Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What a blowhard

Once upon a time, I admired Christopher Hitchens. It's been so long since then that I can't even remember why. But I think it had something to do with his precise, hard-hitting prose and his love of Orwell. Then his shark-jumping moment came with his "expose" on Mother Teresa's grand scam to keep the Third World mired in destitution with all her nonsense about embracing poverty. How do you top smearing an old lady? Well, you don't. Since then, Hitchen's navel has sucked Hitchen's head so far into itself, I think his brain is losing circulation. Just look at two recent articles he wrote for Slate.com.

1) On Garrisson Keillor's NY Times review of Bernard Henri-Levy's new book on America:
"As always with French writers," says Keillor, "Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions." I would give about, oh, five cents to know which ones Keillor has in mind. Perhaps he has been boning up on his Foucault or Balibar or Derrida, in which case he modestly makes no show of his own learning. He cannot mean Albert Camus or Olivier Todd or Michel Houllebecq. Nor can he have read BHL's last book, which was a very detailed investigation of the murder of an American reporter named Daniel Pearl. I think BHL did a service to America there, as he did when he warned years ago of the dangers of the Taliban and Slobodan Milosevic, at a time when America was sleeping. But of course, guarded as it is by stout commonsensical fellows like Keillor, who think we should tend to bidness right here and stay out of them furrin places, our culture has little to fear except fear itself.
Hitchens' reading abilities are at the level of a high school thrasher if he couldn't catch Keillor's irony in the quote he posted. I read the Keillor review and the guy was being coy when he said "As always with French writers" -- a dash of wit that completely flew over Hitchens' head, which isn't hard if it's stuck in your navel or your arse. Keillor had just quipped that Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." So he threw a right-backatcha with his "As always with French writers." Hitchens read it simply on its face as a serious declaratory statement, silly wabbit. The guy really does need to calm down. Every time I see him on TV, he's looking more and more disheveled and jittery -- a product of his ever-growing churlishness towards all things not Hitchens. All anyone has to do is peep "Religion!" and he'll bark like a feral alley mutt. At least Levy is having fun mocking America and its religiosity.

2) On the cartoons of Mohammed:
It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.
As Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross would have responded to Hitchens, "Oh, what a big man you are! Hey, let me buy you a pack of gum. I'll show you how to chew it. Whoof. You're pal closes, and all that comes out of your mouth is bile. Ooh, how f----d-up you are!"