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Unnecessary Statuary

[ 85 ] November 2, 2012 |

The idea of putting a statue of Christopher Hitchens in a British park is enough to make me choke on my shawarma. At least someone is standing up to what would be the 21st century’s least defensible public monument.

Comments (85)

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  1. Warren Terra says:

    I’m all for it so long as the plinth is a sculpture of a hundred thousand dead Iraqis.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    So Hitchens would be exposed to the world, covered in pigeon shit. Strangely apropos.

  3. Aaron B. says:

    I saw him speak, once. Somebody asked him a question about his continued support for the Iraq war despite the immense human toll.

    His answer was… pretty pathetic, for someone who’s as accomplished a polemicist as he is. He basically just denied that there had been that many casualties.

  4. FMguru says:

    Is Britain suffering from a shortage of places where birds can shit, or something?

  5. STH says:

    Unfortunately, he’s become something of a hero in the atheist community since his death. Sure, he was pretty articulate when it came to religion, but I can’t forget all that other stuff he wrote. Yikes.

    • Aaron B. says:

      Even then, he was kind of a shit. Watch the intelligence squared debate about tr Catholic Church; Stephen Frye manages to be a hell of a lot more articulate and less douchey.

      • Anonymous says:

        Apart from Frye’s misogyny, maybe.

        • Aaron B. says:

          What are you referring to?

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m suggesting that the atheist community–if we’re going to consider it a monolith–is now a lot less impressed with Fry as a result of the many, many shitty things he thinks about women.

            • Dave says:

              Hmm, the first 2 pages of links there all come down to one comment made in late 2010. Glad to see the ‘one strike and you’re out’ rule still applies… Without discounting any passing ill-considered remarks, the idea that Stephen Fry is actually, in some substantive sense, an embodiment of misogyny is ridiculous.

              • Ed says:

                Without discounting any passing ill-considered remarks, the idea that Stephen Fry is actually, in some substantive sense, an embodiment of misogyny is ridiculous.

                I don’t think Fry “embodies” misogyny any more than Hitchens did, but it’s plain these weren’t passing half-baked remarks.

                • jameson quinn says:

                  What did he say? Did he keep digging?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  The rough gist of what he said is that said that women don’t really like sex or they’d be cruising like gay men. He tried to take it back/pass it off as a distortion or a joke, but apparently he had a similar bit in a recording.

                  Not cool. I don’t think it puts him in Hitchens league, but not happymaking.

                • Aaron B. says:

                  I think that’s a good example of a pretty typical flavor of misogyny I’ve observed in a lot of male gay friends. It’s undesirable and upsetting, promotes unfair and unrepresentative conceptions of gender norms, and is oddly blind to the kind of social sanctions women face for expressing their sexuality – odd because male homosexuals face similar types of sanctions enforced in similar ways. It’s bad, and his post-facto excuse-making is laughable.

                  That said, it’s kind of… humdrum. As in, there are lots of beer commercials that do more to advance patriarchy than this. The idea that it makes him the embodiment of misogyny seems pretty over-the-top to me.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Well, obviously Fry isn’t “the embodiment” etc. but Anonymous didn’t say that or even really suggest it. They may have overstated somewhat (was it “many many shitty things”? but does it matter?)

                  But to move to something positive, Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue is essential reading, in general, but also in a counter to this standard bit of misogyny. For Delany, the fact that women do not (or perhaps did not) have the opportunities for sort of sexual culture he experienced in Times Square is a function and aspect of their oppression.

                  Well worth a read.

                • Halloween Jack says:

                  Gay man has a less-than-perfect understanding of women’s sexuality? Let the pearl-clutching commence!

              • Anonymous says:

                Your lack of interest or inability to scan past the second page is not particularly compelling. Fry routinely makes such comments about how silly/disgusting women and female body parts are, has been filmed doing so, is well-known for his pedophilia apologia (laced with public school-style classicism), and has a nice, healthy hostility towards transpeople to boot.

                • Rhino says:

                  Citations?

                • matt w says:

                  OK, I have no opinion on this debate, but if you want to condescend to people for not divining what specific thing you’re talking about you should SUPPLY THE FUCKING LINKS YOURSELF. Why should anyone else click through three pages of Google links if you can’t be bothered to paste in the link.

            • Aaron B. says:

              The atheist community has its own serious problems with misogyny. But my question was intended completely sincerely. Also, I don’t want to go find for myself what other people think about Stephen Fry’s attitudes about women, but instead, what YOU are referring to.

              • ajay says:

                The atheist community has its own serious problems with misogyny.

                If only male atheists weren’t so smug and unpleasant, maybe they could acquire the enlightened attitude towards women of, say, the Pope.

                • Aaron B. says:

                  The fact that others are worse is no reason not to challenge privilege where it appears.

                • sharculese says:

                  If only male atheists weren’t so smug and unpleasant

                  Lots of atheists are definitely smug and unpleasant about their assumed right to treat women as objects, yes. this is a thing that can be true without being an indictment of atheism.

            • Aaron B. says:

              More significantly, I want to know why you think what you think about it.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          Those Fry comments were pretty damn crappy. OTOH, it’s not like Christopher “Women aren’t funny! Not like Richard Cohan!” Hitchens isn’t a huge winner here either.

    • Anonymous says:

      It was great that he exposed History’s Greatest Monster, Mother Thersea.

    • Warren Terra says:

      If you really want (hint: you don’t) I’ll post a “debate” I captured from BBC Radio 4 of Hitchens Vs. Blair on the subject of religion. It was completely ridiculous, helped by the facts that Blair is a total moron on the subject of religion and Hitchens idolized Blair for his support of Dubya’s wars.

      The most striking thing – and I say this as someone who despises organized religion – was the degree to which Hitchens came across not as someone promoting reason and atheism, but as an utter and unreasoning bigot against particular religions, including Catholicism but especially Islam. It was clear that he didn’t hate the lies so much as he hated those raised in them.

      • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

        I think Hitchen’s position in the atheist community came about more because of his provocative attitude and his large megaphone. For a group that still has relatively few defenders and advocates who actually get the MSNBC visits and Times Op Ed spaces, the atheist movement is often happy to cheer anyone who roughly speaks on their concerns. Hitchens had the ability to be heard across broader spectrums than any of the other horseman (save Dawkins), but his arguments were often just mean-spirited, incoherent and unfocused. He never seemed to belong at the top of the atheist mountain, imo, and served more like the celebrity endorser of the cause who really has no place up on stage with the experts. And while nobody’s perfect (Dawkin’s misogyny, Harris’ Islamophobia etc.) their arguments for atheism were still far tighter and logical than the stuff that Hitchens wrote. I think the days of atheist hierarchy are largely over now, as bloggers like Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Rebecca Watson etc., now do far more for the cause with their daily posting than the every-so-often book release by Dawkins or Harris etc. I’m not one of those people who thinks atheists just need to be nicer. I think there are good reasons for atheist anger, and I think there need to be good cops and also bad cops representing the movement. But Hitchens wasn’t very good at the role.

        I would also add that as far as I can tell, people in the atheist movement don’t universally cherish Hitchens (as is often suggested) or grant him a pass on Iraq. There is plenty of criticism of Hitchens’ position on the Iraq war, just as there is plenty of criticism of Dawkin’s misogynist remarks and Harris’ positions on torture and Islam. Some people let their hero worship of these individuals allow them to ignore their flaws, but the majority don’t seem to.

      • Ed says:

        It was clear that he didn’t hate the lies so much as he hated those raised in them.

        Without defending the politicized anti-Islamic aspect Hitchens’ atheism, my impression was that much of Hitchens’ writing about individual believers was not hateful, and nearing the end he was very charitable towards well-meaning people hoping for a deathbed conversion. Nor is it as if Islam and Holy Mother Church have no way of fighting back against the onslaught of a handful of popularizing atheist writers.

    • wengler says:

      Hitchens and Dawkins are the twin pillars of the new orthodox atheism, especially among the young.

      Every new religion needs douchebags to idolize.

  6. parrot says:

    the patron saint of the eternally empty immaculate shot glass will attract thousands of toasted cheese sandwich worshippers …

  7. Jon H says:

    On the other hand, you probably couldn’t assist in the live Hitchens getting covered in bird shit.

  8. Jim Lynch says:

    “The 21st century’s least defensible public monument”?

    Not by a long shot.

    Limbaugh and Missouri. Need I say more?

  9. matt says:

    The only way a Christopher Hitchens memorial is unprofane is if he’s depicted in the act of throwing a large turd, as he so often was, metaphorically speaking, poised in life.

  10. herr doktor bimler says:

    Celebrating Hitchens with a statue across Red Lion Square from a bust of Bertrand Russell?
    Add me to the “Stop, traveller, and piss” roster.
    If memory serves there are few Fullers pubs in the neighbourhood to help with urine production.

  11. angelfoot says:

    Does he deserve a statue? No. However I have mixed feelings about Hitchens. I read him for years in the Nation, stopped paying attention after he became so hawkish, but his logic and emotions were consistent and he never completely lost my respect.

    • Urban Garlic says:

      I’m with you on this — he was about equal parts infuriating and insightful, at least to me, and some of his more polemical essays are very good reads, even if you disagree with them.

      After he died, someone (I forget who or where, of course) commented that the real tragedy was that Hitchens could now never write a Kissinger obituary…

      • Leeds man says:

        the real tragedy was that Hitchens could now never write a Kissinger obituary

        It’s possible that he did. I eagerly await.

  12. angelfoot says:

    I would just add try and find his columns about Clinton prior to his election, and about the Taliban prior to 9/11, and tell me that you disagree with them.

    • angelfoot says:

      Also he was wrong wrong, wrong about Iraq but I understood why he initially supported it because the Kurds.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        He was also wrong, wrong, wrong about abortion going back years before his fullblown neoconnery.

        • RhZ says:

          As for his Iraq columns in Slate, not only was he wrong, they were all just a total shit job. No logic whatsoever, just sloshing from one semi-point to another, much like Hitch at closing time.

          Try to read those and see if your respect survives intact. Mine did not.

    • The Clinton stuff is really really spotty. He’s great on the Al-Shifa factory bombing but outside of that there’s a lot of ineffectual tut-tutting about how vulgar the Clinton’s are (including, I shit you not, the charge that “they didn’t marry for love”), and raids along the wilder shores of Greater Wingnuttia (he doesn’t connect the dots on Vince Foster but arranges them in a straight line while saying hmm isn’t this interesting).

      • LFC says:

        His hatred of the Clintons bordered on the irrational, not that I am a particular Clinton fan. Hitchens could be self-deprecating, though, which must be counted as a redeeming feature. He also wrote well, even when the substance was crap. (His style felt authentic, unlike George Will, who is trying too hard, as in “see I can write just as cleverly as those people who went to Oxford.”)

        • Hogan says:

          Reminds me of Ethan Coen (Princeton ’79) talking about Joel (NYU Film Scbool ’80): “I was beautifully educated. Joel went to trade school.”

  13. Thers says:

    Hitch was universally beloved by the professionally aggrieved.

    He should be honored by setting up a charity to receive posthumous speaking fees for gigs he wouldn’t have showed up for sober anyway.

    • Ed says:

      He should be honored by setting up a charity to receive posthumous speaking fees for gigs he wouldn’t have showed up for sober anyway.

      I hold no brief for the guy butit must be allowed he talked better when he was a couple of sheets to the wind than most pundits dead sober.

  14. Eric says:

    It doesn’t matter anyway. The Apocalypse is coming, so it might as well include a Christopher Hitchens statue.

  15. LeeEsq says:

    My main problem with this statue isn’t that Hitchens supported Gulf War II, its that he hasn’t done anything really important, for good or ill, to warrant a public monument. Public monuments should really be reserved for larger than life figures who people remember for generations. Hitchens isn’t one of them.

  16. Wido Incognitus says:

    It is unfortunate that he suffered so much when he was about to do die.

    Nevertheless, I too believe that a statute would be foolish. I could not stand this man’s work. His writings on religion and even the arts and pop culture are characterized by the same distortions, haughtiness, and rum-soaked daintiness as his writings on politics.

  17. greylocks says:

    Yes, let’s erect statues to every drunken misogynistic racist blowhard with a cult following.

  18. karl says:

    Sure, the man went off the rails in the aftermath of 9/11 with his support of an overly muscular/moral foreign policy. No doubt,however, most of the commenters here were with the Hitch before his apostasy; an apostasy based, however misguided, on a reverence for Western enlightenment values. He did far more for the left during his glory years than those piss(ant)ing on his grave.

    That said, a statue? Are they crazy?

  19. Davis X. Machina says:

    I doubt this is unprecedented. I’m sure there’s a statue to F.E. Smith somewhere

  20. Jay C says:

    Not that I agree that Christopher Hitchens deserves any sort of “public monument” – but if he did, an ugly stiff dead image of him being urinated on by dogs and defecated on by birds would certainly be appropriate….

  21. herr doktor bimler says:

    Total number of statues to Eric Blair in the UK = 0.

  22. wengler says:

    Take away the rich London wanker accent and Hitch is just a tedious, dull blowhard. Americans need to stop being wooed by the fake intellectual mark they attach to such accents.

  23. herr doktor bimler says:

    I would support a statue for Hitchens if it were equipped with a speaking tube, so that random passers-by could (having dropped a coin in the slot) use it to to deliver the political message of their choice, ventriloquising the dead to coin a phrase.
    Cost recovery, also too.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I’ll back this only if it includes a breathalyzer. Anyone below a certain alcohol level is obviously inappropriate to be ventriloquizing through a statue of Hitchens.

      (and, still, the plinth I mentioned above).

  24. herr doktor bimler says:

    an apostasy based, however misguided, on a reverence for Western enlightenment values.

    Cobblers. Hitchens’ cooption of enlightenment values to rationalise and justify his positions is not the same as ‘misguided reverence’.

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