Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alterman, Part Three, and Some Other Book

In a healthy nation with an informed electorate and a truly representative political system, a fellow like our author of the week, Eric Alterman, could find himself in Congress or standing behind the podium now occupied by Tony Snow of FOX News.

What, you think I'm nuts? I think he'd make a terrific press secretary, because he's a teacher of journalism: he'd challenge these dweebs in the White House press corps exactly as Stephen Colbert challenged them—with irony, sagacity, and wit. Here's a sampling of the latter, from What Liberal Media:

Part of the credit for Bush's low expectations belonged to Ronald Reagan, the topic of many a dewey-eyed tribute during the Republican primary season...The rose-colored nostalgia for a president who could not recognize his own son at his high school graduation set a bar for Bush that would have been difficult for him to miss if he had been genuinely retarded. Bush could not help but perform up to this minimum level of competence. (p. 155).

Now if that doesn't make you want to run out and buy this book, I don't know what will.

But the best thing about Alterman as a press secretary would be how he could teach the drones how to ask real questions again, and not loosen their teeth around the pant leg of Power until they had answers that were substantive and meaningful. In the "W's World" chapter, Alterman lists a bunch of questions that he wanted answers to (that we all want answers to still), which he publicly asked Dubya in September, 2002, in a column he wrote for The Nation. These are just a few of them:

• Why did the Bush national security team ignore the Al Qaeda briefing it received from President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, in the fall of 2000?
• Why did the president ignore the August 2001 intelligence briefing warning him of the likelihood of an Al Qaeda hijacking?...
• Why didn't the National Security Agency have foreign language expertise to translate the words "Tomorrow is zero hour," spoken by Al Qaeda operatives and picked up in real time on September 10, 2001?
• Speaking of Ground Zero, does anyone know if it's safe to breathe the air down there?
• How did Bush decide on war with Iraq without consulting the uniformed military, the intelligence agencies, the United Nations, NATO...? (pp. 216-217).

Imagine if we had people in that room asking questions like that? Imagine if 8-inch Gannon was out in the margins where he belongs—on a geocities website made in Netscape Composer 4—and Helen Thomas was in the front of the room again, in the company of colleagues eager to "afflict the comfortable," as the saying goes, with razor-edge questions? For that to happen, we need someone like an Eric Alterman in that position that has been held with such an abhorrent weakness by the likes of Ari, Scotty, and Tony. Keep this in mind as you're reviewing your choices for 2008.


From bestseller to worstseller:

My latest book, Life Lessons in a Time of War has an amazon ranking of "none." That means, zero copies sold. Does it deserve that ranking? Well...we excerpt, you decide:

We live in a world where fools are adored, and arrogance rewarded. We live in a time when real work is paid with scorn, as if it were a disgrace, and when the sham of busyness is given credit, and often stock options. Ours has become a nation so obsessed with image that the once living substance inside has rotted into a stinking lump of darkness.

Every morning, on the subway, I see people reading God, in black or tawny red books with gilt lettering on their dark covers. I wonder, "is god there—in those books?" Surely it is there, somewhere, though not in the language.

I look for god in the same places where the great scientists have, though without even a shadow of their insight and ability. I look between the lines, in the atoms comprising those pages, in the quantum space that patiently carries the images. But god can't control whether those images are the pictures of a delusion. Only you can.

Is God in His heaven, talking over a golden phone to a squint-eyed, vapid white man in Washington or Crawford who can't string two sentences of decent English together at a time? Is He magically engorging the cranial vasculature of an old white minister of state in Israel, as punishment for having divided a desert filled with bullets and fables? Is He silently plotting the murder of a socialist leader in South America, for the greater glory of Himself and His appointed television spokesmen? Is He intelligently designing a world where cruise missiles decapitate children, and white phosphorous melts the skin of widows?

The real god that you breathe in and exhale in every moment, that dances through your bloodstream and even your bowels—this god is in your flesh—you are it and it is you. This god is the subatomic ocean that sparkles in the lips of lovers or the eyes of children. It is always at rest, and never stops moving; and will never be trapped in the slimey snares of fundamentalism. So let the dead rot—fundamentalism is shit for the compost heap.

Have you ever wondered why tyrants are never assassinated? How can you kill what is already dead? Every tyrant kills the god within himself, until only a shell, an empty image, remains. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all their ilk, are hollow husks whose rot will feed the tree of history, and thereby nourish the next generation, and fertilize the coming transformation.


Erratum: Someone—maybe Professor Alterman himself—was good enough to remind me that in yesterday's post, I misidentified the home of Alterman's "Think Again" column. It is, of course, published at the Center for American Progress; though Dr. A. also publishes a regular column on the media at The Nation.

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