[Marxism] How to write a Thomas Friedman column

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 21 14:45:50 MDT 2004


http://www.observer.com/pages/story.asp?ID=9065

Write your own Thomas Friedman column!

1. Choose your title to intrigue the reader through its internal conflict:

a. War and Peas
b. Osama, Boulevardier
c. Big Problems, Little Women

2. Include a dateline from a remote location, preferably dangerous, 
unmistakably Muslim:

a. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
b. Islamabad, Pakistan
c. Mohammedville, Trinidad

3. Begin your first paragraph with a grandiose sentence and end with a 
terse, startlingly unexpected contradiction:

a. The future of civilization depends upon open communication between 
Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon. If the two don’t speak to each other, the 
world edges closer to the precipice of total war. If, on the other hand, 
they manage to engage in open conversation and resolve their 
differences, Israelis could soon be celebrating Seders in Saudi Arabia. 
But for now, the two men can’t speak. Why? You can’t make a collect call 
from Bethlehem.

4. Use the next few paragraphs to further define the contradiction 
stated above, peppered with little questions making it look like you’re 
having a conversation with the reader. Feel free to use the first person:

a. My first thought was to ask: Why no collect calls from Bethlehem? 
It’s easy to call collect from Bosnia, Kosovo, even Uzbekistan. Am I 
sure? Of course I’m sure. I was in each of those places just a few weeks 
ago, making collect calls all over the world. No problem. So why can’t 
Arafat call collect from Bethlehem?

5. Remember: Thomas Friedman is the Carrie Bradshaw of current events. 
Think Sex and the City, write "Sects and Tikriti":

a. How can Islam get to its future, if its past is its present?

b. Later that day I got to thinking about global civilizational warfare. 
There are wars that open you up to something new and exotic, those that 
are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that 
bring you somewhere unexpected, those that take you far from where you 
started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, 
challenging and significant clash of all is the one you have with your 
own civilization. And if you can find a civilization to love the you 
that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.

c. Maybe Arabs and Israelis aren’t from different planets, as pop 
culture would have us believe. Maybe we live a lot closer to each other. 
Perhaps, dare I even say it, in the same ZIP code.

6. Name-drop heavily, particularly describing intimate situations 
involving hard-to-reach people:

a. The Jacuzzi was nearly full when Ayman al-Zawahiri, former surgeon 
and now Al Qaeda’s head of operations, slid in.

b. It was Thomas Pynchon on the phone. "Tommy," he said, probably aware 
we share that name ….

c. Despite the bumpy flight, I felt comfortable in the hands of a pilot 
as experienced as Amelia Earhart.

7. Include unknowns from hostile places who have come to espouse 
rational Western thought and culture:

a. I visited Mohammed bin Faisal Al-Hijazi, former top aide to Ayatollah 
Khomeini, now a reformer and graduate of the Wharton Business School.

b. Last year Nura bin Saleh Al-Fulani worked in Gaza sewing C4 plastic 
explosives into suicide bombers’ vests. I caught up with Nura last week 
in Paw Paw, Mich., where she sews activity patches on the uniforms of 
Cub Scout Pack 34.

8. Make use of homey anecdotes about your daughters, Natalie and Orly, 
enrolled in Eastern Middle School, Silver Spring, Md.:

a. My daughter Natalie, a student at Eastern Middle School, a public 
school in Silver Spring, Md., asked me at breakfast: "Daddy, if my 
school has students who are Muslims and Jews and Christians and 
Buddhists all working together, why can’t the rest of the world be that 
way?" There was something in the innocence of her question that made me 
stop and think: Maybe she has a point.

9. Quote a little-known Middle East authority at least once in every column:

a. Stephen P. Cohen
b. Stephen P. Cohen
c. Stephen P. Cohen

10. Conclude your column with a suggestion referring back to the opening 
contradiction, but with an ironic twist. Make sure the suggestion you 
proffer sounds plausible, but in fact has no chance of happening:

a. Driving into Bethlehem in the back of a pickup, I wonder: What if 
Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon sit down and play a game of poker? And 
what if the stakes are these: If Sharon wins, the Intifada is over. If 
Arafat wins, Palestine gains statehood. One game of no-limit Texas hold 
’em, and the Middle East crisis is resolved. Just like that. Yasir and 
Ariel, deal ’em out.

—Michael Kubin


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