Matt Taibbi, in his 2005 evisceration of Tom Friedman’s writing style, said:
The usual ratio of Friedman criticism is 2:1, i.e., two human words to make sense of each single word of Friedmanese. Friedman is such a genius of literary incompetence that even his most innocent passages invite feature-length essays. I’ll give you an example, drawn at random from The World Is Flat. On page 174, Friedman is describing a flight he took on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to Hartford, Connecticut. (Friedman never forgets to name the company or the brand name; if he had written The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa would have awoken from uneasy dreams in a Sealy Posturepedic.) Here’s what he says:
I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.
Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.
The challenge might have been rhetorical. But in today’s The New York Times, Friedman proffers a reply:
Sitting in a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Acropolis, I ask [Greek Prime Minister George] Papandreou to put on his safari hat and tell me what it was like to be hunted by the electronic bond herd for six months.
So there’s the answer: the electronic bond animal hunts in a herd, apparently for beleaguered leaders of financially distressed southern European nations.
Some unanswered questions remain, though. For example: a large congregation of insects is usually referred to as a “swarm.” But when grasshoppers are searching for our former prosperity so they can eat through it like locusts (see also here and here), do they form a “herd’?