Monday, December 19, 2011

More on Christopher ...

... Regarding Christopher | The Nation. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

So far, most of the eulogies of Christopher have come from men, and there’s a reason for that. He moved in a masculine world, and for someone who prided himself on his wide-ranging interests, he had virtually no interest in women’s writing or women’s lives or perspectives. I never got the impression from anything he wrote about women that he had bothered to do the most basic kinds of reading and thinking, let alone interviewing or reporting—the sort of workup he would do before writing about, say, G.K. Chesterton, or Scientology or Kurdistan. ... It wasn’t just the position itself, it was his lordly condescending assumption that he could sort this whole thing out for the ladies in 1,000 words that probably took him twenty minutes to write. “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or has spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows” that pro-life women are on to something when they recoil at the idea of the “disposable fetus.” Hmmmm… that must be why most OB-GYNs are pro-choice and why most women who have abortions are mothers. Those doctors just need to spend an hour with a medical textbook; those mothers must never have seen a sonogram. Interestingly, although he promised to address the counterarguments made by the many women who wrote in to the magazine, including those on the staff, he never did. For a man with a reputation for courage, it certainly failed him then. (Years later, when he took up the question of abortion again in Vanity Fair, he said basically the exact same things, using the same straw-women arguments. Time taught him nothing, because he didn’t want to learn.)

We won't go into the boilerplate crap that precedes this about Hitchens's drinking. 
"I never got the impression ..." And never bothered to ask or investigate. "... that must be why most OB-GYNs are pro-choice and why most women who have abortions are mothers." I don't know about the latter assertion. I haven't seen statistics to that effect. Either way, it still comes down to an argument from authority vs. an assertion (Hitchens's) based on data.

It is odd that I find myself defending a fellow I didn't agree with on the most fundamental issue -- whether or not there is a God -- and whose writing often infuriated me. I wonder why these people didn't take on Hitchens while he was alive. And yet "he was my colleague for twenty years." How did she manage to work with him?


  1. Not to speak ill of the dead, but the Canonization of Saint Christopher is equally absurd. He had lots of flaws, he liked to start fights, and in many ways his writing was way better than Dawkins' but his thinking wasn't.

    On the other hand, as Deborah Tannen writes in "Argument Culture," the general tone of discourse has gotten angrier, more personal, and more argumentative lately. And Hitchens contributed to that trend. A lot.

    So, not intending to speak ill of the dead, neither was he anything like a saint. I find that some of the eulogies have been really over-the-top, a genuine Cult of Personality. Some of the reactions against that are just as loud and forceful. And no less problematic, but no more, either.

    Frank, I suspect what you're finding problematic is the total lack of civility of much of the discourse. But then, I'm not sure Hitchens himself wouldn't have just loved it.

  2. I am curious about the issues the writer has raised. I am afraid I know enough about Hitchens' work to decide one way or the other!