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Hitch-22+2

"The misguided myth of Christopher Hitchens and his effect even on Conservatives" is explored by Paddy Siochain at the newly revamped Ricochet:

This one has been nagging at me for some time. Two years Christopher Hitchens the famed democratic socialist (or whatever he called himself per decade) died. His death was met with plaudits and sad words by not only his friends (fair enough) but also by many of his ideological enemies, who spoke of his talents as a writer, journalist and polemicist.  His passing was met with sadness on both sides of the Atlantic, in UK, America and Ireland where dozens of fact free liberal journalists and naive conservatives wrote of him as a courageous, society challenging, moralist and essayist. Of course this may all be true, depending on your POV but I have a few problems with his narrative that I would like to share.

Hitchens was frequently compared to H.L. Mencken, but ultimately, it's not the compliment it seems at first glance. Both men were brilliant prose stylists -- they were both writing machines, and their millions of words were often phrased with remarkable élan. But ideologically, their articles were written in sand -- Mencken unfortunately got drunk early in his career on the Nietzschian überman myth, leading to his legendary misanthropy and hatred of his fellow Americans -- and democracy in general. Hitchens, on socialism, punitive atheism, and contrarianism for its own sake. Two years ago at Commentary, after wading through worshipful obits from Hitchens' fellow journalists, Andrew Ferguson concluded:

Such excess obscures the most obvious conclusion we can draw from Hitchens’s politics, which is that he was a crank. In the early 1980s he was convinced that the Reagan administration had colluded in the Soviet Union’s downing of the airliner KAL 007. A few years later he was a vigorous promoter of the “Secret Team” theory that fit the Iran-contra scandal into a world-girding conspiracy of international bankers and private militias. A handful of memorialists dismissed his hatred of Bill Clinton as a lapse in judgment, but maybe you had to be there to see how unhinged it was: He really did believe that Clinton had been an accessory to the murder of a pair of hillbillies back in Arkansas. And the Queen, that “whore,” was almost as evil as the Albanian dwarf.

There were lots more opinions where these came from, and any combination of two or three of them, expressed with Hitchens’s ardor and bloody-minded indifference to fact, would have got any one else run out of polite society. In media circles—not to be confused with polite society, I know—even the whole package couldn’t disqualify Hitchens. Where his polemics failed as models of logic or casemaking, they excelled as attention-getters. Only his later embrace of Republican foreign policy threatened his hallowed place among media people, but the threat was temporary and finally inconsequential.

Ferguson noted the paradox of Hitchens' career, in which he actively courted journalistic stardom and celebrity worshippers: "The scurrilous opinions might bring him fame, but the fame would guarantee that the opinions wouldn’t matter."