On nous dit et nous répète que Thomas Friedman, du New York Times, relayé par l’International Herald Tribune, est l’un des commentateurs les plus influents aux Etats-Unis. On a les “commentateurs les plus influents” qu’on peut…. On nous dit aussi qu’il est, bon an mal an, l’un des soutiens les plus efficaces de la politique étrangère des Etats-Unis. On a les soutiens qu’on mérite.
Friedman semble rassembler sur lui les travers et les veuleries les plus détestables d’une époque assez remarquable à cet égard (veuleries et travers). Certains se réfèrent à certains aspects de son apparence physique pour mieux le décrire, — avec, comme les décrit John Chuckman, ses moustaches à l’allure stalinienne.
Friedman est une sorte de flic-en-chef de l’écrit du système en place ; dénonciateur, assoiffé de sang, l’homme qui a écrit ces phrases fameuses, que nul n’oubliera jamais, du temps de l’attaque contre le Kosovo, qui semblent rassembler avec un plaisir gourmand et un peu gras (l’homme n’est pas maigre) tout ce que le système nous donne de plus répugnant dans son mélange de force brutale et de mercantilisme niveleur des comportements et des âmes: « The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. »
Thomas Friedman est indécent parce qu’il se dit et qu’il est étiqueté “libéral”. (Aux USA, l’étiquette est proche du “progressiste” de nos contrées.) Ses écrits, rédigés dans une langue grossière et aguicheuse, volontairement familière, “pour faire peuple” si l’on veut, résument assez bien la psychologie dominante. On y trouve un quart de dixième de raison diluée dans cinq dixièmes d’opportunisme et quatre dixièmes d’émotion. S’il y a à boire et à manger chez Friedman, la potion qu’il nous laisse est nécessairement amère.
Cet homme est le prototype du “libéral libéré” de notre temps, comme on dit d’un adolescent qui a jeté sa gourme. On en trouve chez les néo-conservateurs US où les trotskistes ont trouvé à se reconvertir, on en trouve en France chez les anciens gauchistes de 68 (Glucksman) devenus des libéraux à la mode européenne, purs et durs, qui n’ont plus froid aux yeux et qui soutiennent le Pentagone presque avec ivresse ; on en trouve aussi au Parlement européen, déguisés en Verts tonitruants, tel l’inratable Cohn-Bendit. Chez tous, une constante remarquable: enfin, ils peuvent exprimer en toute liberté (libéral, pardi) un goût qu’ils nous avaient caché pour le déchaînement de la violence. On parle ici de rhétorique et de rien d’autre car il ne s’agit bien entendu que de soldats de la plume et de tribuns-guerriers; l’ivresse, par contre, est bien là, — il suffit d’écouter Cohn-Bendit et de lire Friedman…
Revenons donc à Friedman. Le vertige, chez lui, est encore plus fort que chez ses collègues européens car, en plus de pouvoir enfin glorifier la violence de la guerre comme une vertu, il en fait autant de la puissance brute que constitue la politique extérieure américaniste. A cet égard, Friedman est un libéral complètement libéré, — la gourme jetée bien au-delà des seuls quartiers réservés, la violence comme éjaculation précoce.
La question que Friedman nous pose, avec son comportement de plume si extraordinairement brutal, est de savoir s’il existe, dans la rhétorique vertueuse que nous impose la démocratie libérale, celle du centre-gauche disons, une potentialité qui ne demande qu’à se libérer du déchaînement de la violence pure. Il y a, dans les textes de Friedman, une fois écrits les mots de passe habituel qui sont comme un peu comme on pointe à l’usine (“démocratie”, “Amérique” et autres sornettes), un déchaînement d’imprécations et de sollicitations exaltées de la violence qui semble nous dire que l’auteur s’en lave les mains. Puisqu’il a l’autorisation, eh bien il s’en paye à qui mieux mieux: il invite au meurtre, à la dénonciation, au massacre, jusqu’à la prière dans ce sens (Friedman est l’auteur de la prière, presque de type White Christmas, dans tous les cas rappel des années 1960 interprétées à-la-Orwell : « Give War A Chance » ; bref: s’il vous plaît, monsieur, laissez-moi cogner, vous verrez ça marche).
Dira-t-on de Friedman qu’il est la honte de la démocratie et de la liberté de la presse? Au contraire. Il en est l’exacte illustration, dans les sous-sols puants où sont tombées démocratie et liberté de la presse. Friedman nous dit : « “These terrorists are what they do.” And what they do is murder. » Même chose pour lui: ce flic-en-chef est ce qu’il écrit. Et ce qu’il écrit est dénonciation et appel au lynch. Chacun son truc.
Tout cela, pour introduire deux textes qui prennent pour cible le texte de Friedman paru le 22 juillet 2005. (Le texte a été publié le 23 juillet dans l’International Herald Tribune. Il est d’un accès facile sur ce site.). Dans ce texte, Friedman philosophe après les attentats de Londres. Son idée est simple : mettre en lumière, montrer du doigt, publier des listes certes noires mais bien lisibles, pour désigner à la vindicte publique “les haineux”. Là où cette proposition maccarthyste devient fascinante, c’est lorsque Friedman en vient à (d)énoncer qui sont ces “haineux”. Diverses catégories sont présentées et l’on pense aussitôt qu’on y trouvera en bonne place ceux qui se permettent de tenter d’expliquer un acte terroriste dans sa globalité politique par une autre philosophie que « shoot to kill », suivie de huit balles dont 7 dans la tête d’un Brésilien innocent qui passait par là…
Les deux textes sont de Norman Solomon, de l’organisation FAIR, et de John Chuckman.
By Norman solomon, FAIR, 27 July 2005
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has urged the U.S. government to create blacklists of condemned political speech — not only by those who advocate violence, but also by those who believe that U.S. government actions may encourage violent reprisals. The latter group, which Friedman called ''just one notch less despicable than the terrorists,'' includes a majority of Americans, according to recent polls.
Friedman's July 22 column proposed that the State Department, in order to ''shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears,'' create a quarterly ''War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.'' But Friedman said the governmental speech monitoring should go beyond those who actually advocate violence, and also include what former State Department spokesperson Jamie Rubin calls ''excuse makers.'' Friedman wrote:
« After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow ''understandable'' is outrageous. ''It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism,'' Mr. Rubin said, ''and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them.'' »
The ''despicable'' idea that there may be a connection between acts of terrorism and particular policies by Western countries is one that is widely held by the citizens of those countries. Asked by the CNN/Gallup poll on July 7, ''Do you think the terrorists attacked London today mostly because Great Britain supports the United States in the war in Iraq?'' 56 percent of Americans agreed. In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (7/7-10/05), 54 percent said ''the war with Iraq has made the U.S....less safe from terrorism.'' Since they see a connection between Iraq and terrorism, a majority of Americans are what Friedman calls ''excuse makers'' who ''deserve to be exposed.''
Friedman's column urged the government to create quarterly lists of ''hatemongers'' and ''excuse makers'' — as well as ''truth tellers,'' Muslims who agree with Friedman's critique of Islam. Friedman's proposed list of ''excuse makers'' would have to include his New York Times colleague Bob Herbert, who wrote in his July 25 column, ''There is still no indication that the Bush administration recognizes the utter folly of its war in Iraq, which has been like a constant spray of gasoline on the fire of global terrorism.''
Leading members of the U.S. intelligence community might also find themselves on such a blacklist, based on a report summarized earlier this year in the Washington Post (1/14/05):
Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of ''professionalized'' terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.... According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts — including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand — that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.
Though Friedman calls on the State Department to compile the ''Top 10 hatemongers'' list in a ''nondiscriminatory way,'' it's doubtful that such a list would, in fact, even-handedly include all advocates of violence. It would not be likely, for example, to include someone like Thomas Friedman, who during the Kosovo War (4/6/99) called on the Clinton administration to ''give war a chance,'' writing, ''Let's see what 12 weeks of less than surgical bombing does.'' In a follow-up column (4/23/99) he declared that ''Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation,'' and insisted that ''every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted.'' Despite the fact that by calling for attacks on civilian targets he was advocating war crimes, Friedman should have no fear that he'll find himself on a State Department list of ''hatemongers.''
Friedman's suggestion that those who seek to understand or explain political violence are not part of ''legitimate dissent'' comes at a time when calls for censorship are becoming more and more blatant. Bill O'Reilly (Radio Factor, 6/20/05, cited by Media Matters, 6/22/05) made a chilling call for the criminalization of war opponents:
You must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq War and the war on terror and undermining it. And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9/11, is a traitor. Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.
The call for the arrests of Air America Radio hosts was said as though it were a joke, though O'Reilly is deadly serious when he says that the commentators on that network are ''undermining'' the war — and that such ''undermining'' is treason.
O'Reilly more recently (7/25/05) went after Herbert's column that argued that the Iraq War fueled terrorism: ''Bob Herbert is most likely helping the terrorists, but his hatred of Mr. Bush blinds him to that. He's not alone, but this kind of stuff has got to stop. We're now fighting for our lives. And those helping the enemy will be brought to your attention.''
''Attention,'' rather than arrests, is all that Friedman has threatened ''excuse makers'' like Herbert with. But it's a small step, as O'Reilly's rhetoric demonstrates, between marginalizing critics of U.S. foreign policy as ''just one notch less despicable than the terrorists'' — and criminalizing criticism itself.
[Notre recommandation est que ce texte doit être lu avec la mention classique à l'esprit, — “Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.”.]
By John Chuckman, 30 July 2005
Devoted to human freedom, you must embrace even the freedom to express stupidity. So I can happily report that a week ago at this writing Thomas Friedman struck a mighty blow for freedom with one of the dumbest columns he has ever written, ''Giving the Hatemongers No Place to Hide'' (July 22, NYT), although his regular readers may not forgive my distinguishing this column from his regular output.
The theme of the column is captured by one of the pithy bromides of which he is so fond, ''Guess what: words matter.'' To make sure that you understand, Friedman repeats this a number of times with slight variations, a favorite technique of propagandists and, for that matter, police interrogators. You can't help smiling for here is a man who has spent his entire adult life twisting and torturing words to give imperial hubris a happy face.
As we will see, the words that really matter to Friedman are the ones that disagree with his view of the world and current events. Like an unpleasant, spoiled child Friedman uses a tantrum in print to get what he wants.
Friedman starts in his usual breezy, know-it-all style, ''I wasn't surprised…. And I won't be surprised…'' at discoveries by English police at a bookstore in Leeds. These include video games, Islamic video games. Friedman ominously explains, ''The video games feature apocalyptic battles between defenders of Islam and opponents.'' I couldn't help thinking of General Ripper darkly telling a stunned Peter Sellers as Mandrake about fluoride, children, and water in Doctor Strangelove. Good God, Friedman lives in a country up to its armpits in violent video games, violent books and magazines, violent music, and a hell of a lot more genuine violence than the English can even imagine.
Friedman asks, ''If the primary terrorism problem we face today can effectively be addressed only by a war of ideas within Islam — a war between life-affirming Muslims against those who want to turn one of the world's great religions into a death cult — what can the rest of us do?''
Note the cheap trick here of identifying Islam in general with the world's terrorism problem even while ostensibly distinguishing between life-affirming and death-cult Muslims. Islam in general bears the burden of correction for its minority of extremists. These are the words of someone with murky and undeclared motives.
Terrorism, like any other criminal behavior, is the sole responsibility of those committing the acts, not of the religion or the people with which they happen to be associated. The number of people involved in events in New York was about twenty. The number in London maybe a dozen. The world has about a billion Muslims. Friedman simply has no shame.
He glosses over, another favorite technique of Friedman's, the death-cult wing of every religion, letting it apply only to Islam. What about lunatics in America who turn Christianity into death cults like those of Jim Jones (900 deaths) or Waco (about 100 deaths)? There are dozens of these, not to mention the weird Aryan-nation people who live in the woods and mountains armed to the teeth. American fundamentalists have gathered innumerable times on hillsides awaiting the end of the world. Many of them stocked their basements with guns, ammo, and freeze-dried provisions awaiting the calamity that was supposed to occur when the calendar turned to the year 2000. What about the pictures of Marines earnestly kneeling at some make-shift alter in Iraq before they head out to kill people? What about America's Eric Rudolphs? its Timothy McVeighs?
And how can you apply the adjective life-affirming to thousands of ferociously angry settlers in Gaza determined to rip down every brick in place, cut down every tree, root up every vine, people who have been widely reported to be poisoning the land they will have to surrender? It seems to me that Israel itself represents the focus of just such a struggle going on in Judaism, the only difference between it and what we see in Islam being one of numbers.
One thing is certain, if you tried smearing Judaism in general with the bloody excesses of Israeli settlers or charming figures like the late bloodthirsty Rabbi Kahane and his followers, you'd call down a firestorm of anti-Semitism accusations on your head. Yet this is precisely what Friedman feels perfectly free to do with Islam.
Friedman answers his own question, as he always does, another technique familiar to propagandists the world over, ''We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.''
If he stopped at the first sentence, he'd have my support. There is a need to shine light on hatred, genuine hatred, something that is abundant in Friedman's homeland. Radio, television, and newspaper columns pour out hatred in the United States around the clock. Dozens of columnists and commentators spew the stuff. Actually, it is this cacophony of hate pervading American media that allows people like Friedman to pass for reasonable, but he is not reasonable by comparison with what is heard and read in other Western countries.
The State Department's annual human rights report is a document with ghastly shortcomings. Perhaps Friedman likes it because it reflects many of his own qualities — arrogant, insulting, inaccurate, and deliberately incomplete. Everyone outside the United States recognizes the report as biased and used mainly as a bludgeon against countries from which the United States seeks concessions of some kind, usually economic. Incomplete? Just ask Amnesty International, the United States itself very much belongs on any such list compiled without bias: police and prison brutality there are routine, daily events.
Having laid down a principle that seems plausible, Friedman goes on with another of his favorite techniques, casually stretching a principle beyond recognition, trying to make it fit a case it plainly does not fit. Friedman says, ''We also need to spotlight the 'excuse makers,' the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.''
Events in London and New York are not related to Iraq or Israel or imperialism? Then why is Bush's mob intensely pressuring Sharon to quickly complete the evacuation of Gaza? And why are the Bush people suddenly talking about troop reductions in Iraq after all the ''stay the course'' blather? Of course, they're related. ''It's the injustice, stupid!'' should be on a plaque over Friedman's desk.
Here is some of what Friedman is actually saying in this passage. He doesn't care that lists themselves are chilling things, having such horrible associations as the NKVD's lists for arrest, Senator McCarthy's lists of Communists, and Nixon's enemies' list (disproportionately featuring Jews). We need a list of ''despicable'' excuse makers.
And never mind, he is saying, that such lists always are abused. America's no-fly list contains thousands of names included in error or by deliberate abuse, and there is almost no way for individuals to remove their names from this job-threatening list. One of the earliest abuses discovered was Ted Kennedy's name on the list, but most people do not have Senator Kennedy's influence to have their names easily removed.
The most frightening thing Friedman is saying is that people who discuss terror and its causes in terms other than his own are ''despicable.'' Yes, words matter, and despicable is a very strong word, a hate-word if there ever was one.
So here is Friedman saying he hates people who disagree with his way of thinking on a subject, blithely managing to identify the people he hates with haters. This reminds me of the time Friedman, in true 1984 Inner Party fashion, tried to get suicide-bomber and all associated terms expunged from the English language, even advocating official penalties for heads of governments in the Middle East who dared use the word martyr.
Friedman is also saying, as he has so many times, that large numbers of people act irrationally. They blow themselves up for no good reason, just for hate. He says, ''There is no political justification for 9/11, 7/7 or 7/21. As the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen put it: 'These terrorists are what they do.' And what they do is murder.''
This is demonstrably false.
Most haters are averse to killing themselves. Haters are generally cowards. Hitler went on until the Russians were almost at the bunker door and only killed himself for fear of falling into their hands. Stalin was only stopped by Nature's good timing or secret assassination from launching yet another wave of arrests. I don't know of a single instance of those lynching thousands of black Americans who gave up their lives to get at their object of hate. America's ''Reverend'' Jimmy Swaggart threatened to kill any homosexual making a pass at him and weekly spurs his flock to hatred, but he has never offered to lay his own life down for the cause of his seething hatred.
On the other hand, has anyone ever described the Russians who laid down their lives in waves to stop Hitler as haters? I've never seen the Japanese Kamikaze pilots who tried desperately to stop the U.S. from reaching their homeland described as haters.
Something is desperately wrong with Friedman's way of looking at things, and if people like him win the struggle for hearts and minds, the ugly Patriot Act will be only the smallest reason for truth no longer having a place in America.
Maybe that Joe Stalin mustache Friedman sports represents more than a cosmetic effort to add some character to his face?