Friday, December 16, 2011

Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens built his career on hating. That is why I never really dwelt on his Serbophobia in particular. He hated the Serbs because hating the Serbs was the fashionable thing to do in the circles he moved in, and it is pointless to debate one's tastes in fashion, however ghastly they might be.

Hitchens was perhaps best known for his obnoxious atheism, a hatred of [the Jewish and Christian] God. So I think it most appropriate to cite here the elegant epitaph penned by blogger Vox Day, author of The Irrational Atheist:
The conglomeration of atoms that were, for a very brief moment in history, collectively known by the name Christopher Hitchens, have begun to disperse. The universe continues as before, uncaring and unaware.

12 comments:

Suvorov said...

I have long been puzzled by the magnitude of The Hitchens Cult, and came to regard it as a sad testimony to the prevailing Zeitgeist. The man had nothing even resembling profound knowledge or understanding of any field, certainly not history (he thought Hitler invaded USSR in winter). At most, he epitomized the "Coca Cola intellectual", hypnotizing his sheeple followers with his Oxbridge pronunciation, which exempted them from the necessity to examine the content of his speech (to be fair, there was none anyway). Sadly, now there seems to be a clone of Hitchens in every Western country: Bernard-Henri Levy (France), Adam Michnik (Poland), Slavoj Zizek (Slovenia) etc. Easily accessible and equally phony, these types are ever-present in the largest publication, on TV screens, and in debates (typically with the likes of each other). In my opinion, their defining feature is above all their unwavering support for the current neoconservative/neoliberal political class of the West. One could regard it as their merger with the government. One cannot help but ponder over a case of the former Polish anti-Soviet dissident and "humanitarian" Michnik, who now does not have a negative word to say about CIA prisons in Poland, or any of the illegal wars the US is conducting. As to Hitchens, while he opposed the war against Iraq in 1991 when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he was entirely enthusiastic about the second one, for which there were no legal grounds whatever, until his death. A curious metamorphosis.

robert49rml said...

OK Here's the question I would like to ask. "Why does everyone (mainstream) in the media hate Serbs?"
Here's my solution schmucks. Go live with Serbs for awhile then get back to me. Hey, Nebojsa! I'm on my way to Croatia, RS, and Macedonia. You see. Fair and balanced...

Asteri said...

I think its unfair to compare the above mentioned to Hitchens as he was never any kind of philosopher, but I couldn't agree more about the Hitchens personality cult (see Michael J. Totten). He was also as against the Croats as he was the Serbs, more because he saw Catholic and Orthodox Christians as two sides of the same coin, I'm not a religious believer but nor am I that impressed by his brand od militant atheism.

I also never understood the level of adulation that Hitchens received, he was on the right side before the 1990s and a highly intelligent and witty public orator, but his output, I always felt was pompous and overrated; even before he had his epiphany and made the move from Trotskyism to supporting the worst kind of neoliberal hawks from the Regan era. It was actually quite dismaying to see him being utterly fooled by the whole act and keeping the kind of company he did in later life; pretty much ruining his reputation.

Eugene Costa said...

Most of the western literary genres--including the novel by the way--are ancient Greek in origin. This the Romans, whose upper classes were highly Hellenized, knew well and in serious moments before that vast heritage claimed only their own form of satire as original, though even there derived it from Greek models.

This heritage, besides philosophy itself, also included polemic, eristic and dialectic.

Of the modern additions to this ancient corpus, perhaps the Germans might add a slightly new form of polemical essay, in print usually, which they tried, after their first great master of the art, Luther, to elevate to literary status in areas that had seldom been seen as appropriate to uncuffed, broadsword-slashing abuse.

In fact, Luther's polemics are almost unreadable without knowing the genre but for all that Luther was an erudite and profoundly learned fellow, whose elegant and exacting translation of the Old and New Testaments, for example, helped form the modern German language.

Polemic among the British has a much sorrier history, now perhaps finalized in the last and emptiest of their polemicists, this fellow Hitchens, who, as Suvorov notes above, was so vigorously superficial it is astounding.

There is also an intriguing contrast with Burke, another polemicist and quite as superficial as Hitchens. Yet even Marx, who despised him, admitted that Burke had a bit of talent.

What is Hitchens, then, but Burke without talent--and why would anyone bother with that, let alone wish to memorialize it?

One supposes that in life or being broadcast in some medium or other, Hitchens' ferocity impressed the groundlings and made for a good show.

On the other hand, his written English unveiled all his many flaws, including a drunken
and desperate see-saw prosody, crowds of mocking but often ill-chosen adjectives, many mimicked and misfiring attempts at wit, and worst of all, and strictly for American audiences, a crowd-pleasing display of their latest slang and nonce words--often misunderstood and misused--as a claim to currency and insight.

Suvorov also hits the mark on another point--what would Hitchens have been in the US, for example, without his roughly "U" accent and tonal style?

But one also can say the same of Kissinger and Rand, whose respective accents in Disneyland gave them the cachet of being thought something other than grossly incompetent--because, after all, they were NOT American and yet spoke some strange and supposedly more erudite, if secondhand, version of the tongue.

One confesses that one may have got through to the end of one or two blurbs of Hitchens, though one cannot recall which.

For the most part, however, one could never read much more than three sentences until concluding that among his other flaws the chap was also an extremely bad writer, which simple fact has yet to reach the authors of many recent eulogies and condemnations.

This again confirming Suvorov's point about Coca-Cola and the age.

Bottoms up--and a toast to tobacco and kvass!

Suvorov said...

Asteri,

Regarding his transformation from a Trotskyite into a neo-con(/lib), surely, you must be aware that this path is quite typical. Indeed, most prominent chickenhawk neocons of today are the children of the 1930s Trotskyites, and many of whom were leftists in the 1960s. One may be puzzled by these seemingly drastic shifts in their ideology only as long as one continues to assume that these individuals attach more importance to (any)ideology than to their group interests.
And I certainly would not say that Hitchens was "utterly fooled". Quite on the contrary, he sold out to the establishment with nothing but pure cynicism. He willingly and consciously performed the function of delivering the message from the ruling class to the duped crowd. By far, his greatest strength was his style of public presentation, though of course even that was hardly more than a pseudo-English version of Comedy Central's attempt at humor. I would hypothesize that the role of Hitchens was to bring at least some of the traditionally anti-war atheist left on board with the Anglo-American interventionism. In that sense, having been made into an Atheist Star, he was no different from Hollywood stars who were used to convey certain messages and champion certain causes.
Finally, let me say that I hold no grudge against atheists. I just find it worrisome that so many people have come to believe that by mere virtue of declaring themselves atheists, they deserve the right to be viewed as intellectuals and should be exempt from the need to learn, know, or understand anything at all.

Eugene Costa,

The replacement of Larry King by Piers Morgan seems to be perpetuating the same notion that Americans are too provincial not to have British voices delivering their "news" to them.

Milutin said...

In my humble opinion, the lack of worth of the deceased could hardly be hidden by his professed atheism. And if he indeed were an atheist, he surely could not have “hated god”: atheism entails not believing in any such a thing - whether imported from Middle East or not - and one certainly cannot hate something in which one does not believe. So perhaps he wasn’t one. I cannot fathom what he “was”, not having the stomach to read much beyond a couple of cheap poisonous screeds of his against us Serbs, whom he did hate, but then, who cares. Hate is a state of mind, I suppose, and the oblivion the best remedy.

There is another demise just reported in the news, of another, more “prominent” Serb hater, from Prague. Someone even wrote a fitting epitaph in readers’ comments to the news at the Serbian service of “Voice of Russia”. Perhaps Gray Falcon can say an informative word here?

Suvorov said...

Milutin,

I would certainly place Vaclav Havel in the same category of pseudo-dissidents as Adam Michnik, whom I mentioned above.

Gray Falcon,

If I may introduce some comic relief here, when I clicked on the last link you provided, it said the following:

"Oops! Google Chrome could not find the conglomeration of atoms that were, for a very brief moment in history, collectively known by the name christopher hitchens..."

Gray Falcon said...

Whoops! That was actually me screwing up the link, but it ended up being unintentionally funny.

Suvorov said...

Yes, sometimes mistakes are well worth making.

Doot said...

@robert49rml


I've lived in Serbia for about 3 years now.

I didn't hate Serbs before I had the misfortune of having to spend a protracted time in this dump, but I sure do now!


As for "Serbophobia". Gimmie a break. You're mistaking dismissive soundbites for hatred.

Bottom line is, Serbia is now and will always be a very insignificant corner of the world.

Not nearly important to be the basis for any kind of "phobia", except perhaps anyone who's had this misfortune of actually living there.

Asteri said...

@Suvorov

Indeed, he was hardly a trailblazer in that respect, however I had credited him with more intelligence that others before him. I also note that he was not the only colourful character with a personality cult around him to depart this world this week.

I would recommend reading this on Hitchens justification for the Iraq invasion; obviously had a inflated view of his own abilities.

http://unspeak.net/sheltered/

Gray Falcon said...

"Doot," normally I would ignore your trollish ways, but I let this comment through because it illustrates your schizophrenic hater mentality. I couldn't have conjured a better foil if I were into sock-puppetry. Thanks!