First things first: How awesome is this?
“Eric Alterman. Do you know who Eric Alterman is? The left may treat him as a giant. I know that they do. He’s a kook! He’s a far-left fringe kook. But do you know who he is? Do you?”
Ok, back to work.
I’ve got a new “Think Again” column called “What’s Wrong with this Mainstream Media Picture?” about coverage of DISCLOSE Act, here.
And my new Nation column about the MSM’s embrace of Breitbartism and nuttiness regarding Journolist, is here.
Jeffrey Goldberg finally addressed my response to his Nascar post, in fact, twice, here and here. To those, like the younger Podhoretz who fail to understand the symbolism that anti-Zabars ideology occupies on the right, and who Goldberg, at least last time I checked, funnily terms to be the editor of “Mother Jones”—for which he is just about as qualified as he is to be editor of Commentary—see the short excerpt from “Why We’re Liberals” below.
Oh and I did a short Daily Beast recommendation for two new books, Rosanne Cash’s new memoir (surprise, surprise) and Christine Stansell’s new history of feminism, here.
By the way, I have never written much about this, because it’s a hard issue for which to find reliable evidence, but I have always believed that the intensity of both the hatred of liberals and the hatred of the media on parts of the right was really a kind of coded version old-fashioned Jew hatred and hence, Jewish neocons and others play with it at their own peril. It deserves a much longer, much more careful exegesis, but I have noticed an awful lot of Jew hatred cropping up on conservative websites in light of the false and defamatory articles about Journolist that have been dribbling out of Tucker Carlson’s terrible website. Here is a tiny sampling:
JournoList – more like Jewnourlist. Nothing but jews conspiring to defame White Americans. I particularlly like your cult member Eric Alterman calling White Americans “fn ret*rds”. I think more people are waking up to the fact that we have a hostile elite ruling America.
Comment by PeteMoylan on 7/22/10 at 11:13 am
I’m starting to appreciate what T.S. Eliot meant when he noted the undesirability to a society of any large number of free-thinking jews. The country founded by Jefferson, Madison, Washington and Franklin is dead.
Comment by Nietzschean on 7/22/10 at 7:45 pm
The Founders tried to warn America about jews. We should have listened. Jews are nation destroyers. Look at the filth that thst this country has become with jews in control.
Comment by PeteMoylan on 7/24/10 at 12:52 pm
Complaints, complaints, complaints. B!tch and moan, b!tch and moan. Boo effin hoo. Ruling America is very hard work, and do we get any appreciation for it? Of course not!
Comment by Ben Plonie on 7/24/10 at 7:51 pm
You can find more like that here.
And speaking of Journolist, I never paid much attention to Roger Simon before, but he sure does seem to be a very silly man. And it’s not just for foolishness like this (which Reed addresses below). There’s also this quote below, about, I kid you not, the next President of these United States, RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
“It is not unthinkable. A demographic plan exists: The Democratic candidates who win the presidency never win the white vote. Jimmy Carter didn’t, Bill Clinton didn’t (twice) and Barack Obama didn’t. What they do to gain victory is win enough of the white vote and an overwhelming minority vote.
As a black Republican nominee, Steele could get many of the white votes a Republican usually gets while cutting into the Democratic black vote. In this manner, he could defeat Obama in 2012. And that would be his pitch for getting his party’s nomination.” No really, that’s here.
Now back to Zabar’s The below is from “Why We’re Liberals:”
During the Republican convention in New York City in 2004, to take a trivial but revealing example, New York Times political correspondent—now op-ed columnist—John Tierney termed the city’s Upper West Side, “the neighborhood that has called itself "the conscience of the nation," something that is clearly false, as it is also impossible, given that no neighborhood can call itself anything. Even worse, in the same article purported to be “looking for liberal New Yorkers who might be re-examining their consciences,” outside the food store, Zabar’s. Exactly why such shoppers should be ‘re-examining consciences,” Tierney did not even bother to say. He merely assumed that the neighborhood was filled with liberals and liberal consciences required re-examining.
Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist set out to find McCain supporters on New York’s famously liberal Upper West Side, putting on a McCain-Palin t-shirt and parking himself in front of the legendary Jewish deli Zabar’s. He ended up finding one Republican couple, but not before being greeted with scorn and bewilderment by passersby, many of whom said that they didn’t know a single person in the neighborhood who is planning to vote for John McCain.
Back in the studio, Mika Brzezniski and Mike Barnicle were deeply disturbed by the way Willie was received in the neighborhood. Barnicle said, "That is an important cultural piece, and it proves why so many people are so right — no pun intended — to really loathe so many on the left. Those people are so close-minded."
In Washington D.C., Joe Scarborough — who often complains that Democrats fail to see beyond the Upper West Side and Georgetown — said, "There’s some really, really hostile people on the left who just think that they are intellectually superior."
Pentagon Papers 2: Electronic Boogaloo?
By Reed Richardson
Another week, another revelation (or 91,000 online revelations, to be precise) about how our nation’s massive military and intelligence structure isn’t really succeeding at its stated mission. And once again, a major national security story bursts onto the scene and within a day or two, begins to evanesce out of the national conversation. This time, what’s increasingly replacing it involves a media meta-debate about the very story itself, one that eschews much of the actual content of the Afghanistan war logs and instead focuses on questioning Wikileaks’ true motives behind digitally archiving the raw data and obsessing over the historic parallels between them and the Pentagon Papers from four decades ago.
To a large extent, though, this is understandable. After all, though the composition, viewpoints, and governmental mendacity uncovered in the individual AfPak war logs differ greatly from the original Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks documents, when combined with last week’s Washington Post series on our runaway national intelligence infrastructure, do paint an eerily similar and dismal composite of a nation foundering at war. (Indeed, for a chilling sense of deja vu, just read through then-Senator Mike Gravel’s short introduction to the Senate’s publication of the full Pentagon Papers from 39 years ago.) And today’s revelation that Wikileaks knowingly published the names of hundreds of the U.S. military’s Afghani informants, possibly endangering their lives, makes that organization’s role and reasons for facilitating the leaks a completely legitimate story to pursue.
What’s not so legitimate, however, is when Politico’s chief political columnist perpetrates sanctimonious sentimentality like this under the banner of a journalistic ethics lesson. At first blush, it might be tempting to simply dismiss Roger Simon’s “embarrassing” (his word) column—in which he all but ignores the big news of the week and instead chooses to rehash the JournoList saga and patronize its young founder, Ezra Klein—as little more than a 1,031-word curmudgeonly rant (that, for my money, Paul Lynde, did a far better job of here.) But to do so is shortsighted, as its tone and conclusions are emblematic of ongoing predicament plaguing journalism.
For all Simon’s talk of “we informed the public,” “we reported without fear or favor,” and “it was almost a holy calling,” it’s worth noting that the glorious priesthood of the early 1970s, when her first broke into journalism, had more than a few prickly rules about just who exactly was allowed to join in and lead the crusade. Or, as the multitudes of women and minorities from that era, destined to never be promoted past the copy desk or discriminated against before they could even set foot in the newsroom, might point out: “What do you mean, we, white man?”
When Simon lays it on thicker: “The lines were not muddy. We played it straight,” his idealized fable of journalism might best be described, to put it gently, as what comes out of the southern end of a northbound horse. In fact, the media’s ethical lines weren’t really well-drawn at all—an Associated Press Managing Editors study from 1974 found that fewer than 10% of newspapers had ethics codes. And in this vacuum, the notion of “playing it straight” that Simon homilizes about allowed for a lot of gray areas, as former Philadelphia Inquirer managing editor Gene Foreman writes in “The Ethical Journalist:
“As the 1970s began, a press pass entitled the bearer and his or her family to so-called freebies […] Although accepting those gratuities could be seen as selling out to the people being covered, only a minority of journalists abstained.” [italics mine]
Now I’ve never met Roger Simon and so I can’t tell you if he’s so pure of heart that he’s always been among that chaste minority, but when he speaks with the collective ‘we,’ he’s joining some not so wholly virtuous company.
Selective memory when it comes to events from nearly forty years ago is but a venial sin, however. We all do it to some extent. What’s more galling is when Simon returns his focus to today—this “new, angrier, more destructive age”—and starts gnashing his teeth over the motes in other journalists’ eyes without acknowledging the occasional, embarrassing log in his own. Then, in true he-said, she-said fashion, he balances a quote from Klein explaining exactly how nothing unethical occurred with a quote of ethical tsk-tsking from Tucker Carlson.
“What they did discredits journalism in general, and honorable liberal journalists in particular. I know plenty of progressives who have a healthy skepticism even of candidates they voted for. Most of the members of Journolist [sic] didn’t.
These crocodile tears for “honorable journalism” are particularly rich coming from Carlson, since it is his website, The Daily Caller, that not only violated established journalistic ethics by releasing the off-the-record JournoList emails, but also published an unabashed political hit piece under the guise of political commentary just two days earlier. Neither transgression, it’s worth noting, Simon found the space in his column to criticize. So why include Carlson at all? Because in the second part of his quote, Carlson willingly stokes the back-in-my-day, anti-politics fires that, I think, still colors Simon’s view of journalism.
OK, so those comments on his bio page about looking down on politicians are meant to be laughed off as a joke, but can you imagine a religion columnist similarly mocking the well-documented transgressions of the priesthood in his bio or a sports columnist sarcastically heaping scorn upon “the dumb jocks” he has to cover? There is some there there, in other words.
Indeed, I suspect that the growing acceptance of journalists like Klein, who willingly move between advocacy and so-called objective journalism, and media partners like Wikileaks, which have pointed, sometime complicated agendas, is at the core of the ethical uneasiness that Simon and many others in the mainstream media now express. But in a digital age where privacy—both personal and institutional—is rapidly shrinking, it’s imperative for journalism to embrace transparency if it is to continue to serve our democracy. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told the New Yorker last month: “To be completely impartial is to be an idiot. This would mean that we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed.” Whether the media likes it not, they may have learned a valuable lesson this week: you go to print on a war story with the sources you have, not necessarily the ones you want.
Forty Fort, Pennsylvania
Dear Dr. Alterman,
Shorty after the 2004 election, Charles Pierce offered some advise to the Democrats. His advise was summed up in one word: "No." Now that the shoe is on the other foot, you and Mr. Pierce no longer see the virtue of being the Party of "no". Why the double standard?
Eric replies: Well, number one, if Pierce said it that by definition means I did not. We are, after all, different people. And number two, is it a double standard to support something one supports and oppose a completely different thing one opposes? I think not. “Mr. Alterman, you said no to the glass of oil and vomit but yes to the Grey Goose martini on the rocks with a twist. Why the double standard?”
Here’s a Jerusalem Post column I wrote during Campaign 2008 about hunting and stock car racing.
RATTLING THE CAGE
‘Feh’ on Hunting
There was a story in The Jerusalem Post recently about how Sarah Palin was driving a lot of the old Jews in Florida back into the hands of the Democrats. They still didn’t particularly like Barack Obama, but they disliked Palin more, explained Steve Geller, a Jewish Democratic politician down there.
It wasn’t just the evangelical thing, he said. “Most of our South Florida condo people are appalled at seeing her standing over a moose.”
Finally. Thank God. I’d like to shake the hands of those South Florida condo people for saying what American Jews have been afraid to say ever since the rise of the Right: We don’t like hunting. We don’t admire hunters. In fact, we think they’re a little strange, maybe even a little bit sick – and with some of them, more than a little bit.
What sort of person kills animals for sport? For fun? You see this picture of Sarah Palin kneeling in the snow over this moose she’s just shot, and the moose is lying there bleeding from the mouth – and everybody’s supposed to applaud. This is women’s equality – women can kill moose, too.
By the way, this is not just a Republican thing; Hillary Clinton told the story over and over about how she learned to hunt from her father. In 2004, John Kerry made sure everyone knew he may be a Democrat with a Boston accent, but he was a hunter, damnit.
Obviously, they were going after the redneck vote, showing they weren’t prissy urban liberals, they were real, red-blooded Americans. That’s what you have to do to get elected president ever since 1980, when Reagan took over and country became cool.
And I have to laugh at these Jewish Republicans who are kvelling over Palin and what a regular, down-to-earth gal she is. I’d like to see some of these verbose Jewish neocons tromping around Alaska with a hunting rifle going after caribou, whatever the hell that is.
Why don’t they admit that they’re put off by Palin’s exploits in the snow, and by hunting in principle, just like those Florida condo people are. This is not a Jewish thing, and, as a Jew, I’m happy to say it’s not. I know there are a few Jewish hunters out there, and I want to say I feel sorry for you, you and all your gentile friends, that this is how you find joy in life – by killing deer, and moose, and rabbits, and ducks, and birds and whatever other animals you enjoy shooting.
By the way, I don’t mean to tar all gentiles as barbarians – I know that millions and millions of gentiles are also sickened by hunting, maybe most of them are. But let’s face it, even if most gentiles aren’t hunters, virtually all hunters are gentiles.
After all, how many Jews are members of the National Rifle Association? (No, you cannot count Charlton Heston, RIP.)
And I’m not one of those people who want to outlaw hunting. I don’t think it’s “murder,” I don’t think animals have the same rights as people. Actually, I’m no great animal lover at all. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I identify with the humorist Fran Lebowitz, who, when asked to name her favorite animal, replied: “Steak.”
And I don’t hate guns, either; I got a big kick out of target practice in the army. I’m also not a stickler for gun control; I understand that in some places and some situations, a gun is a good thing to have, and I’m not convinced that rounding up guns in America would bring the crime rate down to European levels.
It’s just that I don’t like the idea of killing animals for pleasure, and I don’t think being a hunter is anything to be proud of. I wouldn’t do it, and frankly, I don’t think I could be friends with somebody who did it, or at least somebody who did it passionately, and it seems to me that all hunters are passionate about hunting. It doesn’t strike me as a hobby you can pursue half-heartedly.
The South Florida condo people have a term for it: goyishe naches. Gentiles’ idea of happiness. Not all gentiles, of course, but too many of them, including Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and, of course, Dick Cheney. (Just think – if the yidden in Florida had known all along that Cheney was such a remarkably eager hunter, Al Gore probably would have won in 2000.)
So let’s all of us Jews, or virtually all of us, along with the vast, civilized majority of gentiles, stand up and say: Feh on hunting! You think that makes you a man, or a strong woman? It makes you a nut! You should be ashamed of yourselves! Unless you’re starving, leave the poor animals alone!
And now that we’ve told the rednecks and the politicians who pander to them what we think of that great American pastime, shall we talk about stock car racing?
Las Vegas, Nevada
Brother Pierce clearly is slipping. He segues from the PBS special on Merle Haggard into a reference to Willie Nelson without mentioning "Pancho and Lefty"? For shame, Brother Pierce. You lose one point on the next "Wait, Wait."
I have always thought of Tucker Carlson as an intellectual poseur who couldn’t think his way out of a paper bag, much less punch his way out of it, but I always will be grateful to Jon Stewart for going on the late and unlamented "Crossfire" and showing the country what Carlson’s mainstream media protectors and allies never would show: that there is no there there.
Meanwhile, Friday night, National Public Radio gave an hour of prime-time to an obituary on Daniel Schorr. If you missed it, get to NPR and listen to it. True, Schorr was a bit fast on his feet in explaining some of his problems at CBS, but it was just a perfect example of why NPR is a national treasure … that, and "Wait, Wait," among other things.
Eric replies: I disagree with the all of the above, except the part about Crossfire. Someone needs to learn that there is a great deal more to Willie and Merle than one Townes van Zandt song (or even one album, however great.)
These are really trying times, as we watch Obama’s approach to our issues mirror his approach that led to weakened health care and financial reforms, and his failed climate legislation: noble efforts that favored backroom industry dealmaking. (Please do blog or post this email, as it is not meant for public distribution.)
As I write this, the failure of FCC oversight is so acute that it verges on farcical. The April ruling by a federal court not only prevents the FCC from policing the activities of providers like AT&T and Comcast, it leaves the agency unable to enact most of President Obama’s big promises, like making the Internet more affordable and accessible and protecting Net Neutrality.
As I’ve outlined many times over, the failure of previous administrations to ensure competition has left U.S. customers paying much more for much slower service than consumers in Europe and Asia. Here, phone and cable companies enjoy a duopoly in 96 percent of U.S. communities; an uncompetitive market by any measure.
Reasserting FCC authority could be accomplished by a simple majority vote by the current commissioners. But in today’s Washington, nothing in the public interest is simple, and FCC Chairman Genachowski is thus far side-stepping reasserting that authority in a meaningful way. His rationale? The overwhelming pressure he’s getting from a Congress captured by a telecom juggernaut that is second only to Big Pharma in lobbying expenditures.
Op-eds, advertisements and letters from lobbyists, PR firms, think tanks and fake grassroots groups flood Genachowski’s office. A cottage industry of political mercenaries continue calling us “radical” and “fringe.” (check out this cool site we built to document the groups attacking us) In this environment, truth becomes irrelevant, and the attacks work. We now have a majority of the US House (including 74 Democrats) urging the FCC to remain powerless. It’s common knowledge that there are more than 40 senators lined up with phone and cable companies as well.
But rather than make good on Mr. Obama’s promise to “take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality,” the Obama FCC is holding closed-door meetings with industry to cut a deal. Chairman Genachowski will likely announce “mission accomplished” with fake versions of Net Neutrality riddled with loopholes called “paid prioritization” and “managed services” that would allow Internet providers to create fast lanes for preferred clients and leave everyone else in the slow lane.
Rather than push for increased competition among Internet providers – the best way to drive down costs and increase choices for consumers – the Obama FCC gave up the effort before the debate even began, by leaving it out of their National Broadband Plan. And rather than promote then-Sen. Obama’s call for “an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation and allows them to be heard,” Obama’s FCC has made no indication that it plans to block or set aggressive conditions on Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal— the biggest media merger in a generation.
We’re now pulling every lever we have. We’re increasing our organizing capacity and putting together dozens of in-district meetings in August. We’re hosting a public hearing in Minneapolis with Commissioners Copps and Clyburn . We’re continuing to run a 24/7 rapid response communications and research operation to debunk the steady stream of articles, op-eds, public letters, events, ads, faux-research and other tools of the companies. Most of it can be found here.
And our long term work continues on policies to promote journalism, more robust public media, and the other areas of Internet policy.
I will confess that the past year has been extremely frustrating, as we’ve seen a total of zero substantive media and tech promises fulfilled by Team Obama. It shines a light on the profound problem of money in politics, and how the system fundamentally favors industry over the public interest, no matter the costs.
It’s a reminder to everyone: if we don’t address money in politics and create a critical, accountable Fourth Estate, we’re screwed. It’s that simple.
I promise my next update will be a little less sardonic. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
PS. Check out this incredible excerpt from Al Franken’s speech on our issues at Netroots Nation. It’s inspiring.
Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.