Non-PC Pundit: Friedman's Arab Ethnic Stereotyping

December 20th, 2006 6:49 AM
I'm actually beginning to think something could be afoot at the New York Times. On Monday, one columnist extolled the virtues of that fount of Western civilization, Hellenism. Tuesday, another columnist claimed freedom and liberty are distinct creations of Western civilization. Today, the celebrated Thomas Friedman offers up a laundry list of generalizations about Arabs that - from the keyboard of a conservative - would normally merit a Times editorial rebuke for ethnic stereotyping.

Among Friedman's observations in his subscription-required column Mideast Rules to Live By:
  • "What people tell you in private in the Middle East is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in their own language."
  • "If you can’t explain something to Middle Easterners with a conspiracy theory, then don’t try to explain it at all — they won’t believe it."
  • "In the Middle East, never take a concession, except out of the mouth of the person doing the conceding."
  • Civil wars in the Arab world are rarely about ideas."
  • "The most underestimated emotion in Arab politics is humiliation."
  • "The oft-warring Arab tribes are all wounded souls."

My point is not to take issue with Friedman. He might well be right. But don't these sweeping generalizations amount to ethnic stereotyping of the very sort the oh-so-PC Times would normally condemn? And if it is possible to engage in this exercise with impunity, does this mean that a similar approach is acceptable when it comes to anything from airport security to immigration policy? Or does only the MSM's favorite foreign policy pundit have license to stereotype?

Finally, taken with the columns of the two preceding days extolling the exceptionalism of Western civilization, could the Times be moving away from the moral relativism of multi-culturalism?

Finkelstein spent ten days in Iraq in November. Contact him at