We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have had a great time re-reading Eric Alterman’s pathetic polemic What Liberal Media? The Truth about Bias and the News (2003). In said tome, Mr. Alterman, the incessantly enraged media critic of The Nation, argues that the mainstream media in the United States tilt to the Right of the political spectrum. That is to say, dear reader, the good ole’ MSM are biased in favor of conservatives.
This flight of fancy amounts to the single idea Mr. Alterman appears to have had in the course of his entire journalistic career. (Perhaps he’ll take on the supposed existence of gravity next.)
It seems as if it has not occurred to Mr. Alterman that this is all a matter of perspective–a raging reactionary could very well consider Fox News a haven for Communist shills. Those inveighing against liberal media bias take it for granted that, say, the Democratic Leadership Committee is an organ of the moderate Left, not, as Mr. Alterman would have it, of the Right.
As far as Mr. Alterman is concerned, however, The New York Times‘ Bill Keller is a “neoconservative.” Ah, yes: And John Conyers is a Republican patsy.
In fact, according to Alterman, pretty much everything is right-wing: The New Republic, Ehud Barak, refrigerator repairmen, alternate Wednesdays, soy milk, index fingers, &c. No wonder he thinks the MSM tilt Right: As far as he’s concerned, Eric Alterman and Noam Chomsky are the only genuine leftists in American political discourse.
So, why, you may reasonably ask, are we savoring a re-perusal of Mr. Alterman’s feculent book? Well, for those of us who greatly esteem poor, flabby arguments, Mr. Alterman’s What Liberal Media? is a locus classicus. For a fellow who holds a Ph.D. in history, Mr. Alterman has an uncanny knack for arguing like a mentally-challenged third-grader.
Take, for instance, this passage from the book, in which Mr. Alterman touts the intellectual openness of the few left-leaning news organs in America:
Its [the New Republic‘s] rival on the “left,” the Nation, happily published free-floating liberal hater Christopher Hitchens until he chose to resign, and also invites Alexander Cockburn to attack liberals with morbid predictability.
Wow: This, thinks a professional journalist, is a good argument. The Nation is a beacon of political diversity because it offered column space to Christopher Hitchens when he was a left-winger and has a place for Alexander Cockburn. To hammer his point home, Mr. Alterman insinuates that Hitchens’ No One Left To Lie To, an attack on Bill Clinton from the hard Left, is a right-wing screed.
Well, gee: To Mr. Alterman, criticism of the Left from the far Left amounts to an intellectual openness conservative publications lack. And it demonstrates left-wing tolerance for conservative views.
Does it get any sillier than this? The appearance of a Stalinoid hack like Alexander Cockburn solidifies that The Nation is not a redoubt of the political Left? To any person who’s even mildly familiar with reality, that’s completely daft.
But Mr. Alterman appears to have little interest in convincing anyone who has familiarity with reality. As such, his book is peppered with obviously partisan (mis)characterizations: Any leftwing study is automatically deemed “careful,” “serious,” and “scholarly”; any non-left-winger–no matter how moderate–is deemed “extremist,” “rich,” “reactionary,” &c.
With arguments like these, it’s no wonder that the mainstream media are so ferociously right-wing: The world’s only genuine liberal–Eric Alterman–is surely crazy.
(Note: The crack young staff normally “weblog” over at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” where they are currently urging Eric Alterman to write a book called Al Gore: America’s Most Famous Rabid Right-Wing Fascist.)