So Long, Hitch

Christopher Hitchens, April 13, 1949-December 15, 2011

photo via andrew sullivan @ the daily beast

Enemies vilified Mr. Hitchens as a godless malcontent. His onetime colleague at the Nation, Alexander Cockburn, called him “lying, self-serving, fat-assed, chain-smoking, drunken, opportunistic [and] cynical.”

Mr. Hitchens was a raffish character who constantly smoked and drank, yet managed to meet every obligation of a frenetic professional and social schedule. A writer for the Observer newspaper in Britain described him as “at once resolute and dissolute.”

Friends and enemies alike marveled at how the hedonistic Mr. Hitchens, after a full evening of drinking and talking, could then sit down and casually produce sparkling essays for Vanity Fair, the Nation, the Atlantic, Slate.com and many other publications without missing a deadline.

“Writing is recreational for me,” he said in 2002. “I’m unhappy when I’m not doing it.”

— The Washington Post

“It’s the fags that’ll get me in the end, I know it,” he said once, at one of our lunches, tossing his pack of Rothmans onto the table with an air of contempt. This was back when you could smoke at a restaurant. As the Nanny State and Mayor Bloomberg extended their ruler-bearing, knuckle-rapping hand across the landscape, Christopher’s smoking became an act of guerrilla warfare. Much as I wish he had never inhaled, it made for great spectator sport.

David Bradley, the owner of The Atlantic Monthly, to which Christopher contributed many sparkling essays, once took him out to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. It was—I think—February and the smoking ban had gone into effect. Christopher suggested that they eat outside, on the terrace. David Bradley is a game soul, but even he expressed trepidation about dining al fresco in forty-degree weather. Christopher merrily countered, “Why not? It will be bracing.”

— The New Yorker

photo by Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

Hitch on Christmas:

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor’s office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television, because certain officially determined “themes” have been programmed into the system. Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader’s birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events. Originally Christian, this devotional set-aside can now be joined by any other sectarian group with a plausible claim—Hanukkah or Kwanzaa—to a holy day that occurs near enough to the pagan winter solstice.

— Slate

Hitch’s Zingers

ON RELIGION

“ To ‘choose’ dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007

ON SARAH PALIN

“She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”

The Leonard Lopate Show, June 2010

ON HYPOCRITES

“Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishment) have a repressed desire to participate.”

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007

ON WOMEN

“Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?”

Vanity Fair, 2007

ON BARACK OBAMA

“The political rhetoric of Obamaism, alas, is even more bloviating at times than Camelot was.”

Slate, 2009

ON CATS & DOGS

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are god.”

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, 2007

ON GEORGE W. BUSH

“[George W. Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.”

Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2000

ON THE AMERICAN LEFT

“One of the many problems with the American left, and indeed of the American left, has been its image and self-image as something rather too solemn, mirthless, herbivorous, dull, monochrome, righteous, and boring.”

Frontpagemag.com, 2004

ON NEWSPAPERS

“Only the aspirants for president are fool enough to believe what they read in the newspapers.”

C-SPAN, March 1988

ON MICHAEL MOORE

“The laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious, and ignorant and so on. And they’ve taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities,”

—MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, May 2004

ON RACE IN AMERICA

“In this country, it seems that you can always get an argument going about ‘race’ as long as it is guaranteed to be phony, but never when it is real.”

Slate, January 2008

ON JERRY FALWELL

“If [Falwell] had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox.”

CSPAN, April 2009

Zingers courtesy of The Daily Beast

Ω

2 Comments

  1. Hitchens on Michael Moore

    “If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.”

    Hitchens on war

    “Cluster bombs are perhaps not good in themselves, but when they are dropped on identifiable concentrations of Taliban troops, they do have a heartening effect.”

    “I don’t think the war in Afghanistan was ruthlessly enough waged.”

    “Will an Iraq war make our Al Qaeda problem worse? Not likely.”

    “The death toll is not nearly high enough … too many [jihadists] have escaped.”

    Hitchens on Bush and the War on Terror

    “Should the electors decide for the President, as I would slightly prefer, the excruciating personality of George Bush strikes me in the light of a second- or third-order consideration. If the worst that is said of him is true–that he is an idiotic and psychically damaged Sabbath-fanatic, with nothing between his large Texan ears–then these things were presumably just as true when he ran against Al Gore, and against nation-building and foreign intervention. It is Bush’s conversion from isolationism that impresses me, just as it is the parallel lapse into isolationism on Kerry’s part that makes me skeptical … The President, notwithstanding his shortcomings of intellect, has been able to say, repeatedly and even repetitively, the essential thing: that we are involved in this war without apology and without remorse. He should go further, and admit the evident possibility of defeat–which might concentrate a few minds–while abjuring any notion of capitulation.” — The Nation, October 21, 2004

    Hitchens on America and the Constitution

    “Without Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence, there would have been no American revolution that announced universal principles of liberty. Without his participation by the side of the unforgettable Marquis de Lafayette, there would have been no French proclamation of The Rights of Man. Without his brilliant negotiation of the Louisiana treaty, there would be no United States of America. Without Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, there would have been no Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, and no basis for the most precious clause of our most prized element of our imperishable Bill of Rights – the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

    Hitchens on the New York Times

    “When the New York Times scratches its head, get ready for total baldness as you tear out your hair.”

    • Frontiersman’s penultimate quote reminds me that according to my daughter, certain elements are effectively trying to write Jefferson out of history. If that’s so, words are unequal to express my horror.


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