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.