Eric Alterman

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Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman @ BBF (8024099379).jpg
Alterman in 2012
Born (1960-01-14) January 14, 1960 (age 62)
Alma mater
  • Journalist
  • author
  • professor

Eric Alterman (born January 14, 1960) is an American historian, journalist, author, media critic, blogger and educator. He is a CUNY Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and the author of eleven books. From 1995 to 2020, Alterman was "The Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation. He is now a contributing writer there, and at The American Prospect where he writes the "Altercation" newsletter.

Early life and education[edit]

Alterman was born to a Jewish family[1] and earned a BA in history and government from Cornell University, an MA in international relations from Yale University, and a PhD in U.S. history from Stanford University[when?].[2] His doctoral dissertation, completed in 2002 with Barton Bernstein as primary advisor, was Two lies: the consequences of presidential deception.[3]



Alterman began his journalism career in 1983, freelancing originally for The Nation, The Washington Monthly, The New Republic, Harper's, Le Monde diplomatique and, later, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, among others, while working as a senior fellow for the World Policy Institute in New York City and Washington, DC. Not long after, he became the Washington correspondent for Mother Jones and. soon thereafter, Rolling Stone, before returning to The Nation as a columnist in 1995. Alterman has also been a contributing editor or columnist for ElleWorth, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Forward, Moment and The Sunday Express (London)[4] and contributed to The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Le Monde Diplomatique, among other publications.[5] In 2021, he restarted "Altercation" as a newsletter published by The American Prospect.


Alterman was hired by MSNBC in 1996, appearing as a commentator on the cable channel and writing a column posted on its website. In 2002, MSNBC engaged him to create the blog daily "Altercation", one of the first blogs hosted by a mainstream media news organization.[6] In September 2006, after a ten-year association, Alterman and MSNBC parted ways. Media Matters for America hired him as a senior fellow and agreed to host "Altercation", effective from September 18, 2006. Regular contributors to "Altercation" included the sportswriter Charlie Pierce and the historian and military officer Robert Bateman. On December 22, 2008, Alterman announced that "Altercation" would be moving to The Nation's website in 2009, and would appear on a less regular basis than its previous Monday to Friday schedule.[7] He has also worked as a history consultant for HBO Films.


Alterman's first book was Sound & Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy, which won the 1992 George Orwell Award. Alterman wrote the book while studying for his doctorate in US history at Stanford University. Alterman's other books include the national best-sellers What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (2003, 2004) and The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America (2004). Others include Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy (1998) and the second edition of Sound & Fury (2000). His It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (1999, 2001) won the 1999 Stephen Crane Literary Award. In September 2004, Viking Press published When Presidents Lie|When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences – a version of his doctoral dissertation – on lies of major consequence told by presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

His seventh book, published in 2008 by Viking was called Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America.[8] Also in 2008, Alterman published a lengthy essay in The New Yorker on the decline of American newspapers and the future role of new media news sites.[9] His eighth book, Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama,[10] was published in early 2011. It was an extension of his lengthy article published in summer 2010 by The Nation. Alterman's ninth book, The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama (2012), is a history of postwar American liberalism co-authored with the historian Kevin Mattson. Three years later, in 2015, his tenth book, Inequality in One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment was published.

In 2020, he published his eleventh book, Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie and Why Trump is Worse.

Media criticism[edit]

Alterman's media criticism was the subject of two of his books. In contrast to conservative media commentators, Alterman argues that the press is biased against liberals rather than biased in their favor. He was called "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today" in the National Catholic Reporter and the author of "the smartest and funniest political journal out there" in The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2008, Alterman became a regular columnist for the Jewish magazine. Moment, where he wrote regularly about Jewish issues. From 2009 to 2012, he was also a regular contributor to The Daily Beast.[11]

Alterman has taught journalism at both New York University and Columbia University. Since fall 2004, he has been a professor of English at Brooklyn College, where he teaches courses in media and media history.[12] In 2007, he was named a CUNY Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.[13]


Alterman was and remains a critic of Ralph Nader for Nader's actions in the 2000 US presidential election, arguing that Nader is to blame for the election of George W. Bush because of vote splitting.[14] He has called Nader "Bush's Useful Idiot",[15] myopic,[16] and a deluded megalomaniac.[17] In the documentary An Unreasonable Man, he is quoted as saying:

The man needs to go away. I think he needs to live in a different country. He's done enough damage to this one. Let him damage somebody else's now.[18]

Alterman has also criticized Steve Jobs for his avarice and for failing to give any of his wealth to the poor. Jobs died with more than $8 billion in various bank accounts and with shareholdings in a tax-free fund with assets of more than $70 billion. He has also accused Apple of business practices that ultimately result in the misery of Chinese workers.[19]

He appears in the award-winning documentary film on Lee Atwater, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. In it, Alterman said, "Race is poison, but it is poison that works for their side. People vote their fears and not their hopes, and Lee understood that." He also appears in Robert Greenwald's documentary Outfoxed. Best of Enemies a documentary about Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley.

His critics have called him a member of the Israel lobby.[20] Alterman notes that his views on Israel are attacked by both the left for being too pro-Israel and the right, such as The Weekly Standard, for not supporting Israel enough.[21] He has announced that his next book will be a history of the Israel/Palestine debate in the United States, to be published by Basic Books in either 2021 or 2022.

Major works[edit]

  • Sound & Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy (1992, 1993, 2000) ISBN 978-0-8014-8639-5
  • Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy, (1998) ISBN 978-0-8014-3574-4
  • It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen (1999, 2001)
  • What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News (2003, 2004) ISBN 978-0-465-00177-4
  • The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America (2004) ISBN 0-14-303442-1
  • When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences, (2004, 2005) ISBN 978-0-670-03209-9
  • Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals (2008, 2009) ISBN 978-0-14-311522-9
  • Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama (2011) ISBN 978-1-56858-659-5
  • The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama with Kevin Mattson (2012) ISBN 978-0-67-002343-1
  • Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One (2015) ISBN 978-1-940489-19-3
  • Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie - And Why Trump Is Worse (2020) ISBN 978-1-541616-82-0

Honors and awards[edit]

During the course of his career, Alterman has been recognized for the following honors and awards:

  • Winner, 1993 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language for Sound & Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy
  • Winner, Stephen Crane Literary Award for It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive, 1999
  • Finalist, Mirror Awards for "Best Single Article, Traditional" and "Best Commentary, Digital", 2009
  • Finalist, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary, Digital", 2010
  • Winner, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary, Digital" and Finalist, "Best Commentary, Traditional", 2011
  • Finalist, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary, Traditional", 2012
  • Media Fellow, Hoover Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, California, June 2013
  • Finalist, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary, Digital" and "Best Commentary, Traditional", 2013
  • Finalist, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary, Traditional" 2014
  • Finalist, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary", 2016
  • Selected, Schusterman Fellow, Brandeis University, 2016
  • Elected to be Fellow of the Society of American Historians, 2016
  • Winner, Mirror Award for "Best Commentary", 2017


  1. ^ Weiss, Philip (July 8, 2011). "Eric Alterman on his dual loyalty and the U.S. pressuring Palestinians to accept 'their historic position'". Mondoweiss.
  2. ^ "Eric Alterman". Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 16, 2010.[dead link]
  3. ^ Alterman, Eric; Bernstein, Barton J. (2002). Two lies: The consequences of presidential deception (Thesis).
  4. ^ "Journalist Eric Alterman". Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  5. ^ "Eric Alterman". The Guardian. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Eric Alterman (September 11, 2006). "I'm Fired". NBC News. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  7. ^ Alterman, Eric (December 22, 2008). "We're Movin' On; We'll Soon Be Gone ..." Media Matters for America. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  8. ^ "Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Post-Bush America". March 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2008.
  9. ^ "Out of Print: The Death and Life of the American Newspaper". The New Yorker. March 31, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2008.
  10. ^ Alterman, Eric (5 January 2011). "Kabuki Democracy—and How to Fix It". The Nation. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  11. ^ Alterman, Eric (June 5, 2012). "Eric Alterman". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  12. ^ "New Faculty Bring Worlds of Knowledge to Brooklyn College". August 26, 2004. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  13. ^ "CUNY Board Names Alterman Distinguished Prof at Brooklyn College". July 10, 2007. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2007.
  14. ^ Eric Alterman (February 8, 2006). "Dancing days are here again". Media Matters for America. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
  15. ^ Eric Alterman (September 16, 2004). "Bush's Useful Idiot". The Nation.
  16. ^ Eric Alterman (March 22, 2001). "Tweedledee, Indeed". The Nation.
  17. ^ Eric Alterman (June 6, 2004). "Phew". NBC News. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  18. ^ Democracy Now (February 5, 2007). "Ralph Nader on Why He Might Run in 2008, the Iraq War & the New Documentary "An Unreasonable Man"". Democracy Now!. Archived from the original on February 14, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  19. ^ Eric Alterman (November 9, 2011). "The Agony and Ecstasy — and 'Disgrace' — of Steve Jobs". The Nation. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  20. ^ What's on a man's mind. Interview with Reihan Salam. Recorded March 13, 2009. Posted March 16, 2009.
  21. ^ Eric Alterman (July 27, 2006). "The Impossible Dream: Honest Debate About Israel". Huffington Post.

External links[edit]