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Terminal Decline


This is really one for Jonah. Scaramouche raises an interesting question re today’s New York Times. Which is the genuine Thomas L. Friedman column? And which is the parody?

Example A, opening paragraph:

I was changing planes at the new airport in Jakarta the other day, on the way to Stockholm from Vladivostok. Three young Bangladeshi boys sat in the passenger lounge, watching The Power Rangers on satellite TV. Their mother–garbed in the traditional sari–talked to her cousin, a migrant worker who sold German-designed Walkman knockoffs in Hong Kong, on a shiny new Samsung cell phone . . .

Example B, opening paragraph:

I was traveling via Los Angeles International Airport — LAX — last week. Walking through its faded, cramped domestic terminal, I got the feeling of a place that once thought of itself as modern but has had one too many face-lifts and simply can’t hide the wrinkles anymore. In some ways, LAX is us. We are the United States of Deferred Maintenance. China is the People’s Republic of Deferred Gratification . . .

Are NYT columnists playing some in-house parlor game whereby Frank Rich files a pastiche Friedman column and Friedman files last weekend’s hilarious Rich parody? Not quite. In compliance with the trilateral agreement signed at Davos by Friedman, the Sultan of Brunei and the CEO of Turkmenistan’s largest fax-machine importer, the real Friedman column always has the telltale Jetsons analogy:

Businesses prefer to invest with the Jetsons more than the Flintstones . . .

More fool them. You’d have made a ton more money if you’d invested in The Flintstones, which is a classic, instead of The Jetsons, which is a cheap knock-off with the veneer of modernity — or, as Tom would say, an airport VIP lounge with a bad facelift. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have invested in The Flintstones, while the U.S. military has invested in The Jetsons, and we’re the ones desperate to negotiate with them. Maybe it’s all more complicated when you leave the terminal and get in the cab. But happily, when you’re Tom, they usually send a driver . . .


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