Christopher Hitchens on Freedom from Fear
Monday, May 17, 2010
Hitchens' talk, “Crucibles: Past and Present,” focused on the power of fear, politically and personally. The topic could not have been more relevant— Hitchens delivered his lecture, on May 2nd, one day after the failed Times Square bomb plot, to a noticeably thinned out audience. Hitchens was introduced by Salman Rushdie, whose own life as the target of an Iranian fatwa who has continued to write and be politically active, exemplies Hitchens' subject.
On Arthur Miller: As the United States discovered in the fifties; it’s incredibly easy to get people that are born into a country that is governed by a constitution to give it up. And the reason why Arthur Miller was so important to us and remains important to people who don’t remember any of it, is that he was one of the few people who said, ‘No, I’m not going along with this.’
On America’s Reaction to the Danish Cartoons: There was not anyone in the United States who would say, ‘Look, first order of business, let’s see what the fuss is about; what do these pictures really look like.’ No one would take that responsibility, and no one said it was for any reason other than fear. Well, of what value is your First Amendment if it will not be defended at the very first challenge?
On Respect: One of the most mealy-mouthed versions of language that has developed to justify this kind of behavior is a kind of re-invention of the meaning of the word ‘respect.’ It seemed to me, when I was growing up, that respect meant that you took people seriously, it didn’t meant that you never disagreed with them.