Alterman, Novak, and the Narcolepsy Factor


Robert Novak, who had been scheduled to debate Eric Alterman about media bias next week, has pulled out, declaring that he didn't realize Alterman was going to be his opponent, that he "won't appear with him publicly," and that Alterman is "obsessed with me." The precipitating factor was Alterman's May 23 column for The Nation, which apparently criticizes Novak.

I say "apparently" because I've tried to read the thing several times now, and I can't get past the first sentence:

If you agree with John Dewey (and Jurgen Habermas) that democracy depends on a series of institutional arrangements that enable the public to form its own values and judgments on a variety of questions–and I do–then you cannot ignore the importance of civility in allowing these institutions to function.

Such a lede serves as a wall, an impermeable barrier protecting the remainder of the article from our prying eyes. It's possible that Novak, who's getting a little long in the tooth, wasn't offended by Alterman's critique so much as he was afraid he'd slip into a coma during his sparring partner's opening remarks. Emergency assistance would eventually arrive, but only after the audience itself wakes up, and who knows how long that might be? Better not to chance it.