"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wThursday, July 17, 2003

AU CONTRARIAN: Some fun responses to my recent column on Christopher Hitchens and his idol. This e-mail (scroll down to "Daily Reader") was my favorite piece of... fan mail in a long time:

I enjoyed Jeremy Lott's review of the recent writings of Christopher Hitchens, but was a bit confused by his conclusion: "Hitchens tried for a sort of 'Politics of the English Language' lite and wound up with a bad McGuffey reader impression instead."

The McGuffey Readers, contrary to the impression Mr. Lott conveyed here, were a distillation of religious instruction, culture, manners, and knowledge unparalleled in the annals of the American Education system. Those who studied with them are better for it. If Mr. Lott would consult the originals, he would retract the parallelism with "lite."

I think he means "Dick and Jane."

But then again, maybe he was just drunk.

-- James N. Ward
Paris, France

Point taken. In my defense, I did say it was a "bad" impression.

For the more pictorally inclined, Joanne McNeil had a few things to say. My favorite line: "Ah, Mr. Contrarian. Perhaps he's still wrapped up in the Type 1/ Type 2 error his book Why Orwell Matters perpetuates, that Orwell is Everyman, thus Everyman is Orwell. If the book relied on that sentiment, it might have been more appropriately titled Releasing the Orwell Within and filed under self-help."

(While you're there, check out her new blog. Good stuff.)

Radley Balko titled his reply Lott v. Hitchens, which I admit to getting a kick out of. He also called Hitchens "the bastard love child of Charles Bukowski and George Orwell." But let's get to the important part:

Lott's right. Hitch's war stuff has been sub-par, and not merely because I disagree with him. All his Slate war essays have felt forced to me, like he's saying, "Look at me. I'm a contrarian. Watch what I'm about to do. Dammit, I'm so contrarian, I'm going to take a position that's contrary to my own position. How fucking contrarian is that?"


Paul Cella wrote to say that he enjoyed my piece, and pointed to a recent long post of his on the Hitchens brothers. After some consideration, which I will not attempt to summarize, he concludes:

I am not undertaking an ideological purge here. [Good instinct there! Go with that. - ed] I recognize that alliances in politics can be curious things from the more rigid perspectives of abstract principles. I recognize, further, that we are in the midst of a fragmentation of ideological, even philosophical, lineaments; that the bitterness in the politics of our day is probably proportionate to the steady decay of their concrete meaning, along with the decay of the rest of the Modern Age. In recognizing this, I tremble most; for it might be that the Right has chosen poorly, and lent its now considerable weight to something emphatically leftist in nature, that is, to something injurious to the transcendent moral order of liberty and sanity. The Right might thus be right on the narrow question of war with Iraq, but horribly wrong on the much larger and more consequential questions of intervention, the role of the nation-state, and democracy as a stable regime. By a tragic fate, borne in confusion and haste and faction, the modern Right might be debasing itself before the emerging globalist or postmodern Left; and therefore C. Hitchens might stand as a presentiment of this approaching ruin.

Those are, in my darker moods, my fears. They may be bogus; they may be foolish; but it ought not be forgotten how disastrous the Right’s previous associations of an immediate political nature have been. One example should suffice. The damage done to constitutional government, to the majestic theory of federalism, to local autonomy, by the Right’s countenance of slavery in North America is incalculable. And I do know that the ease with which conservatives have embraced a man like C. Hitchens and generally ignored the admonitions of his brother, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Too deep for me tonight but no doubt I'll appreciate it in the morning.

posted by Jeremy at 12:02 AM