Saturday, December 17, 2011

Goodbye, Chris

Out of respect for Christopher Hitchens I am not calling him a personal hero, the way he declined to call George Orwell a hero.

I have been a fan of Hitchens since his 2006 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher where he said George W. Bush IQ jokes require zero creativty, but in a way that did not defend Bush. A lot has already been written about his honesty, wit and refusal to fall neatly in line with any political orthodoxy. He was a self-described socialist who wrote a book called "God is Not Great," yet supported the Iraq war and opposed abortion.

Instead of retracing that ground, I am just sharing my all-time favorite "Hitchslap," which is the first four minutes of the following video, a link to his appearance on Econtalk and an excerpt from a talk he gave to the Cato Institute.

In 2004, Hitchens said on the Orwellian nature of public smoking bans:

But suppose all this was really a good idea—people might live longer. Suppose all that was really true. There would still be the question of enforcement, that awkward little bit that comes between your conception of utopia and your arrival there. The enforcement bit. You could appoint regulators and inspectors to enforce the law. It would take quite a lot of them, but you could do it. There are such people. I know about them because they’ve come after me.

My editor, Graydon Carter, the splendid editor of Vanity Fair, and I were having a cigarette in his office. And someone on our staff—it’s not very nice to think about it—was kind enough to drop a dime on us. And round the guys came. “You’re busted!” These people are paid by the city, which evidently has no better use for its police.

I think that’s bad enough. But then Graydon went on holiday, and I went back to Washington. And his office was empty. But they came round again and they issued him another ticket because he had on his desk an object that could have been used as an ashtray. In his absence. With no one smoking. But there are officials who have time enough to come round and do that.

The worst part is that the staff has to become the enforcers. The waitresses have to become the enforcers. The maitre d’ has to become the enforcer. He has to act as the mayor’s representative. Because it’s he who is going to be fined, not you. If you break the law in his bar, he is going to have to pay.

So everyone is made into a snitch. Everyone is made into an enforcer. And everyone is working for the government. And all of this in the name of our health.

Hitchens often said the public would be willing to vote for an atheist president, they just haven't been smitten by one yet. If asked, he continued, no one in the 1950's would say they'd vote for a "washed-up B-movie actor" because they hadn't met Ronald Reagan yet. With that in mind, I'm glad to see from the public outpouring that I'm not alone in my reverance for the passing of a godless chain-smoking combative anti-abortion bisexual warmongering rich white male immigrant socialist.


  1. I thought Hitchens supported reproductive rights for women? Didn't he argue that the cure for poverty was to give a woman the right to choose? And wasn't one of his criticisms of Mother Theresa was that she used her influence on developing nations' to ban abortion?

  2. I imagine Hitchens said all those things, but he was willing to change his positions over time and this is one of them. You can hear is straight from his mouth in this case.