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June 10: Nat Hentoff

June 10, 2014

6a010535ce1cf6970c0168ec12df9a970c-piFirst Amendment journalist and jazz critic Nat Hentoff was born in Boston on this date in 1925. After studying as a Fulbright scholar at the Sorbonne in Paris, he became a jazz critic with Down Beat magazine in 1952 and quickly established himself, in print and on radio, as one of the America’s most insightful music writers. For more than half a century Hentoff was a columnist for the Village Voice, mostly on First Amendment civil liberties and other political issues, but his opposition to abortion, his libertarian leanings, his criticism of leftwing attacks on Israeli legitimacy, his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (on humanitarian grounds; he was determinedly opposed to the suppression of civil liberties in the U.S. that followed 9/11), and his general independence of opinion — all of which made him politically unclassifiable — cost him his post there in 2008. Hentoff describes himself as “a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists.” His books include nine novels, two memoirs, and more than twenty non-fictions about jazz, the Bill of Rights, education, political leaders, and more.

“[M]eans and ends are central. If your means are corroded, your ends will be corroded. And if you’re fighting to preserve liberty and you use means that eviscerate our liberties, the end will be corroded too.” —Nat Hentoff