The Smart Set’s favorite idiot heaves up a chin puller about Russia. It starts out oh-so-pretentiously, with a reference to Chekhov. (Note to Friedman: we don’t care.)
It then goes on at nauseating length expressing his befuddlement at Putin’s failure to transform Russia from the poster country for the resource curse and his zero sum, oppositionist foreign policy. What’s so befuddling? It’s like being befuddled at the fact that fish swim, rather than peddle bicycles.
The best-or worst, depending on how you look at it-comes at the end when Tool Time Tom describes his sit-down with Vladislav Surkov, the ominous political technician:
I am wrong to be so pessimistic, says Vladislav Y. Surkov, the deputy prime minister for modernization. I was in Surkov’s office in the Russian White House here a few days ago. As I was interviewing him, it was impossible to ignore the two posters on his wall. One showed the Google co-founder Sergey Brin and the other Vladimir Zworykin, who served as director of the RCA Laboratories in Princeton in the 1950s and helped to pioneer television. “O.K.,” I asked Surkov, “why are those two on your wall?”
“I want to send the message to the visitors to this office that Russia gave the world such geniuses,” said Surkov. “Their inventions have entered every household in the world, and the fact that these people, of our kin and our blood, managed to give such gifts to the world should fill our hearts with faith that Russia has a future as an innovative power.”
Uhm, does Tom immediately jump on the fact that both of these geniuses left Russia? Did he ask Surkov what that says about Russia, in the 50s and today? This oversight (or was it cowardice?) is particularly amazing given that one of the few sensible things that Friedman says in his column is that smart people can leave, and that this is a threat to the country’s future.
Then Friedman gingerly raises Pussy Riot, drawing this retort from Surkov:
But I couldn’t resist noting that innovative cultures don’t do things like throw the punk band Pussy Riot into prison for two years for performing a “punk prayer” in a cathedral. That sends a bad signal to all freethinkers. Surkov, who also keeps a picture of the American rapper Tupac Shakur behind his desk, pushes back. “Tupac Shakur is a genius, and the fact that he was in prison did not interrupt either his creative juices or the innovative development of the United States.” Pussy Riot is no Tupac Shakur, he added. “Being orthodox myself, I feel really sorry for the girls from Pussy Riot, but [their situation] has no implications for the innovative developments of Russia.”
Talk about a target rich environment-but again, Friedman doesn’t pull the trigger. Is Surkov saying that jailing people for years for expressing political dissent is equivalent to jailing them for sexual assault (which is what Tupac went to jail for)? Or is he just engaging in typical Russian whataboutism bullshit, insinuating that Tupac was some kind of political prisoner? Even more offensively, what did Friedman say in response to Surkov’s dismissive remark that it’s no big deal to throw creative people in prison, because it won’t “interrupt their creative juices”. Hell, maybe he even thinks it is a spur to creativity.
How much does this guy get paid? Friedman, I mean. And why exactly is he considered some kind of deep thinker? You can read a lot about Russia, and come across a lot of truly superficial and silly analysis. But it’s a rare day when you come across something as utterly clueless as what passes for Tom Friedman’s Deep Thoughts on Putin’s Russia.