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Thursday, 28 December 2006

Hooked on Sidney

Sidney Hook, right

28 December 2006


Another NYU/Journal/NYT story....

This has to do with the late Sidney Hook, the prominent, NYU-based philosopher who, over years the years from the 20s to the 60s, had morphed from a Communist fellow-traveller to a early version of a contemporary neo-conservative. OK. No problem. Except....

Reading The Times the other day, I see that Op-Ed columnist David Brooks is using Hook as a conceit in several of his columns, ie., issuing allocades to certain magazine articles over the past year for best this, best that. I know, boring, especially from Brooks, the least interesting of the paper's columnists (a replacement for William Safire, I suppose) -- and himself, of course, a conservative running-dog of the Bush Adminstration. Hello! Brooks is calling his citations the 'Sidney Awards.' Just cloyingly cute, right? Wrong.

Yes, they're named after that Sidney. Brooks can be as boring as he wants.... He can praise anyone he wants.... I have no quarrel with that. But heaping praise on a free American press by way by the repressive, censorious Sidney Hook, pluuuze! By the end of his sad life Hook was one of the most right-wing apostates in the the long history of 1950s turncoats, many of them sited at NYU during the Red Scare.

Now, the Journal/NYT bit: One day, quite literally walking down the steps of the old Loeb Student Center on Washington Square I bump into the little, mustaschioed twerp. He was easy to spot on campus, a midget, bespectaled shit, and you probably saw him slithering 'round the Square as much as I did. Anyway,

'You're the guy that writes for The Times,' Hook spits out at me. (More a statement than a question. I guess I was fairly well-known as the NYT college correspondent).

Hook's five-minute rant that followed was predictable PRO-Vietnam War humbug. He concluded by charging that I was a menance to campus journalism, following up that he was going to get me fired as correspondent. His invective took me completely by surprise. I was stunned. Said nothing, or little, in response. But I thought how pathetic Hook had become.... Here a prominent American intellectual so befuddlled and so marginlised that he had to attack the likes of me -- an NYU undergrad.

Next day, I get a call from a call from legendary Times City Editor Arthur Gelb, via a news clerk. Get your ass up here! was the gist of the command.

Later that day, I met with Gelb.

'What's this about Hook? He says you're a member of the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society].'

'I'm not.'

'OK. Stay out of Hook's way'