Jonathan Alter, bite your tongue

Posted: Dec 21, 2001 12:00 AM
News Flash: Jonathan Alter, Newsweek's Senior Editor and "media critic," is angry with conservatives again. In a Newsweek "Web Exclusive" on, Alter finds it shocking, positively shocking, that somehow the Reverend Jerry Falwell's ministry continues to operate after his ill-advised comments blaming left-wing organizations for the horror of Sept. 11. Our objective "media critic" Alter is unequivocal with this broadside: "the larger conservative movement has done little or nothing to repudiate the founder of the Moral Majority, and he's still in business. Talk about double standards." Conservatives are hypocrites, period, and Alter is going to prove it. "Let's imagine if the shoe were on the other ideological foot," he sneers, and gives us a scenario in which on a liberal television program the Rev. Jesse Jackson blamed conservatives for 9/11, and Bill Moyers agreed. "Rush Limbaugh and others would, quite rightly, demand that liberals denounce Jackson and Moyers," Alter suggests, "and liberals would have done so." In fact, conservatives most certainly (SET ITAL) did (END ITAL) state their disapproval, and to not know this is to prove only that this "media critic" is awfully selective about what media he reads or listens to. He must have missed Bill Buckley's denunciation in National Review ("ignorant misapplication of Christian thought"), and missed John Podhoretz bristle in the editorial pages of the New York Post ("I'd like to express my revulsion at remarks ... shameful ... ignorant"), and missed The Weekly Standard's take ("contemptible"). I can only assume he never listens to Rush and the hundreds of other conservative talk shows hosts nationwide who took Rev. Falwell to task. He didn't hear any -- every? -- conservative interviewed on television who decried the comments. And he didn't hear Falwell apologize. But I want to address Alter's suggestion that if a liberal were to unjustly smear a conservative, he should be denounced and his fellow "liberals would have done so." I could take Alter's own hypothetical subject, citing the countless racist, dishonest, slanderous personal attacks Jackson has waged on conservatives over the years and ask Mr. Alter how his liberal friends reacted, other than to give Jesse his own TV show on CNN. But let me address real statements made not just by liberals, but by liberals in Mr. Alter's own profession. And let me challenge him to show me a single denouncement from any liberal -- including "media critic" Jonathan Alter -- for the following few examples (and there are countless others): "I think (Sen. Jesse Helms) ought to be worried about what's going on in the Good Lord's mind, because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it." -- NPR's Nina Totenberg, July 8, 1995 Inside Washington. "When you look at the reality of cutting people off, of saying you can't have more benefits if you have children while you are on welfare, you're talking about putting children on the street who are hungry and naked, and that's a sin." -- Washington Post writer Juan Williams discussing welfare reform on CNN's Capital Gang, March 25, 1995. "Unless Gingrich and Dole and the Republicans say, 'Am I inflaming a bunch of nuts?' you know we're going to have some more events (like the Oklahoma City bombing). I am absolutely certain the harsher rhetoric of the Gingriches and the Doles ... creates a climate of violence in America." -- Columnist Carl Rowan, April 25, 1995 Washington Post. "The term wacko right-winger is redundant. For example, they're the only people who don't like being called compassionate. Someone remarked that many now defend the tobacco industry because its products kill people early, saving us dollars in having to care for aged people." -- "Larry King's People" item in USA Today, March 8, 1999. "You place the responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely at the feet of the Reagan Administration. Do you believe that they're responsible for that?" -- NBC's Maria Shriver to AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser during 1992 GOP convention. ""The Christian Right per se and some particular members on Capitol Hill have helped inflame the air so that the air that these bad people breathed that night was filled, filled with the idea that somehow gays are different, and not only are they different in that difference, they're bad, and not only are they bad, they are evil, and therefore evil can be destroyed ... I mentioned Trent Lott, Jesse Helms and Dick Armey particularly. The Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Concerned Women for America." -- Deborah Mathis of Gannett News Service on who inspired the murder of Matthew Shepard, Oct. 17, 1998 Inside Washington. Or how about this snippet from an essay entitled "Trickle-Down Hate": "At first, it seems unfair to link the anti-gay remarks of political leaders to a heinous crime they don't condone ... But just as white racists created a climate for lynching blacks, just as hate radio created a climate for militias, so the constant degrading of homosexuals is exacting a toll in blood." "Media critic" Alter can't repudiate that one. He wrote it. And just like all the others listed above, Alter's never apologized. Liberalism is never having to say you're sorry.