Home / General / Deep Thoughts, By Christopher Hitchens

Deep Thoughts, By Christopher Hitchens



LGM prides itself on its fairness and balance. It only seems right, then, that Erik’s thoughts below opposing imperialist genocide be paired with the profound views of another important public intellectual, the late Christopher Hitchens:

My old comrade David Dellinger, hero of the antiimperialist movement, telephoned the other day to tell me of the fast he was undertaking to protest the celebration of racism, conquest and plunder that impended on Columbus Day. I am as respectful of my elders as any ancestor-worshiping Iroquois, and David has been to prison for his beliefs more times than I have had hot dinners, but a hot dinner – with steak frites, cheese and salad and a decent half bot. of something, all complete – was what I urged him to go and have. Break your fast, old thing, I beseeched; 1492 was a very good year.

I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister. It is risible in the same way that all movements of conservative anachronism are risible, and reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s complaint that he could never find a politician who would promise to put the clock back. it is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred.


One need not be an automatic positivist about this. But it does happen to be the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift. Not all changes and victories are “progress!’ The Roman conquest and subjugation of Britain was, I think, a huge advance because it brought the savage English tribes within reach of Mediterranean (including Ptolemaic and Phoenician as well as Greek and Latin) civilization, whereas the Norman Conquest looks like just another random triumph of might.

The very dynasty that funded Columbus put an end to Andalusia in the same year, and thus blew up the cultural bridge between the high attainments of Islamic North Africa and Mesopotamia and the relative backwardness of Castilian Christendom. Still, for that synthesis to have occurred in the first place, creating the marvels of Cordoba and Granada, wars of expansion and conversion and displacement had to be won and lost. Reapportioning Andalusia according to “precedent” would be as futile an idea as restoring Sioux rights that are only “ancestral” as far back as 1814. The Sioux should be able to claim the same rights and titles as any other citizen, and should be compensated for past injury. That goes without saying. But the anti-Columbus movement is bored by concepts of this kind, preferring to flagellate about original sin and therefore, inevitably, to brood about the illusory counterpart to that exploded concept-the Garden of Eden.

Forget it. As Marx wrote about India, the impact of a more developed society upon a culture (or a series of warring cultures, since there was no such nation as India before the British Empire) can spread aspects of modernity and enlightenment that outlive and transcend the conqueror. This isn’t always true; the British probably left Africa worse off than they found it, and they certainly retarded the whole life of Ireland. But it is sometimes unambiguously the case that a certain coincidence of ideas, technologies, population movements and politico-military victories leaves humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before. The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into “America” inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born.

And, hey, I bet David Irving thought 1492 was a very good year too!

As I’ve said before, whatever his merits as a prose stylist and literary critic, as a political thinker he was incoherent and puddle-deep. When he reached the right conclusion his arguments were just as driven by personality considerations and self-consciously “provocative” contrarianism as they were on the many occasions when he reached terrible ones.

[Via Jeet Heer]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Origami Isopod

    The Roman conquest and subjugation of Britain was, I think, a huge advance because it brought the savage English tribes

    I got this far.

    Oh, wait.

    the British probably left Africa worse off than they found it

    How generous of him.

    The bit about “vim and gusto” is essentially a highbrow version of “U LIBRUL PUSSIES!!”

    • tsam

      I took it as a pathetic attempt at an intellectual coating around “Oh shut the fuck up”

    • I got this far.

      That’s why you missed the part where the Romans brought the benefits of contact with Phoenician civilisation, i.e. with Carthage.

      • Warren Terra

        Not really fair. Carthage was Phoenician, but it doesn’t work the other way around (indeed, a unified Phoenician nation maybe would have won the Punic wars), and in any case the Romans thoroughly looted Carthage and could pass on what they’d learned in the process.

        • MikeN

          I assumed he meant the alphabet.

          • Warren Terra

            My interpretation was that he was saying it’s a bit rich to credit Rome with enabling contact with Carthage, given that they’d razed Carthage to the ground etcetera.

      • Origami Isopod

        n/m, spork_incident already said it.

    • Not to mention that the “English”, better known as Celts, had extensive trading networks with the continent and, yes, the Mediterranean.


      • Ah, the Cornish tin mines for making bronze!
        (the things one learns from Avram Davidson’s books.

        Afterthought: Mustn’t forget the Mycenaean graffito on Stonehenge.

        • guthrie

          Which mycenean graffiti? You mean the axe that nobody else can see and no archaeologists agree is actually there?

  • NewishLawyer

    I still wonder (as I did in the earlier thread) if people hear anti-Columbus Day rhetoric as an existential or philosophical attack on their existence.

    How many people learned or sort of learned that the 1492 was the start of European settlement to North America and attribute this as a distant start of their family journey?

    So they think something like “By calling it Indigenous People Day. Are you saying Europeans shouldn’t have set sail to the West and therefore, I shouldn’t exist?”

    I am not a crackpot.

    • Origami Isopod

      You’re saying they’re as solipsistic as the idiots whose reaction to pro-choice rhetoric is, “Are you saying I should never have existed?!?!” Yeah, I’m sure a lot of them are.

      • tsam

        So they REALLY want to hear the answer to that? That’s a dumb question on like 16,324 levels, man.

    • Warren Terra

      But could this explain Hitchens’s stance? He didn’t leave England until the post-colonial era, after all …

      A simpler explanation is that it’s from December 2001, when Hitchens was delighting in his newfound neocon, anti-left alliances.

      • UserGoogol

        The article is from 1992, this is a link to someone reposting it on some mailing list discussion board in December of 2001.

        • Warren Terra

          Why do you have to get your facts in the way of my theories?

          • Facts : Fat man :: Theories : trolley

            • Lee Rudolph

              Facts : Fat man :: Theories : trolley

              And why Little Boy wouldn’t be enough, I’ve never figured out!

    • I’ve never heard anyone make this particular statement. Lots of cries of “White Guilt!” from NeoCons but they scream that as often as they do “Race Card.”

      I don’t know if those people see it as an attack, as much as they see it as an excuse to attack anyone who points out the less than sparkly clean history of European relationships with non-European.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Human conception is a contingent enough thing that the classic science-fiction wish-fulfillment fantasy of going back in time and killing Hitler would probably eliminate nearly all of us. Yet it’s fairly uncontroversial that the Nazis were bad.

    • Bruce B.

      I’ve known people like that. Pointing out how often they tell others to “get over it!” can generate entertaining, though not really productive, results.

  • hidflect

    I see the same traits in Matthew Yglesias except he’s not as cunning a linguist as Hitchens. Forever using words as a mental acrobatic act to impress an unseen audience. The unspoken subtext to every piece, “I’m Really Fcking Smart!”

    • Scott Lemieux

      I don’t think this is a very apt comparison. Yglesias has a coherent worldview — right about some things and wrong about others, but coherent. And he cares about policy substance.

      • jeer9

        In what coherent worldview do his education opinions make sense, and how do those views reflect policy substance?

        He’s wrong about far too many topics, and “policy substance” has about as much to do with them as your average adolescent libertarian’s.

        • Scott Lemieux

          In what coherent worldview do his education opinions make sense,

          Seriously? They’re wrong, but they’re perfectly consistent with his general worldview.

          • jeer9

            Seriously? His consistently wrong views on education reflect a concern with policy substance?

            Must be a Kinsleyesque concern.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Yes. He has coherent substantive views that are, in this case, wrong. Are you surprised that he has anti-union views in education? Do you think this is random or unpredictable?

              • jeer9

                No, I’m always astonished at the rigidity of his education views and how resistant they are to substantial evidence which refutes them. While they may be coherent and are certainly wrong, describing them as consisting of depth and concern for data analysis or lived experience seems to put them in far too charitable a light.

                • The Temporary Name

                  While they may be coherent


      • Honoré De Ballsack

        Yglesias has a coherent worldview…and he cares about policy substance.

        Not that it’s any real threat, Lemieux–but I’m saving those words for the day Yglesias writes another masterpiece of particularly inane entitlement (e.g., his post on the deaths at Rana Plaza) and I’m gonna quote them back at you for dramatic effect. You have been warned.

        • CD

          Scott is carefully not saying that Yglesias is right on everything, just that the worldview hangs together.

          • Judas Peckerwood

            You know who else’s worldview hung together?

            • Merkwürdigliebe

              Is it Hitler? Please tell me it’s Hitler.

            • tsam


        • witlesschum

          Say what you will about the tenets of inane entitlement…

          I think Lemieux will continue to be right, because you can pretty well predict the general form said masterpiece will take, because Yglesias has a coherent worldview.

        • Scott Lemieux

          I’m not sure why you would bother, since it wouldn’t contradict anything I said. Yglesias is wrong in predictable ways because he actually cares about policy stuff.

      • Malaclypse

        Yglesias has a coherent worldview

        So does Dick Cheney. Doesn’t make either of them reliable allies.

        • CD

          Which is not what Scott is saying either. Do people not read?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Apparently getting to the end of the fucking sentence is too much for the kids these days.

            • njorl

              The end of the fucking is the best part.

    • Manju

      Matt’s a jazz saxophonist, so cut him some slack on the linguist thing.

      • joe from Lowell

        And he once wrote a post about the desirability of Fed monetary stimulus during the Great Recession that included a link to We Need Some Money by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers.

  • M31

    How much difference would it have made if Columbus’s voyage either never happened or failed?

    Some other Europeans would have gone over at some point, and the sweep of disease would have happened. That was probably the biggest event of all, and would have happened no matter what.

    Even if a different personality than Columbus was in charge of the first expeditions, I can’t see the genocide and theft not happening.

    • Origami Isopod

      This is tangential to the point of whether we should celebrate whoever ended up initiating the exchange.

      • M31

        Of course!

        But some of the (legitimate) anti-Columbus writing acts like his personal treatment of the natives was the cause of what came later, or was uniquely bad.

        Me? I blame Cotton Mather.

        • Warren Terra

          Uniquely bad? Sadly, no.

          On the other hand, if Columbus had performed the European Discovery Of America and had proceeded to set up a peaceful trading relationship with the natives, celebrating him would be far less controversial, even though it was baked into the European worldview that subsequent voyages would mean rape, pillage, murder, displacement, and enslavement.

          • ajay

            OTOH, even if Columbus had been the Renaissance equivalent of Gandhi, Captain Picard and Bill Nye the Science Guy in one, his arrival in the New World would still have heralded the extinction of most of its human population, just because of the disease-transmission thing.

        • Halloween Jack

          Whether or not he was uniquely bad is quite beside the point. Nowadays, you have to look toward science fiction of the space-opera variety to find the sort of person or people (usually aliens that evolved from lizards) whose reaction on finding a new and unexpected people in the course of trying to get somewhere else is to enslave literally as many as his ship will hold and drag them back to their evil* overlords. It’s, you know, bad enough.

          *Expulsion of the Jews, etc.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          There’s some sort of inversion of the “Great Man” theory of history in which it becomes necessary to prove that some historical figure you don’t like didn’t just do bad things on a world-historic level, but was actually an all-around bad human being.

    • Hob

      That’s a pretty strange and useless counterfactual. I mean, say it had been Schmolumbus rather than Columbus, and he ended up doing the same terrible things as Columbus, and history proceeded after that in more or less the same way. OK, so then we would be having this argument about Schmolumbus Day instead. So?

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Well, maybe. But this kind of reasoning can make anything seem insignificant — if Neil Armstrong hadn’t stepped on the Moon, someone else would have, right? So why do we make a big deal out of him?

      Anyway, I frankly reject this altogether. Because this treats modernity like some unstoppable force that acts on its own and ignores the actual actors who made it happen. And that is exactly the kind of narrative that people (like me) who oppose Columbus Day are trying to work against, because it absolves historical actors of responsibility rather than acknowledging that yes, the world actually could have turned out much, much differently.

      • Warren Terra

        Really, wouldn’t it be more fun to make a big deal out of Buzz Aldrin instead? I mean, he’s just more fun, especially when he’s punching a conspiracy nutter.

      • M31

        Does Lief Erikson count as a kind of a counterfactual to Columbus? Why did the Viking colony in the Americas not start a giant disease epidemic, or do we just not know?

        Perhaps between 1100 and 1500 the population of NA increased enough so that there was quicker disease transmission, plus more people living in close proximity. Or an increase in vehemence of disease from Europe (increasing population density, increase in unhealthy populations, aftermath of the plague, etc.).

        The NA population seemed to do fine, even though they were invaded by actual Vikings. Funny how the Vikings get a worse rap than Columbus, though, eh?

        • Hogan

          It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages that smallpox acquired a permanent presence in Europe. It’s unlikely the Vikings carried it with them.

          And the Vinland explorations don’t sound like the kind of smash-and-grab raid we tend to associate with Vikings. #NotAllVikings

        • Not enough face-to-face encounters with the Skrælings, I imagine. Things did not go well after the initial attempts at peaceful trade.

  • Translation: “Because it is possible to argue that a bad thing lead to a good thing, the bad thing must arguably be good. Excuse me, I need to switch hands. Also, I wasn’t there for those bad things and those bad things in no way had a negative impact on my life. To the contrary ah ah ah ah. Oh dear, I’m all out of sweat socks.”

    • Snuff curry

      So, manifest destiny, then. This is why his masquerade as a snob never worked. Snobs are contrary and tempestuous and self-destructively self-centered, and their worldviews never so neatly match and suck up to the kindergarten-level propaganda of a competing world power. It’s like he read a few blurbs on the back of a twelfth edition Henry James paperback, and decided to embody what he mistakenly believed Americans wantedneeded in their Englishmen.

      • Snuff curry

        And by that, I mean Daddy’s firm and erect assent.

        (I feel for Roger Allam more every day, though.)

        • Warren Terra

          I quite like Roger Allam (albeit I only know him from Cabin Pressure) and wouldn’t wish a Hitchens impersonation on him, even if they do look alike.

          • Snuff curry

            Believe he’s read and recorded an excerpt or two from Hitchens’ collected works, maybe on the strength of the physical similarities.

          • Gabriel Ratchet

            I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that Allam was cast as the blowhard official mouthpiece of the dictatorship in V for Vendetta at least partially due to his resemblance to Hitchens. And even if it wasn’t intentional, it gave the character a weird frisson of familiarity coming out as it did during the height of Hitchens’ visibility as an Iraq War cheerleader.

  • M31

    So there is a book by (of course) Orson Scott Card, in which Columbus only goes to the Americas because he receives a vision from the Virgin Mary herself telling him to go west.

    It turns out that this vision was intervention by time travelers, because if he didn’t undertake his voyages, then a Central American empire would grow strong enough to invade Europe and subject it to a brutal regime of human sacrifice.

    HAHAHAHAH SEE? So it really was for the best!

    I think that memory of this other timeline is what motivates Trump voters these days.

    • Warren Terra

      a Central American empire would grow strong enough to invade Europe and subject it to a brutal regime of human sacrifice.

      This places a tremendous faith in the advantages over Europe and Asia inherent in a fractious empire that lacked metalworking and the wheel.

      • Ken

        Also, syphilis versus typhoid, measles, smallpox, and the plague. I don’t see that aspect of the “Columbian exchange” as playing out any differently, whichever side initiated the contact.

    • Hogan

      Why no, Mr. Card, I’ve never heard of trade winds. Why do you ask?

    • That definitely sounds like something Orson Scott Card would have written.

      • Hob

        Actually… though I haven’t read it in a long time, I remember being surprised by how much Pastwatch was not the kind of wingnut screed I would’ve expected from late-period Card; it’s messier and more interesting than that. The book doesn’t try to argue that Columbus was a great guy; he’s portrayed as a confused person whose ambition led him to commit terrible crimes. And M31’s description of the alternate-history plot is accurate, but this terrible future regime isn’t supposed to be the only possible alternative to the American genocide, it’s just one of many things that could have happened— the protagonists don’t see the new version of history (ours) as being “for the best”, they see it as an unanticipated fuckup, and their task is to come up with yet another alternate history that’s better than what we got. The subtitle is The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, but it’s not redemption as in “see, he wasn’t so bad”, it’s “could he have been less of a monster under other circumstances.”

        In other words I don’t think Card was saying it’s a good thing we crushed the Central American indigenous peoples because they were really Hitler; it’s more that any powerful and militaristic nation has the potential for evil, and also that if you try to change things by force based on simplistic ideas about history, you may get something else that’s also bad.

        • witlesschum

          Card did write a reportedly dimwitted, simple wingnut screed with his EMPolaypse novel, but I haven’t read it.

          Card’s generally been at least stranger than that.

        • GeoX

          It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, too, so take this with eight grains of salt, but my recollection is that Columbus basically WAS a good guy. There were individual members of his crew that were villains, but I do think Card whitewashed his general badness.

          That said, I must protest the idea that the book is pushing a “see? Native American genocides were the right thing after all!” The way it ends is that Americans and Europeans end up in a mutually harmonious relationship quite unlike what happened in the real world. It may not be realistic, but as much as Card is a crazy person, this particular book is not that bad, or at least not in the way that the OP characterizes it.

          • Hob

            Just about the only positive thing I can say about Card’s politics is that he’s never been a fan of colonialism.

    • So there is a book by (of course) Orson Scott Card

      Of course is right. Read, if you dare, the synopsis of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus.

      Pastwatch isreal!

    • Ahuitzotl

      I think I preferred Mick Farren’s Necrom, with the pseudo-Aztecs developing time/dimension travel and setting up the dimensional police-cum-murder-squad. Much more realistic

  • howard

    the first paragraph was enough for me: the idea of hitchens condescending to david dellinger – one of the truly heroic figures of the new left when i was an adolescent – made me need to go wash my mind out with soap.

  • Malaclypse

    To be scrupulously fair, the rebuttal was by drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay Christopher Hitchens. We’re not barbarians here; we use all relevant honorifics.

    • Ahuitzotl

      I thought whiskey-addled was another of his titles?

  • Gwen

    Just look at the photo. Christopher Hitchens spoke and the NASDAQ lost 87 points.

    In seriousness, I have vaguely mixed feelings about the whole Columbus Day kerfuffle. Columbus was plainly not a hero. It seems to me that we might want to scrap the whole thing for the same reason that the Washington Redskins need to get a new name. There is no sense celebrating someone (or something) if other people (rightfully) find it offensive.

    And “offensive” is underselling it. The Colombian Exchange was, on balance, a complete disaster for American Indians, as well as for Africans. I have no problem pointing out this fact, loudly and publicly.

    With that said, I find the movement (mostly in the Pacific Northwest) to rename it “Indigenous People’s Day” to be sort of silly, as if IPD is actually going to do anything to help real live Native Americans. At best, it’s just a public celebration of white liberal guilt. At worst, it’s another opportunity to commercially exploit native cultures. I see no reason to give either the imprimatur of a state holiday.

    (A week or month for reflection, the way we treat Black History Month, fine).

    The point of a holiday, it seems, is to celebrate something. I suppose one can say “we’re celebrating the fact that Native Americans still exist.” I don’t want to downplay that as an accomplishment, given all that has happened. But it just doesn’t seem very laudatory to me.

    If we’re intent on having a day set aside just to celebrate the Amerindian struggle, I’d feel better about the endeavor if it were celebrating some particular Indigenous Person who we can hold up as a pillar of culturally-transcendent moral virtue. Note that we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King (and in some places, Cesar Chavez), not “Black People Day” or “Latino Day.”

    In Texas, we call the second Monday in October… “Monday.” Nobody except bankers get the day off. To the extent that we celebrate anything, it’s the work ethic. I’m fairly convinced that this is the morally superior option. Please convince me I’m wrong….

    • A day off is great, though! Don’t act like you win by being forced to work an extra day. Is it worth celebrating Columbus personally? Of course not. There is some threshold at which a celebration is odious enough I’d rather not partake. But that threshold is below 0 – I would gladly have October 12th be a day off like a UK “bank holiday” – it’s a day off, who cares why. I’d even take celebrating things that are mildly negative if they involve giving everyone a day off.

      • Warren Terra

        Very few people get Columbus Day off, at least in most states.

        • Matt McIrvin

          Here in Massachusetts, most people don’t get the day off, but it is a school holiday, so parents have to take vacation or struggle with alternate child-care arrangements, as they do in many situations.

          • Mini__B and I were at the zoo yesterday, along with everybody else in the world, apparently.

            • Matt McIrvin

              At least traffic was very light on I-95.

              • HA! But we avoided the Cross-Bronx, so we were home in time for the Mets.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          bankers and government employees here.
          school was on but let out early- because someone caught a power line and that part of town had no electricity for several hours

      • Matt McIrvin

        Move it to Election Day.

    • Nobody ever died wishing they’d put in more days at the office.

    • Snuff curry

      As you say, there are months set aside (in the kindest, fluffiest, least controversial sense) for women’s history, for black American history, for hispanic heritage, etc. If we can refrain from mentioning Hitler within the context of May (Jewish American heritage month), we could just as readily do the same with Columbus. It’s sadistic, retrograde grand-standing, this gradeschool Columbus bullshit. Same with the disingenuous notion that “Redskins” and other sport-related pejoratives somehow celebrate “them” (whoever they are) for their glorious war-making… the war-making “we” readily deafened, the clear and unambiguous victors of westward expansion. Tooting our fucking horns both ways.

      Dragging our heels from joining the 21st century because doing so might be capitulating to “white guilt” is a boring non-sequitur. Everything’s about white people, anyway.

    • JL

      Why is taking a Great Man view of history, where we celebrate one person, better than celebrating the struggle of a people?

      Also, why assume that the movement for Indigenous People’s Day is being driven by white guilt? I have no idea what it’s like in the Pacific Northwest, but in many cities it’s Native Americans behind the push. This story rather suggests that the same is true in Seattle. Even around here where the Native American community is tiny it has been enthusiastic about this push.

      • Right–and the assumption that this is pushed by white guilt as opposed to Native Americans actually reinforces the erasure in people’s minds of indigenous peoples from being active parts of American life in 2015.

        • Origami Isopod

          Generally speaking, there exists a right-wing meme that minority populations don’t really care about this or similar issues, and that white liberals are agitating for them solely to boost their own “cred” and make themselves feel good. Because wingnuts lack empathy and project their own lack thereof onto everyone else.

          Certainly, there are poseurs and narcissists in social justice, as there are in every other realm of human endeavor. But the wingnuts can’t grasp the concept that the name “Redskins” or Columbus Day as a holiday could genuinely disgust people not subject to racism in the U.S.

      • sergius

        The push in South Dakota came from writers at the Lakota Times. The Republican governor listened, to his credit, but the idea did not come from white guilt at all.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      I’d feel better about the endeavor if it were celebrating some particular Indigenous Person who we can hold up as a pillar of culturally-transcendent moral virtue. Note that we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King (and in some places, Cesar Chavez), not “Black People Day” or “Latino Day.”

      Except that there is no single individual with anywhere near the degree of recognition and respect to be viewed as representative of “Native Americans” as a whole in the way MLK Jr. is viewed with regard to African-Americans. (The much weaker recognition of Cesar Chavez Day is already emblematic of that problem — Chavez was a more controversial figure in the Hispanic community to start with.)

  • matt w

    I was going to snark about how great a year 1492 was, what with the final expulsion of Jews from Spain, and then I saw that Hitchens actually did feel the need to blather on about what the Spanish empire was up to in the Old Country that year. Though the Jews don’t rate a mention. I thought we were friends, Hitch, or is that only when you need to use us as a stick to beat Muslims and anti-war people?

    Anyway, there are only two things that need be known about Hitch:
    1. He viewed himself as an heir to Orwell
    2. He wrote a book whose title translates to “Oceania has always been at war with Iraq”

    • Warren Terra

      This is 1992 Hitch. I’m guessing his Israel boosterism came later.

      • Hob

        Hitchens never really became rah-rah for Israel. This, from 2008, is pretty consistent (if that’s a word that one can use with Hitchens) with his views over many decades:

        1. Antisemitism is bad
        2. Religious Zionism is terrible, and secular Zionism was maybe admirable in theory but has turned out badly, and the occupation of Palestine is an injustice and a disaster
        3. However, everyone other than myself who has similar beliefs is a naive hippie idiot who is doing leftism wrong, because they don’t adequately condemn Arafat and they don’t rant enough about the threat of Islam.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          There has an awful lot of criticism of Arafat and Islamism by Palestinians themselves including Hitchens’s late old friend Edward Said since the early 1990s. I am not sure how anybody can even very passively observe Palestinian politics and miss the fact that both PA corruption and Islamism have been the subject of a huge amount of critical writing available in English. Sure the non-Arab solidarity movements have focused more on issues of national and human rights and less on these problems. But, Arafat’s tenure as head of the PA and Hamas were given far more critical scrutiny by supporters of Palestinian liberation than any other national liberation movement in history had ever received from its backers.

          • Origami Isopod

            Sure, but I think that bolsters Hob’s point.

    • 1. He viewed himself as an heir to Orwell

      To the extent of drafting Kurds for his personal Spanish Civil War cosplay.

    • Randy

      Hitchens was the cleverest boy in the sixth form, and he never got over it.

  • Angry Warthog Breath

    Certainly, sir. Nothing makes one appear more intellectual than to adopt the conversational stylings of Bertram Wooster. …Not the purple shirt with the grey jacket, sir. It is not to the best advantage.

    • +2 heliotrope pyjamas.

    • Hogan

      “What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?”

      “There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.”

  • thebewilderness

    Shorter Hitchens on nearly every subject, ever: Gonna make an omlette, gotta break someone elses eggs.

    • Warren Terra

      And even shorter Hitch: Gotta break someone else’s eggs. (omelet or no).

  • MacK

    Another contra factual, but one rooted in some economic history. What would have happened if North America and its Atlantic coast was colonized before the Carribean and central/South America, with its smaller Native American populations, less developed economy and crops and societies less suited to the slavery that quickly dominated the south? Would the development of the entire continent have followed a different path?

    • if North America and its Atlantic coast was colonized before the Carribean and central/South America


      • Aubergine

        If Leif had only been able to hold on there in Vinland we would have single-payer health care today.

  • delong

    Jeebus! LBO-talk archives are still a thing!?

  • MikeJake

    The Mongolians have banknotes with Genghis Khan on them.

    Just sayin’.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      For the Mongols he was great. His reign was also pretty innovative especially for its time. He isn’t the only “Asiatic despot” with a huge following either. The Uzbeks have elevated Tamarlane into a a great historical figure as well. Then there are the modern less beneficial, but equally brutal leaders like Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il Sung that still have large followings throughout Asia.

      • Ahuitzotl

        Tamerlane IS a great historical figure. Not necessarily admirable, but hardly ignorable.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          In Uzbekistan he is represented as a very admirable historical figure.

    • Origami Isopod

      Not admirable, but OTOH the Mongolians no longer dominate the world stage, nor do they insist loudly the way we do that theirs is the greatest nation on earth.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        The first point is correct. The second is not. A lot of small countries consider theirs the greatest nation on earth. In Kyrgyzstan it is very loudly broadcast internally. People who have lived in Mongolia tell me that there is a similar dynamic there.

        • joe from Lowell

          Yes, we’re far from exceptional in our exceptionalism.

          Every meet any Swiss guys?

        • Lee Rudolph

          Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and the USA: an Axis of Exceptionalism!

    • Just_Dropping_By

      In a somewhat similar vein, “Attila” is still a popular boys’ name in modern Hungary and there are numerous streets, plazas, and other landmarks and geographic features in the country named for him.

    • Versions of the name are popular. My late colleague, the sadly-missed Chingis Izmailov, was from Dagestan.

It is main inner container footer text