Tag Archives: Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens: In Memoriam

The website Daily Hitchens has done an outstanding job of gathering various essays remembering Hitch by those who knew him best.

(Photo Credit: AP)

Ian McEwan

While I was with him another celebration took place in faraway London, with Stephen Fry as host in the Festival Hall to reflect on the life and times of Christopher Hitchens. We helped him out of bed and into a chair and set my laptop in front of him. Alexander delved into the internet with special passwords to get us linked to the event. He also plugged in his own portable stereo speakers. We had the sound connection well before the vision and what we heard was astounding, and for Christopher, uplifting. It was the noise of two thousand voices small-talking before the event. Then we had a view from the stage of the audience, packed into their rows.

They all looked so young. I would have guessed that nearly all of them would have opposed Christopher strongly over Iraq. But here they were, and in cinemas all over the country, turning out for him. Christopher grinned and raised a thin arm in salute. Close family and friends may be in the room with you, but dying is lonely, the confinement is total. He could see for himself that the life outside this small room had not forgotten him. For a moment, pace Larkin, it was by way of the internet that the world stretched a hand towards him.

Daniel Dennett:

Of all the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” Hitchens was clearly the least gentle, the angriest, the one most likely to insult his interlocutor. But in my experience, he only did it when rudeness was well deserved–which is actually quite often when religion is the topic. Most spokespeople for religion expect to be treated not just with respect but with a special deference that is supposedly their due because the cause they champion is so righteous. Then they often abuse that privilege by using their time on the stage to misrepresent both their own institutions and the criticisms of them being offered.

Richard Dawkins:

He inspired, energised and encouraged us. He had us cheering him on almost daily. He even begat a new word – the hitchslap. It wasn’t just his intellect we admired: it was also his pugnacity, his spirit, his refusal to countenance ignoble compromise, his forthrightness, his indomitable spirit, his brutal honesty.

And in the very way he looked his illness in the eye, he embodied one part of the case against religion. Leave it to the religious to mewl and whimper at the feet of an imaginary deity in their fear of death; leave it to them to spend their lives in denial of its reality. Hitch looked it squarely in the eye: not denying it, not giving in to it, but facing up to it squarely and honestly and with a courage that inspires us all.

Sam Harris:

I first met Hitch at a dinner at the end of April 2007, just before the release of his remarkable book god is not Great. After a long evening, my wife and I left him standing on the sidewalk in front of his hotel. His book tour was just beginning, and he was scheduled to debate on a panel the next morning. It was well after midnight, but it was evident from his demeanor that his clock had a few hours left to run. I had heard the stories about his ability to burn the candle at both ends, but staggering there alongside him in the glare of a street lamp, I made a mental note of what struck me as a fact of nature—tomorrow’s panel would be a disaster.

I rolled out of bed the following morning, feeling quite wrecked, to see Hitch holding forth on C-SPAN’s Book TV, dressed in the same suit he had been wearing the night before. Needless to say, he was effortlessly lucid and witty—and taking no prisoners. There should be a name for the peculiar cocktail of emotion I then enjoyed: one part astonishment, one part relief, two parts envy; stir. It would not be the last time I drank it in his honor.

Stephen Fry:

[T]he first thing I want to disabuse you of is the notion that Christopher was all earnest purpose and humorless political and atheistical fervor. He fought for causes all his life, he stood up against bullies, he outraged those who assumed he was a natural ally, he poured OUT his energies in a thousand ways but always, always with wit, with panache, with a sumptuously exquisite use of language, with a deep understanding that the connection between style and substance is absolute. A true thing badly expressed becomes a lie. As a writer and speaker, his awesome command of English is a part of his greatness, it explains how he came to be something that Britain, or indeed America, can rarely boast of, and usually have little but contempt for—a public intellectual. The phrase makes one go a bit gooey with embarrassment, but Christopher opened up debate and gave voice to ideas and causes that without his talents would have been less ventilated and less understood.

Peter Hitchens:

He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him. Like me, he was small for his age during his entire childhood and I have another memory of him, white-faced, slight and thin as we all were in those more austere times, furious, standing up to some bully or other in the playground of a school we attended at the same time.

This explains plenty. 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.

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Hitchens on loving your enemies

“[Christianity] tells me to love my enemies. And I don’t do that and I don’t want you doing it for me either. Go love your own enemies. Don’t be loving mine.  I’ll get on with the business of destroying, isolating, and combating the enemies of civilization.” -Christopher Hitchens

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Filed under Philosophy, Quotations, Religion

Monday Smorgasbord

I don’t have time to post these by themselves. They’ve been sitting in my “to do” pile for too long, but I find them all to be interesting reads. Read what interests you.

“How to Prevent a Depression” by Nouriel Roubini.

France imposes a “fat tax” on sugary soft drinks to combat obesity.

CNAS publication: “Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity,” by LtGen David Barno, Nora Bensahel, and Travis Sharp.

Megan McArdle: “By 2020, cases of throat cancer caused by the human papillomavirus may outnumber those of HPV-caused cervical cancer.”

Hitch on the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Maurizio Viroli: Silvio Berlusconi and the moral malaise of Italy.

“The Value of Values: Soft Power Under Obama” Mark P. Lagon

A debate on whether too many students are in college. (My answer is yes.)

Cliff May, “Autocracies United: Why “reset” with Russia and “engagement” with Iran have failed”

A journalist on the argument for better football helmets, and an economist on the trade-off.

Lot of stuff going on here. Enjoy.

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Filed under Economics, Education, Europe, Foreign Policy, Health & Nutrition

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Is Pregnant

Reportedly pregnant (her husband is British historian Niall Ferguson), she says she will raise her children to be faithful to the United States above all.

“If my child were to join the military, to pay taxes, to commit to public service in any shape or form, it’s not going to be public service to Islam or Somalia, it’s going to be American,” she says. “I don’t know if you can imagine how radical that sounds. If my mother were to hear this or my father or any Somalian, they’d think this is madness. This is blasphemy. This is totally infidel.”

Source: David Hume at Secular Right.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Somali-born author, activist and former Dutch parliamentarian reviled by the Left for her politically incorrect opposition to Islam and embrace of Right-wing political parties in Europe.

Christopher Hitchens described her as:

an author and a politician who has made the transition from early Islamic fanaticism (she initially endorsed the fatwa against Salman Rushdie) to a full-out acceptance and advocacy of secularism and of Enlightenment ideals. Hirsi Ali calls for a pluralist democracy where all opinion is protected but where the law does not—in the name of some pseudo-tolerance—permit genital mutilation, “honor” killing, and forced marriage. One might have expected a more robust defense of this position from the Dutch, and indeed the international left, but instead there has been a response of extraordinary and sullen ungenerousness, as if a lone woman defying taboo and standing up to violence has in some way let down the side and become a menace to multiculturalism.

 

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Hitch in Paris

I’m a big fan of Christopher Hitchens, and thanks to Daily Hitchens, discovered a new video (to me) of him during a book tour for God is Not Great. The interview was in Paris in February 2009. He is, as always, a firebrand… and a pleasure to listen to.

Part 1 of 7:

Update: This post was corrected. I originally listed the source as Hitchens Watch (an anti-Hitch website) rather than Daily Hitchens (a pro-Hitch website). Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.

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Hitch: Bring Seif Qaddafi In Alive

Christopher Hitchens wishes stricter orders had been given and enforced to the Libyan rebels that Muammar Qaddafi was not to be killed.

Among other things, this tacit agreement persuades me that no general instruction was ever issued to the forces closing in on Qaddafi in his hometown of Sirte. Nothing to the effect of: Kill him if you absolutely must, but try and put him under arrest and have him (and others named, whether family or otherwise) transferred to the Netherlands. At any rate, it seems certain that even if any such order was promulgated, it was not very forcefully.

This gives far too much credit to the ability of Libyan leaders to command and control their forces. This was not a standard, Western-style uniformed army that follows orders given by a lawful chain of command. These forces were at the end of the day a ragtag group of armed civilians organized as a militia with a singular purpose: to defeat Qaddafi. That mission did not require his death, but his death was welcomed nonetheless.

Regardless, Hitchens makes the case for why Qaddafi’s remaining son Saif should be brought in alive.

It will be quite a disgrace if he is also killed out of hand, or if at the very least the NTC and the international community do not remind their fighters that he needs to be taken into lawful custody.

This is not to display any undue sympathy for Seif, or others on the wanted list. But he in particular is the repository of an enormous amount of potentially useful information, about the nature of the dead regime and perhaps even of the whereabouts of strategic material—to say nothing of vast illegal holdings of money that are the rightful property of the Libyan people. In more senses than one, it would be a crime to be party to this destruction of evidence.

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