Mykleby's letter is suspicious for a number of reasons. First, in both content and style, it bears a striking resemblance to Friedman's own writing. In fact, minus the quotation marks, it could pass for any of the eight trillion columns Friedman has churned out in the past decade about the urgent need to reduce oil consumption and promote alternative energy. To wit:
This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ... Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something.
Second, the name Mark Mykleby sounds made up. I don't know why, but it does. Certainly the alliteration has something to do with it. Add in the vague occupation description and the fact that he's writing letters to a tiny newspaper in South Carolina despite the fact that, if he works at the Pentagon, he must live in the D.C. area, and it's enough to raise eyebrows.
I see two possibilities here:
1) There is nobody named Mark Mykleby, and both the man and his letter are fictions of Friedman's imagination. It's possible that this letter actually appeared in the Beaufort Gazette, but that doesn't rule out the possibility that it was planted there by Friedman himself, writing under a psuedonym. This theory is strengthened by the fact that over the years, Friedman has penned a number of columns in which he pretends he's somebody else (like the U.S. President) and writes letters or speeches in their name. If so, this would represent a troubling but immensely exciting development. Though on the one hand it represents a serious breach of journalistic ethics, on the other hand I can't wait to see what exciting adventures Friedman has planned for his alternate persona. Come to think of it, alliterative names do seem to be popular choices for secret identities (see Parker, Peter and Banner, Bruce.)
2) Friedman is telling the truth -- there is a person named Mark Mykleby, he does work at the Pentagon, he is friends with Friedman, and he did write this letter. This is also a troubling possibility, for two reasons. First, because it raises the prospect of an army of wannabe Friedmans roaming the land, flooding "Letters to the Editor" pages with derivative Friedman columns. Second, because it once again reinforces a puzzling tendency in Friedman's recent columns to rely on extended quotes from people who think and talk exactly like he does. (Those wishing for an in-depth look at this phenomenon should see the earlier post, "(See above).")
The rest of the column is pretty standard late-Mannerist Friedman fare, detailing how the latest major news story is a crisis but also a moment of opportunity, and demonstrates the urgency of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, boosting American innovation and a bunch of other pet Friedman proposals that may or may not have anything to do with the major news story itself.
Also amusing is the disembodied quote from "corporate strategy consultant" Peter Schwartz in the next-to-last paragraph. What's it doing there? Your guess is as good as mine.