November 22, 2002
SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME:Straw Liberals and False Prophets (Eric Alterman, December 9, 2002, The Nation)
The purpose of intellectuals, as Amos Oz instructed the 1986 PEN writers' conference, is to make distinctions. When Kristof, Hitchens, Beinart and Rosenbaum smear all liberals and leftists with the sins of a silly few, they are repudiating the highest calling each writer professes to revere. If they really wish to say goodbye to their "ex-comrades" in an honest and responsible fashion, they should go after those writers and thinkers whose work speaks for larger, more significant tendencies than those written on demonstration placards. Paul Simon notwithstanding, the words of the prophets are not written on the subway walls and tenement halls.
Nowhere in any of the above attacks, for instance, could I locate an engagement with the work of liberal writers or politicians of genuine merit and reputation. Not a single reference, in other words, to names like: Rorty, Walzer, Wills, Kuttner, Meyerson, Hertzberg, Rich, Krugman, Reich, Gitlin, Berman, Ivins, Green, Hoffmann, Gates, Kennedy (Edward, Randy, David and Paul), West, Judis, Kazin, Brinkley, Tomasky, Jackson, FitzGerald, Didion, Dyson, Power, Moyers, Frank, Pelosi, Feingold, McGovern (Jim and George), Wilentz, Fallows, McGrory, Navasky, vanden Heuvel, Kinsley, Scheer, Conason, Packer, Cohen, etc.
This is the patriotic left that Hitchens would have had to engage had he been serious about his critique of "America's liberals" in The Atlantic Monthly last year. It is their work that Kristof would have been duty-bound to examine rather than nutty websites. What has passed for analysis so far in this benighted genre is no more legitimate--or convincing--than those who would hold all conservatives responsible for the postings on freerepublic.com or lucianne.com, cheering the death of Paul Wellstone, his wife and daughter.
We've done our part. Here are reviews of books by a handful of Mr. Alterman's icons:
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 22, 2002 8:36 PM