Jadaliyya recently interviewed PULSE co-editor Belén Fernández about her book The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, to be released by Verso Nov. 7. The interview appears in Jadaliyya’s New Texts Out Now (NEWTON) section and includes an excerpt from the book. The following is the start of the interview:
Jadaliyya: Why did you write this book?
Belén Fernández: I asked myself this question several thousand times, particularly during my third rereading of every Friedman column published since 1995.
The idea for the book came about in a far less climactic fashion than Friedman’s ideas tend to occur—i.e. it did not involve “Quarter-Pounder[ing] my way around the world,” being struck by a “bolt out of the blue that must have hit somewhere between the McDonald’s in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the McDonald’s in Tahrir Square in Cairo and the McDonald’s off Zion Square in Jerusalem,” and unfurling the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, according to which American fast food is the key to world peace.
Rather, in May of 2009, following a four-month hitchhiking trip through Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, I returned to Buenos Aires, where my parents were living at the time. Though up to that point I had been blessedly sheltered from the phenomenon that is Thomas Friedman and had only read a smattering of his dispatches over the years, he happened to publish a spate of articles that summer which caught my attention.
Topics ranged from how Iraqis should appreciate the US military legacy of “a million acts of kindness and a profound example of how much people of different backgrounds can accomplish when they work together” in their country, to how Barack Obama had defeated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Lebanese elections, which somehow indicated a triumph of Lebanese sovereignty. Also reported by Friedman that summer was the encouraging fact that the more than 50,000 Facebook fans of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi far exceeded the capacity of a mosque, thus reiterating the positive role technology can play in the hands of proper Muslims, as opposed to those concerned with conducting “J.O.L.” (Jihad Online).