Nat Hentoff RIP

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jserraglio
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Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:08 am

New York Times
Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91
Nat Hentoff, an author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 91. . . . . http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/07/nyreg ... .html?_r=0

________________________________

Times of Israel
Columnist Nat Hentoff, a secular rabbi excommunicated for his activism, dies at 91
Noted iconoclast, who made a name for himself as a jazz writer and radical, once said his heresy was a Jewish ‘tradition’ . . . . http://www.timesofisrael.com/columnist- ... ies-at-91/

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John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:59 am

When in college I was aware of him as a leading jazz critic, maybe the leading jazz critic, but since jazz didn't interest me I didn't read any of his stuff. It seems he soon left that behind to write about anything and everything that came into his mind. Never read any of that either...
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:10 am

I've been hooked on jazz ever since I heard Duke Ellington perform in a "carnival tent". Hentoff was among the greatest of jazz critics. I devoured his Village Voice articles and his multitudinous album jacket notes. He was one among many reasons I loved NYC.
_____________________________________________________________

Here he is in 1960 on the "failing New York Times" from an op-DJT perspective:

The Soft Decay of The New York Times
June 1, 1960, Vol. V, No. 32
By Nat Hentoff


We're witnessing, it seems to me, the gradual decline of what has generally been considered the country's most distinguished newspaper. There is no disputing the Times' continuing usefulness as a paper of record, but printing complete speeches and Presidential press conferences is not enough to sustain the Times' previous reputation.

Take the question of news placement. This is one example of several in recent months that indicates an odd inability of the editors there to recognize an important story when they see one. On Tuesday, may 10, the Herald Tribune - which is much improved - ran a front-page story on the vitally important fact that for the first time the Food and Drug Administration had approved a pill as safe for birth-control use. Even the Daily News with its large Catholic readership printed the story on page 5 with the head "OK '100% Effective' Birth Control Pill." The N.Y. Times ran a five-paragraph AP story deep down on page 75 alongside the radio listings.

The Times has a huge, ponderous city staff, but the Times consistenly misses local news...There is simply no initiative any longer on the Times' city side. Not among the reporters, but among the editors. No wonder the Times is Robert Moses' favorite newspaper...

What may be the lowest point the Times has ever reached in its own self-esteem occurred May 16 on page 22. The head was "Times Retracts Statement in Ad." The story concerned an ad that had been placed in the Times by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King. The ad was published March 29. Alabama's Governor John Patterson, an avowed white-supremacist, demanded that the Times retract assertions made in the two paragraphs of the ad. Every statement in those two paragraphs is entirely factual. Patterson also objected vaguely to "the publication as a whole" but specified no other sections.

In an extraordinary - and shameful - display of cowardice, the Times retracted the two paragraphs without explanation as to the specific facts therein it had presumably found to be untrue. The Times, underlying the fact that it had nothing to do with the ad, published the list of signers, among them myself. Is the Times saying I'm a liar? I'm mildly tempted to sue the Times, for defamation of character, but the Times has done itself such serious damage by its pusillanimous yielding to the Governor of Alabama that anything any of us tried to add would be superfluous...

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/nat-he ... es-6657259
Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ricordanza
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by Ricordanza » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:42 am

Back in my New York days, in the late Sixties, I read lots of his columns in the Village Voice. I was aware of his reputation as a jazz critic, but the columns I read focused on political issues.

John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:58 am

I don't know that Hentoff's specific complaints about the NY Times's news coverage in 1960, from his leftist perspective at the "Voice," add up to what he calls the "Soft Decay" of the paper as a whole. Personally I have no opinion as at that time I wasn't a New Yorker or a Times reader. But that's water long since under the bridge. I note that in 1972 the Times took a principled and potentially dangerous stand by publishing the Pentagon Papers, and while it may or may not still be weak in covering local news, its international reporting and commentary has received one Pulitzer Prize after another - six to Thomas L. Friedman alone.

Beyond question, I think, is the slow decline in the Times's coverage of the arts in general and classical music in particular, over the last 20-30 years. It used to be that every major cast change at the Met and many unheralded debuts in Carnegie Recital Hall were given at least a paragraph, sometimes just a report but often a proper review - no longer. But that's a very different issue.
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jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 8:06 am

Those wonderful "writers on the Left": Nat Hentoff, I.F. Stone, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and many others I didn't have to agree with to admire (the NYT overall was and still is a fabulous newspaper). So too, Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. on the right, even when I thought he was wrong, as in his stunning apologia for the Cold War: McCarthy and His Enemies.

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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:05 am

I'm with you except for Chomsky, whose political writing (what I read of it) seemed to be about some other world than the one I live in. But I certainly admire his revolutionary approach to linguistics, which I tried to come to grips with in college, and whether or not he's right about psychology and learning, reading him on those topics is certainly mind-opening.

Buckley? His rhetorical adroitness gave his political and social views a certain plausibility which, I think, didn't go far below the surface. But like George F. Will, about whom I'd say pretty much the same, he has written superbly on the sport he cares about - Will on baseball, Buckley on sailing. Since mine is a sailing family, we specially appreciated that, and Pop used to watch "Firing Line" for the fun of it. :)
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jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:31 am

In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.
Excepting only George Will's snobbish edict after Game 2 of the 2016 WS that there was "no reason" to take the Series back to Cleveland. Words to do battle by!

WFB, jr superficial? A different view taken in the contemporaneous NYT review of McCarthyism, while finding plenty to criticize in the book:
William S. White wrote: This is the most extraordinary book yet to come forth in the harsh bibliography, pro and con, of "McCarthyism." Measured as a literary and polemical effort it is the most striking. . . .

. . . So, in sum, what have we here? We have a bald, dedicated apologia for "McCarthyism" made far more adroitly than Senator McCarthy himself could make it, that may well serve to clarify this issue. For the authors, enemies of the enemies of Mr. McCarthy, may have, ironically, done the Senator a disservice. McCarthyism is now on the record for all to see. They have "frozen" McCarthyism on their pages, which is an event that the instinctively fast-moving Senator may one day regret.
Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 9:57 am

I've granted Buckley's adroitness, but a book devoted to an untenable and perverse thesis can never be more than superficial; if the author had really come to grips with the essentials of his subject he wouldn't have written the book. Anyway, I've based my judgment almost entirely on his broadcast and telecast appearances; the only Buckley books I've read, or wanted to read, are about sailing.

But you've piqued my curiosity about the McCarthy book, so maybe I'll go slumming and have a look. :mrgreen:
Last edited by John F on Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:02 am

As for Chomsky, the "Planet Chomsky" ploy was used unashamedly but effectively in debate by Alan Dershowitz, much to Dershowitz's discredit, I think. Far more honest, but also far less successful, was Wm. Buckley in Chomsky's only Firing Line appearance. Lacking Dershowitz's dominator instinct, a diffident WFB let Chomsky run him over.

Re sailing: my only experience was an uncomfortable cruise on a blustery day off Boston Harbor and environs on a very small yacht an aging medical doctor had sailed across the Atlantic and back with his post-adolescent girlfriend. Spent the afternoon miserably ducking the boom and ogling the girl. God invented motors so sensible people would use them.

John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:40 am

Amazingly, "McCarthy and his enemies: the record and its meaning" is online as a PDF - all of it.

http://www.jrbooksonline.com/PDF_Books/ ... gs-POL.pdf

The book was published in 1954, the year of McCarthy's infamous investigation of the U.S. Army. This is not mentioned in the index, so presumably it hadn't yet happened; if it had, that might have made Buckley's argument harder to maintain, whatever that argument is. The hearings were carried for six weeks on national network TV (I remember seeing some of it on the TV set in my school's lunch room) and aroused public revulsion against McCarthy and his methods as never before - the revulsion of his colleagues in the Senate, more than 2/3 of whom voted to "condemn" him before the year was out. What Buckley thought then, would be interesting to know.

Well, enough. I'll have a look and see what I can see.
Last edited by John F on Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:02 pm

If memory is accurate, Buckley never fully recanted even after McCarthy fell. He kept defending McCarthy's accusations about Reds in the State Dept. but did question his ruthless methods. I recall reading the Enemies book with youthful excitement and thinking it was a tour de force of powerful argument.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mGD2aaW7FTc
The Redhunter
A NOVEL BASED ON THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SENATOR JOE MCCARTHY

By BUCKLEY, WILLIAM F. & MAROSZ, JONATHAN

"I have here in my hand....a list of names that were made known to the secretary of state as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department." From America's most celebrated conservative writer, William F. Buckley Jr., comes an engrossing and unexpected historical novel about one of the most controversial figures in American political history - Senator Joe McCarthy. Senator McCarthy rose and fell in just four years, yet he gave a name, lastingly, to an era. In 1952 he was the most lionized and the most hated man in America. But little was known about the man or his background. McCarthy's personal charm and single-minded determination took him from Wisconsin and his indigent life as a chicken farmer to Washington, D.C., as the youngest United States senator. But it wasn't until February 9, 1950, in Wheeling, West Virginia, that McCarthy bewitched the nation - and unleashed a crusade - with his claim that Communists had infiltrated the United States government. In THE REDHUNTER, a wondeful blend of fact and fiction, Buckley tells the story of Harry Bontecou. Freshly graduated from Columbia, Bontecou joins McCarthy and remains at his side for three critical years. But when McCarthy's judgement becomes clouded by prosecutional zeal and reckless extravagance, Bontecou delivers the ultimatum: McCarthy must choose between Bontecou and Roy Cohn, McCarthy's ruthless aide. By then we have seen at close hand Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, and Dean Acheson in memorable portraits of leaders in action.
Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:20 pm

Buckley and his co-author Brent Bozell were in their late 20s when this book came out, and it's 400 pages long, so they must have devoted a sizable chunk of their young lives to it. I skimmed here and there to get a feel for its method and style, then cut to the conclusions.

Briefly: the authors concede that McCarthy did smear some innocent people, though his accusations against others had some basis in evidence; that he publicized the charges he made while shielding himself from reprisal by making them on the Senate floor; that he sometimes grossly exaggerated, as when he called Owen Lattimore "the top Russian espionage agent in the United States" which he couldn't possibly have known and which was not true; and that he impugned the loyalty of his critics, calling them pro-Communist or even Moscow-directed. Buckley and Bozell say they don't excuse this but in fact they glide past it, which amounts to the same thing.

Their basic fallacy: "We cannot avoid the fact that the United States is at war against international communism." (That's like saying we are presently at war against terror.) Such a war must be won, whatever it takes. That may or may not be superficial, but it's wrong. The United States and its allies were "at war" against the Soviet Union and its allies (or satellites), an imperialist rather than ideological confrontation. If it were really the latter, then the Voice of America and Radio Moscow could have dueled it out over the airwaves for the peoples' minds and hearts. This book, however, is not just anti-communist, it's anti-liberal; one of their strategies is to set up supposedly liberal stereotypes and impeach them as soft on communism. That's about half the American people.

We've come a long way from 1954, with our Republican president-elect openly cozy with Vladimir Putin while Russia is attacking across our electronic borders with virtual impunity. Where is Joe McCarthy when we need him? :twisted:
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jserraglio
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:16 pm

Dear Senator Joe, where have you gone?
We turn our lonely eyes to Donald John.
What's that you say now, Ms. Hillary?
Jumpin' Joe has left and gone away.
Woo, woo, woo.
Last edited by jserraglio on Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

John F
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Re: Nat Hentoff RIP

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:38 pm

:D
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