The New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman visited Yale yesterday. At a lecture and a Davenport College Master’s Tea, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of best-selling books on globalization and the Middle East shared his perspective on the post-Sept. 11 world. Staff Reporter Elise Jordan sat down to talk with Friedman.
Yale Daily News: How did you feel about what you saw at Yale today?
TF: I was just incredibly blown away by the energy of the people who came to the talk this afternoon. People just seemed really hungry to talk about what’s going on. To share at least my perspective, I really was impressed. Actually, before Sept. 11, I spoke at a lot of college campuses over the years, and you tended to get people from the town or older adults who read you in The New York Times or watched you on TV. You didn’t seem to get all that many students. They didn’t seem very interested in international relations and international affairs. That was like the best student audience I had ever had. It was great. It was really inspiring to me. I was really honored by it. That’s what I honestly feel.
The News: In 1998 you wrote a book about globalization titled “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” Since Sept. 11, how have your views about globalization solidified or changed?
TF: I think Sept. 11 was actually all about globalization. In my book — I developed a concept called the Super Empowered Angry Man, the kind of person who would use all the force multipliers that globalization allows — networks and fewer walls, the Internet and technology — to do something really bad. It would be a superempowered person, I called it. When I wrote my book in 1998, I used two examples of the Super Empowered Angry Man. One was a guy called Osama bin Laden and the other was a guy called Ramzi Yousef who tried to blow up the World Trade Center the first time around. Not only do I feel that the argument about globalization and the new world system we are in is correct, I think Sept. 11 to me really reinforced what I believed was going on in the world. And that is that we are in a new international system. It’s called the globalization system, and in this system you can get super empowered nice people and you can get super empowered angry men and women, and, when you do, they can be very dangerous.
The News: In June of 2001 you wrote a column in The New York Times that was an open letter from Osama bin Laden. You really hit the pulse of this. How does it feel that so many of your predictions did materialize?
TF: Well, you feel good, at least you were tracking what you thought was going on, and so much of the key to being a good columnist is about being a good reporter. It really is all about reporting. You’ll never be a good columnist if you aren’t first and foremost a good reporter and a good reporter all the time — I can tell you what I think about Afghanistan only if I go to Afghanistan. What you try to say with people is that you can agree with me and disagree with me but just give me one thing — whatever I said about Afghanistan I said after I went there. I do believe if you build your opinions on solid reporting, there is a good chance that on a big story like this you have a better chance of getting it right.
The News: Do you think that Americans are more self-critical and contemplative now, or less?
TF: I think there is a lot going on. I think a lot of people are asking, “why do they hate us.” That’s a good question, and there are some people who want to say “here’s why we hate you.” I think both are going on. Both are probably healthy.
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