Nat Hentoff died last week. He was an amazing guy. I disagreed with him on a lot of specific policy issues, but he seemed like someone with whom that would be OK, maybe even expected.
I first heard of him in the hullabaloo around his getting fired at the Village Voice. Then I ran into an article he wrote, or really an excerpt from one of his books, in Evergreen Review (an issue that used to be online, but doesn’t appear to be at this time). That led me to watch his appearance on Firing Line, which is too long to really watch in its entirety unless you care specifically about something they’re saying. But, even a minute or two serves to remind us that while the level of wordplay has come down A LOT since then, the liberal/conservative TV talk show script hasn’t changed appreciably in 50 years.”They” are supposed to be earnest and idealistic to the point of naivete, while “they” must appear smugly self-assured and fundamentally uncaring.
The things that made him angry in life haven’t gone away, but neither have the things that gave him joy. Nat Hentoff is someone we could all stand to remember, to emulate in the sharpness of our thinking, the depth of our feeling, and the eloquence and sincerity of our expression.