The Absurd Attacks on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, the consummate polemicist and insurgent against orthodoxy and absolutism, released his memoirs. With this has come savage attacks against him that deserve to be shown for their ad hominem nature. It shows pretty supremely in an article on the man in the Guardian:

When the invasion of Iraq was first debated, one couldn’t fail to notice the preponderance of left-wing men of a certain age who came out in support of the war. Radicals as adults, but often from conservative backgrounds, now beginning to confront their own mortality, and preoccupied by masculinity and legacy, their palpable thrill about military might suggested that, deep down, they secretly feared progressive principles were for pussies. Now here was their chance, before it was too late, to prove their manhood.

In 2006, Hitchens’ wife, the American writer Carol Blue, told the New Yorker her husband was one of “those men who were never really in battle and wished they had been. There’s a whole tough-guy, ‘I am violent, I will use violence, I will take some of these people out before I die’ talk, which is key to his psychology – I don’t care what he says. I think it is partly to do with his upbringing.”

I don’t personally know Christopher Hitchens, though I admire him greatly. Perhaps his father’s military background caused him to excelerate his opposition to Islamic fanaticism to a military one. While not as hawkish as him, his opposition is not alien to all liberal thinkers. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins all share Hitchens’ disgust with the rise in fundamentalism in the Islamic world and its attempts to spread it within Europe.

As a journalist, Decca Altkenhead, the writer of this Guardian piece, should appreciate this. I greatly remember when the world went aflame after the Muslim world discovered caricatures of their Prophet in the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper. The lopsided attack and the calls for censorship from both the apologetic Left and the religiously offended made me want to vomit. It shouldn’t even have to be explained to someone who makes their trade in words and ideas why freedom of expression is paramount and non-negotiable. That leftist activists cheered on Islamic insanity and cable news channels cheered this behavior by refusing, out of fear, to show the cartoons in question were deplorable acts of complicity.

The idea of Hitchens as a “chickenhawk,” which is subtly suggested in the article, is also absurd. Hitchens has been in the most dangerous parts of the world, from Kurdistan to the 1984 state of North Korea. He was literally beat up by Syrian Social Nationalist partisans in Beirut. In order to figure out if waterboarding was actually an act of torture, Hitchens had himself waterboarded. If that is characteristic of a chickenhawk, I would like to see a demonstration of the opposite characteristic.

  • Bob

    After 3 Mil Views, YouTube Censors “We Con the World” Video

  • Procopius

    All I can say is that you’re definitely playing in into the Pawn-game of pitting religions and extremists off against one another.

    And in the process enslaving people in the United States who would rather have nothing to do with it, and by the way cannot afford to now anyway.

    This kind of stuff is so early 2000’s, in terms of affordability.

    And either way if you are so enamored with this man’s views, go off and fight or something. I’d rather worry about the immediate collapse of Western finance.

    That’s something that’s is definitely going to affect your life and your legacy right here and now.

  • Michael O. Powell

    “This kind of stuff is so early 2000’s, in terms of affordability.”

    Tell that to Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

    “I’d rather worry about the immediate collapse of Western finance.”

    I’m not a shining example on that front.

  • Michael O. Powell

    And nothing is alien from itself, Procopius. Expect to see Europe’s fiscal nightmare result in a pitting of secular natives against their fundamentalist new arrivals.

    This still hits the front of the headlines. Take a look at right-wing outrage against an Arab Miss America or the protests of the construction of a mosque in NYC. It wasn’t a temporary thing and will continue on even if it’s not the foremost issue in people’s minds.

  • Procopius

    I think the whole religion thing that you value tremendously is merely now a subset in what is yet admittedly a post-religious age. Any pretense to world changing even is only a planned corporate event. Everything in the end is economic.

    Extremism and religion are only little actors pushed onto the stage to get the audience ready.

  • Michael O. Powell

    Well, if this upsets you too much, I recommend also checking out my posts on immigration and drugs over at United Liberty.

  • Procopius

    Actually I’m not upset at your valuation of rather small issues, it’s just the magnification of these insignificant issues plays into the progression of macro-agendas.

  • Michael O. Powell

    Procopius –

    Well, please look at this:

    Imagine an entire region of the world filled with dictatorships which fund themselves on the exportation of one good. The systems have extreme inequality in which an entire portion of the population is stuck in chattel slavery due to the set of chromosomes they randomly were born with. That portion of the population, due to its being enslaved, will never reach the productive capacities of their male counterparts under the system they live in, and thus the region will not have the workforce size of the more successful developed and developing countries. Men grow up with only one book being a source of wisdom, and so the seeking of new knowledge which has been integral to our success is completely alien.

    Does that really sound like a small issue? Prosperous societies have always been knowledge seeking and enlightened. As long as the Islamic world is not, it will be a backwater of ignorance and an inferno which will suck in all the world’s actors.

  • Procopius

    What I’m really saying here is, we the U.S. have a major war-starting force overseas, yet most of us are, at very best, a “go thru the motion” religious nation, to accelerate major war, something else is going to be needed to thrust the country further into global war.

    The thing is, since so many military assets are overseas and this is the stated goal is to conquer regional assets, part of the small “theatre” is going to try to play up religious importance. It’s not going to work in the U.S. They missed the whole “religious war” potential in our population about 30 years ago. Something more substantial is going to be needed to pull off the war, just simple action. But no doubt you don’t deploy the amount and breadth of assets in middle Asia as we have done, without a final goal. This is regardless if the goal is shared with the population.

  • Procopius

    Also I see you’re a big “Islam vs. Christianity” person in earnest now. Sorry but I have nothing else to offer you now. Good luck.

  • Michael O. Powell

    No, I’m not. I’m a big “Orthodoxy vs. Freedom of Thought” person. Europe was mystical wreck while the Arabs were pioneering in mathematics. Without that freedom of thought, no one prospers.

  • Black Romulan

    “Prosperous societies have always been knowledge seeking and enlightened.”

    Isn’t it these same prosperous societies, through vehicles like the World Bank and the IMF, that force these smaller, less-prosperous countries to do their economic and political bidding? It is much easier to ensure a that a nation will remain able to seek knowledge and portray themselves as enlightened when most other poor countries are beholden to the former in some way.

    BTW, wasn’t some of these Islamic countries like Iraq the direct creation of Western economic interests like the Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company (now known as British Petroleum)? Its hard to put all their economic woes on “bad religon” when so many Western hands have played a part in the these countries’ current turmoils.

    Oh, and look at a current map of US military bases in the Middle East (particularily in Iraq and Afghanistan) and our final “goal” becomes evident. This ain’t about religon.

  • Michael O. Powell

    “BTW, wasn’t some of these Islamic countries like Iraq the direct creation of Western economic interests like the Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company (now known as British Petroleum)? Its hard to put all their economic woes on “bad religon” when so many Western hands have played a part in the these countries’ current turmoils.”

    Many of the problem spots in the world are a result of the chopping up of regions by colonial powers after World War I.

    “Oh, and look at a current map of US military bases in the Middle East (particularily in Iraq and Afghanistan) and our final “goal” becomes evident. This ain’t about religion.”

    There’s of course a direct oil interest in our involvement in the Middle East. Western powers such as ours don’t have a mandate from God, however, to preside over the rest of the world and blaming us for their failures can only go so far. To embrace an enlightenment path would place Middle Eastern societies on a path to being a shot-caller in the game of international economic warfare, instead of in the place of weakness they are at now.

  • Procopius

    It’s basically “religion” for the unwashed masses to consume, B. Rom. And I totally agree with your points.

  • Michael Powell

    The world is a whole lot more fluid than your leftist conspiracies attest.

  • Procopius

    The world is certainly fluid, and by that weird generalist attack, the same statement debunks your religion conspiracy as well.

  • Michael O. Powell

    How’s that? Generally, hard Left conspiracies seem to at least imply that a permanent capitalist establishment, run by white males, is constantly aiming to suppress developing countries. It’s a bit of a lazy conspiracy mentality, since it applies the same paradigm to chanigng political circumstances. Check out the Dennis Prager v. Howard Zinn debate, where every time Prager brought up Iraq Zinn started talking about Vietnam.

    Being a cultural and intellectual backwater is a big reason why the Middle East is the way it is. Outsiders don’t want to be any part of it except in order to obtain oil, and don’t see it as much of an investment opportunity in any other avenue.

  • Procopius

    The answer to How’s That is that I mean that just saying “the world is a whole lot more fluid…your conspiracies” can easily be applied to your religious conspiracy.

    Also, since you’re now admitting that we’re all over the MidEast for oil, that sort of debunks your earlier conspiracy assertion that this entire Western-MidEast struggle is not religion based.

    I’m just ribbing you about using the word “conspiracy.” Too many people pin their version of journalistic integrity on the group-think that international and indeed global conspiracies do not exist on this Earth. I do not value the concepts of “left” and “right”, outside of lower level discussions. Zinn I would characterize as a “leftist” and beg my pardon I would never check out another of his debates after seeing what the man was about many years ago.

    Zinn however did have some incidentally enlightening observations of other countries in his lifetime. Like what he said of Cuba was interesting.

    You are very, very rash and naive of your assessment of Arab populations. Arabs are not stupid people, even at the unwashed level of their populations with little access to anything. If anything, they are much more rooted in reality than the United States’ population. And their ruling elite class is just as shrewd and aware and intelligent as any other.

    I would asset that both Cuba and Arab “culture” are far deeper and intricate than the “culture” of the United States. And yes I do understand that I’m comparing the culture of a nation-state vs. the culture of a race (in the Arab case), but I’m saying that even if you took the U.S. population on a regional-racial-historic perspective, Cuba and the Middle East kicks the U.S.’s ass in culture. Culture in the aggregate is not Hollywood, televison, disposable material goods. I mean, technically it is but it’s basically shit.

  • Michael O. Powell

    Perhaps you have missed where I have compared Arab culture to the religion-soaked backwaters of the United States. The mentality in both areas is very similar, with highly stratified class structures, mysticism and intellectual regression. Watch some of MEMRI’s indispensable clips of Arab television and then watch Pat Robertson and the similarity will be disturbing, to say the least.

  • Michael O. Powell

    As for the culture statement, you’re quite right. Generally speaking, capitalism destroys culture. You won’t have museums, coliseums and whatnot preserved without private philanthropy or public funds.

    So Cuba might be ripe with preservation of the pre-Revolution culture, but the fruits of modernity will be absent. Capitalism isn’t the whole puzzle, but it is part of it. Marx himself got this, if I interpret him correctly.

  • Procopius

    Interesting that you bring up modernity Michael. I was obsessed with the concept a couple years ago and for me the jury’s still out whether it is a “good” thing in its finality. btw I don’t associate modernity necessarily with technological progression, for instance you could remove many of the goals/requisites of modernity and actually have a much greater technologically progressed society. Also I believe one of modernity’s central goals, OR incidental by-products, is the destruction of culture.

  • Michael O. Powell

    Nah, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Take a look at a city like Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. That is my personal image of modernity. You have a fantastic rail and ferry system in the area, shops and businesses aplenty and markets where you can buy the fruits of various different cultures. Raw capitalism, like you see in many suburbs, can destroy culture but unrestrained state activity can destroy modernity. It’s a balancing act.

    As for “left” and “right” being qualities of lower level discussion, you’re probably right. It pops out whenever I’m not left with more intricate vernacular.

  • Procopius

    My mindset is just more cut-to-the-chase regarding left/right, I’d rather look at the political spectrum as “individual and community freedom” vs. “central control.” Now part of that would fall into your version of conspiracy I guess, and that’s fine. I think you’re an earnest person, from what I’ve seen, and I enjoy our disagreements.