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Sunday, December 18, 2011



From Hitchens’ former friend, Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch:

As a writer his prose was limited in range…He courted the label “contrarian”, but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair.

Attacking God?…A contrarian these days would be someone who staunchly argued for the existence of a Supreme Being…[and]between the two of them, my sympathies were always with Mother Teresa. If you were sitting in rags in a gutter in Bombay, who would be more likely to give you a bowl of soup? You’d get one from Mother Teresa. Hitchens was always tight with beggars, just like the snotty Fabians who used to deprecate charity.

As so often with friends and former friends, it’s a matter of what you’re prepared to put up with and for how long…He craved to be an insider, a trait which achieved ripest expression when he elected to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen by Bush’s director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.

In basic philosophical take he always seemed to me to hold as his central premise a profound belief in the therapeutic properties of capitalism and empire. He was an instinctive flagwagger and remained so. He wrote some really awful stuff in the early 90s about how indigenous peoples — Indians in the Americas — were inevitably going to be rolled over by the wheels of Progress and should not be mourned.

On the plane of weekly columns in the late eighties and nineties…He got rather boring. Then in the 90s he got a bee in his bonnet about Clinton which developed into full-blown obsessive megalomania:…so he sloshed his way across his own personal Rubicon and tried to topple Clinton via betrayal of his close friendship with Sid Blumenthal, whom he did his best to ruin financially (lawyers’ fees) and get sent to prison for perjury.

Since then it was all pretty predictable, down to his role as flagwagger for Bush. I guess the lowest of a number of low points was when he went to the White House to give a cheerleading speech on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

I think he knew long, long before that this is where he would end up, as a right-wing codger. He used to go on, back in the Eighties, about sodden old wrecks like John Braine, who’d ended up more or less where Hitchens got to, trumpeting away about “Islamo-fascism” like a Cheltenham colonel in some ancient Punch cartoon.

In extempore speeches and arguments he was quick on his feet. I remember affectionately many jovial sessions from years ago, in his early days at The Nation. I found the Hitchens cult of recent years entirely mystifying.

He endured his final ordeal with pluck, sustained indomitably by his wife Carol.


Sitting in purgatory? Really? Do you read Dante's Inferno and believe the words literally? I'm sitting here reading this and trying to figure out where you went wrong. I think it was at the point where you decided the "snake makes the bad lady eat an apple" story had to be true.

Best of luck with the cancer, I truly wish you the best, but you realize that when you're gone, people can speak negatively about you too, right? Take away his militant atheism, and Hitchens was still a brilliant essayist and debater.

Have you read any of his work?

tom faranda


Thanks for your note. In reverse order, yes I have read quite a bit of Hitchens. Mostly his columns, some of his essays. For example, I read his column many years ago, "The Missionary Position" attacking Mother Teresa, which he then turned into a short book. I do agree that he was an excellent writer and quite quick-witted and quick on his feet. But, he lacked wisdom and certainly never seriously studied the truth claims of religion in general and Christianity in particular. If you use the search engine in my weblog and put in "Christopher Hitchens" you'll find other postings I did about him.

I certainly understand that after I'm gone "people can speak negatively" about me. In fact, I'm still here and people speak negatively!

Thanks for the good wishes on my cancer (lymphoma) which has been in remission for six years. I celebrated the sixth anniversary of my autologous stem cell transplant earlier this month (the 16th).

Now as far as my comment about Hitchens "sitting in purgatory" or your comparison with "the 'snake makes the bad lady eat the apple'", no I don't think this is taken literally. My remark is a metaphor, since we can only use metaphor and analogy to discuss these sort of mysterious issues(I used a metaphor above, when I said Hitchens was "quick on his feet", referring to his debating skills). Our poor minds can only draw these kinds of comparisons to make a point, and my point is that I hope Hitchens is in a kind of purgatorial re-education camp (another metaphor) where he may be learning the truth about our mysterious reality. Purgatory can also be likened to a hospital where you get fixed and cleaned up (another metaphor). A priest friend of mine used to say that in purgatory you were served twinkies and bubble gum flavored soda, and no, he didn't take that literally.

So thanks for your note - feel free to leave another comment - and best wishes in the future.

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