Monday, August 08, 2005

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has been one of my favourite political activists since discovering his writings on Sept 11 & the war in Iraq. I enjoyed his passionate tone, witty prose and aggressive liberal attitude that rejected moral equivalence on the basis of reason (unlike other commentators who ground morality in religion). Some of his positions aren't libertarian (wealth restribution, internationalism in international affairs) but his columns are always worthy of a read.
While for many years he has been associated with the Left, his writings have mainly (especailly in recent years) strayed away from economics and kept on the topics of war and cultural issues. He views the anti-globalization movement with contempt and has attacked such prominent figures as Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, and the late Pope John Paul II. He came out against the Abu Ghraib scandal and torture at Guantanamo Bay whilst defending America against radical leftists (Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn etc) so I think he's a writer most libertarians (with the exception of ARI-type Objectivists who don't really tolerate much disagreement) and conservatives can enjoy.
Check out his writings at The Christopher Hitchens Web.

These quotes give you an insight into the sort of person he is:

The essence of tyranny, journalist Christopher Hitchens writes in his latest dispatch for Vanity Fair magazine, is capricious law.
And what better place to test the limits of arbitrary power, he decided, than Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City where one cannot take up excessive space on the subway, smoke, or engage in a roster of other crimes and misdemeanors deemed unsociable in this 21st-century cosmopolitan city. Mr. Hitchens, a British gadfly who writes a monthly column for the Condé Nast publication from such far-flung places as Afghanistan and Indonesia, came to Manhattan in November determined to participate in “an orgy of lawlessness,” while exploring “the shriveled core of the tiny Bloombergian mind.” He took up two seats on the subway (Fine: $50); fired up a cigarette where one is not allowed to smoke (Fine: $200 to $2,000), and (gasp) engaged in such disorderly conduct as sitting on a milk crate on subway stairs. He rode a bicycle (sans bell) and coasted through Central Park without his feet on the pedals (a double offense). “Tyranny can be petty,” Mr. Hitchens writes in February issue of Vanity Fair, which hits newsstands tomorrow. “And ‘petty’ is not just Bloomberg’s middle name. It is his name.”

On 'The Passion of the Christ' (perhaps the worst movie ever?):

The Bible does not have an encounter between Jesus and a sort of Satanic succubus figure in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Bible does not have a raven pecking out the eye of one of the crucified thieves. The Bible does not have Judas pursued to his suicide by a horde of supernatural and sinister devil-children.
Moreover, whatever the Bible may say, the Roman authorities in Jerusalem were not minor officials in a Jewish empire, compelled to obey the orders of a gang of bloodthirsty rabbis.

his attitude:

"MG: You’d rather convince than persuade, you once said.
CH: Much rather. And I would rather reinforce the morale of those who think this (Mother Teresa/religion) is evil. So when they say, ‘if only he put it a different way I might give it a chance’ I think, ‘do I say that to them?’ Do I say, ‘well, I’m not going to read your holy books which already have the assumption that you’re in the right’? Of course not…"

the lies of Michael Moore:

"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery"

reporting from the socialist paradise of North Korea:

"North Korea is a famine state. In the fields, you can see people picking up loose grains of rice and kernels of corn, gleaning every scrap. They look pinched and exhausted. In the few, dingy restaurants in the city, and even in the few modern hotels, you can read the Pyongyang Times through the soup, or the tea, or the coffee. Morsels of inexplicable fat or gristle are served as "duck." One evening I gave in and tried a bowl of dog stew, which at least tasted hearty and spicy—they wouldn't tell me the breed—but then found my appetite crucially diminished by the realization that I hadn't seen a domestic animal, not even the merest cat, in the whole time I was there. (In a Pyongyang restaurant, don't ever ask for a doggie bag.) Nobody knows how many North Koreans have died or are dying in the famine—some estimates by foreign-aid groups run as high as three million in the period from 1995 to 1998 alone—but the rotund, jowly face of Kim Il Sung still beams down contentedly from every wall, and the 58-year-old son looks as chubby as ever, even as his slenderized subjects are mustered to applaud him. Kim Jong Il, incidentally, has been made head of the party and of the army, but the office of the presidency is still "eternally" held by his adored and departed dad, who died on July 8, 1994, at 82. (The Kim is dead. Long live the Kim.) This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president. What would be the right term for this? A necrocracy? A thanatocracy? A mortocracy? A mausolocracy? Anyway, grimly appropriate for a morbid system so many of whose children have died with grass in their mouths"


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