Jewish World Review April 28, 2003/ 26 Nisan 5763


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Consumer Reports

Kobe for the Poor! | Here's a curveball: After years of criticizing MSNBC/Nation pundit Eric Alterman's hysterical rants against anyone who's to the right of Dennis Kucinich, I found one small passage of his that's completely refreshing and honest.

A few weeks ago, after the devastating death of journalist Michael Kelly in Iraq, readers asked Alterman why he, unlike the rest of the media, hadn't commented on the iconoclastic reporter's premature passing. He wrote: "I am on record as to what I think of Kelly's work and his untimely death does not affect my view of his work... Why, in the face of personal tragedy, should I harp on my personal and political differences with him? What would be the point, save offending those who loved him? The questions that inspired those differences are not going away and so there will be plenty of time to return to them in the future. In the meantime, let the bereaved grieve in peace." So bravo for Alterman's candor.

Not surprisingly, this was an isolated case. In the May 5 Nation, Alterman, who's second only to Michael Moore as pretending to be a "man of the people," returned to form, blasting President Bush with one disingenuous shot after the other. Alterman, of course, faces this duty alone, since he's convinced that 99 percent of the media is "conservative."

He writes: "This is an eerie moment in American political history. George W. Bush was defeated in the popular vote by his more liberal opponent but rules from the most extreme wing of his party. He campaigned as a fiscal conservative but has pushed tax cuts that will create a deficit larger than any in U.S. history. [In reality, one of Bush's major campaign proposals was cutting taxes.] As a candidate, he articulated the need for a 'humble' foreign policy but now conducts it with a degree of hubris that makes Lyndon Johnson look like the Dalai Lama. His hypocrisy, in other words, is so great as to be almost unfathomable, and yet he has somehow managed to convince the media to admire him for his 'moral clarity.'"

And on and on. Because of Bush, the United States is "hated the world over as never before," even though the "Foxified" media kowtows to his every move. Oh, and Bush didn't serve in Vietnam either.

A few weeks ago, however, Alterman was crucified by the New York Observer's George Gurley, who was ostensibly interviewing the author for his bunkum-loaded book What Liberal Media?. One might've thought the Upper West Sider would've done a background check on his inquisitor's published work, but I suppose that's difficult to do in the midst of flogging any and all publicity for his paranoid screed. In fact, he told Gurley that he was "disappointed" that his expected buzz for What Liberal Media? had "been crowded out by the war... I had a lot of reasons to be anti-war, and the book was a small one."

Alterman clearly enjoys his perks. He and Gurley had lunch at Michael's, the restaurant of choice for populists, and ordered foie gras, Kobe beef and pinot noir, after a "warm embrace" with author E.L. Doctorow. He spoke of auditioning for a bit part in The Sopranos; likened Ken Starr to Idi Amin; and explained why it's so cool to be a liberal. "There's two reasons," he said. "One is, if you're a liberal about most things, you're more likely to be right than not. But here's an interesting reason: The rest of country agrees with you. It's basically a liberal country."

Indeed it is, if you define the United States as combination of Manhattan, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, San Francisco and Cambridge.

Gurley asked some of Alterman's friends about the affluent champion of the underclass. Katie Rosman, a freelance writer, said: "He has shocked me with the things he's done. He'll call me and his line is, 'So, do you want to be arm candy tonight?' I'll ask him what the event is, and he won't tell me-I have to decide before. And then he's taking me to George Soros' apartment or some New Yorker party, and he introduces me to everybody. So I really admire him for that. He takes me to good parties."

What a great guy!

Gurley concludes his profile with one more quote from the media insider who's at home inside Michael's: "Another thing I do that liberals don't do is, I admire the beauty of waitresses. That's a beautiful waitress."

Does that mean that liberals aren't attracted to attractive men and women? Or just that waitresses aren't worthy of a second glance? You'd have to ask Eric the Libertine.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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