Hitch in "rediscovers soul" shocker!

November 28, 2006 at 7:33 am (Uncategorized)

At the risk of providing a not-insignificant section of my readership on the left with a cheap one-liner, I’d like to draw your attention to an article by Christopher Hitchens in the current issue of “The Liberal“. Something remarkable appears to have happened.

Yes, it’s a Hitchens tirade, undoubtedly written after a three-bottle lunch, a plate of beef wellington and probably a couple of brandies to finish off. And it’s no worse reading for all that. One of the things that always annoyed me about Hitchens was watching his tirades get all the more broadsword and less rapier, as his descent into political lunacy over the war on Iraq proceeded apace.

But this time he seems to have recovered his old lightness of touch. And the really remarkable thing about this particular polemic, is that it is directed at Ann Coulter.

The article itself is a review of Coulter’s latest ranting book of right-wing codswallop, which is called “GODLESS: The Church if Liberalism“. Coulter is, remember, of that tendency on the US right who think that the centrist milquetoasts of the Democratic Party are one step away from instituting gulags and collective farming. Indeed, as she puts it (quoted by Hitchens), “If Hitler hadn’t turned against their beloved Stalin, liberals would have stuck by him too”.

In Hitchens’ view, “It is remarkable to find so much intellectual and syntactical chaos in an assertion that contains no more than fifteen words”. Does she mean that “liberals” loved Hitler? Or that they loved Stalin, so much so in fact that what finally persuaded the likes of Roosevelt to take a stand was watching beloved Uncle Joe’s homeland being invaded? It’s simple nonsense, whatever your perspective on conservative, liberal or socialist politics. And yet, to Coulter’s audience it fulfils a certain need, an itch that they have to scratch, where the real reason why their lives don’t feel safe and secure is “the liberal elite” whose sole purpose is to take away their livelihoods, let criminals break into their houses, and allow gay people to get married in their garages. Ann can give all of this to them, and in bite-size form. As Hitchens puts it:

“She emerged as a persona because she has mastered the politics of resentment, and because she can combine the ideology of Human Events (the obscure ‘Joe McCarthy was right’ magazine) with the demand of the chat-show bookers for a tall blonde with a very rapid delivery on a wide range of subjects”

There follow a number of fascinating diversions, devilish barbs, and even insights into Coulter’s likely mentality. Hitchens’ anecdote about how genuinely shocked Coulter appeared to be when Paula Jones did not turn out to be the maligned innocent with whom various figures on the right had hoped to pitchfork Bill Clinton, shows almost an innocence which is belied by her venomous, overstatedly angry style of writing.

So has Hitch rediscovered a little of himself? I certainly hope so. He certainly seems now to be wanting to draw lines between himself on the one hand, and the puritan right-wingers like Coulter with whom he was happy enough to line up over the Iraq war. He’s also determined to show why, philosophically, a right winger like Coulter will never even be able to offer a proper critique of those aspects of liberalism from which Hitchens would, in fact, like to distance himself.

“If it matters, I am with her on the tepid climate of moral and political relativism which, while it wants all children to do equally well at exam time, also regards the United States as no worse than the Taliban and thus, by an unspoken logic, as no better. But a polemic against this mentality cannot really be written by a McCarthyite”

It remains to be seen whether Hitchens has really done another volte-face, but on this occasion he’s done a marvellous job. Well done sir, well done.

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