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January 5, 2012 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Stephen Fry and Friends on Christopher Hitchens. Parts 2 3 4

Richard Dawkins join Stephen in the actual theater, and voice chat guests include Martin Amis, Christopher Buckley, James Fenton, Salman Rushdie, and Sean Penn.
posted by lazaruslong (75 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Watching this I came across a favourite quote I'd missed in the highlights:
You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend.

-- Yasir Arafat
posted by teppic at 6:21 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Staked his legacy on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Failed.

He certainly had his moments though.
posted by bardic at 6:41 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd hoped 2012 would be a year without Hitch's drinking buddies telling us what a great old bloke he was.
posted by docgonzo at 6:43 PM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's old Sean Penn, being a total dick, smoking cigarettes while memorializing a guy who died from esophageal cancer. Fuck you, Sean Penn.
posted by xmutex at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


What‽ Christopher Hitchens supported the invasion of Iraq‽ Why did no-one here mention this before‽
posted by howfar at 7:04 PM on January 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Hitch is up in Heaven now, and I'm sure he's touched by such a loving memorial.

(That's the funniest thing I can think of to say to this audience.)
posted by The World Famous at 7:11 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


xmutex, smoking is far from the only cause of esophageal cancer.
posted by flaterik at 7:14 PM on January 5, 2012


And..y'know what? If a guy who loved climbing mountains died falling off a mountain, would it seriously be a dick move for another climber to send their message of condolence from up a mountain?

If you think Sean Penn is being a tasteless dick, you must fucking hate Christianity, that's all I can say.
posted by howfar at 7:18 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sean Penn always struck me as the sort of credulous, image-focused individual that Hitchens so often punctured. Seems like an odd fit.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:33 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am a big fan of Hitchens. This kind of unchallenged worship doesn't seem fitting for him though.

It is a hugely kind gesture of his friends to do this for him, I guess...
posted by hellslinger at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2012


There's old Sean Penn, being a total dick, smoking cigarettes while memorializing a guy who died from esophageal cancer. Fuck you, Sean Penn.

This was recorded five weeks before Christopher Hitchens died (when they say "he couldn't be here tonight", for once it's not a euphemism for death).
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So much name dropping.
posted by Corduroy at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2012


Hey, it's not the memorial thread. Time to speak truth.

Christopher Hitchens. Committed Trotskyite in the 1980, utterly insane Clinton hater in the 1990s, and warmonger in the first decade of the 21st century.

This country went to hell, and Christopher Hitchens spent twenty plus years of his life and his considerable talent making sure it did so.

I don't believe in an afterlife, but if I'm wrong, I'm comforted by this: Christopher Hitchens will spend eternity burning in hell. I only pray his death was half as painful a the millions he eagerly condemned to die because "the terrorists" scared him so. And, in this case, I ask only one thing: that I be placed next to him in hell, so I can spend eternity spitting on his soul.

Fuck you, Hitchens.

Fuck. You.
posted by eriko at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


How's that for contrarian?
posted by eriko at 7:58 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


When are you doing that?
posted by howfar at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2012


Contrarian != Douchebag.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:01 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love the smell of bile in the evening. Tastes like metafilterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
posted by lalochezia at 8:01 PM on January 5, 2012


In other news, I liked this bit the best:

So what we are here, perhaps most of all to celebrate, is that someone in this cultural desert of celebrity worship, counter-enlightenment malice, and revealed scripture tyranny, someone has shown that there is still, in this world, especially amongst the intelligent and curious young, a furious appetite for ideas, for knowledge, for thought, and for the questioning of authority.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2012


Contrarian != Douchebag.

But apparently someone in this thread thinks it does = laughably overwrought Peter Griffin impression.
posted by howfar at 8:03 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Stephen Fry post surely took a queer turn.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:05 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hitchens would be the last person to feign respect just because somebody had died.

One awful piece of opportunism on Hitchens’ part was his decision to attack Edward Said just before his death, and then for good measure again in his obituary. With his attacks on Edward, especially the final post mortem, Hitchens couldn’t even claim the pretense of despising a corrupt presidency, a rapist and liar or any of the other things he called Clinton. That final attack on Said was purely for attention–which fuelled his other attacks but this one most starkly because of the absence of any high principle to invoke. Here he decided both to bask in his former friend’s fame, recalling the little moments that made it clear he was intimate with the man, and to put himself at the center of the spotlight by taking his old friend down a few notches. In a career of awful moves, that was one of the worst. He also rounded on Gore Vidal who had done so much to promote his career as dauphin of contrarianism.
posted by moorooka at 8:06 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks, maybe not turn this into a race for the bottom determining who we can say "fuck you" about? It makes this website seem like other websites that are worse. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 PM on January 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sean Penn always struck me as the sort of credulous, image-focused individual that Hitchens so often punctured. Seems like an odd fit.

He seems to have a fair number of Christian friends as well. The people you enjoy a drink and good conversation with isn't necessarily determined by any other criteria than, well, the fact that you enjoy a drink and good conversation with them.

Christopher Hitchens. Committed Trotskyite in the 1980, utterly insane Clinton hater in the 1990s, and warmonger in the first decade of the 21st century.

Someday I want to read (or, hell, write) a book on the apparently quite sizable number of people who made this particular journey - from militant Leftism in the '60s and '70s to the Right in the '80s and '90s. David Horowitz is another one. I mean, I was born in the '80s, so by the time I came of age, Trotskyism and Maoism and all the rest were dead, essentially, something to step on on the way out into the brave new post-'89 world. But the remarkable dogmatism, the idea that "commitment" to a cause is itself a virtue, even the most important virtue, seems to have carried over for many people even as they switched sides completely. It reminds me of Ayn Rand, re-creating Stalinism in miniature in her avowedly anti-Communist Objectivist cult.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:16 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hypocrisy can in fact make your opponent look bad, but it doesn't bolster your argument.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:18 PM on January 5, 2012


I'll stand up for him. Hitchens had balls of steel. He went after Kissinger because Kissinger was a war criminal. He went after Clinton because Clinton was a liar and a rapist. He went after Mother Theresa because she was a fraud who did much more harm than good.

Then he went after God.

I didn't agree with him on the war, there are better ways of fighting fundamentalists. But he was the first guy who showed me I didn't have to hide my atheism and for that I'll always be grateful.

So on the one hand you have Hitchens who attacked a powerful if disliked Republican, a popular ex-president, one of the most beloved women in the world and the institution of religion.

On the other, you have a guy on the internet telling a dead guy to fuck off.

Well played eriko, well played.
posted by Bonzai at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


I don't agree with Hitchens about the Iraq War, but I've always found criticism of him on that score a little self-righteous, especially when it comes from people who are not against all wars or even all wars of choice, just that war. For example a lot of people who opposed the Iraq War supported Obama's intervention in Libya. That's a completely defensible pair of positions to take, but not if you are calling Hitchens a chickenhawk and an accessory to murder and so on, since you obviously have no problem supporting wars you don't participate in and that inevitably kill a certain number of innocents and violate the sovereignty of other nations when they are wars you agree with. Hitchens was wrong on Iraq, but only pragmatically so. Military force to topple Saddam would have been morally defensible had it not turned out that the cure was worse than the disease. And who can say it was always obvious without the benefit of hindsight that Libya would turn out well and Iraq wouldn't?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 9:33 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someday I want to read (or, hell, write) a book on the apparently quite sizable number of people who made this particular journey - from militant Leftism in the '60s and '70s to the Right in the '80s and '90s.

This is generally called "neo-conservatism" (though Hitchens doesn't precisely fit there, Horowitz certainly does, or at least did.) There are already about two bazillion books on it.
posted by Jahaza at 9:38 PM on January 5, 2012


L.P. Hatecraft: "And who can say it was always obvious without the benefit of hindsight that Libya would turn out well"

Honestly, I wouldn't say it's 100% certain that Libya's going to turn out well.
posted by Copronymus at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then he went after God.

As an athiest, he can hardly "go after" a being he doesn't believe in. I can't be out to get Santa Claus.
posted by Jahaza at 9:40 PM on January 5, 2012


How's that for contrarian?

On metafilter? About as brave as shitting on any atheist who isn't a fawning toady to religion, or shouting anti-gay slurs at a Santorum rally. But if it makes you feel like a legend in your own mind, go for it.

I don't agree with Hitchens about the Iraq War, but I've always found criticism of him on that score a little self-righteous, especially when it comes from people who are not against all wars or even all wars of choice, just that war.

Or from people who have been gunning for Hitchens since he started writing rude-but-true things about a certain nun, which seemed to be what put him beyond the pale for more than a few people; slagging off Kissinger was fine, but someone who left the afflicted to die in agony? Bbbbbbbut she's a saint!
posted by rodgerd at 9:43 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jahaza: "As an athiest, he can hardly "go after" a being he doesn't believe in. I can't be out to get Santa Claus."

I thought I might be permitted a bit of artistic license with that sentence. Obviously he went after religion not god.
posted by Bonzai at 9:44 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I too disagreed vehemently with Hitch on Iraq. But he was the only person I ever heard (and met, briefly) who could put that misguided case with enough force to feel, albeit only briefly, that it might actually have some merit. That's how good an arguer he was. He had some solid criticisms of Clinton, too, although he did go a bit OTT there. His attacks on Kissinger and Mother Theresa, however, were full on, righteous and brave. His no-holds-barred, in-their-face atheism was inspirational and much-needed in the current foul brew of resurgent fundamentalism and wishy-washy liberal religious apologism.

He was supposed to be part of this event but was too ill to make it, so unfortunately it turned into a bit of an ass-kissing session, but I guess that's understandable given that all participants knew it was going to be an only-slightly-premature eulogy.

By the way, banging on about his dreadful unhealthy habits is just revoltingly self-righteous. The man enjoyed his smokes, his drinks, his work, his opinions and he embraced life. I'd take that attitude to traversing this brief existence over the bloodless sanctimony of the finger-wagging anti-booze-and-smokes brigade. Any day.
posted by Decani at 9:45 PM on January 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Staked his legacy on the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Failed.


Did no such thing. Staked his legacy on opposing tyranny.

Won.
posted by unigolyn at 10:30 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, he sure was a wealthy white dude.
posted by mobunited at 11:02 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clinton was a...rapist.

WTF? Are you fucking kidding me? HAHHAHAHA, some real wackos on this site. Amazing.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:04 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who so articulately, boldly and effectively points out to the world that the emperor is wearing fuck-all is a welcome voice to the inquiring minds that are being stifled more intensely every day in parts of our country (and elsewhere). If you don't live here, it's hard to imagine what so many young people in the Deep South and the plains of Red States endure in the way of education.

He was brilliant, though not always to my taste; he was quotable and memorable and doubtless funny and challenging to all who knew him. I expect he was wrong about as often as anyone else in the political positions he espoused, although who is to say. I thought the degree of commitment he showed to his friends and especially his support of Rushdie was quite admirable.
posted by Anitanola at 11:15 PM on January 5, 2012


The World Famous: "Hitch is up in Heaven now, and I'm sure he's touched by such a loving memorial."

If that's so, I'll bet he's delighted to be proved right about what an utter waste of time religion is, yet not for the reason he expected.

Also, this wasn't a memorial. Hitch was still alive and watching the show, which you'd have noticed if you'd watched the first twenty seconds (and which, frankly, was all I could stand).
posted by klanawa at 11:17 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stephen Fry is the sort of witty guy who holds his own in any crowd, carrying on quite entertainingly above the voices of the rest of us. But, man, does this video ever show the limitation of that garrulousness. Surrounded by a small class of writers who far outdistance him as masters of language, it really made me uncomfortable to watch Fry talk over Fenton, cut off Rushdie, and push his own interpretations on everyone. Stephen: shut the hell up!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:19 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's interesting is that he was just as passionate an opponent of the 1991 gulf war as he was a supporter of the 2003 Iraq invasion. Frankly, to me the whole conversion to imperialist cheerleader seemed like a deliberate exercise in career advancement rather than anything sincere. It certainly raised his profile.
posted by moorooka at 11:28 PM on January 5, 2012


Clinton was...a rapist.

You want to back that up, or are you just going to drop it and walk off?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:33 AM on January 6, 2012


I don't agree with Hitchens about the Iraq War, but I've always found criticism of him on that score a little self-righteous, especially when it comes from people who are not against all wars or even all wars of choice, just that war. For example a lot of people who opposed the Iraq War supported Obama's intervention in Libya. That's a completely defensible pair of positions to take, but not if you are calling Hitchens a chickenhawk and an accessory to murder and so on, since you obviously have no problem supporting wars you don't participate in and that inevitably kill a certain number of innocents and violate the sovereignty of other nations when they are wars you agree with. Hitchens was wrong on Iraq, but only pragmatically so. Military force to topple Saddam would have been morally defensible had it not turned out that the cure was worse than the disease. And who can say it was always obvious without the benefit of hindsight that Libya would turn out well and Iraq wouldn't?

I think the difference is that in Libya conflict had already broken out, making intervention an attempt to bring it to a reasonable outcome. Even had it failed—or if it turns out to have failed in the future—it was worth trying to make the best of a bad situation. On the other hand, in Iraq we compiled the so–called "Dodgy Dossier" to make it look like a worsening situation as a pretense for invasion that created a bad situation. Saddam Hussein in power was by no means a "good" situation, but realists would say it was good enough. The deaths in Iraq are an excess to what was necessary, and supporters of the war have to answer why it was the best course of action. The gamble of a war in Iraq could had paid off, but it was a gamble we never needed to take.
posted by Jehan at 1:48 AM on January 6, 2012


Clinton was...a rapist.

You want to back that up, or are you just going to drop it and walk off?


Well to be fair, that's a well known position of Hitchens from his book; I'd say eriko is quoting his positions given the phrasing.

But Clinton was a well-known womanizer on the compaign trail, and indeed in the whitehouse.

The specific allegation is about Juanita Broaddrick - that she was raped by clinton in '78; she reportedly told 5 people about it at the time, but later filed an affadavit in '97 that he never assaulted her. She later recanted that affadavit to the FBI, claiming she was scared of Clinton, and what had happened to the lives of other women who'd been involved in the allegations against him in the 90s.

Hopefully the other part of that quote, that he was a liar - and a serial one at that - does not require backing up, as it's not like there's a shortage of examples.

But what the hell, I liked this one;

"We had to figure out how to deal with a former president who was just lying, engaging in bald-faced lies," Obama told Wolffe. When the author asked if Bill Clinton had gotten into his head, Obama replied, "Yes, but I got into his."
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:58 AM on January 6, 2012


gah, that Bonzai is quoting, not eriko. Apologies to both of you.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:59 AM on January 6, 2012


Saddam Hussein in power was by no means a "good" situation, but realists would say it was good enough.

I don't think so. There were no "good enough" options on Iraq. An indefinite regime of no-fly zones and sanctions hitting ordinary Iraqis worse than Saddam? Back off and allow free rein for genocidal attacks and unprovoked invasions to resume?

The war was bad and the quoted rationale largely spurious, but if you think things couldn't have been worse I believe you're an optimist, not a realist.
posted by Segundus at 3:20 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the difference is that in Libya conflict had already broken out, making intervention an attempt to bring it to a reasonable outcome. Even had it failed—or if it turns out to have failed in the future—it was worth trying to make the best of a bad situation.

That assumes that the NATO powers did not have a hand in instigating or at least encouraging the uprising against Ghadaffi in the first place. If they did then it's not really something that was already happening on its own that they decided to respond to.

Likewise in Iraq there was already a low-level conflict that had broken out and was ongoing (between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Saddam's forces for one) as well as the no-fly zones and sanctions as mentioned by Segundus, so it wasn't totally a fresh conflict being started from scratch.

Your distinction between Iraq and Libya does have some validity but it's probably a case of degree more than difference in type. It just makes me feel that Iraq was a judgment call that Hitchens got wrong rather than a clear endorsement of evil.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Likewise in Iraq there was already a low-level conflict that had broken out and was ongoing (between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Saddam's forces for one) as well as the no-fly zones and sanctions as mentioned by Segundus, so it wasn't totally a fresh conflict being started from scratch.

Your distinction between Iraq and Libya does have some validity but it's probably a case of degree more than difference in type. It just makes me feel that Iraq was a judgment call that Hitchens got wrong rather than a clear endorsement of evil.


I accept that the situation in Iraq before the invasion was not good, but I still feel that the distinction between Iraq and Libya is enough to be a lasting mark against Hitchens. He sold a war when none was needed, regardless of whether it was to be won or not. Perhaps this puts him into the category of "pragmatically wrong", but I cannot believe somebody so smart and experienced could willfully make such a great mistake.
posted by Jehan at 6:02 AM on January 6, 2012


And there goes a lot of my admiration for Stephen Fry.

Bad enough Hitchens was considered an intellectual in America, where a British accent is often mistaken for intelligence, to see Fry of all people joing the charade? Bah.

The greatest joke of the 21st century so far was Hitchen calling himself contrarian and brave for cheerleading the War on Iraq, when almost the entire American political and media establishment was for it too, along with a large chunk of the British establishment too.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:11 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


My only memory of Hitchens is when he got himself waterboarded and then decided it was torture after all, at which moment an image flashed in my mind, a headline "Hitchens: 'This just in, sun rises in east'.


(Obligatory Hitchens defender reply: "See, he changed his mind after experiencing it first hand!")
posted by Pyrogenesis at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2012


My only memory of Hitchens is when he got himself waterboarded and then decided it was torture after all, at which moment an image flashed in my mind, a headline "Hitchens: 'This just in, sun rises in east'.

Hitchens was the embodiment of the Woody Allen quip that intellectuals "prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on."
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:26 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The greatest joke of the 21st century so far was Hitchen calling himself contrarian and brave for cheerleading the War on Iraq

Yeah, he never actually said anything like that, but why bother arguing with PinkoFilter partisans.
posted by unigolyn at 7:35 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


ReeMonster: "WTF? Are you fucking kidding me? HAHHAHAHA, some real wackos on this site. Amazing."

Philosopher Dirtbike: "You want to back that up, or are you just going to drop it and walk off?"

No One Left To Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family This is the book I was referring to. ArkhanJG summed it up pretty well.
posted by Bonzai at 7:54 AM on January 6, 2012


YT Playlist
posted by qwickset at 7:54 AM on January 6, 2012


this is where I link to the eXiled articles on Christopher Hitchens
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:04 AM on January 6, 2012


Someday I want to read (or, hell, write) a book on the apparently quite sizable number of people who made this particular journey - from militant Leftism in the '60s and '70s to the Right in the '80s and '90s. David Horowitz is another one.

Look into the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) and its stealthy libertarian media manipulating spawn - The Modern Movement, The Institute for Ideas, Spiked Online....etc... They are particularly interesting, not so much because of their ideas which seem to be pretty much teenage-male computer programmer style libertarianism but because they seem to be somewhat publically ashamed of them and tend to conceal their group membership and active coordination. This group has been astroturfing since before astroturf, and still does, with considerable success on credulous and unsophisticate media outlets like the BBC .
posted by srboisvert at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2012


And there goes a lot of my admiration for Stephen Fry.

This is an attitude that troubles me. That you condemn Hitchens for his reprehensible support for the Iraq war is something I can understand, if only partly agree with. That somehow Fry (an open opponent of the Iraq war IIRC and certainly a reasonably outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle-East) is also contaminated for not sharing your opinion of Hitchens the man seems very odd. Hitchens was not a demon, he was just (profoundly) wrong about something. That all those who loved him should be condemned is a ghastly idea.
posted by howfar at 9:02 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: the eXile piece on Hitchens from September 2010. That is harsh man. Don't read it if you are in a really great mood and don't want your buzz killed beastly dead.
posted by bukvich at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2012


But it does contain this little whatchamacallit. (I don't know what to call it anyway.)

I’m not going to overrate Nabokov: my admiration for him peaked at 18 and has steadily receded ever since. At the moment, I think of him as a highbrow, Eurotrash version of Ayn Rand.
posted by bukvich at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2012


the eXile piece on Hitchens from September 2010. That is harsh man

It's stupid, counterproductive wanking material for self righteous pricks, is what it is. And it even manages to include some gratuitous racism about Salman Rushdie (because it's OK to call an Indian man "Curry Blit" like some 80s NF bigot would, just as long as you disagree with his politics).

What these people don't seem to get is that their unpleasant baying about Hitchens does nothing but make those with a less bile driven view come to the defence of a man they know to have been deeply flawed.
posted by howfar at 10:04 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's stupid, counterproductive wanking material for self righteous pricks, is what it is.

That's the most predictable sentence ever to appear in a thread about Hitchens. That it is being said about something other than Hitch's own work is refreshing, I guess.
posted by The World Famous at 10:11 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's the most predictable sentence ever to appear in a thread about Hitchens

And yet your response is more predictable still. Was that the joke?
posted by howfar at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2012


Folks, maybe not turn this into a race for the bottom determining who we can say "fuck you" about?

No bile left behind?
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2012


And yet your response is more predictable still. Was that the joke?

If it was so predictable that I would call you out on spewing the same sort of childish bullshit that is typically leveled against Hitchens, why did you do it?
posted by The World Famous at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2012


Do you like that article then?
posted by howfar at 10:46 AM on January 6, 2012


Do you like that article then?

Not really. No. Does that mean I have to agree with you?
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on January 6, 2012


No, just makes you "calling me out" on my dislike of it seem well...quite lame. See ya later tough guy. x
posted by howfar at 10:56 AM on January 6, 2012


I didn't call you out on your dislike of it. And I'm not that tough.
posted by The World Famous at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Minor derail)

Re: the rape allegations.

Clinton's accuser, Juanita Broaddrick, said the accusations that Clinton ever physically assaulted her were untrue, under oath. She attended a fundraiser where Clinton was in attendance three weeks after the alleged rape took place and also later accepted a job that required an appointment from Clinton.

The friends that lent credence to her accusations had a pretty big grudge against Clinton--their father's murderer was given a pardon by him when he was governor of Arkansas. Broaddrick claims she had a split lip as a result of the rape. Her husband of the time says he doesn't remember her being injured. Broaddrick once accused her husband of beating her, saying he punched her in the mouth, even reporting it to the police, but then dropped the charges; speculation has been made that her husband may have caused the split lip. She says she never told her husband about the rape, but told the man who would be her second husband about it (she was having an affair with him at the time the alleged rape was supposed to have occurred). Supposedly, he and her friends advised her not to report the rape.

Rape victims, though, often then don't press charges, do sometimes continue to associate with the rapist because they wrongly blame themselves, and some even deny the rape ever took place. On the other hand, false accusations of rape do occur--I am myself acquainted with one woman who falsely accused a man because she felt guilty about her own sexual past, and another who lied to her husband to make it appear non-consensual sex took place rather than admit to an affair.

Clinton's a womanizer, no question. He's also lied to cover that up. Broaddrick was having an affair on her husband when the alleged rape occurred, and she also lied to cover that up. My own personal opinion on the rape allegation is that Clinton and Broaddrick had consensual sex in her hotel room and she later came to regret it, but that's just conjecture.

Bottom line: Clinton was never charged with rape, certainly never found guilty of rape. Calling him "a rapist"--well, we have a belief in our justice system that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, so I'd say that was way out of line.

(end derail)
posted by misha at 12:07 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


misha thanks for that summation. When I listed who Hitchens wrote about and what their crimes were I was referring to his motivations for those books.

My personal belief is that I don't know. I read that book a long time ago so the details aren't as fresh to me but the overall picture Hitchens painted of Clinton was such a revelation to me at the time that I've never fully trusted him since.

Was Kissinger a war criminal. That one is easy. Yes.

Was Clinton a liar? Yes. A rapist. No idea. It's not impossible.

Mother Theresa is a more complicated case. Again, I read this years ago so my memory might be playing tricks on me but as I recall his main arguments were:

First, she solicited funds far beyond what she used for her hospice which she then forwarded to Rome. Second, her hospice did nothing to relief the suffering of the dying but merely tried to convert them and/or get them to make a final confession so that there souls would be saved.

I think he presented pretty solid evidence of this and to me it's the most damning claim.

He also spent a lot of time talking about her lack of faith calling her a hypocrite. I thought that was unfair.

Her referenced letters talked about how she hadn't felt the spirit move her in decades, which to Hitch meant she was an unbeliever. However, I took it to mean that she did at one time feel the presence of God and since she no longer did she felt somehow abandoned.

One doesn't feel abandoned by something one doesn't believe in.

Finally, God is not good and religion does poison everything. I had no problem with that book.

Even when I disagreed with Hitchens I always admired his willingness to take on anyone no matter how beloved if he truly believed he was right.
posted by Bonzai at 1:00 PM on January 6, 2012


I too have pretty strong and conflicted feelings about the merits of the individual positions that Christopher Hitchens had throughout his lifetime. I'm glad to see some reasonable, nuanced discussion and exchange of ideas come out near the end of this thread.

The reason that I still love Hitch, and Stephen Fry, and all these other complex, troubled, brilliant, and oftentimes wrong individuals is the reason I posted this in the first place. No matter where I fall on the merits of various arguments, the value of various artistic works or the validity of various opinions these people hold, I have a deep, fiery, and abiding love and respect for the manner in which said content is transmitted.

You don't have to agree with everything Hitchens said and wrote to admire his wit and tenacity. You don't have to like everything Stephen Fry makes to admire his linguistic style and admirable comedic talent. You needn't have seen a Sean Penn movie to appreciate the cadence and elegance of the content he appears in this video:

"....the magnificience of his language, which is I think a particular inspiration to those of us in America who have undervalued it. And then the clarity of his thought, I think made him a particularly sharp knife in the cutting of Kissinger....

...I think what Kissinger was confronted with in Christopher Hitchens was somebody who was not distracted by the intelligence of Kissinger or his articulation, because Christopher could more than match it, and had a clarity of a kind of pure and unencumbered morality that saw what Kissinger's motivations were in a way that was unequivocal."


I think that's a thoughtful opinion well expressed, and that is valuable to me.

Too, this program is not a referendum on Hitch's works. They're mentioned, of course, but the overall tone is one that I can only describe as...a summation of his character to those that knew him best and loved him most. His works are a factor there, and deserve note and mention, but the personal anecdotes and observations given by his friends paint the more interesting picture, to me, in contrast to the whole "spitting on his corpse in hell" rhetoric of the previous commenters. To be frank, it seemed very much like a remembrance service that he could actually attend, instead of missing it by just a few days.

Shit, Stephen lays it right the hell out there, in more succint terms than I apparently can manage, in the damn introduction.

"So what we are here, perhaps most of all to celebrate, is that someone in this cultural desert of celebrity worship, counter-enlightenment malice, and revealed scripture tyranny, someone has shown that there is still, in this world, especially amongst the intelligent and curious young, a furious appetite for ideas, for knowledge, for thought, and for the questioning of authority."

This. This a million times. Christopher is a member of the pantheon of individuals like Dawkins, Tyson, Sagan, Feynman, Fry, Mitchell, Harris, and so on that, for me, are beacons of intellectual expression and courage and humor and thought and beauty and compassion.

Are they wrong? Yep, sometimes. Some of them, a lot of the time. Thank goodness for that. The whole concept of infallible heroes is pretty unrealistic and unattractive. I'll take a few billion of these kinds of people over an infallible mystery friend any day.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:25 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bottom line: Clinton was never charged with rape, certainly never found guilty of rape. Calling him "a rapist"--well, we have a belief in our justice system that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, so I'd say that was way out of line.

No more so than calling Michael Jackson a kiddie fiddle or OJ Simpson a murderer.
posted by rodgerd at 7:17 PM on January 6, 2012


No more so than calling Michael Jackson a kiddie fiddle or OJ Simpson a murderer.

Are you really comparing the rape allegations against Clinton with the evidence in the OJ case and the wrongful death civil case that OJ lost?
posted by The World Famous at 7:26 PM on January 6, 2012


Are you really comparing the rape allegations against Clinton with the evidence in the OJ case and the wrongful death civil case that OJ lost?

I would nare presume to speak for the good gentleman, but I presume the comparison is on the basis of trial in the court of public opinion, the legitimacy of which no legal court can ever hope to supersede, succeed or surpass.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:26 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rushdie in Vanity Fair: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011. Targeted by Khomeini in 1989, the author found himself with a formidable 
champion: Christopher Hitchens. Salman Rushdie recalls his friend’s many joyfully waged battles, not least the Hitch’s magnificent argument with Death.
posted by homunculus at 3:33 PM on January 7, 2012


Christopher is a member of the pantheon of individuals like Dawkins, Tyson, Sagan, Feynman, Fry, Mitchell, Harris,

Oh, fuck you. Dawkins, Tyson, Sagan and Feynman did what you are not willing to do. They admitted when they are wrong, though Feynman was loathe enough to do so that he deserves condemnation.

The rest? Hagiography, pure and simple.

Just because you're a stubborn asshole with a gift for phrasing does not make you right. The worst part about the left in the US is that they disagree with me on this.
posted by eriko at 10:31 PM on January 7, 2012


Oh, fuck you. Dawkins, Tyson, Sagan and Feynman did what you are not willing to do. They admitted when they are wrong, though Feynman was loathe enough to do so that he deserves condemnation.

The rest? Hagiography, pure and simple.

Just because you're a stubborn asshole with a gift for phrasing does not make you right. The worst part about the left in the US is that they disagree with me on this.
posted by eriko at 1:31 AM


I'm not sure if that fuck you is to me, or to Hitch. If it's to me, you're way out of line. If it's to Hitch, be aware that I was expressing my opinion with that post. If you disagree, it would serve your point and this thread better if you could find a way to express that disagreement without a Fuck You at the start, per the mod's note.

I'm not interested in having a conversation with you, because you obviously are not interested in having one with anyone else.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:10 AM on January 8, 2012


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