In the end, the most revealing thing about Friedman’s column was his invocation of those wounded soldiers. This seemed a transparent effort to establish his own patriotism, and it captured the pandering tone of the entire piece. To forcefully expose the truly disturbing forces at work in America’s body politick would risk opening Friedman to charges of being partisan and ideological. While casting himself as a fearless truth-teller, he is in fact giving voice to the bland conventions of mainstream American journalism.

Michael Massing is a contributing editor to CJR and the author of Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq.