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Christopher Hitchens: Man of the Year

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What more could possibly be said about the late Christopher Hitchens that has not already been said?

We all know who he was; the passionate, articulate, and always self-assured political, social, and literary critic with a penchant for hammering out the objective truth about a seemingly endless myriad of subjects. During his long and varied career, he took on heavyweights ranging from the hyper-politically correct British government to the U.S. Republican Party to the modern left. None of these, however, could rival the contempt he held for the undisputed bane of his existence, the Roman Catholic Church, whose numerous scandals he not only highlighted, but to which brought a new dimension of journalistic integrity.

Despite attempting to make a plethora of different points in his various commentaries, delivering cold, hard, refreshing doses of reason was always Hitchens’s ultimate goal. Agree or disagree with his views, one could not help but respect the avowed socialist turned awkward capitalist’s steely, yet smug determination and work ethic. An outspoken evangelical fundamentalist atheist, he wore his beliefs on not only one, but both sleeves. At times, he had a tendency to become incredibly annoying, but in the end, sound minds of any given religion could value the finer points of his opinions.

It is men such as Christopher Hitchens, of whom each generation has produced far too few, and successive ones seem to be generating a smaller number still. A man whose words will undoubtedly live on for centuries, he set the gold standard for all sociopolitical writers, as did personalities like H.L. Mencken and Upton Sinclair before him. While Hitchens’ succumbing to cancer just before the holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas began is indeed a bitter pill to swallow for thinking Americans, it must be remembered that, by his own accounts, he lived his life to its very fullest, and seemed content with this in the end.

Such an existence filled with remarkable milestones is what makes the Hitch, as far as I am concerned, the undisputed man of 2011.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Here’s another article in your vein, Joseph, from Truthdig:

    “Reason in Revolt.”

    And now, in the interest of “fair and balanced,” also from the same website:

    Hedges on Hitchens.”

  • And here’s another, noting the response to Mr. Hitchen’s death from the conservative blogs I frequent.

  • Thanks for posting, Dam. One thing’s for certain, he was a helluva writer. And we all should be able to question ourselves and others with the same vigor and dogged determination as he had.

    A reference to late Sidney Hook, ha? And Johnny Walker, too, my favorite drink. Can’t afford Blue, of course, never tasted it. Black is more in my price range, on Holidays at least.

    Happy New Year to you and family.

  • Peter Hitchens had a famously strained relationship with his brother Christopher. One of the few opportunities afforded by the suckiness of dying a slow death is the one it gives families to heal before the end. That’s how Peter’s article (in the Mail, where he has a weekly column) ends up being a sincere tribute to his brother’s courage, not just in the face of death, but in the face of injustice throughout his life.

    So here I am, critic of the Iraq war, admirer of Mother Theresa, huge fan of God, thinking of something nice to remember about Christopher Hitchens, and here comes one now: he had the guts to actually EXPERIENCE water-boarding, and then pronounced it torture.

    PS Howdy Dan(Miller)! Here’s to smooth sailing in 2012

  • Good choice, Joseph. Guess, I’ll have to break the trend of offering links to send readers away to other tributes. I assume they know how Goggle works

  • Thanks, Roger and Irene.

    I’ve become a bit too long in the tooth (at least in those I still have) for sailing. Now, I live up in a rural mountain area of Panama and write instead; I enjoy it no less.

    Happy New Year and many more to you and to all others at BC!

  • I just thought that Chris Hedges’ article, including the video, would be of interest.

    Am I sabotaging BC for having posted the link?

  • That’s pretty, Irene.

    Not like the recent movie version about werewolves and exorcists.

  • trey mon bien

    I liked Hitchens and admired his courage but never understood his support of the Iraq war as anything but a knee-jerk reaction to his hatred of Islam.

    Hitchens, if you didn’t believe in religion – why believe in war? Doesn’t make any sense to me – a proud atheist.

    In any event, I feel confident that Hitchens has achieved everlasting life. Christopher Hitchens and his writings will be discussed for many many decades and centuries.

    And those remarking on his drinking prowess – Good god! He was British and a writer. What else could you possibly expect?

  • I loved that Hitch didn’t mince words. No matter who might be his opponent, he went immediately for the jugular, and with great skill.

    There were, of course, 2 aspects of Hitch that I didn’t get. First, as ‘trey’ mentioned above, was Hitch’s enthusiasm for the Iraq war. I know he recognized the hideousness of the Hussein regime, as we all did, but why he backed our incursion into Iraq, given the circumstances, remains a mystery to me.

    Also puzzling to me was his utter hatred of the Clintons, especially Bill. I certainly still have issues with Bill Clinton considering how he pissed away much of his presidency because he couldn’t keep it in his pants. I know Hitch had a # of issues he held against both of the Clintons, but I don’t believe that on balance they were/are any worse than most politicians. Hillary has, IMO, done a stellar job as Sec’y of State, and Bill’s work with the Clinton Global Initiative is impressive.

    Otherwise, though, I loved Hitchens’ stance against religion and belief in any god. He could wax quite eloguent on the subject.

    I must admit that many of his more literary efforts usually left me agape. I often didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. But that was my problem, not his.

    It’s sad that we lost such a brilliant mind long before his time.

  • S.T.M

    The best thing about Hitchens was that he became quite bipartisan … every form of political stupidity was a target, whether the foolishness of the hardcore loony left, the chardonnay liberals, wet (centre-leaning) conservatives, or the conservatives leaning towards the rabid right and the baggage of anger and hatred and “we know better than you and you don’t count” attitude that come with many of those ideological viewpoints.

    The politically correct left and their rusted on grants-seeking victim industry/”arts” crowd too must have wondered what hit ’em on occasion. The religious authorities didn’t agree with him, as has been pointed out the Catholic Church especially (but not only), but many admired his passionate but generally polite and articulate presentation. Plus, he had me wondering a few times about my entire existence. I think I’m still winging it.

    Best of all, Hitchens did not allow his views on genuine social justice to cloud his thinking on such questions as: is brutal, murderous islamofacism a good thing or bad (= BAD), is unbending religious fundamentalism of any creed a stain on the human race (= without doubt), or whether the world would be a better place without the likes of scum like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and his tea-towel wearing, cave-dwelling chorts (yes, it would be better). Courage sometimes means going against the flow, either way, and often taking the least popular view.

    His views certainly could not be pigeonholed. You have to love a man who won’t be dictated to one way or the other … who can see things for what they are – or at least, what he thinks and truly believes they are.

    However, Hitchens also was a great admirer of an articulate, cogent and well-presented argument, whether he agree with it or not.

    In my view he is the classic poster-boy for the very best traditions of modern liberal democracy, p[articularly in the British tradition, or the idea that a view of whatever persuasion is a great contributor to that way of life – up to the point where it starts to destroy it. A very fine line …

    Man of the year, indeed. Pity he’s not here to argue the toss with us.

  • S.T.M

    Also fantastic to see the BC debate raging … on Coldplay, the last samurai, astrology, pap smears, the near-defunct and totally ineffectual OWS movement that fails to spot the nexus between its iphones and laptops and global corporatism, House, Michael Jackson, etc etc. Nothing like focussing on the the important issues.

    Yet a piece by Joe on one of the most important liberal-democratic thinkers and polemicists of the modern era, a man who defies pigenonholing through any kind of identity politics, is vitually ignored.

    I wonder if that says anything about modern America. Or modern anywhere for that matter …

  • zingzing

    maybe there isn’t much to argue about here…

  • Or maybe Hitch wasn’t as important as you imagine him to be, not like Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Jesus Christ.

    And just maybe because he was only a “liberal-democratic thinker,” he was limited after his own way.

  • zingzing

    or maybe roger would rather compare corpses to other corpses, all undoubtedly good people (if they all exist). i don’t know if “liberal-democrat” is a good category for hitchens (he pissed those who would place themselves in that category as often as not), but i guess roger will piss on him if another puts him in that category.

    roger’s dismissal of hitchens based upon a random categorization shows [edited]… ah, fuck it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    So Hitchens was a contrarian – I like that!

  • Wasn’t my categorization, zing. it was Stan’s, so put on your reading glasses or you’re liable to put your foot in your mouth as you’re prone to do more often than you should.

    And since Hitch is dead, they’re all corpses by now, so it’s a valid comparison as far as it goes.

    So thus far, your retort may be contrarian in spirit, but that’s all it is. As to the content, it’s completely devoid of substance.

  • And yes, Kurtz had pegged you just right, a registered vulgarian.

  • Well, anyone who does not, in Roger’s mind, measure up to Ghandi or King aren’t worthy of notice – especially if they happen to be primarily progressive, and if they happen to be heathens to boot. Sets the bar pretty high, I must say. That Hitchens did not lead a major social/political movement hardly diminishes his accomplishments.

  • zingzing

    “Wasn’t my categorization, zing. it was Stan’s, so put on your reading glasses…”

    read what i wrote again. didn’t say it was your categorization by any stretch of reading comprehension. “if another puts him in that category” should have been a clue. dunno why you’d think i thought it was yours. although it doesn’t surprise me at this point.

    “And since Hitch is dead, they’re all corpses by now, so it’s a valid comparison as far as it goes.”

    oi. come on, man. how can you miss the point that completely? if that’s a valid comparison, let’s compare mlk to my dead granny… to say someone doesn’t quite compare equally to mlk or gandhi or jesus fucking christ isn’t such a harsh criticism. you don’t compare to jesus. do you think you do, as you aren’t limited by “liberal-democrat” thinking? roger is jesus now! good to know you, jesus.

    “As to the content, it’s completely devoid of substance.”

    says you, but i don’t think you understand things too well. can’t read, for one.

  • zingzing

    “And yes, Kurtz had pegged you just right, a registered vulgarian.”

    i’m not registered.

  • You’re building a straw man, B-man, but do forgive me if I reserve my right to worship anyone to those who I think deserve to be worshiped.

    But don’t let me stop you in your tracks, just don’t make pray at the altar of your choice. That should be fair enough.

  • Perhaps “unofficial” would be a better term. Even Kurtz is capable of misspeaking.

    Actually, troll is my term of choice. And that’s all she wrote.

  • I apologize, zing, and I mean it. I never realized he was such an important person to you. Had I known that, I would have kept my mouth shut.

    I see not that by not expressing my adoration for Hitch, you felt I diminished you in some way. This was not my intention, and I’m not being sarcastic.

  • … I see now …

    It’s dark in this room as I’m watching Jungle Book.

  • zingzing

    “I apologize, zing, and I mean it.”


    “I never realized he was such an important person to you.”

    he’s not.

    “Had I known that, I would have kept my mouth shut.”


    “I see not that by not expressing my adoration for Hitch, you felt I diminished you in some way.”

    that’s ridiculous. i just thought what you said was a silly comparison, followed up by a cheap shot.

    “This was not my intention, and I’m not being sarcastic.”


    i get that you feel me to be below you, but don’t think me stupid. it’s below you.

  • Call me what you want, zing. I said my peace.

  • zingzing

    “This was not my intention, and I’m not being sarcastic.”

    well, maybe not “liar” on that one. i was just on a roll. i’m sure you didn’t mean to “diminish [me] in some way” with your rather ridiculous comment about how hitchens is no jesus christ.

    if you want to (sincerely) apologize for anything, apologize for your inability to read. you did figure out where the whole “liberal-democrat” thing came from, didn’t you?

    (and you do realize that this is all for fun, right? i’m enjoying myself. hope you are as well.)

  • zingzing

    so disingenuous, roger…

  • is this the kind of debate you were looking for, Stan?

  • zingzing

    heh. it’s the abuse/argument sketch from monty python.

  • Stan wasn’t looking for any debate, El Bicho. It seems to me he was looking for eulogy.

    Sorry to have disappointed.

  • Okay, Rog. I must have misread when he wrote, “Also fantastic to see the BC debate raging…on Coldplay, the last samurai, astrology, pap smears, the near-defunct and totally ineffectual OWS movement that fails to spot the nexus between its iphones and laptops and global corporatism, House, Michael Jackson, etc etc.”

  • Well, I just thought he was being tongue in cheek, and that his point was, we ought to have paid greater respect to Hitch.

    If I am wrong, it won’t be the first time.

  • S.T.M

    zing, liberal democracy doesn’t equate to being a liberal-democrat. A liberal democracy is what we live in, whether your thinking is on the left or the right.

    Hitchens called the neo-cons “temporary allies” mainly in regard to his thinking on on the hoped-for demise of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

    I find very much on the threads here and I suppose it might apply to America in general that if one holds certain views that are in vogue with either the left or the right at any one time, one tends to be labelled either a liberal or a conservative, without any regard for what other views one might hold or espouse.

    For instance, at one stage I was labelled a neo-con on here for supporting the Iraq war and suggesting the US carried no blame whatsoever for 9/11.

    At other times I have been labelled a socialist and a commie because of my belief in uiversal health care, workers’ rights etc etc.

    I don’t know about how it works in the US, but there seems to be an identity attached to what you believe in, whereas it’s common here and in the UK to be rather left-leaning and at the same time to support the west’s right to defend itself and tear scumbags a new set of arseholes in the process.

    That is what is great about Hitchens. He defied definination according to the US habit of defining people by their views.

    His stretched from quite far to the left and anti-zionism to quite far to what might be regarded (bizarrely) as a right-wing view in the US … that is the prosecution of war against those who want to kill you. in this case for no other reason than the Koran says they can and we are infidel;s who don’t confirm to their medieval world view.

    But therein lies the paradox. Hitchens, while believing in the rightness of that cause, condemned the US for using methods of torture in its prosecution of that war. But in condemning the torture, he wasn’t condemning a war designed to rid this planet of tyrants, mass murderers and religious facist ideologues. It was the overstepping of the mark that raised his ire. Nor did he necessarily condone the “war on terror” (he said George W.Bush “got that bit right”) only from a political point of view, quite rightly suggesting that the only way of dealing with these dickheads is to get them before they get you … all of us, over and again, that is.

    In my view, this is why he is such an important if very recent figure in the modern Anglo-American landscape – yes, I’ll lump us together, as they should be: because he took the desire among most of us for polarity and identity on just one side of the political spectrum and showed it for what it really is … a total folly born of spin and tenuously held together by what seems like the loss of our ability to think critically on these issues in a bipartisan fashion. And, on that score, gross foolishness to boot.

  • S.T.M

    No EB, probably really not what I had in mind … but then, shit happens in this joint. The best you can say for it is that it at least is exchange, which is probably better than sweet f.ck all. On that note: BTW, made up the secret Aussie cocktail sauce over Christmas for prawns, salmon and lobster tail. Pretty nice. Just to let you know I’m supporting American jobs, I only ever use American whole-egg mayo 🙂

  • S.T.M

    Apart from the previous Christmas, when I had to use a Jap one. I suspect it’d be wholly fashioned on the American model. See, there’s a bit of bipartisanship, boys. Whatever, it makes seafood taste pretty bloody good.

  • S.T.M

    Rog, I WAS being tongue-in-cheek. But there’s no expectation that anyone should pay respect in any certain proportion. I just thought his passing was worthy of some discussion, intelligent or otherwise, on what his life has offered us. He was a pretty damn interesting bloke and a genuine thinker.

  • That he was, Stan. I did overreact, I grant you. There was, however, a considerable discussion on Hitch’s passing, pro and con, on another site I also frequent and post, and believe you me, they beat that horse to dead (pun intended). It was a slugfest between theists and atheists, as you can imagine, and I was really tired of it.

    I believe this partly explains my rather snappy response, that plus the fact I’m not really into people worship (and trust me, there was plenty of that going around too).

  • “…because he took the desire among most of us for polarity and identity on just one side of the political spectrum and showed it for what it really is …”

    And if that’s the reason why you honor him, then I understand, because independent thinking is a rare commodity these days, especially is this thorn and crisis-ridden world. But I’m certain you also get my meaning when I say he was a poster boy for some and anathema for others, and that was getting ugly.

  • S.T.M

    Ah yes … Hitchens as the Great Atheist. I don’t agree with everything he believed in. I reckon that might have been the least of him. He had my interest at his following of Che Guevara’s exploits, followed by “I’m an anti-zioinist”, followed by a denunciation of islamofacism, his belief in the moral greatness of America and the revolution that stood the test of time, and a belief in the rightness of the so-called war on terror (the war on arseholes).

    It’s the apparent contradictions – are they, though? – that make him interesting.

  • Well, you know what they say, Stan, it’s the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at once that is one of the marks of genius.

  • I must be some kind of freakin mega genius then as I have held at least two contradictory thoughts on everything for as long as I can remember.

    Actually, I thought it was normal to do so…

  • And all this time you thought you were just average …

  • Well, don’t know about that; it’s more like I’ve thought of myself as a misfit as I don’t even feel at home in my own minority outsider cultural niches. Maybe having so many contradictory but logically consistent thoughts is part of the reason why.

  • Well, you certainly think for yourself, Chris, gotta give you that. Like that passage you posted on your Facebook the other day. It certainly was a blast.

    I’m rather partial, though, to King James’ version.

  • Can’t remember how I came across it now; certainly wasn’t from reading The Book, which I haven’t looked at since I was 12 and decided, much to my family’s ongoing dismay, that this whole monotheism thing was garbage.

    I have no idea of the significance, if any, of different versions of The Book.

  • Just that King James’ language was Shakespearean, being closer to the age. (BTW, version simply means translation in this context.)

    In any case, much of what’s in The Book, once you discount the belief content, can be viewed as what some call “wisdom literature.”

  • Oh, okay, didn’t know that; thanks for the clarification.

    Sure, parts of the contents of The Book contain good insights, but sorting out the useful bits from the total nonsense make it more of an effort than any potential gain is worth.

    “Treat others as you’d like to be treated” covers most if it and if everyone lived by that the world would surely be a different and better place.

  • Explains, btw, why Ruvy must have thought he stood head and shoulders above everybody else.

  • Well, it is certainly the case that these so called religious creeds make some people feel superior to others, which presumably is why they feel it is okay to abuse them.

    My view is that it is about time we all grew up and stopped relying on these creation myths.

    I think a large part of why these myths persist is the emotional and symbolic relevance they impart to events such as marriage and death, to say nothing of the reassurance the myth of heaven provides to those facing death and the comfort it gives to the people who love them.

    I’m fairly sure this latter point alone explains a large part of why these myths persist and until we develop other ways of solemnizing such events, they will certainly continue to persist.

  • S.T.M

    Rosey: “it’s more like I’ve thought of myself as a misfit”.

    You too eh? After I gave up the p.ss, it took me 10 years just to START to feel normal. Then I realised I’d never been normal in the first place – and it’s only now I realise I’m still winging it.

    I once told a mate that I’d secretly suspected that I might be an undiscovered genius. He said: “You didn’t do much good at keeping it secret.”

    His considered view was that being a pompous ass didn’t equate to genius.

    The he said: “Mate, have you ever considered that you might not be any kind of f.cken genius, let alone an undiscovered one?”

    Someone else whose viewpoint demanded that I think for a change. Perhaps that’s why I’m a fan of Hitchens.

    His brother Peter is a pretty damn good journo, too. His piece on the decline of Detroit for The Mail was riveting stuff … although, as expected, it was panned in Detroit.

  • Good stuff, Stan, although as so much of what we are expected to believe is untrue, on a secular level as well as a spiritual one, I think it is actually a healthy response to feel like a misfit.

    It won’t be until we develop healthier, smarter and more honest ways of living and working that the damaging and unnecessary divisions we see all around the world can ever start to diminish and be healed.

    Fortunately, despite all our efforts to screw things up, evolution seems to want us, or a variation of us, to succeed. I just hope I live long enough to see this better world start to emerge.

  • S.T.M

    Hear hear to that.

  • Aside from evolution, gents, we are being moved by world’s events, and that’s whether we like it or not.

  • Maybe it is the other way round, Roger. Perhaps world events are being moved by or even are symptoms of evolution…

  • S.T.M

    Heavy sh.t, man. You two have moved on to a new plane here. Possibly these are the times I actually DO need a drink. Or at least a sleeping tablet. I have to drive nearly 2000km tomorrow and Thursday. Literally halfway across a continent. And wouldn’t ya know it if I can’t for the life of me get a wink of bloody shut-eye?

  • I’d love that drive, STM. I drove the length of Spain and back in the Autumn and loved every km of it.

    Wouldn’t want to do it in the UK cos the traffic is too heavy and there are too many speed cameras and cops but in Spain it was awesome!

  • S.T.M

    Mate, I reckon I’d love to do it in Spain too … but Chris, honestly, driving across part of the Australian outback watching out for dirty great kangaroos jumping out in front of you ain’t my idea of a good time.

    Yes, it’s a bit of an adventure. Led Zeppelin’s going to get cranked up, but truth is, a large part of the journey is just endless miles of nothing across scrub country they call the Hay Plains. It can get pretty tedious. Someone suggested I drive south to Melbourne, stay there overnight and then take the coast road west so you’ve got civilisation and pretty rural towns allthe way, but I don’t have the time. The way I’m going, across south-western NSW and north-western Victoria, it’s a full day’s drive to the mid point of the journey, in rural NSW, then another day kind of meandering across the Victorian border depending on where you are in relation to the Murray River, and then across the state border and on into South Australia. I’m crossing three states really and an area about 5 times the size of Texas that hasn’t got much in it. Might be the only time you’d actually prefer to be in Texas 🙂 The freeway then pretty much goes all the way into Adelaide. And as you might have guessed, since it’s 3am Wednesday here, I still can’t sleep.

    Cheers Rosey (I’ve at least gotta give it a go or I’ll be nodding off just out of Sydney).

  • I don’t know about how it works in the US, but there seems to be an identity attached to what you believe in, whereas it’s common here and in the UK to be rather left-leaning and at the same time to support the west’s right to defend itself and tear scumbags a new set of arseholes in the process.

    I don’t know about that. I think it’s human nature wherever you’re from. Far too many people don’t think for themselves (although they may kid themselves that they do). They say to themselves (for example): “Here’s an issue. I am a conservative. What is the conservative position on this issue? I see: it is this. Therefore this is the position I must hold. I must therefore now rationalize the position to convince myself that it is right.”

    Politicians know this. It’s why they can disguise toeing the party line as their own personal opinion without coming off as a complete hypocrite.

    This is why commentators like Christopher Hitchens are so valuable. Their thinking on a particular issue can catch you off guard, compelling you to ask yourself: “He’s a cool guy: I felt sure he would agree with me. Why does he feel this way instead?”

    It’s also (apart from him being very funny) why P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favourite political writers, even though his views can be relied upon to be very far removed from most of my own. He’s a thinking conservative. If he holds a dissenting opinion from mine, it’s worth examining why he feels that way. And he’s also quite capable of turning the magnifying glass on conservative absurdity when it manifests itself.

  • @58

    Like two Euclidians who have gotten tired of Euclidian/Newtonian space, so they devised Riemann’s geometry just for the heck of it.

    @59, 60

    Just like when I was in France. You could traverse from one end to the end under a day, but there were no freeways then, just secondary one-lane roads.

  • Roger – part 1 – Having looked up both Euclidean geometry and Reimann, I still don’t understand either or what you said!

    part 2 – You could? That is practically impossible today even with the benefit of motorways the whole way! Must be one heck of a horse you had!!

  • Simply, Chris, that the latter was invented to fit, as well as provide the impetus to space-time continuum theory of relativity; in the newly conceived space, parallel lines do meet eventually. And the point of the remark was simply a takeoff from STM’s comment about “operating on a different plane.

    #2 well, it wasn’t exactly from one end to the other; more likely from the Meuse district, where I was stationed (Verdun) to Metz.

  • S.T.M

    OK, I’ve had about four hours’ sleep (I think). I’m going up to get my tyres and coolant checked, then I’m off. It’s been a business doing pleasure with you. Next time we chat, I’ll be in sunny Adelaide. I notice the good doc’s out of the woodwork too this morning.

    I got the euclidian thing Rog!

  • Have a pleasant and safe trip, my man, and don’t run over any kangaroos.

  • Arch Conservative

    Anyone that could make George Galloway look like the douche that he is and who had the good sense to give the one finger salute to the mouth breathing morons that hang on Bill Maher’s every word is OK in my book.