This song comes from nineteen sixty-two / Dedicated to a man who's gone*

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

It's amazing how The Note manages to suck as much as it ever did at a fraction of its old length -- with an even smaller fraction of its old entertainment value. Here's (almost) everything wrong with the MSM in one (stupid, ahistorical, uncontextual, substanceless, cynical, Republican-biased) paragraph

With the Democratic field still tearing itself up over the war, Al Gore is grabbing headlines for another day as he makes the rounds touting his latest book. The former vice president is saying he's not running while still not entirely ruling out a run -- and sure seems to be enjoying the attention. ABC's Jake Tapper reads Gore's book as "so nakedly political and sharply critical it's hard to discern what his plans may be." "Gore sheds his inner Marshall McLuhan for his inner Michael Moore," Tapper writes.

(Oh right, it's the Democratic field that has the political problem with the war; did you know that the person doing PR for ABC News used to do it for McCain, by the way?)

Not Better than Ezra: Stay away from the Smithsonian.

How's Paulie? Oh, Paulie, won't see him no more. (Thanks, Todd.)

From our sponsors:

Pinkerton falsely claimed CNN showed photo "still" juxtaposing Falwell and Hitler

On Fox News Watch, Newsday's James Pinkerton asserted that, during its coverage of Rev. Jerry Falwell's death, CNN featured "a picture of Falwell and [Adolf] Hitler together" as "kind of their idea of what he [Falwell] ought to be." In fact, the image appeared in archived footage of a demonstration in which protestors held placards featuring the faces of Falwell, Hitler, and other prominent political figures.

In criticizing Media Matters, Newsday's Thrush, Politico's Smith conflated investigative reporting with Blitzer's baseless question

In a May 18 entry to his Politico.com weblog, Politico senior political writer Ben Smith cited Newsday reporter Glenn Thrush's criticism of a May 14 Media Matters for America item, which documented CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asking whether former President Bill Clinton's campaign ad on behalf of the 2008 presidential bid of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), is "the act of a supportive husband or a sign the Clinton campaign is feeling desperate." Thrush quoted Media Matters Director of Media Relations Karl Frisch's statement regarding the May 14 item: "Journalists shouldn't be in the business of asking loaded questions that aren't based on any discernible fact." Smith left out the actual question Blitzer posed that Media Matters flagged, writing that Media Matters "offered [Thrush] an ad hoc new standard not only for what reporters write -- but for the questions we ask." But Thrush and Smith conflated two different actions, with very different purposes and consequences -- that of a reporter digging for information and that of an anchor making a baseless suggestion on-air in the form of a rhetorical question. Contrary to their accusation, Media Matters faulted Blitzer not for asking the question in the course of investigating a story but for posing the question rhetorically to tease an upcoming segment.

Kurtz again suggested false comparison between MSNBC, Fox News

In his May 21 Media Notes column, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz suggested that MSNBC is the liberal equivalent of Fox News. Kurtz asserted: "While several of the Democratic candidates have appeared on Fox, the top tier has been shying away, even as the Republicans have debated on MSNBC." Kurtz was referring to the May 3 Republican presidential debate sponsored by MSNBC and The Politico, which was moderated by Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball and the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, but Kurtz offered no support for the comparison he drew. In fact, Media Matters for America has documented numerous occasions in which Matthews and his colleagues have showered praise on several of the Republican presidential hopefuls or baselessly attacked Democrats.

Alter-reviews:

It's been '70s week in my neighborhood. I saw Steely Dan at the Beacon last night (they were just barely OK; not nearly as good when I saw them with Michael McDonald at Jones Beach this summer, where they did far more expansive and generous set, and oy, the ticket prices, $154 plus Ticketmaster ...); Stephen Stills at the Ethical Culture Society last week, and he was wonderful, in exactly the ways the Dan were not -- expansive, generous, inclusive, playing old stuff in new and interesting ways; and a "Mountain Stage" live performance at Town Hall on Saturday night with Nellie McKay, the Roches, David Bromberg, Joan Osborne, and a few other people. That was excellent. I am one of those people who can't stand the public radio "voice" and we got some of it between sets, but musically, it was a real treat to have all these smart, sophisticated acts in one place at one time. Nellie was backed up by the "Mountain Stage" band, or whatever they're called, and this gave her material a richness that is missing in her manic, charming, but more demanding solo shows. The Roches did mostly material from their new CD, Moonswept, which Suzzy neglected to plug, so I'm doing it here, together with a "picture" perfect "Hallelujah Chorus." David Bromberg is one of the world's greatest guitarists, but he did not get nearly enough time -- there was too much "radio" stuff in this show for my taste, and Joan Osborne demonstrated that "soul" is something that white chicks can manifest, whether singing old country songs or old "soul" songs. "Kiss and Say Goodbye" is a long-neglected classic, resurrected, I'm guessing on her new album.

Anyway, I guess it's nice for the people in West Virginia to get to have Mountain Stage in their neighborhood, but here in New York, we're spoiled, and so next time guys, add the patter afterward. The show will be broadcast someday soon and is streamed online, and if you live here, you can hear it on the incomparable WFUV.

* "Border Radio," the Blasters.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rich Siegel
Hometown: Northbrook, IL

So we now learn that not only is Iraq a recruiting and training hotbed for Al Qaeda, it is actually helping to fund the home base.

When can we put the lie to the administration/Republican memes that if "we are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here", or "if we leave they will follow us home." (This one always sounds like the voice at the end of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World -- "A ghost will follow you home" -- and about as realistic.)

The reality is that we are training them (and funding them) there so they can better learn how to attack us here.

Name: Bob Rothman
Hometown: Providence, RI

Eric,

I'm no fan of Bud Selig's, but I don't believe his likely snub of Barry Bonds when Bonds breaks the lifetime home run record is due to racism. No, I think he doesn't want to honor anyone who breaks Hank Aaron's record.

Remember, Selig is from Milwaukee, where Aaron began his career, and he signed Aaron to the Brewers to close out his career. By all accounts, they are friends. And Aaron is, of course, African American.

To me, the situation is analogous to that of Ford Frick, who was commissioner of baseball in 1961, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris vied to break the single-season home run record held by Babe Ruth. Although it was little known at the time, Frick had been Ruth's ghost writer, and it was he who decreed that anyone who broke the record during the longer season would carry the notorious asterisk. Maris bore the taint the rest of his life because of Frick's conflict of interest.

Of course, "conflict of interest" is Bud Selig's job description.

Name: Jonovich
Hometown: Great Midwest

God am I glad I don't see the world the way that Monday does. A Naderite, today, is not the Naderite of yesteryear, and is only one rung away from a Bushie on the ladder of incompetence. I used to get confused as to whether they were one rung above or one rung below, but that's been cleared up recently. There are no rungs below W these days.

By the dialogue Monday uses to attack you, I suspect that at one time Monday was a Republican. Republicans excel at generating false truths about their opponents, then applying derogatory labels (name calling) in an attempt to get those false truths to stick. Could it be that Americans are finally waking up to GOP tricks? The results of the 2006 election seem to suggest just that. You are going to have to go a lot further Monday than name calling to get anyone to listen.

Plainly put ... what Ralph Nader did in 2000 was not noble by any means. And the fact that he is proud of his 2000 accomplishment makes it every bit fair to saddle him with labels of irresponsibility and some blame for the sad state of affairs we're in today. Ralph tainted himself. You're speaking to a bunch of empty chairs in this forum when you attack Eric Alterman. The label they are trying to put on Jimmy Carter these days seems more fitting for Nader ..... "increasingly irrelevant."

Name: Karl Steel
Hometown: Brooklyn

you have committed yourself to a life of Activism by hiding in the overpriced academic institutions of this land; sheltered among the rich and privileged children whose lily-white skin resembles your own.

Clearly someone who's never been to Brooklyn College.

Name: Dale
Hometown: Cleveland, Tennessee

I have purchased LOA volumes since they began -- both for their contents and their high production values. It's been sad to see the slow devolution of the book to the point where little or nothing commends trade editions over book club editions. My current favorite LOA is that containing the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. When the volume was announced I said, "He's finally made it!" I once emailed and ask if they had any plans for releasing any volumes of the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs (admittedly not a great writer but a hell of as storyteller) and at the time they indicated no such plans. The release of the Lovecraft volume gives me hope!

Name: Jason Boskey
Hometown: Seattle

When I read a letter like Barb G wrote, it only further strengthens the belief that Israel will continue to be a divider within this country. Otherwise progressive Jews suddenly fall into attitudes more attributable to our nation's right wing when discussing Israel. Any attempt by those labeled as "gentiles" to discuss the situation with regard to a nation-state are shot down as "you wouldn't understand." Us vs. them. Isn't this the same argument we fight from the right?

Israel has a right to exist. Whatever a gentile feels about Balfour or the mandate, one cannot deny that Israel, if not before, has earned this right through defending itself. Hamas can say they want to push Israel into the sea but they simply can't. Same goes for Iran. When, then, does Israel, and its supporters in the Diaspora, admit that fight is over, and the new fight really is for peace? The dichotomy of saying "we want peace" while doing things that will antagonize the Palestinians is not wanting peace. It is the bully antagonizing the weakling. What we need is for the bigger one to show the way. It is the duty of the power.

Name: Jon
Hometown: New York City

To Catherine in New York, NY: Do you really think you could be happy with a man who can't spell "subpoena"? I'm here for you, and only a subway ride away.

Name: Gene Tuck
Hometown: Fresno CA

Hi, Dr. A:

I'm no expert but...

I've just completed a textual analysis of Monday's lame, lamentably unfiltered, email to you today and am pretty certain "Monday" is Joe Klein!

Keep up the great work -- it's fun to read stupid, anti-Alterman stuff!

Name: Aaron Headly
Hometown: Ann Arbor

Hi Doc

The letter from him that you posted sums up my feelings as well. Additionally, I hope you don't get too many messages that say something like "I love your stuff, but why don't you pay more attention to [blah, blah, blah]." That was the noise that "Sixties Idealism" made as it spiraled down the drain; I hope we don't go through that again.

Happily, I have lots of places to go for all sorts of opinions. Altercation is probably my favorite even if you don't ride all the same hobby horses I do. I know where to go for funny posts about a**-f**king.

Thanks, man.

Name: Luke Cyphers
Hometown: Plattsburgh, NY

Eric,

I don't get it. Why would Rick Monday be so mad at you, a Mets fan? I mean, he owned Seaver (.349, 11 career HRs).

Name: John Baesler
Hometown: Bloomington, IN

Hi Eric,

I finally got around reading your first book "Sound and Fury." (Nice picture on the back flap, by the way. How old were you then, fifteen?). I was stunned with your account of the Washington pundits' response to Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War. How fascinating. I was dimly aware that most journalists had been utterly wrong in their assessment of either Gorbachev and his reforms or in their support for Reagan's defense build up (Francis Fitzgerald's "Way Out There in the Blue" brings it up as well), but you hit the point home impressively. Military strength obviously became a self-fulfilling prophecy in Washington. If you look at the world only in search for enemies, you are bound to always find some.

So what has changed since then? The arguments sound eerily similar: the enemy only understands military power, we can't afford to be on the defense, those wobbly Europeans lack moral fiber, the rules don't apply to us, how dare you question any of this, etc. As shadowy as the Soviet threat was, "terrorism" is even less palpable, so I am afraid that large parts of the press, and the public, will continue this scared conversation with itself.

It seems to me what this country needs is a new understanding of world citizenship. Most global problems (global warming, peacekeeping, economic development) are wholly resistant to unilateral policies. Americans (I am a German citizen who loves this country nevertheless) need to imagine themselves as part of a global community, rather than as the exceptional fulfillment of everybody else's imagination. That's why I think a president like Barack Obama would be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Name: Martin Donnelly-Heg
Hometown: Albany, NY

I was pleased to see that your gatekeepers admitted my recent missive through your pearly gates. But simply terming my queries "crap" is not exactly the response I was anticipating. Simply citing some factual basis for your claim that the pre-invasion Iraqi educational system was a "fraud" would wholly suffice. Also, perhaps a mild mea culpa for broadly stating that the entire Arab world disdains hard work...

I do appreciate all of your hard hitting media criticism, and I enjoy reading your weekly "Nation" column; even your most recent, wherein you express your desire to abstain from any conversation re the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Fine. You're certainly not alone in your sentiment, and I completely understand your feelings... But then why bring the topic up in your blog? And when you make broad (and somewhat offensive) assertions (see above), it's imperative that you provide some factual support for your claims or retract them, as I'm sure you would urge any responsible journalist to do.

Also, I don't appreciate your association of my queries with Mr/Ms Monday's bomb throwing invective. I believe that my messages were polite, did not engage in ad hominem, and simply labeling them "crap" is intellectually lazy and dishonest. As I said in my first message: you're better than this.

Eric replies:

1) I never called the pre-invasion Iraqi educational system a "fraud." I don't even know what the hell a "pre-invasion Iraqi educational system" is. So I guess I'll pass on your kind offer of allowing me to get away with just a "mea culpa."

2) I did not "bring the topic up on my blog." I linked to a Nation column I wrote in which I noted I do not discuss the topic in person. And I still don't. Problem?

3 )"Factual support for broad assertions?" All for it, um, see above ...

4) Crap.

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