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← Christopher Hitchens (Vanity Fair, Feb 2012)

Christopher Hitchens (Vanity Fair, Feb 2012) - Comments

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 1 by Ignorant Amos

I'm going to miss that "Rolls-Royce mind".

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:28:27 UTC | #905873

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 2 by Ignorant Amos

.....and Christopher went to war.

Never afraid to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in for the plight of others....at his own personal risk may I add.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:34:05 UTC | #905879

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 3 by Ignorant Amos

I began to understand that while I had not chosen the battle, it was at least the right battle, because in it everything that I loved and valued (literature, freedom, irreverence, freedom, irreligion, freedom) was ranged against everything I detested (fanaticism, violence, bigotry, humorlessness, philistinism, and the new offence-culture of the age). Then I read Christopher using exactly the same everything-he-loved-versus-everything-he-hated trope, and felt…understood.

Excellent.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:36:58 UTC | #905883

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 4 by Premiseless

A bright sparkler in a pitch black night leaves a lasting glow on the retina and an empty cold to ponder the blues of long after the memory holds fast its display.

How brilliant is the sorrow absent the joy that left its shadow?

Thanks for your thoughts SR.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:40:51 UTC | #905887

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 5 by Ignorant Amos

Be aware..."Last things" will have you in tears.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:44:26 UTC | #905888

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

And when the brute hostility of British and American conservatives (Podhoretz and Krauthammer, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Paul Johnson) joined forces with the appeasement politics of sections of the Western left, and both sides began to offer sympathetic analyses of the assault, his outrage grew. In the eyes of the Right, I was a cultural “traitor” and, in Christopher’s words, an “uppity wog,” and in the opinion of the Left, the People could never be wrong, and the cause of the Oppressed People, a category into which the Islamist opponents of my novel fell, was doubly justified. Voices as diverse as the Pope, the Cardinal of New York, the British Chief Rabbi, and John Berger and Germaine Greer “understood the insult” and failed to be outraged; and Christopher went to war.

"Understood the insult!" Words do not exist to express the contempt that I felt, and still feel, for those who "understood the insult." My own response to the Rushdie fatwa, written at the time, can be read here. My contribution was part of a series in New Statesman called 'Words for Rushdie'. But Hitch wasn't content with words. He offered deeds, invited Rushdie into his own home, and was warned that he was risking his life.

Richard

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:49:37 UTC | #905891

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 7 by Marc Country

Of course, John Berger and Germaine Greer are famous know-nothings (to say nothing of those other befrocked idiots mentioned).

Still, "understood the insult" is about at bad as "supported the Iraq war"...As long as we're expressing our contempt, let's have some contempt for that!

I'm glad Rushdie had the courage to call out Hitch's biggest blunder. That's a friend.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 14:54:29 UTC | #905897

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 8 by Marc Country

p.s. I just looked up that "Real Time with Bill Maher" video that Salman refers to: http://itsmesherese.tumblr.com/post/14315883056/mos-def-salman-rushdie-hitchens-this-video-in

Unfortunately, in real life, it doesn't actually play out quite in the way Salman remembers it here. Hitch merely comes off as dismissive, for no particularly good reason. He fails to actually consider what Mos Def is really saying. Too bad.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 15:22:52 UTC | #905906

Bala's Avatar Comment 9 by Bala

Hitch, Salman and Voltaire together! Would love to see that photograph!

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 15:23:51 UTC | #905908

mmartini52's Avatar Comment 10 by mmartini52

What a brilliantly written piece by Rushdie - you can see why he and Hitchens so loved the word games he mentions. I liked the game he mentions in "Hitch 22", where they would substitute the word 'love' with 'sex' in well known book and song titles, as in "Love is a many splendoured thing", "Love, love me do" etc. And there was an even cruder version! All coming from their enduring love of words and language.

Got to love the man. Still can't quite believe it.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 15:27:11 UTC | #905909

calvinchan's Avatar Comment 11 by calvinchan

Comment 9 by Bala :

Hitch, Salman and Voltaire together! Would love to see that photograph!

Right here: http://p.twimg.com/AeKGrjaCAAIRQ6M.jpg

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 15:27:50 UTC | #905910

Lapithes's Avatar Comment 12 by Lapithes

Writing such as this makes life better. Also extremely happy that this website and its news section exists.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 15:40:56 UTC | #905915

Bala's Avatar Comment 13 by Bala

thanks Calvinchan

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:01:38 UTC | #905921

gerryfromktown's Avatar Comment 14 by gerryfromktown

I disagree with Marc:

Comment 8 by Marc Country :

p.s. I just looked up that "Real Time with Bill Maher" video that Salman refers to: http://itsmesherese.tumblr.com/post/14315883056/mos-def-salman-rushdie-hitchens-this-video-in

Unfortunately, in real life, it doesn't actually play out quite in the way Salman remembers it here. Hitch merely comes off as dismissive, for no particularly good reason. He fails to actually consider what Mos Def is really saying. Too bad.

I watched the segment too (irresistable). It plays out just as described. Mos Def was lecturing Rushdie and Hitchens on nuclear disarmament from a position of ignorance:

"Ok, here's what I have to say about nuclear weapons. First of all, the nuclear club should be disbanded, because America has shown there is no country which is going to be responsible."

This was his position in his own words. It was reactionary, ill thought out, poorly argued. In face of efforts by Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Mos Def wanted ... what? He wanted the US to abandon nuclear weapons.

Hitchens was dismissive. Of course he was. Hitchens fully understood the position "Mr. Definitely" was maintaining. Hitchens wanted no part of it.

BTW the link Marc provides had some rather insulting editorial comment, namely:

"This video in it’s entirety angers me because it is the perfect example of what black and brown folks go through with white faces."

Claiming that Hitchens was somehow racist in his dismissal is extraordinary. Who was equally dismissive on the panel? None other than Salman Rushdie. Is Rushdie another "white face" to this commenter?

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:08:23 UTC | #905923

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 15 by Marc Country

Gerry from KTown, I submit that you do not merely disagree with me: you disagree with the evidence at hand.

Salman writes:

"When we were both on Real Time with Bill Maher along with Mos Def, and the rapper began to offer up a series of cockeyed animadversions about Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, Christopher became almost ferally polite, addressing Mos, as he tore into his ideas, by the faux-respectful moniker “Mr Definitely,”...

You, on the other hand, write that "Mos Def was lecturing Rushdie and Hitchens on nuclear disarmament..."

So, in other words, not "animadversions about Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda". Which was precisely my point. Salman is mis-remembering the incident, and the video proves that unequivocally.

There was simply nothing incorrect about what Mos Def was saying... which may explain why Hitchens chose to change the subject and, lamely, irrelevantly, poke fun at a stage-name.

Touché? Not quite... 'Most definitely' not among Hitch's finest moments.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:23:30 UTC | #905931

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 16 by Peter Grant

So exited to learn @SalmanRushdie is @tumblr :D salmanrushdie1.tumblr.com

I especially liked this bit:

I have often been asked if Christopher defended me because he was my close friend. The truth is that he became my close friend because he wanted to defend me.

Salman, if you're reading this, please go to settings and check "Send my Tumblr posts to Twitter"

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:30:24 UTC | #905935

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 17 by Marc Country

Oh, and gerryfromktown also writes:

"In face of efforts by Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Mos Def wanted ... what? He wanted the US to abandon nuclear weapons."

In the face of nuclear weapons, period, Mos Def calls for complete nuclear disarmament. How reactionary!

LOL...

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:43:06 UTC | #905944

gerryfromktown's Avatar Comment 18 by gerryfromktown

You, on the other hand, write that "Mos Def was lecturing Rushdie and Hitchens on nuclear disarmament..."

So, in other words, not "animadversions about Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda". Which was precisely my point. Salman is mis-remembering the incident, and the video proves that unequivocally.

Ok Marc, fair point. Mos Def was not offering cockeyed animadversions about Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. He was offering cockeyed animadversions about US nuclear policy.

I stand corrected!

Edit: Before you point it out - so does Rushdie. He stands corrected. Well done.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:44:13 UTC | #905946

gerryfromktown's Avatar Comment 19 by gerryfromktown

Comment 17 by Marc Country :

Oh, and gerryfromktown also writes:

"In face of efforts by Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, Mos Def wanted ... what? He wanted the US to abandon nuclear weapons."

In the face of nuclear weapons, period, Mos Def calls for complete nuclear disarmament. How reactionary!

LOL...

Check the meaning of reactionary ...

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:46:38 UTC | #905950

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 20 by Marc Country

I wonder, which "US Nuclear policy" is gerryfromktown's favorite: Hiroshima or Nagasaki? So praiseworthy, it's hard to choose just one...

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:49:27 UTC | #905952

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 21 by Marc Country

Right, Gerry... So, "reactionary" is merely an adjective, not a criticism. So, what was your point again?

Because, my point was that Salman had rendered this incident incorrectly... which you now admit.

You're welcome.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:52:21 UTC | #905955

gerryfromktown's Avatar Comment 22 by gerryfromktown

Look Marc

Rushdie pointed out in the clip you linked to that he was an active proponent of nuclear disarmament. To cast me (by extension Rushdie) as an unabashed supporter of US nuclear policy is just silly.

Hitchens was a master of rhetoric. He was brutal when debating opponents. He was merciless. On occasion he so humiliated them there was simply no response.

Many of us enjoyed those "Hitch-slaps" when directed at vacuous apologists for religion. But anyone, religious or otherwise who crossed him or disagreed with him did so at their peril.

Mos Def was out of his league. It was painful to watch, but in the same way that it was painful to watch Sean Hannity being equally defeated by Hitchens (for example here)

Incidentally PZ Myers has pointed to some more poor behaviour by Hitch here, and in passing so have I here.

So I agree with you - Hitch could be unsettling. I was unsettled by many things about Hitch, and clearly so were you.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 17:20:46 UTC | #905962

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 23 by Stephen of Wimbledon

He quoted Heine to me: "Where they burn books they will afterwards burn people."

The Hitch understood free speech - and he was probably its staunchest defender in my lifetime. I believe I will never, ever, tire of watching this bravura performance from 2006:

Hitch on Free Speech, Telling it like it is.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 17:58:45 UTC | #905975

gerryfromktown's Avatar Comment 24 by gerryfromktown

Comment 21 by Marc Country :

Right, Gerry... So, "reactionary" is merely an adjective, not a criticism. So, what was your point again?

Because, my point was that Salman had rendered this incident incorrectly... which you now admit.

You're welcome.

Lest you think I have capitulated entirely ... where I disagreed with you primarily was here:

Hitch merely comes off as dismissive, for no particularly good reason. He fails to actually consider what Mos Def is really saying. Too bad.

With all his faults Hitchens was very unlikely to give an unconsidered response for no particularly good reason (and I really did not think his response to Mos Def was unconsidered)

This is something that I find riveting and fascinating about either watching or reading Hitchens; he was entirely focussed on the question at hand, and his arguments were thoroughly compelling. Even when you disagreed with him he demanded your full attention. Perhaps especially when you disagreed with him, it required a force of mind and attention to find the flaws. This perhaps was the key to his greatness.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 18:08:48 UTC | #905978

huzonfurst's Avatar Comment 25 by huzonfurst

In principle I used to be in agreement with Mos Def's point when he asked "who are we to say that other countries can't have nuclear weapons," especially given the US's record of actually using them and its long history of starting war after war for no good reason since then. As I explain to people who are afraid of snakes and spiders, who do you think is more terrified of whom, given your size versus theirs?

9/11 changed all that, of course, when the ongoing threat of islamic jihad threw down its gauntlet. The US response was initially sensible when it went into Afghanistan, but then it turned everything upside-down with the Iraq invasion. Had we sent all our forces into Afghanistan and stamped out al-Qaeda once and for all things may have turned out much for the better. As it is, we made possibly the worst blunder in our history and now we're stuck with the results.

Iran's effort to go nuclear for the purpose of using those weapons on the West has made a bad situation infinitely worse, and now the last thing we should do is give up our nuclear arsenal. This will not turn out well for anyone.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 18:22:31 UTC | #905981

wald0h's Avatar Comment 26 by wald0h

The clip you guys are referring to on Real Time with Bill Maher was an "overtime" off-air session and not really moderated. It happens to be the first result on youtube if you type in hitchens and mos def. You should watch the entire episode or at least some earlier clips while it was still moderated when they talk about President Obama's drug policy and the economic crisis. Hitchens uses the "Mr. Definitely" well before the talk of Osama bin Laden and nuclear proliferation, and is pretty hilarious.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 18:59:13 UTC | #906001

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 27 by aroundtown

I am so glad you posted this. I am like others on this site who comment about the significant challenges we face in light of the religious perpetuation that continues unabated in this country. I can at times become a little melancholy about it all and along comes your post. I feel it was like a General showing up to rally the troops and boost the sagging moral before heading into battle. Just what I needed today was a very nice pick-me-up and this did it for me. Thanks

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 19:10:45 UTC | #906006

robaylesbury's Avatar Comment 28 by robaylesbury

First time I've read anything by Rushdie. Beautifully written piece.

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 19:35:27 UTC | #906020

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 29 by Peter Grant

Christopher Hitchens at the Amazing Meeting 5 http://youtube.com/watch?v=VTMRcSF7yjQ

Christopher Hitchens speaks and takes questions from the crowd at the James Randi Educational Foundation's TAM5 in 2007

Christopher Hitchens talks about free speech and Islam and the gutless media..

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 19:52:30 UTC | #906027

secularjew's Avatar Comment 30 by secularjew

The longer clip from the show, which can be found on youtube under the heading "Hitchens vs Mos Def", shows "Mr. Definitely" ignorantly talking about Al-Qaeda amongst other things, so Rushdie is not misrepresenting anything. But the thing that actually annoys me most is that Mos keeps monopolizing the conversation while being the least wise and knowledgeable person at that table (I enjoy Maher's show, but the inclusion of celebrities on the panel is almost always a negative). Here we have just a few minutes with Hitchens and Rushdie, and Mos Def won't shut up. You just want to say to him, "Quiet now, adults are talking."

Fri, 06 Jan 2012 22:21:41 UTC | #906078