Thursday, June 17, 2010

Christopher Hitchens, disintegrat i n g

Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens’ new memoir, has elicited some rave reviews. All the same, more candid assessments have made me disinclined to buy and read it. To be sure, Hitchens can be an amusing writer who often scores debating points against his opponents. Eventually, though, the endless display of the tribal habits of the Oxford Union becomes tiresome.

The memoir’s main theme seems to be name-dropping--a kind of high-brow version of Perez Hilton, if you will. As one Amazon reviewer notes, “there is nary a paragraph in the entire thing that does not contain one or more names of famous and not so famous people. Along with the 'names' are quote after quote, seemingly to support his position on a thing, but never stating it in his own words at all.” That sounds like the scissors-and-paste technique.

Another issue, it seems, is his preoccupation with homosexuality and an obsessive compulsion to identify the sexual orientation of those whose names he keeps dropping. Hitchen’s own experience with same-sex behavior was limited, we are assured, to two minor incidents in college. Whew! That’s a relief.

Like Irving Kristol and a number of other prominent US neoconservatives, Hitchens started out as a Trotskyite. Like them, he has evolved into being an ornament--of a special, baroque kind--of the right.

That he is capable of changing his opinions is, in principle, admirable. However, as I noted in a recent blustery interview on the Chris Matthews show, he is obtusely unable to seeing anything wrong with his cheerleading for Bush’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.

With little real knowledge of the history of Islam or (apparently) even the history of fascism, he has been busily promoting “Islamofascism,” a portmanteau neologism. There is much that is deplorable about both Islamism and fascism, to be sure, but they are totally dissimilar. It is a little like speaking of “Pukoembezzlement” or “Philateloidiocy.”

On another front, Hitchens, in full rhetorical mode, entered the lists of the New Atheism. His book “God Is Not Great” has garnered a good deal of attention, even though he was preceded by the more substantial efforts of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. His intervention in this discourse is pure opportunism.

Afflicted with various problems, one of which seems to be alcoholism, Hitchens has been disintegrating for the last ten years. It is time that his admirers recognized the reality of the decline of this mammal (one of HItch's favorite terms of abuse).



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