Sunday, December 18, 2011

Amazing ...

... Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011 | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/17/2011.

In a radically different assessment, journalist and political analyst Chris Hedges, who had taken on Mr. Hitchens in a public debate, described him as a man who squandered his talent in exchange for fame.
"The tragedy of Hitchens was that he had the intellect to do something great, but he used his creative gifts for self-promotion throughout his career," Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, said. "He sacrificed nuance for the sound bite."
Adds Hedges, "I don't think he contributed anything to the nation's intellectual life."

Gee, thanks, Chris for providing the rest of us irrefutable proof that you are, if nothing else, utterly lacking in manners and possibly even common decency.

Postscript: Lincoln Hunter notes that Terry Teachout wrote somewhat unflatteringly of Johnny Carson when Carson died. Here is what Terry had to say afterward: Thumper's lament (I can't find the original article). "...  I didn't call him stupid or offensive or evil--in fact, I didn't say anything personal about him at all. My point was that his comedy was inoffensive and ephemeral, and that I suspected it wouldn't be remembered for very long."

I think the maxim about not speaking ill of the dead has to do with etiquette. Terry was merely reiterating a view of Carson's work that, presumably, he had long held. He did not suggest, as Hedges does about Hitchens, that Carson's work -- and by extension his life -- was fundamentally inauthentic. Hedges took the occasion of Hitchens's death to pass moral judgment on the deceased, something one should always hesitate to do:  "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

Post bumped.


  1. John Brumfield8:27 PM

    Genius envy.

  2. Easy now.
    Has anyone read Terry Teachout's assessment of Hitchens?
    Does anyone remember Hitchens' obit for Bob Hope?
    Mr. Hitchens was famous and loved for the kind of statement that Mr. Hedges made.

  3. It's a paradox -- Hitchens was a good writer with an absolute lack of decency towards some -- pissing on Reagan, Mother Teresa, etc. right after they died. So he lacked common decency as does his critic here...why give him an enconium at all? becuase of his cleverness? (and don't attack me for asking questions...)

  4. Well, it is true that Hitchens could be as rude as Hedges. But that is hardly a reason to behave the same way toward him. Like all of us, Hitchens -- with whom I tended to disagree as much as agree -- was a mix of the good, the bad, and the indifferent. His courage in facing death, however, was exemplary. And when someone dies that someone deserves to be remembered first and foremost for his best, not his worst. It is not the time that a gentleman settles scores or treats the deceased as the deceased may have treated others. At the very least, death should bring out in the living a measure of graciousness.

  5. David Corn begins his obit article this way:

    Here is how I came to hate Christopher Hitchens. Hate—as in envy.

    Hitchens and I Shared an Office

    Corn too touches on the socialite aspect of Hitchens, but as that being part of his make up. There is a difference between being a phony at something and being who you are at it. If someone is not naturally a socialite, then it can be selling out to seek fame or to be in the social circles of the famous. It may be that that is where Hedges is misreading the situation. It may be that Hitchens being the social animal, and being as talented and controversial in his thinking, writing and speaking as he was, that he drew the top of the world to him, which turns out to be a lesson in how fame happens.

    Corn's article turns out to be a very fine tribute to Christopher Hitchens.

  6. Frank it is as you say regarding judgment. But we all judge during life and afterwards -- so we must always refrain -- the timing (during life, immediately after death, some time after death) make no difference.

    "Two days after Ronald Reagan's death, Hitchens referred to the deceased President as a 'cruel and stupid lizard' and stated that 'this was a man never short of a cheap jibe or the sort of falsehood that would, however laughable, buy him some time.'"

    and this about Mother Teresa about six eyars after she died:

    "The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud."

    I am sure you can find many examples of him judging others while they lived.

    None of these are right -- None -- as Christ said nothing about when judgment is wrong -- just that it is.

    Willie Nelson sang it best "Never think evil thoughts about another. Cause a thought is a word left unsaid."

  7. One more thing --

  8. That Salon article is a case of someone who couldn't wait for Hitchens to die so that he could level all sorts of hate at him. And Greenwald still has to bash Reagan. He then writes about an imaginary group of people who he would find hatable, and says that Hitchens is "indistinguishable from" them:

    I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him. When it came to the defining issues of the post-9/11 era, he was largely indistinguishable from the small army of neoconservative fanatics eager to unleash ever-greater violence against Muslims: driven by a toxic mix of barbarism, self-loving provincialism, a sense of personal inadequacy, and, most of all, a pity-inducing need to find glory and purpose in cheering on military adventures and vanquishing some foe of historically unprecedented evil even if it meant manufacturing them.

    Greenwald doesn't say that Hitchens is in the group, as he never said that he was Reagan incarnate. It's just that we are to hate those whom Greenwald hates, and Hitchens seems to be one of them.

    He then quotes someone who said that Hitchens is "someone who gets excited by mass murder." Greenwald doesn;t know first hand that Hitchens gets exceited about mass murder, but he knows someone who wrote that.

    At some point, you have to trash an article like that. I'm not defending Hitchens, by the way, but noting just how bad that article is.

  9. Interesting points, Rus. It is also interesting that Chris Hedges, who I believe counts himself among the religious, shares Greenwald's geopolitical views. The point I have been trying to make, and have obviously not done a good job at making it, is that I understand that Hitchens himself engaged in what I have been deploring. But that, I think, does not give anyone else license to do the same. Least of all professed Christians. What you suggest -- or what I infer from what you post -- is that for Hedges and Greenwald politics is the religion to which they are most faithful, and no heretic may go unpunished. (BTW, I would never have guessed that this post would attract so much attention. Tells you what I know.)