An appreciation of Christopher Hitchens...
An appreciation of Christopher Hitchens – from the right
I believe I owe my sanity to Christopher Hitchens. After 9/11, when many of my friends were questioning the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan; when so many people were wondering if Osama Bin Laden was really behind 9/11; when it seemed that the mere mention of the name George Bush prompted an immediate allergic reaction; and when that ridiculous slop called Fahrenheit 9/11 seemed to be in every cinema, it was calming to know that Christopher Hitchens had my back.
It was comforting to know that I had traveled some of the same roads as Hitchens. I was a lefty in University (I occupied the library once) and active in the anti-nuclear movement in Canada in the 1980s. I left Canada in 1983 and returned in 2000 to find Canada firmly ensconced in cultural relativism. Then 9/11 happened and the left seemed to go bonkers. For a while it was unclear whether I was the one who had gone bonkers – but Hitchens made sense of it all.
He understood the evil of Radical Islam and he understood that we had to fight terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He saw the rot of the post-modernist left and he was determined to stand for what is right. No matter if writing jobs or friends were lost – Hitchens had to stand up for the Kurds in Iraq, the Muslims in Bosnia, and the Cubans in Cuba. The left had changed, not Hitchens.
Back in 2005 and 2006, it seemed that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 was everywhere. It was in the repertory theatres, the first-run cinemas, on campus, on TV, in book form, articles, you name it. I couldn’t believe how so many people could be taken in by such ridiculous propaganda. But not Hitchens, and who could say it like him:
“To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of “dissenting” bravery.”Hitchens was unafraid to take on the left after 9/11 – he went after Noam Chomsky and George Galloway to name just two – but he also took on the right as well. What other journalist would have himself waterboarded to see if it was really torture? And, unafraid is the operative word. When he wrote “God is Not Great” about atheism, Hitchens went out of his way to go to the Bible belt in the US to debate. He went to North Korea, he went to Iraq, he tore down posters of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Beirut (getting beaten up in the process), he waged a massive campaign of support for Salman Rushdie, and he took on cancer with grace and determination.
And, while I will always be reading and re-reading Hitchen’s political writings, it is his writings on male friendship that have left an indelible impact on me. His ode to Martin Amis is his autobiography is essential reading – he describes their friendship as “the most heterosexual relationship that one young man could conceivably have with another.” The lunches, movies, dinners with Amis, James Fenton, Salmon Rushdie, Clive James and others reminds us that men are capable of incredibly strong bonding and incredibly strong feelings (something that we ignore in this feminized world).
While I didn`t always agree with Hitchens (for instance on Zionism) I would never have wanted the opportunity to debate with him. Just have a look at his many debates on YouTube. Not a pretty picture for anybody on the opposite side of Hitchens. And, that is his legacy – agree or not agree, few people could use words like Hitchens. And, few people who can use words like Hitchens have the moral strength to say what is right.