Joe Nocera Mans Up

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 7, 2011

It is rare that one of the people who revealed himself to be a hypocrite when it comes to the issue of civility backtracks, apologizes, and admits that he “was a hypocrite” for being uncivil, “when on other occasions [he has] called for a more civil politics.” But that is what Joe Nocera has done, and for that, he deserves credit. Obviously, Nocera continues to take issue with the politics of those to the right of him, but of course, there is nothing wrong with that. No one has a problem with a diversity of opinion; problems only emerge when one side decides to embrace demagoguery. Nocera has stepped back from being a demagogue, and as far as I am concerned, good behavior deserves to be rewarded. There are worse things that we can do with our day than to contact the New York Times, and Nocera, and tell them that we, as readers, appreciate displays of intellectual honesty, and maturity–even if such displays are somewhat belated in nature.

To be sure, one swallow does not a summer make, and one Joe Nocera is not enough to start up a rampage of civility that will sweep the nation. Despite Nocera’s “Take Two,” there are plenty of blogs on the center left and the left that continue to attack those with whom they disagree in appallingly vituperative terms. It ought to surprise no one that those same blogs piously preach the virtues of civility when they and their side are attacked, but cast civility aside when it is convenient for them. Joe Nocera may be trying to stop being a hypocrite. Too bad that there are so many bloggers on his side of the partisan divide who refuse to follow his example.

And too bad that so many newspaper writers and editors on his side of the partisan divide fail to follow his example as well. I am glad that the Times’s editors greenlighted Nocera’s latest. But what could have possibly possessed them to greenlight his previous essay, in which he called Tea Partiers “terrorists,” and accused them of making “war on America”? Nocera apologized for his intemperate and irresponsible language. When will his editors follow suit?

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