Jonathan Alter vs. Michael Wolff: The Pissy Email War
Last Friday, professional media beef-starter Michael Wolff called Newsweek's Jonathan Alter "the most pompous man in American journalism." Today, Wolff's column dismissively cited Alter's new book about Barack Obama. This confluence of Wolff-isms sent Jonathan Alter over the edge.
Jonathan Alter, senior editor and columnist at Newsweek, was so mad that he even cc'd us on his email to Wolff this morning:
I'll give you $1000 if you can prove to me you actually read my book before attacking it. It hasn't been published yet (tomorrow is the pub date) and you weren't sent a copy. God knows you're too lazy to go find one from a reviewer. All of the reviews so far (including Michiko Kakutani and Harry Hurt III in the Times) have been favorable. Martin Nolan in The San Francisco Chronicle led his review yesterday: "Jonathan Alter is the new Teddy White." More fodder for you, no doubt. I'm sure you would have trashed "The Making of the President, 1960" because you're so much better than White. Your book slobbering over Rupert Murdoch was soooo well-reported that it managed to lose your publisher a fortune on the advance.
Another reason I'm positive you haven't actually read my book is that you obviously didn't read Newsweek before your last column because you failed to notice that Anna Quindlen left the magazine ages ago, so she can't be fired. I've been called a lot worse than pompous, Michael, so I have no problem with that. But I can't help thinking that there's a connection between your barren and ugly mind and the fact that no one reads your site. Oh, and pushing it into everyone's mailbox unasked doesn't count. It just pisses people off that they have to delete it every day.
I can understand why you would actually believe that the demise of Newsweek (we're likely to be bought, btw) is a good thing. You, Michael Wolff, will be the savior of journalism, redefining the form for the new age.
Good luck with that.
He was so angry he wrote "soooo," as if imitating the drawn-out cadence of a bratty child! Wolff replied:
That's my point: you've always wanted to be Teddy White, who himself outlived his form and sycophantic devotion to politicians. Still, I can't imagine why you're so thin-skinned. So what if I thought your book is as boring as its subject? Why so sensitive? All right, I'll admit it—I skimmed. But I'll bet my skim of your book was no quicker than yours of my "slobbering" book (though I'm sure you checked the index and saw my dig at you). Anyway, you're hurt. Your howl of rage I suppose has something to do with the end of our profession as we know it and what you correctly perceive as my eagerness to move the process along—not to mention my belief that your would-be Walter Lippmann-Teddy White gassing is a good example of why the profession is of interest to nobody. By the way, you misspelled my email. Good you copied Gawker—which you also regularly complain about. Jesus man, just stop your whinging. mw
Alter wrote back:
You skimmed? You have the book? Honest?
And then quickly added:
PS: I've never complained about Gawker. Just more examples of how you pipe stories as easily as you breathe.
Ha. Of course many of Alter's criticisms of Wolff are valid, but he neglects to take into account the fact that Michael Wolff forms 90% of his opinions based solely on what he thinks will get him more Twitter pickup that day. Never follow Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch, people.