To become a bit more human


Julie Wark reviews Belén Fernández's Letter from Iran, in Open Democracy:

As a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman represents the acme of establishment journalism. As the man who came up with the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”, he might better fit W. B. Yeats’ depiction, viz. “There is nothing in [journalists] but tittering jeering emptiness.” Yet Friedman is actually much worse than a hamburger purveyor since, as Belén Fernández has scathingly demonstrated, he is The Imperial Messenger, complete with guerdons, garlands and garbling. Friedman’s Iran is only scantily parodied in the clever spoof The New York Times Op-Ed generator as a country where “a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. […] If corruption is Iran’s curtain rod, then freedom is certainly its faucet.” What might a curtain rod and faucet have to do with Iran? Meaning here is overridden by function, something Karl Kraus warned of. A Friedman-style journalist “kills our imagination with his truth, he threatens our life with his lies”. One reads his rubbish and a desire to smack him red-mists any rational imagining of what he is actually saying. But the message being drummed in is that America must impose its “mindset” on those who are foreign to it, with nuclear weapons if necessary. He literally threatens everyone’s lives.

Belén Fernández is another kind of journalist, more like that described by Marguerite Duras. “Every journalist is a moralist […], someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees […].” This journalist isn’t after establishment awards but offers a gift that only asks in return a response in the same coin: that we see ourselves and others as members of the same species, with the same rights, feelings, wishes, and dreams. Her journalistic standpoint is clear in her recent review of Suzy Hansen’s Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World in which she writes that the self-critical Hansen “does the field of journalism a great service with her humility, introspection, and willingness to defy the establishment line.” Much the same could be said of Fernández who, a practitioner of what she preaches, finishes her review saying that the aim is “to become a bit more human”.

More here.