Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman is a distinguished professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is a columnist for The Nation, Moment, and The Daily Beast. His most recent book is Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama.

Recent Articles

How Peretz Undermined Liberalism

As editor-in-chief of The New Republic, Martin Peretz spread the virus of liberal self-hatred.

Well, it's finally over. Martin Peretz, who, according to David Horowitz's Frontpage webzine, "has been a pillar of responsible liberalism since buying The New Republic magazine in 1974," has finally been shown the door . He did not go quietly. You can find his parting remarks here and also here and here . Peretz left TNR as he inhabited it: in a splendid (and splenetic) fit of pique, pessimism, and personality-driven politics. No one who knew Peretz or his magazine will doubt that it was full of sound and fury. But what did it signify? It's no easy task to sum up 37 years of anything, much less the tenure of a magazine editor who prided himself on being described as "schizophrenic." For some, the fact that right-wing zealots like Horowitz, his Sancho Panza, Ronald Radosh, and National Review 's Jonah Goldberg were the only people willing to come to Peretz's defense as he was pilloried as a racist crank tells you all you need to know about the man. (It does, after all, take one to...

Accounting for Kristol

What was The New York Times thinking when it hired neocon propagandist Bill Kristol for its op-ed pages?

Pretend for a moment you're a close friend of New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The two of you are finishing off a nice dinner at say, the Century Club, about to reach for the cognac tray, when Arthur mentions that he's got a decision to make and he'd like to ask your advice. He wants to add a strong conservative voice to the Times op-ed page, and its editor, Andrew Rosenthal, has given him a list of 25 columnists for consideration. Arthur says he's set on Bill Kristol. He's remembering how infuriated people were when his father offered a job to Nixon hack William Safire, who eventually turned out to be one of the great pundit-reporters of the past 30 years. He thinks Kristol, a neoconservative boy prince, former staffer for Dan Quayle, Republican Party strategist, and guiding spirit behind The Weekly Standard , might be a bold choice that could distinguish his tenure as publisher just as the former Nixon flack did his father's. Arthur wants to know what you think. You...

The New Republic Was In Trouble Long Before Chris Hughes Bought It

The reign of Marty Peretz rendered the storied magazine less influential—and less liberal.

The New Republic was in trouble long before current owner Chris Hughes bought it. In June 2007, the Prospect ran Eric Alterman's definitive report and lamentation on the decline of TNR during the three-decade rule of owner-editor Marty Peretz, under the title, "My Marty Peretz Problem—and Ours." A magazine," a friend once observed to me over too many glasses of wine, "is by definition a problem." But like Tolstoy's unhappy families, each magazine is its own peculiar problem. And for the past 34 years, the name of The New Republic 's problem has been "Martin H. Peretz." My Marty Peretz problem -- and ours, if you happen to care about the respective fates of American liberalism, Judaism, or journalism -- is nothing if not complicated. When, in early 2007, Peretz finished what he had begun five years earlier, selling off what had long been America's most influential independent liberal weekly magazine, TNR was no longer any of these things. Now owned by the Canadian CanWest...

Cruisin' With Miltie

Ten or so years ago, the good folks at The Nation were nice enough to send me on a week-long cruise of Alaska put on by National Review for its readers. (I did not realize at the time that I was actually doing recognizance for the wiley and parsimonious Victor S. Navasky's business plans. I believe you can read about that, in a piece I wrote called "Heart of Whiteness," if you buy this book .) I had already gotten to know Bill Buckley a bit writing my first book, a history of punditry -- but I was especially eager to meet Milton Friedman, who was, after all, the most influential American thinker alive. Like today's neocons, and liberals back in the olden days, Friedman believed in the power of ideas to move society. He hurled himself into the Keynesian conventional wisdom of his day with popular tracts relentlessly attacking the notion of positive government interference in the economy -- beginning with Capitalism and Freedom in 1962 and sustaining this consistent line through the...

Contra Gates

The president announced his pick to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense today: former CIA director Robert Gates. Bound to surface in the coming national scrutiny of Gates is his role in the Iran-Contra affair. One of the great misconceptions of the Iran-Contra scandal is the widely-held belief that when then-Attorney General Meese called a press conference on November 25, 1986, to announce his discovery of the famous "diversion" of funds from the weapons sales to Iran to pay for weapons for the Nicaraguan contras, he was finally revealing the truth of what took place. As Oliver North pointed out in his memoir , the administration had much to gain by focusing on the diversion: This particular detail was so dramatic, so sexy, that it might actually -- well, divert public attention from other, even more important aspects of the story, such as what else the President and his top advisers had known about and approved. And if it could be insinuated that this supposedly terrible...