Obit For A Former Contrarian

A friend and protégé tries to make sense of what's happened to Christopher Hitchens

The other difference is that, unlike Christopher, I do not revel in blasting apart strangers. There was a mean streak in me during the Afghan campaign where I did make light of Taliban and al Qaeda dead. But inside I knew that plenty more noncombatants were getting butchered, which bothered me. Plus I wasn't as gung-ho or dismissive about torturing prisoners at Guantanamo as were many of the war's supporters. Hitch has written about weapons that "shame us" and shown some concern for those chopped up by the U.S. Yet, more often than not, he's celebrated Bush's military attacks, and is critical when he thinks Bush isn't ruthless enough.

D.C. has finally gotten to him. That must be the main explanation. Yes, there are other factors to consider, but the D.C. Beast frames and distorts the thinking. Few on the Beltway's A List fret about crushing other countries. They enjoy it. They like the view from atop the growing pile of bodies. Always have. You can't live among these types for 20-plus years without some of their madness infecting your brain. And I'm afraid this madness, and the verbiage that covers it, is becoming more evident in Christopher.

I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he's now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war.

In several pieces, including an incredibly condescending blast against Nelson Mandela, Hitch went on and on about WMD, chided readers with "Just you wait!" and other taunts, fully confident that once the U.S. took control of Iraq, tons of bio/chem weapons and labs would be all over the cable news nets--with him dancing a victory jig in the foreground. Now he says WMD were never a real concern, and that he'd always said so. It's amazing that he'd dare state this while his earlier pieces can be read at his website. But then, when you side with massive state power and the cynical fucks who serve it, you can say pretty much anything and the People Who Matter won't care.

Currently, Hitch is pushing the line, in language that echoes the reactionary Paul Johnson, that the U.S. can be a "superpower for democracy," and that Toms Jefferson and Paine would approve. He's also slammed the "slut" Dixie Chicks as "fucking fat slags" for their rather mild critique of our Dear Leader. He favors Bush over Kerry, and doesn't like it that Kerry "exploits" his Vietnam combat experience (as opposed to, say, re-election campaign stunts on aircraft carriers).

Sweet Jesus. What next? I'm afraid my old mentor is not the truth-telling Orwell he fancies himself to be. He's becoming a coarser version of Norman Podhoretz.

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