A puzzle

Something I was wondering yesterday though – what really did happen to Christopher Hitchens? Okay, we all know the basic facts. Pillar of the iconoclastic left, having a go at Mother Teresa, Henry Kissinger (famously) and others. Then took the Bush side over Iraq and now just another neo-conduit for the Republican press machine.

It’s just the middle part I don’t quite get. There was a logic in the position he was taking before the invasion that I saw other people that I respect take, perhaps best stated by a poster on Urban75 who is now, sadly, deceased – I paraphrase, but “hold on, when I became a leftie I signed up to oppose dictators by any means necessary, and Saddam is a dictator, what’s wrong with wanting him gone?” I don’t agree with the position but I’m not here to argue it again; that’s not the point here. The point is that it can be argued in a rational manner without prattling about spreading democracy or relying on made-up yellowcake and sarin and Wapons of Mss D*struction. I saw Hitchens making his case on one of the few public debate programs in the States at the time (not that there was any real public debate anyway, it was just a sideshow) and he really gave the antiwar people there a sound kicking. I thought he was wrong, but he had far more of both style and content than his opposition.

Contrast that with the present day. On September 14, C. Hitchens will be debating with one G. Galloway during the latter’s US tour. Obviously that will be a good show, but I think that the victor is pretty much predetermined now. If there was any way of betting on the outcome I would.

There is so much canting nonsense on the pro-war side that I’m perhaps guilty of being too impressed by anyone arguing rationally for it, but nowadays there’s no danger of that. The pieces I’ve read of his have been increasingly led by Bush talking points. He uses the term “Islamofascism” seriously. He does things like call the London bombings “an assault on all civilisation“. It’s not just a change in opinion, which I could cope with, it’s an abandonment of intellectualism for the meaningless crowing of the FOX News chorus. Every now and then there’s a flash of the old fire, and he still has a better turn of phrase than Coulter could imagine, but in the main it’s terrible rote stuff.

At the same time I’ve been even more disturbed to find his brother Peter, instead of writing 95% bollocks, now apparently only reaching… eh, 70% or so bollocks, at a rough guess. I keep wondering whether Melanie Phillips is going to start making sense to me next.

If I thought that this was a result of the drinking I’d give up booze right now, but that is too easy an answer. There must be something more than that; he wasn’t exactly teetotal before. Stubbornness? An unwillingness to admit having made any sort of error in judgement, and having supported a bunch of liars (not that it wasn’t obvious at the time, but still)? That doesn’t explain the increasing reliance on the “hate our freedom” buzzphrases. Is there something that I’ve missed here? I’m the guy who travelled to the States with a copy of The Trial of Henry Kissinger in his bag, worried that immigration might find it, and while I never idolised the chap or anything – don’t do idols – to see somebody previously perfectly capable fall to this level is an aesthetic shame.


  1. Social Smoker Said,

    August 25, 2005 @ 11:18 am

    Thomas is looking a little scrawnier in his dotage. Still has mighty impressive furry feet though. Crumb was never that fond of moving quickly, sorry to hear about the deefness though.

  2. _lobstergirl_ Said,

    August 27, 2005 @ 7:37 pm

    Don’t know if you were aware, but there’s some good stuff between Hitchens and Jon Stewart when he recently visited the Daily Show.

  3. fridgemagnet Said,

    August 27, 2005 @ 7:49 pm

    I was just looking at that this afternoon actually. Hitchens gives a decent performance. Too short though. I think I may post something about it in a bit.