Opinion

O Hitchens, where art thou?

O Hitchens, where art thou?

Bill Maher’s lazy comparison between Milo Yiannopoulos and Christopher Hitchens shows just how much we need ‘the Hitch’.

Donald Trump performs the astonishing feat of “covering 90% of his head with 30% of his hair”, and Hillary Clinton is “hopeless on health care, and flippant and fast and loose with national security.” These are the verdicts of Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011, several years before the world lost its mind and came to desperately need his.

The victory of an unlettered charlatan, and the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who Hitchens loathed viscerally, has given his death a new lease of life. This election was calling his name throughout. Everything from the candidates, to the exceptionally vapid slogans, to the liberal complacency, was ready made for him to attack. You can’t help but wonder whether voting in such an apocalyptic race would have felt like a second dose of waterboarding to him.

As someone who consumed as much election coverage as I could without having an existential crisis (I failed) there was something missing from it. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was for a while, but then I noticed. There is, by and large, two types of political commentator; exciting but totally nuts, and boring but well-informed. Hitchens was that oh-so-rare full-package; exciting, super-literate, challenging, and knowledgeable.

For the best part of fifteen years he was our foremost polemicist, at a time when “polemicist” wasn’t a term appropriated by chichi right-wing Twitter trolls that abuse students for retweets. Blasphemy is an immoral concept, as Hitchens would argue himself, but Bill Maher did his best imitation of a blaspheming heathen when he told Milo Yiannopoulos last week: “you remind me of a young, gay, alive Christopher Hitchens.” Excuse me? There is no comparison. Maher was confusing a brilliant polemicist with an egotistical troll, and anyway, “alive” is a generous term for Milo’s career right now.

But Hitchens is needed more than ever for reasons beyond his ability to eviscerate the two worst presidential candidates in living memory. As Emma Green wrote in The Atlantic:

Donald Trump was elected president with 81 percent of white evangelical voters. Mike Pence, the champion of Indiana’s controversial 2015 religious-freedom law, is his deputy. Neil Gorsuch, a judge deeply sympathetic to religious litigants, will likely be appointed to the Supreme Court.

The reality is that Christian America, politically speaking, is currently the strongest it’s been in quite some time.

Remember that evangelicals had two great victories: the banning of Darwin in schools and prohibition. Both of these were regressive, authoritarian, and babyish. In the upper echelons of sinister Christian politics (see Mike Pence) absolutely nothing has changed. Wouldn’t an unapologetic anti-theist with a pile of bones to pick be much appreciated right now?

I think so. His prose was magnificent, his speeches electric, and his punchlines were laugh-out-loud funny:

If you gave [Jerry] Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.

It is a shame beyond proportions that Christopher Hitchens isn’t here to witness this clown-car crash and burn at the expense of us all. As he used to say so wryly at the end of a debate he’d usually just won, he had barely taken his trousers off.

17 responses to “O Hitchens, where art thou?”

  1. Many members of the working-class in the USA wisely voted for Trump, including a very high percentage of females–though this is a fact concerning which the Left would prefer to keep its trap shut. Then again, no doubt they’ll soon be accusing this ‘basket of deplorables’ of nationalism, racism, or even–gasp!–false consciousness. As for Milo, I for one find him truly wondrous. No doubt many other readers will share my admiration for him.

  2. I thought the Left had turned against Hitchens due to his criticisms of Islam–much as they’ve also turned against Dawkins, Ayaan Ali Hirsi and many others. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Hitchens, were he still alive, wouldn’t end up being ‘no-platformed’ in the universities due to his alarming ‘micro-aggressions’ and the threat he would undoubtedly pose to the student’s precious ‘safe spaces’. But then again, perhaps I am wrong.

  3. Tom says:

    MFR
    Your “contributions” are childish rubbish.

  4. Edwin Salter says:

    There is a useful analysis by Pew, “Behind Trump’s Victory”.
    Supporting him was linked to being white, male, older, less educated.

  5. Cali Ron says:

    Tom: Well said.

  6. Though we have sadly lost Christopher, we have as our consolation the wisdom of his brother Peter to comfort us. Do read ‘The Abolition of Britain’, one of his finest works. His essays in the Daily Wail are also well worth exploring. Truly, he is the equal in intellect of Melanie Phillips. There can be no higher praise than this.

  7. Eric Storey says:

    In no way shape or form are these two alike, Christopher Hitchens was a huge intellect, razor sharp wit, as erudite as you could get, and he empowered you to be a critical thinker, to never believe what you were taught, or political dogma, to research everything, he could stretch your mind to wonderful new limits. If Milo and Christopher were together in a debate about any subject you wish, Christopher would come out on top everytime

  8. Cali Ron says:

    MFR: I wouldn’t even line a bird cage with the writings of the bitch who helped create the vaxxer movement, fought against gay rights and spews out far RW tripe. Praising Peter Hitchens on an atheists site? Even for a troll your a real piece of shit.

  9. The moment I wake up
    Before I put on my makeup
    I say a little prayer for you.
    While combing my hair, now
    And wondering what dress to wear, now
    I say a little prayer for you!

    Cali Ron-de-do-Ron-Ron, “your” should of course be “you’re”. These things matter.

  10. Cali Ron says:

    MFR: You offer a prayer on an atheist website? Just more indication your a troll, constantly trying to provoke. Subtly insulting the editor and regulars on this site matters too. Are you really even an atheist or just a troll pretending?

    I’ve decided to call you the ‘Subtle Troll’.

  11. The Subtle Troll……yes, that has a certain pleasing ring to it….By the way, only a fool could possibly be provoked or offended by anything I might have to say. This matter is now closed.

  12. Cali Ron says:

    You call me a fool, and then state I couldn’t possibly be offended by being called that. You are not the arbiter of discourse for me or this site. BTW your response just reinforces that you’re indeed a troll.

  13. Obvious paranoia.
    *
    This matter is now definitively closed.

  14. Cali Ron says:

    Goodbye MFR.

  15. Stuart H. says:

    Yes , we all miss “The Hitch”. But if for all his wit and wisdom we’re just sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves because some god-bothering knuckle-dragger got elected in the US, instead of building on that amazing legacy, then was there any point in his life anyway?
    Seriously, this worrying new tendency atheists have to create secular saints alarms me. What happened to thinking and acting for yourself?
    Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have pieces like this reminding us what others have done, and what star players we had on our team.
    But nothing changes until we each go out and tackle the new mumbo-jumbo merchants in our own areas. Let’s just laugh the bastards into extinction.

  16. Alan says:

    MFR. The words intellect and Melanie Phillips really don’t go. She desperately poses as someone who would like to be considered an intellectual. She is a shallow right wing bore.

  17. Richard Ashley says:

    Oh how I/we miss Hitch!
    He shone such a bright light on so many subjects, opening the eyes of many.

    A truly great loss to the world, especially right now with the increasing insanities that surround humankind, including politics.