to be closer to the action and called the Marriott to see if it had any openings. The young-sounding Egyptian woman who spoke with me from the reservations department offered me a room and then asked: “Do you have a corporate rate?” I said, “I don’t know. I work for The New York Times.” There was a silence on the phone for a few moments, and then she said: “ Can I ask you something?” Sure. “Are we going to be O.K.? I’m worried.”
 As Keating notes, "Is Friedman just being constantly accosted by anxious young Egyptian women seeking his sage advice about the future of their country? Isn't there anyone else they could talk to?"

Perhaps the usual taxi drivers haven't been talkative enough lately. Anyway, in the age of social media, this did not stop with Keating. Now there's a Tumblr: "Mr. Friedman, Could I Ask You a Question?" Among the (illlustrated) entries: " Mr Friedman, what’s the fastest way to get from Tajrish to Narmak if the Resalat Expressway is backed up?" and  "Mr. Friedman, how much saffron should I use in my zereshk polow?"  (These would, however, suggest that it isn't just Egyptian women who have need of Friedman's advice.)

Read, and contribute if the spirit moves.

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