By Hamid Dabashi
3 Dec 2017
The problem with Daffy Duck, if you recall, is how, with his very limited mental means and compromised moral imagination, he is always trying to cover up his natural cowardice with vainglorious misadventures.
Here he is posing as a fast-drawing gunslinger pulling his guns to threaten some big men playing poker in a saloon - unaware he has actually pulled down his own pants and exposed his colourful underwear.
The same is with the two rich daddy's boys - Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman - who are now so intertwined we get their names mixed up as they are committing war crimes in Yemen, throwing the Palestinian cause under the bus, reforming Islam Israeli-style, causing mayhem in Lebanon, and hope to begin bombing Iran and to invade with the last American soldier their petrodollars and AIPAC lobby can buy.
In this simile, we also have a loudmouth Yosemite Sam, to be sure, whose name is Thomas Friedman. Thomas "Yosemite Sam" Friedman recently flew to Saudi Arabia and penned a long panegyric, utterly shameless in its banality, praising Mohammad bin Salman for initiating an "Arab Spring", no less, in Saudi Arabia. This detailed entry of the leading New York Times columnist for the Saudi "Minister of Love, Peace, Plenty, and Truth" (Bless your socialist soul, Brother Orwell - what would we do without you!) will remain in history as the final exhibit of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of American journalism.
Not An Insult But A Clinical Diagnosis
Let me be blunt. Thomas Friedman is an ignorant fool - and I do not mean that as an insult. I mean it as a clinical diagnosis of an almost-illiterate man who has been cheated out of a proper undergraduate education, sold as a liberal Zionist to the highest bidder, and thus has managed to ramble and blabber his way up as a top-notch New York Times columnist.
Just like Yosemite Sam, Thomas Friedman always barks much louder than he can bite. Like the cartoon character, Thomas Friedman always walks and yells with two drawn guns, for as an American Zionist, he travels with two nuclear powers (US and Israel) on his belt - and because this "imperial messenger" - as Belen Fernandez has rightly called him - walks with this two drawn guns, any claptrap he blurts out is published without any editorial sense of decency in the New York Times. We go to the "Paper of Record", as the thing calls itself, and without failure, we plunge into the ever-deepening abyss of a paper that has long since lost any sense of decency and self-respect.
Imagine the intellectual bankruptcy, try to fathom the moral depravity, of considering what Mohammad bin Salman and Jared Kushner are doing in Saudi Arabia and beyond an "Arab Spring!" Which one is more ignorant: that you have no blasted clue what the Arab Spring was, or your calling the treacherous atrocities of Mohammad bin Salman the Saudi version of Arab Spring? Countless books, piles of learned essays by Arab and non-Arab scholars and critical thinkers have been produced about the minutest aspects of the Arab revolutions. In art, literature, poetry, and scholarship - in scholarly conferences, academic seminars, and learned volumes young and older scholars have done their best to figure out the significance of the Arab Spring and then in comes this propaganda officer and issues page after page of a nonsensical gibberish the likes of which scarce anyone can fathom even in the "post-truth" age of "alternative facts".
Why would any self-respecting human being consider a palace coup in the Saudi royal family, led by a Zionist Arab prince, the highest achievement of the Arab Spring? What utter contempt could a person harbour for the democratic aspirations of millions of human beings who poured their heart, body, and soul into the streets and squares of their homeland to consider a juvenile delinquents power mongering an "Arab Spring from the top"? What high school, what college, what school of journalism did this man drop out of to utter such hogwash and get it published in the New York Times? What editor at the New York Times could get up the following morning and look themselves in the eye while their brushing teeth? It is beyond belief. And these people think they own and rule the world!
Brown Reformers and Latter-Day Lawrence of Arabia
Someone has just counted the number of times the New York Times has, over the last 70 years, called members of the Saudi clan "reformers"!
Thomas Friedman is the latest in the long panoply of Lawrences of Arabia dashing in and out of the peninsula in search of their oriental fantasies, of brown reformers facilitating their white imperial rule of the region. This lacklustre Yosemite Sam is neither the best nor the worst. He is just the most pathetically ridiculous. On behalf of his Zionist cousins, he is just elated to see a Saudi prince obsequious to white colonialists, while bombing and starving the Yemeni natives to death.
Which one of Mohammad bin Kushner's deeds, however, the world is left wondering, are we to read on top of his Arab Spring achievements? Slaughtering Yemenis with US weapons, sacrificing Palestinians to Uncle Netanyahu's delight, stealing more Palestinian land for the settler-colonialism that his buddy Jared bin Salman is financing, dismantling the fragile peace in Lebanon, or forming a new Saudi-Zionist alliance to cause yet another disastrous war in the region, this time in Iran?
To be sure, Iran is not exactly an innocent bystander here. Iran is the Bugs Bunny of this episode of the Looney Tunes - too smart and arrogant for its own good - knee-deep in the murderous mayhem of the Butcher of Damascus in Syria. But Iran is not the sole treacherous actor in this regional dance macabre. Everybody's hand is in someone else's pocket. From Turkey to Saudi Arabia, from Iran to Egypt, the ruling states, whether in opposition to US/Israel and Russia/China or in alliance with them, they scramble their rotten eggs and call the collective by-product ISIL.
Mohammad bin Salman, Jared Kushner, Thomas Friedman, Saad Hariri, Donald Trump, Daffy Duck and company and all their nefarious machinations are now integral to a bad cartoon show we are forced to watch. Their acting would have been quite hilarious, were they not integral to a dangerous liaison endangering our fragile life on this endangered planet. We are running out of metaphors to understand this calamity. The axis of mendacity from Riyadh to Tel Aviv to New York requires a whole new set of allegories.
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.