One of the first posts I wrote for Reflecting Light concerned his televised debate with politician George Galloway over the validity of the Iraq invasion. (Galloway had called Hitchens a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay," to which Hitchens countered, "Only some of which is true.") A master of the bon mot in debate and print, Hitchens can almost make you believe in things against your better judgment, and it was he as much as anyone who led me into a period of delusion about Iraq.
I was saddened to read that his life of double-ended candlepower has caught up with him, the smoking and drinking probably playing a major part in leading to his recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer, for which he is now under treatment. My heart goes out to him, along with wishes for his recovery.
But I have to say that his latest column for Slate also saddens me. This is not the Hitch I admired.
He has written something here he has never to my knowledge written the likes of before. He's always been basically a lefty, whether Red, socialist, Trotskyite, Labourite, or some other species, but he can't be accused of being an ideologue who takes his ideas pre-assembled. His politics, like them or not, normally seem freshly minted. I'd even say he is a better thinker and writer than his brother Peter, who writes a politically correct "conservative" column for the Daily Mail that spends almost as much time vilifying the British National Party as it does the Labour Party.
This piece for Slate is an assembly line product from the multi-culturalist left's template. Hitchens isn't there, despite his byline. I recognize the signs because I've written cliché pieces when my mind was a million miles away. It's understandable that his thoughts are on other things, although he remains confident that he will not meet his Maker, believing as he does that he has no Maker to meet. But unless he really needed the money — and many writers do, including famous ones — he should have declined to deliver something not worthy of him.
This is the standard screed, recited on cue by the race replacement brigade, that the too-white attendees at the Washington Mall event organized by Glenn Beck are afraid of being overwhelmed by a buncha foreigners, ya know, colored people and Moos-lims:
One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. This awareness already exists in places like New York and Texas and California, and there have even been projections of the time(s) at which it will occur and when different nonwhite populations will collectively outnumber the former white majority. But it also exerts a strong subliminal effect in states like Alaska that have an overwhelming white preponderance.The Washington rally was, for most of those who took part, not about Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. It was an occasion to show that they were not sufferers in silence, that they would not go quietly into a socialized, statist future with authoritarian restrictions on "offensive" speech and expressions of Forbidden Thoughts.
… it is really quite rare to hear slurs against President Barack Obama that are based purely on the color of his skin. Even Beck himself has tried to back away from the smears of that kind that he has spread in the past. But it is increasingly common to hear allegations that Obama is either foreign-born or a Muslim. And these insinuations are perfectly emblematic of the two main fears of the old majority: that it will be submerged by an influx from beyond the borders and that it will be challenged in its traditional ways and faiths by an alien and largely Third World religion.
Of course many among the crowd were against population and race replacement engineered by a government no longer feeling any responsibility for, even any liking of, the people whose interests they were supposed by the Constitution to represent.
In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.Having acknowledged that "it is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority," Hitch now says "such grievances [like 'some white people … starting to think like a minority, even a persecuted one'] are purely and simply imaginary." Imaginary? We have it on the authority of a gloating USA Today that Hispanics will be a majority of the U.S. population by 2040. Imaginary?
The "remainder of the speeches … deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention." Hitch has just enough of the old verbal spark left that he can wallop white people for being racists without actually using the word racist.
A little of his once-brilliant style apart, Hitch has done a paint-by-numbers hit piece on The Resistance, no different from what dozens of lesser writers churn out daily in the mainstream media.
I am sorry that he is ill; sorry, too, that his formerly individual powers of analysis and colorful writing have left him. May they both return soon. He, and we, will be better off when they do.