Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Weekly Jackass Number Nine - Eric Alterman

Something about George W. Bush causes mass hysteria among 'progressives'. I would imagine the Left feels the same way about the conservative reaction to the Clintons. I happen to think Bill Clinton behaved in a manner unbecoming of any grownup, much less the President of the United States, with his inability to keep his fly zipped (because one is able to attract groupies doesn't make it right to sleep with them - better still would be to avoid putting oneself into these difficult situations, if a problem is known of beforehand). I also think he was a fairly decent president in the domestic policy arena who showed a willingness to compromise on such issues as welfare reform and economic policy, even if that willingness was only a result of a Republican-held Congress. Nuance, to reluctantly quote John Kerry's supporters, is sometimes necessary to avoid demonizing one's political opponents.

This anti-Bush hysteria is the only reasonable explanation I can conjure up to explain how someone with Alterman's credentials routinely puts out such poorly written garbage. Here's an excerpt from his bio at The Nation:
Termed "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today� in the National Catholic Reporter, and author of �the smartest and funniest political journal out there,� according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Eric Alterman is Professor of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, media columnist for The Nation, the �Altercation� weblogger for, and a senor [sic] fellow at the Center for American Progress, for whose journal he writes and edits the �Think Again� column.
Sure beats my resume - so what's missing from this picture? Either (1) Alterman's brain has collapsed under the weight of his hatred of Bush, (2) he is just phoning it in, tossing red meat to the faithful in the Michael Moore vein, or (3) he really is trying both to write well and with meaning, but is hopelessly delusional (see Chomsky, Noam).

That's enough intro - we'll let Eric drive, now.

Alterman on the Iraqi elections:

I don�t have a lot to say about the Iraqi elections because it�s way too early to know exactly what happened and what its ultimate effect will be.

Or could it be, Eric, a reluctance to give any credit to your nemisis?

Alterman on Bush, today:
Everyone knew that he was not going to do anything about AIDS in Africa as soon as it came out of his mouth.
Alterman on Ronald Reagan:
...Ronald Reagan was many things, but most undeniably he was a pathological liar. True, he also gave every impression of being an unbelievable moron (which is why Saturday Night Live could once parody his pathetic excuses for the Iran/contra scandal with a skit that depicted Reagan as--get this!--brilliant and competent). His worshipful, if fanciful, biographer Edmund Morris even calls him an "apparent airhead." The President's famous cluelessness was so obvious during his years in office that his defenders would attempt to deploy it as a defense of his actions, as if he were a small child or a beloved but retarded uncle.
"The most honest and incisive media critic writing today� on truth:
As NYU's Jay Rosen points out, "objectivity as a theory of how to arrive at the truth is bankrupt intellectually.... Everything we've learned about the pursuit of truth tells us that in one way or another the knower is incorporated into the known." (Remember Heisenberg? Remember Einstein?)

[Note: Eric is the victim of an old fallacy here: the assumption that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, a law of physics that applies only to the measurements of a particle's location and velocity, has application to the world outside of particle physics. It most certainly does not. Einstein's Theory of Relativity is a bit complex, but it has to do with the constant velocity of light, irrespective of the position or velocity of the observer, the bending of light by gravity, the curvature of space, and things like, you know, physics. The idea that somehow Einstein was providing a justification for fuzzy notions of philosophical truth and moral relativism is laughable.]
Alterman's desire to engage in terroristic activities:

I got a call one day from a Republican Party functionary telling me that Hillary Clinton supported a Palestinian state and took money from groups that supported terrorist organizations "like the one that just blew up the USS Cole." I told the sorry sonofabitch that like Israel's Prime Minister, I, too, support a Palestinian state. And, if there was any justice in the world, Hillary's "terrorist" friends would blow up Republican headquarters while we were still on the phone, so I could enjoy hearing the explosion.

Alterman on Bush's soaring Second Inaugural speech:
Not a word either about the fact that Bush's messianic foreign policy is killing thousands of innocent Iraqis and American soldiers; sowing hatred of America across the Arab (and most of the non-Arab) world; recruiting terrorists for Al Qaeda-like organizations; torturing hundreds, perhaps thousands of victims in numerous nations; supporting and empowering tyranny around the world; destroying the liberty of American citizens and noncitizens alike here at home; and shredding time-honored constitutional liberties as it invents new federal police powers out of whole cloth.
My guess is that Alterman is preaching to the choir because he makes a good living at it. At the usually caustic BuzzFlash, he actually gives a pretty reasonable picture of what the Bush administration must look like from a leftist perspective, largely avoiding the easy targets and loaded questions the raving interviewer throws at him. That's a pretty big disconnect from calling George W. Bush 'the worst president in [America's] history'. I truly can't believe that Alterman thinks that. The worst president in America's history overthrows the brutal Taliban, deposes Saddam Hussein, and is given a second term, Eric? Is that really your opinion, or are you engaging in a little showmanship to increase your book sales?

That suggests to me that this supposed paragon of honesty is not being very honest with his readers, and is deliberately tilting at windmills. Alterman has elsewhere been accused of being an incredibly rude, pompous jerk (and worse), but that's not surprising, and that's not the reason I'm making him this week's honoree. It is for your deliberate dishonesty, and your constant hyperbole, that I present you, Eric Alterman, with the 9th Weekly Jackass award.

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