Holy Moses, I have been deceived

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Matt Y. does me the favor, again, of saying what I'm thinking before I have a chance to think it, here.

What he leaves out of the "Has McCain become ridiculous?" story are his puny fundraising totals, here. Not even as much as third-place Democrat John Edwards? Say "goodnight," Gracie.

Ditto. But is Jonah Goldberg really any less nuts than Rosie O'Donnell? (Actually, I heard Alexander Cockburn insist on CSPAN over the weekend that global warming was really just hype for the nuclear power industry. Twin sons of different mothers, perhaps?)

I went to a forum for Jewish student journalists last week, in part because I hadn't seen the exhibitions at the Center for Jewish History -- the family photographs of Polish Jews circa 1930s are beyond words, at least my words -- but also because I rarely get to hear Nathan Glazer speak about such matters, and I'm always happy to hear Michael Walzer on anything, but particularly on issues relating to Arguing the World, the movie about Irving Howe, Irving Kristol, Glazer, and Dan Bell. Joining them was Ruth R. Wisse, who is, I believe, the Marty Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature or something at Harvard, though in a fairer world, she'd be the Married-to-the-Singer-Sewing-Machine-Fortune-but-Lost-Most-of-It-in-the-Stock-Market Professor, etc. ...

Anyway, Wisse said quite a few things I found amazing. One was instructing these young journalists and budding intellectuals that they should think of themselves as a kind of adjunct to the Israeli army and ignore all intellectual distinctions, issues of personal honesty, moral complications, etc., and just defend Israel against its attackers. It reminded me of the time that Norman Podhoretz insisted, years ago, that "the role of Jews who write in both the Jewish and general press is to defend Israel," period. Talk about your dual loyalties. Talk about your intellectual dishonesty. ... Scary that these kids were hearing this stuff from a Harvard professor.

Also amazing, I thought, was Wisse's contention that Commentary is the most influential Jewish magazine in history. This was true onceuponatime, but today Commentary has hardly any circulation and virtually no visibility. It was recently dropped by the American Jewish Committee, finally, decades after it should have been, and last I checked, it was heavily into Rupert Murdoch's pockets (which is the only way these days that free-market-loving Podhoretzes of any generation can earn a living anymore). All this is by way of saying, "Take a look at the magazine right now." What's there?

1) The intellectually discredited purveyor of racist pseudoscience Charles Murray arguing what everyone's Bubbe and Zeida already knew: We Jews are smarter than everyone else. Geniuses, even. (And if you don't want my version, which I can't find online anyway, try Dean Lemann's takedown.)

2) The McCarthyite historian Arthur Herman, whose love letter/biography of Tail Gunner Joe, while consistent with Ann Coulter's own esteemed scholarship on the joys of McCarthyism, is not even embraced by the most right-wing of historians, attempting to blame the home front for Bush's catastrophe in Iraq, here.

3) And I see last month it published Amir Taheri, here, who is the guy who made up that false report about Iranian Jews being forced to wear yellow stars.

I don't feel like going into all the arguments these articles imply and the terrible things they imply about a group of Jewish propagandists-posing-as-intellectuals, but given the fact that for literally decades, Commentary was probably the single best magazine in America -- I read every issue of every good magazine from the 1945-50 period for what was going to be a doctoral thesis, and it certainly was then -- it's beyond sad. More significantly, however, isn't this just the kind of thing anti-Semites accuse Jews of saying and doing? If I were the kind of person to attribute the actions of a few to an entire ethnic group -- and were not a member of that group myself -- I swear, this kind of thing would get me thinking unkosher thoughts about the people that the racist Murray insists are God's Chosen People. Maybe someone should call Abe Foxman. ... Oh, wait ...

From our sponsors:

Making up stuff about John Edwards

Despite public support, NPR's Diane Rehm and Time's Karen Tumulty claimed "backlash" against Edwardses

On the March 30 edition of National Public Radio's The Diane Rehm Show, host Diane Rehm asked Time national political correspondent Karen Tumulty if she was "surprised" by "the sort of backlash" in response to the decision by Elizabeth and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) to continue his presidential campaign despite the recurrence of her cancer. Tumulty replied, "I am," adding that the supposed reaction was a "reflection of the political climate in which we're living -- everything is deemed fair game." In fact, while several media figures and pundits have criticized the Edwardses' decision, polling indicates that, by at least a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support their decision. Read more

Kurtz cited mostly critics of the Edwardses' decision to stay in presidential race, ignored public support for choice

In his April 2 column, "The Story You Can't and Can Put Down," Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz wrote that the decision by former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and his wife, Elizabeth, to continue his presidential campaign despite the recurrence of Elizabeth's cancer "has touched an exposed nerve" and added that "many journalists are sympathetic" while "others have slammed the candidate." Yet Kurtz went on to cite three examples of journalists and media figures who "have slammed the candidate" and only one who supported the decision, radio shock jock Howard Stern's "sidekick Robin Quivers." Moreover, Kurtz did not mention findings of recent public opinion polls showing that a majority of the public supports the couple's decision to continue the campaign. Read more

Time's idea of a "liberal"

Time.com's Cox cherry-picked poll results, claimed "voters still choose Republicans every time"

Despite the finding in a March 23-26 Time magazine/SRBI poll that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) each would handily defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in a hypothetical general election matchup, Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox wrote in the April 9 edition of Time that "when presented with matchups between the front runners of both parties, voters still choose Republicans every time." According to the Time poll, Clinton beat Romney by 17 percentage points, while Obama beat him by 24. Read more

Correspondence Corner

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, Washington

I call your attention to James Fearon's article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

Among other things, Fearon presents a compelling argument that even a "successful" troop surge (which he regards as unlikely) will place America in an untenable moral position and weaken our strategic position. Here's the abstract:

The White House still avoids the label, but by any reasonable historical standard, the Iraqi civil war has begun. The record of past such wars suggests that Washington cannot stop this one -- and that Iraqis will be able to reach a power-sharing deal only after much more fighting, if then. The United States can help bring about a settlement eventually by balancing Iraqi factions from afar, but there is little it can do to avert bloodshed now.

Name: Becky Martz
Hometown: Cambridge, MA

Dear Eric,

I happened to run across Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's address to the graduating class of Harvard in 1978. Many of the things he said then are still true. He talks of how the law alone, without any humans thinking of anything other than their self-interest, is not enough to create a good society -- "A food product manufacturer is legally blameless when he poisons his produce to make it last longer: after all, people are free not to buy it" -- and how we are so comfortable that we will not risk anything that would take our comfort away.

It's most interesting.

Keep up the good work!

Name: Sol Hurwitz
Hometown: Claremont, CA

Eric,

I'm curious. Are the opinions voiced in these columns the opinions of the individual authors? More importantly, do they represent the views of Media Matters for America or any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated?

Eric replies: The opinions voiced in this column represent only the views of the persons under whose names they appear. The vast majority are mine, but some are farmed out to those individuals identified. The letter-writers represent only themselves. Nothing at all here represents the views of Media Matters for America as an institution. Thanks for asking.

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

I'd like to expand a bit on Bill Skeels' comments on our favorite target, the MSM. Last week, the RNC talking point was that if the Democrats investigate too much, they will lose the support of the American people. Well, we all know that one smells to high heaven. I think the various opinion polls show that the American people want lots and lots of investigations (but when the House Government oversight committee starts investigating Barney's Christmas card list, then they've gone too far, and not one step before.) I think we need to face facts, that the House and Senate have to cram six years of oversight into two, and it ain't gonna be pretty. The U.S. Attorney story is just the toe in the door. Once the various Hill committees get ahold of the non-White House e-mail traffic, then things will really start to cook (and will someone please explain to me why WHITE HOUSE business was being conducted on unsecure servers?).

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