Posted by BE on November 30th, 2012
If you’re interested, Part Two of this selection, from the period shortly before Hitchens’ death from cancer of the throat, can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR1uorQWNDg .
I only came across Chris Hitchens shortly before he died. I have viewed a lot of his material on youtube and found him a fascinating man to watch and listen to.
An amazing speaker and an amazing intellect. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but I love to hear him say it. In life we are lucky to know of people like this, luckier again to meet them, sadly we will never meet but he is an inspiration to many who live on.
I presume Mr Edwards that it is your hero’s denouncement of religion and the catholic church in particular which you are lauding.
Hitchens’s support for the illegitimate bombing and invasion of Iraq on a false pretext and his subsequent defense of the invasion and the Bush war aims were the not so admirable highlight of his Washington years.
Ever unafraid, there is no doubt if he were alive today he would have roundly condemned Israel’s continued programme of land annexation and identified it as the root source of the current conflict:
My hero too!
Watch the debate vs Alister MCGrath..the best
You have your Chris Hitchens; I have any catholic priest.
BE: As long as we’re both happy. Naturally, I think I’ve got the better deal. But if I’m right, I’ll never be able to say, ‘Told you so!’
Paul’s and Brian’s adulation for the faux-leftist pitbull terrier of the Bush and Blair regimes can only be explained by the fact that neither of them has read much by Hitchens nor seen much of Hitchens, other than his denunciations of religion.
They should seek out the famed confrontation between Hitchens and George Galloway, in which their “hero” is soundly walloped by a far superior opponent, who comments on the recently departed attack-dog in the following clip…
As someone once said: “If you have a hero, look again; you have diminished yourself in some way.”
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of religious people have a hero. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
@ Phillip Smith
“I only came across Chris Hitchens shortly before he died. I have viewed a lot of his material on youtube and found him a fascinating man to watch and listen to.
An amazing speaker and an amazing intellect. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says but I love to hear him say it. In life we are lucky to know of people like this, luckier again to meet them, sadly we will never meet but he is an inspiration to many who live on.”
My experience is similar. I’m still religious (relatively conservative Protestant of the Calvinist variety), and I read “god is not great” a few months ago.
Stimulating and amusing at nearly every point, searingly accurate in others, very poor with some bad inaccuracies on others (New Testament textual criticism in particular, but maybe I’m betraying my Protestant biases!
However, four things remain with me:
1.Irrespective of the truth or otherwise of his views (and ya pays yer money and ya takes yer pick), his polemical style/demagoguery is familiar to those of us who have experienced the same as the captive audiences of priests and pastors for many years.
2.While Hitchens was clearly a man with a real, coherent, and genuinely-held morality, I think he is woefully mistaken if he thinks organised religion is the sole or primary source of all hatred in the world. Yes, it can be, but the problem is rooted deeper than that, and is inherent within human nature. Given enough time and the right conditions, and there would eventually be cohorts of Hitchens-worshippers goose-stepping throughout the land, physically imposing their ideology on others. His argument that the ideologues of the Russian Revolution and Stalinist regime hadn’t yet had enough time to progress beyond the evil learned example of the Tsarist and Russian Orthodox pogroms was easily his weakest. It was also an argument where he ramped up the bombast and rhetoric – usually a clear giveaway that one is not confident of the validity of one’s case, and you are trying to distract. In my humble opinion you’d have to be a sold-out Hitchens hero-worshipper to swallow it.
3. I’m not sure Hitchens offers much original insight for the cause of agnosticism (and if I understood “god is not great”, that is ultimately what he described himself as) compared to, say, Bertrand Russell. Instead, he seems an updated version of the equally amusing and provocative anti-clerical Voltaire. Which is fair enough, given the attempted encroachment of religion into western secular politics in the last 30 years or so.
4. His argument for the benefits of secularism in politics, civics, science and public education is invaluable – including for Christians, and those of other religious faiths. Secularism is the friend of religion, not its enemy, better safeguarding religious freedom, compared to the false and invalid privileges of the past. Including against the anti-religious ideologues which I suspect Hitchens was himself…
“While Hitchens was clearly a man with a real, coherent, and genuinely-held morality…”
You obviously missed the part where he shilled for the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and then spent the time right up to his death denouncing human rights activists with the foam-flecked of the hardline Trotskyist he used to be.
Sorry, folks, the last part of my post should read that the pit-bull terrier Hitchens
….spent the time right up to his death denouncing human rights activists with the foam-flecked malice of the hardline Trotskyist he used to be.
“You obviously missed the part where he shilled for the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and then spent the time right up to his death denouncing human rights activists with the foam-flecked malice of the hardline Trotskyist he used to be”.
Whether I or you (and you obviously don’t) agree with his position on Iraq and Afghanistan, Hitchens’ morality on the matter was, IMHO, most certainly real and genuine. I also thought it was coherent – also whether I agreed with it or not (and I’m not stating, or even hinting one way or the other what I think).
But as it doesn’t fit your version of religio-ideological orthodoxy, then I’d suggest the problem discerning Hitchens’ morality in the matter is yours, and not mine or his.
Thanks for posting this Brian. Sometimes, late at night, commonly when I am feeling gloomy. i type Hitchens’ name into YouTube, sit back and watch. It allows me to think, for a moment, that there is some hope for the human race, that it is possible that reason and intelligent argument and science, can – really can – triumph over ignorance, prejudice and bigotry. I did this the night after John Key said that Mike Joy is wrong because 100% Pure NZ is the same as saying “McDonald’s: I’m loving it”. It made me feel a bit better.
His crowning argument on religion for me was always that if you want to get a good person to do bad things, you need to add religion. The corollary, that a non-religious person cannot possibly commit an act of compassion, generosity charity, altruism or kindness, is self-evident.
I cried when I heard Hitchens had finally died. I didn’t agree with him on everything – Iraq in particular, because I thought he never acknolwedged that the US was fighting for oil, not freedom – but he was a prince among public intellectuals. I would like to be him when I grow up, but I fear I have left my run a bit late.
Hitchens was an odd man. He was a gifted writer, but like many of the “new” atheists, he appeared to be somewhat philosophically illiterate. That’s a shame, because atheists (among whom I count myself), deserve better.
On the other hand, believers in the magic sky pixie don’t get half as much scorn as they deserve for the tripe they inflict on the public consciousness, and he certainly didn’t skimp on that. Nor on the booze and cigarettes.
Having watched the debate between Hitch and Galloway you refer to, I disagree that it was a walloping. In fact, looking past the gratuitous ad hominem attacks made by both sides, Galloway’s argument is pretty thin compared to Hitchen’s (putting aside whether you agree with him or not). No knock out punch, but I’d give it to Hitchens on points.
However, from Galloway’s comments in the video you posted, you almost wonder if he remembers any substance from the debate, beyond the back-pat he gives himself for the witty retort about slugs.
…and on reflection, Morrissey, my apologies for an off-hand dismissal of your post, without stating the reason why Hitchens’ views on the Bush-directed incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq were morally coherent.
Rather than viewing Afghanistan and Iraq primarily as victims of American Imperialism, as he did with, say, Cambodia in the 1970s, his dominant perspective on 9/11 was that it was an act of religious fascism. There is no reasoning or bargaining with people who perpetrate or support such acts, or governments that harbour them (as the Afghans did, and as the Americans, albeit incorrectly thought the Iraqis did as well).
Instead, despite the mixed motives, the innocent lives being lost, and the profits being made, nevertheless the fight is a just, worthy, and necessary one. The Allies motives in World War II were also similarly mixed, innocent lives were also lost in places like Dresden, and Hiroshima, and profits were made. Nevertheless Nazism, Fascism, and Imperialism had to be fought to the death – or our way of life would be dead instead.
As before, I’m not saying Hitchens is necessarily right (although to put my cards on the table, I think he is). Nevertheless that’s how he saw it. He was always an opponent of religious bigotry, intolerance, and threats to political, civil, and intellectual freedom – so his opposition to the campaigns of Al Qaeda and other religiously-inspired terrorist organisations were a reasonable working out of his moral belief system. IMHO
Brilliant man. It is so hard to argue for or against something so intangible as religion or faith.
I am just replying to this because of your anti Nigel Latta blog I just saw whilst I was trying to find out information on this mediagenic Nigel Latta.
Good on you for speaking out. The man is a narcissist who get his narcissistic fixes from his ridiculous books and TV shows. He reminds me of Dr Noboru Wataya from The Windup bird chronicles.
I wish you comments for old posts were possible, but I can see why they’re not.
In Hitchens later ‘right’ phase – when confronted directly with opinions and sentiments he expressed in print and speech during his ‘left’ days he would always defend those as being morally and materially consistent in every way with his current opinions and sentiments. The same within phases. He rarely or never to my knowledge backed down on anything he wrote.
Sadly for the truth this was only an appearance which he maintained by engaging in dissembly and outright denial.
Hitchens had few equals in debate and his most impressive performances are against single cause speakers. When going up against George Galloway who in spite of many vulnerabilities of his own was able to put him under real pressure from multiple directions this becomes painfully obvious.
“But as it doesn’t fit your version of religio-ideological orthodoxy,”
What on earth are you talking about? I have given no indication of my views on what you have chosen to give the splendid label “religio-ideological orthodoxy”.
“… then I’d suggest the problem discerning Hitchens’ morality in the matter is yours, and not mine or his.”
I don’t care whether Hitchens was an atheist, or an agnostic, or the dogmatic and intolerant communist zealot that he was in the 1960s. What I do care about was the fact that he told lies, exaggerated and distorted without shame, and was a pathetic toady, not only to the most powerful right wing politicians, but even to such third-rate intellects as Martin Amis. Have a read of Hitchens’ rambling, dyspeptic final book and you’ll see for yourself just what an embarrassment to himself he had become.
1.) “Having watched the debate between Hitch and Galloway you refer to, I disagree that it was a walloping.”
Call it a shellacking then. Or a bollocking. Or a good old-fashioned hiding. Whatever way you phrase it, Hitchens was humiliated. Galloway’s ascendancy in that debate is the prime reason for Hitchens’ extraordinary spleen-venting whenever anyone mentioned Galloway’s name, right up to his death.
2.) “In fact, looking past the gratuitous ad hominem attacks made by both sides, Galloway’s argument is pretty thin compared to Hitchen’s (putting aside whether you agree with him or not).”
Who has been proved right in the ensuing years? The one who toadied to the Blair-Bush axis, or the one who called them on their murderous hypocrisy?
3.) “No knock out punch, but I’d give it to Hitchens on points.”
You really are a True Believer.
4.) “However, from Galloway’s comments in the video you posted, you almost wonder if he remembers any substance from the debate, beyond the back-pat he gives himself for the witty retort about slugs.”
Okay, so Galloway is a bit conceited. That’s a mere cavil at his style, but it’s not a serious criticism.
“There is no reasoning or bargaining with people who perpetrate or support such acts,…”
That’s doctrinal humbug. I presume you were not actually thinking when you typed out that gem of extremist propaganda. Did that classic “no reasoning or bargaining” trope come direct from one of Donald Rumsfeld’s rambling speeches, or did you automatically and unconsciously download it from your own brain?
Having read and reflected on your last three posts (one duplicated) if you aren’t able to work out why “I have given no indication of my views on what you have chosen to give the splendid label “religio-ideological orthodoxy” is not how others see it, then fair enough…
I’ll leave you to dialogue alone, as it seems you are unwilling to engage with mental possibilities outside your rather definite (dare I suggest, ‘rigid’?) plausibility structure.
But thanks for the response.
…although on second thoughts I do leave the door ajar for further interaction if you can kindly advise how one can meaningfully engage, reason, and bargain with people who groom young men to fly planes into buildings.
I can’t conceive how, especially when their demands seem so absolute and non-negotiable, and their zeal so vehement.
Nevertheless, as you suggest, it is no doubt due to my lack of brainpower.
I look forwrad to you enlightening us all…
I don’t mean to offend you, my friend. Your posts are well written and thoughtful, and I respect your points.
Unfortunately, I must go now, but I look forward to engaging with you in the near future.
All the best,
No offense taken.
This cartoon by Matt Bors on Hitchen’s demise is rather one of my favourites.
How come, NZ can’t produce a columnist of world-renown? Australia had a Robert Hughes, the U.K had Malcolm Muggeridge.
Hitchens is a great speaker and debater, and I agree with most of what he says, except for his attitude to religion. I think he misses the point – religion is an appeal to the emotions, not logic.
Christianity provides an excellent moral philosophy by which to guide ones decisions. He over fixates on the past and present failures, and the mumbo-jumbo aspects of rising from the dead etc, and the fundamentalists.
Islam may well provide motivation for violence to many, though most of its adherents disagree and say they are deluded, but I wonder if a world full of atheists would be an improvement.
The track record is not good, from the French Revolutionary Cult of Reason to Communism and Nazism, When atheists take charge the results have not been good.
Of course you could also argue that many great leaders have been atheists, such as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, but they chose to not accentuate it or pretend otherwise. They believed, which Hitchens did not, that religion is overall a force for good and it is foolish to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If you are looking for a hero, Brian, why choose Christopher Hitchens, that sad, sycophantic plaything of the Bush and Blair regimes?
Here is a Briton who actually showed courage and stood up to bullies, instead of working for them….
Here is Galloway addressing the U.S. Senate committee and turning the tables on them. The senators have absolutely no answer to him. How interesting if others had the courage to speak to them so frankly….