Christopher Hitchens’ 62-year-old scotch and cigarette soaked body, which he wore as a badge of honor in the form of a physical protest against nanny states gone awry, gave way to esophageal cancer on Thursday evening. As Vanity Fair announced news of his passing, social media lit up with touching tributes to one of this generation’s most controversial and confrontational writers.
Typically I don’t grieve the death of people I’ve never been acquainted with, and similarly I find a certain sense of vulgarity in people who mourn celebrities in the same way as if they had lost the family dog. Having said that, I found myself spending a great deal of the past few days contemplating Hitchen’s life, his writings, and the influence they had on me. When I think of his genius, my immediate thought is I would never have had the testicular fortitude to seek a publisher for my first book, ‘God Hates You. Hate Him Back’ (Sept 2009), were it not for his international bestseller ‘God Is Not Great’. A book that not only led an entire generation of atheists out of the closet, but also enlightened countless many religious folk to abandon superstition for reason. As such I acknowledged the profound effect his work had on me by dedicating my second title, ‘Jesus Lied. He Was Only Human’ (Oct 2010), to the legendary writer.
As a writer, the sooner you accept you will never ever possess the faculties to write as well as Hitchens, the easier one’s life gets. Literally, there is no one who can imitate his extraordinary vernacular, nor his vast geo-political experiences. After all, it was iconic television personality David Frost who said of Hitchens, “He has met everybody who is anybody.” But outside of my jealousy for his use of words, and admiration for his verbally combative opposition to any person or entity that attempts to blur the line separating Church and State, there ends my man crush for Christopher Hitchens. Why? Well, he was a warmonger and an unabashed misogynist. He was a neo-Conservative masquerading as a Liberal. While he may have been drawn to liberal politics in the 60s as a result of his disgust for racism and the Vietnam War, he certainly abandoned that ideological position during the last decade of his life.
(Now, if you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of my atheist brethren setting my books on fire. But hear me out, you inglorious godless bastards. Firstly, the same folk, myself included, who praised Hitchens for his firebrand obituaries, namely those targeting Princess Diana, Jerry Falwell, and Mother Theresa – immediately following their respective deaths, will presumably hurl venom in my direction for speaking ill of Saint Christopher. Irony much?)
Now I won’t spend too much time on the misogynist charge as I did not know the man personally, but when you call the Dixie Chicks “fat fucking slags” and “sluts”, because they dared release a song denouncing George W. Bush’s march to war in Iraq, then there’s one clue. Another clue came in the form of a Vanity Fair article titled, ‘Why Women Still Aren’t Funny’, an article that opined numerous and vexing reasons as how women are not adequately skilled to make men laugh. Certainly, standing at the front of a long queue is Tina Fey, who among millions of others, is owed an apology she will now never get.
As far as his warmongering is concerned, it was always perplexing to hear Liberals champion him as a torch bearer for the progressive cause. As far as neo-Conservatism goes he was to the right of Paul Wolfowitz, Josh Bolton, Richard Pearle, and even Dick Cheney. Effectively, Hitchens was a Bush-ite! While he criticized Bush the Younger as an “inarticulate intellectual buffoon”, he was lock step with the policies of the Administration. Further, during the 2004 election said, “A John Kerry presidency would be a disaster for the United States.” Worst than eight years of Bush, really? Most genuine Liberals would’ve taken that chance!
Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda:
“I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.
In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with “Just you wait!” and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets–with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he’d always said so. It’s amazing that he’d dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won’t care.”
The irony is Hitchens, a Brit native, detested British colonialism, while adoring the imperialism of his adopted nation, the U.S. More accurately, he was besotted with the projection of American military might. His statements endorsing bombing Muslim nations would make even the Muslim hating Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorums of the world blush. Shortly after 9/11, Hitchens stated, “My first reaction to the 9/11 attack was exhilaration because I knew it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against Islamofacism…..I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”
Like other neo-Cons, Hitchens rarely commented or examined the cause of the Islamic hatred of America i.e. U.S bases in the Holy Land; prejudiced treatment of the Palestinians; economic sanctions against Muslim countries; and support of tyrannical Arab dictators. Hitchens’ attitude towards the Middle East, however, was not too dissimilar to the maligned Ann Coulter, who once said, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Except for the last strand in that sentence, their hawkish attitudes were shared. If you believe that’s a stretch, here’s what he had to say on the use of cluster bombs, a weapon 108 countries have ratified a comprehensive ban against using them:
“If you’re actually certain that you’re hitting only a concentration of enemy troops…then it’s pretty good because those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. And if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too. So they won’t be able to say, “Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.” No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words.”
Admittedly, it’s impossible to make a complete judgment of a man based on a few pieces of commentary. The point being, however, it would be wrong to remember him as a person who was flawlessly enlightened. He, like the rest of us, wasn’t! He was a fighter against wrong doing, but that didn’t make him immune to endorsing the wrong doings of others, and for atheists and anti-theists to make a false idol of him, insofar as overlooking the numerous instances he was fundamentally and morally wrong, is something I doubt he would have even hoped for.
Regardless I will remember him for the positive and profound influence he had on my life, and I will leave you with my one my favorite passages from ‘God Is Not Great’”:
“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”
Author ‘God Hates You. Hate Him Back’