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ERIC ALTERMAN Printer Friendly Page

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  • Media critic for MSNBC and The Nation
  • Claims the media is largely conservative

Eric Alterman is a media critic and has been a Professor of English at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York since 2004. He is widely known for his media, politics, and culture blog, Altercation, whose sponsorship was assumed by Media Matters for America in September 2006. Alterman also writes a regular “Think Again” column for the Center for American Progress (where he is a Senior Fellow), and a “Stop the Presses” column for The Nation magazine. From 1995 to 2006 he worked for the cable channel MSNBC, where he was an on-air commentator.

Alterman’s work is often characterized by a general mean-spiritedness toward his ideological adversaries. He has suggested, for example, that it would have been a service to America had conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh gone permanently deaf, and that conservative author David Horowitz is a "lunatic" who should suffer an early death.

Another hallmark of Alterman’s work is a selective disregard for evidence. For example:

  • Alterman has written two books, Sound and Fury (2000) and What Liberal Media? (2004) in which he claims that the American media skew heavily toward the political right. Yet in making this claim, he ignores a vast body of research proving exactly the opposite.
  • In December 2001 Alterman wrote that “as evidence now demonstrates, [Al] Gore won not only the national vote [in the disputed 2000 presidential election] … but also a clear majority of all the legal votes cast in Florida.” Comprehensive studies of the issue do not concur with this conclusion, however. Perhaps the most exhaustive analysis done on the elections, the Miami Herald’s “Democracy Held Hostage” report, states: “If all of the under votes had been inspected by election supervisors as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, Bush almost certainly would have won anyway. In fact, ... Bush’s official 537 vote lead over Gore might have grown if the recount had not been halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Strongly opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in May of that year Alterman claimed in his MSNBC column that the U.S. government’s alleged concerns about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction were not sincere: "It was all a big joke; something for suckers to get worked up about while Bush and company went to war for their own reasons."

In September 2004 Alterman elaborated on this theme, with the added suggestion that the war may have been motivated in large measure by pressure from the Israel lobby. Among his assertions were these: (a) "The American people were purposely misled and are paying for it dearly, in both blood and treasure." (b) "The war was planned by neoconservatives, many of whom worked directly with their counterparts in the Israeli government, who helped perpetuate the deception." (c) “The war did improve the security of Israel, but not that of the United States. No other country's population thought it was a good idea, including Britain, save that of Israel.” (d) “Pentagon neocons were spying for Israel and using the Israel lobby as a conduit.”

As the 2004 presidential elections neared, Alterman publicly lauded the leftist billionaire financier George Soros, who had recently announced that he would be spending $15.5 million to help the Democrats defeat President Bush at the polls. (A portion of that money was earmarked for the Center for American Progress, where Alterman serves as a Fellow.) Wrote Alterman: “George Soros aims to challenge the prevailing ideological winds in Washington. He doesn't need a weatherman to know which way they're blowing. How fortunate for us that he cares enough about his adopted country to do what he can to reverse them.”

In October 2006, Alterman was a signatory to a document titled “We Answer to the Name of Liberals,” which blamed the Bush administration for having launched the “illegal, unwise” Iraq War; for having “discouraged the prospects for an honorable Israeli-Palestinian settlement”; for its excessive “reliance on military intervention “; for its “contempt” for “the rule of law”; for its “vast tax cuts to the rich at the expense of policies that strengthen the common ties that bind us together as a community”; for its "suppression of votes" at the polls; for its “shameful” environmental record; for its failure to [protect Americans “from foreign enemies on September 11, 2001, and from the hurricane [Katrina] and flood that afflicted the Gulf Coast in 2005”; for its “human-rights violations “; and for its “rejection of basic guarantees of due process.” This document was co-written by anti-war activist and Columbia School of Journalism professor Todd Gitlin. Fellow signers included Robert Reich, Ben Waxman, Daniel Okrent, Michael Berube, and Michael Tomasky.

In addition to his two aforementioned books, Alterman has authored Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy (1998); It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (1999); and When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences (2004). He co-authored The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America (2004).

Alterman received a B.A. in History from Cornell University, a M.A. in International Relations from Yale, and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Stanford.



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