February 16, 2005

Eric Alterman throws a tantrum and other adventures

Eric Alterman is in the midst of a massive hissy fit. That's nothing new, but this time I've been drawn into it. Cathy Young wrote a column arguing that Alterman has been making absurd excuses for Muslim anti-Semitism. Par for the course for Alterman, rather than amending his comments-- which did, in fact, make excuses for Muslim anti-Semitism-- he's declaring "war" and encouraging his readers to bombard Young and her editors with hatemail. (Young responded to Alterman's initial complaint about her column, though he has yet to acknowledge her response on his blog.)

Where do I come in? Well, in a gossipy post from 20 months ago, I recounted that Cathy Young praised Alterman at a party for defending John Fund against sleazy personal attacks. Thus, according to Alterman, she must hold a grudge. Young is "really not sure what Alterman's point is," and neither am I. Maybe it's the bit about a friend of Young's "speculating on what ulterior motives Alterman might have for acting decent in this instance"; if it'll calm any nerves, I'll add that I think Young's friend was kidding (I don't even remember the content of her theory anymore, so it couldn't have been all that serious). Or maybe it's the shocking revelation that, after he refused to offer a genuine apology for putting her on a list of reflexively pro-Israel commentators at a time when she had never written about Israel at all, Young thought Alterman was a jerk. It's "an assessment... that his latest antics have not changed"-- and one with which I must concur.

Posted by John Tabin at February 16, 2005 06:38 PM

One of my good friends who will remain nameless used Alterman to "prove" that the media was biased in favor of conservatives. I told him at the time that turning to Alterman as a reliable, good willed source for ANYTHING speaks to the issue of just how uninformed liberals are.

Posted by: lee tabin at February 17, 2005 06:44 AM

Uhmm...I guess reading is too dificult an exercise for you and your ilk. Mr. Alterman is rightfully mad because Cathy Young's hacktackular piece not only skewed what Alterman said, but also mis-represented his position. There is NOTIHING inherently anti-semitic about empathy for the PALESTINIAN people (Mr, Alterman never refered to Muslims as a whole as your and Cathy young keep incorrectly saying. He refered to Arabs, and there are many many non-Arab Muslims but somehow that distinction is lost on you). And if seeing both sides of an issue makes one anti-semitic, then the large population of Jews in the United States is anti-semitic. In fact Mr. Alterman's view is more in the mainstream of the Jewish beliefs than Young's views are.

I guess nuance is too dificult a concept for people who adhere to a "with us or against us" attitude. While that might have worked fine in John Wayne movies, in the real world things aren't so.

Cathy young is free to disagree about policy all she wants, but when she has to resort to labeling people as anti-semitic when they clearly aren't and when she mis-characterizes what someone says to make her point, then the cold hard reality is that she has no point.

If you have to resort to insults, then you don't have a good argument.

Posted by: Tom at February 18, 2005 06:42 PM

Alterman has long ago forsaken any cache of impartiality-or journalistic integrity, for that matter.

Posted by: Amy Allen at February 18, 2005 07:47 PM

Tom: I know Alterman says he never conflated Muslims, Palestinians, and Arabs, but he's wrong. The issue was a British Muslim organization's boycott of a Holocaust memorial event. It was not a Palestinian organization or an Arab organization.

Would writing "I guess reading is too dificult an exercise for you and your ilk" count as "resort[ing] to insults," and thus indicate the absence of a good argument? Just wondering.

Posted by: John Tabin at February 19, 2005 06:52 AM

John, I believe you're right. The part of the Young-Alterman imbroglio I do not understand is why Alterman has been declaring -- again and again and again -- that he did not conflate Arabs with Muslims, when he obviously did. He can't let this point go on his blog, and it makes him look really, really dumb.

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Posted by: Dorothy at April 3, 2005 01:50 PM