Christopher Hitchens is Dead. Long Live Hitch.

Categories: R.I.P.

Less than an hour ago NPR reported that Christopher Hitchens had finally succumbed to his battle with cancer.

Tomorrow, at a decent hour, I will search through the Voice archives for some of his pieces. At one point he wrote the Press Clips column, but whether it was before or after Alexander Cockburn wrote it escapes me at the moment. Fuck it. This sucks.

The best I can do right now is reprint the one piece he seems to have written for us in the Internet era, and which is in our digital archives. It's a sweet little deconstruction of Al Gore during the 2000 election, and a review of the book Inventing Al Gore: A Biography by Bill Turque.

Just a little Hitch, in the dark of the night, while we down a drink to Hitchens, a man with no equal. -- T.O.


SOFT GORE
By Christopher Hitchens
February 29, 2000

Not just for fun, I once tried to arrange a meeting between the vice president and his fairly distant cousin Gore Vidal.

The attempt was less than a success: Vidal intoned beautifully that he would not socialize with any client of Mr. Martin Peretz, and had in any case "met enough vice presidents already." Gore himself declined on the surreal grounds that he had to go and greet the Pope at the Baltimore airport. (I didn't tell Vidal that this was the excuse, deeming it too shockingly insulting for his surprisingly tender ears.)

Everybody has noticed by now--even if they haven't clocked both aspects of the problem simultaneously--that there is something deeply amiss with Al Gore. I would phrase the amiss-ness like this: Where he isn't robotically normal he is abnormal in an abnormal way. Most of the routine gags focus on either the left or right hemisphere of this dilemma: the extreme rigidity or the occasional weirdness. But consider. Here is a man who actually wanted it thought that he and his wife were the models for Erich Segal's saccharine Love Story. And here is a man whose real-life roommate was Tommy Lee Jones. Who on earth, for any reason, would wish to emphasize the first impression (which turns out to be false) and de-emphasize the second, which enjoys at least the merit of being true?

Bill Turque of Newsweek's Washington bureau is in a fairly good position to sift through such questions--incidentally, his wife, Melinda Henneberger of the Times, wrote the story about Segal's astonishment at the imposture--and bought into Gore stocks when the market for them was depressed. Typically, in the case of repeated fantasy (inventing the Internet, coming under fire in Vietnam, paying Naomi Wolf to give counsel on testosterone) one looks to the family background. Here again, it always seemed to me, young Gore was throwing away a trick. Instead of going through the wearisome routine of claiming small-town roots, at a time when America is an urban and suburban society, he could have said, Look, I grew up in Washington. I was raised in a hotel there, never knowing a day's want or worry, and cleaning my clothes by dropping them on the floor. When I was hungry and (voice cracking a little here) I often was, why, I would call room service. This place has no secrets from me: I can't be corrupted by it. How about that for "distancing" himself from the Man from Hope? Instead, he had to make like he grew up with pigs as his only friends, and went barefoot to school.

According to Turque, there may be a reason why Gore doesn't want to dwell on his actual upbringing, which was often lonely and chilly. His political parents handed him the equivalent of a latchkey and left him in the care of neighbors and relatives. The father was a bit of a domestic colossus with, for his day, quite brave views on the South's racial curse and the war in Vietnam. Under pressure to perform, the young Al even went to Vietnam in order that his father not be accused of protecting him. At about that period, he wrote a series of young man's letters about the American crisis, published by Peter Boyer in The New Yorker in November 1994. Infinitely finer than Bill Clinton's calculating missives from the same period, they were still disowned by their author when they surfaced again.

These psychic wounds from the past might have been easily superable if it were not for two things--further family calamity in later life, and the aforementioned Mr. Clinton. Let's agree that to lose your sister to lung cancer, and to nearly lose your son to a car-smash, would be enough to sober most people. It seemingly put Gore at odds with his wife for a while, and upset his plans to please his parents. This may explain why he tried to make capital out of both disasters with emotional speeches, as if to redeem what he had lost by the original tragedies.

But when he looks back with regret and thinks, "If only . . . ," it must be the smug visage of the president that rises before him. If only I hadn't given too much credit to Bush for the Gulf War, and used my family as the excuse for ducking a run in 1992. If only I hadn't had to wait for the phone call from Little Rock. Clearly, it is this sense--the sense that his best shot may be behind him--that underlies the current theatrical angst, and the unconvincing pose of ruthlessness. Turque offers two valuable vignettes. The first is the moment in the '80s when Gore's shrewd and powerful mother told him to avoid the company of Clinton, a self-evidently unprincipled opportunist. The second is in the early days of the 1992 campaign when Gore was privately very high on Perot, who looked at one stage as if he would reelect Bush and defeat Clinton, thus preserving the Gore "window" in 1996. Just think what the Veep has had to eat since, and how often he must have beaten up his tear-stained pillow.

Where dirt is concerned, Turque is diligent and fair, and convicts on two counts. Once I had seen Gore describe his youthful marijuana use as "infrequent and rare" in a prepared statement (what, both?), I needed no convincing that he'd been weeded-out in his time: This book has the details, should you care. And the story of his cave-in to the polluters of the Pigeon River in Tennessee has not, until now, been widely enough known outside the state. But by this date, presumably, even the dumbest Greens have noticed that the Clinton-Gore administration is not truly, madly, or deeply environmentalist.

On Gore's role in the Clinton scandals, Turque follows the weird Beltway discipline of citing peccadillos at one end and "doubts" at the other. Of a memorandum from a White House fundraising meeting, on which Gore aide David Strauss scrawled "65% soft/35% hard," he writes that it "raised questions about the truthfulness of [Gore's] claim that he was unaware he had raised hard money." Yes, I'd say it did. And he describes as "stunningly blunt" Gore's advice to Clinton in September 1998: "Mr. President, I think most of America has forgiven you, but you've got to get your act together." One pictures Clinton wincing at this pitiless admonition, and perhaps calling for further spiritual counselors to attend upon him.

I have interviewed Gore formally on one occasion, and met him socially twice. I found him much wittier and warmer, and more politically astute, than his publicists claim. The explanation for his current self-torture, and for his reliance on unscrupulous associates, lies in the fact that he lost his self-respect and exposed himself to humiliation at the hands of a much lesser man, that he failed to heed his beloved mother's advice, and that this loss and lapse cannot be recompensed by another load of semi-tough but sentimental speeches. Win or lose, we have another hollow man on our hands.



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48 comments
whynot
whynot

He was a brillant writer and a greater non-believer in the existance of a God.  If he was wrong about that, I guess he has a lot to answer for!

Gary Holbrook
Gary Holbrook

His words will live on and smother those that sell black and white T V's. 

 He has escaped the clutches of Oral Roberts and Jerry Fartwell who were waiting for him at the Pearly Gates hoping he would shout for forgiveness and redemption.

Be well Hitch and thanks.

nexus974
nexus974

Love him or hate him, Hitch was always entertaining and thought provoking. The world is a better place because of him. Goodbye Hitch! You will be missed but never forgotten!

dino dimuro
dino dimuro

Speaking of the old Stalinist Cockburn, read his "I really did try to say something nice" piece on C.H. on his site Counterpunch. 

Manifigue
Manifigue

Did Christopher Hitchens ever write for New Times/Village Voice Media?

Drew Hunkins
Drew Hunkins

 Hitchens was a turncoat of the worst type.  Soon after the 9-11 attacks he became acheerleader for Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons' imperialistic wars on the Arabworld.  This was a man who had previouslybuilt a journalistic and intellectual career steadfastly supporting Palestinianrights (he co-authored a book with the late Edward Said), civil liberties, andlambasting any semblance of anti-democratic tendencies of any sort.  Yet he threw that all away by kowtowing toFox News and the Cheney war machine.  Hitchens' apostasy was truly breathtaking in its scope, he'dsavagely denounce his former intellectual colleagues with a ferocity that wasastonishing; Chomsky, Cockburn, et. al., they all felt the lash of Hitchens'bromides.  Of course Chomsky, Cockburnand others fighting the good fight were a constant reminder rattling around inthe back of Christopher's head that they still held fast to their moral andintellectual principles while he abandoned all claims to integrity by jumpinginto bed with Bush and the neo-con warmongers. One wonders how that must have felt, how did it feel being much worsethan a Jacobin - an out-and-out, total sell out?  One of the finest political essays of the last three decades waswritten a few years ago by Professor Norman Finkelstein.  The essay addressesthe disgraceful manner in which Hitchens completely sold his moral universe tothe Bush junta.  If you look up 'FinkelsteinHitchens apostasy' I'm sure you'll find it quite easily, it's a phenomenal andextraordinary piece.  Easily theproverbial 'must-read' of the last decade.  

jay kay
jay kay

I was an atheist before I saw Hitchens ... now I know there MUST be a God as I was personally hoping this scumbag would die of cancer so that I wouldn't see his hypocritical mug on TV - Thanks, God!

P.S. Is he still sending his kids to religious school? And he STILL had suckers defending his schtick?! Morons ...

jay kay
jay kay

Hitchens was nothing but a piece of zionist garbage masquerading as an anti-religious crusader; crusader being a pointed term in his cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq - It's pretty hard to take someone who claims that religion is responsible for all the wars in the world when you are personally advocating one with the sort of bile I expect from a religious fundamentalist!

CofS Exit Zone
CofS Exit Zone

I pulled out "Letters to a Young Contrarian" last night when this news first broke, and spent an hour or so remembering just a few of the ways his genius seemingly made the world a brighter place. It's a sad day indeed when someone with so much talent is taken away so young. May his greatest works live on forever.

Kim O'Brien
Kim O'Brien

I loved when he said " A good person will do a good thing , a bad person will do a bad thing . If you want a GOOD person to do a BAD thing ...you are going to need religion".

robinlandseadel
robinlandseadel

Wrote wonderfully. Weird, interesting, often wrong.

I had to wait a bit to remember just how incredibly and disastrously wrong the man could be. John Cook at Gawker got to the heart of the matter:

" Hitchens' style—ironically, given his hatred for tyranny and love of free expression—brooked no dissent. There was little room for good-faith disagreement or loyal opposition. His enemies were not just wrong, they were stupid or mean or small-minded or liars or cheats or children or cowards. It was thrilling and gratifying to see that articulate viciousness deployed against the Clinton cartel, or Mother Teresa, or Henry Kissinger—against power and pretense. To see it deployed in favor of war, on behalf of a dullard and scion, against the hysterical mother of a dead son was nauseating.

In the months and years since Hitchens publicly proclaimed his pride in the invasion of Iraq for Murdoch's ideological crib-sheet, 78,708 Iraqi civilians and 2,548 U.S. troops have been killed. He did immense good in his life, and unforgivable harm. "

http://gawker.com/5868761/chri...

Stoneyjack
Stoneyjack

Good riddance to another shabby, rusty, pretentious British import of the same low quality as Martin Bashir, Tina Brown, Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell, & Andrew Sullivan.

Aa
Aa

Christopher Hitchens was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the Iraq invasion. We should not forget all the fear-mongering, lies and utter bullshit that he spewed. 

Myriam Breitman
Myriam Breitman

The best Hitchens moment I had was in 2007, when I attented his lecture in Amsterdam. The lecture was held in a church, which was converted for the occassion into an auditorium.  Hitchens found this to be hilarious and very symbollic of the progress of the Dutch people in rejecting religions. 

Jimmy Kowski
Jimmy Kowski

Re-Reading anything he wrote I am obliged to say that he writes in a style that reminds me of P.G. Wodehouse [if he were a modern day journalist] - And I don't think there's higher praise than that!

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

Thank you, Tony. I share your grief.

Christopher was a Titan! I'll never forget him or his work.

robinlandseadel
robinlandseadel

Of course:

"   The best I can do right now is reprint the one piece he seems to have written for us in the Internet era, and which is in our digital archives.    "

Radio Paul
Radio Paul

I could not agree more. Hitchens had no issue throwing human beings under the buss and see them killed by the 100's of thousands if he thought is served him. He is no different than those he chastised. I find it ironic that he died on the eve of the official ending of the war in Iraq. He so wanted that war. Millions of people now have to deal with DU in their water and land. I for one can not think of a more appropriate death of cancer. He was so willing to visit it on others for generations to come. No love loss here. this I am right so I can use might and then reverse might makes right mentality was not cutting edge thinking. It is as old as religions is!

josh
josh

Did Hitchens run over your dog or something? Seriously, you're all over this thread, trying to kick his casket like he stood you up for the prom. Rather than post more incoherent, uninformed rants to let us know what you REALLY think, why don't you find a living person to rage-hump? Who knows, maybe you'll find a person both flawed AND admirable, if such a thing is imaginable.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Hitchens was anti-Israel, and in no way a zionist.  I think his hatred of religion may have aided that position, I think it may have affected his thinking after 9/11 as well.  Hitchens was too equivocal to make the broad claims you're making, you should reserve your judgment for things you have a better knowledge of.

redstone
redstone

"Zionist" is the anti-semite codeword for jew, and exposes the anti-semite's "one drop" rule: even an atheist with a traditional, formal English upbringing can't escape his tainted blood.

scottindallas
scottindallas

A great book, sadly, he became deaf to those contrarian impulses after 9/11

scottindallas
scottindallas

Sorry, I'd call it nationalism, cultural elitism, failure to reflect on the consequences of our actions.  Just look at Iran, or Israel.  Even if the Palestinians are an "invented people" they are still entitled to human, civil, and land rights.  Somehow, I get the sense that we Americans forget to "treat others as they'd like to be treated."  We proudly proclaim "American Exceptionalism" and these same advocates tend to see this country as "Christian."  But not all, what justifies the blindness, and callousness of others?  What was Christopher's dysfunction?  What's his excuse?

jay kay
jay kay

f you want a GOOD person to do a BAD thing ...you are going to need religion".

But you DON'T need religion to do bad things ... you just need you judgement to be impaired by alcohol - Hitchens proved this when he got drunk and went on TV to defend the Iraq war! At least he didn't drive after his frequent binge drinking - which is a given when your bar tab is picked up by Vanity Fair!

Hitch
Hitch

Comparing Hitchens to Simon Cowell illustrates your level of ignorance. Keep watching moronic TV, as it's obviously something you excel at.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Another example of Hitchens cultural blindness.  The Dutch have a powerful and strong Fascist Right movement that resents Muslims, and will soon flip on Jews as well.  I suspect you're similarly dismissive of this trend, but it has venerable roots I suspect you're very aware of.

jay kay
jay kay

"Christopher was a Titan!"

Bad analogy - didn't the Titans get their butts kicked by the Gods according to Greek Myth?

scottindallas
scottindallas

I like how Drew reminds us some of his former peers.  He was a man of tremendous earnestness, above all else.  And, that he threw away.  Or, perhaps sold for a handful of silver. 

JaykayDX
JaykayDX

"Did Hitchens run over your dog or something?"

Naw, (although I wouldn't put it past him) he just ran over his ideals - It's kinda hard to claim that atheism is more logical and less violent than religion when you advocate and cheerlead a WAR, ok? People tend to take your ideas less seriously ...

"Seriously, you're all over this thread, trying to kick his casket like he stood you up for the prom."

It's (still) a democracy - I CAN say what I want, right? As for 'kicking his casket' I'm just paying back whatever rudeness and belligerence Hitchens used to dish out regularly ... seriously his drunk slurred speeches made the whole atheism and humanism movement look bad - all for getting his bar tab paid off by his neo-con paymasters. It's obvious HE didn't care so why should I? Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

"let us know what you REALLY think, "

I take it you didn't really comprehend anything I posted earlier did you?

"...why don't you find a living person to rage-hump?"

I would - but I'm scared of all the venereal diseases I'd get if I banged one of the Kardashians! Seriously, why all this RESPECT just because he died? He didn't show any respect for Falwell when he died (probably because Falwell was a hypocrite) so I'm not showing any respct for Hitchens now that he's dead ... (probably because Hitchens was a hypocrite as well)

jay kay
jay kay

'Hitchens was anti-Israel'

Then he should have cheerleaded an invasion of Israel, instead of an enemy (Iraq) of Israel ...

'... and in no way a zionist.'

Explain why he did a fine job of getting into bed with the neo-cons (all of them closet zionists) then?

jay kay
jay kay

"Zionist" is the anti-semite codeword for jew - yeah, the same way that "anti-semite" is code word for 'I've run out of Ideas but I'm going to throw slurs at anyone who criticizes IsraHELL in a pathetic attempt to deflect criticism of that fascist state' - dear, the ONLY player that could have benefitted from Iraq being invaded was Israel - The US was only going to lose and lose big - but he still enjoyed favor with the media even though he was a hypocritical failure who blamed religion for wars even though he personally cheerleaded one (and convenienty ignored the fact that wars are fought for gold, oil and resources and NOT theology) saw Iraq being ruled by Iran clerical proxies, by the US thoroughly failing and by sending his kid to a religious school!

'Even an atheist with a traditional, formal English upbringing can't escape his tainted blood.'

Exactly WTF are you banging on about? That Hitchens was a Jew of some sort? Dear, I labelled him a zionist as he was an ally of the neo-cons who were all closet zionsists - If you've managed to delude yourself by listening to the voices in your head that Hitchens was 'tainted' you only have YOURSELF to blame!

Oh, but please keep on playing the victim card - I do enjoy watching rich, white people whining about prejudice!

robinlandseadel
robinlandseadel

A species of Intellectual Fundamentalism. There is the distinct possibility that he pickled his brains. But primarily he had a lifetime devotion to being incontestably right. This is also known as being a Dick.

jay kay
jay kay

I agree - Cowell should be insulted at being compared to this shambolic, fat drunk - Cowell is at least good at what he does - which is berating untalented wannabees - something Hitchens was despite all the protestations of his famous friends - The only similarity Cowell shares with Hitchens is that they're both pathetic, overrated ego maniacs who've made a name for themselves out of their home country of the UK by fooling gullible American through giving them what they THINK they want to hear!

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

Based upon the wording in the dictionary I use:

• [as n. ] (usu. a titan) a person or thing of very great strength, intellect, or importance : a titan of American industry.

... the analogy works very well for me.

scottindallas
scottindallas

You seem to confuse yourself with the term "neo-con"  Many neo-cons are indeed deeply interested in Israel, and Likud-leaning policies.  But, that is but a third of the camp you're identifying.  The other part of the group are those interested in zero-sum-game oil security, which may or may not belong to other groups.  Next, you have the hawks, they like war for all situations, they are generally imperialists, and believe in American exceptionalism.  Who knows perhaps there are others as well. 

What you're calling neo-cons are what I see as a conflation of the military industrial complex cheerleaders and whores, with Israeli policies.  Of the pro-Israel crowd many are Christian fundies, and some are Jews.  I'd reckon that a greater % of the Christian Fundies are loyal than Jews.  Jews seem to either support Israel, support human rights or not care which makes them reflexively pro-Israel.  Just as most Americans are pro-US.

(I should note that by "pro-Israel," "pro-US" I mean reluctant to question or criticize those nations policies, particularly the most egregious ones.  I believe that to ignore these policies, or to fail to criticize them is to leave these nations to rot and degrade; so, to be "pro-US or Israel" is to be an apologist for it's decline, to ignore it's need for improvement.  This is akin to a lazy parent ignoring anti-social behavior in her kids, and is tantamount to criminal negligence.

JaykayDX
JaykayDX

"You the boss of this here blog? Wow! Who knew"

Who knew? Not me!

BTW, thanks for repeating 'just an elbow's' talking points; now I know that you and him are the same person.

"Whatever the case, you are not the boss of me."

Wouldn't want to be - you'd just be giving me a ton of attitude.

"P.S.  I still don't give a dead dog's dick what you think of or believe about Mr. Hitchen's work."

Thank you for letting me know that you care enough to post here in order to let me know that you REALLY don't care what I think about you or Hitchens ...

scottindallas
scottindallas

Then you don't know, or have any sense of Hitchen's work.  His pre-9/11 attitudes are hard to reconcile with what came afterwards.  So, you've simply revealed your own ignorance.  Hitchens work was equivocal when taken together, I don't simply disapprove of his work, I disapprove of half of it.  He never reconciled the two himself, and we are left to imagine what motivated his change of heart.  Perhaps it was hatred of religion, perhaps it was venality.  But, one thing for sure, your opinion (as expressed here) is of no value or merit.

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

You the boss of this here blog? Wow! Who knew?

Whatever the case, you are not the boss of me.

P.S.  I still don't give a dead dog's dick what you think of or believe about Mr. Hitchen's work.

jay kay
jay kay

WHAAAT?! I never ordered anyone to 'do as I ay, not as I do?!?' - don't put words in my mouth, dude! I merely stated that if Mr. 'Duck' genuinely didn't care, he wouldn't have bothered posting here - so his statement isn't very convincing.

Speaking of tools, what is 'just an elbow' if not another dick with no balls?

Just an elbow
Just an elbow

"Then don't post here repeatedly ..."You mean do as I ay, not as I do?!?What a tool.

jay kay
jay kay

"No one has a gun to your head forcing you to approve of the work the man did."

No-one has to put his obit on the front page - but the corporate media did - in an effort to brainwash us into believing he was some sort of 'messiah' (HA!). Seriously there ARE better people to talk on behalf of atheism - just NOT a corporate stooge like Hitchens - he sold the war on TV for big business and got Vanity Fair to pay his bar tab for life - and if you think that getting a drunk to present your case for you is the BEST that the corporate media can do, they are SERIOUSLY in big trouble ...

"And, I don't give a dead dog's dick what you think of or believe about Mr. Hitchen's work."

Then don't post here repeatedly ...

jay kay
jay kay

"a person or thing of very great strength, intellect, or importance..."

But Hitchens didn't have great strength - his whining over the water boarding proved that otherwise he would have lasted longer during the torture - neither did he have much great intelligence - his books against religion are full of the self-righteous bile I tend to find repulsive in the SAME religious people he supposedly critiques - unless you find his slurred speech and drunken behaviour 'intelligent'; and you confuse 'being on the telly a lot' with genuine importance - by that standard, the Kardashians are also 'titans' ...

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

So you don't approve of Mr. Hitchen's work. So what?

No one has a gun to your head forcing you to approve of the work the man did.

And, I don't give a dead dog's dick what you think of or believe about Mr. Hitchen's work.

scottindallas
scottindallas

his embracing of war, his failure to see Western Imperialism and it's venal attendants made him hard to take.  Hard to imagine the self same man who wrote "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" would get so thrown off base by Arabs.  His fear of religion arguably allowed him to indulge in Antisemitism (the larger Semitic peoples in this sense)  I think he got sloppy and indulgent, fat and puffed up.  He died an angry, sick, tormented man.

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