NETGIFTS AT CHRISTMAS
I am used to mean-spirited exchanges among the usual suspects on History News Network's comment boards, but when Christopher Hitchens's interview by Jamie Glazov for David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine was re-published on HNN, it provoked a harsh rebuke by Sean Wilentz and a bitter series of comments by Hitchens, Wilentz, Todd Gitlin, Irfan Kawaja, Richard Wolin, and others. The left intellectuals believe that Hitchens is a turncoat and he rubbed his erstwhile comrades' noses in it by appearing in Horowitz's netrag. The closest parallel I can recall to this is when Garry Wills seemed to abandon his colleagues on the Right at National Review 35 years ago and found a broader audience by appearing to be on the Left. William Buckley then wrote of it more in sorrow than in anger, however, and, truth be told, Wills is still more deeply conservative than Buckley ever was. That could be a warning to Hitchens's critics. He may yet be more radical than thou.
Update: Take heart, the offerings are more gracious elsewhere. At Informed Comment, his indispensable blog about Middle Eastern affairs, Juan Cole has an introduction to the little known history of Christianity in Iraq. If you don't know about Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, he can tell you about them.
At Liberty and Power, David Beito looks at the election of 1900 and wonders about options for libertarians and anti-war conservatives in 2004. The choices don't look very encouraging.
Kieran Healey at Crooked Timber knows where the defense planning screw ups occurred.
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Josh Greenland - 12/31/2003
Ralph, what I'm talking about with Hitchens is strange behaviors and political stands that don't fit with his stated place on the political spectrum.
This is a matter of sizing someone up. Call it street smarts if you want. Someone presents themself to you but all the parts of the presentation don't fit. Something is not the way it seems on the surface (or there is an element of greater weirdness that coherently explains it all that is so strange that it blows the whole appearance out of the water).
You can say I'm being intolerant, but what would you think about a liberal or leftwinger who talked a good game but then said s/he admired Hitler, Mussolini, Franco or Lyndon Larouche?
I'm not necessarily saying Hitchens was a covert rightie. He may have held beliefs that together could not coexist for long in a single sane person. For instance, I knew a man who was only attracted to obviously ADULT men, who was a leftie, though with libertarian tendencies, and just a VERY nice guy who didn't believe people should have bad things done to them unless they deserved it. But he also believed that NAMBLA was a good organization, out of some notion of sexual freedom. I argued with him about this. I couldn't believe someone as decent as him could say anthing positive about a pedophile organization. Well, finally after I hadn't seen him for a while we talked, and he told me that he no longer thought NAMBLA was a good organization. His being a non-pedophile and a decent man could not forever coexist with support of NAMBLA. I think Hitchens' leftism may not have sat well with his other ideas and feelings. They may have coexisted for a while due to his arrogance toward anyone questioning him and his alcoholism, but even these characteristics would not have papered over the inconsistencies forever in a man as intelligent as he is.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/31/2003
I really can't carry this on with you, Josh. I'm just a big tent kind of a guy, who thinks that "I am more radical than thou" on the left and "I am more conservative than thou" on the right are exercises in self-destruction. What I recall from the era of the civil rights movement is that we accepted the support of everyone who was willing to put themselves on the line in support of a cause that was worth winning and if you aren't with us on this one we'll still be happy to have your support when next we need it.
Josh Greenland - 12/30/2003
And let me add to my little list of things that aren't quite believeable is a supposed left-winger: Hitchens' rabid right-style anti-Clintonism, during the Clinton administration. A supposedly leftie who during the impeachment attacks Clinton for having sex with Monica Lewinsky. Didn't he try to help the process with an affidavit?
Josh Greenland - 12/30/2003
Yes, but I still think a person being a Trotskyist, pro-life and LOUDLY pro-Warren Report won't exist comfortably together in one person.
Yes, there are Catholic Liberation Theology people and Evangelical progressives, but a Trotskyist isn't going to be Catholic or Evangelical, especially an sociosexually conservative one of these, without some considerable weirdness in the psyche.
As to believing in the Warren Report, I haven't seen an self-described leftwinger who could defend it and make any sense, especially as regards his/her motivation for that defense. Generally, when someone does something anamolous and/or irrational, and is public and even aggressive about it, it puts me on guard. In Hitchens case I was certainly right to distrust him, as his subsequent migration shows.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/30/2003
We disagree about the Warren Report as a measure of a person's radicality and, believe it or not, a person can be pro-life and still be a radical.
Josh Greenland - 12/30/2003
"Josh, as usual, you may be right, but no one disputes the fact that he began as a Trotskyite. That qualifies as fairly radical in most people's books."
What I meant about him not being all that radical to begin with is that he was a Trot -- and he was anti-abortion -- and he was loudly pro-Warren Report. Now doesn't that seem like a strange juxtaposition to you? Once I knew those things about him, I no longer trusted him. His going over to the right therefore doesn't surprise me.
Ralph E. Luker - 12/29/2003
Josh, as usual, you may be right, but no one disputes the fact that he began as a Trotskyite. That qualifies as fairly radical in most people's books.
Josh Greenland - 12/29/2003
"William Buckley then wrote of it more in sorrow than in anger, however, and, truth be told, Wills is still more deeply conservative than Buckley ever was. That could be a warning to Hitchens's critics. He may yet be more radical than thou."
Or maybe he was never all that radical to begin with.
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