On the front lines of the culture wars, where explosive salvos are fired routinely, accuracy is a requirement. Arguments cannot be won with major misstatements of fact. This is lost on Eric Alterman. In his new book "Why We're Liberals," he takes up the controversy generated by Hollywood, but only to malign and mischaracterize.
Alterman decries "the hysterical language conservatives routinely employ when pontificating about Hollywood." His first example of a hysterical conservative is ... me. Horror of horrors. I'm attacked because I've ridiculed "political dilettantes" and "leftist celebrities" whose qualifications as political advisers "include starring in 'Hello, Dolly' and 'The Prince of Tides.'" This language comes from a column I wrote in 2002. At that time, Barbra Streisand had sent House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt a memo that misspelled his name "Gebhardt" and misquoted Shakespeare. I labeled Streisand a celebrity dilettante, because she is. That makes me a "hysterical conservative" in Alterman's mind.
Alterman argues that conservatives loathe Hollywood because they, like the rich everywhere else, are expected to "embrace the right-wing politics that would benefit their economic self-interest and leave the opinion business to the professionals." What conservative in his right mind has ever uttered this thinking? What conservative having lost his mind advances this belief?
Once he moves beyond politics to cultural rot, Alterman rolls his eyes at the national disgust at Janet Jackson's "barely visible" breast-baring conclusion of the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. Alterman implied America was chock full of hypocrites because the Jackson incident was widely reviewed on the Internet. They also reviewed footage of the Twin Towers collapsing on the Internet. Does that make them hypocrites in opposing terrorism?
Alterman mangles the story of the PBS children's series "Postcards from Buster," which attempted to take a cartoon bunny into the home of two Vermont lesbians to learn about multiple mommies and maple sugar. Alterman claims that when Education Secretary Margaret Spellings complained about the episode, she hadn't been sworn in yet (wrong) and that in the offending show, the lesbians "never actually appeared on screen." A quick YouTube search shows Alterman's dead wrong there, too.
So much for the book's acknowledgments, where Alterman thanks his "meticulous" fact checker. The year is young, and we already have a nominee for Dumbest Book of the Year. Even liberals can't trust it.