Conservatives and Hitchens

From 2007, a VFR thread on conservatives’ and conservative Christians’ odious embrace of the odious Christopher Hitchens, an embrace that continues after his death—an embrace that demonstrates, as well as any fact can do, that American conservatism, notwithstanding the indispensable good that it does in resisting some liberal things, is itself a form of liberalism, and therefore will keep progressively surrendering to liberalism.

Here I copy the initial entry, dated June 5, 2007. The discussion that follows is highly recommended.

Whom FrontPage welcomes, and whom it excludes

I’ve long considered it one of the most disgraceful things about the American “conservative” movement that it has welcomed within its publications the leftist, hate-filled, anti-Christian bigot Christopher Hitchens, for no reason other than that he supports the “war on terror.” Now FrontPage Magazine, from which I have been barred for my unspecified “racist and offensive” positions, not only publishes this leftist bigot but features him in an interview, presenting his vile anti-Christian message as its own. Here is the headline on FP’s main page:

god Is Not Great
By Jamie Glazov
Christopher Hitchens discusses how religion poisons everything.

2007 discussion continues here.

- end of initial entry -

Sam writes:

Many conservatives embraced Hitchens on the grounds that was willing to speak forthrightly about the reality of Islam. The problem with this position is that Hitchens also worked relentlessly to undermine and degrade the only thing that has ever successfully resisted the advance of Islam: Christian civilization. The conservative embrace of Hitchens is, therefore, just as you describe it. It is a symptom of how feckless and aimless modern conservatism is. That mainstream conservatives would embrace Hitchens, an unrepentant Trostkyite and a vicious slanderer of Christian civilization, simply because he talked tough about Islam when he wasn’t too busy smearing Mother Theresa and most of western history, is an outrage.

Jim C. writes:

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook re Hitchens:

OK, I admire Christopher Hitchens, but for the life of me I don’t understand why this person who never wrote anything great is being lionized all over the place.

Yes, Hitchens managed to carve out a niche for himself as the dilettantish pundit-hero of both the smarmy atheists and the war-hungry policy establishment. A fantastic verbal-sparrer with opinions on everything; a magazine-writer contrarian; and an excellent choice as a talking head on an evening cable news show.

Hitchens’s career, while successful, is a cautionary tale about the trappings of journalistic and literary hackdom. Getting assignments and editing for papers and magazines can feel prestigious and leads to Pulitzer Prizes, special envoys, speaking engagements, and elite press dinners, but despite these rewards there are few things sadder than a professional opinion-monger. The pundit builds nothing, and contributes nothing but opinions. The best-case scenario for such a journalist is to end up like Michael Pollan, Upton Sinclair or Jeremy Scahill—a heat-seeker for injustice whose work does what it’s supposed to and results in palpable gains and reform.

Can anyone please inform me of anything brilliant Hitchens has written.

A well-known curator responded:

I share your opinion entirely. The outpouring indicates only the paucity of thoughtful, intelligent commentary and debate on television and in the press these days: in the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man … He and Arianna H. were/are masters of that Oxbridge debating team thing that Americans lap up, remarkably fluid and fluent in their ability to think on their feet or seat. One need only think of the average presidential candidate’s stumbling utterances expressing ugly ideological claptrap to understand why these British-trained contrarians and freethinkers have been embraced as civilized truth tellers. But the downside of such verbal pyrotechnics is glibness and inchoate thinking. Pontificating that fast one doesn’t really know where one’s going and is then obliged to defend one’s half-baked conclusions with ferocious wit as if they were actually well-considered. Hitchens always reminded me of a rich, Public School bully, like the young Steerforth of David Copperfield (before his comeuppance), or, especially, Flashman, the ghastly cad you-love-to hate of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and GM Fraser’s further adventures of the boastful, beastly braggart. I’ll miss him making sport but the world has not lost a great intellectual and humanitarian.

LA replies:

The conservatives who think Hitchens was a stellar writer and intellectual are the same as the conservatives who equate Newt Gingrich with Winston Churchill: people who have no culture, people whose intellectual life consists of slogans and policy positions.

LA writes:

Here is an e-mail I sent to some correspondents yesterday.

——Original Message——-
From: Lawrence Auster
Sent: Friday, December 16, 2011 9:57 AM
Subject: Hitchens

As you know, I haven’t referenced or quoted Christopher Hitchens at VFR for many years, as I reached the view long ago that such a hate-filled, hate-radiating person should not be treated as legitimate. Obviously many “conservatives” disagree and think highly of him. See, at today, the outpouring of idiocy, the wave of admiration and adoration for this enemy of everything conservatives supposedly believe in. In that thread there is also a comment by Lucianne Goldberg herself speaking of her great fondness for Hitchens.

Also I think the constant desperate desire of Christian conservatives to convert him was/is embarrassing and shows how soft-minded they are. The man was a deeply convinced God-hater and Christianity-hater. So, if these Christians liked and respected the man so much, then they should have had enough respect for him to let him be. If he converted, that would be something that came from him, not as a result of lots of Christians whom he despised making fools of themselves by ridiculously talking about their desire and expectation that he convert.

The way these Christians talk about Hitchens is the way conservatives justify our trade relations with China: we have trade relations with China, they say, because such relations will convert the Chinese to be like us. In reality, we are having trade relations with a tyrannical, inhuman regime which is our determined adversary. But the conservatives don’t want to face that unpleasant fact, so instead they imagine that by having relations with China we are “really” turning China, against its will, into a free, democratic country. Similarly, Hitchens’s absurd Christian fans couldn’t face the fact that Hitchens utterly hated and despised them and was seeking to create a world without Christianity; so they imagined that by their affection and good will toward him they were turning him, against his will, into a Christian. In both cases, there is disgusting soft-headedness combined with an imperial will to imagine that everyone in the world, including one’s enemy, is becoming like oneself.

Jesus had the understanding of human beings to know who was “convertible” and who wasn’t: “Don’t throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again, and rend you.” Jesus knew that some people you just stay away from: “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” Jesus’ sentimental contemporary followers manifestly lack that understanding.

Jim C. writes:

Hitchens a God hater?

That’s absurd: Hitchens was an atheist, so it would be impossible for him to hate “God.” What annoyed me about Hitchens’s atheism was his arrogance, his assumption that all believers are boobs.

LA replies:

Since we are human and do not see God directly, God and the belief in God are inseparable in human experience. Hitchens hated the belief in God, and thus also hated God.

He wasn’t just an atheist, but an anti-theist. But that’s an awkward term that has never caught on.

Jim C. writes:

Larry, your contention that “Hitchens hated the belief in God, and thus also hated God ” is a non sequitur. Here is a good summation of Hitchens’s position on religion (from Wiki):

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is a 2007 book by author and journalist Christopher Hitchens criticising religion. It was published in the United Kingdom as God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion.

Hitchens contends that organised religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” Hitchens supports his position with a mixture of personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts. His commentary focuses mainly on the Abrahamic religions, although it also touches on other religions, such as Hinduism andBuddhism.

As you can see, Hitchens is in no wise writing about God, he’s concerned about the deleterious effects of religion, which is an altogether different colored horse.

LA replies:

Jim, how about looking at the title of Hitchens’s book?

Eleanor J. writes:

Jim C. writes:

“Larry, your contention that ‘Hitchens hated the belief in God, and thus also hated God ’ is a non sequitur.”

Actually Hitchens hated God. This is from Christopher Hitchens: God’s favorite atheist?, at WND:

Hitchens admitted that he didn’t want there to be a god, because he didn’t want to be “under the permanent control and supervision of an unalterable celestial dictator.”

It’s the “servile” and “masochistic” part of the human personality, he said, that wants to be “kicked around,” controlled and “told what to do.”

“It’s an unappetizing side of the human personality,” he told me. “I have contempt for it.”

Hitchens touched on the theme in a debate in August with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a converted Catholic, arguing that once a creator is assumed, it forces people to submit to a “cruel experiment.”

“And over us to supervise this, is a celestial dictatorship. A kind of divine North Korea,” he said. “Greedy, exigent, greedy for uncritical praise from dawn til dusk, and swift to punish the original sins with which is so tenderly gifted us in the first place.”

LA replies:

Thank you for sending this revealing article. Hitchens’ thoughts about God are the depth of the jejune, an exercise in snotty, contemptuous, adolescent superiority. And this is the person so many people respect as a major intellect? The man was a joke. And a culture—not to mention a “conservative movement”!—that lionizes such a man is lost.

Paul K. writes:

Joseph Sobran wrote a worthwhile review of Hitchens’s “god is not Great.” (The word “God” is not capitalized on the book cover.)

What surprises me about Hitchens is that he enjoyed such renown as a writer without ever having expressed an idea that sticks in my mind. He was a fan of Orwell, and seemed to regard himself as his natural successor, but Orwell’s writings are full of memorable insights while Hitchens offers none. In ten years no one will even think about him—his place in the culture relied on his constant output of well-written but vapid essays, his frequent appearances on television, and his ability to curry favor with his fellow public intellectuals, who thought him a worthy subject for incessant interviews.

December 21

Alan Levine writes:

I think that if anything you may have been a little soft in dealing with Christopher Hitchens and the “conservatives” who have praised him. I remember that, when I was studying the Nation for an article of mine that was never published, he was not the very worst writer at that magazine (there was considerable competition for that), but he was up there. He venomously attacked Ronald Reagan and Mother Teresa. I am an agnostic myself, but think that people like Hitchens are the sort who give atheism a bad name. The man was an antireligious fanatical leftist of the sort who thinks that belief in God leads to damnation. He continued to defend the Communist takeover of Russia to the end precisely because, according to him, it at least destroyed the hold of the Orthodox Church on the Russian people. Well, that’s a good reason for totalitarianism. He failed to notice, though a professed admirer of George Orwell, that this was a perfect example of what Orwell derided as the theory of catastrophic gradualism. Or, it would be if it were true, since in reality, one of the many secondary factors making the revolution possible was the fact that the hold of the state church on the Russian populace was in reality, very weak.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 17, 2011 12:04 PM | Send

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