Don't you let that deal go down ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Well, we have a done deal. Beelzebub himself has gotten hold of The Wall Street Journal. As I tried to illustrate in my Nation column, "All Rupert, All the Time," the purchase is a double-edged sword for liberals, progressives, centrists, indeed anyone but a rabid conservative. Murdoch will, inevitably, destroy the jewel of American journalism that the news pages of the Journal have long been. The purchase makes no sense whatever if he doesn't, and nothing, literally nothing, in his past indicates that he cares in the slightest bit for the journalistic quality of anything he owns. He does not even care about making money from them. He cares only for increasing the net value of all of his properties, and in this regard, the $40 million that Lachlan Murdoch says News Corp. loses every year on the New York Post is chicken feed. But in doing so, he will also weaken the hold that its extremist, often insane editorial page has on our national discourse -- something that can only redound to the benefit of the conversation about where America is going and what kind of country we should be. (When was the last time anyone you know quoted a New York Post editorial?)

I think it important that progressives understand that two, contradictory things are happening at once. We are losing a great newspaper of vital importance to the functioning of our democracy at the same time we are weakening one of the most poisonous and strongest voices in that democracy. The first is a loss to all of us, but particularly liberals, because there will be less truth available with which to make our case. The second is not, of course, but I would not argue that it outweighs the consequences of the first.

Kevin Drum's excellent blog linked to my Nation piece upon the announcement and in taking a look at the comments posted there, I was saddened to see attitudes like the following:

  • "Since the WSJ has been the mouthpiece of extreme radical conservatism and warmongering for decades, it does not matter one bit that it has been purchased by an extreme radical conservative yellow journalist. Nothing has changed. The WSJ will still lie and agitate for the wealthiest and most privileged in our society."
  • "Oh, spare the tears. The WSJ has always celebrated capitalism, red in tooth and claw. Well, they are about ready to have themselves served to the god they worship, and it will be a TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER. I expect that 20 % of the staff will be fired. Too bad. When the automobile came along, the buggy whip manufacturers cried for mercy. Here we have the WSJ in the position of buggy whip manufacturer."
  • "It's true -- it doesn't matter to anyone except those who work there. Everybody knows who Murdoch is, what he is, and what he stands for. Anybody with a subscription to the WSJ is already of his mindset."

These people are living up to the stereotypes that the MSM has created for the netroots: uninterested in truth, unable to make distinctions, certain of their moral superiority, and wrong on the facts. I don't draw any conclusions on the basis of just a few comments, but I hope we don't see many more like them in the weeks and months ahead. Our democracy is under siege in so many directions, we cannot really afford this one.

In the meantime, I think I'll switch my subscription to the Financial Times, and maybe some of my investment portfolio as well. (Disclosure: Pearson owns the FT. It also owns Viking. Viking is my publisher. Maybe that's conflict. Now you know.)

"Another great Bergman film..."

My first Bergman film was Wild Strawberries. I remember it vividly. I drove to a screening of it at SUNY Purchase (The State University of New York at...) with expectation that a whole new world was about to open up before me. Lo and behold, it did. It was around 1975 or so, and while people talk about the '70s as the golden era for American film, and in many ways, particularly in retrospect, it was. The world is a sad and beautiful place in Bergman movies, as in life. But that's a hard thing to learn, and an even harder thing to communicate in the context of so shallow a medium as art. Almost no one else ever did as well. (Woody Allen's attempts to be Bergman are all catastrophes.) I left that theater hooked and nostalgic, already, for things that would never happen to me and I would never experience. Wild Strawberries is wonderful, but I hesitate to recommend one over any other. They are all intensely personal experiences. Arts and Letters Daily has a good collection of obituaries here.

Quote of the Day:

"The New York Post will continue to serve New York and New Yorkers and maintain its present policies and traditions" -- Rupert Murdoch, 1976, here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: LTC Bob Bateman
Hometown: Washington, DC

Eric,

Utterly classic. I am not sure if I ever told the story, but a few months after I'd arrived in Iraq, after becoming close to our pool of translators, they finally felt confident enough to ask me some questions. They started with a doozy.

"Is it true," Usama asked me, "that President Clinton's mother was from Mosul?"

And you just have to wonder ... how does something like that get started? These were college-educated people. Each spoke at least three languages as well. They had access to the Internet. Yet they'd all heard this same rumor, and wanted to know the answer. Story here.

Name: Paul Barber
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Look at yesterday's transcript. A roundtable of Washington journalists talking about the 2008 race. The word Iraq appears twice, once in a clip from Barack Obama and the second time from Dan Balz seconds before Russert says "We're out of time."

Name: Rick Kane
Hometown: Locust Grove, Virginia

There has been a little boom based on a leaked report, whose origin I suspect, in a "Pat Tillman was murdered" theory. As is pointed out in Armchair Generalist, the evidence that it was a friendly fire incident resulting from poor fire discipline, with an attempt to cover up and to spin a hero dying in action against "terrorist" myth, is overwhelming. I extract Mr. Goff's reply to Armchair Generalist below to hopefully nip the balloon in the bud.

Name: kirsten
Hometown: sacramento

Pursuant to the quote of Kenneth C. Griffin that "... if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard." Perhaps the nation would not be so bad off if he and his cohorts worked less hard. Maybe that extra few hours per day worked to figure out how to offshore jobs to get more profits, how to set up the dummy corporation to launder money, is not needed to keep our economy afloat.

How offensive to those who work multiple jobs just to stay afloat and feed their families, that this man suggests he wouldn't work hard if there weren't obscene profits available. Fine, let him work as little as he wants, and live accordingly. There are plenty of people currently working extremely hard for far less who would be happy to step in and do his job for a reasonable salary.

Name: Steve Hicken
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida

Thanks for your take on the growing -- and unsustainable -- gap in equality that besets the United States. I don't understand how the current structure is tolerated, even enthusiastically supported, by enough people so that it is maintained.

Does a plurality of voters see themselves either in the top 1% or about to get there? Do they want the inequities to be there for them when they do make it?

Why shouldn't the people who benefit the most from living in the United States pay their fair share to do so?

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT

Eric,

You want "calculating" Hillary? I'll give ya one. She co-sponsored an amendment to make burning the US flag illegal.

Burning our flag is dumb but clearly and irrevocably legal.

"Pandering" might be more accurate than "calculating," but neither is complimentary.

Name: David Feurzeig
Hometown: Bloomington IL

Your piece on the recent history of US income disparity was thoughtful and erudite as usual. Just one little quibble: I assumed (and confirmed via the Google) that Warren Buffett's quote about the cleaning ladies' taxes was made in ironic protest -- but those not familiar with Buffett might form the opposite impression from your quote (especially after the mind-numbingly shameless quote from Kenneth C. Griffin). It would do a good man a good turn to give the quote a little more context.

Name: Max Maxwell
Hometown: Chicago

Sorry you missed out, Eric -- it was truly a great show. But I've never gotten a message through to you before, so I had given up. I am over 50 and don't see many shows anymore (unlike you), but the Crossroads gig was amazingly good. Everyone around me walked away talking about two players -- Derek Trucks and Steve Winwood. He blew everyone away -- especially people like me who remember him sitting mostly behind the keyboards. Those who were expected to shine shone: Clapton himself was rejuvenated and played with muscularity and joy. Jeff Beck won over the crowd with spirit and virtuosity. A heck of a day. Be sure to catch the next one ... why not New York?

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