An Open Letter to Eric Alterman

Dear Eric,

This is long overdue, but I do sincerely want to express my gratitude to you for granting us an interview for our movie about the career of Ralph Nader An Unreasonable Man. I am a regular reader of your column in The Nation and appreciate the work you do in debunking the idea that there is a "liberal bias" in the media. I bet we agree on all the issues. Except one.

Your recent blog "You've Got A Lot Of Nerve..." was brought to my attention, and I felt I had to respond.

As far as the movie goes, we were looking for someone who would articulate the very real anger that most mainstream liberals felt and still feel toward Nader's last two presidential runs and you and Todd Gitlin graciously obliged. Since you've seen the movie, you know that you two were not alone. We also included other critics, people close to Nader, who had either worked with him or reported on him regularly.

In our postmortem of the 2000 election, we wanted to explore four questions or accusations. One: Nader should have dropped out. Two: He should have worked within the Democratic Party. Three: He shouldn't have said that there wasn't a "dime's worth of difference" between the two parties. Four: He spent all of his time in swing states in an effort to punish the Democrats. That was the conventional wisdom, and we wanted to give Nader and his people a chance to answer those charges. Remember, you speak for the dominant theory out there that Nader is an egomaniacal spoiler. It's Nader who hasn't had the chance to tell his side of the story.

You should watch the movie again. (I'll send you a copy. You shouldn't have to pay. Although, if you wait for the official DVD, you'll get to see more of you on a DVD Bonus Feature we did about the role of third parties in America.) First of all, it's shorter than the Sundance version you saw in January '06. Secondly, we don't just have you set up an argument, then bury you. There is a back and forth. In most cases, you respond in kind, sometimes it's others responding on your behalf. Even on one occasion, we give you the last word. It would have been boring to have you and Todd act just as a foils. A lot has been written about this movie. No one has said it's boring. Check out We're Certified Fresh! As of this writing, 91% fresh!

You complain that you were not given a follow-up interview. This was not a big budget Hollywood movie. No one got follow-up interviews. And as far as interview time versus screen time, you sir, are the hands down winner. We interviewed you for 35 minutes. You may recall that after thirty minutes you wanted to stop, and I had to practically beg you for the extra five. This may be hard for you to believe, but of all the comments I've received about the film, not one person has said to me, "You know what this movie needs? More Eric Alterman!"

Speaking of follow up, where is it? In your blog you say of Nader and the election:

" All he could do is spoil it sufficiently to allow George W. Bush to somehow sneak in. Nader wanted this to happen because he is a deluded Leninist megalomaniac who preferred to lead the country closer to disaster in the hopes that this would somehow make things better in the end. This is why he was willing to lie to his supporters, taking their money while promising not to campaign in contested areas and then doing so right before the election, and why he lied to the entire country about there being not a "dime's worth of difference" between Gore and Bush. (Can anyone be stupid enough to really believe that today?)"

That's exactly what you said in the movie! You would think that if you had something else to say you would have said it in your own blog. I'm not editing your blog. I suspect the truth is, you said all you wanted to say. That's all you've got. The problem with it is, it's not about facts. It's conjecture about Nader's motives. It's extreme ("deluded Leninist megalomaniac") It's condescending ("stupid"). It's a tantrum. Chris Hedges put it this way:

"This anger is the anger of the betrayed. But they were not betrayed by Nader. They betrayed themselves. They allowed themselves to buy into the facile argument of "the least worse" and ignore the deeper, subterranean assault on our democracy that Nader has always addressed. It was an incompetent, corporatized Democratic Party, along with the orchestrated fraud by the Republican Party, that threw the 2000 election to Bush, not Ralph Nader."

You say that it is a "question of context." On this, we agree. I think the feedback you have been getting reflects the fact that in the context of Nader's entire history, your anger toward him appears at best uninformed and at worst, a bit foolish.

As far as being recognized ("accosted") in LA... you're welcome.

Yours truly,
Steve Skrovan
Co-director: An Unreasonable Man
Registered Democrat, Voted For Al Gore in 2000