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Hitch

[ 65 ] December 16, 2011 |

R.I.P.

Many more tributes here.

Comments (65)

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  1. Curmudgeon says:

    If I believed in an afterlife, I would say that I am pleased that he’s finally going to meet some of the 100K+ Iraqis killed in an invasion and occupation that he supported.

    Since I don’t believe in an afterlife, however, all I’ll say is good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • R Johnston says:

      Someone who supported the Iraqi invasion doesn’t get to label himself a skeptic. To anyone engaging his frontal lobe rather than running on pure amygdala it was very clearly a disastrous idea from the beginning. My biggest disappointment with the online skeptical community has long been the general embrace of Hitchens.

      People can be forgiven for being wrong about Iraq, but Hitchens never really admitted that error and didn’t deserve forgiveness, much less did he ever so thoroughly analyze, renounce, and learn from his error that he could properly be labeled a skeptic. Hitchens was low on reason, high on emotion, and a terrible representative for skeptics and atheists. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “good riddance to bad rubbish,” but I’m looking forward to the paeans to him finally ending sometime soon.

      • djw says:

        Someone who supported the Iraqi invasion doesn’t get to label himself a skeptic.

        There’s a lot of truth to this. I’d amend it slightly; I’ll grant Hitchens a substantial skeptical streak; but in this very important case (and plenty of others) his skeptical tendencies were overwhelmed by an irrational anti-religious (and especially anti-muslim) bigotry. This isn’t particularly unique; all humans who label themselves skeptics and hone that particular capacity are going to have blind spots. Hitchens’ blind spot was especially large and especially ugly.

        • cer says:

          Absolutely. I remember seeing him speak in person and someone asked him, essentially, that even if he firmly believed in the Iraq war mission, why would he trust an administration that he otherwise would consider a bunch of bumbling idiots to do it properly. He acted as if the questioner had taken a dump on the floor with that ignorant, silly, absurd question. That, to me, was the essence of the failure of his skepticism. He actually mocked the student’s nervous grammatical error. He had an enormous blind spot and, over time, simply dug in his heels and continued to take ever more ridiculous and bigoted positions rather than reconsider his original position. But, as you say, this is not an unusual characteristic. It just so happens he had an unusually large pulpit for his preaching.

        • Leeds man says:

          …an irrational anti-religious…bigotry

          Oh bullshit. Objecting to the indoctrination, and instillation with fear, of children with dangerous dogmatic nonsense is not bigotry. If he advocated atheist madrassas, or the burning of churches, I haven’t heard about it.

          • Leeds man says:

            Meant to write “is not irrational”, but either way.

            • Name says:

              As I understand it, he actively praised the destruction of churches and mass murder of priests in the Soviet Union. My source could be wrong, but here it is.

              • Leeds man says:

                The quote is from this article. I think “actively praised the destruction of churches and mass murder of priests in the Soviet Union” is a bit harsh, since he doesn’t mention the Soviet Union.

                Really mate, assuming contextual integrity in The American Conservative is probably not wise.

                • Name says:

                  Fair enough. It’s hard to praise the source, and I’m certainly not interested enough in Hitchens to go out and independently corroborate it; but he was a pretty unrepentant Trotskyite. So, really, nothing would surprise me.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Christopher Hitchens was a right-wing jack-ass. Just because he was an Atheist and erudite doesn’t make him a good person. I really don’t think the world has lost anything of value in his death. Just because someone dies doesn’t mean we have to forget how they lived.

    I personally never liked the man. The first time I ever heard him talk, I thought, ‘I hope he gets throat cancer and dies a slow and painful death.’ I have to say, it couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Hitch was consistently a jackass, but was not consistently right wing. In addition to being a jackass he was an entertainingly vituperative and visceral writer, and when his targets were deserving (Kissinger) and especially when they were deserving and iconoclastic (Mother Theresa), the results could be something special.

      It’s sad that in his last decade his rare attacks on deserving targets (violent Islamist groups, enablers of pedophile priests, certain people on the Left) were swamped in seas of unmerited bile indiscriminately launched against slightly related but rather more blameless targets (all of Islam, all Christians, everyone to the left of Joe Lieberman).

  3. Saurs says:

    Another he-man woman-hater & warmonger has kicked the bucket. If he hadn’t spent his life being so bellicose and attention-starved, nobody’d give a damn, anyway. Feh.

  4. rea says:

    “drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay”–George Galloway

  5. wengler says:

    He was a pompous, arrogant ass.

    Any interesting tidbits that may have existed in his writings(mostly just his assault on Kissinger), evaporated as soon as he got in bed with the Bush administration and pushed the Big Lie about the supposed righteousness of the Iraq War.

    I suppose the only good thing to say about him is with his drinking he still was able to make it to 62. And hell it was the smoking that got him. All those dead kids in Iraq weren’t afforded the privilege of succumbing to drink or smoke.

  6. Manju says:

    My favorite Trotskyist.

    Of course, supporting any communist is evil but Hitch made it up with good wit and enough intellectual honesty to be a renegade.

    His smackdown of Mother Theresa was precious and he appeared to know his bourbon.

    The collapse of the Marxist-left is one of the most profound events in history. Hitch was one of the few fellow travelers who were able to find a way thru it.

  7. Kent says:

    I found him fascinating and enjoyed reading and listening to him, especially when he took on those “sacred cows” in life that so many accept without really knowing (or perhaps asking) to proverbial why. Was he arrogant? Yeah, sure he was, and? Was he wrong in some of his views? Yeah, in my opinion he was, and? I’m me for crying out loud and he’s him, I don’t need to agree with everything he writes, does, or says.

    What I don’t understand is the seeming celebration that he’s died or that he’s now in celestial hell. Gone, for me, is a brilliant thinker and debater who often spoke for my feelings about things in words (and with logic) that ten of me couldn’t muster. I’ll miss that.

    • RhZ says:

      The celebration is for one very simple reason: Hitch supported, actively and ignorantly, the Bush drive to war in 2002.

      He wrote piece after piece, each characterized by a complete lack of logic, by pure emotion, with a striking lack of awareness of the horrors of war, the crimes that will certainly happen in any war, or the needless destruction of people and families that he was calling for. In other words, the writing sucked, the logic and awareness sucked, and all that was left was his personal arrogance and some the occasional appeal to some higher good or other. Yes, it was really as simple as ‘Saddam bad, so war with Iraq good’.

      That might not mean much to you, but to the people around here, that makes you a f*cking scumbag. Good riddance, for sure.

  8. Manta1976 says:

    Hitchens was my moral compass: whatever he wrote, I could be pretty sure it was hideously wrong.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Were you reading him before 1995 or so?

      • Manta1976 says:

        No, I didn’t.
        I think I started reading a bit after 9/11.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          I ask because you really couldn’t have said that about him before the late 1990s (at the earliest). Not that he was always right before then. He had been terrible about women and reproductive rights issues for much longer. But he was at least often right until the last decade and a half or so of his life. Look at some earlier essays by him from The Nation…you might be surprised!

  9. Leeds man says:

    If he was wrong about religion, he’s probably relishing the vitriol right now. His post-911 opinions were often repulsive, but they were just that; opinions. I doubt he changed anyone’s mind, or facilitated the war. For that, we have human dross like Judith Miller to thank. The man was amusing, and that forgives a lot. At least, I hope his circle of hell is well-stocked with Johnnie Walker.

    • mark f says:

      Exactly. Besides, everyone knows that Matt Yglesias was the true engineer of the Iraq War.

      • Amanda in the South Bay says:

        Eh, they were both the same, in that they advocated a war in which both of them would never have to fight.

        • mark f says:

          Of course, I opposed the war and I never had to fight it either. Neither did anyone else, except those who wanted to be employed by the organization whose purpose is to fight wars. I’m still angry at George Bush and everyone else in his administration and Congress who advanced the thing. I can’t be bothered to summon anything more than strong disagreement with those who thought it was a good idea but had nothing to do with actually making it happen.

  10. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Charlie Pierce has put up a thoughful, though IMO far too kind, memorial post.

  11. mike in dc says:

    Well, at least he spoke his mind. I do think it’s entirely appropriate for people to speak frankly about Hitchens now, since he never hesitated to excoriate any recently deceased person he considered worthy of his scorn. There’s contrarianism for the sake of taking a closer look at the underlying assumptions of a given premise, and then there’s serial goat molester Mickey Kaus. At his worst, Hitchens ventured deep into Kaus/Kinsley territory. At his best he could be incisive and insightful. Unfortunately, he got it into his head that we should knock off Saddam Hussein at all costs, and was too stubborn to ever own up to that being a huge mistake.

  12. He wrote good snark, and I like snark, so I read him. I don’t think he was as erudite as all that, but a lot of writers who I do think of as erudite– Charlie Pierce is one– thought he was, so maybe I was wrong. It seems to me that his public manner of dying was honest, so good for him on that, but in the end I can’t say I understand the fuss over him, living or dead.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      The one time I met Hitch in person was at the wine-and-cheese reception following a memorial service held for E.P. Thompson at the ethical culture center in NYC.

      I somehow found myself in a group of three people, one of whom was Hitchens. He was smoking and drinking (and a bit drunk), but he engaged in a long, learned, and fascinating (at least to me as an intellectual history grad student) rant about divisions among the British far left in the 1970s and intellectual consequences of them (an appropriate conversation to follow a celebration of Thompson).

      He struck me as smart and very knowledgeable (at least about the subject at hand), but also utterly in love with the sound of his own voice, which was in person as well as in print at least interesting enough that one felt that the affection, while exaggerated, was not wholly misplaced.

      Of course none of that excuses his rather crazy turn to neoconservatism in the last decade-and-a-half of his life.

  13. Scott,

    Thought you might appreciate my own little profane tribute to Hitchens.
    http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/honoring-christopher-hitchens/

    Grover

  14. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I tried to read Hitch 22 a few months ago (it was a library book, so no money spent on it). I gave it up early on when he quipped that only “collectivists” these days want to bring back the draft. I could see there that he was going to double down on his pro-Iraq War views.

  15. Richard says:

    I’m frankly apalled that people on this list are applauding his death. He was an interesting thinker, a brilliant wit and, although I disagreed with his view on the Iraq war, always worth reading. And his writing over the last year on his illness and his impending death is memorable. And even if you don’t like his writing or his views, it is simply abhorrent to express pleasure that he died (plus anybody who says that be became a staunch neo-conservative after 9/11 has simply not read his work)

    • Amanda in the South Bay says:

      Hitchens gained a lot of fame by applauding Mother Teresa’s death. So, why not provide a critical eye on his life and works (unless he was really thin skinned, which I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion he was). I mean, the guy made his living off of making his opinions known to the wider world. To say that criticizing (I’m certainly not applauding his death) him after his death is wrong is just ridiculous. Jesus, was he your close friend or family member?

      • Richard says:

        Criticzing him in fine but the comments above go far beyond that – “good riddance to bad rubbish” “getting throat cancer and dying a slow and painful death – couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow”.

        Hitchens criticized Mother Theresa but he didn’t applaud her death and certainly didn’t use language like the above – direct quotes, by the way – in describing her death.

        • Name says:

          This link is from a conservative source, and it might very well be wrong. I don’t know Hitchens’ writings well enough to say for sure. But if true, he certainly seems to have celebrated some deaths. (And I’m certainly not agreeing with the ideology of the article itself. I’m merely citing it for its castigation of Hitchens, in the hopes that someone will be able to tell me if the article is as dishonest as it is disagreeable. If it’s true that Hitchens said these things, it’s noteworthy.)

          A straightforward description of all Hitchens’s anti-Catholic outbursts would fill every page in this magazine—he recently argued, in essence, that Judge Roberts should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court because he is Catholic—but his most disgusting, and revealing, anti-Catholic spasm was his reaction to the death of John Paul II, a man he dismissed as “an elderly and querulous celibate, who came too late and who stayed too long.”

          Speaking ill of the dead is a Hitchens trademark, with Mother Teresa, Bob Hope, and Ronald Reagan—whom Hitchens described as “dumb as a stump” and a “cruel and stupid lizard”—each rating a bilious sendoff. But John Paul II rated two. Hitchens blamed the pope for such wide-ranging evils as the “enslavement of the Middle East” and “the millions who will die needlessly from AIDS,” a disease whose sexual transmission would cease if Catholic teaching were followed. Hitchens also blasted John Paul for harboring Cardinal Law from justice, ignoring the fact that Cardinal Law was never convicted of any crime or even indicted because, as the prosecutor told the Boston Globe, “there was no intent that we have found to assist in any way in criminal acts.”

          • Richard says:

            The link calls him an unreconstructed Bolshevik. Obviously he can’t be both a Bolshevik and a neoconservative at the same time.

            Its, of course, true that Hitchens had critical things to say about some dead people but thats a far cry from celebrating their death.

            • Name says:

              I don’t see how you can read “an elderly and querulous celibate, who came too late and who stayed too long” as anything other than a celebration of the Pope’s death. As for the neo-cons, it seems like the overwhelming majority are former Trotskyites or Stalinists; I’m not sure what “reconstructing” them would be, but I’m not defending the article per se. The article was written by paleoconservatives; I only reference it because it quotes Hitchens, not because I’m fond of its underlying ideological bent.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I agree, in part. I think it’s unseemly to celebrate the death of anyone, with the only possible exception being someone who is actively involved in creating truly massive human misery (e.g. the Hitlers and Stalins of the world). And certainly Hitchens did not fall into this category.

      On the other hand, he played an active and important role in cheerleading for the Iraq War. He was an important enough thinker that he bears some small responsibility for the disaster that followed. And for better or for worse, unlike some other sometime supporters of that war, Hitch never tried to make excuses for that support. It’s entirely fair to hold him morally accountable for that.

      As concerns Hitch’s neoconservatism: I’m not sure I’d call him a “staunch” neoconservative (he was a bit too much of an iconoclast to warrant that label), but his turn to the right involved more than simply support for the Iraq War. He was a long time opponent of reproductive freedom, becoming noisier on this issue in the last twenty years or so of his life. He supported Clinton’s impeachment. And he endlessly flogged the noconservatives’ favorite expression for our supposed post-9/11 “existential enemy”: “Islamofascism.”

      There certainly were folks on the (“decent” or “Eustonian”) left who were loud supporters of the war. But Hitchens had taken a broader turn to the right.

      • Richard says:

        I basically agree with you. He was conservative on some things, not so conservative on many others. What I took exception to was calling him a staunch neoconservative – he wasn’t and the neoconservatives never embraced him – and applauding his death (even the fact that his death was slow and painful). Those comments don’t belong here (dont belong anywhere).

        I have no problem in holding him morally accountable for the positions he took (as long as the people doing so have actually read what he wrote )

  16. Kent says:

    Well Rhz, as one of those “people around here,” I didnt know that we all thought the same way and had to have people write and defend positions approved “around here.”. I didn’t approve of the Iraq war, but understand the arguments for those how did. I also don’t condeme the, what?, 150 million or so Americans who, in one way or another “supported” the war(s). Next time I lament the passing of a slightly known intellectual, I’ll ask if it’s okay first. You don’t like him…fine. I liked his stuff.

    • RhZ says:

      Look, I got nothing against you. You are entitled to your opinion, I don’t even want to argue about that. Nobody said you are not allowed to think whatever you want, so stop pretending like you came across the thought Nazis, you didn’t. Don’t be so thin skinned about it. You didn’t seem to know why Hitch is roundly hated by many, and I clued you in.

      As for ‘people around here’, did you see the first 10 or so comments? Case closed, I assume. I, for one, was glad to see so many others that remember and blame Hitch. Of course no internet site of any sizable readership will be uniform in thought. Hell, SEK just wrote a defense of Hitch, for whatever misguided reason.

      Many people here remember that Hitch actively supported, and provided material support, for the Bush Admin as they concocted what limited support they could find for the Iraq war. Hitch did that well knowing thousands of civilians would be killed, there is no way he could have possibly thought that only military would be killed. He didn’t care, its that simple. He was an arrogant, needy bastard and should be remembered as such, in my opinion.

      You understand the arguments of those who supported the war? You are smarter than I, then. Outside the military contractors, I didn’t understand any of the supporters’ arguments. Other than a dark, visceral desire for power through killing other human beings, I mean. Or profit to be made.

      150 million supporters? Active supporters? You jest, I assume. Why do you think all those lies were necessary? Plus, Hitch did a hell of a lot more to further the move to war than these supporters you refer to.

      Just to be clear, in my earlier comment, I wrote something along the lines of, ‘Hitch wrote bad things which led directly to war, and if you do that you are a scumbag’. Poor writing on my part, but it should have been clear that I was calling Hitch a scumbag, not you.

      Anyway, I would prefer to let this go and stop thinking about him entirely. Enjoy the writing if you will.

  17. Njorl says:

    I found something I wrote as a comment on one of Hitchens’ more addled Slate columns:

    Many years ago, when a champion boxer had completely lost it, he could still make a few bucks (for his manager) travelling small towns, getting beaten by the local tough guys. The town would have a moment of glory and the local guy would feel like a big man for a while.

    I think the allure of Hitchens is much the same. Slate publishes his drivel, and in ‘The Fray’ (the reader comments section), a few hundred junior Clarence Darrows shred his feeble arguments. It is by far the most popular feature at Slate. The commenters get to feel good about themselves, and Hitchens has solid evidence of the traffic that he personally generates for the site. He is undoubtedly the biggest draw they have.

    Hitchens could still write, but he couldn’t argue, and it seemed like he didn’t care.

    • RhZ says:

      +1 all around, although I don’t quite agree with the analogy. I didn’t comment but certainly read each of those pieces (but not the comments) and I felt very bad about each one. I wouldn’t have felt any better had I commented.

      I felt horrible because he was wrong, and he was calling for mass murder, openly on a msn site, just joining the drumbeat of harpies, each one salivating at the war porn they were going to enjoy. Sick f*cker, that.

      I felt horrible because each piece was a mish mosh of rhetorical gibberish, devoid of logic or sense, they could have been written by any of the mad men over of the Likud side of the fence (and of course there are other pockets of such ghoulishness, although it must be admitted that the Commies are especially good at looking at human life through a distorting lens).

      I felt horrible because this is my country, not his. We have enough ghouls, dearest UK, pls take yours back.

      Not bad rubbish, but blood-thirsty arrogance and insatiable inner rage. Hence, good riddance.

  18. Manju says:

    I used Rizzo as an example because I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1970s, and hope his racist, corrupt-cop-loving ass is burning in hell.

    Malaclypse,

    But you can’t “wish his racist, corrupt-cop-loving ass is burning in hell” without engaging in racist denialism yourself? At least Hitch had the integrity to call out the Clintons on their Southern Strategy. Perhaps I was too generous in assuming a begrudged concession on your part when I presented some of this evidence not too long ago.

    Segregationist politicians did not migrate in any meaningful numbers, and certainly not to the level that your fellow dixiecrat DrDick has tried to assert (“All of the hard line segregationists switched to the Republican Party”).

    I believe you know this now. And that is the real reason you used a peripheral datapoint like Rizzo. After all, you started out with a major player (Strom) and how hard is it to do a quick check on his peers: Eastland, Russell, Wallace, Eavin, Faubus, Conner, & Co…and see how many switched?

    One of the reasons their regime last as long as it did is because of the tribalism you display.

    You could learn something from Hitch.

  19. shalo says:

    Not his country? He was a naturalized citizen, you ignorant year….

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