The editor-in-chief of the monthly journal First Things has announced a change of heart, well sort of, about the heavy diet of minor and major chastisements that he dishes out in the section of his magazine labeled "The Public Square."

"I do not comment as often as I probably should on so much I come across that is cheering. I expect I should do something about that," Neuhaus writes in the March issue. "I mentioned some months back the editors of a magazine [he means Commonweal] who do not call this section ’The Public Square’ but ’The Public Scold.’ They may have a point" [emphasis ours]. He do go on for another column or thereabouts examining the pros and cons, as he puts it, of "avail[ing] myself of more opportunities to praise, or at least commend what is commendable." Alas, he sums up several hundred words later: "If I am not mistaken, I feel a bout of the old crankiness coming on."

We know exactly how he feels. It is hard to give up the sins of the past, especially crankiness. Crankiness is a vice to which editors often feel they have a special calling. So we offer a bit of spiritual guidance. Critical readers of "The Public Scold" note not only its shortage of cheery commendation but the highly selective nature of its reproaches. Folly and hypocrisy flourish in virtually every segment of our public life, but Neuhaus has a way of discovering it almost entirely on what might be called the religious and cultural left. If he can’t give up crankiness altogether, a first step might simply be to spread it around a bit more equitably.

Meanwhile, we devoutly support him in his struggle against this terrible sin.

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Published in the 1999-03-12 issue: View Contents
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