Tuesday, April 28, 2009
By Nicholas Stix
In writing his memoirs, a journalist has an advantage over a civilian, in having a record of his life. And where Nat Hentoff's notebooks left off, his FBI files provided items he'd forgotten, such as the name of the haberdashery where, at age 11, he'd had his first job, and some which he'd never known, such as his parents' Russian birthplaces.
A Village Voice and Washington Post columnist, and the author of some 40 non-fiction and fiction books for adults and children, the catholicity of Nat Hentoff's interests and his career of taking gutsy stands have made him an institution in a profession pervaded by mediocrity and conformity.
Hentoff's atheism, his support of trade unions and flag burners, and his quaint faith in school integration that most American blacks no longer believe in make him look like your standard-issue liberal. Yet the same man defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, opposes abortion, and has fought against a purported "right of privacy" that would allow women to dispose of children born with birth defects. It is no wonder that many of Hentoff's colleagues at the Village Voice have stopped speaking to him.
The sequel to Hentoff's 1987 memoir Boston Boy, which told of his "exuberantly anti-Semitic hometown," Speaking Freely briskly covers his 50-plus years in journalism with a wry, self-deprecating humor that his columns and First Amendment books often lack.
Hentoff enjoyed early success writing on jazz for Down Beat magazine, whose New York office he ran. In 1956, he got fired. It seems he had hired a "black" secretary without getting permission from the home office in Chicago. The magazine, which was devoted to black music, had never hired a black staffer. Ironically, Hentoff reports, "Several years later I found out that the secretary at issue was not black, but Egyptian. Of course, these days, the creators and practitioners of Afrocentricity would rule that, being Egyptian, the new secretary was, of course, black. Either way, I would still have been fired."
Hentoff sketches several poignant portraits of jazz greats. He tells of a 1980s concert at Lincoln Center in Dizzy Gillespie's honor. "I hadn't seen Dizzy...for a few years.... In the hallway, Dizzy was talking with someone, saw me, ran over, and grabbed me in a bear hug. To the man he was talking to, Dizzy, grinning, explained, 'It's like seeing an old broad you used to go with.'" Hentoff comments that "This old broad has seldom been so honored."
Hentoff tells sadly of the deterioration of New York's Village Voice, once as vividly unpredictable as it is now a museum of political correctness, and of his hopes for its reinvigoration under its current editor-in-chief, Don Forst. For the past several years, I have found Hentoff to be the sole reason for reading the Voice.
Hentoff's turn against abortion quarantined him at the virulently pro-abortion Voice. He has subsequently campaigned against all forms of euthanasia. He also attacked the practice of testing pregnant women for HIV for research purposes and then withholding the test results from them-a policy demanded by the AIDS lobby, employing an obscene interpretation of "privacy" rights, which condemned thousands of children and their mothers to terrible, premature deaths. Hentoff compared this practice to the "Tuskegee experiments," in which black men infected with syphilis were left untreated, to die horrible, slow deaths. The ACLU's support of this HIV testing policy led Hentoff to resign from the organization in 1995, after 35 years as a member.
In the "Genghis Khan of the Catholic Church," conservative archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor [alive at the time of original publication of this review], Hentoff sees a kindred spirit. He and O'Connor locked horns over Pope John Paul II's granting of an audience to Kurt Waldheim after his complicity in Nazi war crimes had been exposed. Before Hentoff could complete a second column attacking the Pope and O'Connor, a letter from the latter shut him up: "Now that I have won the argument, let us proceed. You may recall how Belloc ends his Path to Rome: 'So let us love another and laugh. Time passes and we shall soon laugh no longer. Meanwhile, earnest men are at siege upon us all round. So let us laugh and suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another.'"
The defense of an opponent's freedom of belief requires a kind of love, and the embrace of absurdities. In Hentoff's case, the loving and the embracing are done by a warrior journalist.
The American Enterprise, Spring 1998.
By Nicholas Stix
September 2, 2003
Last week, in the newest chapter of the biggest civil liberties story this country has seen in years, scientist Steven Hatfill announced his long-awaited lawsuit against the federal government, naming Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice, the FBI, FBI supervisory special agent Van Harp (who has led the anthrax investigation), et al.
The DOJ/FBI terror campaign against Dr. Hatfill, who was a government scientist, and a leading authority on the Marburg and Ebola viruses, and on how to respond to chemical and biological attacks, has been underway for over 14 months. After the FBI botched the investigation of the Fall, 2001 anthrax attacks which, following on the heels of 911, killed five people and sickened 18 others, in spite of not having one iota of direct or circumstantial evidence incriminating Hatfill, the Bureau decided to make him the fall guy for the attacks.
The Bureau was aided by radical college activist, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, whom I dubbed the Dr. Strangelove of the American Left, who reportedly named Hatfill during a June 18, 2002 meeting of Senate staffers and FBI agents. Rosenberg, in turn, was aided by New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, who gullibly repeated Rosenberg's wild rumors. The bureau has also been greatly assisted by the media, most notably ABC-TV's star reporter, Brian Ross, who became a pipeline for hoaxes the Bureau was apparently fabricating, in order to make Hatfill look guilty. One such fabrication, was the claim that Hatfill had lived near a "Greendale School" (the return address on the deadly, anthrax-laced letters), while studying in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; another was the claim that bloodhounds who had been given decontaminated "scent packs" prepared from the envelopes the anthrax letters arrived in, barked wildly at the sight of Hatfill.
Last year, in an "innovation" in the destruction of civil liberties, and concomitant expansion of arbitrary, unconstitutional law enforcement powers, Ashcroft named Hatfill a "person of interest." The designation, which was invented out of whole cloth, was a ruse meant to permit the DOJ and FBI to treat Hatfill like a suspect, but without granting him any of the legal protections that a suspect is entitled to. On August 1, Ashcroft's underlings illegally ordered Louisiana State University to fire Hatfill from the job he had just assumed there, as second-in-charge of a program training first responders to terrorist attacks. Since the Department of Justice was the source of virtually all of the funding for such programs, this amounted to blacklisting.
Hatfill has charged that since then, when he has gone to job interviews, FBI agents stood obviously outside the door, thus spooking potential employers out of hiring him.
The surreal campaign has gotten so out of control, that an FBI agent tailing Hatfill recently ran over the man's foot - and instead of the agent, Hatfill was given a traffic ticket!
As I have previously stated, my theory is that DOJ and FBI officials seek to drive Hatfill to eat the business end of a .38, so that they can then say, "See, we said he was the guy!"
I wonder what Nat Hentoff would say about the Hatfill case, if he were alive.
And yet, columns keep appearing in the Village Voice, Jewish World Review, and the Progressive, under the byline of the man who for a generation loved to be referred to grudgingly by the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy, as "the journalist from the Bill of Rights," defending the "civil rights" and "civil liberties" of Muslim illegal immigrants, of blacks, of anyone but white, conservative, American men.
In her book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, Michelle Malkin argues that someone whose very existence in this country is illegal, cannot have civil rights or civil liberties. She sold me. Why then, does the author of the "Hentoff" columns imply that the non-existent civil rights of illegal aliens trump the real civil rights of citizens - at least of those citizens from the wrong demographic group?
Perhaps Hentoff's name is still used as a brand by a different writer or group of writers, the way the late Abigail van Buren's "Dear Abby" is still used by her daughter, who now maintains the advice column.
But what if Hentoff is alive, and himself penning the columns appearing under his name? Would that mean that in his dotage (he was born in 1925), he has lost his commitment to universal principles, or that he never had such a commitment, but just now stopped faking it?
Under the Hentoff brand have appeared dozens of attacks on Attorney General John Ashcroft, with zero mentions of Ashcroft's most prominent victim. Oddly, if you do a google search of "Nat Hentoff," and then add "Steven Hatfill," you find people talking about both men on the same web pages, even though "Hentoff" refuses to mention Hatfill.
In May, "Hentoff" eliminated any doubts as to what she/he/it really believes in. A May 23 column on Zimbabwean butcher Robert Mugabe's domestic terror campaign opened,
"But now, as the black citizens of Zimbabwe [my emphasis, as in later cases] are battling the savage laws and brutality of Robert Mugabe's government, South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, is hesitantly and ineffectively involved in what The Economist calls '"quiet diplomacy," a euphemism for inaction.'"
Hentoff quoted Amnesty International USA's Adotei Akwei approvingly:
"Very disappointing is that there has been such little visible public concern anywhere for the suffering of the black people of Zimbabwe."
For Adotei Akwei, whites also are apparently less than human.
After telling of a torture victim named Patricia, Hentoff emphasizes, "Patricia, like a huge number of Mugabe's victims, is black." Hentoff continues,
"Here at the Voice, I received a press release from the African Liberation Day Coalition 2003. The headline: 'Blacks Assert Hands Off Zimbabwe,' addressed to the 'U.S. and British governments,' accused by this coalition of recolonizing Africa. The demand: 'money for reparations and not occupations.'
"Will they demand that Mugabe pay reparations to all the black Zimbabweans he has so ruthlessly misruled?
"Will A.N.S.W.E.R. invite Robert Mugabe to address its next demonstration for 'Peace and Justice'? Meanwhile, incredibly, the African Liberation Day Coalition scheduled a rally for last weekend advocating 'support of President Mugabe for standing up for his country.' Ask the black Zimbabweans about that."
And more recently, in his/her/its July 29 Jewish World Review column, "Hentoff" informs readers,
"Along with hundreds of thousands of black Zimbabwean labor leaders, feminists, students, teachers, low-income farm workers made jobless by Mugabe's disastrous land "reforms" - and the many black citizens who have been tortured by his police - Buckle, a white who is as resilient as the black Zimbabweans are insistent on awakening the world's conscience "
"Black Zimbabwean feminists"? How many are there, pray tell? In any event, for Hentoff whites apparently only exist, to the degree that they fight on behalf of blacks.
You'd never know, from reading the two columns, that for the past three years, Robert Mugabe has dispatched his thugs to rob white Zimbabwean farmers of their land, and rape, maim, and murder them. Indeed, the nation that until a few years ago was known as the "breadbasket of Africa" (granted, there used to be a bit of competition for that title) is now dependent on foreign food aid, and is a humanitarian disaster. Indeed, the "disastrous land 'reforms'" Hentoff mentions, are limited to Mugabe's cronies' robbing white farmers of the latter's land.
The cover story for the land robbery, is that dictator Robert Mugabe is reforming land ownership, by taking land owned by wealthy, white farmers, and distributing it to impoverished veterans of the 1970s' civil war that led to the end of white-dominated apartheid, and the introduction, in 1980, of black rule. In fact, at the end of the civil war, many of the "veterans" were either as yet unborn or small children.
When Mugabe ascended to power in 1980, he promised the white farmers that he would not take their land, and Zimbabwe continued to be a net agricultural exporter. Today, far from being given to the poor, the stolen land is being divvied up by Mugabe's cronies and thugs. And since those cronies and thugs have neither the talent nor the inclination to farm, crops are failing.
Under the Hentoff brand, we read of the persecution of Mugabe's black critics in Zimbabwe (actually, he doesn't mention victims' races). We read of Mugabe's abuses of reporters. And as previously noted, we read of "hundreds of thousands of black Zimbabwean labor leaders, feminists, students, teachers, low-income farm workers " But we do not read of brutalized whites.
On a continent where genocide is a standard tactic for dealing with ethnic rivals and racial minorities, the persecution, disenfranchisement, and scapegoating of Zimbabwe's white minority has put it in a position similar to that of Germany's Jews, circa 1938. The BBC's response to this dire situation, is to report on frivolous stories, such as a black woman officiating at a men's soccer match.
For Nat Hentoff, the racist, mass, state-directed robbery and persecution of whites matters only inasmuch as they indirectly harm blacks. Because for him whites have no rights, he refuses to report that it is the whites who have been the primary victims of Mugabe's land grab.
I've written positively of Hentoff in the past. Either he had me fooled, or something has gone very wrong with him. When his old friend, John Cardinal O'Connor (1920-2000), may he rest in peace, was alive, the two wrote lengthy, often contentious letters to each other. O'Connor used to help steady Hentoff's rudder, when the latter lost his way. If O'Connor were still alive, I imagine he might have written something like the following letter to Hentoff.
Please try to remember that the white Zimbabweans are also children of G-d, or if you prefer, members of the human family, and deserve your compassion, as much as their black brothers do. And when you are reading the Riot Act to John Ashcroft, as you so often do, you would do well to mention the scientist, Dr. Steven Hatfill, who is Ashcroft's most dramatic victim.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I found this droll video at Legal Insurrection, which posted it on the occasion of Kerry’s call for hearings on pirates: “Pirates Were For Kerry, Before They Were Against Him.”
Legal Insurrection is the blog of William A. Jacobson, who is an Ivy League professor of law, but don’t hold it against him.
While you’re visiting, be sure to “click to request free government funds.”