Monday, June 4, 2007

Beat The Press

Schaudenfruede is an easy, cheap emotion, which is why so many who write about politics fall prey to it daily. I wish I could exempt myself from this tendency, but the truth is, schaudenfruede has given me immense pleasure over the years, especially when watching various ideological hustlers stumble and fall.

I'm not proud of this, and I strive to maintain a semblance of karmic balance, but damn it, American politics is so fucking awful on so many levels, and is policed by numerous mediocrities convinced of their personal brilliance, that finding happiness in their troubles is nearly inevitable.

I'm merely human, not a think tank.

All that said, I must confess that reading about Eric Alterman's brush with the law in New Hampshire gave me a happy jolt this morning, for the image of Alterman in handcuffs is not only funny, it is, on a conceptual level, just. This guy is one of the biggest pricks in American political journalism, a classic liberal elitist devoted to the US corporate state, and a firm believer in the "gatekeeper" role of what passes for intellectual culture in this country. And, naturally, Alterman considers himself one of the gatekeepers.

I remember Alterman coming to the FAIR offices when he was working on "Sound and Fury," his book about the pundit class, looking to lift whatever he could from our research. He tried to hide his contempt for our downscale surroundings, but obviously knew that we had a lot of information that could help his book. So he came on all friendly in a sniveling, condescending way, and we couldn't wait to usher this asswipe out the door. As one of my colleagues put it soon after, Alterman wanted desperately to be what he was ostensibly criticizing in his book -- a pundit. And so he has, sharing the same hatred of direct expression from below as does his fellow corporate media shills. As Alterman himself put it:

"Ever since the beginning of blogging-time, I have worried -- in public and on blogging panels -- about the loss of the media's gatekeeper function . . . Particularly when the media profess to strive toward objectivity, punditry/gatekeepers play a crucial role. My problem with the punditocracy has never been that they are pundits, but that they are so incompetent at the job they do."

Right. What we need are "competent" gatekeepers to make sure that the rabble know their place. And Alterman is more than willing to help keep this arrangement in place.

Sadly, Alterman got off easy, with not so much as a single baton strike to the gut, or a brief shot of pepper spray in the face. Clearly, police violence towards the media has taken a big dive since the glory days of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. But then, we're living in more manufactured times, a reality that Alterman enjoys, so long as he's twirling the gate keys on his middle finger.

JUICY: Here's an entertaining piece about Alterman by Ken Silverstein in Harper's from last October. Ken nailed the asshole in the Village Voice back in '97, and he's lost none of his accuracy since.