Remembering Christopher Hitchens

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360, remains with us to remember his Vanity Fair colleague Christopher Hitchens. Call in with how you remember the intellectual, or start posting in the comments below. What's your favorite Hitchens piece, quote, or story?


Kurt Andersen

Comments [23]

See Reason's tribute:

Dec. 20 2011 12:36 PM
Stan from Toronto

I am sure Hitchens has gone straight to Hell. I hope he appears in my dreams and says how wonderful Hell is
Hitchens could'nt tell the difference between black and white.

Dec. 17 2011 01:56 PM
William from Manhattan

Christopher Hitchens was the citizen envisioned by our Founders.

Dec. 16 2011 12:16 PM
henry from nj

I salute the memory of Hitchens as much as anyone. As for the churned out phrase "Israeli occupation of Palestine,” allow me to mention what is almost never said by those riding the 'politically correct' train -

"the 'occupation' would never have been had the Arab countries not waged a life or death struggle against the State of Israel. and lost.
If the Arabs had won, there would not have been a State of Israel. It is high time that the whole history is faced rather than a biased amputated version.

Dec. 16 2011 12:03 PM
Pauline Park from Queens

Christopher Hitchens "supported the Iraq war, quit The Nation, backed Bush for re-election in 2004 and repeatedly chastised those whom he believed worried unduly about the feelings of Muslims" (Politico), and yet this Islamophobic bigot who viciously smeared Michael Moore & the Dalai Lama is being hailed as 'brilliant'...? Anyone who lumps Michael Moore with Sarah Palin & the Dalai Lama with the Ayatollah Khomeini is an idiot. God is great, but Christopher Hitchens most definitely was not.

Dec. 16 2011 11:58 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

I think the probable real explanation for both the lack of cultural change of late, and the lack of specificity in the demands of the Occupy movement, are closely related. I'm approaching it from a view of natural evolution in complex learning systems. In evolutionary terms, we've learns new things worth keeping, and are avoiding the task of learning about others.

Evolution of culture, or any other complex system, is a “stepwise process”. It’s like going through successive “graduations” as it to higher grade levels. At each level of new organization you get a foundation that you keep for a while for exploring and discovering the next. We all experience that succession from one “grade level” to the next in our personal learning cycle, throughout our lives as learning organisms.

Why Occupy demands lack specificity is that the succession of learning levels in nature also involves letting go of old ones, sort of like walking. To make progress you also need to shift away from reliance on previous foundations to put your weight on another. In this case we’re conflicted with letting go of one of the old foundation cultures.

That’s the culture surrounding the use of money to multiply our incomes and impacts on the earth, with the dream of easy limitless growth. When we adopted that ethos we lived in what was then an “infinite world of resources”. Now consuming our resources ever faster has now outgrown that purpose, and we’re in denial and so can’t even discuss it publically.

Our culture still “wants its cake and to eat it too” in terms of having multiplying money without multiplying consequences

Dec. 16 2011 11:52 AM
Sheldon from Brookyn

Hitchens did not "swing to the right." He simply never surrendered to dogma - rare for an intellectual.

Dec. 16 2011 11:47 AM


Dec. 16 2011 11:46 AM

If you gave Jerry Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox. That is so totally true.

My friends used to tell me if they poked me with a pin, the stuff I was so full of would all come out on the ground and steam.

Dec. 16 2011 11:45 AM

I loved to hate him, I hate loving him. When he was a hard-core Marxist, I was 18 and I wanted to be him.. then he went on to support the war in Iraq. I subscribed to Vanity Fair so I could read him.. I thought his ideas on religion was over-the-top (-I donot have faith-) , until I read his brilliant article on the literary quality of King James's Bible.

Dec. 16 2011 11:42 AM
christine Krol from Fort Greene

I didn't see it coming, but over the past ten years or so, Hitch cured me, and I mean cured me, of what I didn't even realize was damage done to me by my Catholic upbringing. The dude has changed me for the massive better.

Dec. 16 2011 11:42 AM
Laura from UWS

At some point it will be necessary to talk about his drinking and how it damaged his work and his health. I say this because I hope we can be helped by his example.

There was discussion of this in the thread:

Dec. 16 2011 11:41 AM

I guess my issue with Hitchens was that when he swung to the right, it seemed like he suspended his usual razor sharp critical abilities, and even at one point expressed admiration for George W. Bush.

I can't say how much he lost credibility for me with that singular act. It was like, dude, did you even pay attention to the totalitarian/police state tendencies of that particular administration?

How could he claim to oppose totalitarianism while backing proto-fascists?!

I just figured he reached a point of age where prejudices and lifelong drinking had reinforced his (gorgeous) iconoclasm into the thinking that his own every thought was right and must be vehemently defended.

Which is too bad. I really loved the analysis in the Orwell book.

Dec. 16 2011 11:40 AM
John A.

Smoking, Iraq war, Atheism. When was the man right? I'm asking.

Dec. 16 2011 11:40 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

I found Hitchens to be a well-read person, but overall an erudite douche. Islamo-fascism? That doesn't even make any sense. I hope he found his God at the end of his life.

Dec. 16 2011 11:38 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Billyberg

Hitchens was my mentor at The Nation in the summer of 1995, just after I graduated college. More than anything Christopher taught me to be fearless and honest in my writing and never run from a fight if you truly believe in the ideas that you have put on the page (or nowadays on the screen).

Dec. 16 2011 11:37 AM
Laura from UWS

Contrary to the intro, Hitchens was NOT a Neocon. He was embraced by the Neocons when he supported American military intervention abroad....When Neocons realized his other views (esp. atheism) they dropped him.

The most helpful Hitchens memorial with links is on Daily Kos:

Dec. 16 2011 11:37 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Another true Hitchens story.
Hitchens had accepted an invitation from my wife and me to have dinner at our apartment with a small group of politically diverse friends.
He insisted on being allowed to smoke without interruption throughout the evening. We assured him that he could smoke during cocktails before, or for drinks after, in another room..... but there would be no smoking in the dining room at the table during the meal. He then told us, "No smoking at the Christopher" and never showed for dinner.

Dec. 16 2011 11:32 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

A hilarious (and potentially lethal) Hitchens incident in Beirut in 2005 is described in Michael Totten's book "The Road to Fatima Gate" in which a slightly intoxicated Hitchens and Totten were walking on the street and Hitchens began scribbling obscenities on posters for a Militant Islamic party. They were soon surrounded by a group of enraged men who beat up Hitchens and they barely escaped alive. Totten notes that this didn't prevent a slightly bloodied Hitchens from "holding court" in their hotel lobby that night and regaling the guests and staff with tales from their heroic mischief that afternoon.

Dec. 16 2011 11:20 AM
Robert Stribley from New York, NY

I think calling Christopher Hitchens a neocon for his position on the war in Iraq is unfair. He supported the war, in his view, as a human rights issue. He simultaneously an advocate for social democracy and a committed skeptic, qualities, which did little to enamor him with the neocon movement. I disagreed with him on Iraq, but that opinion was part of his identity as a human being, one which actually seemed to remain remarkably consistent throughout his life.

Dec. 16 2011 11:13 AM

Brian, play the clip where he upbraided you for calling him 'Chris.' (around 2004?) "It is, after all, my name," he said. Hilarious.

You can call me Chris

Dec. 16 2011 11:04 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Hitchens was a rare modern "intellectual" in the classic meaning of the word and outclassed the "talking head" pretenders who now populate the media.
Though his politics were different from mine, I always admired his integrity in gradually admitting, and then embracing, the belief that there was much to commend about Western Civilization and its codes of justice and individual liberty.
He deserves our gratitude.

Dec. 16 2011 10:10 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Williamsburg

My experience drinking with Christopher Hitchens:

Dec. 16 2011 10:06 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.