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March 02, 2005

Recapping the Paradigm Shift

I've been on this like Keith Olbermann on Jeff Gannon for a few days now. For those of you late to the party, here's a quick recap. I'm omitting all the terrific news about real-world events because, frankly, there's just too much of that right now to recap, and there's more every hour or so. I'm just concentrating on the media's own paradigm shift-- its grudging admission that Bush's much-maligned "forward strategy of freedom" might actually be working.

First, David Brooks introduced the idea of Kuhnian paradigm shifts. Well, he didn't introduce it; Kuhn did. But he introduced the idea that the Iraqi elections and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon may have been a sea-change in Arabs' and Muslims' notions of what was possible and desirable in their societies.

Thomas Friedman and Michael Barone then wrote basically the same column, speaking of "tipping points" rather than paradigm shifts.

The Friedman piece was especially important, I think. For Friedman occupies a special place among reasonable liberals-- he, along with Paul Krugman, defines the outer boundaries of liberal conventional wisdom.

Krugman tells liberals how crazy and partisan they're allowed to be and still be considered, within liberal circles anyway, not completely nutters, not one of those black-bandana wearing anarchist types.

And Friedman defines the other pole-- how conservative a liberal is allowed to be before having to turn in his membership card.

When Friedman speaks, more reasonable liberals listen. Frankly, I think he's overrated and often just tells you the bleeding obvious, but liberals understand that when Friedman says "You must admit, or at least begin to consider the possibility, that all of this may in fact work," his admirers in the New York Times and Slate and Salon and all the rest know they need to follow his lead or else they'll begin looking... well, a bit like Paul Krugman.

After Thomas Friedman gave him his marching orders, Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl then did in fact dutifully execute them.

As did the New York Times editorial page itself.

And then the BBC and even the Arab press itself.

And then fake-journalist Jon Stewart, considered by many daffy liberals to be the most trusted anchor on TV.

And then, in the Mother of All Shocks, even the NPR domino fell.

And a special, very grudging "Huzzah" to Bill Maher, who admitted this could happen before any other liberal, way back on February 4.

Unbelievable. When I first brought up the possibility that Friedman's column might cause a stampede of media groupthink towards the right, I was only half-serious.

Well, less than half-serious. I didn't think it would happen; I just speculated that with Thomas F'n' Friedman now admitting that freedom might actually work, the press corps might feel obliged to reconsider three years of relentless negativity and doom-saying.

But the stampede does in fact seem to have happened.

Anyone who can get cows to move that fast must have a little cowboy in him. Which makes Thomas Friedman something of a kindred spirit to President Bush.

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posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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