While most of the other male Noumenons are quite fans of Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent, I quite like his ‘God is not Great’. There is, however, a number of pieces going against the grain orbituary pieces which place the man in a more critical light. I’ve just sent them to the other Noumenons and it has enlivened a midnight discussion at present. We have found the articles through Leiter Reports, and it certainly provides food for thought. The critical allegations which I find really challenging to the legacy of Hitchen’s reputation and writings are the following:
- Hitchens’ position on Iraq, specifically, the allegation that he said that he did not ‘change his position’ about supporting the war, but shifted from an initial WMD line of justification (following Blair/Bush), but the justifications that I recall him often saying (when we came across him ff 2006) were on the basis that Saddam Hussein was a dictator and any dicator should be removed with a democratic order. These are clearly different reasons and it is bad faith, and disingenuous to say the justification is the same, it is difficult to say it is not changing a position of support, when the platform of support is vastly different.
- Hitchens’ talk of Islam or ‘Islamofascism’ was one of those thematic soundbites that he had (along with the very notable: ‘we are created sick [by God], and commanded to be well’).
- There is one specific allegation pertaining to his reference to the Dixie Chicks (who in my view are a bit of a cultural obscurity) as ‘fucking fat slags’ (sic). There are many different ways to cut across or try to prosthyletise sexist language (e.g. ‘its a generational thing’/’journalism is full of men’), but it’s just poor rhetoric at best, or crass chauvinism at worst.
- The personal character of Hitchens is one who drinks often, Hitchens himself acknowledges this in various interviews. I recall a saying of his in an interview where he quipped that if one couldn’t be without a drink to be a creative writer, then they are a failure. According to personal testimonies, Hitchen’s character when drunk was highly uncomfortable and a bullying character. Michael is currently writing a book review on A.C. Grayling’s ‘The Good Book’, where he earlier made a pertinent comment to me that the problem with Grayling’s address of the character of Solon in Humanist “Book of Acts” is that he’s too positive and not critical. Michael’s point is that it does an injustice to Solon’s deserved reputation as a great man not to acknowledge that he was not perfect, and that his reforms (such as the measure to end slavery debts) did cause problems as well as solving others. So, when I asked Michael earlier if these critical appraisals still affected his admiration of the departed Christopher Hitchens he simply replied: Is Solon a great reformer?