Thursday, December 22, 2011

My ambivalence toward Christopher Hitchens (RIP)

I'm cribbing from Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, but a few quotes pretty much sum up my own impressions.

 Katha Pollitt (The Nation):
What I saw was that drinking made him angry and combative and bullying, often toward people who were way out of his league--elderly guests on the Nation cruise, interns (especially female interns). Drinking didn't make him a better writer either--that's another myth. Christopher was such a practiced hand, with a style that was so patented, so integrally an expression of his personality, he was so sure he was right about whatever the subject, he could meet his deadlines even when he was totally sozzled. But those passages of pointless linguistic pirouetting? The arguments that don't track if you look beneath the bravura phrasing? Forgive the cliché: that was the booze talking. And so, I'm betting, were the cruder manifestations of his famously pugilistic nature.

James Fallows (The Atlantic):
I wouldn't have expected Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld to ask themselves hard questions, in public, about their cocksureness in making what proved to be erroneous and very consequential claims. I would expect leading intellectuals to do so.
Dan Fox (
He should know better than to write a half-assed column about why women aren't funny. I think somewhere deep down he probably did know when he was wrong about many issues, but was so committed to winning a debate that it didn't matter. And this is serious business, you know? You can't just go around smearing an entire gender or defending a haphazard war based on a philosophy that isn't even popular in the GOP anymore because you're drunk and you want to challenge yourself intellectually.  
I'd long admired Hitchens for taking unpopular positions and for his rhetorical power, but, really, he became little more than bluster toward the end.

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