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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, February 13, 2003

More Fun With Eric Alterman

More from his GREAT interview with the CalPundit:

CalPundit: "...People like Falwell, Robertson, and Ann Coulter aren’t even taken very seriously by conservatives, and yet they end up on TV. How does that happen?"

Alterman: "Well, I spent a lot of time in the book on Coulter. I used to work with her and I don’t like her. We were both hired to be pundits on MSNBC when it first began. We were both there the very first day it was on the air, and the stuff that was coming out of her mouth, I couldn’t believe my ears.

But MSNBC kept her back then, simply because she was good looking, and she was a woman, and she was conservative, and they loved the idea that a woman was conservative, just like they love the idea that they had all these black conservatives...."

Let's see. For a conservative commentator to get on television, they need to be black, or a hot blond, but in either case, shrill and eccentric. But that does not strike Mr. Alterman as demonstrating the least bit of media bias?

Oh, whatever. The interview also includes a fascinating, but regrettably brief, bit of history:

Alterman: "...I’d say the turning point was probably 1978, midway through the Carter administration. That’s when conservatives got the upper hand in both politics and media."

CalPundit: "What caused that? Why 1978?"

Alterman: "A couple of things caused it. One is that the conservatives invested an enormous amount of money in an infrastructure of ideas beginning in 1964, when Richard Mellon Scaife figured out that they couldn’t win just by putting up a candidate. I think that investment in the intellectual superstructure started to pay off 14 years later.

I also think the world became more conservative. Vietnam was a catastrophe and it was a liberal catastrophe, and the war on poverty was a catastrophe, and that was a liberal catastrophe, and even though it’s kind of unfair to blame liberals in both cases, everybody did.

And then the Soviets got much more adventurous around that time, and the whole civil rights movement, the whole “We Shall Overcome” period in American history became transformed into the black power moment of history, and that black power moment of history didn’t really work for anyone, particularly liberals. So liberalism was kind of exhausted by that period, it didn’t have any answers, and the conservatives were ascendant and self confident, and journalism just picked up on it."

OK, toss in the collapse of the Soviet Empire under Reagan and Bush, and the ludicrous inability of the quasi-socialist European states to provide for their own defense, create jobs, absorb immigrants, or invest in health care such as pharamaceutical research and development, and we have a glimmering as to why the left is just a little bit discredited.

Regrettably, the unasked question is this: Just when did the left go through an intellectual re-vitalization and emerge with a coherent political vision? Take away identity politics, abortion rights, and a commitment to a batch of failed Euro-policies on labor, taxes, and health care, and what remains on the Democratic side?

But my question also reflects my own ignorance - as to the timing of the Democratic renewal, I was out to dinner last night - maybe I missed it.

UPDATE: For one reader of Alterman's book, it was deja vu all over again. Who borrowed a Jackson Browne lyric and set the left half of the blogosphere atwitter? Some chick Andrew Sullivan digs, darn, I can't remember. Name has an "N" in it. Someone will remember.

OK, Norah Vincent.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Who is on first? And who is "Cranky Media Guy", who has the same stats on Drudge as the other two?

MORE: OK, from timestamps it seems to appear that "What" is on second along with "Cranky Media Guy", leaving G Beato as the man.

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