Friday, December 16, 2011


Yes, you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I don't understand why that should apply to Christopher Hitchens, who lashed out at so many people in such a self-satisfied way throughout his life. His writing was almost always about getting you to admire its own cleverness and viciousness, and only secondarily about his subjects. He picked ridiculous fights -- with female humorists, with Princess Diana. (Even when he was mostly left-leaning, his contempt for women oozed out of his Nation columns denouncing abortion.) And I'll say this because I think he would have the bad taste to say it about himself if he weren't himself: I feel as if he sustained his vices with such great energy primarily because he wanted to wave those vices in our faces -- I will not knuckle under to your abstemious pieties about chain smoking and all-day drinking! He brandished his hatred of Henry Kissinger as a Get Out of Jail Free card that was supposed to make us forgive his enabling of the right -- the Newt Gingrich right -- in the 1990s, and that was supposed to give moral weight to his Bush/Cheney bootlicking a decade later. I'm glad he came around on waterboarding, but he would never question the whole enterprise of the Iraq War, the worst thing any president in my lifetime has ever done. By the end he was like Donald Trump or Gene Simmons, or, for that matter, Gingrich -- someone who not only thought he was brilliant, he wanted you to know he thought he was brilliant, and wanted you to admire him for his self-admiration, to find that amusing and delightful. I'm sorry he suffered at the end, but I won't miss him, and I don't feel a loss.


c u n d gulag said...

I loved Hitch on a few issues.

And, like you, hated him on most. Especially over the last 15 or so years.

But, you've got to give the Devil his due - the boy could sure write!

But, of course, he was nowhere near as great or smart as he thought he was.

And he was no Hunter S. Thompson.
Or Matt Taibbi.
Or Charles Pierce.

He was too pleased with himself.

He was at heart, a Neocon who occasionally donned Liberal clothes.

No, I won't miss him either. Despite how he proved that Henry Kissinger was beyond the shadow of a doubt, a war criminal. But, there IS that, and should be added to his obituary, as you rightly did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Steve. I think it's appropriate when someone dies to size them up as they should be sized. And I think Hitchens would say the same - he wasn't much for honoring sacred cows.

Hitchens opened my eyes to Kissinger. But his anti-Islam cheerleading on Iraq and his smug self-centeredness guaranteed him a spot in the right winger hall of fame.

c u n d gulag said...

I'd forgotten some things about Hitch that I liked, and Charles Pierce reminded me:

It made me think a bit better of the man.

Monty said...

I thought he was a pompous asshole who wrote extremely well, and with whom I occasionally agreed. I'll actually miss the arrogant jerk. Give me Hitch over Bobo or Thomas Fucking Friedman or any of the stale baker's dozen dispensing punditry today.

Steve M. said...

Do I have to choose? I'd be happy to be rid of the lot of them.

Betty Cracker said...

I will miss him. I feel a loss. Oh sure, he was an infuriating bastard. But I found him worthwhile despite that.

Roger said...

He's with Mother Teresa now.

Monty said...

It must be said, however, that his support for the Iraq War was unforgivable.

Here's a touching piece

BH said...

I'm with you, Betty. Hitchens could be and often was spectacularly wrong, and pigheaded as hell about ever admitting it. But, if nothing else he was an unremitting, articulate and deadly critic of religion and its exploiters, which in itself makes up for a great deal in my book.

Steve M. said...

Thank you very much for that link, Monty.

Strange how a guy who made his reputation by rejecting civility is being eulogized almost exclusively (apart from that) with saccharine gush.

Betty Cracker said...

Saccharine gushing? I dunno. In my spin around the blogosphere, I've seen plenty of reactions that were more along the lines of Bette Davis on the death of Joan Crawford. But you're right about Hitchens himself not adhering to the stricture of not speaking ill of the dead. I savored just about every word of his on the death of Jerry Falwell, which started off like this:

"The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled 'credulous idiot.'"


merlallen said...

I liked his Jerry Falwell eulogy haha