Warner Bros. Pictures; SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas Friedman goes to the movies, sees Crazy Rich Asians. What column is he inspired to write after two hours following the adventures of Rachel Chu and Nick Young?
The New York Times Twitter caption about Friedman’s next column provides the answer:
“Crazy Rich Asians versus Crazy Poor Middle Easterners — one has invested in education, trade, infrastructure, and human capital, the other has not.”
If “Crazy Poor Middle Easterners” isn’t the greatest Thomas Friedman column of all time, it’s pretty close. The only thing it’s missing is a taxi driver.
Friedman gets his best ideas while he’s relaxing. The World is Flat, an Everest of punditry and the best work of psychedelic literature since Alice in Wonderland, began germinating in Friedman’s head while he golfed in Bangalore and was advised by a fellow player to “Aim at Microsoft or IBM,” in reference to the tall buildings in the distance. Four-hundred-and-eighty-eight cheery pages about the interconnectedness of global capitalism followed.
Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy, but Friedman had a different take. His lede is one impressively long sentence:
I greatly enjoyed the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” because, beyond the many laugh lines, it reminded me of an important point: Rich Asia has gotten really rich — not because it doesn’t have political, tribal, ethnic and religious differences like other regions, but because in more places on more days it learned to set those differences aside and focus on building the real foundations of sustainable wealth: education, trade, infrastructure, human capital and, in the most successful places, the rule of law.
We can skip past the part where the exact opposite is true — especially the part about Asian countries emphasizing the rule of law as they get richer — and just celebrate the triumphant return of one of TF’s most cherished ideas, the Golden Straitjacket!
In 1999, Friedman posited that once you accept the tenets of American-style free-market capitalism (which you will, by force if necessary), you’ll be swimming in IMF loans and your poor citizens will be shitting cellphones. You’ll have no more war, because no two countries with McDonald’s have ever fought one another.
Once you put on the Straitjacket — the economic-doctrine version of the “last suit you’ll ever wear” — your “political choices get reduced to Pepsi or Coke… slight nuances of taste, slight nuances of policy,” Friedman writes. But you’ll be rich.
Asia, Friedman gleefully notes, put on the Straitjacket. But the Middle East kept resisting American influence, which is why they are now “Crazy Fucked Middle Easterners” instead of “Crazy Rich Middle Easterners.” Worse, Donald Trump is complicating the problem by not forcing the Straitjacket on the region. Why, Trump isn’t even willing to invade Syria to stop Russian-Iranian mischief, Friedman says.
Bottom line: the Middle East should stop “letting the past bury the future” and instead “let the future bury the past,” especially by investing more in education and infrastructure, like the Asians. Of course, we’ve been bombing critical infrastructure across the Middle East pretty much nonstop since 2003, and haven’t so much in Asia. But this is a minor point. Get with it, Middle East!
Such were Thomas Friedman’s thoughts after watching Crazy Rich Asians.
So, in honor of his column, I’m giving away a “Crazy Middle-Class Asian” T-shirt to the reader who comes up with the best idea for Friedman’s next movie-themed column.
Will it be Synechdoche, Bahrain? Syria Dark Thirty? Guess Who’s Coming to the EU? Tweet to me at @mtaibbi or write your guess in the comments below. I’ll send one T-shirt to the best entry, and another to an honorable mention.
Caution: Make sure that Friedman hasn’t already done your idea. He loves movie-themed columns, and if you’re not careful, you’ll plagiarize. In honor of the late David Bowie, I was going to suggest Merry Christmas, Mr. Putin, but Friedman has actually already done “Merry Christmas, Vladimir – Your Friend, Donald.”
Friedman also loves A Few Good Men and has done at least two columns on the theme, although it’s unclear if a recent column, “Sounding Code Red: Electing the Trump Resistance,” referred to the illegal punishment that Jack “You’re goddamn right I did!” Nicholson ordered, or some other, more obscure voting-based code red that only Friedman knows about.
Winners to be announced Monday. In the meantime, here are a couple of possibilities to get us started: please also participate in our poll:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
HOW TO ENTER: This contest begins 12:01 A.M. EST on September 7th, 2018 and ends 11:59 P.M. EST on September 9th, 2018. To enter online, go to https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/friedman-crazy-rich-asians-720604/ and follow instructions to submit your t-shirt ide. Limit one entry per person. Entries become sole property of Sponsor and none will be acknowledged or returned. By entering, Entrant warrants that his or her entry (1) is original and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any third party, (2) has not been published in any medium or (3) has not won an award.
JUDGING: All entries will be judged by Matt Taibbi based on the following criteria: creativity. In the event of a tie, an additional “tie-breaker” judge will determine the Winner from among all such tied entries using the judging criteria above. Sponsor reserves the right to choose fewer than XXX Winner(s) if, in Sponsor’s sole discretion an insufficient number of eligible and/or qualified entries are received. Incomplete and/or inaccurate entries and entries not complying with all rules are subject to disqualification. Decisions of judges are final and binding. Winner will be notified by email.
ELIGIBILITY: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 19 years or older at time of entry (“Entrant(s)”). Void where prohibited by law. Employees of Sponsor and its promotional partners and their respective parents, affiliates and subsidiaries, participating advertising and promotion agencies (and members of their immediate family and/or those living in the same of household of each such employee) are not eligible.
One Winner will receive a novelty t-shirt. Approximate Retail Value: $19.99. All other expenses not specified herein are the responsibility of the Winner. ALL TAXES ARE THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WINNER. The prize is awarded without warranty, express or implied, of any kind. Limit one per person.
CONDITIONS OF PARTICIPATION: No transfer, assignment, or substitution of a prize permitted, except Sponsor reserves the right to substitute prize (or prize component) for an item of equal or greater value at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Nothing in these official contest rules shall obligate Sponsor to publish or otherwise use any entry submitted in connection with this Contest. All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply. Entrants agree to be bound by the terms of these Official Rules and by the decisions of Sponsor, which are final and binding on all matters pertaining to this Contest. By entering, Entrant represents that any [photo(s), essay, etc.], and other materials submitted as part of Entrant’s Contest entry are original and will not constitute [defamation or an invasion of privacy or otherwise infringe upon the rights of any third party, and that the Entrant owns or has the rights to convey any and all right and title in such [photo(s), essay, etc.] and other materials. In addition, by entering, Entrant grants to Sponsor a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to edit, publish, promote, republish at any time in the future and otherwise use Entrant’s submitted [photo(s), essay, etc.], along with Entrant’s name, likeness, biographical information, and any other information provided by Entrant, in any and all media for possible editorial, promotional or advertising purposes, without further permission, notice or compensation (except where prohibited by law). Potential Winner, as a condition of receiving any prize, also may be required to sign and return an Affidavit of Eligibility, a Liability Release and where legally permissible a Publicity Release and confirmation of a license as set forth above within 7 days following the date of first attempted notification, certifying, among other things, the following: (a) entry does not defame or invade the privacy of any party; (b) entry does not infringe upon the rights of any third party; and (c) the [photo, essay, etc.] and other materials submitted are original and have never been published and entry has never won an award. Failure to comply with this deadline may result in forfeiture of the prize and selection of an alternate winner. Return of any prize/prize notification as undeliverable may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner. Acceptance of the prize constitutes permission for Sponsor and its agencies to use Winner’s name and/or likeness, biographical information, [and/or essay, photograph, etc.,] other materials submitted for advertising and promotional purposes without additional compensation, unless prohibited by law. By entering and/or accepting prize, Entrants and Winners agree to hold Sponsor and its promotional partners, its directors, officers, employees and assigns harmless for liability, damages or claims for injury or loss to any person or property relating to, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, participation in this Contest, the acceptance and/or subsequent use or misuse, or condition of any of the prizes awarded, or claims based on publicity rights, defamation, or invasion or privacy. False or deceptive entries or acts will render the Entrant ineligible. Sponsor, in its sole discretion, reserves the immediate and unrestricted right to disqualify any entrant or prize winner, if either commits or has committed any act, or has been involved or becomes involved in any situation or occurrence which the Sponsor deems likely to subject the Sponsor, entrant or winner to ridicule, scandal or contempt or which reflects unfavorably upon the Sponsor in any way. If such information is discovered by Sponsor after a winner has received notice of his prize and before the prize is awarded, Sponsor may rescind the prize in its entirety. If a portion of his/her prize has already been awarded, Sponsor may withdraw the remainder of the prize that has been fulfilled. Decisions of the Sponsor are final and binding in all matters related to this paragraph. Sponsor is not responsible for any typographical or other error in the printing of the offer, administration of the contest, or in the announcement of the prize.
INTERNET: Sponsor is not responsible for lost or late entries nor for electronic transmission errors resulting in omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operations or transmission, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to or alterations of entry materials, or for technical, network, telephone equipment, electronic, computer, hardware or software malfunctions or limitations of any kind, or inaccurate transmissions of or failure to receive entry information by Sponsor or presenter on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Web site or any combination thereof. If for any reason the Internet portion of the program is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes that corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Contest, the Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest. Sponsor reserves the right to select winners from eligible entries received as of the termination date. CAUTION: Any attempt by a contestant to deliberately damage any Web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the game is a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such contestant to the fullest extent of the law. If there is a dispute as to the identity of the Entrant, the prize will be awarded to the authorized account holder of the email address. The “authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person to whom the email address is assigned.
GOVERNING LAW: This Contest is governed by the internal laws of the state of New York without regard to principles of conflict of laws. All cases and claims pertaining to this Contest must be brought in a court of competent jurisdiction in the City of New York, without recourse to class action suits.
SEVERABILITY: If any provision of these Rules is found to be invalid or unenforceable by a court of competent jurisdiction or appointed arbitrator, such determination shall in no way affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision herein.
WINNER’S LIST: For name of Winner(s), available after September 10th, 2018, send a separate self-addressed, stamped envelope to 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this Contest is Matt Taibbi, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104