Midweek Dicks: Jonathan Alter

13 Jan

Alright, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not comfortable making Jonathan Alter our Dick of the Week this week for two reasons.  First, I just did a Dick Hall of Fame post on Pundits as a whole, and since Mr. Alter falls squarely into that category, it would be unnecessarily redundant.  Second, Alter’s Newsweek article following the Arizona shooting tragedy was so unbelievably out of line that I’m almost hesitant to call him a dick.  The flippancy of “dick” almost cheapens the fact that Alter demonstrated himself to be, really, just an awful fucking human being.

But, then again, if I merely ignore him, many of our readers many never know what a complete fucking dickbag Jonathan Alter is, and that would be a greater tragedy.

Alter, preparing to eat this old woman (citation needed).

Compared to Jonathan Alter, Paul Krugman looks like Walter Cronkite.  In fact, I would rather read every Paul Krugman article than read one more Jonathan Alter article.  The many of you who read my previous article dealing with Krugman, will understand how much spite it would take for me to say that.  Let’s examine some of what Mr. Alter said:

“Conservatives like to argue that these are isolated incidents carried out by lunatics and therefore carry no big lessons (unless the perpetrator is Muslim, in which case it’s terrorism); liberals view them as opportunities to address various social ills. Obama is in the latter category and should act accordingly. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel famously said in 2008. The same goes for a shooting spree that gravely wounds a beloved congresswoman.”

If just reading those words doesn’t make your skin crawl, allow me to spell out their meaning a little more clearly.  Republicans, according to Mr. Alter, are fools for believing that this incident was carried out by one insane individual (which it was).  Furthermore, they are racist for believing that Islamic terrorist strikes are a symptom of a larger terror threat (which they are).  To Mr. Alter, the tragic shooting of Rep. Giffords and, lest we forget, the death of six others (including a nine-year-old girl) is little more than an opportunity to advance a political agenda.  Alter references the gun control laws that were passed in the wake of the Martin Luther King, Jr. shooting, and laments the fact that similar opportunistic legislation won’t be passed.

But you think I’m exaggerating, no doubt.  “Yeah, that paragraph sounds bad, but it’s not like Alter is seriously advocating blatantly politicizing the tragedy for political gain.”  And I would like to agree with you, I really would.  But Alter chooses to close his article with this:

“Sad to say, if Giffords had died, she would have been mourned and soon the conversation would have moved on. But Giffords lives, thank God, which offers other possibilities. We won’t know for weeks or months whether she can function in public. If she can, she will prove a powerful referee of the boundaries of public discourse[.]”

Now THAT should make your skin crawl.  Jesus Christ!  James Taranto puts it best in the Wall Street Journal when he says “‘Thank God’ she lived, he says, because he has the rest of her life planned out for her. This is such an obscenity that Newsweek should be delivered in a plain brown wrapper.”  Alter’s desire to parade the victim of this tragedy to promote an political agenda is as shameful an act of yellow journalism as we have ever seen.  And when I say “yellow journalism,” I don’t mean the yellow journalism you learned about in history class.  I mean Alter is a coward.  If Newsweek had any decency, they would fire him.

On right, Newsweek.  The people that published this shameful excuse for an article.  Let’s not pretend even for a moment that Alter acted alone.  Alter’s editors are equally if not more responsible for his terrible rhetoric, as they had the power to stop or moderate him at any point in the editorial process.  Yet they allowed his article to stand.  Perhaps they did edit some things out–wouldn’t that be scary?

Newsweek's editorial process.

Taranto links to a Fox News video in which even Rahm Emanuel was horrified that Alter invoked his words in the article: “First of all, what I said was: Never allow a good crisis to go to waste when it’s an opportunity to do things that you had never considered or that you didn’t think were possible. That’s not intended for this moment, [nor] does it apply to this moment.”  When even Rahm “I Send Dead Fish To My Political Detractors” Emanuel calls you out, you’ve got to be one serious dick.

Fuck Jonathan Alter.  Fuck him for trying to politicize this national tragedy.  Fuck him for not even having the courtesy to hide behind pretext, as even Paul Krugman did.  Fuck him for thinking that his words were in ANY WAY appropriate.  He has faced backlash, as he should.  Hopefully Newsweek will face similar repercussions.  But those who criticize the right for making baseless claims that incite violence should take care to consider the fact that Alter’s article should make any man with common sense want to punch a wall.


One Response to “Midweek Dicks: Jonathan Alter”


  1. Dick of the Week, Jan. 10-16: Eric Fuller « Dick of the Week - January 18, 2011

    […] to capitalize politically off of the tragedy should be ashamed of themselves, from Paul Krugman to Jonathan Alter to Sarah Palin for using the term “blood libel” to those who attacked Sarah Palin for […]

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