Wednesday, December 21, 2011


By all accounts (or most accounts), he was a bastard. An intellectual assailant; a pompous, backstabbing, turncoat with a tremendous vocabulary and a dogged allegiance to writing. That last aspect, the commitment to language and the written word, redeems him partly, in some eyes.

Listening to him read his memoir, Hitch-22, is a pleasure. Listening to his various debates with fundamentalist Christians and other religious charlatans is always amusing, even if he's taken to task by Chris Hedges for his louche behavior when the two met to debate religion. Hedges' critiques and grudging praise seem worthy and apt.

There is no love lost, nor respect either, between Alexander Cockburn and Hitchens. Once fellow columnists at The Nation during the 1980s, Cockburn's  piece at Counterpunch  rings with disdain. Even the title of the piece is dismissive, failing, as it does, to accord the man his name:  Farewell to H.C. No grudging praise to be found there.

Yet still. Hitchens was a lion of sorts, a public intellectual who was often brazenly and refreshingly candid. Even when misguided or, as with his support of George H. Bush and the invasion of Iraq, inexcusable. Mavericks are rarely likable through and through.

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