Christopher Hitchens

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Person.png Christopher Hitchens   Amazon NNDB Powerbase Sourcewatch WikiquoteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(author, polemicist)
Christopher Hitchens.jpg
BornChristopher Eric Hitchens
13 April 1949
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Died15 December 2011 (Age 62)
Houston, Texas, United States
NationalityBritish, American
Alma materThe Leys School, Balliol College (Oxford)
ChildrenAlexander Meleagrou-Hitchens
Member of"The New Humanitarians", The Nation
UK polemicist

Christopher Hitchens was a columnist for The Nation who in the late 1990s changed his views first arguing against abortion, [1] and then turning on his former colleagues. He supported the US war of aggression against Iraq, and even went there as an embedded journalist to cheer on the US troops. He wrote mostly for Vanity Fair and Slate. [2]

Attacks on former Comrades

Beginning shortly after 11 September 2001, Hitchens has written several pieces attacking former friends.

Noam Chomsky

Shortly after 11 September 2001, Hitchens wrote an article deriding the 'masochistic e-mail traffic' that had started circulating from 'the Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein quarter'.[3] In a subsequent rejoinder, following Chomsky's reply,[4] Hitchens accused the linguist of failing to 'rise much above the level of half-truth' in comparing the events of 11 September to US atrocities in the Middle East. For highlighting the double standards of US policy, Hitchens writes of Chomsky that his

remorseless logic degenerates into flat-out irrationality...Chomsky's already train-wrecked syllogisms seem to entail the weird and sinister assumption that bin Laden is a ventriloquist for thwarted voices of international justice.

He added: 'the last time we corresponded, some months ago, I was appalled by the robotic element both of his prose and of his opinions.' He called Chomsky's opinions 'a recipe for nothingness...nothingness at the very best'[5] (Chomsky, in his reply, dismissed his claims as distortions carrying 'irrationality to new limits')[6] In his final riposte Hitchens took issue with people who accused him of conducting his warmongering from an 'armchair'. 'I work in a swivel chair', he reminded them, 'in an apartment on the top floor of one of Washington's tallest buildings'.[7] Norman Finkelstein also responded to Hitchens calling him a 'model apostate'.[8] Six years later he renewed the attack while appearing at a fundraiser for David Horowitz's McCarthyite Freedom Center.[9]

Tariq Ali

Following Hitchens's attacks on Chomsky, Zinn, and Finkelstein, Tariq Ali wrote a piece in Counterpunch accusing Hitchens of turning 'his guns against the critics of the war'.[10] The two squared off over the war on terror first in a debate organized by the London Review of Books[11] and later twice on Democracy Now!.[12][13]Hitchens wrote an article in which he described former friend Tariq Ali as well as Naomi Klein and Michael Moore as 'fellow travellers with fascism'. In a single sentence he invoked two neoconservative tropes — 'isolationism' and 'moral equivalence'--to denounce the left for its 'reactionary' position: refusing to endorse Bush's war against Iraq. He wrote:'The antiwar isolationist "left" started by being merely "status quo": opposing regime change and hinting at moral equivalence between Bush's "terrorism" and the other sort.' [14]

Naomi Klein

In an article in which she described Naomi Klein, Tariq Ali and Michael Moore as 'fellow travellers with fascism', Hitchens described a recent article by her as 'nasty, stupid' and accused Klein of 'offering swooning support to theocratic fascists'. He went on to accuse the Nation magazine of 'publishing actual endorsements of jihad'. [15]

Edward Said

At Edward Said's passing away, amidst perfunctory praise, Hitchens questioned Said's 'political judgment' which was perverse enough to 'only imagine the lowest motives for those in favor of regime change in Baghdad'. He noted Said's 'slight tendency to self-pity'; the 'too-highly developed sense of injury and victimhood' that marred his literary work; his capacity for 'stooping to mere abuse when attacking other dissidents—particularly other Arab dissidents, and most particularly Iraqi and Kurdish ones' [Said had written critically of Kanan Makiya, the KDP and PUK].[16] It was in 2003 — a quarter of a century after it was first published — that Hitchens wrote an attack on Edward Said's influential Orientalism as Said was in his final decline. [17] In the latter, Hitchens refers to the 'sheer vulgarity', 'incoherence', 'essential emptiness', 'direly excessive rhetoric' and the 'fantastic' quality of Said's writing; chides him for his opposition to the Iraq war and upbraid's him for suggesting that the US was responsible for the destruction of Iraq's museums and libraries (curiously Hitchens insists this was done by 'the Saddam regime'). Hitchens also berates Said for his 'repeated and venomous attacks on Ahmed Chalabi and Kanan Makiya', who, he insists, are the 'hope of cultural and political cross-pollination between the Levant, the Orient, the Near East, the Middle East, Western Asia (whatever name you may choose to give it), and the citizens of the Occident, the North, the metropole'.[18][19]

Harold Pinter

In the wake of 11 September 2001, Hitchens falsely accused Harold Pinter and John Pilger of having written that the victims of the attacks had been 'asking for it'.[20] Shortly afterwards the Guardian issued an apology and a retraction and Hitchens wrote a letter claiming that he had been 'wrongly apprised' of Pinter's comments.[21][22] The day after Harold Pinter was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature, [23] Hitchens took to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to call the choice 'a straight and philistine preference for the grotesque'. The 'ludicrous elevation', he wrote, 'of a third-rate and effectively former dramatist is driven by pseudo-intellectual European hostility to the change of regime in Iraq'. He went on to sum up Pinter's recent writings as 'a preference for dictatorship larded with obscenity and fatuity'. In the same article he also lashed out at Jose Saramago, adding: 'without his staunch post-1989 membership of the unusually degenerated Portuguese Communist Party he would not have been considered'. For Hitchens, 'sinister mediocrity has become Mr. Pinter's stock-in-trade...Even in his increasingly lame and slovenly literary output, Mr. Pinter always married politicization to illiteracy.' After dismissing Pinter's opposition to the Iraq war as a madman-like fight 'against any attempt to liberate [Kurds] in Iraq', Hitchens described the celebrated dramatist as 'a writer of doggerel; a very poor man's Beckett, a man most celebrated for the long silences that punctuated his stage "dialogue," who would have no reputation of any kind if it were not for the slightly unbelievable character of his public statements.' Finally he invited the readers of his right-wing publication to 'hope for a long silence to descend upon the thuggish bigmouth who has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage for far too long'. [24]

Gore Vidal

He attacked Gore Vidal in which, among other things, he insinuates that acclaimed essayist and novelist is an anti-Semite. An article in which he accuses Vidal of 'a very, very minor tendency to bring up the Jewish question in contexts where it didn’t quite belong'; of going 'slumming again' and indulging in 'the lowest in himself and in his followers'; in which he refers to Vidal's 'clumsy and nasty attempt to re-write his history'; his 'crank-revisionist and denialist history'; his 'awful, spiteful, miserable' ways; his want of 'a bit of dignity'; his descent into 'the cheap, and even to the counterfeit'; his 'barking and effusions, the utter want of any grace or generosity, as well as the entire absence of any wit or profundity'; his 'Sarcastic, tired flippancy' and 'lugubrious resentment'; Hitchens ends by pronouncing 'I have no assassinate Vidal’s character'!

Vidal's fault, among others, is to say of England: “This isn’t a country, it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Hitchens fumes: 'What business does this patrician have in the gutter markets, where paranoids jabber and the coinage is debased by every sort of vulgarity?'[25]

Eulogy for Bernt Carlsson

Namibia's independence had been expected to take place soon after United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 was agreed in September 1978. However, it took over 10 years for UNSCR 435 to be implemented. The delay was blamed by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens on Chester Crocker's 'procrastination' and on President Ronald Reagan's 'attempt to change the subject to the presence of Cuban forces in Angola' as well as the 'flagrant bias' in America's Namibia policy in favour of apartheid South Africa. Hitchens praised Carlsson's role as a 'neutral mediator' in the process leading to Namibia's independence:[26]

"An important participant was Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia, who worked tirelessly for free elections in the colony and tried to isolate the racists diplomatically. Carlsson had been Secretary-General of the Socialist International, and International Secretary of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He performed innumerable services for movements and individuals from Eastern Europe to Latin America. His death in the mass murder of the passengers on Pan American Flight 103 just before Christmas 1988, and just before the signing of the Namibia accords in New York, is appalling beyond words."

Related Articles

Christopher Hitchens, 'Losing the Iraq War: Can the left really want us to?', Slate, 8 August, 2005. (Accessed 7 April, 2009)


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:The great con that ruined BritainArticle3 April 2016Peter HitchensPeter Hitchens, the repentant Thatcherite, has second thoughts about privatisation: if it’s all been so beneficial, why do so many of the containers that arrive in British ports, full of expensive imports, leave this country empty?
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  1. Sasha Abramsky, 'Christopher Hitchens - Interview', Electric Library/The Progressive, 1 February, 1997. (Accessed 7 April, 2009)
  2. 'Christopher Hitchens - About This Author',, accessed 7 April, 2009.
  3. Christopher Hitchens, Against Rationalization, The Nation, 20 September 2001
  4. Noam Chomsky, Reply to Hitchens, The Nation, 1 October 2001
  5. Christopher Hitchens, A Rejoinder to Noam Chomsky, The Nation, 4 October 2001
  6. Noam Chomsky, Reply to Hitchens's Rejoinder , The Nation, 4 October 2001
  7. Christopher Hitchens, Blaming bin Laden First, The Nation, 4 October 2001
  8. Norman Finkelstein, Hitchens as Model Apostate,, 10 September 2003
  9. An Evening with Christopher Hitchens, Frontpage Magazine, 1 June 2007
  10. Tariq Ali, Hitchens at War,, 26 September 2001
  11. The War on Terrorism: Is There an Alternative? (Transcript), London Review of Books, 15 May 2002
  12. Tariq Ali v. Christopher Hitchens, On the Occupation of Iraq: Postponed Liberation or Recolonisation?, Democracy Now!, 4 December 2003
  13. Tariq Ali v. Christopher Hitchens, A Debate on the U.S. War on Iraq, the Bush-Kerry Race and the Neo-Conservative Movement, Democracy Now!, 12 October 2004
  14. Christopher Hitchens, Murder by Any Other Name, Slate, 7 September 2004
  15. Christopher Hitchens, Murder by Any Other Name, Slate, 7 September 2004
  16. Christopher Hitchens, A Valediction for Edward Said, Slate, 26 September 2003
  17. Christopher Hitchens, Where the Twain Should Have Met, The Atlantic, September 2003.
  18. Christopher Hitchens, Where the Twain Should Have Met, The Atlantic, September 2003.
  19. Clare Brandbur, Hitchens Smears Edward Said,, 19 September 2003
  20. Christopher Hitchens, Murder was their only motive, The Guardian, 26 September 2001
  21. All the correspondences available on Harold Pinter's webiste: Misrepresentation in Media August - September 2001, accessed 22 January 2010
  22. Also see: John Pilger, Hitchens's Slurs,, 7 October 2001
  23. Harold Pinter Nobel Prize Lecture
  24. Christopher Hitchens, The Sinister Mediocrity of Harold Pinter, Wall Street Journal, 17 October 2005
  25. Christopher Hitchens, Vidal Loco, Vanity Fair, February 2010
  26. Christopher Hitchens, "For the sake of Argument: Essays and Minority Reports", Verso (1993) ISBN 0-86-091435-6