Christopher Hitchens On The Campaign Against The “Ground Zero” Mosque

Christopher Hitchens may be battling cancer, but he hasn’t lost his talent for saying exactly the right thing in exactly the right way. Take, for example, his new Slate column regarding the ongoing and seemingly endless controversy over the “Ground Zero” mosque:

Take, for example, the widely publicized opinion of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Supporting those relatives of the 9/11 victims who have opposed Cordoba House, he drew a crass analogy with the Final Solution and said that, like Holocaust survivors, “their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.” This cracked tune has been taken up by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who additionally claim to be ventriloquizing the emotions of millions of Americans who did not suffer bereavement. It has also infected the editorial pages of the normally tougher-minded Weekly Standard, which called on President Obama to denounce the Cordoba House on the grounds that a 3-to-1 majority of Americans allegedly find it “offensive.”

Where to start with this part-pathetic and part-sinister appeal to demagogy? To begin with, it borrows straight from the playbook of Muslim cultural blackmail. Claim that something is “offensive,” and it is as if the assertion itself has automatically become an argument. You are even allowed to admit, as does Foxman, that the ground for taking offense is “irrational and bigoted.” But, hey—why think when you can just feel? The supposed “feelings” of the 9/11 relatives have already deprived us all of the opportunity to see the real-time footage of the attacks—a huge concession to the general dulling of what ought to be a sober and continuous memory of genuine outrage. Now extra privileges have to be awarded to an instant opinion-poll majority. Not only that, the president is urged to use his high office to decide questions of religious architecture!

Nothing could be more foreign to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment or the principle of the “wall of separation.

Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, Hitchens hints that he’s not at all happy about the idea of this mosque being located so close to the site of the September 11th attacks. Unlike Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all the others who have taken up the anti-mosque banner in this matter, though, Hitchens recognizes demagoguery when he sees it and, for an Englishman, has more respect for our First Amendment than many Americans do.

Hitchens ends up in about the same position that I am in this fight. I don’t necessarily favor the project, but these people own the building, they’ve complied with all applicable laws, and there doesn’t appear to be any legal means remaining to stop them. Those who want to use government force to stop them are nothing more than thieves motivated by religious bigotry rather than financial gain. The rest ? Well, they seem to think that having “feelings” and are “offended” means they have some special right to be heard. It’s really all rather sad and pathetic.

  • Caleb Howe

    Special right to be heard? People get to protest, whether you “care” about what their “motives” are or not. That’s freedom of speech too, Doug.

  • Doug Mataconis


    I didn’t say they didn’t, but the fact that someone finds something offensive doesn’t mean they’re right.

    It was only a few months ago that we were all talking about the South Park Mohammed episodes and how wrong it was for Comedy Central to censor images of Mohammed for fear of “offending” Muslims.

    As I see it, the principle is entirely the same in this case. If you’re offended, protest, but don’t pretend that you’re offense means you’re right.

  • Caleb Howe

    That’s a straw man. Far more argument has been made than “offense”. At least by those in opposition to the mosque. Those supporting it sure seem focus on being offended at “intolerance” or “racism” or whichever other weapon they pull from their Leftie “Shut Them Up Through Intimidation” toolbox in order to score petty partisan political points.

  • Doug Mataconis

    Yet it’s the “offense” and “inappropriateness” arguments that are shouted the loudest, especially when mosque opponents want to make sure they’re not accused of being anti-Muslim.

  • Hugh Skinnerian

    I have yet to hear outrage by any major collective of Americans who find it repugnant that we would want to build ANYTHING on top of the mass grave that is the resting place of so many 9/11 victims.

    As for the mosque, isn’t it several blocks away from ground zero? If so, what’s all of the fuss? It hasn’t been proven that 17 Muslim hijackers took down those places–not unless you believe the official conspiracy theory. The mob mentality in our country is a sure sign of a Constitutionally ignorant populace.

    As an ardent agnostic, I sort of revel in this senseless bickering by narcissistic religionists who have the temerity to think they KNOW how and why we and our universe exists, to press out their pompous chests–from Allah to Buddhism, to Christianity, to Zoroastrianism–and proclaim the same, tired dogma, as if theirs is more righteous than the rest, and then to stoop to such depths of ostensible racism and bigotry as if “they have some special right to be heard.”

    We humans are truly the virus that plagues and will destroy this Earth. It’s only a matter of time before I am proven correct. A brazen attack on Iran will suffice to start the end.

  • The_Observer

    N.B. Some of the workers in the Twin Towers who died were both Americans and Muslim.

  • Michael O. Powell

    It’s worth noting that Hitch hasn’t been an Englishman for several years now. Immigrants are famous for appreciating the freedoms of America for more than its natives.