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.

NEXT: Yet Another Reason To Cancel That Newsweek Sub

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  1. Tee-hee, reading is hard!

    No more dense that half of Julian Sanchez’s posts. A cheap shot becomes even cheaper in the service of Robert Nofacts.

  2. Well, that’s just bad, pretentious writing. Life’s too short to slog through crap like that (unless you’re getting paid to).

  3. And let’s not forget Dr. A’s adoration of Springsteen. Yuck!

  4. Like most leftists, Alterman thinks the world is a lot more complicated than it actually is. It’s easy to see how that mindset would seep into the way he tries to get thoughts from his brain to the keyboard.

    And, yeah, Springsteen sucks. Overrated crap. “Hey, guys! I got a fever, and the only prescription is … more XYLOPHONE!”*

    (*Yeah, I know it’s really a set of vibes that creates that irritating sound on the old E Street records, but xylophone works better for the joke, or attempted joke.)

  5. I don’t get it. Refusing to debate Alterman is like refusing to duel a blind man.

  6. Debating people far, far smarter than him never seemed to bother Novak on that godforsaken piece of crap show Crossfire. I think it’s probably just a matter of hating Alterman’s guts.

  7. I ought to add that I don’t think Alterman fits in that “far, far smarter” category, by a longshot.

  8. SP,

    Explore the space. I mean really. Explore the Space.

  9. Why are people discussing a debate that noone would have watched?

  10. Yes, the first paragraph takes some effort. It’s a complex thought that gives context to the article. Alterman does himself a disservice by starting out with theory, if by doing so he loses his audience. However, having soldiered on through the introduction, I found an interesting article.

  11. Rod-The hallmark of good writing is the ability to express a complex idea in clear terms. Alterman seems to lack that ability. Perhaps he just wanted an excuse to reference Habermas.

  12. It’s not a complicated thought. It’s just a complicated sentence. Take out the name-dropping (“and Jurgen Habermas”), vague hand-waving (“a variety of questions”), and pretentious little frills (“and I do”), and it wouldn’t be quite so godawful, though it still shouldn’t be the lede.

    Actually, the whole first paragraph is pointless throat-clearing, since the rest of the article contradicts it. He should have led with the McNamera story.

    (Yeah, I finally read the piece.)

  13. Since when has Alterman been an advocate for “civility”? He’s generally a rude jackass on TV, and his writing is noted more for its bile than its substance. (At least, in my opinion.)

  14. An Alterman-Novak show would be mud-wrestling, not serious discussion anyway. Not exactly a major loss.

  15. Gee Joey, that makes him sound well matched for Novak’s schenangans then!

  16. Alterman-Novak mud-wrestling!? When you put it that way, Virginia, I think missing this is a major win!

  17. I’m not particularly fond of Novak, and Alterman is a sophomoric leftist ass. I should care about them debating media bias or not, why?

  18. Virginia, I wanted to let you know that, golly, you are EXACTLY RIGHT! Your mud-wrestling imagery, holy cow, you’ve still got me laughing out loud! LOL!!!! What a hoot. Sure wouldn’t want to see those two in a mud-wrestling match! Man oh man! Novak and Alterman … MUD-WRESTLING!!

    Virginia frikkin Postrel. Wow. My name is Tedd Flotcher. That’s T-e-d-d (skip a space) F-l-o-t-c-h-e-r. Tedd Flotcher, it is. I hope you’ll remember that I’m the one who jumped in here to tell you how great that mud-wrestling post was. (Still laughing about it!)

    If you want to post any more comments today, VP, I’ll be sure to go out of my way to pop in and let you know how cool they are. My, oh my!

    OK, Virginia, thanks again for the funny stuff!!

    Tedd Flotcher

  19. MJ, you’re such a loser. Try writing something with a little more substance to it next time, all right?

    Good God. You people.

  20. What just happened?

  21. Tedd went off his meds, that’s what just happened.

  22. Tedd,

    My post above may lack substance, but it contains about as much as does Alterman’s entire article, and I did it in two lines rather than an extended page.

  23. Why are people discussing a debate that noone would have watched?

    And mk gets the award for best post of the month!

  24. Actually, I suspect the whole thing was a goof on Todd Fletcher’s post above. I.e., mocking the fact that he seemed to go out of his way to write an overly eager, sort of ass-kissing response to a fairly benign comment by Virginia Postrel.

  25. SP,

    Oh, I got it, but jesus.

  26. Near as I can figure: Apparently if someone addresses another poster by name, and that poster is kinda famous, and you end both sentences in your two-sentence post with exclamation points, and you do not refer to the other poster as an idiot, that is considered fawning. (Internet rules.)

  27. SP, get help. It’s not right to be drunk this early in the day.

  28. Simplify Simplify Simplify.

    Unnecessary complications only obscure the true purpose of something. Take Social Security, for example: The simplest it could get is to let you keep your money.

    To complicate things, how about we’ll take your money, (spend it immediately but not tell you about that), and give you a “promise” for the future, based on 6000 rules, circumstances, figures, devices, and complications, with no chance that you’ll truly figure out how gipped you will be.

    Now, in this case, (pure entertainment) I don’t really give a shit.

  29. Thanks Tedd, that made me smile. You’re even funnier than Virginia!

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