Tom Friedman let me down

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieThis past week-end, fellow Twin Citian, Minnesotan and famous author Thomas Friedman sent out this Twitter “tweet” about his most recent NY Times editorial:

“Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban?  Al Qaeda is gone.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19friedman.html .”

The article focuses on Mr. Friedman’s recent trip to Pushghar, Afghanistan, to witness the opening of a public school for girls. The school was built thanks to the United States Forces – Afghanistan’s effort, the International Coalition forces and the Afghan National Army.  For the most part, our Military built this school with US Taxpayers’ money.

The NY Times article that went along with this tweet was entitled: “Teacher, can we leave now?  No.”  and went on to applaud the productive and important nation building effort that is going on, as part of the long war on terror.

I enjoy reading Tom Friedman’s books and his editorials. I’ve learned a lot from his perspectives. While I don’t always agree with his specific conclusions and recommendations, there’s something to be gained in exploring his suggestions. In and of itself, this most recent article was fine, even helpful. Clearly, the major media outlets, what’s left of them, aren’t highlighting the good our servicemen and women are doing.  Getting the likes of celebrity author, acclaimed geopolitical authority Tom Friedman to acknowledge our Military’s contribution, is, in the least, a first step.

But the “tweet,” this sensational, misleading tweet has me all riled up.

For too many people on “Twitter,” the “tweet” IS the substance – it’s all they read.  They never click on the linked content.  They don’t bother with the “meat” of the issue. I know. I’m one of them.

When did it become acceptable in journalism for titillation to trump substance? Why couldn’t Mr. Friedman have just used his article’s title to get his Twitter followers to read his article?  It’s a great title – and provides a snippet of truthful insight to the content to follow.

I understand Twitter’s need for 140-character brevity.  But shouldn’t the brevity also be accurate? The tweet implied that the Taliban is no longer a threat, that they’re not worth caring about. Yet the article clearly shows this is not the case at all. Quite the contrary, Mr. Friedman’s editorial acknowledges the Taliban goes to extreme measures to ensure girls DON’T  get educated. His article sited the statistics:

  • 640 schools in Afghanistan.
  • 350 schools in Pakistan
  • 80% of them schools for girls.

Burned. Bombed. Shut down.

His words, not mine.

How did it happen that we allow ourselves to be deceived by journalist and the media? When did we stop paying attention to details? Why do we put up with misinformation?

Many of Mr Friedman’s followers re-tweeted Mr. Friedman’s tweets – a few indicated they read the substance, and agreed that we’ll build new thinking in the next generation of Afghani people, village by village, through nation building efforts such as those going on by the thousands across Afghanistan.

Others responded to his “tweet” with calls for pulling out of Afghanistan – completely and profoundly missing the point of his article; certainly, they never read it.

Why does the drive to be a “trending topic” outweigh authenticity and integrity as a writer, as a journalist, and as an expert?

Last week, Walter Cronkite passed away.  During the days surrounding his passing, many, many reporters and journalists in the “mainstream” media, pointed to Mr. Cronkite’s character, his gravitas, his journalistic integrity.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman was having too much “fun”, (his word, not mine) being faried in his Chinook helicopter, to notice the men and women on the ground coming under attack, in this, the deadliest month of the war since our US fighting troops have been in Afghanistan.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman, escorted through Afghanistan under the watchful protection of our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our friends, our loved ones, our fellow Americans, forgot for a few minutes that the very real Taliban wants the world to be under the rule of Sharia law, where authors and journalists such as he, have no right to free speech, or the freedom of the press.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this blog may remind him to take his tweets more seriously.

I hope so.


2 Responses to “Tom Friedman let me down”

  1. 1 Suchi Sairam
    July 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Tom Friedman picked the wrong 140 characters on his tweet. For people who went to his article linked from Twitter, I’d be that the expected to read a very different article than the one that was written.

    Too bad, this seems to be very un-Friedman-ish. He would have been so much better served using the article headline for the tweet. And it’s not like he needs something particularly catchy or sensationalist for people to read his work.

    And, by the way, I enjoyed his article.

    • 2 applepiemom
      July 22, 2009 at 7:54 pm

      I thought his article was fine, too. I just hated the deception, the double-speak used to lure people in through his Tweet. Steve O says that’s the job of a good tweet, good title, good first line – he sees it all as a continuum.

      I contend that great writing, a great writer doesn’t use deception and sensationalism to appeal to his readership.
      He lessened himself, to me, anyway, by resorting to sensationalism.
      You’re exactly right, the title would have stood on its own merits, and his readers would have read whatever he wrote, because he authored it.

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