Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens is Dead

Christopher Hitchens holds forth at D.G.Wills Books in La Jolla, California, 2006.
Christopher Hitchens is Dead: Iconoclast and public intellectual passes away at a Houston hospital after battle with cancer.:


The recently dead Christopher Hitchens was an ornery son of a bitch . That said, I have no doubt that he will be remembered perhaps the last of the great gadflies, a brilliant and fluid essayist who was fluent in the subjects of politics, history, art, literature, philosophy and, indeed, pop culture itself who could then effortlessly, it seemed, essay forth and parse the particulars of his subject with a quick, subtle read, reaching conclusions that pleased and displayed hundreds and thousands of readers world wide in equal measure. He was a contrarian, a supporter of the Iraq War, an aggressively eloquent atheist, a discoverer of elegance, grace and integrity in unexpected places, from unusual sources, defending his positions with a moral consistency that was rare, founded on a bed rock of values he developed as a young man active in the British New Left of the Sixties.

One wishes that he hadn't allowed his hatred of dictatorship and brutality to support a war that was immoral from the get-go; Hitchens argued as much that although the rationale behind the war was a calculated stream of falsehoods, the intentions were honorable none the less --to rid the world of an evil tyrant--and that we might as well go ahead and instill a Western sense of justice on a country that had not attacked the United States; that there were no facts presented by any credible accounts in our intelligence agencies connecting Iraq to terrorists , nor evidence nor discovery of the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction Saddam Hussein's possession mattered not at all to the intransigent Hitchens, who conducted his pro-war argument on a slippery slope; his willingness to ignore an immoral premise for a war of no coherent purpose , favoring instead a Higher Morality that has yet to justify itself in terms of an arguable Good Result that has been achieved is the mill stone that will hang around the memory of Hitchens for years to come. There will be embarrassed silences when this comes up, heated debate,exaggerated praise and gross condemnations. Eventually , of course, many things will be overlooked, forgiven or forgotten altogether and we can again appreciate the sheer brilliance of Hitchens the journalist, the gadfly, the pundit, the scintillating essayist, the uncommonly astute literary critic.

At his best , Hitchens despised cant, bullshit, received perceptions and championed intellectual honestly fiercely, fearlessly. He did not pussyfoot, he did not apologize, he presented his case, he bulldozed his opponents with hard reason , deep reading and seemingly perfect recall of vetted facts in their sources. One may have disagreed with this Hitchens on various matters and be on solid ground with their opposition to his views, but shame on he or she that dares confront him with a sub-par set of counter moves. You had to up your game to engage this man, you had to up your game to Olympian heights. You also had to succeed in not passing out in the thin air of Hitchens' altitude.

Christopher Hitchens, a damnable son of bitch, and a pleasure to read over these past twenty years.

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