July 9, 2005

What would the world be like if everyone talked like Christopher Hitchens?

Did you see Andrew Sullivan's "Quote of the Day" yesterday?
"JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Hitchens, is Senator Clinton correct?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I have no idea. My presumption would be that she's just fooling with the numbers. But that's just because I don't like her and can't stand the sight of her."

Oh, that's rich. What would the world be like if everyone talked like Christopher Hitchens? I think it would be paradise!


Mark Daniels said...

I like Hitchens and all, but "paradise"?

He is brilliant and often insightful, but "paradise"?

A steady diet of Hitchens would be like sitting on the edge of a volcano, ever threatening to blow. That's not my idea of paradise.

I always sense that he's masking deeper stuff than his seemingly frank rhetoric reveals.

Anger appears to be his standard operating emotion and I find that draining.

I say this even though I agree with him a good 80% of the time.

Ann Althouse said...

Mark: I didn't say what would the world be like if everyone contained roiling emotions like Christopher Hitchens or if everyone believed what he believes. I'm appreciating the expressive verbal style of wit and frankness. Picture all sorts of people, such as we already have, and then make them as frank, witty, and expressive as Hitchens. Hitchens himself wouldn't be so angry if everyone followed his form of expression.

EMC said...

"I can't stand the sight of her" is neither witty nor expressive.

Ann Althouse said...

EMC: Taken out of context, it's not. But in context, it's hilarious. He's been asked a question which he doesn't have the information to answer, and the normal thing would be to say "I don't know." But he adds this revelation of his own thought processes, which are quite unfair, which is why the statement is rather self-deprecating. Of course, it's entirely mean to her too, but she's a politcian. He's modeling skepticism. It's true that we should presume politicians are fooling with the numbers, and good that he said that. And then he backs up and essentially tells us that we ought to be skeptical of him too, because he's also biased. I love the way it sounds like something a petulant child would say, yet it's also beautifully multilayered.

Lawgirl said...

None of us would be so angry if everyone else followed our form of expression. ;)

I take your point though.

Ann Althouse said...

Lawgirl: I think some angry people want to express themselves without having to hear the same kind of thing back. But over time, all that expression would change everything.

Nordicgirl said...

Refreshing & delightfully snarky . . . like some of my favorite bloggers. ;)

Mark Daniels said...

I understand what you're getting at. You found Hitchens' language frank and refreshing.

But you know what? Even Hillary Clinton, as objectionable as I find her politics, is a human being. "I don't know," would have been both a better and a more honest response on Hitchens' part.

Instead, he went for "cute," the kind of provocative statement that get the people up in control booth elbowing each other and making notes to themselves, "Invite Hitchens back to talk about why he hates Senator Clinton."

It's not intelligent, witty, frank, or helpful. It's the rhetoric of a caveman with a Thesaurus.


Dirty Harry said...

Did you see Hitchens annihlate Ron Reagan yesterday? Here's the transcript:


Here's a taste:

RR: "Zarqawi is not an envoy of Saddam Hussein, either."

CH: "Excuse me. When I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world, in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was an arm of the Iraqi State, while being the most wanted man in the world. The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government, to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. How can you know so little about this, and be occupying a chair at the time that you do?"

I don't always agree with Hitchens but I'd hate to debate him on what we disagree on.

And the Hillary quote's hilarious and brilliant. Something Groucho might say.

Ann Althouse said...

Mark: re "caveman" -- got me thinking of this song:

I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man, I’m an ape man
I’m a king kong man, I’m a voo-doo man
I’m an ape man.
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an ape man.

Don't disrespect the cave man.

Ann Althouse said...

Dirty Harry: Thanks for the link to the transcript. I must say that not only is CH my favorite person to hear tell someone off, but also Ron Reagan is my favorite person to hear get told off.

Mark Daniels said...

That is funny, Ann. I'd never heard of the song before.

I probably shouldn't have written the "caveman" remark, bordering as it does on engaging in the kind of rhetoric I disdain.

(Besides, the Geico commercials have taught us to be more sensitive in discussing the ancient cave-dwellers.)

But to clarify, Hitchens is far from a caveman. I just don't like nastiness.

By the way, Harry, I did see some of Hitchens with Reagan. Reagan appeared utterly unprepared and you're right, Hitchens' skills as a debater and rhetorician are considerable.

chuck_b said...

I agree with Ann. Having a few drinks with Christopher Hitchens is a fantasy of mine. Unfortunately, he'd find me a lousy, boring companion who couldn't keep up. (Of course, in my fantasy I'm witty and sarcastic and fun to drink with.)

That remark from Scarborough delighted me so much I re-read it three times.

Dirty Harry said...

I like Hitchens because he's fearless and has the intellect to back it up. Unlike Ann Coulter who's also fearless but has been a deer in the headlights more times than I can remember.

And that's not a political shot at Coulter. I agree with her a lot more than Hitchens.

miklos rosza said...

ann, i agree with you about the hillary statement; thanks for the elucidation.

bos0x said...




I actually find Joe Scarborough's question quite masterful in its lyrical clarity. In fact, one could split it into three distinct parts: "Mr. Hitchens" "is Senator Clinton" and "correct" which all speak to different parts of the intellect yet are as entwined and organic as the veins that crisscross a leaf of deep green romaine lettuce. The first part is what lends the question its tone of quiet formality - Scarborough could have instead uttered "Is Senator Clinton correct?" or even "Clinton correct?" but the urgency in such a sentence would be too overwhelming and Hitchens may have even been confused. Addressing Mr. Hitchens foremost tells of Scarborough's passionate attention to detail and hints at his (Scarborough's) inherent fatherliness. With "is Senator Clinton" the sentence reaches its climactic peak: by using one of the most simplistic yet starkly beautiful words in the English language ("is") Scarborough lets us peek into the aesthetics of his soul. Scarborough's final, third act use of "correct" is absolutely marvelous. A lesser person would have used any other syllable of the word, such as "right" or "equitable" but Scarborough knows that such a dynamic, multifaceted sentence may only be brought to a close with a word that is at once dramatic and regal. "Correct", with its crisp "c" and luxuriant "r" has the perfect combination of both qualities. I wish everyone talked like Joe Scarborough.

Freeman Hunt said...

I love Christopher Hitchens.

Ron Reagan is a petulant twit. I am so glad to read he's been told off.

ploopusgirl said...

Seeing as how the 'petulant twit' has been dead for over a year now, it's nice to see you so happy over the fact that Reagan was once told off, Freeman. It must make your life complete in a way nothing else ever could. Way to go, or something?

neo-neocon said...

I am a tremendous admirer of Hitchens' wit, especially when he's on the same side I am, which happens more and more these days. But he is far from infallible--for example, are you familiar with his article in the Atlantic on Churchill (that's Winston, not Ward)? Here's a critique of it, which indicates Mr. Hitchens is not above playing fast and loose with the facts in his attempts at iconoclasty.

Hitchens' wit and intelligence doesn't change the fact that he's an extremely angry man. IMHO, his anger has far deeper causes than the fact that people don't follow his form of expression. Here, for example, is David Horowitz (from the book Radical Son) on how Hitchens treated him when Horowitz was in the process of turning away from support of radical causes:

As a Trotskyite himself, Hitchens had few illusions about the utopias that the Left had built, but--like Tom Hayden and Jim Mellen--he was driven by internal demons that could not be pacified. This inner rage fueled his animus against the country that had treated him so well, and prompted him to compose a recent article which provided a rationale for Shi'ite terrorists at war with the West...Sitting across from me at Lapham's right, Hitchens looked like a badger, his mood black and his head, with hooded eyes that scowled in my direction, sunk deep into his neck cavity. As soon as we began the proceedings, his bile spilled onto every surface; souring the entire mood of the show, which reached its nadir when I mentioned the passage in which I had written about my father's funeral. "Who cares about his pathetic family?" Hitchens snapped.

Sure doesn't sound like paradise to me.

Stormy70 said...

This is Ron Reagan, President Reagan's son, who was told off just this week. He is an ignorant, left partisan, who has a show on MSNBC. Furthermore, I am being nice, he really is a twit and seeing Hitchens take him down was pleasing to me.

Drusca said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drusca said...

I can't stand the sight of Hitchens and/or Sullivan.

Two attention starved men whose statements add up to a very confused, self-hating and self-contradicting idealogy. Their 'provocative', 'contrarian' comments are nothing but self-serving.

I don't know why anyone cares about what they have to say. Their comments are about as worthy of attention as those of Fox pundits.

By the way, Hitchens still considers himself a Trotskyite.


P.S. I can't stand the sight of Scarborough either.

knoxgirl said...

Ron Reagan, twit or not, looks like a turtle.

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