The best satire is indistinguishable from cinema verité. I first learned that when living in England, and I discovered that the absurdity of Monty Python was really keenly observed reality expressed without filters.

Everyone had been to the cheese shop that carried no cheese; I shopped among the buxom middle-aged suburban housewives the Python troupe imitated. Frederick Wiseman couldn’t have nailed them so perfectly.

Which is why this Thomas Friedman op-ed column generator is so scary.

You’d think the man himself had created it—and used it repeatedly:


Last week’s events in [country in the news] were truly historic, although we may not know for years or even decades what their final meaning is. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what these events mean [on the ground/in the street/to the citizens themselves]. The [media/current administration] seems too caught up in [worrying about/dissecting/spinning] the macro-level situation to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the [desert for the sand/fields for the wheat/battle for the bullets].

When thinking about the recent turmoil, it’s important to remember three things: One, people don’t behave like [computer programs/billiard balls/migratory birds], so attempts to treat them as such inevitably look foolish. [Computer programs/Billiard balls/Migratory birds] never suddenly [blow themselves up/shift their course in order to fit with a predetermined set of beliefs/set up a black market for Western DVDs]. Two, [country in question] has spent decades [as a dictatorship closed to the world/being batted back and forth between colonial powers/torn by civil war and ethnic hatred], so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, [hope/freedom/capitalism] is an extraordinarily powerful idea.

When I was in [country in question] last [week/month/August], I was amazed by the [people’s basic desire for a stable life/level of Westernization for such a closed society/variety of the local cuisine], and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of [country in question] have no shortage of [courage/potential entrepreneurs/root vegetables], and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in [country in question] are just like people anywhere else on this great globe of ours.

So what should we do about the chaos in [country in question]?

Find out for yourself.

Is Friedman any more (or less) absurd than this?


  1. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    December 31, 2012 @ 8:04 am


    - Aggie

  2. Buck O'Fama said,

    December 31, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    Well, cheese can be tasty but I have no need for a Friedman column, either generated manually or via the mechanical route. But this should be of interest to the NY Times management in case they want to cut costs without decreasing the “quality” of their editorial page.

  3. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    December 31, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

    I was planning to try the Friedman generator with Syria.. or maybe Egypt. But I decided to do my nails instead.

    - Aggie

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