Xeni Jardin at 10:57 pm Thu, Dec 15, 2011
ADVERTISE AT BOING BOING!
Journalist, pundit, author, and gentleman philosopher Christopher Hitchens has died at 62, after a long battle with esophegeal cancer.
Obituaries: Vanity Fair, NPR, CNN, WaPo, Reuters, LAT. Graydon Carter's memorial is the one to read.
Photo: For the release of his memoir "Hitch 22," Hitchens poses for a portrait outside his hotel in New York, June 7, 2010. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Saddened by the news. Especially as I had just read his last piece for Vanity Fair a few hours ago.
I did not agree with a few things he did write, but it is still a great loss.
Super bad news.
Angry Chief…is…Sad Chief…
My fellow atheists, we have lost a champion.
Generations to come will scarce believe that somebody actually had the guts to tear Mother Teresa a new one.
To this day I think of him and smile every time some one uses a reference to her as a paradigm of humanitarianism!
This might be the most depressed I’ve ever been about the death of someone I didn’t personally know.
It’s terrible, a great loss to Free Thinkers/Anti-theists.
My dad died of this same cancer a few years ago…Mr Hitchens fought it much longer than he, just to put some perspective on the fortitude of this great fellow. I didn’t agree with all his politics but his intellect was razor sharp and we atheists have lost our most strident, clear minded and daring voice.
fellow non-believers, if we are wrong, god is on the receivers end of an epic hitch-slap right now.
I also recommend Christopher Buckley’s Postscript on Hitchens at the New Yorker. http://nyr.kr/u3IjyF
I preferred it to the Vanity Fair piece, myself.
It’s a sad loss and I will miss reading and hearing his words in the various media outlets he was involved with.
Hitchens was so brilliant, and his opinions so well reasoned, that whenever I disagreed with something he wrote I would triple check my own thoughts on the matter. That is a compliment I pay to few others.
I like the idea of Hitch as a “point-of-view” check. I did the same. I did not agree with him on many things, but he made me sharpen my case and strengthen my arguement. I hope that’s all he would ask.
It’s rare to find people who you can disagree with completely without it diminishing any respect for them. For me, he was such a person. I agreed with him at times, and disagreed with him at times, but I always enjoyed hearing him speak because he knew how to challenge things on such a deep level.
“Hitchens was so brilliant, and his opinions so well reasoned” — Really? I didn’t think so. He was a mediocre thinker at best but certainly a first rate polemicist. Emotion is not reason and rants and invective are what he excelled at. Not creating new ideas. There was nothing new in his writings. What was new was the level of vitriol he could bring to bear against his opponents. I think his closest peer is HL Mencken who was also a lesser light remembered for his diatribes, not for any contribution to the world’s knowledge.
Oh well, he’s worm food now. As we all will be. And the world moves happily on. Make your time on stage count for something.
How absurd, what is new about vitriol? You really think Hitchens was more insulting to people than his predecessors? And as for his brilliance, just read the obituaries that are pouring out and see what many of today’s greatest writers and thinkers, even those that disagreed with him, have to say.
The world moves on, but not happily, not all of it at least.
“You really think Hitchens was more insulting to people than his predecessors?” — As one of the four horsemen of New Atheism… yeah, he was. The New Atheists abandoned intellectual substance for strawmanning and invective. As for his brilliance I never said he wasn’t. Just that all in all he was a lesser light than those who build rather than tear down.
Hitchens was a pamphleteer. A proud tradition that I think he would gladly claim to have performed his best in. His best essays were not in his last decade however. Which saw the former Trotskyite descend into a tiresome neoconservatism and the hectoring of snake handlers. His best work was his scholarly take down of war criminal Henry Kissinger. Now *that* was a contribution to humanity.
“Strawmanning”? You couldn’t be less right.
“The New Atheists abandoned intellectual substance for strawmanning”
Did they hurt your feelings? Not pay proper respect for no reason to what people desire to believe? Did they point out the elephant in the room one too many times? You do know that every generation of atheists has been reviled and considered to be maligning religion, don’t you?
@ blueelm — That some atheists have been reviled it does not follow they are reviled *because* they are atheists much less that they are therefore correct.
“Did they hurt your feelings?” — No, they committed a far worse crime. They made bad arguments or none at all.
There are numerous videos on YouTube of Hitchens debating religion with very intelligent (if mistaken) people on YouTube. His arguments are strong and lucid; it is breathtaking to watch him make his case and dismantle the faith-based dogma, not once attacking the other participants in a personal way. If that’s your definition of “bad arguments or none at all” we could use more of it.
Did he have devastating words for some people, like Kissinger and Clinton? Yes, and so should we all.
The implication that Hitchens somehow lived a life that didn’t “count” is laughable. And you trot out Menken to prove your point?!? Menken died in 56, and people still quote him all the time. I found Hitchens infuriating at times, but he set a bar for productivity and influence that I doubt many here would be able to match.
Great polemicists are a critical part of philosophy. I’ve always had mixed views of Hitchens, but he was an absolutely brilliant wordsmith. He was able to get angry, and to inspire that anger in other people. Anger at charlatans, at mendicants, at those who used religion as slave chains.
And the interesting thing is, I have H. L. Mencken’s biography on my bookshelf. The comparison is apt, but the aspersions cast upon both are not.
I feel like a great light has gone out and the world seems dimmer for it.
“Gentleman” philosopher? Philosopher, perhaps. Gentleman? No. Also, wow, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel when you’re attacking Mother Freaking Teresa. I’m really surprised at you, Antinous – unless I totally misconstrued your comment.
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the history/story of “Mother Teresa”? She was, by all decent sense, a charlatan who caused people to suffer without cause. It was not only Hitchens who felt this. Strictly anacdotally, 2 of 3 of my siblings are medical professionals who visibily shake at the mention of her name (and I’d be surprised if they knew who Hitchens was, or had read Stern).
Read her Wikipedia page.
Having read the wikipedia page, there is indeed controversy around what she had done. FYI I posted the citation protest after having visited her wikipedia page and not seeing the criticism section.
So, I stand corrected on the Mother Theresa stuff, however, I just can’t agree with the way Hitchens tried to make his points. You don’t have to be Christian or Muslim to want to shove your beliefs down other peoples’ throats. And with that, I’m done.
Have a chat with Charles Keating about funding……
Why not let Hitchens himself show you the truth about her?
Penn & Teller took a closer look at her in one of their ‘Bullshit’ episodes and it was a little bracing to hear her nutty ideas on the poor having to suffer MORE to get closer to God. Also, the loads of money she took in for her missions was never slated to actually go help the poor – just directed to church coffers. And she also had a troubling habit of associating with some pretty rotten dictators.
She’s been canonized and filtered out to a saintly hue but the Catholic church, but Hitchens was one of the few people willing to back up and really expose how nuts her idea of ‘salvation’ sounded.
Mother Teresa did plenty of vile things. Maybe you should read up on her beyond the glowing headlines.
While I agree with most of what Hitchens said, he was still a bit of an asshole.
We need more assholes. Being nice accomplishes nothing. It’s people like Socrates, Galileo, Huxley (who popularized the work of the far too nice Darwin), and Hitchens himself who cause society to question the bullshit that “nice” people would have us swallow.
Do a bit of research on how Gandhi took advantage of young female adherents. You’ll find our collective global idols are often assholes.
I think that’s an example of what’s called “goal post shifting.”
Look at JB’s comment again–it wasn’t Gandhi’s treatment of his young female adherents that inspired his millions of followers to question the bullshit they were being fed.
News flash, Gandhi had a sex drive. I’m shocked!
It’s a common problem: the same narcissistic forcefulness used against victims in their personal life can also be the basic drive for some people to make themselves and their work stand out in the public arena.
“Being nice accomplishes nothing.” — This is in fact false, even provably false. Being nice is a winning strategy. Being an asshole only guarantees that one will fail to achieve one’s objective. So if you wish to undermine your own atheism the best strategy to pursue would be to be as big a jerk as possible.
The New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens have almost single handedly succeeded in discrediting and marginalizing atheism. Not because their arguments are bad but because they have proved to be spectacularly negative representatives for their beliefs. Whether you like it or not people judge the value of a movement not on their arguments only but on their proponents also.
“The New Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens have almost single handedly succeeded in discrediting and marginalizing atheism.”
Now this is false. I mean, you don’t like them. However, atheism is talked about where it wasn’t. People are coming out, feeling more brave, talking to each other. All atheism is “new” atheism. Closeted atheism is as good as closeted anything.
Also being nice just to get what you want is called manipulation.
“atheism is talked about where it wasn’t” — I don’t think that is a good measure of success. I think a better measure is when people talk about you in favorable terms. Even better is to convince them to come over to your side. Setting your goal on merely being notorious is a very low bar and ultimately unsuccessful.
“being nice just to get what you want is called manipulation” — When you exist within a community you cannot help but be influenced by them and in turn affecting others. You do not have the option of removing yourself from the game. You are in it, not to participate is to participate. Make your moves wisely.
“I think a better measure is when people talk about you in favorable terms.”
No, because some people will never accept you. It is the same for trans people, for gays, for everyone who some people will just never accept. It is better to be able to find like minds and not to be isolated and kept in silence. It is better to be heard, even if it makes some people hate you even more. Better to flush out the bigots and make them stand up and be honest.
“You do not have the option of removing yourself from the game. You are in it, not to participate is to participate. Make your moves wisely.”
Which is why it is all the more important not to let the bullies of the world silence you. You can’t opt out, which is why you need strong defenders and people who are not afraid to march forward against the tide. You say make your moves wisely because deep down you know this is a threat. Make your moves wisely, or else. Or else, what? If I am right and you kill me for it I was still right. That’s honesty.
blueelm said: – “No, because some people will never accept you.” — Trying to get everyone to like you is not likely to work and is at best shallow and superficial. Most people learn this in high school. Besides, the fact that not everyone will like you anyway is not a rational justification for being an asshole. The justification for “being nice”, following social mores, is that it allows one to prosper more than not being nice. We cannot accomplish things on our own. We need other’s help. So one is more likely to be able to do things you want, because others will be willing to assist you, so it is in your interest to treat them kindly as well.
Most humans learn this lesson at the age of two.
“Which is why it is all the more important not to let the bullies of the world silence you.” — You do not solve this by becoming a bully yourself. The strong arm tactics you propose do not work over time. Tit for tat alliances, you help me and I’ll help you, are the superior strategy. It’s been gamed out and is not up for debate.
“If I am right and you kill me for it I was still right.” — But we are not talking about being right or not. We’re talking about what is the better strategy for a social minority to pursue. Being the biggest flaming assholes one can be or forming alliances with like minded groups and working for social change? Who was more successful, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or Martin Luther King?
Brenda, your arguments are very well articulated and valid, except in the face of religion. Simply put, the hardcore adherents of religious doctrine /won’t/ be swayed by /any/ argument, so yes, atheism just being talked about is in fact a great victory. What Hitchens gave closeted atheists who perhaps were raised religious but never could bring themselves to speak of it was a sense of anger. Anger at being lied to, and anger against those who would indoctrinate children into a belief system based on myths. Have you seen Jesus Camp? We should absolutely be furious, and we should say so.
And if logic was all it took to gain atheists, there wouldn’t be any religious people.
One way or another, though, did you really have to shit all over the comments section of a news story about a man who just passed away because he disagreed with you? Coming from someone who is decrying a man for his abrasive attitude, your arguments seem to lose much of their impetus.
“hardcore adherents of religious doctrine /won’t/ be swayed by /any/ argument” — But you don’t have to convince every single person that your agenda is a just cause. You only need to convince enough and the least effective way to do that is by “being and asshole”. Anger is a powerful motivation but it is not sufficient for building a movement.
“did you really have to shit all over the comments” — Really? The man who gave Jerry Falwell a well deserved thumping right after his death? I think Hitchens would be proud. In fact, I’d say he’d be dying to get back into the fray. ;)
Oh right, there’s nothing like a bestselling book to marginalize a topic. Rebirth is a better word for what Hitchens and Dawkins (among others) have done for atheism. President Obama was moved to mention non-believers as a legitimate part of the political landscape in a speech. But it’s nice to see that the proper feathers have been ruffled to the point of ludicrous denial.
Ahhh, game theory.
We have the same foreign rights agent, and she delighted in telling me about how pissed off he’d get when foreign publishers would ask her to convey messages like, “We’re all praying for your recovery,” and instruct her to tell them exactly how little he thought of prayer.
John Fowles is in order here: “He lived largely for pleasure, and died largely of it.”
R.I.P. Hitch. I first became aware of him when he appeared on the Tom Snyder show. He was railing on Mother Teresa(!) for being a fraud and a puppet of despots. It was love a first sight. BTW I found Rick Warren’s tweet about Hitch’s death to be hilariously ironic. http://twitter.com/#!/RickWarren/status/147558435007893504
Don’t worry Rick. Not long before YOU realise the truth :-)
EDIT: Ekk, that wasn’t a threat! Crank call. Crank call!!
In 5 years, no one will know who either of these posers was.
How did that “prayer” thing work out for ya’, Rick? You just tweeted and proved our points about how ridiculous prayer really is…
He made the Iraq War and Islamophobia look cool.
Exactly. Not to speak ill of the dead n all, but the man turned into a traitor to the common good when he became a stooge for BushBlair, Inc.
This is an important distinction, though. Hitchens was not some two bit newsroom hack who knew how to get his bread buttered. Hitchens had a reasonable and well-articulated position in support of the war. His position was in spite of Bush/Blair, not because of it. In a lot of ways, I thought that Hitchens got to the debate that we ought to be having about the nature of the future of the word, and our own nation’s role within it, rather than the archaic adventurism, profiteering, and Cold War mentality of many of the war’s supporters in higher places.
So call him wrong, but don’t call him a stooge.
Fair enough. He was wrong (about the war) but not a stooge.
Universe-at-large will continue to appreciate Mr. Hitchens. Through conscious agents who were permanently altered by him. This scenario makes me happy.
Hitch is great, God less so.
I know it’s wrong to compare one death to another but in 2011 who won’t be compared against Jobs. Fans will argue that Jobs pushed (the perception of) western society, but Hitchens’ made us question it, regardless of which side of his views one fell. To me, the importance is without question. I don’t mean this as a slight on Jobs; more so as one on how we weigh celebrity.
I was thinking similarly. Not to compare Hitchens to Jobs, but that 2011 has been a bad year for me as far as people I respected dying…
Little did we know his Super Power was to troll the religious from beyond the grave…
My personal atheist freedom fighter has left this world, no longer able to accompany me through the dark alleys of ignorance, where mystical fanatics prey on all that do not adhere to their beliefs.
I am really going to miss watching his latest lectures on my laptop over a glass of brandy every other Sunday. They made me look forward to my next encounter with my “in-laws” that spout creation science at family functions, Hitchens quotes are quite disarming even when using just a few sentences.
My absolute favorite statement of his, was during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s fear-mongering soap box show regarding the death of Jerry Falwell.
“If you gave Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox”. I still laugh at that one.
I take no pleasure in his death. But speaking only for atheists like myself–a courtesy he never extended to us–I took no pleasure in what he did while alive, either.
All atheists are not disciples of Hitchens, just as all Christians do not watch the 700 Club and all Muslims are not the ones you read about in Christopher Hitchens’ books.
If you haven’t been following recent events, the supposed moderate Christian theologian Alvin Plantinga has come out against natural selection https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/books/alvin-plantingas-new-book-on-god-and-science.html and the supposed moderate Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradwai has claimed Hitler was a just punishment for the Jewish people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VcB_DZ4YQYQ
I’m a strident atheist because I realize that moderate religious people are only moderate in their own minds.
Except the ones who are actually moderate.
A truly moderate theist would believe that while god(s) exist, they play no role whatsoever in the physical world and accept that it is ruled by purely natural law. Such people did exist in the Enlightenment (the so called “deists”), but are quite rare among modern religious folk.
Right on. They’d also speak up when less moderate ones insist on public policies that enforce what amount to religious laws on the rest of us.
Hun, there is no such thing as “Natural Law”. However, while I respect your irrational belief system you really shouldn’t try to foist it others.
That *would* be a moderate theist, but frankly it would still be some one with an irrational belief system, and so long as they insisted on dominating discourse and silencing opposition it would still be problematic. After all, there is no “law” unless you simply mean the word scientists use to describe things that happen very reliably. That, however, doesn’t rule anything because ruling implies a conscious power. So I mean you are correct that this would be a moderate theist (so moderate apparently the theist below didn’t quite *get it*) but it would and could still be problematic.
By the way I am dying inside from laughter at a theist saying there is no “natural law” without realizing that the Enlightenment era belief in the natural scripted order of the universe was their theism. It is true, there is no natural law, darlin!
– blueelm — “I am dying inside from laughter at a theist saying there is no “natural law””
I’m not a theist. I’m agnostic and Humean in my skepticism about the existence of universal laws. Bertrand Russell agrees with me when he rightly says the we cannot logically justify induction (science) and therefore cannot prove that there exist universal laws that all things must obey. Following Hume, all we can say is that A follows B and that we observe their constant conjunction but we cannot from that deduce a universally necessary law.
The physical world is not “ruled” by abstract laws. The belief that it is is a form of scientism.
You just never hear from the moderate ones. Just like everyone thinks the country is riddled with crime because the news filters out only the worst stories and ignores the vast majority who aren’t hurting anyone.
So your argument in support for claiming all Muslims are extremists is that Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a moderate? And your strawman Christian moderate is in fact a Calvinist? That is a spectacularly poor argument.
“moderate religious people are only moderate in their own minds.”
Really? The singular failure of the New Atheism is it’s utter lack of self awareness. The above commits the no true Scotsman fallacy in addition to being the typical extremist hysteria that all radicals adopt. While it is true that through the eyes of fundamentalist atheism there can be no middle ground it is that very belief, that the world is black or white, us versus them, Truth vs Error, The Children of Light waging battle against the forces of Evil, that has lead to so much death and suffering throughout history.
You are correct about one thing. You are a militant atheist because you are militant in your personal politics. Not out of anything resembling a rational argument.
A few days after Mother Teresa’s death, Hitch wrote a piece for Salon criticizing her for her support of despots and crooks.
He then went on to support Ken Starr and the Iraq War.
Is that St Ken Starr you’re referring to?
Kenneth Starr, the lawyer, investigated the Clintons, issued the Starr Report.
This Hitchens quote always brings tears to my eyes through laughter..ahhaahh
“If you gave Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.”
I am a non-theist and I never liked Hitchens. Yes, he was funny, a good speaker and obviously very intelligent. Also, he occasionally made the religious far-right very angry, which is why a lot of ‘liberals’ like him. But he was not a liberal – not after 9/11 anyway. You know how people use religion as a justification for war – Hitchens did the same with atheism. He made it trendy among non-conservatives to support mass murder and contributed to the media storm that led to the Iraq War. If anything, he proved that atheism, while not a religion, can still be used to incite hatered against religious minorities. In the end he was not different from other professional Islamophobes like Pamela Geller.
I think it is no accident that Hitchens was a great fan of Orwell. Orwell was an example of a leftist who realized that the Soviet Union was not a good thing even though many right wing people had come to the same conclusion for quite different reasons. Just because the other side realizes something is vile doesn’t mean it isn’t.
Err, wuh? Many leftists have disliked the Soviet Union since its creation for many different reasons, including the anarchists Orwell fought with during the Spanish Civil War. Despite his ‘realisation,’ Orwell remained a democratic socialist and anti-colonialist.
Hitchens, on the other hand, moved from an anti-war socialist to full-blown warmonger neoconservative (at one one point he started praising Thatcher). If atheism was an important part of my identity, I would be offended by people who use it in such a way.
Orwell (and similar writers such as Koestler) got a *lot* of flack at the time for criticizing the Soviet Union, and were often accused as being right wingers for doing so. And not just Hitchens, but people like Richard Dawkins, PZ. Myers, and Jerry Coyne have gotten similar flack for daring to criticize Islam.
That Orwell was criticized does not alter the fact that Hitchens was a neoconservative apologist and supporter of torture. And Dawkins and PZ et al have been not criticized for “daring to criticize Islam”. They’ve been attacked for anti-religious bigotry and borderline racist assaults on Islam.
For “daring” to criticize Islam? People the world over fap endlessly about the evils of Islam. It’s shooting fish in a barrel. Criticize away- it’s important for every institution to have vocal critics. But no one is a special snowflake for doing so.
“Full-blown warmonger neoconservative”, yeah, right.
No, nomind, no. I was blown away by Hitchens’ apparent 360 attitude on Iraq at the time, and to this day remain unconvinced by his argument for going to war against that particular dictator at that particular time. But Hitchens’ always seemed like he was trying to point out liberals’ hypocrisy (which is arguable, natch) more than gunning for war.
And his public argument against theism was beautiful, and went a long way toward making life more comfortable for we who believe that there aren’t gods.
I really dislike his Neo-connish phase but that doesn’t mean he’s as bigoted and nasty a failure of a human being as Pamela Geller. Pamela Geller helped talk the Norway shooter into doing what he did. Pamela Geller broadcasts an unending stream of hate.
The place she comes from, the education she brings, the goals she espouses, and the hope to see fields of her murdered enemies are very different from hitchens.
I don’t know that you can say Hitchens used atheism as a justification for war. Indeed, he seemed more to be using religion as a justification for war…
Its a shame when any human dies, so no disrespect to this fellow, but… Carter’s paean glorifying drinking and smoking, which no doubt did this fellows immune system damage, is so 1950s.
…the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world “This Was A Man!”
Love him or hate him, there was never any ambiguity about Hitchens. But the world is a better place that he lived. Farewell.
You’re saying a lack of ambiguity is a good thing?
Are you saying that ambiguity is?
Maybe. Maybe not.
A complicated and fascinating individual as I’ve read in my lifetime.
After telling my girlfriend that Mr Hitchens has died, she casually states, without lifting her head as she continues to work at her desk, “Wonder where he went after he died.”
I said, “To the morgue.”
The ‘obligatory xkcd reference’ doesn’t work here. But Cyanide & Happiness panel today is apt:
I at times loved Hitchens and at times hated him. He certainly was multi-dimensional, to say the least.
Didn’t really agree with much of his position, but I’ve always admired good speakers, and Hitchens was certainly a hell of a speaker.
Obummer is too. Look how well that turned out.
……now look, I’m not saying you clearly have an axe to grind, but please look in both of your hands and tell me if you see a dulled cutting tool.
Nope, no ground ax in my hands. I’m critiquing adulation of people because they speak well, not Obama in particular–he’s just an example.
As for him, I had a LOT of “hope” that he’d actually “change” things, and now I see that his soaring rhetorical skills were part of what swayed me into voting for him, and I also see that he pretty much hasn’t changed things.
Seems to me that Hitchens’ rhetorical skills and swagger also snake-charmed a lot of people; reminds me of the way some used to admire the “eloquence” of William “Five Dollar Words” Buckley.
So, do you crash funerals and point out the flaws of the deceased to his mourners as well, or just here in cyberspace where your boorish act has little consequence? I didn’t agree with everything the man said, but at least he wasn’t an offensive little cybertoad.
Got it. No swagger allowed. Only modest speakers may be adulated.
I disagree with you, millie fink. It’s admirable to exercise your eloquence in the service of public dialogue, something that Hitchens, Buckley, and Obama all do. I would save the epithet “snake-charmer” for more deserving professional intellectuals, like those that use their public platform to further a secret agenda. I personally don’t see Obama falling into that category, though I realize I’m in the minority. But this thread is not about Obama, or Buckley, it’s about the death of a person who invigorated public dialogue in a way that is very much needed, and will be very much missed.
Daniel, this space isn’t a funeral, and I suspect none of us commenting here actually knew Hitchens in person. So why the reluctance here to remember the bad along with the good? And for me, that bad (racist war apologist) far overshadowed the good (Christianity basher). Since this isn’t a space for mourners suffering a grievous personal loss, what’s wrong me too with speaking my truth here?
echthroi, I’m fine with swagger when the person is swaggering in the pursuit of good, instead of illegitimate war-mongering and racist demonizing.
Hitchens was a debater, and he was excellent at that. Obama actually isn’t. There’s a difference. You would never call Hitchens “inspirational” I don’t think. Or, unless you really just wanted an excuse to pour yourself some scotch.
I don’t see Obama as a great speaker in the same way that Hitchens was.
Actually, I wouldn’t call Obama a particularly great speaker at all, in the grand scheme of things – just far and above most anyone else in the American political landscape, particularly Bush (who immensely lowered the standards for nearly a decade which partially accounts for people thinking Obama is a great speaker).
Hitchens was a great manipulator of the language in the grand British tradition. The type of clever language that occasionally makes you pause to figure out what’s meant, and then to grin maniacally. In addition, even when speaking more plainly he was a great persuader and articulate point-maker who never slowed down.
Obama admittedly has a different purpose when he speaks, but I find his manner of speech somewhat grating. It’s just too simple, direct, and slow – he uses enormous pauses between sentences, and even mid-sentence. I presume this is so that all the dim-wits in America can understand him. And he often makes little jokes, but they’re never actually funny and seem incredibly stilted (and obviously prepared) – not like the quips that come from great wits like Hitchens (and Stephen Fry, and so many others), even though many of his quips he probably did think of ahead of time and stored up for the right moment.
This is a great loss for intellectuals everywhere. I was greatly inspired by his many speeches, and by his stance on life and death after he was diagnosed with this cancer.
Mr. Hitchens, you will be sorely missed.
So, do you crash funerals and point out the flaws of the deceased to his mourners as well, or just here in cyberspace where your boorish little act has little consequence? I didn’t agree with everything the man said, but at least he wasn’t an offensive little cybertoad.
Have you ever even read one of his obituaries? Pointing out the flaws of the recently deceased to their mourners was his stock in trade.
He was the smartest person who was wrong about everything, and the most entertaining jerk as well. I’ll miss him.
I agreed with him about religion, Greek art, Kissenger, and Mother Theresa. I disagreed with everything he ever said about women in general, Iraq, Bush, and USian neoconservatism. I’m sorry we lost him though.
I disagreed with everything he ever said about women in general, Iraq, Bush, and USian neoconservatism.
He was right on with the “torture” thing, though—not many War on Terror hawks would have the guts to get waterboarded just to find out if it was as bad as everyone says. I wish more conservatives (or people who support their policies) had his willingness to challenge their own opinions.
This is true, and I really appreciated that he *did* honestly and openly say he had changed his views. That is so very rare these days. In fact, it seems almost like the trend right now is to view changing your mind as a bad thing, even if it’s on completely sound evidence.
Some of us did not need to be tortured to know it was immoral.
I don’t care about morality actually and never have, and yet I believe that torture is completely unjustifiable in all instances. Chew on that.
And some people needed to hear one of their own speak from direct, personal experience to know that waterboarding was torture. Hitchens provided that voice. I don’t know how many conservatives’ minds he actually changed on the issue but he made a better effort than most.
One less independent thinker, incendiary writer and ideologue balloon-popper. Adios, Hitch.
To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut at Isaac Asimov’s funeral, “Christopher’s in heaven now.”
Hope they serve Johnnie Walker Black up there, old chap. Give ‘em hell.
Xeni and I had a conversation last year about Hitchens et. al. Consensus reached: “Yeah, he’s an asshole. But he’s MY asshole, you know?” May you be wrapped in the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendage, Christopher Hitchens. Ramen.
I find such tribalism unattractive. I have no tribe and do not appreciate it when others attempt to force me to choose one. Further, it is exactly this Balkinization of society that my liberalism militates against. We will not survive long as a society or even as a civilization if we divide up into teams and go at each other’s throats. That is my main objection to the New Atheism in that it simply encourages more divisions in our society. I take heart that both forms of fundamentalism, atheistic and religious, cannot abide the tolerance of the middle. What is true in religion is true in politics. The extremists on both ends revile the pragmatic, tolerant, and classically liberal middle.
I think we’ve all had enough of this crap.
Yeah, a very irritating guy, and a big drinker who had an incredible way with words and ideas. And who resembled Socrates in all those respects.
Thank you Hitchen’s, You have surely changed my view/life in this world.
Thank you, may your body rest in peace and your star stuff’s embark on another amazing journey.
I raise a glass to the memory of Mr. Hitchens. I’ve never met a more provocative and potent mind, nor been so eloquently shut down and schooled as when I met Hitchens two and a half years ago. (Needless to say, my friends were jealous that I’d been rhetorically reamed by such a great individual.)
I hope this helps some of my fellow mourners:
Finally, the hack is dead. Under other circumstances, I might be less blunt, but fuck it- this is Hitchens were talking about. Hardly someone prone to respecting admonitions to not speak ill of the dead. No great loss.
ETA: Lest I be misunderstood as having looked forward to his death- we all die. Hence the “finally”.
I heard this on NPR first thing in the morning and I am so sad about it. He was so fascinating. Even when I thought he was completely wrong, I never thought he was anything less than brilliant.
So he must have been really important: I sense a really stunning “hate” level!
inb4: “A GUY I DISAGREED WITH DIED TIME TO SAY MEAN THINGS ABOUT HIM ON THE INTERNE-” Oh, wait. Dammit. I really need to be quicker on the draw than the usual BB trolls.
“He was wrong.” Isn’t mean.
I used to work for one of those alternative weekly newspapers, and at our annual AAN conference in DC (some 14-odd years ago), Hitchens was invited to give the keynote. I was not a journalist and wasn’t really that familiar with his work at the time, but in his talk, he basically tore our industry a new one, along with our little self-congragulatory conference. And of course, he did this with great wit and style. It was amazing to watch the crowd eat up the abuse with such delight.
Some of you neolibertarians should know that Christopher Hitchens avidly supported a single payer system for health care.
1993 CSPAN: (link will take you to 4:55)
I thought you were just making up a new word with the idea that if you prefix anything with the word neo it becomes bad. Then I googled it.:(
I’m in the anti-Hitchens camp. When all is said and done, this:
is the kind of thing he actively supported. Even the journalistic stunt of having himself waterboarded doesn’t erase the fact that he devoted time and intellectual energy to defending the people who did this, and never quite recanted.
Well, perhaps we are gushing too much because he was witty, a great speaker and writer, and an Atheist. None of that makes you a decent human being. I liked him far better than the equally racist, though rarely funny and often petty Richard Dawkins. But PhosPhorious does make a good point.
It’s sad that he is dead, but I never wanted him (or Dawkins) to represent my views as an atheist, so I definitely wouldn’t put him on a pedestal. Besides, ever since the Iraq War it’s been apparent that Hitchens’s contrarianism had muddled his mind. I saw him as little more than a smart mouth.
Mine too. There is no better take down than to call a pompous as s like hannity “unlettered”.
There is only one atheism, and Hitchens is its prophet.
This is the first response to Hitchens’s death that hasn’t made me think I was insane:
I go back to something Judith Butler’s been saying for years; some lives are grievable and some are not. And in that context, publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.
I’m sure Hitch would love to find himself in Heaven so that he can spend eternity arguing with God as to why the latter doesn’t actually exist.
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