I've documented repeatedly
how New York Times columnist Tom Friedman parrots the propaganda of Big Money,
using his column to legitimize some of the worst, most working-class-persecuting
policies this country has seen in the last century - all while bragging
on television that he doesn't even bother read the details of the policies
he advocates for. I have always believed Friedman's perspective comes from the
bubble he lives in - that is, I have always believed he feels totally at ease
shilling for Big Money and attacking workers because from the comfortable confines
of the Washington suburbs he lives in and the elite cocktail parties he attends,
what Friedman says seems mainstream to him. But I never had any idea how dead
on I was about the specific circumstances of Friedman's bubble - and how it
potentially explains a lot more than I ever thought.
As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives
in "a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on
a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club."
He "married into one of the 100 richest families in the country" -
the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.
Let's be clear - I'm a capitalist, so I have no problem with people doing well
or living well, even Tom Friedman. That said, this does potentially explain
an ENORMOUS amount about Friedman's perspective. Far from the objective,
regular-guy interpreter of globalization that the D.C. media portrays him to
be, Friedman is a member of the elite of the economic elite on the planet Earth.
In fact, he's married into such a giant fortune, it's probably more relevant
to refer to him as Billionaire Scion Tom Friedman than columnist Tom Friedman,
both because that's more descriptive of what he represents, and more important
for readers of his work to know so that they know a bit about where he's coming
Mind you, I don't think everyone needs to publish their net worth. But Friedman's
not everyone. He's not just "doing pretty well" and is not just any
old columnist. He's not just a millionaire or a multimillionaire - he's
member of one of the wealthiest families in the world, and is one of the most
influential media voices on the planet, who writes specifically about economic/class
issues. If politicians are forced to disclose every last asset they
own, you'd think at the very least, the New York Times - in the interest of
basic disclosure - should have a tagline under Friedman's economic columns that
says "Tom Friedman is an heir to a multi-billion-dollar business empire."
Again, there's positively nothing wrong with people being rich in general, or
Tom Friedman being a billionaire scion in specific. The problem is that so few
of his readers know this, even as he aggressively uses his platform to justify
policies that almost exclusively benefit his super-wealthy brethren - all under
the guise of supposed objectivity.
Then again, the fact that we know so little about who is actually making opinion
in this country isn't surprising. Even looking at this kind of information as
it relates to the most important opinionmaker in the world is looked down upon
by Washington insiders/elites/politicians. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from
"A Few Good Men," deep down in places they don't talk about at parties,
they want billionaires like Friedman dictating the debate because they need
someone creating public rationales for policies that enrich Big Money interests,
sell out America and guarantee the next fat campaign contribution.
Some, of course, might ask: Why should we care about Friedman's billionaire
status, but not the status of very rich people like, say, Ted Kennedy? Two points
on that: First, most people already know that Kennedy comes from a very wealthy
family, so there is no lack of knowledge by the public about potential conflicts
of class interest. The same can't be said for Friedman, who is constantly billed
as just an average Joe speaking his mind.
But far more important, the superwealth of a political actor (ie. a politician,
columnist, etc.) is really only relevant when that actor is using their power
to push their own class's economic interests, because then and only then does
it really bring up questions of conflicts of interest, bias and corruption.
Ted Kennedy is widely known as one of the most outspoken advocates for the poor
and for economic progressive causes in general - causes that defy the interests
of his personal economic class. Thus, his wealth really isn't important in conflict-of-interest,
objectivity or personal corruption terms as it relates to his actions in the
political arena. (Same thing goes, I might add, for wealthy folks who donate
to liberal causes. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt critics, they are
"traitors to their class." They are altruistically/patriotically donating
against their own personal economic class interests and for the broader good
- and therefore there is no relevant conflict of interest or pay-to-play corruption
going on. That stands in sharp contrast to right-wing billionaires who fund
conservative institutions that purport to be steered only by principled ideology,
but which inevitably spend much of their time trumpeting the very specific policies
that personally benefit their big donors.)
Friedman, unlike Kennedy, uses his position to push the very specific economic
policies (such as "free" trade) that the superwealthy in this country
are pushing and exclusively benefit from. That's why his billionaire scion status
is so important for the public to know - because it raises objectivity questions.
If, for instance, Richard
Mellon Scaife wrote articles in newspapers demanding the repeal of the estate
tax - don't you think it would be important for readers to be warned that Scaife
was a multimillionaire whose family (and the few families like his) would almost
exclusively benefit from the policies he was writing about? Of course. That's
called full disclosure and transparency, the very things critical to an objective
free press and democracy - the very thing Friedman says is so important for
other countries when he writes about foreign policy.
So the next time you read a piece by Tom Friedman telling us how wonderful
job outsourcing is or how great it is to pass Big Money's latest trade deal
that include no labor, wage, human rights or environmental provisions - just
remember: Tom Friedman, scion of a billionaire business empire, is just doing
right by his own economic class.
Read from Looking Glass News
Kristol is a Maniac
Couric: the Pretty Face of Corporate Propaganda
MATTHEWS : " I JUST LOVE THIS GUY AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF "
At the Feet of the Powerful and Throat of the Weak
Peter Jennings: Excuse Maker for War and Empire
Kurtz, Unreliable Source
Koppel: "Natural Fit" at NPR News and Longtime Booster of Henry Kissinger
5 Corporations Now Control Majority Of US Media
Matthews: 2005's Misinformer of the Year
of British journalists confirms entrenchment of class privilege
AND THE HIVE MIND
Mind Control Through Network Television: Are Your Thoughts Your Own?
Techniques for Truth Suppression
Doors Of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything
at the Gate: He Who Controls Television Controls the Masses
of Media Manipulation
The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA