Discover more from CHRISTIAN LORENTZEN'S DIARY
HITCHENS ON THE BRINK
The moment before he turned right (and a podcast)
Last week Harper’s Magazine online editor Violet Lucca convened Jacobin columnist Luke Savage, author of The Dead Center, my old friend Maureen Tkacik, and me to discuss Christopher Hitchens. You can listen to the podcast here. In honor of this occasion, annual subscriptions to this Diary are 20% off.
This spring I reread most of Hitchens’s published work for Harper’s and listened to hours and hours of him on YouTube. There is so much there that I am not convinced I made it through a third of it, and in any case once he got onto his God-less routine he became very repetitive. My YouTube algorithm has thus been colonized by Hitchens and his assorted chums, from Tariq Ali and Edward Said in the early, funny years to Richard Dawkins and Dinesh D’Souza in the years that were less so. On the weekend this video from a 2001 C-Span appearance the month Harper’s published its two-part serialization of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, which was my first encounter with his writing. It transpired at the start of the Bush administration and before 9/11. Hitchens, who callers point out has been less present on the airwaves since his book against the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To, when Hitchens was still on the left. About 11 minutes in, a caller compares Kissinger’s crimes to the U.S. sanctions regime in Iraq, likening it to the actions of Hitler. Hitchens disagrees, saying those who were starving could be fed if “Mr. Saddam Hussein” would feed them, and then testifies to evidence of atrocities he saw in Kurdistan: shades of the humanitarian interventionist he was becoming. One of the interview’s funny tics is Hitchens repeated promise to stop referring to his nemesis as “Dr. Kissinger” and repeatedly breaking that promise. Later, an Englishwoman caller asks him if he is related to Peter Hitchens, his younger brother and a well-known right-wing columnist in the U.K., and he says, “There is one Tory in every family . . . Well, I suppose sometimes there’s more than one.” Indeed.