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July 12, 2008

Har Har Har

I try to avoid this kind of useless behavior, but sometimes I am overcome by weakness.

This is Christopher Hitchens being interviewed in Eric Alterman's 1992 book Sound and Fury. Hitchens is speaking about the 1980s phenomenon of conservative pundits who insisted they were liberals:

HITCHENS: The preface to this was always to be able to say, "Look, I've been a liberal all my life, it is in my roots, my fingertips and my hair, and it is in that capacity that I say I like the contras, or I like the MX, or what's so wrong with Ivan Boesky?" These are statements which would be perfectly trite on their own—they almost would have some distance to go before reaching trite—but because of the "I'm a liberal preface," they are invested with a kind of daring and appear brave.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 12, 2008 08:51 AM

Goes beyond hypocrisy. Hitchens is a smart guy: he can tell mediocrity from greatness. He knows he is one of the most gifted court jesters around. But he is fully aware he is a clown; hence, someone to whom the exigencies of intellectual rigor (like consistency) don't apply. He needs to be heard, not listened to. Yet he is consumed by a Salieri complex. He wrote a devastating portrait of Andre Malraux once. Why devastating? Because Malraux was exactly what Hitchens struggled to become all of his life but never could: a historically relevant blowhard. Hitchens has never written a thing that actually matters, and he knows it. He is a polemicist, and he is good at it. But when he wrote 'God Is Not Great,' I can't help but think he really meant "Hitch Is Not Great."

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 12, 2008 12:12 PM

I can't help how awesome I am. So no, I don't have to preface anything with, "I'm a liberal, so when I say..."

I've got my fancy British accent and I'm known for slamming Henry Kissinger, so I have so much "cred", if you'll excuse such a demotic choice of words, that I'm riding that train until I'm out of coal. Harrumph.

Posted by: Christopher Hitchens at July 13, 2008 12:59 AM

Long not after Dennis Miller had has Saul-on-the-road-to-the-Twin-Towers moment, some wag of a blogger wrote a playlet where Miller today is roused from sleep by the ghost of his former self who gives him what for. For someone who could ape Hitchens' style at its best, this would be a great start for something similar.

Posted by: Crabbe Louey at July 13, 2008 12:41 PM