Writer Eric Alterman presents the relationship between President Trump and journalists as if it were a plot from a horror movie, and the audience knows what’s going to happen before the victim does. In Alterman’s view, the “racist, sexist, Islamophobic psychopath” Trump threatens the mainstream media, but reporters and editors are oblivious to the danger “not only to their livelihoods, but to their entire reason for being.”
The Twitter website has become the go-to place for people in the “mainstream media” who have said things they wish they hadn’t stated on television. They can then apologize in a format that far fewer individuals will notice. A perfect example of this principle took place on Tuesday, August 22, by Bret Stephens, a right-of-center columnist for the New York Times who was also hired by NBC News and MSNBC on Wednesday, June 28.
The Nation’s Eric Alterman doesn’t mind that a few weeks ago, The New York Times added another conservative op-ed columnist. He just wishes it hadn’t been the “awful” Bret Stephens, who used to write for “the rubes who believe what they read in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal” but now is tasked with impressing the “smarter and more sophisticated” readership of the Times.
Bill Clinton was, in the words of one of his competitors for the 1992 Democratic nomination, “an unusually good liar,” but for Eric Alterman, a critical mass of mendacity in presidential politics didn’t develop until 2016. Alterman thinks it explains the mainstream media’s response to POTUS-elect Donald Trump. “Mainstream journalists are used to collaborating with politicians to tell the truth a little bit at a time,” wrote Alterman in a column for the January 30 issue of The Nation. “Lies are accepted when they fit the master narrative, but they need to hover within an acceptable range of plausibility. At the very least, they require the pretense of evidence, however specious it might be…American journalists simply don’t know how to report on a president who is also a compulsive liar.”
On Friday, Barack Obama held what might be the last press conference of his presidency, and, if things ran to form, Nation columnist and What Liberal Media? author Alterman was impressed. As POTUS, Obama has been “the coolest guy in the room,” wrote Alterman in the magazine’s January 2-9 issue. “It didn’t matter what room. He was always able to keep his head while everyone around him was losing theirs—and usually blaming him.” Since the election, there’s been a lot of talk about how elitism, and the backlash against it, affected voting behavior. In Alterman’s telling, the MSM fed that backlash.
In their respective articles alleging that the mainstream media facilitated the election of Donald Trump, Brian Beutler of The New Republic and Eric Alterman of The Nation overlapped somewhat. For example, each claimed that the Hillary e-mail story was wildly overcovered, with Beutler citing it as the shining example of how the media “failed abysmally” regarding the “framing and contextualizing of events.” Elsewhere, the two pundits diverged. Beutler singled out the media’s fascination, in the last ten days of the campaign, with Trump’s staying on message when they should have been pointing out that “on every single one of those days, he was saying outrageous and false things at a dizzying clip.” What Liberal Media? author Alterman took a long-term view, contending that relentless lobbying from the right has paid off in the form of lax treatment from the media: “There’s no truth to [the] contention that network coverage has been unfair to Trump; quite obviously, the reverse is true. But conservatives learned long ago that there’s no limit to the effectiveness of their “work the refs” strategy, with the networks bending over further and further to placate their demands.”
If there’s ever a Donald Trump-centric TV channel, it’s likely that not all of its big names would be from the populist right, hinted What Liberal Media? author Alterman in his column for The Nation's November 14 issue. Alterman claimed that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough “has made some of the most egregious pro-Trump arguments heard anywhere during this election cycle” and, regarding Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin, wrote, “The famous inside-baseballer has bathed himself repeatedly in Trump’s orange glow, posting romantic-style selfies with the nominee from his helicopter and defending his racist arguments about Mexicans and guns, among many other outrages.”
On Wednesday, in response to news that violent people the press insists on describing as "protesters" in Charlotte were stopping traffic on Interstate 277, University of Tennessee law professor and Instapundit founding blogger Glenn Reynolds retweeted a related story with three words of advice: "Run them down." As a result, Twitter, which continues to allow the existence of and continued postings to hashtags like #killwhites and #killallwhitepeople, and has routinely done nothing about direct personal threats tweeted predominantly by leftists, suspended Reynolds' Twitter account.
In 2003, Alterman contended that the “notion of liberal dominance” of the mainstream media was “ridiculous.” Apparently, however, Alterman believes that liberal media bias is an idea whose time has come, at least regarding the presidential campaign. In an essay for the June 20-27 issue of the magazine, he urged the MSM to help Hillary Clinton by “clearly and repeatedly” stating certain “simple facts” about Donald Trump. Which simple facts? “Trump is a pathological liar and conspiracy theorist, a racist, misogynist, and demagogic bully with a phantasmagoric policy platform and dangerously authoritarian instincts,” wrote Alterman, whereas “Hillary Clinton’s flaws and failures…are of an entirely different order. Love her or hate her, at least we don’t have to wonder whether she believes in democracy. When it comes to sane and even semi-sensible policy proposals for America’s future in the 2016 presidential election, there is only one side.”
The mainstream media give high marks to Megyn Kelly, but that’s because they’re grading on a curve, believes Eric Alterman, who fumed recently about Vanity Fair’s February cover story on Kelly.
Alterman contended that writer Evgenia Peretz’s portrayal of Kelly as “a brave truth-teller, a feminist hero and a bit of a liberal” is “complete nonsense. That any of these descriptions are even imaginable is a tribute to Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and the rest of the far-right media/entertainment complex. They have moved America’s ideological goalposts so far rightward that a person can earn undeserved praise merely for not being the worst of the worst.”
Republicans have the upper hand in Congress and in a clear majority of state governments. To Alterman, that state of affairs is a “mystery,” since GOPers typically hold “extreme” and “silly” views “that are not only beyond the boundaries of the beliefs of the vast majority of Americans, but also contrary to the laws of physics, economics, and, of course, common sense.”
In the December 7 issue of the magazine, Alterman analyzes how Republicans can be so nutty yet so empowered. He blames 1) Democrats, for “allow[ing] themselves to be defined as elitist snobs who view the everyday struggles of working-class Americans—especially white males—with contempt,” and 2) “so many members of the mainstream media [who have] run interference for—and therefore legitimize[d]—the [GOP’s] dangerous nonsense in the guise of allegedly objective reporting.”
According to columnist Eric Alterman, prominent journalists tend to realize that most Republicans are “ideological extremists” whose agenda, dictated by “the super-wealthy,” warps our politics. The problem, he added, is that the news stories those journalists write don’t reflect that realization.
Instead, argued Alterman in a piece for the magazine’s May 18 issue, “even our best reporters feel the need to put forth a fairy-tale narrative in which the United States enjoys a fully functioning democracy…When you consider that far-right billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Charles and David Koch have the power to demand that presidential aspirants pledge fealty to their ideological preferences and financial interests, the notion that our laws represent the collective will of the American people appears comical at best.”