Idiocy of the week: A lefty media critic who hates those big, cruel conservatives so much he'd like to shut them up for good.

Published February 14, 2003 11:25PM (EST)

One of the key elements in some left-liberals' view of the world is that, whatever their foibles, their hearts are in the right place. Unlike the "haters" to their right, they are tireless supporters of the weak. If left-liberalism means anything, it means an aversion to cruelty.

This week's idiocy comes from one Eric Alterman, Nation columnist, blogger-come-lately, conservative-hater, and George Stephanopoulos' best man. It was in Esquire magazine. It's about Rush Limbaugh. Here's a link to Esquire's Q&A on media bias, reproduced by Rush Limbaugh's Web site.

Throughout, Alterman takes the low road. You may disagree with Ann Coulter, dislike her style, loathe her views, etc. Alterman goes one step further: "I debase myself every time I say her name." Charming. He later likens her to "an animal in a zoo." Yah. Boo. Sucks. The guy can debate. Then Alterman sinks even lower: "The lack of civility he [Limbaugh] demonstrates toward liberal politicians is really dangerous to our political public. I hate to say it, but I wish the guy would have gone deaf. I shouldn't say that, but on behalf of the country, it would be better without Limbaugh and his 20 million listeners."

There are two things here: first, the desire that a political opponent actually suffer a painful and difficult illness. (Limbaugh, for the record, is largely deaf. But they found a way to help him hear.) So far, our political discourse has sunk to some pretty low levels. I get semiregular e-mails from liberals, yes liberals, wishing me an early death from AIDS, for example. But those e-mails are from fringe haters who aren't taken seriously as actual analysts of politics, people who get published in major Web sites and minor magazines, people who want to be taken seriously when they complain about "incivility."

Second, Alterman essentially wants Limbaugh and 20 million Americans to disappear. The country would be better off without them. I repeat: better off without them. Now imagine a conservative going on television and saying we'd be better off without, say, 10 million homosexuals. Or 10 million African-Americans. Or all the people who subscribe to Salon. Do you think he'd still have a place in respectable discourse after that? As icing on the cake, Esquire placed two photos of Limbaugh and Coulter on the page, viewed through shotgun sights. Hey, if you want them off the planet, you might as well start somewhere.

On Wednesday, Alterman apologized. Well, barely. He says, in an item buried at the bottom of his blog, that what he said was "silly." He now wishes Limbaugh would just lose his voice for good. If you can't wipe them off the face of the earth, you can silence them. Great moments for liberalism, Part 345.

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By Andrew Sullivan

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