Richard Lingeman of THE NATION remembers an earlier, different Hitchens.
Let it be said frankly that after the 9/11 destruction, Christopher got very serious in attacking what he chose to call “Islamofascism” before the term came into vogue on the right as a frantically grabbed ex post facto rationalization of the Iraq War. He soon transformed himself into a skeptical hawk. In the course of an onslaught on the left, he let fly some un-ironic missiles against The Nation. These critiques he ventilated in our pages, which was his right in a column certified to readers as free and clear of censorship. After this controlled explosion he honorably departed, taking his valuable opinions, talent and energies to other platforms. There was regret on our side and I presume on his, for we parted without rancor. After more than twenty years, the relationship was like a marriage that had lost its passion. We wished him well then and do so now with an even deeper sadness at his final parting. Ave atque, comrade! We are proud to have been present at the creation of “our” Christopher Hitchens, one of the longest-running columnists in the magazine’s history. As a demonstration of his achievements in our pages, here is a degustation of his articles and columns from 1978 through 2006.
“Cyprus, the Battered Pawn,” July 8-15, 1978. He had a personal interest in the Cyprus conflict and wrote a book on it.
“This Thatchered Land, This England,” July 19-26, 1980. The first year of Thatcher’s reign autopsied.
“Words and History,” February 20, 1982. Christopher in a rare excursion into political semantic.
“Minority Report,” January 19, 1985. Note the jab at Jeane Kirkpatrick, UN Ambassador, who purported to distinguish between “authoritarianism” (OK) and “totalitarianism” (naughty-naughty) for strategic purposes.
“Minority Report,” December 5, 1987. He was rather good at summing up overblown US clients like President Napoleon Duarte of El Salvador:
“Minority Report,” October 17, 1988. Exposing the lies of President George Herbert Walker Bush.
“Minority Report,” June 19, 1989. Interesting take on a Goya exhibition at the Met: “nothing could be more ‘modern’ than The Disasters of War.”
“Minority Report,” July 2, 1989. An elegant portrait of the left historian C.L.R. James
“Minority Report,” April 2, 1990. This column should refresh your memory on the Reagan/Bush administrations’ intervention in Nicaragua.
“Lessons Maggie Taught Me,” December 17, 1990. The famous “spanking” article, with Christopher on the receiving end of a Thatcherite bottoms-up.
“Minority Report,” February 11, 1991. A devastating deconstruction of George H.W. Bush’s “linkage” policies.
“Minority Report,” April 8, 1991. “Watching the latest in L.A. video—Mr. Rodney King”
“Appointment in Sarajevo,” September 14, 1992. Christopher sums up Serbian fascism.
“Minority Report,” November 30, 1992. Under Reagan and Bush I, most of what was accomplished was done with the Democratic majority’s complicity.
“Minority Report,” December 12, 1994. Christopher still sorting through the question of Republicans past and Democrats present and did it make a difference. The attentive reader can spot the start of his evolution to a new personal politics.
“Minority Report,” August 12, 1996. Another of Christopher’s literary specials. Obviously, T.S. Eliot was anti-Semitic, he writes, as recent reports claim to reveal, but, in an erudite refutation of allegations that his prejudice inflected his poems, Christopher shows how “employing political standards as a device for the analysis and appreciation of poetry” is a dubious practice.
The “Islamic Fascism” Suite: “Against Rationalization,” October 8, 2001; “Of Sin, the Left & Islamic Fascism,” (Christopher replies to critics of “Against Rationalization”); “Blaming bin Laden First,” October 22, 2001.
“Minority Report: Taking Sides,” October 14, 2002. The last column.
“Why I’m (Slightly) for Bush,” November 8, 2004. Christopher endorses George W. Bush in our pages.
“Unsentimental Education,” September 25, 2006. Christopher’s last article for The Nation, a review of Robert Hughes’s memoir Things I Didn’t Know.
Richard Lingeman: Reading Christopher
Christopher had developed earlier a weakness for “progressive” patriotism, supporting Margaret Thatcher’s war against Argentina over the Falklands. But whatever the explanation, nothing can excuse Christopher’s reactionary rantings against Muslims….He seems to have faced his death sentence from cancer bravely enough. But he died firmly in the embrace of the establishment, a literary celebrity lavished with praise by mainstream non-entities. This is a sorry end for someone who, at his best, could articulate much nobler aspirations.
Alex Callinicos: Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)
He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him… This explains plenty. I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today. People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to. My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.
Peter Hitchens: In Memoriam, my courageous sibling
For maximum pyrotechnical effect, he knew that the “awakening” had to be as abrupt as it was extreme: if yesterday he counted himself a Trotskyist and Chomsky a comrade, better now to announce that he supports Bush and counts Paul Wolfowitz a comrade. Their fates crossed when Wolfowitz and Hitchens both immediately glimpsed in September 11 the long-awaited opportunity: for Wolfowitz, to get into Iraq, for Hitchens, to get out of the left.
Norman G. Finkelstein: “Fraternally yours, Chris”
It was quite a journey for Hitchens, who went from fierce polemicist against imperial war to being equally fierce in favor of it, a process anti-war British MP George Galloway described as “evolution in reverse, from butterfly to slug.”