December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, RIP

Slate today has 26 articles on the late Christopher Hitchens. For an "iconoclast," he seems awfully popular with everybody who is anybody.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for offering a more critical assessment of the critic and pundit.

Hitchens getting the Iraq War catastrophically wrong evidently had minimal impact on his celebrity. Of course, it's fair to ask: has anybody's career suffered from getting Iraq wrong? Has anybody's career prospered from getting Iraq right, other than maybe Obama for giving a single speech against it?

On the other hand, as a long-time Trotskyite critic of American imperialism, Hitchens' accomplishment in getting Iraq wrong was a singularly epic own-goal. It's almost as ridiculous as it would have been if Noam Chomsky had suddenly decided in the early 2000s that the single American foreign policy effort he would support in his lifetime would be stupidest one of all. Of course, Chomsky didn't get Iraq wrong, and he is deeply resented in the Washington Post-owned media for finally being clearly right. Hitchens did get Iraq wrong, and is a saint to the mainstream media. 

More generally, English journalists tend to be better than American journalists at using the English language, whether on paper or in person, whether sober or drunk. Thus, I must confess that I could never quite grasp why Christopher Hitchens, out of all the talented English journalists in the world, was so celebrated. He was quite good, but they're all pretty good (his uncelebrated brother Peter Hitchens is the obvious contrast). After awhile, I guess, C. Hitchens was famous for being famous. By random luck, somebody has to be.

It certainly helped that he kept shifting around -- moving to America, deciding he was ethnically Jewish, becoming a neocon, etc etc -- so he could keep picking up new audiences who hadn't been so exposed to his Traditional English Journalist shtick and who weren't bored with his writing yet. (Like some other neocons, however, he retained part of his Trotskyite faith well into his neocon years. Here is Hitchens' 2004 tribute to Trotsky in The Atlantic.)

Perhaps the secret of Hitchens' fame was that he was at least satisfactory in both his roles as a journalist for hire and as a heavy-drinking celebrity. His many, many articles were, typically, more or less worth reading, even if I can't remember at the moment much of anything he's written. What is exceptional about Hitchens is that he managed to churn them out at great pace and with a level of quality okay for the Internet age while also going to endless parties, lunches, dinners, debates, symposiums, and television appearances. In other words, Hitchens was good enough at the conflicting duties he undertook.

Other English journalists have crashed and burned while trying to do both. For example, Anthony Haden-Guest (the illegitimate brother of mockumentary maker / aristocrat Christopher Guest, who is the Fifth Baron of Saling) made a huge splash on the New York literary party circuit when he arrived a generation ago. Tom Wolfe was so amused by him that he sponsored his entry into New York cafe society, but both Haden-Guest's writing and charm fell off under the strain of non-stop partying. Wolfe wound up turning him into the character of the poisonous English journalist Peter Fallow in The Bonfire of the Vanities. (You'll sometimes see it stated that Hitchens was Wolfe's model for Fallow, but Haden-Guest was much more the original. But, Wolfe's larger point is that there are a whole bunch of English journalists of this ilk. Journalism is like acting in this regard: English culture is better at developing acting talent than is American culture.)

In contrast, Hitchens managed to walk the tightrope of being good enough at both celebrityhood and journalism, which speaks well of his energy and resilience.

Hitchens' long track record of sniffing out the current most lucrative ideological position in the Anglo-American journalism industry wasn't, so far as I can tell, driven by mercenary motives. He seemed sincere, but his underlying motivations for his ideological changes tended to be absurdly personal.

For example, Christopher's conversion from scourge to advocate of American imperialism was related to his sibling rivalry over his parent's affections that he waged with his level-headed brother Peter, who took after their level-headed father. In contrast, Christopher identified with his troubled mother, who killed herself in Cyprus. Christopher later discovered that their mother was about 1/8th Jewish, but solely through the female line, thus giving him a rabbinically orthodox claim to Jewishness. From the Jewish Telegraph Agency's obituary: "Despite his rejection of religious precepts, Hitchens would make a point of telling interviewers that according to Halacha, he was Jewish."

His brother Peter found this deduction about their mutual ethnicity to be eye-rolling. But this genealogical discovery helped grease the skids for Christopher's conversion to neocon invade-the-worldism.

Here is the remarkable 2005 transcript of the first meeting of the Hitchens Brothers after years of estrangement. As I remarked at the time:
I've pointed out that what might look like ideological clashes on the surface are often actually just rationalizations for ethnic clashes between extended families, but the Hitchens Brothers represent an interesting case of an ethnic clash between brothers within a nuclear family. Peter was the favorite of their English father, Christopher of their [slightly] Jewish mother. Christopher is still an atheist, but as Paul Johnson pointed out in his "History of the Jews," it's been common down through the centuries for young atheist intellectuals to become more focused on Jewish ethnic interests as they age, without necessarily becoming theists. The conversion to the ideology of neoconism of Christopher, who, despite his hatred of religion, has taken to dropping in to synagogues as he travels to express his ethnic solidarity, is a good example of this venerable tendency toward gerontocratic ethnocentrism.

As a journalist, Hitchens always struck me as fairly comparable to his former colleague at The Nation, Alexander Cockburn. (In fact, I got them confused a lot up through about 1999, partly because their views were similar and because there are three Cockburn Brother journalists and two Hitchens Brothers journalists.) Hitchens would have killed to be the first cousin once-removed of Evelyn Waugh like the Cockburn Brothers are. (And Alexander's niece is movie starlet Olivia Wilde.) Being the son of communist Claude Cockburn and the relative of the reactionary Waugh is the epitome of Hitchens' combination of bloodthirsty politics and conservative literary culture. 

But, Cockburn was right about Iraq, so don't expect him to get one-tenth of the same sendoff from the mainstream media when he kicks the bucket.

P.S., from Cockburn's "Farewell to C.H.:"
I met him in New York in the early 1980s and all the long-term political and indeed personal  traits were visible enough. I never thought of him as at all radical. He craved to be an insider, a trait which achieved ripest expression when he elected to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen by Bush’s director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. 

That seems reasonable. Hitchens was a talented, energetic, clubbable fellow who wanted to be an insider and got what he wanted. So, he's worth studying to understand what is Inside these days.

My old articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

108 comments:

not a hacker said...

I saw him lecture at Berkeley's law school in late ’02, about the time we were mulling an invasion of Iraq. He unveiled his new term “Islamofascism,” and his lefty audience seemed shocked that he could be dissing a group of (semi) darkskins. I always read his stuff, but I was miffed at his effort, in "Why Orwell Matters," to deny that Orwell would be on the right today.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I wish you'd more on this. I find it odd that everyone in the chattering classes from NRO to Ace of Spades to Slate and the New York Times loved this 'iconoclast' and 'bold, contrarian'.

It makes me wonder who's icon's he was breaking and who he was being contrary with. It certainly wasn't the New Republic or the Weekly standard.

chucho said...

Hitchens was an arrogant blowhard, more concerned with puffing up his pieces with ornate prose and planting obscure references than actually trying to make a cogent point. Reading his stuff is like combing through a stack of senior theses by pompous 21 year-old poly sci majors. He thought he was the reincarnation of George Orwell (even ripping off his 'how to make a cup of tea' essay), but he couldn't tie Orwell's shoes.

dearieme said...

"he couldn't tie Orwell's shoes": indeed, but who could?

Anonymous said...

I believe Hitchens also married a Jewish Woman and they raised their children as Jews.

Might have something to do with it.

Dutch Boy said...

A venomous man and a contemptible controversialist.

Matt said...

Hitchens was so consistently wrong that I suspect it must have been intentional, but he built great cities of prose.

Why does the quality of English writers so utterly surpass that of their white American counterparts, with whom they share tons of DNA?

My money is on their habit of widespread Latin and Greek education in the schools. Smart Brits and smart Americans know (roughly) the same number of big words.

The difference is that the Brits know where the words come from, and that makes all the difference.

Mastery is about being able to pull words apart to find out what they're made of, to lay them against a straight edge to see if they truly fit where they've been placed, and to turn them sideways to see if their backsides will hang off the edge into territory one doesn't wish to cover.

All three of those things are a hundred times easier for someone who has a basic knowledge of Latin and Greek.

ray said...

loudmouthed, arrogant asshole, beloved of the godless western spook-media, who constantly trumpeted his disdain for the very Father who created his sorry ass

doubt he's resting or in peace

Anonymous said...

"I was miffed at his effort, in "Why Orwell Matters," to deny that Orwell would be on the right today."

Orwell might be slightly less left wing than today's cultural marxists, but thats not the same as being on the right. The man was a slavishly orthodox Trotskyite!

Animal Farm absolves Lenin and Trotsky from all blame for the crimes of Communism. I could see through that tired old Stalin-as-sole-scapegoat propaganda at age 12.

"he couldn't tie Orwell's shoes."

And Orwell couldn't tie Sam Francis' shoes.

Anonymous said...

Classy post.

Hate hate hate hate haaaaaaaaaaate.

nsam said...

You make it sound as though it is just a matter of time before some other Englishman comfortably occupies the vacuum created Hitchens' demise.

He is an incredibly prolific "one-of-a-kind" literary intellectual of our times. Will or will not his body of work endure? Apparently he was writing till the very last few days, in extreme pain.


---
"A short list of the greatest living conversationalists in English," said The Economist, "would probably have to include Christopher Hitchens, Sir Patrick Leigh-Fermor, and Sir Tom Stoppard. Great brilliance, fantastic powers of recall, and quick wit are clearly valuable in sustaining conversation at these cosmic levels. Charm may be helpful, too."
--

http://www.amazon.com/Arguably-Essays-Christopher-Hitchens/dp/1455502774

Dennis Dale said...

...in "Why Orwell Matters," to deny that Orwell would be on the right today.

Was Orwell even on the Left in his day?

I remember seeing Hitchens giving an informal speech at some televised hobnob or other, before 9/11, and there he was, with a drink and a cigarette that was all gravity-defying ash in the same hand, going on about Nixon. I remember thinking, what an asshole.
Now I miss that guy. But not the later iteration.

jack strocchi said...

I am ambivalent about Hitchens on personal, professional and political levels. As a person he was the life of the party with a generous soul. As a professional journalist he was brilliant, mixing erudition with wit. But his political compass was wildly off-target, being wrong about all the Big Things: the USSR (bad idea), Iraq War (waste of blood and treasure) and religion (it helps the LHS of the Bell Curve).

Still, I will miss him as he was a light that shone out from the grey mass of spin-doctoring and political correctness.

chucho said...

As Moldbug has pointed out, chances are if you transported any historical left-wing or liberal figure from past into the present time they'd very likely become an instant reactionary. It's somewhat ridiculous to make a serious argument about it either way, though.

Anonymous said...

Writer of prose: A-
Thinker: C
Media persona: B-

Charlotte said...

"It makes me wonder who's icon's he was breaking and who he was being contrary with. It certainly wasn't the New Republic or the Weekly standard."

Well, he's famous for dissing Mother Teresa. Who does that? He won big ol' iconoclasitc boots for that one. And as you say, anyone who is anyone luved him dearly for it.

He wasn't an "iconoclast." Shattering icons brings consequences, that neatly eluded him. I knew someone who knew him personally. Quite a drunk.
Also an eternal adolescent.
It's not for nothing that England is the home of Peter Pan.

Prof. Woland said...

His career was helped along by his melodic voice and Oxford accent which made listening to him a pleasure even if he was spitting out utter garbage.

Harry Baldwin said...

You could add to the list of Hitchens's "shifting around" his being gay (or bisexual) at Oxford and a womanizer since.

I never understood how Hitchens reconciled his fierce opposition to Operation Desert Storm with his staunch support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I guess he never felt the need to make sense.

He was a great talker and writer who, as Steve suggests, ultimately never said or wrote anything memorable. I read his last essay, on his impending demise, two hours ago and I now can't recall anything of interest from it.

He seemed to think of himself as today's George Orwell, but Orwell's work is strikingly memorable and Hitchens's is strikingly unmemorable.

He was a great quoter. The last essay contains a few good quotes, and that always gives the impression of erudition. I was also impressed when, on a TV appearance, he quoted a very amusing passage from P.G. Wodehouse verbatim.

Thrasymachus said...

Disciplined, orthodox, party-line communists are so commonplace- even in the guise of moderate, New Deal Democrats- that an unorthodox communist- Orwell or Hitchens, not that I'm comparing the two- is an exotic novelty.

Truth said...

No one who can't figure out that drinking until vomit ensues and smoking a pack a day is dangerous is a genius, sorry. That just reeks of "poor impulse control."

I guess all that Hitchens has a higher IQ than Gladwell stuff is a little shaky.

Noah172 said...

Of course, it's fair to ask: has anybody's career suffered from getting Iraq wrong?

Hillary Clinton. Her vote in favor of the invasion was the pretext for activist Democrats to look for an alternative candidate. Had she voted the other way, she would be President today.

Re: Orwell

1984 is a brilliantly prescient warning of the tyranny of political correctness under which we live today. It is also one of the best take-downs of leftist totalitarianism ever written.

That book alone makes him good as gold to the Alt Right, whatever else he did with his life.

Bernard Henri Levy said...

Hitchens (w/a mix of Gladwell) reminds me of another equally supremely confident continental with an underserved reputation who is similiarly so wrong on the big things you have to assume he's a souless and shameless prevocateur.

See him go on about how noble it was for him to agitate for the Euro/US invasion of Lybia.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/309752/charlie-rose-european-debt-crisis--bernard-henri-levy

Funny thing is for all the posing by he and his MSM syncophants like Charlie Rose, he has little to no intellectual reputation in academic circles in his professed fields.

Zhora Misha said...

Did you see that over-the-top encomium Christopher Buckley wrote for "Hitch" in the New Yawker? He ends his eulogistic meditation with a stanza from "To an athlete dying young", a homoerotic poem by the renowned classicist, A.E. Housman.

Didn't Hitch say he slept with a man, once? Hmm...makes you wonder how cozy it is among the Literary Set.

FredR said...

I saw him at Pomona in 2008 or so and he was absurdly entertaining as a public speaker. I've never had so much fun listening to someone talk.

Also, I think his literary criticism is under-appreciated.

FredR said...

My guess is that starting your career as a communist pamphleteer doesn't train you to "overcome bias," but he did the best he could with what he had.

John said...

Hitchens wasn't wrong about Iraq. The rest of you are.

Dennis Dale said...

Interesting that Cockburn, who strikes me as having had a lot more integrity, is an expat who chooses to live in Northern California, rather than DC.

Anonymous said...

"You could add to the list of Hitchens's "shifting around" his being gay (or bisexual) at Oxford and a womanizer since"

Hmmm. Are you sure? Didn't know that. Maybe the booze helped with the women? Or maybe the booze made not care what/whom he screwed.

Dennis Dale said...

No one who can't figure out that drinking until vomit ensues and smoking a pack a day is dangerous is a genius, sorry. That just reeks of "poor impulse control."

I don't know. Dry drunks are the worst--just look at W. If only he'd never gotten sober he wouldn't have caused all that trouble.
And there's a hallowed tradition of chain-smoking, hard-drinking writers. Works for some.
Here's to poor impulse control.

anony-mouse said...

Hitchens may have been wrong about Iraq and Trotsky, but the entire Cockburn family (at least the males) have been wrong about Stalin and Orwell and still are.

As to iconaclasm, how many times have you seen the word 'God' written as 'god'----anywhere?

Anonymous said...

The internet is odd in a way. Atheists, Randians, computer nerds, and Hitchens lovers all seem to be WAY over represented.

Weird that Steve's Blog seems to attract the same sort.

I think "Hitch" will be forgotten in a month and his books out of print in 2 years.

Alan Stewart said...

Henry Fairlie was another classic English journalist of the type:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Fairlie

zephyr said...

Steve,
I've been skimming, and I stress skimming, through Johnson's book and he seems to believe that their high intelligence (German Jews) goes back early: at least to the medieval period. He mentions the first European travel guide and how it was written by some Jewish man. He had many examples and didn't seem obsessed with it at any rate. Again, just skimmed. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

This is way off-topic but I've been reading a book on bed bugs and wanted your thoughts on Bedbugs and Israel:

Bedbugs are they antisemitic or good for the Jews?

David Davenport said...

Orwell was was a Fabian Socialist, not a Commie. His experience in the Spanish Civil War, described in Homage to Catalonia, turned him against the USSR and hard Leftism.

Something his marketeers in the US tone done is the anti-Americanism in Orwell's nonfiction writings.

He thought Americans to be vulgar, whether or not they were, mm, Carthagenian, and lamented the ascendancy of the USA over the UK as the top dog world power post 1945.

Harry Baldwin said...

So who WERE the two Tory ministers who had gay flings with Christopher Hitchens at Oxford?

It suggests that there were others.

Steve Sailer said...

The Daily Mail article about his bisexuality at Oxford is pretty informative -- much more Waugh than Orwell.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced English acting is better than American acting. At any rate, I've been to a fair amount of NYC theatre, and a limited amount of London theatre (plus visiting troupes), and they seem about equal to one another. Granted there are fewer Brits, but I don't see a need for colonial cringe in this area.

Anonymous said...

Bisexuality?

Is it just hedonism, power trip, booze&drugs or does it really exist as an "instinctive" orientation?

Ask Cochran, Steve.

an American woman said...

From the link:

" 'I always thought that Hitchens was someone who, like a lot of people when they are handsome in youth, spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and admiring himself. That is the vein through which he drew nourishment through his life.' "

Ach! I see nothing sexually attractive in even a young Chris Hitchens.

candid observer said...

Hitchens' fundamental flaw was that he wasn't a deep or even a coherent thinker.

When you are an essayist, to make a mark, your writings need to add up to something, to impress on others a particular take on the world. Otherwise, the more you write, the more you don't make sense, and you devolve into a sophist and a blowhard.

Anonymous said...

As Moldbug has pointed out, chances are if you transported any historical left-wing or liberal figure from past into the present time they'd very likely become an instant reactionary.

Moldbug is wrong. Politics is about who, whom? If you transport people across time, they'll recalculate according to who, whom?

Anonymous said...

It wasn't just that he wrote well and partied with famous people.

He had personality. Buchanan's been around on TV for a long time for the same reason.
Buckley's role in the conservative movement also owed a lot to personality.
People like ideas and views to have faces and voices.

Brother Peter isn't as colorful.

Anonymous said...

He also loved to play 'bad boy'. Even his conversion to neocon positions was done with a certain 'radical' bad boy flair.

Anonymous said...

Disciplined, orthodox, party-line communists are so commonplace- even in the guise of moderate, New Deal Democrats- that an unorthodox communist- Orwell or Hitchens, not that I'm comparing the two- is an exotic novelty.

This sounds like what a dumb person trying to sound smart would say.

Anonymous said...

Of course, he channeled Gore Vidal more than anyone else. He was Gore Vidal Sasson.

Mr. Anon said...

"Harry Baldwin said...

He seemed to think of himself as today's George Orwell, but Orwell's work is strikingly memorable and Hitchens's is strikingly unmemorable."

Quite true. Orwell has written several great books which will be long remembered. Hitchens will be soon forgotten.

Anonymous said...

In the end, he looked like
mini-me.

Anonymous said...

From Buckley to Rush.

From Vidal to Moore.

Now, that is what I call devolution.

Mr. Anon said...

"He craved to be an insider, a trait which achieved ripest expression when he elected to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen by Bush’s director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff."

Some antifa he turned out to be - taking the oath of citizenship from Bush's own deathshead-like chief secret policeman.

Had Hitchens been informed of the death of any one of us, he probably would have wished good riddance to bad reactionaries. Harsh as it sounds - to hell with him. He get's no RIPs from me.

Mr. Anon said...

"Matt said...

Why does the quality of English writers so utterly surpass that of their white American counterparts, with whom they share tons of DNA?"

What you say certainly used to be true. Prior to 1950 or so, I'd put up any of theirs against most any of ours. But not anymore. Not that American writers have grown better, but English writers seem to have grown notably worse. A lot of them cultivate a breezy, carefree style which makes them sound like ignorant and insouciant twits. Gone is the spare, straight-forward prose of George Orwell or Robert Graves.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Hitchens would have been as prominent in the media world prior to broadcast media.
And if Orwell were alive, I wonder if he would have been as famous or important since he wasn't as much a TV personality.

Anonymous said...

Is there such a thing as an internetual?

Anonymous said...

Yes what is the "inside" today? I guess its the following:

-Support Israel 110%
-Anti-Christian
-Socially Liberal
-Internationalist
-Support the economic status quo
-Support "diversity"

I think this is the "inside" in 2011 and strangely, all these positions are "good for the Jews". In fact, I think this is why Hitchens - who married a Jew - and turned Neo-con - is so beloved by both right and left.

Svigor said...

I'm not convinced English acting is better than American acting. At any rate, I've been to a fair amount of NYC theatre, and a limited amount of London theatre (plus visiting troupes), and they seem about equal to one another. Granted there are fewer Brits, but I don't see a need for colonial cringe in this area.

They get a free southpaw-like advantage with accents.

Whiskey said...

Steve the Iraq War is not some moral fairy tale, of "getting it wrong" or right, but wise or foolish use of American power. Hitchens was of course an advocate of foolish use, looking for moralism in foreign and domestic policy instead of in whatever private spirituality one can believe in.

I never got the appeal, there was nothing wrong with US power in the first place. Heck we invaded lots of places before and never invited the world: Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam to name some over nearly a century.

Whiskey said...

I recall seeing Hitchens on IIRC O'Reilly with Laura Ingram hosting. He asked her if he "could call you darling?" and she brusquely told him "No you may not."

...

Perhaps the most brutal put-down I've ever seen. It was ... hilarious.

I never got the boozy, Hunter S. Thompson act for writers. Writers are best ... writing. If they were any good talking, they'd have been actors.

Ed said...

I loved Christopher Hitchens as a stylist, but I have to admit that the take on him on the left wing sites, based on the last ten years of his life is correct (see this for an example: http://www.ianwelsh.net/rip-christopher-hitchens/). The man was a hack who sold out. The closest fictional portrayal of him turned out to be the Peter Fallow in Gore Vidal's 1950s Washington novel.

If this is too harsh, then he was a talented journalist who was wrong on all the big issues -the US pulled out of Iraq exactly one day before he died because the current Iraqi regime if anything is even more hostile to the US than than the Baathist regime! He was wrong on Trosky, wrong on Mother Theresa, who actually improved the lives of people in Calcutta, wrong on Iraq, will turn out to be wrong on religion, and so on, though I suspect that history will at least vindicate him on Bill Clinton.

But I do have more respect nowadays for his brother.

Udolpho.com said...

Hitchens wasn't that widely loved, but esteem did pick up in various quarters when he took to hanging around neocons and fulminating about Muslims.

Steve is correct that his writing was more style than substance and hence entirely forgettable. He also had a very narrow range: philosophy, humor, music, literature were among many subjects about which he had nothing useful to add, and one of those he was most garrulous about (religion) he contributed only vituperative excess.

From my own memorial of Hitchens:

"How to remember Hitchens? A drunk who made passes at men, a globetrotting narcissist who probably spent more time with his fannish admirers than with his own children, a bridge-burning provocateur who carried on feuds with a number of ex-friends and his own brother, a bon vivant whose body became a bloated symbol of his hedonism, a vain snob who preached socialism (which he belatedly abandoned) while living quite above the level of the working class (whose company he could not have cared for)--too ungenerous?"

DJF said...

""""Whisky writes

Heck we invaded lots of places before and never invited the world: Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam to name some over nearly a century.""

What world do you live in, we have millions of Panamanians, Cubans, Filipinos, Koreans and Vietnamese in the USA and they started coming as soon as we got militarily involved with their countries. And they are still coming plus we also getting Somalis, Afghans, Iraqis, Iranian etc etc from our latest adventures.

morleysafer said...

Had stopped reading obits today after the 4th one, each of them repeating the same "funny anecdotes" and pretending to represent a soul-mate, only skimming the one by Buckley fils which bordered on nauseating. So I figured this blog would furnish a fresh or counterintuitive take on it, or at least an actual new bit of info; too bad.

Since a dozen paragraphs later you quote (apparently without irony) Alexander Cockburn as character reference it's fitting to point out that his range is a lot better than the overly academic Hitchens's though he is definitely worse on TV. I think it would be not much of an accomplishment to appear smarter than the average guest/flack on "Hardball" but CH liked to lord it over that league. Looking forward to the obsequious post when Tom Wolfe or Adrian Lyne kicks.

Anonymous said...

I never got the appeal, there was nothing wrong with US power in the first place. Heck we invaded lots of places before and never invited the world: Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam to name some over nearly a century.

Because prior to the immigration act of 1965, there was no legal way to import all these folks. Panama (canal building phase), Cuba, the Philippines and Korea occurred pre 1965. So we did not invite them.

There was an exception with Puerto Rico. Taken after our war with Spain, we offered them citizenship in 1917 because, you guessed it, we needed warm bodies to invade the world.

After Vietnam, we had virtually lost all our immigration restrictions. So we took in a lot of boat people that changed the lives of folks on the Gulf coast.

Panama in 1989 only had around 2 million folks, so there probably was not a large enough pool to invite.

But I imagine if we could get the 1924 immigration act back into place, we wouldn't have to worry about this invite the world crap.

Whiskey, make yourself useful and go to redstate, michelle malkin and commentary and start trying to drum up support for the Immigration Act of 1924.

Anonymous said...

I never got the appeal, there was nothing wrong with US power in the first place. Heck we invaded lots of places before and never invited the world: Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam to name some over nearly a century.

Because prior to the immigration act of 1965, there was no legal way to import all these folks. Panama (canal building phase), Cuba, the Philippines and Korea occurred pre 1965. So we did not invite them.

There was an exception with Puerto Rico. Taken after our war with Spain, we offered them citizenship in 1917 because, you guessed it, we needed warm bodies to invade the world.

After Vietnam, we had virtually lost all our immigration restrictions. So we took in a lot of boat people that changed the lives of folks on the Gulf coast.

Panama in 1989 only had around 2 million folks, so there probably was not a large enough pool to invite.

But I imagine if we could get the 1924 immigration act back into place, we wouldn't have to worry about this invite the world crap.

Whiskey, make yourself useful and go to redstate, michelle malkin and commentary and start trying to drum up support for the Immigration Act of 1924.

Anonymous said...

-Support Israel 110%
-Anti-Christian
-Socially Liberal
-Internationalist
-Support the economic status quo
-Support "diversity"

All of those tenets appear to be accepted a priori as "Good for the Jews", irrespective of the truth. I would argue that only tenet #1 and maybe tenet #4 are really GFJ long term.

The truth is that Jews have done well over the long term with a European host populace. I don't think it has been easy, but they have survived where other peoples haven't. All these other tenets of "inside" thought are really predicated on the assumption that Jews will do better in a world without Europeans, or in a world of Europeans mixed with other races. Because that is what their tenets bring, taken to their logical conclusion.

Basically, they have taken the ball of early 20th century Marxist thought, without the extensive science that is available today in IQ and HBD nor a long term hard look at whether the end result is really good for Jews, and run with it. And part of the problem is that they've put taboos on many of the subjects necessary to re-evaluate those goals - IQ, HBD, hell, even statistical arguments. Things are changing though, IMO.

Fred said...

How many of you actually read that piece on Trotsky that Sailer linked to?

During the Russian Revolution, Trotsky was a murderer like the rest of the commies, but Hitchens's essay wasn't about that. It was about Trotsky's accurate warnings about Nazism in the lead up to World War II (for example, predicting the Hitler-Stalin pact, or the invasion of Norway). That all seems correct.

morleysafer said...

Anonymous 9:46 -- have you ever read any of his output on that first topic there? Hitchens's numerous such articles make Sailer sound like a WME percenter.

Samuel Glickington said...

They highlighted it in the Counterpunch link but I'm surprised at the otherwise total omission of his swearing the affidavit on Sidney Blumenthal. No one much liked Blumenthal, then or now, but it seemed really odd at the time and suspiciously theatrical, the kind of shtick you'd expect maybe from Andrew Sullivan or Naomi Wolf but not an established Beltway adult. I think he somehow convinced himself it was his Whittaker moment, yet he basically came off as a social viper...

Neonem ex Ungue said...

The true extent of Christopher Hitchens’ literary achievement is apparent only when one reflects that two of his favourite authors are Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse. With those shining examples before him, he has contrived for decades to produce some of the world’s most pompous and constipated prose. The caption to one photograph in this autobiography runs: “Blockading a racist hairdresser, 1968.” I won’t call that the funniest line in the book, because as far as I could discover it was the only funny line in the book. And the humour was not intentional. Racism is not, after all, a joking matter...

Commissar Christostom

Anonymous said...

On the "great" Mother Teresa:

Aroup Chatterjee, Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict.

Hint: She did more harm than good.

Spread Eagle said...

Me, I'd be a little more cautious about my conclusions precedent viz. who was right and who was wrong about the Iraq war. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

"Hitchens was so consistently wrong that I suspect it must have been intentional, but he built great cities of prose."

People prefer the brilliantly and flamboyantly wrong to the prosaicly and banally right.


It's like we prefer ice cream to spinach.

Anonymous said...

In recent decades conservatives have suffered from an inferiority complex. The attentions and sympathies of a Christopher Hitchens flattered them, which is why they were so receptive to him.

bitchens said...

"I never understood how Hitchens reconciled his fierce opposition to Operation Desert Storm with his staunch support for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I guess he never felt the need to make sense."

He didn't reconcile them. He changed positions. I think his trip to the Middle East and South Asia changed his mind. He became Naipaulized.
Western elites travel a lot but stick around nice tourist areas. Hitchens, as a true-believing leftist journalist, rubbed shoulders with the teeming-steaming masses; he wanted to have some rapport with the wretched of the earth. But getting to know them better, he came to see them as merely wretched.
Same thing happened to Hanif
Kureishi, the writer of MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE. He went to Pakistan to reconnect with his people but found them hostile and returned to UK feeling more English than Pakistani--not least because he's gay. And Rushdie also had a rude awakening about the Third World.

I think, in some ways, the divide between Third World and Western leftists is bigger than ever. Sure, we still hear the same stuff about 'neo-imperialism', but there is a huge cultural divide that wasn't as wide as in the past. The original left focused on basic values and universals. It was about the PEOPLE vs the exploitative elites. What stood in the way between Western leftists and Third Worlders was the reactionary culture of the latter. Even so, western leftists thought this could be overcome with people like Mao taking power(and carrying out stuff like cultural revolution to smash old culture). Also, rise of the anthropological left opened an argument that third world cultures were actually of value and needed to be preserved precisely for their uniqueness. So, leftism went from universalist to semi-particularist, forming a synthesis called multi-culturalism. It all sounded good on paper. But with massive influx of third worlders into the West, reality is something else. The Western left is confused as to what to do about Muslims and Africans. Multiculturalism says their cultures must be respected, but the values inherent in their cultures are 'sexist', 'xenophobic', etc.

Another problem is the Western Left turned decadent. The idea of the Western Left promoting something like 'gay marriage' would have been laughable even 20 yrs ago. 50 yrs ago, no way Jose.
But the main agenda of the Western Left today is 'gay marriage'. There's no way there's gonna be much unity between such 'progressive' western degenerates on one hand and barbaric third world reactionaries on the other.
In the 60s, there was still some hope that the likes of Nasser, secular third worlder, might see eye-to-eye with the Western Left. Today, Islam is on the rise in the Middle East while Western left has been utterly gay-ized and porn-ized(with feminism defining itself 'slut pride parade'). The world is at once more globalized and more divided.
And notice there was almost no leftist opposition to NATO's attack on Libya. As far as western leftists concerned, it's a good thing for pro-gay western leaders to bash a recalcitrant third world country. But does that mean Libya will be more like Holland? Or will the future of Libya be even more traditionalist?

gumbi circus said...

"I wish you'd more on this. I find it odd that everyone in the chattering classes from NRO to Ace of Spades to Slate and the New York Times loved this 'iconoclast' and 'bold, contrarian'."

Hitchens, the Man for All Reasons--even if they were all bad.

Anonymous said...

One thing that unites all the world is rap. From Muslims to Hindus to Japanese to Americans to Europeans. I guess sexual-thuggery is universal.

snow gumbi said...

Hitchens is the anti-Oprah, or like an anti-Oprah Oprah.

If Oprah's shtick was 'I'm a friend to all'--which is why even NRO heaped praise on her...

Hitchens' shtick was 'I'm an enemy to all'--which is why each group saw him as the enemy of its enemy. So, NRO sees him as the enemy of the left, Slate sees him as the enemy of religious right, etc.
But in the end, the impact was same as that of Oprah.

W Baker said...

Why was Hitchens the consummate insider? Why was Hitch the darling of whichever Establishment set he was involved with.

1. Oxbridge charm, erudition, combined with the English public school/classical approach to sexuality/mores/tastes.

2. Like any insider 'contrarian'/essayist, keep the debate between the poles of Swedish socialism and the Goldman Sachs "entrepreneur". Always settle the debate with odes to middle England, properly made tea, and semi socialism but with a Tory disdain for the underclass.

3. Understand that the chattering class now needs constant and voluminous material. 24/7 "news" programs run through a tremendous amount of material. Always be prepared to bring #1 and #2 to any print space or tv studio - at a moment's notice.

Anonymous said...

Now this should be on the supposedly contrarian Slate.

TGGP said...

Cockburn said Hitchens wrote a horrible obit for Edward Said, so I googled it and found this. Didn't strike me as so bad (I should note I've never read Said and know very little about him). Mostly positive, though he calls Said thin-skinned. I guess some of his fans are thin-skinned too.

RHap said...

Aren't you supposed to be failure with HBD? Relationships with parents have zero effect on personality. Nada. Zilch. Sometimes adults will attribute some personality trait to something their parent did. But they're BSing.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens has no "Literary Achievement". And as a result he will be forgotten fairly quickly. He was really at his best chattering on some TV show where he could show his quick - but superficial wit. He was at his worst trying to be the "big thinker" and write seriously about serious topics.

That he seems so well respected and admired by so many, simply shows how shallow and sub-literate most Americans are.

gumbster said...

Hitchens was good for two things.

1. Absolute commitment to free speech. He even defended the right of David Irving to speak.

2. The guts to criticize his own side.

His real problem was egotistical than ideological. He was too often for winning just for the vanity of winning. He was idegotistical.

gummishness said...

"Hitchens wasn't wrong about Iraq. The rest of you are."

He was right in exposing the hypocrisy of the left in regards to Iraq. Through the 90s, left complained that sanctions were killing 100,000s of Iraqis and soemthing had to be done.

So, should sanctions be ended? Left didn't really say so since it would have meant victory for Hussein(and Jews would have been upset). Then what? The only option was to remove Hussein. But the left opposed that too.
So, Hitchens noticed the left's bad faith. It complained, "kids in Iraq are dying, something has to be done." But when Bush did someting, the Left said, "why are we attacking a peaceful country when the sanctions were... uh.. working?"

Where Hitchens was wrong was in expecting Iraqis to take to the new order with enthusiasm. I was wrong on that too. But I admit it. But Hitchens, having invested so much of his righteous ego into the argument, could not admit it. But then, he was somebody while I'm a nobody, so he had more to lose.

gumbinious said...

"During the Russian Revolution, Trotsky was a murderer like the rest of the commies, but Hitchens's essay wasn't about that."

He was a ruthless enemy of
anti-commies. Stalin was a ruthless killer of commies as well as anti-commies.

Though communism sucks, it's natural for any group to use extreme force to destroy the enemy. US killed a lot of people in WWII after all.
Soviets were especially radicalized cuz of hte russian Civil War. At one time, it looked as if commies would lose. So, commies got especially ruthless.
It's like Nazis were virulently anti-Jewish but the real anti-Jewish horrors began when HItler sensed the war might be lost. Frustration and panic lead to extreme rage and ruthlessness.

gumbicious said...

"Bisexuality?"

It sure prepared him well for
Bi-ideology or bideology.

Mr. Anon said...

"Whiskey said...

Heck we invaded lots of places before and never invited the world: Panama, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam to name some over nearly a century."

Which is why there are no Cubans, Phillipinos, Koreans, or Vietnamese in our country today.

You really are an imbecile, Whiskey.

Least Obvious Answer said...

http://theleastobviousanswer.blogspot.com/2011/12/in-heaven-christopher-hitchens-debates.html

Matt said...

The questions I ask of Hitchens are:

What were his original concepts? What measurably true things did he, for the first time in history, assert?

Without these, I cannot consider him a great intellectual.

I see the man as mainly fulfilling people's idea of what a public intellectual should be like - aggressive, verbally elaborate, well read, drunken, anti-authoritarian, ostentatiously compassionate and full of fire, contempt and rhetoric.

He met the checkboxes that people want, that kind of funny macho, acerbic, bon vivant, hard drinking form of journalistic intelligence that we associate with the Hunter S Thompsons and Samuel Johnsons and Pepyses of the world and that many people fancy is what an intellectual ought to be like (there are things worse to fancy an intellectual ought to be like).

For all that, I don't see him as a man with original ideas. A populariser at best. Not a great intellectual, but perhaps a great eloquential.

Anonymous said...

"More generally, English journalists tend to be better than American journalists at using the English language, whether on paper or in person, whether sober or drunk."

If that were true, then British publications would be better written than their American counterparts, but they're not. No British newspaper touches the NY Times. It's not even close for depth — they'd run a six inch story for WWIII's outbreak — but even the style sucks.

And there's nothing in Britain to even touch the quality of writing in the best American magazines. I can't even think of a British magazine that even attempts long-form general interest non-fiction, pieces that attempts to tell you interesting stuff you don't know (which requires expensive investigation) rather than the author's thoughts on X (which requires an afternoon). Here: New Yorker, Atlantic, Smithsonian, National Geographic, and the list goes on.

Tom Piatak said...

A very good piece on Hitchens.

Anonymous said...

TGGP--

Cockburn also pointed out that Hitchens wrote a critique of Orientalim while Said was on his deathbed and that Said was upset about this.


Orientalism was published in 1978. Hitchens claimed he had no choice because the new edition had just been released. Cockburn responded that the Atlantic didnt tell Hitchens what to write. I'll let you figure out who's right there.

Anonymous said...

There was another recently deceased contrarian, who was ostracized and impoverished for his thoughts. Attached are his thoughts on hitchens.
http://www.sobran.com/wanderer/w2007/w070726.shtml
Pat Buchanan, his friend, has yet to write an obituary. Only Ann Coulter, amongst the heavy hitters, has taken that risk.

Hapalong Cassidy said...

Is it wrong of me that as soon as I saw Steve write that Hitchens was wrong on Iraq, I immediately came to this thread in anticipation of Whiskey's response? Whiskey may be an idiot, but at least he's consistent and entertaining with his idiocy.

Anonymous said...

All said and done, leftists in general would still be better if they were more like Hitchens than Katha Pollitt.

Anonymous said...

Given the rising tide of anti-Zionism among some public intellectuals, it must have been welcome to have one support Israel.

J said...

Hitch was at least prepared to point out the growing Islamic threat in the UK. Not many other writers would get away with an article in Vanity Fair entitled "Londonistan Calling":

What this shows is the utter futility of the soft-centered explanations of the 7/7 bombings and other outrages. It was argued for a while that the 7/7 perpetrators were victims of unemployment and poverty, until their remains were identified and it became clear that most of them came from educated and reasonably well-off backgrounds. The excuses then abruptly switched, and we were asked to believe that it was Tony Blair's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan that motivated the killers. Suppose the latter to be true. It would still be the case that they belong to a movement that hates Jews and Indians and all kuffar, or "unbelievers": a fanatical sect that believes itself entitled to use deadly violence at any time. The roots of violence, that is to say, are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it."

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/06/hitchens200706

Anonymous said...

I think Hitchens' reputation will suffer in coming years and decades. I think his friends, old colleagues, ex-friends, et al will begin to reveal many ugly truths about his bad behavior, especially when he was drunk. Some of it, such as him claiming that he was the biggest anti-Semite around and him menacing Fr. George Rutler at the Union Club, has already been discussed on the Internet.

A sad ending to a very sad man.

corvinus said...

Here's a favorable (and rather sarcastic) tribute to Hitchens on the Catholic blog Traditio:

http://traditio.com/comment/com1112.htm

Sam said...

Hitchens was a gay drama queen who loved being the centre of attention. He had nothing thought provoking to say.

Anonymous said...

"What this shows is the utter futility of the soft-centered explanations of the 7/7 bombings and other outrages."

The bigger problem is that most immigrants in UK are not terrorist bombers. If they were, Brits would kick them out and have Britain for the British. But since many immigrants don't commit such outrages, there's the mistaken belief that all will turn out well. But as immigrant numbers swell in the hope of some harmonious and fun multi-culti society, all hell will break loose in the future. 7/7 was a fluke. The London Riots will be the future.

Catperson said...

Hitchens is the anti-Oprah, or like an anti-Oprah Oprah.

LOL! I was always terrified hitchens would unleash his hatred on oprah. He hated Clinton and mother Teresa and oprah's kind of a combination of both.

Average924 said...

I never read Hitchens but I've seen him on TV, so I've looked up some of his quotes.
He's battling a war that has already been won. Europe is non religious. France has no entitled clergy. Ireland has no pious starving peasants. He has to search the world to find an enemy. Poor little Mother Teresa wasn't tithing anyone, nor was she a guardian of the public debate. No rebel has received so much as a scratch for attacking Catholics in the last century. He wanted to be Voltaire, but he must have felt like a heavyweight with no legitimate contender.
The American Religious Right doesn't seem to be too successful in pushing it's agenda. The courts will put a pin in them whenever they inflate.
He had a terrible dilemma for an atheist, how do you get indignant at anyone when reason and biology say that your appetites and opinions are more likely to be inherited than chosen. Is he so cruel as to condemn someone for the way they were born.
Let's concede that his talents, disposition and appetites were congenital.
If I were an atheist, I think I would be more detached than engaged. Why expend all that energy? Maybe his genes would not be denied.

stari_momak said...

CS Lewis judged his desire to a an insider -- a 'blood' in his terminology -- as his most egregious sin, and the most common sin among his public school classmates/old boys.

Average924 said...

Not all of his ideas could stand the scrutiny of science and reason. He was unwilling to concede that evolution applies to human mammals. He constantly denounced racism. That was his armor. It's why he never made a watch list. It's why he was never denied a stage.
We're all equal in the eyes of God. A fine sentiment and a tenant of my faith. But we are not all the same.
It tortures atheist to justify Charity. I read enough Steve to know the current explanations, but why was religion so far ahead of science in knowing its value.
C.S. Lewis seemed to have excellent scientific instincts when he asked why people presume to know in which direction evolution is headed and which traits are valuable.

With the exception of the fields of medicine and agriculture, we might be better off ignoring it.

morleysafer said...

TGGP: I can't tell why the CPers are so sore about it (<-- warning: hysterical Irish broad). The original Atlantic article, Sept. '03 unless it's some other piece they're mad about, was mostly deferential with good background on the man and his mega-topic. It seems Ed didn't croak until a couple months after it was printed but I suppose there'd be much whining either way. Since commemorative editions of Orientalism get issued with each liberal arts diploma now they ought to be less surprised by the inevitable backlash.

Anonymous said...

Relationships with parents have zero effect on personality. Nada. Zilch.

Not sure if you are being ironic. Anyhow Im not buying it.

neil craig said...

Hitchen's did a hate filled obituary of Milosevic (who died, poisoned, after "persons unknown" with access to the meals the NATO funded "court" were providing).

I think the general public support for the bombing of Yugoslavia so that we could appoint a NATO police regime in Kosovo (recruiting the WW2 Nazis, gangsters, drug lords, sex slavers and organleggers we had alrerady recruited as the KLA) so that our governments coyuld engage in Nazism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, sex slavery, drug dealing and organlegging, did lead those in charge to think theyu could get away with it again.

After all if you can do that to a democracy with a liberal minded civilised president like Milosevic (truly - do a litle research if you don't think our media were lying) then thjey could certainly do it to a hellhole run by a psycho like Saddam.

The reasons why they couldn't are many and reflect badly on both supporters and opponents of the Iraq adventure. Hitchens being the former as well as a supporter ofd our genocide of the Serbs. doubt if there is a Herll but if there is he is there.

Defeated said...

Pat Buchanan has been suspended for nonspecific reason related, supposedly, to his views on race.
Where are his main stream conservative media defenders?
Hitch had plenty.
What specifically makes Pat unworthy of a little support?
His detractors think FOX will pick him up - that is not at all likely.
If past history is any indication of future behavior, only the brave Ann Coulter will come to his defense.
Hitch disagreed with conservatives on every issue except one, but that one was enough to earn him accolades.
Pat disagrees with conservatives about one major issue and that issue will probably end his career.