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Monday, March 17, 2003


Great Moments in the Decline of Journalism

As I have previously written, I am glad to see that Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? is selling briskly on Amazon.com. I am also impressed with the reviews of the book—such as the one in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review. I’m also impressed with What Liberal Media? because of the overall lameness of the negative reviews of it. Alterman mentioned some on his site, but probably the most egregious of these is by blogger Matthew Hoy, in his incomplete review (he only addressed chapter one but promises that there is “more to come”). I haven’t checked but I imagine that blogger Henry Hanks referred to Hoy’s review as a “takedown” of Alterman.

In chapter one of What Liberal Media?, Alterman addressed Ann Coulter’s Slander and Bernard Goldberg’s Bias. Hoy writes:

I must confess, I haven't read Coulter's work -- she doesn't really impress me and I've felt no desire to buy her book. Since I've not read "Slander," I won't attempt to defend it, but I will note that Alterman attacks it on two grounds: First, her footnotes don't support her claims; Second, she engages in mean-spirited and excessive name-calling.

I'll skip Coulter's sourcing issues -- frankly, I don't care. But I found it curious that Alterman would chide her for name-calling -- since Alterman practices it early and often. I won't point out every one of Alterman's zingers, but I will try to make note of some of the more colorful and original ones.


Hoy states on his web page that he was trained as a journalist and he works for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Yet he doesn’t care about Slander’s sourcing issues, only Alterman’s less important critiques of it. What’s wrong with that picture? First, Coulter’s sourcing issues were the main point of Alterman’s critique—that Coulter’s mendacity and bile refute the very premise of her book: that the decline in political discourse is “all liberals’ fault.” Also, Alterman goes beyond writing that “her footnotes don't support her claims.” Alterman illustrated that Coulter is a lying sack of shit (though he put it much more delicately). Yet in Hoy’s world, since he doesn’t care about the point, it is irrelevant and should be ignored. Shouldn’t that be a journalist’s primary concern?

Moreover, how the mainstream media received Slander is crucial to supporting Alterman’s premise. With Slander, we have a methodically dishonest book that trashed the left but received decent reviews in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. It took a small core of bloggers to take on the dishonesty of the author (since Hoy hasn’t taken the time to read Slander, in my Slander-blog, I have a variety of links that address the journalistic misconduct in Slander; but since he doesn’t care, I don’t know if it helps). If that’s the best they can do, Alterman is doing something right.


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