Thursday, June 15, 2006

Of buffoonery and bigotry

Tonight is the New York City premiere of a documentary film called American Zeitgeist. The film's subtitle is "Crisis and conscience in an age of terror", and it looks fascinating. Following the screening—in fact as I write this—a debate is taking place between Eric Margolis and Christopher Hitchens.

My friend Ray pointed this out, in passing, on his blog earlier this week, and I took the opportunity to comment on Christopher Hitchens. Here is an edited version of my comments:


Part of me thinks that the best response to Christopher Hitchens is simply to ignore him. How anybody can consider him to be anything but a complete buffoon is beyond me.

I think it's interesting to compare Christopher Hitchens and Ann Coulter. On the face of it, they're very different. Coulter is indisputably a joke (albeit a very nasty one), with no pretense of seriousness or intellect. Hitchens, on the other hand, has the sheen of intellectual and moral respectability.

But Coulter and Hitchens are reading from the same hateful script. Coulter plays the comic while Hitchens plays the learned professor. The groundlings are tickled by Coulter's antics, while the folks in the balconies are enthralled by Hitchens' sage pronouncements. There's something for everyone!

That is, unless you'd like a little honesty or decency.

At first blush, ignoring their nonsense seems an attractive option. But media ownership being what it is, Coulter and Hitchens are guaranteed to get lots of exposure. And they're both dangerous.

Here's a small taste of the world according to Hitchens:
"if Muslims do not want their alleged prophet identified with barbaric acts or adolescent fantasies, they should say publicly that random murder for virgins is not in their religion."
This is the kind of inflammatory rhetoric Hitchens is famous for. The same Hitchens who has been unrelenting in his support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One of his most recent pronouncements is that Haditha is not like My Lai. How fortunate.

Hitchens has demonstrated repeatedly that he's morally bankrupt, not the least in terms of the way he treats people, and the way he cites evidence. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and in general people deserve the benefit of the doubt. But at a certain point you have to pull the plug. Hitchens reached that point ages ago. I'm reminded of a line from Shakespeare: "O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power So to seduce!"

For more insight into Hitchens, see this article or this one.


Another commenter took objection to my characterization of Hitchens and to what she took to be a de facto attack on anyone who agrees with him. That wasn't my intent, but if you're interested, you be the judge (click on the comments link at the end of the blog post).
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Blogger Dave said...

Interesting exchange Nick - I think Rondi was being overly-sensitive in regards to your comments. From what I've read of his work, Hitchins is someone who uses his considerable brain to incite rather than enlighten. Now were he to direct his bile across all groups equally, he might make a worthwhile contribution - but until then he's just an establishment mouthpiece, wasting his breath and our time.

8:44 AM, June 20, 2006  

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