Thursday, July 31, 2003

More on the Death of a Great Man

The degradation of Christopher Hitchens continues unabatedly. Through Peter Kilander, who is apparently Hitchens's online amanuensis, one can see the sad decline in explicit and implicit ways; and as time goes on one begins -- or, at least I begin -- to lose almost all hope that there will be any rehabilitation or sudden moment of clarity with which Hitchens not so much as redeems but rediscovers who he was.

Peter Kilander's site is something of an index of all Hitchens-related material on the web. Lately, or should I say since Hitchens's turn to the dark side, the articles posted have naturally been representative of Hitchens's mutated politics. But there is something more, I believe: the presentation. What one really wishes to know is how much influence Hitchens himself gives to the posting of the articles, for I don't think I'm being paranoid in noticing that pieces on Hitchens from awful rightwing media like Fox News, The New York Post, The American Spectator, and National Review are seemingly posted immediately while important if perhaps generally critical pieces by Hitchens's former colleages are in turn posted with hesitance if at all. While one might think this is an entirely normal practice, I'd add that articles from neutral or rather what is deemed "centrist" media, in which Hitchens has an increasing presence, are also, it seems, rather hesitantly and belatedly posted in comparison to the right-wing articles, which I need to emphasise are not by any means completely fawning.

For instance, this smug piece of html poop from the Ayn Rander online rag Reason appeared almost immediately as did this "even-handed" review from the awful Limbaughites at The American Spectator. While this article, which to be fair probably hurt Hitchens's feelings but is nonetheless a legitimate viewpoint and one that comes from an especial knowledge of Hitchens, took its own sweet time in showing up. Meanwhile, this reference from the vile David Frum's webdiary at NRO showed up ever so quickly, but this piece (via The Hamster) by another of Hitchens's former comrades and Perrin's follow-up (and excellent demonstration of Hitch's new-found -- because of its inherently right-wing nature -- misogyny) have yet to make an appearance.

Incidentally, Hitchens also appears in this forum with Frum among others, which makes for a nice venting on Islamo-Fascism; nicely oblivious, as well -- and as per his current pattern -- to the more local but less-bombastic (no pun) menaces of Judeo- and Christian-Fascism.

Years ago, Hitchens, to his enduring honour an athiest to the core, would have attacked all forms of religious-tribalist fanaticism. Indeed, his beautiful skewerings of Moral Majoritians as well as Judeo-Fascists like Norman Podhoretz are easily the wittiest in his oeuvre. But here he schmoozes and smaltzes with Frum who is every bit Podoretz's intellectual heir as that criminal menace Eliot Abrams is Poddy's heir-in-clan. I wonder if Hitchens, who Roz Kaveney's article outs as a bisexual, patted Frum on the back for the praise he gave (Poddy's wife) Midge Dector's infamous fag-bashing-via-faux-incredulity "classic" essay, "The Boys on the Beach"? After all, hatred of homosexuals is one of the few remaining visible manifestations of our American brand of Monotheist-Fascism. But no, Iraq and anti-wahabbi paranoia are all that matter.

(Hitchens also, in this conference, takes great care to slander one of our (his and mine) common heros, Julius Nyerere, by favourably comparing him to the imperialist Neo-Kissinger hacks of the Adminstration.)

Here I confess an ever so slight interest, at least as far as Hitchens's site goes (and I only mention this to repeat the argument but also pre-empt charges that I possibly suffer from bitter bitchiness -- please, I know I am a nobody). I wrote to Hitchens via Kilander's website, asking how he could on the one hand righteously attack master war criminal Henry Kissinger while at the same time make blanket apologies on the aims and means of Neo-Kissingers and, indeed, former Kissinger Co-conspirators who make up the current adminstration; moreover, how could Hitchens sneer at the anti-war protestors (in the same way he sneered at the Seattle crowd : plainly no protest is as honourable as those Hitchens took part in as young man, even when they are for the same principles) with such invective and such schadenfreude when these people (of whom I am one) make at least part of their case on the fact that this adminstration has done everything it can to destroy the International Criminal Court which was set up to nail otherwise free war criminals like .. Henry Kissinger. I didn't ask this with a sneer (I phrased it differently), nor did I wish to make an attack -- in good faith, I wanted him to address this glaring contradiction. No matter: roughly 15 minutes after I sent the message, it had been deleted.

One hopes Hitchens felt a prick of conscience in at least this regard if no other, for Kissingerism currently rules Iraq in the form of Viceroy Paul Bremer, former Prince (Managing Director) of Kissinger Associates, Inc. New York, New York.

Some months later I wrote to Hitchens again, albeit in atrocious prose, asking if he knew of any dirt regarding possible quid pro quos between Henry Kissinger and Idi Amin's regime (this was in light of recent MI6 declassifications which damned Western, specifically English, interests in aiding Amin's rule). I thanked him profusely for the work he had done on the subject, and said, quite in a fanboyish embarassing way, that I read him practically daily -- which I did, and still do. Though this post "stuck", I have no idea if Hitchens read it.

I read and re-read Hitchens's essay collections over and over. Indeed, it is he and Gore Vidal who have taught me politics in a way in which no professor, no course, and no media outlet could ever hold a candle to. They illuminate; and if I could hug them and thank them somehow for the intensely rich experience they have given me in reading, and the education they have given me with their dense-with-fact essays and rich in meaningful anecdote speeches, I would. And speaking of Vidal, for years Hitchens thought of him in the same way I still do, but now he darkly hints that he is going to attack the grand old man. Well, that's that.

But Hitchens's right turn is far from being confined to slashing old comrades: despite not exactly being pinned down on the question, he refutes the materialist interpretation of history ("a tautology" is how he labels the eminently obvious materialist reasons for the invasion of Iraq: Petroleum), which had formerly grounded his philosophy and as such provided a neutral setting from which he could then follow his moral compass. He has also pleaded ignorant of American patterns of Imperialism : "The days of Banana Republics are over," he says of Venezuela in particular and Bush Adminstration policy in general. Add to this his coming slags on his old master, Vidal, and the conclusion can only be that Hitchens has turned to the dark side, no matter the few glimmers of hope we may see (like this in an interview with Bill Moyers), and no matter the few protests, some from Hitchens himself, that his new ideology is somehow of the left.

Hitchens is quite right to mostly ignore the nasty attacks Alexander Cockburn and Media Whores Online have sent his way. All Cockburn has done is make himself look like a spurned lover, though I certainly sympathise with the political justifications Cockburn uses. Still, equally as nasty was Hitchens's invective against another of his old comrades, Noam Chomsky, and so I feel that Cockburn's ad hominems and slurs are thus nearly cancelled out. Also, regarding the breached David and Jonathan relationship of Christopher and Alexander, let's just say, who knows what was said in private.

Hitchens is Darth Vader rising, to use a cliched but absolutely perfect because so parallel metaphor, in service of a group of Neo-Kissinger Republicans who in aggregate can be only be called Imperial. On Darth Hitchens plunges, but not without stealth, sucking up to his old enemies by appearing on Imperial Star Destroyers like Fox News and focusing his lasers via Tie Fighters like The Weekly Standard. (Can a photo-op and a kiss-and-make-up session with Conrad Black or Martin Peretz be too far in the future?) Onward and upward Darth Hitchens slashes with abandon, with an older sloppier style (his recent WMD weasel-wording is shameful and unworthy of his pen), dispatching his old Jedi Brethren of the Left here and there: Chomsky, Cockburn, Sontag, Ali, Herman -- only Edward Said has so far escaped Hitch's sabre. Now for Vidal, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the American Left. Hitch will slash, and also be slashed; it will be bloody, and the Imperium will enjoy their popcorn moment. Darth Hitchens could afford to be kind to frail old Yoda, Eric Hobsbawm, at Hay-On-Wye; but with Vidal, it will be a legitimate slugfest. I also have no doubt that soon we'll see Hitchens in kissy moments with the most vile and obvious of the Imperium's enforcers, bounty hunters like Ann Coulter and David Horowitz (the latter has indeed already happened).

And all because Clinton made him angry? So much so that the glee with which Clinton executed people, which Hitchens was so right to abhor, is now excuseable when George W. Palpatine, ruler of Iraq, does it with even more pleasure? That Hitchens now takes great pains to slag anyone who points to Grand Moff Ashcroft's shredding of the Bill of Rights as evidence of the corruptedness of this Administration and the emptiness of its professed aims of "freedom"? That he pushes false dichotomies which demand one either prefers Saddam Hussein OR Halliburton, when one can surely hate both? Such a blunt instrument he is, this shade of the Imperium who was formerly such a nuanced cutlasser as well as a luminous being.

He's more machine now than man, which is how I too can say, yes, then, so long fellow-traveller. Even though it stings, which is odd, I suppose, considering he is someone I have never met. But there is always faint hope that he will be redeemed, hopefully before he destroys too too much.