Eric Alterman and other readers respond to David Horowitz's letter about Alterman's book "What Liberal Media?"

Published March 15, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

[Read David Horowitz's response to David Talbot's review of "What Liberal Media?"]

[Read David Talbot's review of "What Liberal Media?"]

I am not eager to lie down in shit with David Horowitz. And I can't believe, at this late moment of his 15 minutes, he is going to convince anyone of anything. But I will correct a few of the misimpressions he creates.

1) Horowitz writes, "According to Talbot's summary of his new book, 'What Liberal Media?' Alterman claims that, 'Talk radio is dominated by Rush Limbaugh and his imitators, the Web has fallen to Matt Drudge, and cable TV is ruled by Ailes and his wannabes at the rival channels.'"

This is not an accurate summary of my book, "What Liberal Media?" nor do I agree with the statement itself. For the record, I do not believe Talbot intended it to be "a summary" either.

2) Horowitz writes "For those who like hard statistics, MSNBC.com, where Alterman writes a media column, is rated 42 in traffic volume on the Web, while the Drudge Report is rated 346. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- opinionjournal.com -- is rated 3,583." I do not write a "media column" for MSNBC.com, nor have I ever done so. I publish a weblog called "Altercation" which can be found at www.altercation.msnbc.com. Check it out.

3) The anecdote I quote regarding David Brock's career comparing it to the two years I spent in Washington between 1984 and 1986 was clearly not about a personal "whine." (I do just fine, thank you). It was not even really about Brock. It was meant to illustrate the relative mismeasure of financial resources available to liberals and admittedly dishonest far-right hatchetmen (and women). Since Horowitz is intimately familiar with these resources, having soaked Richard Mellon Scaife for millions, I can only assume he is being deliberately disingenuous, per usual.

4) The figure Horowitz quotes for the grant I received from the Schumann Foundation (not Bill Moyers personally) is also, per usual, inaccurate.

5) Merely for the sake of appearances, Horowitz might have acknowledged that he is portrayed in the book as the sloppy journalist (and racist provocateur) he has clearly demonstrated himself to be in this letter.

-- Eric Alterman

I would just like to commend David Horowitz on participating in a debate on left vs. right journalism. I would just like to ask him if David Talbot were to present his case on Rush/Hannity/O'Reilly, would he have even been able to finish a sentence, let alone present his entire point without being shouted down? At least in this "liberal" forum, a conservative has a chance to speak his mind. I doubt the same courtesy would be afforded any of the cogent/serious opinions of the left on one of those shows.

I may not always agree with your opinion, but I will always proclaim your right to it, and to express it. Tell me the aforementioned talkers would say the same.

-- Chris Joffe

The idea that mainstream corporate media -- the broadcast networks and newspaper chains, both those under consolidated ownership and those few that still cling to independence -- is consistently liberal is laughable on its face. As Joe Conason pointed out in his recent column, the raft of Bush endorsements from the "undeniably liberal" papers Horowitz cites seems to provide some deniability. Add in the past and current presence of avowed conservatives like Jack Welch at the top at these organizations, look over to the regular political forums of the Sunday talk shows, scan the editorial pages of the supposedly liberal Washington Post (where conservative pundits overshadow their left colleagues in both numbers and vehemence) and the argument is clearly bogus.

Horowitz is probably right that most academic institutions have a liberal slant. But most students don't go to college to pick up an ideology: They go to learn marketable skills. The average college student could give a rat's ass about his/her professor's political views. Comparing this to the explicit ideology of hard right-dominated talk radio and cable news, forums of uniform opinion with an implicitly activist agenda, is just silly. (And while we're on the subject, I'm not sure how valid it is to hold CNN or MSNBC up as a counterweight to Fox News when both networks have made recent explicit plays to "out-Fox Fox.")

Horowitz inadvertently helps make Alterman's main point when he trumpets the respective Web traffic numbers of msnbc.com and the Drudge Report: msnbc.com is an all-service news site; Drudge provides red meat to scandal-hungry right-wingers. I'm pretty sure Alterman would concede that Drudge sees more traffic than his columns, even if his employer draws more eyeballs overall on its massive site. The point is that mainstream media is diffuse and ideologically incoherent; the explicit hard right offers one message, repeated endlessly and with impressive discipline, and as such exerts an influence disproportionate to its size. The same is true, of course, of Horowitz's facile comparison of Howard Stern to Rush Limbaugh. Stern isn't political; he's a sort of amoral libertarian. In terms of trade policy, or Medicare reform, don't hold your breath waiting for an opinion. Rush is amoral too, but one can't deny he has an opinion on policy matters.

One has to admire the focus and discipline of the radical right ("conservative" is an appellation they don't really deserve, in my view). But to argue that a vague and unfocused "non-right" offers a valid balance is either misguided or just dishonest.

-- Jimchaos

By Salon Staff

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