Barrett Brown | Keep Rootin' for Putin - Thomas Friedman's Five Worst Predictions | excerpts

"In 2001, Friedman advised the American citizenry to 'keep rootin' for Putin,' hailing the K.G.B. veteran as 'Russia's first Deng Xiaoping' and a strong force for reform. Three years later, Friedman announced in his most awkward prose that 'I have a Tilt Theory of History,' and called Russia a 'huge nation' (this part checks out) 'that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction' with regards to free speech, the rule of law, and the like. In 2007, Friedman finally noticed that Russia cannot even properly be termed a democracy and promptly wrote a column to this effect."
A longer excerpt from Brown on the topic:
The Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on New year's Eve of 1991, replaced in large part by the Russian Federation. Such a transition as this was without precedent, although the country itself was still overflowing with precedent, most of it terrible.

In December of 2001, Thomas Friedman took a trip to Moscow in order that the American citizenry might be better informed regarding the nation with which it had previously been locked into a half-century struggle that had ended millions of lives and threatened a billion more. The resulting column began with two observations; it seemed that "sushi bars are opening all over (yes, from borscht to Big Macs to California-Kremlin rolls in one decade!), and so many people have cars now that traffic is permanently snarled."

One could have perhaps ascribed such growth to the 1998 devaluation of the ruble, several years of significant increases in the price of oil and other Russian exports, or to the economic reforms that had been spearheaded largely by former Prime Minister Primakov a few years prior to Friedman's writing, but such things as those lack a certain thematic oomph. The Russians, Friedman explained, had finally gotten themselves a leader worth having in the transformative person of Vladimir Putin. "He's not a tougher Mikhail Gorbachev, or a more sober Boris Yeltsin," our columnist told us then. "He is Russia's first Deng Xiaoping - Mao's pragmatic successor who first told the Chinese that 'to get rich is glorious' and put in place the modernizing reforms to do it." If one was not already convinced that Putin is what Friedman said him to be, one had only to read the words that Putin would himself have written if Friedman were writing them for him, which is exactly what Friedman did:

That is Mr. Putin's basic message to Russians: 'For a decade, we've tried every bad idea, from default to devaluation to shock therapy. Now there's only one idea left: passing real reform legislation so we can get real investment to build a real modern economy. Because in this world, without a real economic foundation, you're nothing. So we're going to focus now on the only line that matters - the line for money.'

Having expressed the Russian president's views and intentions for him, The New York Times columnist was perhaps in the best position to summarize the significance of the fictional monologue he had just composed. And so he did that, too: "This is Putinism: From Das Kapital to DOScapital."

It is fine to know such things or at least believe them, but faith without works is dead. Friedman therefore ends his column with the following call to action: "So keep rootin' for Putin - and hope that he makes it to the front of Russia's last line."

Barret Brown, 2014, pages 19-20
distributed free by Free Barrett Brown Ltd