If I were to teach a course in critical reading I think that I would include Thomas Friedman’s most recent article, “Go ahead, Ruin My Day,” as one of the required texts.
This was vintage Friedman. Well written, well paced, covering all the hot topics, and definitely pointed. (Here’s some news to “ruin my day”).
Friedman is a master of conflation, a persuasion technique that usually has as its goal inflation. It works like this: you include, or “conflate” different examples in order to inflate the severity of the least valid example. In this case, the three example of bad news that might “ruin” your day were the Israeli elections, ISIS, and Iran.
Of course, Friedman doesn’t actually ‘say’ that each example is similarly bad, and perhaps he doesn’t even believe it himself. But by including each of the examples in the same column he is signaling to his readers that we should consider the elections results to be something very bad.
Conflationists like to lump together certain themes, such as bigotry. ISIS is a bigoted, racist group, and Netanyahu made some campaign comments that could be considered bigoted. Yes, except that ISIS cuts off your head and pushes gay citizens to their death off of high buildings. And they kill you if you refuse to convert to Islam.
By that way of thinking we could certainly lump Churchill and Hitler: Winston Churchill made many comments that could be considered racist, and so did Hitler. Therefore let’s include them both in the same column. (I hope that doesn’t “ruin your day”).
To support his cause, Friedman throws in some examples that will appeal to critics of Israel who like simple answers to complex issues, such as the settlements (as if everyone ‘knows’ that they are both illegal and the cause of the conflict). Also, to appear fair, Friedman discusses the lack of peace and concedes that we should not “put all of this on Netanyahu,” and then points to the “insane worthless Gaza war that Hamas initiated last summer,” and the fact that the Palestinians “spurned” two previous “two-state offers” from Barak and Olmert.
But if the Palestinians spurned two previous land-for-peace offers and if Hamas initiated a war last summer after Abbas walked out on negotiations and made an alliance with Hamas, then why blame the lack of peace on Israel?
Friedman doesn’t, he is much too clever.
Instead he simply conflates different “wrongs” to make his point: Israel has settlements and the Palestinians rejected two peace treaties and started a war in Gaza. (But remember, we shouldn’t “put all of this on Netanyahu.”).
What happened in Israel, yesterday, was Democracy. Yes, the campaigning got dirty at times, and some of us (and Mr. Friedman and President Obama) might not like the results, but that is how it works in democracies.
By the way, one result of the election is that the number of Arab members of the Israeli Knesset increased from eleven to seventeen.