Skip

RIP Christopher Hitchens
December 15, 2011 8:54 PM   Subscribe


 
.
posted by knave at 8:55 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by vasi at 8:56 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by pajamazon at 8:56 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by moonbird at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by victors at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011


Fucking. DAMNIT.

Just. FUCK.

I will miss you, Hitch.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


.
posted by isopraxis at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by JHarris at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2011


Fuck.
posted by vidur at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by eugenen at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Artw at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by fake at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Anything at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Sfving at 9:00 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by stray at 9:00 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by sk381 at 9:00 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by flippant at 9:01 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by shii at 9:02 PM on December 15, 2011


Fuck cancer.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


.
posted by Iridic at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2011


Ah fuck. What a magnificent son of bitch he was. Fucking magnificent.
posted by LarryC at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2011 [29 favorites]


Oh no.

.
posted by MissySedai at 9:03 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by hototogisu at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by SollosQ at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by unSane at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011


As someone said, he wasn't a saint, but he left behind a cathedral.

Seriously, fuck cancer.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [25 favorites]


.
Until we meet again in the heavenly kingdom.
posted by Flashman at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011


.


Well, now he officially knows whether God is real or not.
posted by gcbv at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [24 favorites]


.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2011


I was trying to find the link to his last piece on Vanity Fair which was a simply heartbreaking description of the pain he was going through, but the news seems to have crashed the website.
posted by Anything at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2011


.
There's nothing in my eye. I'm just crying.
posted by emhutchinson at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's sad that he left us but at least he's in heaven now.
posted by cloeburner at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


.
Preview of Dawkins interview with Hitchens in xmas NS.
posted by peacay at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


.

That's one dot I never wanted to type.
posted by dnash at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by chesla at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2011


His unsentimental essays on cancer:
Unspoken Truths
Trial of the Will
posted by naju at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]




Aww, jeez.

Safe journey, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:07 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by k8t at 9:07 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by supercoiled at 9:08 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by carmicha at 9:08 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by sarahw at 9:08 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:08 PM on December 15, 2011


Wrong about Iraq, and ironically ended up with a rep as a defender of colonalism, one of the great british essayists of the 20th century.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's the last piece: Trial of the Will
posted by Anything at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by fatmouse at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011


To quote my own utterance at reading this: Oh no. (and Missy Sedai on preview)

Not that I wasn't prepared, and not that he wasn't a sonofabitch sometimes. But what a goddamnt admirable gadfly...

With paltry wit and a paucity of eloquence I salute you, sir.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by condour75 at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011


Often wrong, but never boring. RIP, sir.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


.
posted by lullaby at 9:10 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2011


Oh no... Somehow even with the cancer I didn't expect it to end for him so soon. Some you think will outlast it all.

.
posted by dorey_oh at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:11 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:12 PM on December 15, 2011


.

Dang...
posted by Calzephyr at 9:13 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by mkdg at 9:13 PM on December 15, 2011


I am an atheist (or anti-theist) who generally dislikes other atheists for their snide attitudes and overly certain posturing. Hitch was like a candle in the dark for me.
posted by Roman Graves at 9:14 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


.
posted by Neale at 9:15 PM on December 15, 2011


I frequently disagreed with his arguments, but he made them well, and presented them excellently, and his facility with language was exceptional.

.
posted by mephron at 9:15 PM on December 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


.
posted by arveale at 9:16 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:16 PM on December 15, 2011


The crazy old bastard will be missed greatly.
posted by feckless at 9:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Orwell’s views have been largely vindicated by time, so he need not seek any pardon on that score. But what he illustrates, by his commitment to language as the partner of truth, is that ‘views’ do not really count; that it matters not what you think, but how you think; and that politics are relatively unimportant, while principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them." (Christopher Hitchens, from "Why Orwell Matters")

.
posted by gwint at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2011 [77 favorites]


.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:19 PM on December 15, 2011


I wasn't expecting him to be gone quite yet. He will indeed be missed.

.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by estuardo at 9:20 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by motty at 9:20 PM on December 15, 2011


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 9:20 PM on December 15, 2011


Just thinking about him this afternoon....
.
posted by Mr.Me at 9:21 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by facetious at 9:22 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:23 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 9:23 PM on December 15, 2011


Well, now he officially knows whether God is real or not.

Actually, if he was right, he's just gone, and doesn't know anything.
posted by Malor at 9:23 PM on December 15, 2011 [48 favorites]


Oh no... Somehow even with the cancer I didn't expect it to end for him so soon. Some you think will outlast it all.


I second this.

Too young. Hate this.
posted by sweetkid at 9:23 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by readery at 9:25 PM on December 15, 2011


Anything: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hitchens-201201

That was a powerful, unsentimental read.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by cazoo at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2011


I really liked reading his articles. Looking forward to getting his book.

.
posted by KillaSeal at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2011


I really sincerely wish the whole cartoonish cloud-and-harp afterlife actually existed, cos the thought of Hitch and Bertrand Russel and Joe Strummer kicking it old school on a cumulonimbus fills me with such unbridled joy. Or maybe it's the scotch, which I broke out for the first time in months tonight. Fucking cancer. Fucking world.
posted by milquetoast at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


.
posted by a non e mouse at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2011


I did not care for the man or the way he did things, but I wish ill on no-one merely because we disagree.

If nothing else, he was a man fierce and passionate about the things he believed, and that is almost always a good thing. Peace, Hitch. I'll try not to badmouth you, at least for a while.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:28 PM on December 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well that's gone and ruined my Christmas. Which is quite fitting, I guess.

.
posted by Jimbob at 9:28 PM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fuck esophageal cancer.
I'd never heard of it until a friend of a friend was diagnosed recently. It's really brutal. Often, it grows to Stage 3 before the patient notices anything wrong.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:28 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by rune at 9:28 PM on December 15, 2011


It's been a weird year.
posted by Anything at 9:29 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fuck cancer.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:29 PM on December 15, 2011


I have fucking had it with your fucking cancer, world, do you hear me?
posted by Occula at 9:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by dumbland at 9:31 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by virago at 9:32 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Alterscape at 9:32 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by thecjm at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Pseudonumb at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2011


He was right more often than he was wrong, but when he was wrong man was he wrong. I guess there are worse things than being someone who doesn't do anything by halves.

.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


.
posted by robstercraw at 9:35 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by chunking express at 9:35 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2011


. Sadness. RIP, sir.
posted by bz at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:37 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by iamabot at 9:37 PM on December 15, 2011


My boss was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last year. (Very) luckily, they seem to have (for now) gotten it all. Still, just watching what he went through was brutal. Cancer is shit.

.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:37 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:37 PM on December 15, 2011


Thank you for teaching a 17-year-old me the meaning of the word "gadfly".
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by quidividi at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by homunculus at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2011


Working out.
posted by Jimbob at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I just finished listening to him read God is Not Great. Not to mention the article from earlier this year railing against the maxim "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

.
posted by ikahime at 9:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


He deserved so much more but he'd just want the .

.
posted by Sphinx at 9:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by selenized at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2011


Not to mention the article from earlier this year railing against the maxim "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

That article is from the Jan 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. It's the last thing he wrote.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Defenestrator at 9:41 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by karmiolz at 9:42 PM on December 15, 2011


As an atheist/naturalist that has had to claw my way painfully out of evangelical Christianity twice, I found Hitchens' blatant fulmination against faith in God to be at once both alarmingly inflammatory and deeply resonating. I couldn't bring myself to accept the vitriol with which he championed some of those views, but that he did so, and with such verve and tenacity, was profoundly moving and a much needed slake to a thirsty spirit.

Wrong on occasion, and maddeningly so, but very, very right in some critical ways. I will miss that about him, and his unrepentantly bold mastery of the language, too.


.

.
posted by darkstar at 9:42 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


.
posted by schmod at 9:43 PM on December 15, 2011


.
This is my first comment on MetaFilter, and I rather wish it wasn't.
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:43 PM on December 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


.
posted by LSK at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2011


I vaguely remember a comment here a while back, quoting Hitchens as a man defined equally by those he hated as those he loved. Anyway, I keep thinking of this anecdote from Martin Amis:

The year was 1981. We were in a tiny Italian restaurant in west London, where we would soon be joined by our future first wives. Two elegant young men in waisted suits were unignorably and interminably fussing with the staff about rearranging the tables, to accommodate the large party they expected. It was an intensely class-conscious era (because the class system was dying); Christopher and I were candidly lower-middle bohemian, and the two young men were raffishly minor-gentry (they had the air of those who await, with epic stoicism, the deaths of elderly relatives). At length, one of them approached our table, and sank smoothly to his haunches, seeming to pout out through the fine strands of his fringe. The crouch, the fringe, the pout: these had clearly enjoyed many successes in the matter of bending others to his will. After a flirtatious pause he said, “You’re going to hate us for this.”

And Christopher said, “We hate you already.”

posted by hototogisu at 9:44 PM on December 15, 2011 [159 favorites]


.
posted by pts at 9:45 PM on December 15, 2011


Indefatigable. Pugnacious. Smoked and drank and swore and wrote as if he would die the next day. Also, an endless source of limericks. Not always right, but when he was wrong it was often for the right reasons: a big part of his support for the invasion of Iraq was his sympathy for the Kurds, whom he saw as victims of Saddam's reign.

A very quick and personal best of:

Hitchens and Fry's classic debate on "The Catholic Church is a source of good in the world"
An Unspoken Truth, on losing his voice to cancer, in October this year, part of his long series of columns in Vanity Fair .
Hitchens vs Tony Blair, debating "Religion is a force for good in the world"

Already stricken with cancer, I'll leave him to his own words: "I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don't know anything like enough yet... that I haven't understood enough, that I can't know enough, that I'm always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom, and I wouldn't have it any other way... take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way."
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:46 PM on December 15, 2011 [22 favorites]


.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:48 PM on December 15, 2011


Not to mention the article from earlier this year railing against the maxim "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

That article is from the Jan 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. It's the last thing he wrote.


It's posted here.
posted by homunculus at 9:48 PM on December 15, 2011


Despite my feelings about his other work, I find Hitchens' willingness to change his mind about waterboarding after being waterboarded to show remarkable courage given the time (August 2008) and place (a well-read magazine) in which he did it.

.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:48 PM on December 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


.
posted by HMSSM at 9:49 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:50 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Trurl at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2011


Fuck. I really thought he had a little more time. But reading that Vanity Fair article, I wonder if he would have taken it under any and all conditions?
posted by maudlin at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by islanddave at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2011


Damn. Just saw him at the Texas Freethought Convention in October. Wasn't expecting this so soon.
posted by smcameron at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 9:52 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by boubelium at 9:53 PM on December 15, 2011


Damnit.

.
posted by fonetik at 9:54 PM on December 15, 2011


He'll be missed. One of the finest writers of his generation.
posted by modernnomad at 9:54 PM on December 15, 2011


Ah fuck.

.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:55 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by bananafish at 9:55 PM on December 15, 2011


He will live on in our heartsdicks.
posted by Anything at 9:58 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by ignignokt at 9:59 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by quazichimp at 10:01 PM on December 15, 2011


fuck.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:01 PM on December 15, 2011


It's the last thing he wrote.

I'm sure that there are 20,000 words of his sitting on a dozen copyeditors' desks somewhere. He was nothing if not productive, even at the end.

I have my fundamental disagreements with Hitch, especially from the past decade, where I think he deliberately appropriated Orwell without properly accepting and applying the lessons of Homage to Catalonia. But from my expat's position, he was a remarkable influence on American journalism, because he accepted precisely none of its stylistic and formal conventions, and made it better as a result. Which isn't a bad legacy. RIP, you glorious fucker.
posted by holgate at 10:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I attended a reading of his in the summer of 2001 - I don't remember exactly what I said to him, but I remember him leaning in to me to reply "oh, darling, you must never say that things cannot get worse."
posted by moxiedoll at 10:05 PM on December 15, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh man, I've only known about him for the past couple of years. I listened to his self-narrated audiobook of God Is Not Great and found it quite liberating but also . . . much more beautifully written and "literary" than I'd expected. Then I started following his Vanity Fair pieces, and realized I owe it to myself to read much more of what he's written.

His writings on cancer and facing the end of his life have been as harrowing as they've been eloquent. What an extraordinary if unsettling experience to be reading the intimate thoughts of such an astonishingly articulate and passionate and rational man as he's in the process of dying. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to have done so.

And even though I'm an atheist myself, it still brings me some small solace and catharsis to say Thank You.

.
posted by treepour at 10:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by datarose at 10:07 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Bwithh at 10:07 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 10:08 PM on December 15, 2011


"Peace, Hitch. I'll try not to badmouth you, at least for a while."

You're more charitable than me. I'm good-natured and not prone to schadenfreude, but when it comes to the deaths of prominent people whom I believe to be toxic to public discourse, especially those who are paid to have a public opinion, I find I take satisfaction in their demise and don't much feel guilt about it.

That said, threads like this serve the same purpose as memorial services do, and that's for the people still living who have a positive emotional investment in the memories of those who have passed away.

It's worth noting, however, that Hitchens himself would likely not have hesitated before throwing a verbal bomb in this sort of context, when the departed was someone he despised. But I'll assume that his fans are better people than he was, and deserve better. And so those who believe their lives were improved by Hitchens's words deserve, and do receive, my sympathy. He was a smart, well-spoken man with the courage of his convictions and I don't doubt he made a lot of people think about things they otherwise wouldn't have considered. My condolences.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:08 PM on December 15, 2011 [35 favorites]


Rest easy, you magnificent bastard.

.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:08 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by jasper411 at 10:09 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by ericb at 10:10 PM on December 15, 2011


It's worth noting, however, that Hitchens himself would likely not have hesitated before throwing a verbal bomb in this sort of context, when the departed was someone he despised.

I think that's pretty much right.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:10 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by scharpy at 10:11 PM on December 15, 2011


.

If you're reading this and you smoke, please quit now.
posted by Avenger at 10:11 PM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


.
posted by Taft at 10:11 PM on December 15, 2011


This fucking hurts. I'll genuinely miss him.

Now I need to go to bed sad.

.
posted by stroke_count at 10:12 PM on December 15, 2011


This is from the piece in next month's Vanity Fair:

I am typing this having just had an injection to try to reduce the pain in my arms, hands, and fingers. The chief side effect of this pain is numbness in the extremities, filling me with the not irrational fear that I shall lose the ability to write. Without that ability, I feel sure in advance, my “will to live” would be hugely attenuated. I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.

The fact that if this did happen, he couldn't have been forced to live that way for too long, feels like about as much solace as there could be in this news.
posted by Adventurer at 10:12 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by ryanfou at 10:13 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by fantodstic at 10:14 PM on December 15, 2011


I met Mr. Hitchens once. He offered my then-pregnant wife a drink, something no American stranger would have had the balls to do, and which immediately endeared him to me. He was every inch a gentleman, the first at the table to rise when he saw my wife, embarrassing the others into following suit.

It was a brief encounter, but the details will live with me forever.

Rest in peace, sir.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:14 PM on December 15, 2011 [25 favorites]


Aw shit. Exasperating, intelligent, challenging when he's wrong....I'm sorry he's gone.

.
posted by mediareport at 10:14 PM on December 15, 2011


A fantastic writer and a compelling thinker; I disagreed utterly with his position on Iraq, but his "Blood, Class, and Nostalgia" was an incredible book; I appreciate his willingness to have taken on all manner of sacred cows.

Nostalgia eviscerated, long before Blair's poodle position made it abundantly clear to the world, the idea that Britain was in some way a partner of the US. And it's a measure of the strength of his writing that so much criticism has focused not on his rhetoric or research, but on heaping abuse on him: he was villified for daring to tease out the less-pleasant truths about Mother Theresa's foundation, because it cut across a treasured narrative, but there was little criticism based on anything so meagre as fact.
posted by rodgerd at 10:15 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


he tried to tell the truth
.
posted by obloquy at 10:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find I take satisfaction in their demise and don't much feel guilt about it.

Well, good for you, I guess.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:17 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by bystander at 10:17 PM on December 15, 2011


R.I.P. you crank old bastard.

.
posted by zardoz at 10:18 PM on December 15, 2011


.

A few years back, I got the chance to hear him speak about the war on terror. Afterwards, he bummed a cigarette off of the good doctor, deriding those who had quit smoking as he lit up. How ironic that his death coincides with the US withdrawal from Iraq.
posted by evoque at 10:19 PM on December 15, 2011


Theist here. The world is a worse place without his voice.
posted by tivalasvegas at 10:19 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


.
posted by zanni at 10:20 PM on December 15, 2011


Well, he's with the Lord now.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:20 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right-wingers who think they hate Hitchens should read that piece about Pakistan he wrote last July. It's a kick in the head, for sure.
posted by mediareport at 10:22 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by klanawa at 10:23 PM on December 15, 2011


As much as mefi loved to hate you, Hitch, it won't be the same without you.
posted by mek at 10:23 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.

i'm sad
posted by anadem at 10:24 PM on December 15, 2011


.

It's harder to type when you can't see.

Goodnight, sweet prince...
posted by Dasein at 10:25 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by ultrapotato at 10:25 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by msali at 10:26 PM on December 15, 2011


Hitchens and Fry's classic debate on "The Catholic Church is a source of good in the world"

The Hitchens segment is actually here.
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.


death of a punk
posted by philip-random at 10:28 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by R343L at 10:28 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Kyrieleis at 10:29 PM on December 15, 2011


He was a fantastic literary critic. For the loss of that voice:
.

(I can't help but wonder if he hasn't already written his final piece, to be published on the event of his death, in order to steal the thunder of obituaries written by lesser lights.)
posted by jokeefe at 10:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by lalochezia at 10:34 PM on December 15, 2011


A toast to Hitchens, may he rot in hell. A toast to the Devil, for he has to deal with him now.
posted by zabuni at 10:36 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by muddylemon at 10:42 PM on December 15, 2011


Man. Hoban and now Hitchens, all at once.

Bleah.
posted by everichon at 10:43 PM on December 15, 2011


NYT obit
posted by naju at 10:44 PM on December 15, 2011


The Atlantic blog says the Times has stopped printing to run his obit on A1.

That seems just about right.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:44 PM on December 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


.
posted by Lukenlogs at 10:44 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Ickster at 10:45 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Skygazer at 10:46 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by chaff at 10:46 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Angulimala at 10:47 PM on December 15, 2011


Though I never agreed with his wrongheaded approach and condemnation of spirituality, he was a superb and forthright intellect on many other issues. Rest (We hope) in peace.


.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:47 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by ilikemefi at 10:52 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by chavenet at 10:52 PM on December 15, 2011


“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can't make old friends.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere

I drank a double scotch after I read the news.
posted by psergio at 10:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Also: the last thing of his I read was On The Limits Of Self Improvement, where he takes stock of our culture's obsession with health. I think if he is anywhere, he is very amused about that being one of his last published articles. RIP.
posted by chaff at 10:54 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by PaulZ at 10:58 PM on December 15, 2011




I was inclined to seek out the proper text of Boswell's record of his visit with David Hume a few weeks before Hume's death, which is included in the collection that Hitch gathered under the title The Portable Atheist:
He had once said to me, on a forenoon while the sun was shining bright, that he did not wish to be immortal. This was a most wonderful thought. The reason he gave was that he was very well in this state of being, and that the chances were very much against his being so well in another state; and he would rather not be more than be worse.
posted by holgate at 11:01 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


#GodIsNotGreat is trending on twitter right now with amusing results.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


His obituary of Falwell
posted by growabrain at 11:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I admired the man a great deal. I owe him a more thorough reading of his works.
posted by maxwelton at 11:08 PM on December 15, 2011


From the first time I saw Christopher Hitchens on Politically Incorrect, I was immediately converted from a dumb teenager tuning in to hear Kathy Griffin's take on the Lewinsky scandal into a dumb teenager who gave a shit about stuff and questioned everything. For that I will be eternally grateful (and a bit of a cynical dick, but I'm cool with that).

He would eventually lose my erstwhile unwavering allegiance, but no matter how much I loathed the words that fell out of his face, I could never, ever bring myself to hate the man himself; I just wanted him back on my team.

.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:09 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


. {squared}

I will miss Christopher Hitchens. Agree or disagree with the man, he did his homework, and lived from conviction. He created a heaven of thought for anyone who cared to enter, and will continue to reside there.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:10 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by kilo hertz at 11:12 PM on December 15, 2011


Reading Hitch frequently brought to mind the line Aaron Sorkin wrote for Jed Bartlett on The West Wing. "You just sit there in your wrongness and be wrong."

Godspeed, sir.
posted by toastedbeagle at 11:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is now in the same glorious place as Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, and Jerry Falwell.

.
posted by benzenedream at 11:16 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


,
posted by kozad at 11:16 PM on December 15, 2011


Eulogy by Christopher Buckley in The New Yorker.
It was—I think—February and the smoking ban had gone into effect. Christopher suggested that they eat outside, on the terrace. David Bradley is a game soul, but even he expressed trepidation about dining al fresco in forty-degree weather. Christopher merrily countered, “Why not? It will be bracing.”

Lunch—dinner, drinks, any occasion—with Christopher always was. One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit.
posted by grouse at 11:18 PM on December 15, 2011 [29 favorites]


He's worth more than a dot. He's worth the kind of truth he'd speak to power when others died.

I disagreed vehemently with Christopher Hitchens, especially in regards to using ground troops to bring about societal / cultural change. It was profoundly neo-imperialist, wrongheaded move, absolutely lethal to many, many innocent people. He provided perhaps the most damning intellectual underpinnings for starting the wars that we are only now winding down.

He was not a wise man. At all. He was needlessly, childishly rebellious and self-destructive, more often than not.

Not a wise man. Only a brilliant one.

It's a shame he didn't win his fight with cancer, because in his last years, wisdom was in his grasp, for what it's worth. (Sadly, wisdom usually doesn't sell.)

Frankly, I think he was more influential than he deserved to be, but that had a lot to do with just how interesting, cutting -- and, oftentimes, extreme -- the positions were that he adopted. He was intellectualism as a cult-of-personality, posessing a great, immensely skilled, immensely argumentative mind that was oftentimes infuriatingly riveting to watch.

Infuriating, because you know that you could've put Hitchens in the same room at, say, former President Carter... and, after debating the issues, Hitchens would win the debate, while President Carter would merely be wise, accurate, and right.

And so, our spokesman "from the left" would be a Trotskyist-turned-neoimperialist, as opposed to someone who espoused and supported a peaceful, tolerant, liberal society.

Unfortunately, a lot of the excitement and controversy that followed Hitchens throughout his life was based on his reactionary nature. He was the "bad boy" of intellectualism, who rebelled perhaps a bit too much against his religious upbringing, in that his stances he took were not only extreme, but were usually taken to the extremes, with intellectual / ideological arguments taking precedence over arguments based on observable facts.

That said... even though his position on religion was extremist and rebellious in an almost teen-like nature at times, the attention he attracted to anti-theism and atheism in general were VERY important, and needed to be said, loudly and clearly.

The problem, really, is when he took those anti-religious beliefs to such extremes as to be an acceptable justification for sending in the troops to engage in anti-religious cultural warfare, somehow overlooking the fact that war -- and cultural warfare, in particular -- tends to radicalize even the non-radicals.

Likewise, when fighting cultural wars against the religious, there are ways of doing so without radicalization of "the enemy". In truth, the religious "enemy" conducts their day-to-day behavior far more like followers of science than followers of ancient religious beliefs. Clearly pointing that out to them -- and all the benefits that they have gained, essentially, by turning their back on and making exceptions for their religious beliefs -- might've had a more meaningful effect than haranguing and goading them, frankly.

Towards his last years, Hitchens was largely a force for good... but he still remained a potentially dangerous extremist. Perhaps in this way, he was more American than I could ever hope to be. (That's not entirely a complement, except for his boundless drive and energy. He was a man on fire.)

We, as individuals, struggle with ideas that he succinctly cut to the heart of. Unfortunately, oftentimes the patient died on the table, unnecessarily. It's ironic that in his final years, he seemed most comfortable, most defiantly human, in his terminally cancerous skin. He really would've been impressive, I suspect, had he bested his most adversarial teacher.

Some arguments you simply cannot win.
posted by markkraft at 11:18 PM on December 15, 2011 [50 favorites]


Between him and Jobs, this makes 2011 the year of the death of Magnificent Bastards.
posted by symbioid at 11:19 PM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Thanks for your work and for being a vociferous firebrand for reason and logic. You were a brilliant motherfucker, Chris.
posted by phoebus at 11:28 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:29 PM on December 15, 2011


He lost me when he wrote the article where he recanted on waterboarding as torture. Anybody who needs to be drowned in order to find out if drowning is torture is pretty friggin stupid in my book. Exactly the kind of person who couldn't have the imagination to see everything that was (obviously) going to go wrong after invading Iraq.

Yes he was feisty, yes he was passionate, but boy was he alienating and toxic.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:29 PM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


An imperfect, complicated, interesting man.

.
posted by waraw at 11:32 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by TwoWordReview at 11:32 PM on December 15, 2011


#GodIsNotGreat is trending on twitter right now with amusing results.

First thing I see is some religious idiot saying they want to kill whoever started the trend.

#provingthepoint
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

.
posted by obol at 11:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by nefi at 11:39 PM on December 15, 2011


So I have no peroration or clarion note on which to close. Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the "transcendent" and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator to unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian


.
posted by bright cold day at 11:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


One of my favorite writers. I lost my breath when I read of his passing.

.
posted by phaedon at 11:40 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by sillygwailo at 11:40 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 11:42 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:44 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:45 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by falameufilho at 11:51 PM on December 15, 2011


#GodIsNotGreat is trending on twitter right now with amusing results.

Reading that stream makes me despair for humanity. Twitter gives a platform to such air headed, uneducated twats.
posted by stroke_count at 11:51 PM on December 15, 2011


He took an awful lot of pride in how much he drank and smoked.
posted by moorooka at 11:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:53 PM on December 15, 2011


.
posted by biddeford at 11:57 PM on December 15, 2011


He took an awful lot of pride in how much he drank and smoked.

As well he should have: they were epic amounts.

.
posted by tumid dahlia at 11:59 PM on December 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


.
posted by quadog at 12:05 AM on December 16, 2011


Right-wingers who think they hate Hitchens should read that piece about Pakistan he wrote last July. It's a kick in the head, for sure.

I'll note, just because I don't wish people to assume things about me that aren't true, that I'm about as left as left can be (much as I hate the dirt-stupid double bucket of left versus right), and I'm about as aggressively contemptuous of Christianity as it is possible to be (without getting in people's faces about it, if I can). Those are not the things that made me dislike Mr Hitchens. I just thought he was a bully, and a mean drunk, and those are things I do not care for.

But that said, some -- no, most -- of my own writerly heroes were horrible men, too. Hunter Thompson, for one, but there are any number of other examples. The difference being, I guess, is that in this new era of television, I didn't see them with coffee cups full of scotch on Bill Maher's show (to pick one occasion), letting the worst side of their natures hang out. So I am totally sympathetic to the idea that people could love a man (or his ideas and words, at least) that I thought such a beast and a boor, because I know that there have been writers I loved who absolutely were beasts and boors.

For what it's worth. I'm sure Hitchens was, like everyone, a complicated person, and maybe I was just unlucky enough to see the worst side of him with everything I saw and read. My loss, I understand.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Vær ikke ett i dag, i går, og noe annet om et år. Det som du er, vær fullt og helt, og ikke stykkevis og delt. - Ibsen

.
posted by Harald74 at 12:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by evil_esto at 12:08 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by bbuda at 12:09 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Minus215Cee at 12:11 AM on December 16, 2011


Wrong about Iraq, right about everything else.

We could use a lot more people like him.

.
posted by bardic at 12:16 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by elpapacito at 12:21 AM on December 16, 2011


This fucking sucks.
posted by unigolyn at 12:21 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by kram175 at 12:22 AM on December 16, 2011


I am glad he was here and did what he did. But comparing him to Robert Ingersoll, the great American infidel of the 19th Century, I wish he were more generous to his enemies and dedicated to what he knew for certain. I will miss him anyway, but wish he were more humane and humanist.
posted by LucretiusJones at 12:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ten hours ago, I was watching a toad-like Henry Kissinger pontificating about the Arab Spring on BBC2's Newsnight. As he rumbled on, I found myself hoping Hitchens might at least be allowed to outlive this, his greatest foe. Then came this morning's news.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can think of a long list of Marxist writers who were more thoughtful and insightful than Christopher Hitchens. None of them, to my knowledge, got to write for glossy fashion magazines, however.

I look at the amount of praise and wonder if they are reading the same author. I think of how conservatives still gush over the mediocrity that was William F. Buckley Jr. Hitchens was just not that good and future generations will likely not remember his name.
posted by Yakuman at 12:44 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by MelanieL at 12:46 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 12:54 AM on December 16, 2011


.

For everyone saying 'fuck cancer', yeah, it's tough every time a human dies. But cancer is the price we pay for having wider horizons than the bacterium or the amoeba. Cancer is the price of multicellularity.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:02 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]




Younger me loved his attack essay on Mother Theresa. "No way, you didn't just do that?!"

Also loved reading about him almost getting beaten up by Lebanese militia men in Beirut. Hitch was a badass.

No need for "fuck cancer" or "lost the battle", 62 is good enough and everybody dies. I give him full marks for living life - mission accomplished.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:08 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by vac2003 at 1:16 AM on December 16, 2011



He sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, even though I'm a fellow atheist, but he was very smart, honest and persuasive. And we also had appreciation of fine Scotch in common (even though he liked Johnnie Walker blended whisky and I like single malt). RIP, Christopher.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:21 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Virtblue at 1:23 AM on December 16, 2011


I'll miss him. A wit and a hungry mind.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by longsleeves at 1:34 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Bartonius at 1:39 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:43 AM on December 16, 2011


No words. I'm sad.
posted by mikehipp at 1:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Kinbote at 1:51 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by pandrus at 2:12 AM on December 16, 2011


Insult the Pope — you'll get some come-back there;
It's honourable, even if it's barmy,
To stamp on corns all round and never care.
(George Orwell)

It would be amusing to follow the trajectory of Hitchens's reputation on MetaFilter. When he came out in support of the Iraq War, he was a pathetic drunk whose opinions couldn't be taken seriously. Then, when he started writing against religion, we started getting comments like: 'well, I guess even a stopped clock is right twice a day'. Then he published God is Not Great and suddenly he was an intellectual hero -- an ironic end for someone who relished the hatred of his enemies much more than the praise of his friends.

I loved his writing, and agreed with his opinions at least half the time, but my parting words to him are: Burn in hell, you bastard. It's what he would have wanted.
posted by verstegan at 2:12 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:20 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 2:30 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by banal evil at 2:34 AM on December 16, 2011


He was one of a kind in an era of ideological conformity. Plus he wrote like a motherfucker.

.

And a drink, please.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Bummus at 2:38 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:42 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by homodigitalis at 3:03 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by lordrunningclam at 3:11 AM on December 16, 2011


Vale you brilliant, grumpy old bastard. Vale.
posted by taff at 3:18 AM on December 16, 2011


I have a fantasy that Hitchens has found himself in front of some poor celestial being trying to give him his afterlife orientation. "Well, I guess I'm not to be damned after all. Are there any fascists in there? If so, I'm not coming in."

Hitch, I hope you're causing trouble somewhere.

.
posted by deanklear at 3:19 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by tykky at 3:20 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by neushoorn at 3:22 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by katiecat at 3:30 AM on December 16, 2011


Sad news.

.
posted by UseyurBrain at 3:41 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by carter at 3:43 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by greenish at 3:54 AM on December 16, 2011


I rarely agreed with CH during his Neo-Churchillian period; it is ironic the he would pass away on "V-I" day, as the misbegotten Operation Iraqi Fuq'up stuttered to its inglorious end.

But he showed the most admirable courage as he faced a battle with the Iron Crab that he could not win. He fought to the end and gave us all a gift of seeing how a man who does not believe in God faces his own mortality. I hope I can display such fortitude when and if I (less than a year younger than CH) must also attend an appointment in Samarra with that most pitiless of human enemies.
posted by rdone at 3:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
Damnit.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 3:58 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by rmannion at 4:08 AM on December 16, 2011


Fuck.

.
posted by Fizz at 4:18 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by fellion at 4:31 AM on December 16, 2011


He will be missed. I agreed with him, then vehemently disagreed with him, then agreed again...I didn't care which, because it was always an entertaining and educational read, and the the agree/disagree part was secondary, and often thought-provoking. I do know that very few writers had his style, wit, intelligence and depth of knowledge. He was brave enough to say what he thought and discuss how he got there, regardless of what others thought, and brave enough to change his mind when the evidence at hand convinced him he should, that is a hell of a lot more than most windbags of any leaning can say about themselves. I loved reading him, I loved his crazy, hard-drinking, old-school Peter O'Toole English debauchery. He was one of a kind and I will miss him.
posted by biscotti at 4:32 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:36 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on December 16, 2011


I lurched leftward at precisely the same time that Hitch was lurching rightward. He was a hell of a writer, a hell of a man.

.
posted by gauche at 4:41 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Renoroc at 4:46 AM on December 16, 2011


“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.”
― Christopher Hitchens

.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:48 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hail and farewell, you magnificent bastard.

.
posted by whuppy at 4:54 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Hickeystudio at 4:54 AM on December 16, 2011


It feels weird saying it considering his point of view on the state of human activity after death, but rest in peace.
posted by rudhraigh at 4:54 AM on December 16, 2011


.

We subscribe to Vanity Fair primarily because a two-year subscription sent to my folks' house is $29.99, and that's a lot of reading for the price. Sometimes when we visit, it's the only thing there to read beside the Harriet Carter catalogs. I loved that Hitchens' email address at the magazine was hitchbitch@vf.com.

And, of all he wrote, my favourite is his opinion of American Coffee. I remember it went something to the effect of: "It is both an insult and a mystery. How can it be so bitter, yet so weak?"
posted by peagood at 4:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.

What a courageous, beautiful life he led. Rest in peace.
posted by BobbyVan at 4:59 AM on December 16, 2011


Goodbye, Hitch.
posted by theredpen at 4:59 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Not The Stig at 5:01 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by sammyo at 5:01 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by purephase at 5:03 AM on December 16, 2011


Took my Granny too. that bastard Esophageal Cancer. RIP
posted by NiteMayr at 5:09 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by OmieWise at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by jquinby at 5:18 AM on December 16, 2011



posted by jepler at 5:23 AM on December 16, 2011


I couldn't have disagreed more with a lot of his viewpoints but I used to enjoy reading his stuff in Vanity Fair. He was a brilliant writer.

.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:26 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by leslies at 5:26 AM on December 16, 2011


Christopher Hitchens was one of my heroes. He lived as he chose and spoke as he thought. He tried to tell the truth and made some mistakes. He earned his reputation and then joyfully endangered it when he felt he had to. He was braver than most men, in his work and -- at the end -- in the face of the stupid mundanity of cancer. He wrote like a fucking lightning strike. I've missed him for a while now but I miss him all over again today.
posted by waxbanks at 5:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in college, Hitchens came to speak on campus. He spoke in big lecture hall in the social sciences building. Outside that lecture hall was a waiting room that had no less than six signs (all of which could be seen at once) indicating that there was no smoking in the building. Naturally, Hitchens smoked throughout his lecture.

It might also have killed him, but there was something very awesome about that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:30 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I found out through the atheist/skeptic grapevine about Hitchens's appearance at the Texas Freethought Convention, where he received the Richard Dawkins Freethinker of the Year Award. He seemed pretty weak, but it was good to see him accept the award. And he spoke and answered questions for quite a while. But what really impressed me was the time he spent with a young skeptic.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 5:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Twitter gives a platform to such air headed, uneducated twats.

Yeah, like the parade of supposedly free-thinking folks who actually believe Twitter killed #godisnotgreat as a trending topic because Christians got mad.
posted by mediareport at 5:36 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


In this man's honor I am smoking and drinking and swearing today. With a vengeance.

.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:45 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will miss his voice. Godspeed Hitch.

.
posted by arcticseal at 5:45 AM on December 16, 2011


It'd be limbo for sure. He'd refuse to enter heaven or hell willingly, and even if he did neither Satan nor God would want him around, stirring shit up.

.
posted by CaseyB at 5:47 AM on December 16, 2011


In his post-diagnosis interview with Charlie Rose, he spoke kindly of believers who said they were going to pray for him, saying that to tell them where to go, on any level and no matter how "polite", would be "churlish." Loved the use of the word, but I loved the principle behind his words even more.

Looking forward to digging into his book about Orwell. RIP, Mr. Hitchens.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:49 AM on December 16, 2011


Hitch is up in Heaven now.

.
posted by Francis7 at 5:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Morrigan at 5:54 AM on December 16, 2011


This is solemn news.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:57 AM on December 16, 2011


Thank you, Mr. Hitchens.

.
posted by raztaj at 6:05 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by tetsuo at 6:07 AM on December 16, 2011


Some of his views were agreeable, some were disagreeable, but one can't fault his integrity. It takes a real mensch to, when challenged on the assertion that waterboarding isn't torture, have himself subjected to it, and then recant his previous conviction.

Farewell, Hitch, and thank you.
posted by acb at 6:12 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Capybara at 6:16 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:21 AM on December 16, 2011


Oh, what a shock and pang of loss this morning to read that Christopher Hitchens died. He had a fine mind, expressed his thoughts astringently, invigorated the world with his articulation. He was very full of life, vivid opinions and left me feeling full of life as well. I will miss knowing he's in the world of the living and grateful for his writing.

May he find resonance in the cosmos.
posted by nickyskye at 6:21 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by theatro at 6:22 AM on December 16, 2011


longform.org has a best-of selection at the top of their page.
posted by jquinby at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by breakfast! at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2011


It's worth noting, however, that Hitchens himself would likely not have hesitated before throwing a verbal bomb in this sort of context, when the departed was someone he despised.

you know, at first I admired this sentiment and, for once, thought this might be an obit thread where a little bomb throwing might actually be appropriate.

To quote Hitch: "fuck that"

I choose to draw a distinction between men in power who use that power to fuck with the minds of the weak and men, like Hitch, who defend the weak and go after the Falwell's of the world.

The biggest tragedy that I can think of out Hitch's death is that we are all robbed of his eulogy of Kissinger.
posted by victors at 6:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


And Kissinger still lives. Fuck.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:34 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


.
posted by pjaust at 6:35 AM on December 16, 2011


I choose to draw a distinction between men in power who use that power to fuck with the minds of the weak and men, like Hitch, who defend the weak and go after the Falwell's of the world.
You must be fucking kidding me.
posted by craichead at 6:36 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:42 AM on December 16, 2011




.
posted by WPW at 6:43 AM on December 16, 2011


The biggest tragedy that I can think of out Hitch's death is that we are all robbed of his eulogy of Kissinger.

Don't worry, I am almost certain it's on file somewhere, waiting.
posted by WPW at 6:44 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


"The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics."

I disagree with him about three of those four things.

.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:45 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by scunning at 6:48 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Runes at 6:50 AM on December 16, 2011


He always struck me as a dancing bear.
posted by hawthorne at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by sinusoidal.tendencies at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2011


A true hero, and brave soul. Be at Peace, Chris.

.
posted by dbiedny at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2011


You must be fucking kidding me.

No I mustn't. As far as I can tell the people he went after, in the sense that he would take a piss at their memorial, like Kissinger, Falwell, Saddam, God, etc., deserved it.

I'll go further and say that people who equate his vitriole reserved for those characters to a difference of opinion with him over theologies and policies kind of missed the point.
posted by victors at 7:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved Hitchens with all my heart. I am so sad to hear of his passing.

For those interested, Douglas Wilson has an obituary in Christianity Today.

Wilson and Hitchens debated several times - in this documentary, this online exchange and at a seminary.

Through those exchanges, Wilson came to really appreciate and care about Hitchens, and I get the sense something like that was reciprocated. I may just be projecting, though.
posted by scunning at 7:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by trip and a half at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2011


I don't think I ever saw or read Hitchens and came away thinking "meh". He always created a reaction for me, whether I agreed or disagreed with him. I will miss that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by gilrain at 7:20 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by willpie at 7:21 AM on December 16, 2011


Christopher Hitchens: A Reading List. (I never paste an entire article into a comment out of copyright concerns, but to hell with it.)
December 16, 2011
Christopher Hitchens: A Reading List
Posted by Alex Koppelman

Christopher Hitchens, who died on Thursday at sixty-two, was one of the most prolific essayists and authors of his time, writing regularly for Vanity Fair, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Slate, among others, and producing a long shelf books, including “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” and his memoir, “Hitch-22.” It would be nearly impossible to collect a truly representative sample of his work, in part, because of the political transformation he made in recent years—a journey from left to right that Ian Parker chronicled in this magazine in 2006—and in part because of the sheer volume, which he managed despite a legendary drinking habit. The pieces selected below are, at least, a taste of some of his notable articles from the past decade.

Trial of the Will": In this, his last article for Vanity Fair, Hitchens wrote of the toll that the treatment for his cancer had taken on his body, but concluded, “So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline.”

Unspoken Truths”: In this article, which he wrote earlier this year for Vanity Fair, Hitchens discussed his cancer, the possibility that it would take his voice from him, and the way in which the ability to speak is connected with the ability to write.

How To Make a Decent Cup of Tea”: Hitchens could turn something as simple as preparing tea into a screed—but, as always, he wrote it well. It may have helped that in this case he was following in the footsteps of one of his heroes, George Orwell.

How Can Anyone Defend Kissinger Now?”: After the Nixon Library released tapes of conversations between then-President Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, in which Kissinger had said, “[I]f they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern,” Hitchens launched another attack on one of his favorite targets. (In his 2001 book, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” Hitchens had argued that Kissinger should be tried for war crimes.)

“The Commander: My Father, Eric Hitchens”: The writer discusses his father and looks back at his childhood in this excerpt from his memoir.

Believe Me, It’s Torture”: Though in his later years he generally aligned himself with the right on issues like the invasion of Iraq, after he chose to be waterboarded in order to determine for himself whether it was truly torture, Hitchens concluded, “I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: ‘If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.’ Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

On Becoming American”: Two years before he officially became a U.S. citizen, Hitchens wrote about his feeling that he already was an American, and what it means to be one.

Mommie Dearest”: Not many people would be willing to take on Mother Theresa, much less spend years doing so. But Hitchens never shied away from such things; in this 2003 piece for Slate, he railed against Pope John Paul II’s decision to beatify the late nun.

The Honorable Schoolboy”: As Christopher Buckley wrote in his obituary for his friend Hitchens, P. G. Wodehouse was “the writer Christopher perhaps esteemed above all others.” In this 2004 book review for The Atlantic, Hitchens wrote of Wodehouse, “His attention to language, his near faultless ability to come up with names that are at once ludicrous and credible, and the intricacy of his plotting are imperishable.”

Stranger in a Strange Land”: In this piece that The Atlantic published two months after the attacks of 9/11, Hitchens summed up his break from the establishment left over the attacks and the war on terror that was then only beginning.
Dammit. Far too young. Far, far too young. Loved the man's writing. Had such respect for his ability to look inward and keep an open mind, but also his passion, willingness to fight for his beliefs and depth. Such depth.

.
posted by zarq at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


.

I always disagreed with him a little less after I'd read or listen to him argue the points.
posted by DigDoug at 7:22 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The biggest tragedy that I can think of out Hitch's death is that we are all robbed of his eulogy of Kissinger."

WPW: Don't worry, I am almost certain it's on file somewhere, waiting."

One can only hope.
posted by zarq at 7:24 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by lholladay at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2011


Well, now he officially knows whether God is real or not.

Nah. He knew before this.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yakuman: "Hitchens was just not that good"

Disagree with him all you want. But saying he wasn't a good writer is dishonest.
posted by falameufilho at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by mmrtnt at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2011


Thank you so much for that, Sticherbeast. That last paragraph is perfect.

Christopher Hitchens was a bully. A bully with a huge vocabulary, but a bully nonetheless. He was a brilliant man who pissed away a good portion of his brilliance on proving an imagined self-superiority that no one challenged except the voices crafted in his mind by decades of alcohol. He enjoyed arguing-not standing by convictions, not defending an actual view- just arguing. For the sole enjoyment of making people feel wrong, which was not to change their minds but to make himself feel right. When people do that here or elsewhere on the internet they're not brilliant minds; they're sociopathic assholes. To call him a "hero" is laughable and to call him a "genius" is only saddening in the wake of how much of his time he spent wasting on trying to make people feel bad for not being him. The man was the verbal equivalent of the "Stop hitting yourself" move.

Oh, also that whole 100,000 dead Iraqis thing. No big deal.

Many people loved his work. I hope you all still learn the right things from it, which I imagine are not the lessons Hitchens himself wanted you to. In fact, may the greatest gift he leave this world be that people recognize his many, many mistakes and learn from them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [22 favorites]


More articles by Hitchens, archived online:

* Windsor Knot

* The Medals of his Defeats

* African Gothic

* Fragments of an Education

Slate has turned their "Fighting Words" column page into a series of memorials, including these:

* Christopher Hitchens' Greatest Slate Hits

* “Hitch, Did You Read My Novel?” Julian Barnes remembers an excruciating conversation with Christopher Hitchens.

"Eeyorish": Anyone who believes in the power of words will miss Hitchens.

* Hitch-10

* Sneaking Into Iraq With Hitchens (And smuggling in booze, too.)
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


.
posted by incandissonance at 7:32 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Legomancer at 7:38 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by aerosolkid at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:43 AM on December 16, 2011


He was wrong in thinking that if your cause was just enough it would make you able to competently, somehow humanely, wage a war. He was most wrong in thinking that if your cause was just enough, sitting in comfort and sending other people's children to fight your war didn't make you an armchair general.

Those are huge mistakes.

They really hurt, cause I loved the guy.
posted by Trochanter at 7:47 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a loss. I know it wasn't a shock but it still feels like a shock.
posted by torticat at 7:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Onion nails it again with only a headine: Fumbling, Inarticulate Obituary Writer Somehow Losing Debate To Christopher Hitchens.
posted by CaseyB at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


.
posted by donovan at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2011


The way I see it, the circumstances of Hitchens' death suggest there is no God. If there were a God, He would surely have made Hitchens' last illness long and drawn-out, with a number of remissions, in order to provide him with the opportunity to develop empathy and self-knowledge through suffering and hope.

On the other hand, it may be that God, in His infinite wisdom, realized very quickly that Hitchens was incapable of developing these qualities even with the tutelage of the Almighty, so He just shrugged His shoulders and said, "Why bother?"
posted by La Cieca at 7:52 AM on December 16, 2011


It's telling that the Douglas Wilson obit published on Christianity Today is subtitled "How to think about the death of the outspoken atheist."

How to...
posted by BlooPen at 7:53 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.

Right or wrong - always worth reading.
Such a profusion of comments that I'm not sure whether anyone has provided links to his earlier work in the Times Literary Supplement. His first article was in 1982.
posted by jan murray at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by likeso at 8:06 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by pahool at 8:07 AM on December 16, 2011


Just yesterday my friends and I were arguing about his take on Nietzsche's dictum Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker from his fearless Vanity Fair piece "Trial of the Will". It's to his credit that his opinions were still a cause for interesting debate even when written from what turned out to be his deathbed.

Although that article wasn't a posthumous piece - there will be plenty of those, no doubt - its opening quote makes as good an epitaph as he could have wanted:
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying.
—Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
Incidentally, I wish his obituaries weren't referring to him solely as an atheist, as though that negative quality solely defined his intellectual outlook. He was a humanist materialist and at least tried to live by the skepticism necessary for that worldview.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:11 AM on December 16, 2011


I was surprised to see my comment condemning Hitchens was removed by moderators, particularly in light of early comments like this:

It's worth noting, however, that Hitchens himself would likely not have hesitated before throwing a verbal bomb in this sort of context, when the departed was someone he despised.

So I will merely reiterate, and request that the moderators do not censor this:

Hitchens, and all the other Chickenhawks, deserve the tortures of the damned for advocating the Iraq war. It was easy for a clever lout like Hitchens to sit back and enjoy the mayhem his words created. It was not so easy for the rest of the world. History already does not look back kindly on his works.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:20 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2011


.

Hitch, you left a wonderful mark on this world!


Also fuck cancer.

You will be sorely missed by many!
posted by handbanana at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by LanTao at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2011


Respect.

I'll be into the scotch tonight.
posted by Decani at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by feste at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2011


...Mean-spirited bunch of wholly unsupported slurs in an obit thread...
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:27 PM on December 16


Impressive.
posted by Decani at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2011


XQUZYPHYR: "He enjoyed arguing-not standing by convictions, not defending an actual view- just arguing. For the sole enjoyment of making people feel wrong, which was not to change their minds but to make himself feel right."

What's the problem with not wanting to change minds? I think his point at the beginning of the 2006 New Yorker profile is fantastically well put:
For Hitchens, this established that Dean was a “pathological liar.”

“All politicians lie!” the women said.

“He’s a doctor,” Hitchens said.

“But he’s a politician.”

“No, excuse me,” Hitchens said. His tone tightened, and his mouth shrunk like a sea anemone poked with a stick; the Hitchens face can, at moments of dialectical urgency, or when seen in an unkindly lit Fox News studio, transform from roguish to sour. (Hitchens’s friend Martin Amis, the novelist, has chided Hitchens for “doing that horrible thing with your lips.”) “Fine,” Hitchens said. “Now that I know that, to you, medical ethics are nothing, you’ve told me all I need to know. I’m not trying to persuade you. Do you think I care whether you agree with me? No. I’m telling you why I disagree with you. That I do care about. I have no further interest in any of your opinions. There’s nothing you wouldn’t make an excuse for.”

“That’s wrong!” they said.

“You know what? I wouldn’t want you on my side.” His tone was businesslike; the laughing protests died away. “I was telling you why I knew that Howard Dean was a psycho and a fraud, and you say, ‘That’s O.K.’ Fuck off. No, I mean it: fuck off. I’m telling you what I think are standards, and you say, ‘What standards? It’s fine, he’s against the Iraq war.’ Fuck. Off. You’re MoveOn.org. ‘Any liar will do. He’s anti-Bush, he can say what he likes.’ Fuck off. You think a doctor can lie in front of an audience of women on a major question, and claim to have suppressed evidence on rape and incest and then to have said he made it up?”

“But Christopher …”

“Save it, sweetie, for someone who cares. It will not be me. You love it, you suck on it. I now know what your standards are, and now you know what mine are, and that’s all the difference—I hope—in the world.”
Sometimes the point of arguing is just to understand what one's beliefs and standards are, and once that's established, they speak for itself. Continuing the discussion is pointless.

charlie don't surf: "I was surprised to see my comment condemning Hitchens was removed by moderators, particularly in light of early comments like this"

Metafilter's stance on obit threads being a place for the celebration of the deceased is bullshit. Hitchens himself has spoken ill of many dead, sometimes with reason, sometimes not, but I'm glad he did. Of course (as I said before on Metatalk) Metafilter's rules are elastic when the deceased is conservative. Just wait for the deaths of, say, Thatcher and Kissinger and let's see how this community and its mods will behave.
posted by falameufilho at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


.

Not for Hitchens, but for the victims of war in Iraq.
posted by malocchio at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


.





He stirred the drink.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011


There are so many things I want to say, but I can't find the words.

.
posted by shmurley at 8:52 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by DataPacRat at 8:53 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by daHIFI at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2011


Christopher Hitchens' brother Peter has written a short In Memoriam on his blog. It is all the more extraordinarily touching given the very public hostility between the brothers over the years.
Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it. ...

I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today . People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to. My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.

posted by bright cold day at 9:03 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


A friend wrote a poignant eulogy: God bless Christopher Hitchens.
posted by scruss at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by jpziller at 9:08 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by bebrave! at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2011


As is often the case, Ta-Nehisi Coates pretty much wrote what I thought better than I could (emphasis mine, because those were the points I would have tried to make):
...Regrettably, I never met Hitchens. But two moments stand out for me. First, reading Letters To A Young Contrarian, which really was an eye-opener for me. I think I'm actually going to have my son read it in the next year or two. And, oddly enough, this encounter with Ralph Reed on the death of Jerry Falwell, where Hitchens refused to shrink into the tempting embrace of false compassion. Again, when you have that clarity of purpose, this sort of necessary incivility comes a little easier.

With that in mind, it would be disrespectful for us to resort to pieties. When I think of Hitchens I also think of this outstanding piece from The New Yorker by Ian Parker and particularly this moment:
Such performances of masculinity don't appear exclusively on the page. Not long ago, in Baltimore, I saw Hitchens challenge a man--perhaps homeless and a little unglued mentally--who had started walking in step with his wife and a woman friend of hers while Hitchens walked some way ahead. Hitchens dropped back to form a flank between the women and the man, then said, "This is the polite version. Go away." The man ambled off. Hitchens pressed home the victory. "Go away faster," he said.

What you get in that piece is a Hitchens generally spoiling for fights, but rarely discriminating among them--and that ugly scene you get a bully. I suspect it wasn't first (or last) offense.) Is that what it takes to make a theory of the solar system tell? Can you have one without the other?

Probably not. But I remain grateful for having studied at Hitchens virtual foot. I would salute his ascent into Valhalla. But I think that just be defiling a warrior's grave...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.

God damn it.
posted by brundlefly at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2011


.

To the negative commenters: do you really need to agree with someone on all major policy issues in order to be respectful right after they've died?

And to see commenters on Metafilter criticizing someone for "arguing for the sake of arguing" is a bit of a joke.

posted by John Cohen at 10:01 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


.
posted by wheat at 10:03 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by xorry at 10:06 AM on December 16, 2011


A quick note about the Trial of the Will article is that he mentions Nietzsche dying from syphilis, but more recent analysis points to him dying from the complications of a brain tumor that also took his father.
posted by destro at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by oneironaut at 10:10 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by AstroGuy at 10:10 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Freyja at 10:17 AM on December 16, 2011


It's very odd to see otherwise sensible people treat the Iraq war as a litmus test which forever dooms the validity of all your other views if you are on the 'wrong' side. Litmus tests are for idiotic republican primary debates, not for reasoned consideration judging the entirety of a man's life as "good" or "bad".
posted by modernnomad at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


They say the hypocrites and the fascists keep
The Courts where reckless youth gloried and drank deep:
And Hitchens, hunted the Gur - now the Gur(*) Stamps o'er his Head, and we occupy Wall Street.

With apologies to Khayyam and Fitzgerald.

*Gur meaning both the wild ass and also grave in old Persian.
posted by humanfont at 10:24 AM on December 16, 2011


I've never really forgiven him that either, but, you know, he's dead now, somehow I've less desire to hold it against him.

Here's Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail - actually worth a read.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on December 16, 2011


To the negative commenters: do you really need to agree with someone on all major policy issues in order to be respectful right after they've died?

Of course not. But I think the larger point is that Hitchens himself was a firebrand who wouldn't hesitate to kick a corpse when he thought they really deserved it, and maybe that sort of candor is a better legacy for him than a traditional "respectful" obit thread.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:32 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hitchens himself was a firebrand who wouldn't hesitate to kick a corpse when he thought they really deserved it

And in that spirit, I present to you, John Dolan's 2005 excoriation of Why Orwell Still Matters.
posted by clarknova at 10:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by tangaroo at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by box at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2011


.

in his own way, he sincerely tried to be a champion for liberalism. and for that, he'll be missed.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:57 AM on December 16, 2011


It's very odd to see otherwise sensible people treat the Iraq war as a litmus test which forever dooms the validity of all your other views if you are on the 'wrong' side. Litmus tests are for idiotic republican primary debates, not for reasoned consideration judging the entirety of a man's life as "good" or "bad".


Usually when we make poor individual decisions, the consequences aren't counted in corpses. Hitchens' were.

He may not have killed anyone personally, but his pugnacious defense of the Iraq travesty (more vociferously and long after it had become apparent what a horror show it really was) provided a good bit of aid and comfort to those who did. Let the Neocons mourn him--after all, his single greatest public act was (unwittingly or not, it hardly matters to the dead) done in their service.

And all the fond remembrances of bonmots past and admiration for his literary prowess and whatnot don't change that unfortunate fact.
posted by Chrischris at 11:10 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, Henry Kissinger is still alive...
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2011


It's very odd to see otherwise sensible people treat the Iraq war as a litmus test which forever dooms the validity of all your other views if you are on the 'wrong' side.

If it helps, I also disagree with his views on compassion, religion, neoimperialism, the funniness of women, the usefulness of Trotskyism, the superiority of the intellectual, the merit of Orwell's tea-making essay or much else of Orwell's really, the virtue of arrogance, that waterboarding is not torture, and that aligning oneself with fundamentalist Christians in order to fight an illegal war against fundamentalist Muslims is a demonstration of reason and mental faculty.

I do, however, agree with him that a cup of tea with brown sugar and no milk is a perfectly delicious and fortifying cup of tea, that waterboarding is torture, that whiskey is largely pretty great, that Mother Teresa was far more destructive than is widely considered, and that death, inescapable as it is, should be no shield from criticism or cloak of temporary respect. I have no opinion on whether the man's life was good or bad, because I don't think lives can be judged in that way. I think he was wrong more often than he was right, and when he was wrong it was more damaging because of his gift for persuasion and a turn of phrase. He also had good taste in beverages and lived as much as he could for as long as he could, and that's not nothing. I will not miss or mourn him, but I would have had a drink with him, and I will have a drink for him.
posted by Errant at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


/put milk in tea.
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2011


I had to laugh this morning when CNN ran a headline that Hitch had "lost his battle with cancer," considering what he wrote about the notion in Vanity Fair:
The bargaining stage, though. Maybe there’s a loophole here. The oncology bargain is that, in return for at least the chance of a few more useful years, you agree to submit to chemotherapy and then, if you are lucky with that, to radiation or even surgery. So here’s the wager: you stick around for a bit, but in return we are going to need some things from you. These things may include your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest, and the hair on your head. This certainly appears to be a reasonable trade. Unfortunately, it also involves confronting one of the most appealing clichés in our language. You’ve heard it all right. People don’t have cancer: they are reported to be battling cancer. No well-wisher omits the combative image: You can beat this. It’s even in obituaries for cancer losers, as if one might reasonably say of someone that they died after a long and brave struggle with mortality. You don’t hear it about long-term sufferers from heart disease or kidney failure.

Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.
posted by homunculus at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


And we also had appreciation of fine Scotch in common (even though he liked Johnnie Walker blended whisky and I like single malt).

Specifically the Black Label, which he referred to as "Mr. Walker's amber restorative." I just bought a bottle in his honor.
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2011


Usually when we make poor individual decisions, the consequences aren't counted in corpses. Hitchens' were.

He may not have killed anyone personally, but his pugnacious defense of the Iraq travesty (more vociferously and long after it had become apparent what a horror show it really was) provided a good bit of aid and comfort to those who did. Let the Neocons mourn him--after all, his single greatest public act was (unwittingly or not, it hardly matters to the dead) done in their service.


This is just rubbish. Hitchens was a writer, not a public policy maker. I disagreed with him on Iraq, but it's frankly absurd to think that he had the slightest impact on the way the war began or progressed. He has had a life in public for decades, with varied contributions and opinions on secularism, women, war, literature, journalism, etc. including (of course) vociferous opposition to the Vietnam war (which I suspect you would be in agreement with). You are claiming one particular opinion of his is "his greatest public act" only because it touches on an issue that is obviously (and justifiably, don't get me wrong), dear to your own heart. But again, that is a litmus test by which I simply cannot abide.

I understand that for a certain generation of Americans, the Iraq war will be the be all and end all of politics for the foreseeable future. But Hitchens' career, for all its faults, should not be reduced to his opinion on that particular conflict.
posted by modernnomad at 11:46 AM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Fuck esophageal cancer.
I'd never heard of it until a friend of a friend was diagnosed recently. It's really brutal. Often, it grows to Stage 3 before the patient notices anything wrong."

For my father, it was "healthiest in years" checkup to "stage 4" in one trip.

Fuck cancer.

.
posted by flaterik at 11:46 AM on December 16, 2011


Usually when we make poor individual decisions, the consequences aren't counted in corpses. Hitchens' were.

Stop. Just stop. That he is responsible, even indirectly, for the death of anyone is the most irrational, irresponsible, childish, selfish and yes, wholly inappropriate argument to make in an obit I can possibly imagine.
posted by victors at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hitchens was a writer, not a public policy maker. I disagreed with him on Iraq, but it's frankly absurd to think that he had the slightest impact on the way the war began or progressed.

and

Stop. Just stop. That he is responsible, even indirectly, for the death of anyone is the most irrational, irresponsible, childish, selfish and yes, wholly inappropriate argument to make in an obit I can possibly imagine.


Ok, I'll stop. Just stop. After all, the consensus seems to be developing that he was simply a jolly good writer and a great wit whose opinions probably had absolutely no consequences in the wider world. I'm sure Hitchens would demurely agree with that assessment--after all, his gentle soul and good humor toward his fellow man was the stuff of legends, wasn't it?
posted by Chrischris at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


after all, his gentle soul and good humor toward his fellow man was the stuff of legends,

Sarcasm as a cop-out doesn't make your case or justify a small, awful accusation of murder in an obit. Shame.
posted by victors at 12:13 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


.
posted by tempythethird at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2011


Billy Bragg: I must add my voice to those who mourn the loss of Christopher Hitchens. Although I didn't always agree with him, I admired the compulsion to speak his mind that both made him enemies and lost him friends. He was a wonderfully readable writer on any subject who sought to challenge the cosy preconceptions of his readership, much like his hero, George Orwell. Looking around English men of letters, I don't see anyone stepping up to take his place.

"Didn't always agree with him" is putting it mildly for me, but this about sums up my sort of complicated feelings on his death, too. He drove me nuts more than he didn't (and I'm one of those who indeed thinks Iraq was a pretty significant litmus test, and that he failed terribly), yet I never thought it was a bad thing having his voice in the world.

I am also genuinely grateful to him for raging so brilliantly against the glurgification of cancer treatment and cancer patients during his illness and as he began to die. Our culture needs far more people looking as unflinchingly as he did at mortality, and speaking out about it, too. For that, and more, I raised a cup of tea to him this morning, and will raise a glass of whiskey to him tonight.
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]




.
posted by Splunge at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2011


I was amused to find that one of the original #SlatePitches (a meme from 2009) was:
Hitchens: What all the obituaries about the beloved figure who recently died fail to mention.

Now, what would his obit pitch be for this beloved figure who recently died?
posted by dhartung at 12:36 PM on December 16, 2011


It's very odd to see otherwise sensible people treat the Iraq war as a litmus test which forever dooms the validity of all your other views if you are on the 'wrong' side.

Were you talking about us or him?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2011


The telegraph obit is, as always, worth a read.

.
posted by adamvasco at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2011


" After all, the consensus seems to be developing that he was simply a jolly good writer and a great wit whose opinions probably had absolutely no consequences in the wider world."

I've always found it interesting and disappointing that people are quick to defend the notion that art and rhetoric are valuable and influential when their effects are thought to be beneficial (and that view is amply demonstrated in this thread) but quick to disavow any such responsibility for effects when they are thought to be harmful.

If Hitchens's writing was important, it was important because he influenced people. Again, this view is repeatedly demonstrated in this thread by those who attest to the positive influence his writing has had on their lives. Some of these people either have said (I'm not going to re-read this entire thread), or would say, that Hitchens was "responsible" for this positive influence.

And if that's true—and I think it is—then it's also true that his writing is responsible for the negative influences, as well. If we are willing to credit commentators and popular activists for, say, drawing attention to harmful public policy regarding financial deregulation or environmental degradation or product safety or whatever, and give them awards and praise them for their tireless advocacy for justice, then we should be equally willing to give them credit for their influence on public policy in directions we believe are harmful and/or morally wrong.

And, indeed, I suspect that many people here would be entirely willing to hold, say, Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh partly responsible for the consequences of neo-Imperialist American foreign policy. It's only in that rare situation when we personally like, or otherwise agree with, a commentator who has been strongly identified with a position we oppose that we want to argue that it's absurd to hold them (partly) responsible for the consequences of that position. That is hypocritical.

Now, maybe some or a few people reading this are just not hypocritical in this way. Good for you. Maybe these people just don't hold anyone responsible in any way, to any degree, for the consequences of rhetoric and propaganda and only consider direct, authoritative, causal relationships to be responsible relationships. But believing that would be stupid.

Being someone with a large audience in civil discourse means being someone with a much greater than average degree of civil responsibility. Playing that role, placing oneself into that role, means shouldering a considerable ethical burden.

I don't think that Hitchens would deny this and I do think he willingly took on that burden and believed himself to conduct himself accordingly. It's deeply disrespectful of who he was, and who he presented himself as, to attempt to diminish the civil importance, the ethical dimension, of his public speech.

Yes, he bears some responsibility for the consequences of the US's Iraq war. He believed those consequences to be beneficial and that's why he wielded his influence in support of them. He was wrong; and by his own stated views and actions we know that if he had agreed with those of us who think those consequences have been bad, he would have held himself partly responsible for them, just as he has done with other publicly influential persons with whom he strongly disagreed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2011 [15 favorites]


A one-of-a-kind public figure, and the last of a rare breed: the public literary man. That, more than anything, is what I will miss about him, since I think he almost single-handedly elevated our mass media conversation, a role I think it doesn't especially care to replace.

I too hate cancer, and I was hoping, probably foolishly, that somehow he could outlast it a bit further. I'm very sorry that it stole maybe 10 productive years from his life, and the good times he clearly had with his family and many friends.

It will be months before I feel it isn't weird not to find Hitchens commenting on the major international events of the day.
posted by Philemon at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2011


Pretty sure they would have invaded Iraq with or without his approval.
posted by Artw at 1:09 PM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think obit threads are places for honest reflection.
posted by Trochanter at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here are some choice excerpts from previous Christopher Hitchens obituaries and memorials of the deceased.

Jerry Falwell:
The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled "credulous idiot…" The evil that he did will live after him… In his dingy racist past, Falwell attacked those churchmen who mixed the two worlds of faith and politics and called for civil rights… It's a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it's extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the "faith-based."
Mother Theresa:
MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction… Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.
Ronald Reagan:
Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife—the one that you remember—because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.
posted by grouse at 1:18 PM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Peter Rothberg at The Nation has posted a roundup of 7 youtube clips of Hitchens, "showing his persuasive depth."
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


to step into an obit thread and announce that you won't miss the guy because his writings, which, oh by the way, just coincidentally don't match up to your political opinions, caused countless deaths around the world is fucking grotesque.
That strikes me as a little funny.

What the man was famous for was being verbally vicious. That was pretty much his whole schtick: he eviscerated people who disagreed with him. His savage wit was unchecked by compassion or humility, both of which he took to be signs of weakness. He had no qualms at all about speaking ill of the recently dead. So was he fucking grotesque, or is that different because he was famous and powerful?
posted by craichead at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


Trochanter: "I think obit threads are places for honest reflection."

That's pretty much how I feel about it, too. For heaven's sake, if we can't be straightforward and talk about Hitchens the man, warts and all, honestly and from the heart, then we've missed one of the greater lessons of his life and career.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


He enjoyed arguing-not standing by convictions, not defending an actual view- just arguing.

That is utter bullshit. Sure, Hitchens was consumed with solipsism when he argued for the Iraq War even after it went completely upside-down, but it was based on principles not very different from Orwell's ideals that were anti-fascist.

Let's imagine that all of the anti-fascists had their way and we had invaded Germany in 1938. It would be impossible to know, in that historical timeline, that the world had avoided the unspeakable terrors inflicted by that government. We may well be reading articles today about the war crimes committed by European powers after they decimated Germany once again, but this time before the tanks rolled over the border into Poland. Hitchens, I have no doubt, would have been calling for an early invasion then as well. And in that case he would probably have been right.

So, I understand his position that fundamentalist Islam is fascist, because there's plenty of evidence to back that up. There's a strict rulebook that you obey or face death — the same one that was just used to behead a woman for witchcraft in the heartland of our dear allies in Saudi Arabia. And this was Hitchens point: there is a difference between our civilization and that of fundamentalist Islam, and our civilization is better. He thought we should be prepared to defend that civilization at all costs, and he fought the Catholic Church for some of the same reasons: secular democracy is far superior to theocracies. State sponsored religious hierarchies tend to be full of mindless violence and ignorance. Full stop.

While you may believe that invading Iraq was monumentally stupid and wrong and ignorant — as I do — you need to address Hitchens' principles for supporting the invasion instead of pretending that he doesn't have any. Otherwise people might mistake your comments as an attempt to make a dead man look bad in his obit thread so you can make yourself look good.
posted by deanklear at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Griphus, thanks for the Falwell quote. On our first date, my now-wife and I had a few hours prior independently read Hitchens' remembrance of the late Reverend, and were both struck (dare I say, tickled) at the use of the word "carcass."
posted by BobbyVan at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2011


craichead: "That was pretty much his whole schtick: he eviscerated people who disagreed with him."

Maybe, but I think it was more that he liked to take the piss out of sacred cows.... (Churchill. Reigion. Reagan. Mother Theresa. Even himself, at times.) ...but he was reportedly unfailingly polite and gracious to people who disagreed with him that he respected and did not believe to be hypocrites.

From Douglas Wilson's obit, linked above:
As a result of all this, we were thrown together in a number of situations. One time we shared a panel in Dallas, and I told the crowd there that if Christopher and I were not careful, we were in danger of becoming friends. During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn't wink at me, but he might as well have.

So we got on well with each other, because each of us knew where the other one stood. Eugene Genovese, before he became a believer, once commented on the tendency that some have to try to garner respect by giving away portions, big or small, of what they profess to believe. "If other religions offer equally valid ways to salvation and if Christianity itself may be understood solely as a code of morals and ethics, then we may as well all become Buddhists or, better, atheists. I intend no offense, but it takes one to know one. And when I read much Protestant theology and religious history today, I have the warm feeling that I am in the company of fellow unbelievers" (The Southern Front, pp. 9–10). Ironically, the branch of the faith most interested in getting the "cultured despisers" to pay us some respect is really not that effective, and this is a strategy that can frequently be found on the pointed end of its own petard. Respectability depends on not caring too much about respectability. Unbelievers can smell accommodation, and when someone like Christopher meets someone who actually believes all the articles in the Creed, including that part about Jesus coming back from the dead, it delights him. Here is someone actually willing to defend what is being attacked. Militant atheists are often exasperated with opponents whose strategy appears to be "surrender slowly."

G. K. Chesterton once pointed to the salutary effect that the great agnostics had on him—that effect being that of "arousing doubts deeper than their own." Christopher was an heir of the Enlightenment tradition, and would have felt right at home in the 18th-century salons of Paris. He wanted to carry on the grand tradition of doubting what had been inherited from Christendom, and to take great delight in doubting it.

posted by zarq at 1:39 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:59 PM on December 16, 2011


In memorial, the Munk Debates are making available free, unlimited online streaming of his debate with Tony Blair on religion. The link is good for the next 72 hours.
posted by Dasein at 2:24 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]




.
posted by glhaynes at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by jkaczor at 4:11 PM on December 16, 2011


Andrew Sullivan, who was very close to Hitchens, has been accumulating a remarkable series of posts, memories, and aggregated encomia (to wax Hitchensian for a moment).

Great CH quote on the death of Jerry Falwell: "If they gave him an enema they could bury him in a matchbox."
posted by spitbull at 4:21 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reference to Chesterton reminds me of the duel in The Ball and The Cross. The two main characters of that book are an atheist and a believer, who spar through the entire book, for the sensible reason that if anything is worth fighting for, then surely the existence or nonexistence of God would be worth fighting for. Hitchens seemed to have approach arguments in a similar way - if something was worth disagreeing about, it was also worth pursuing to the ends of a scorched earth.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:48 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Dolan's 2005 excoriation of Why Orwell Still Matters

Wow, that's quite a brutal takedown, of both Hitchens and Orwell. Fascinating read, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 4:50 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]




[It's that time in the obit thread where we tell you to go to MetaTalk if you just want to fight about this sort of thing. It's the same old thing, and it's the way we do things and if you don't like it there is a place to go to talk about it which is Not This Thread. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 PM on December 16, 2011


Thanks, homunculus; that link to John Cook's Gawker piece is another good one. And having caught up on the thread, I can't decide which notion I find more bizarre: that public intellectuals bear no responsibility at all for violent outcomes of policies they repeatedly strongly endorse, or that somehow having a clear-eyed discussion about Hitchens' utterly debased justification of the Iraq invasion is the equivalent to creating a "litmus test" that "forever dooms" the validity of his views on other issues. Both seem equally strange.
posted by mediareport at 6:08 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]




.
posted by Oh OK HA HA at 6:44 PM on December 16, 2011


.
posted by brevator at 7:35 PM on December 16, 2011


The AV Club has a damn good obituary, complete with videos from throughout Hitchens' life.
Christopher Hitchens, a journalist and essayist who commented on politics and culture at large with searing insight and rakish verve, threw his acid wit in the face of tyranny and stupidity, wrote freely (and successfully) about his distaste for religion, and remained frustratingly, dazzlingly engaging even when he was given to contrarian provocation or just deliberately being an asshole, died last night at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, according to a statement from Vanity Fair. Hitchens was 62.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:31 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


.
posted by amorphatist at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2011


"Every day of his declining life he demonstrated the falsehood of that most squalid of Christian lies: that there are no atheists in foxholes. Hitch was in a foxhole, and he dealt with it with a courage, an honesty and a dignity that any of us would be, and should be, proud to be able to muster. And in the process, he showed himself to be even more deserving of our admiration, respect, and love." -Richard Dawkins
posted by vorfeed at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald is having none of it.
posted by scody at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


.
posted by HLD at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2011


scody: "Glenn Greenwald is having none of it."

Salon also has a section devoted to obits and essays about Hitchens: The Virtuoso.
posted by zarq at 12:22 PM on December 17, 2011


The Best of the Hitchslap .
posted by adamvasco at 1:10 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Iraq War aside, he was still a man of unique and uniquely well-defended opinion. I'll miss his superb writing.
posted by hellslinger at 12:14 AM on December 18, 2011


Scody: Glenn Greenwald is having none of it.

/Derail

Great article. He makes an excellent case about hypocritical, media complicit post-mortem deification with Reagan as the egregious example of it, and warning of it's less honorable intentions.

Should the death of one whose views in life were at time repellent (and plain wrong) render us silent and complicit?

It shouldn't, and Hitchen's for all his amazing qualities should be fair game in that question, and I say worthy of another FPP in that regard specifically in t-minus, whatever is left of the weekend and a few days or whatever...





/Derail

posted by Skygazer at 10:35 AM on December 18, 2011


*Goes back to, silently, sharpening the knives.*
posted by Skygazer at 10:37 AM on December 18, 2011


Skygazer: "...whatever is left of the weekend..."

I read that as "Whatever is left of the weakened."
posted by symbioid at 10:44 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hitchslap #t=5m20
posted by jeffburdges at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2011


.
posted by smithsmith at 4:33 PM on December 18, 2011


Hitchens practically made a career out of speaking-ill-of-the-dead. It would be more disrespectful of him to gloss over his weaknesses, even in his obit thread. He was often courageous in his public stands on atheism and against religion, and against all the petty personality cults (mother theresa, etc) that distort the public conversation.

That said, he was grotesquely wrong on the Iraq war, and at least some of the blame for that catastrophe can be laid at his feet. People should never ignore that, and I don't think he ever apologized for it, the way that Andrew Sullivan apologized for his own complicity in the war mongering that led to the invasion.
posted by empath at 9:41 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It must be lovely when your racism coincides so nicely with your atheism that people will overlook one because they're flattered by the other.
posted by codacorolla at 10:27 PM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


--at least some of the blame for that catastrophe can be laid at his feet--

Total and complete bullshit.

The cheersquad in that Jodie Foster rape movie (The Accused*)? Complicit: the crime wouldn't have occurred without them.

If CH had written from the other side on Iraq or not at all? Absolutely zero difference to the outcome : the invasion and magnitude of death and destruction will have been the same.

Get some perspective man.
posted by peacay at 12:54 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If CH had written from the other side on Iraq or not at all? Absolutely zero difference to the outcome

Well, at the very least, the world would have one less asshole.
posted by mek at 2:29 AM on December 19, 2011


Katha Pollitt on Hitchens in The Nation.
So many people have praised Christopher so effusively, I want to complicate the picture even at the risk of seeming churlish. His drinking was not something to admire, and it was not a charming foible. Maybe sometimes it made him warm and expansive, but I never saw that side of it. What I saw was that drinking made him angry and combative and bullying, often toward people who were way out of his league—elderly guests on the Nation cruise, interns (especially female interns). Drinking didn’t make him a better writer either—that’s another myth. Christopher was such a practiced hand, with a style that was so patented, so integrally an expression of his personality, he was so sure he was right about whatever the subject, he could meet his deadlines even when he was totally sozzled. But those passages of pointless linguistic pirouetting? The arguments that don’t track if you look beneath the bravura phrasing? Forgive the cliché: that was the booze talking…

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 all came off the top of his head, or the depths of his id. Women aren’t funny. Women shouldn’t need to/want to/get to have a job. The Dixie Chicks were “fucking fat slags” (not “sluts,” as he misremembered later). And then of course there was his 1989 column in which he attacked legal abortion and his cartoon version of feminism as “possessive individualism.” I don’t suppose I ever really forgave Christopher for that.
posted by grouse at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


If CH had written from the other side on Iraq or not at all? Absolutely zero difference to the outcome : the invasion and magnitude of death and destruction will have been the same.

So called 'leftists' like Hitchens (and people like him in the British media) gave political cover to Tony Blair for supporting the war.
posted by empath at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


empath, think what you like, comment as you will.
But this sort of intellectual laziness -- attacking generic journalist 'enemy' as if they bear similar burden and responsibility as the responsible warmongering US/UK govts -- only diminishes you.

I don't hold it against you particularly; we're all guilty at times of chasing after apparitions in the hopes of hurting the real foe(s), but you were factually & morally incorrect to use the word complicit, unless you want to put up some links supporting the notion that CH was anything but a foghorn for his own (twisted as they may be) philosophies on this broader subject (Iraq, Islamic fundamentalism &c....) and that those ideals that he ARGUED were anything but notionally/by chance/ in agreement with the GWB-team. And if you're only able to view Left/Right Us/Them dichotomy on this and any other political subject then, again, it's a pretty unsophisticated knee-jerk position to take.
I just generally expect a better class of argument from you.
posted by peacay at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2011


He didn't argue ideals. He argued policies and moved the public mood in favor of war. In a democracy, opinions have consequences. If you vote for war, if you argue for war, you are responsible for war. And some, by virtue of their influence, are more responsible than others.

Hitchens bears more of the responsibility of what happened in Iraq than most. And he never apologized for it or regretted it. That's something that needs to be noted when talking about the man's life. He wouldn't have hesitated applying the same standard to others.
posted by empath at 7:22 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


put up some links supporting the notion that CH was anything but a foghorn for his own (twisted as they may be) philosophies on this broader subject (Iraq, Islamic fundamentalism &c....) and that those ideals that he ARGUED were anything but notionally/by chance/ in agreement with the GWB-team.

The Dixie Chicks, who dared to criticize GWB, were referred to to by Hitchens as Fat, Ugly Slags . And then went on to admit he knew absolutely nothing about them, save they opposed Bush's prosecution of the Iraq war.

This is the same man who once said about Bush: "[George W Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.

And yet, there he is, a few years later, doing Bush's muck-work in attacking those who would criticize the then-president. You feel free to draw your own conclusions about Hitchens' moral rectitude regarding the matter. The rest of us will draw ours.
posted by Chrischris at 7:29 PM on December 19, 2011


TBH I think both of them were too swollen headed from the newfound US attention they were getting to care what anyone in the UK thought.
posted by Artw at 7:30 PM on December 19, 2011


See Chrischris/empath, I don't say the position(s) and views and rudenesses of CH don't deserve derision and criticism. But you guys are off base when you try to put Hitchens' level of responsibility for Iraq in any remote universe near the govt of UK & US. It's just such utter and complete bullshit. But I think you actually know it.

If they used CH's writings as a brick in a justification wall or if CH cherrypicked the GWB-team's attitude or policies it was simply opportunism on both sides. That's not fucking ownership of responsibility or premediated collusion for the goddamned war. CH owns his writings/arguments. Criticise those as his own; and not because you make the GIANT FUCKING LEAP OF STRATOSPHERIC proportions to say CH was complicit with the bloody govts.
You just want to hate so much because you incorrectly decided he was your lefty hero and he turned on YOU and so he's a traitor to the cause you decided to align him with. You were wrong in the first place. The guy was aligned to philosophies/ideas and not to tribes.

Again, I don't agree with CH's positions in relation to Iraq. But his field of work is large and his style of thinking admirable, even, or, perhaps, because, I disagree with a lot of what he's had to say, but he makes me think much much much much more deeply.

I'm through with this. As I say: think and comment as you will, but you are not going to shift my position on this. You have overreached in my book. It's Cheney and Blair and Rumsfeld and all the rest of the actual fucking criminals you want.
posted by peacay at 10:34 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


You just want to hate so much because you incorrectly decided he was your lefty hero and he turned on YOU and so he's a traitor to the cause you decided to align him with. You were wrong in the first place.

Woah partner, that's a lot of projection there. I've never been a fan of Christopher Hitchens. And never thought of him as a traitor or as part of my cause, whatever you think that is. I was against the war, he was for it. That's all. I was protesting in the streets, doing what I could (not much) to turn us away from the impending catastrophe and he was doing all he could to steer us towards it.
posted by empath at 11:10 PM on December 19, 2011


It's Cheney and Blair and Rumsfeld and all the rest of the actual fucking criminals you want.

And the devil takes the hindmost.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:25 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


--that's a lot of projection there--

Aye. Withdrawn. Apologies.
posted by peacay at 11:28 PM on December 19, 2011


Host du gehert? Chr-stopher Hitchens, alevashalom, was an MOT! Who knew?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:52 AM on December 20, 2011


Who knew?

Yep. He's spoken about it before and as the Tablet essay mentions, he wrote about it in Hitch-22. His mother hid her heritage from him because she wanted him to be able to pass as 'a proper English gentleman.'
posted by zarq at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2011


I said before that I really thought Hitchens tried to be a champion for liberalism in his own way, and I do believe that. What I didn't say, because it seemed in poor taste (but doesn't so much anymore, given the context), is that, because he was such an arrogant, insensitive boor in the way he set about it, he likely did far more harm than good in that regard. So while his intentions will be missed (since there just aren't enough public figures around these days who even want to put on the mantle of liberalism), his tactless, bullying approach to furthering his own particularly narrow vision of liberalism--and the counterproductive effects produced as a result--will not.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:35 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Burn in Hell, Christopher Hitchens
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


That Destructo piece made my like him more. YMMV.

He may be rotting, but not in hell.
posted by unSane at 2:31 PM on December 22, 2011


Hell has a better literary scene anyhow.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:42 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll miss you, old chum.

Daniel Thomas Moran of the American Humanist Association says it better than I could:

"Christopher Hitchens, whom I have often to refer to as “God’s gift to atheists,” was among the rarest of men; not because of his intellect, not because of his skill at prose, and not because of his extraordinary knowledge of the manners and matters of the world. There are many who are similarly gifted and accomplished. It was, rather, because of his inestimable courage, his demand to be heard, his facing down of hypocrites and charlatans, and his being a champion for reason."
posted by troll at 4:22 PM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]




Burn in Hell, Christopher Hitchens

As the answer to the apocryphal physics problem posits, all of us are unbelievers of at least one religion that avers our unbelief condemns us to hell, so he'll have lots and lots of company.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:51 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A DEBATE BETWEEN Christopher Hitchens & Kenneth Miller on: “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?”
posted by troll at 5:51 PM on January 11, 2012


« Older I'm gonna sing the Doom song now   |   Christopher Alexander Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post