Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lazy Sunday

To be sure, the mustachioed marvel isn't known for wearing out the old shoe leather. As he told the New Yorker back in November, "I write my books by writing my books ... I don't start with six months of research." However, even by Friedman's own standards, his last two columns have demonstrated a degree of laziness that would make even the most shameless high school slacker cringe.

First, on Wednesday, Friedman made not one, but two points for which the principal evidence was the ordering of suggestions in the Google drop-down search box:

1) "Go to Google and type in these four letters: m-e-r-e. Before you go any further, Google will list the possible things or people you’re searching for, and at the top of that list will be the name “Meredith Whitney.” She comes up before “merengue” and “Meredith Viera.” Who is Meredith Whitney? She is a banking analyst who became famous for declaring last year, long before others, that Citigroup was up to its neck in bad mortgages and would not likely survive in its present form. Do you know how many people have to be searching for you if all you have to do is put in four letters and your name pops up first? A lot!"

Do you know how much gall it takes to submit a column to the most highly respected newspaper on the planet that makes arguments based on such trivial facts? A lot!

Friedman concludes Wednesday's column with this stunning discovery:

2) "For now, though, the banks still threaten to consume the Obama presidency. Indeed, I’m sorry to report that if you just type two letters into Google — “b-a” — the first thing that comes up is not Barack Obama. It’s “Bank of America.” Barack Obama is third."

But good news, everyone! I'm happy to report that if you just type two letters into Google — "d-e" — the first thing that comes up is not depression. It's Dell, as in the computer company. Depression is eighth. The economy's going to be all right, after all!

Sunday's column, meanwhile, leads off with a full paragraph from an Onion article, to illustrate a point about American consumer excess. Tom, I'm not telling you that you're not allowed to engage in Internet procrastination. It's something we all do, from time to time. It's just that, well, it's probably best to avoid drawing attention to it. At least get out of the office and talk to a cabbie, or something.

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