Creator: Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens
The mark of an independent mind is not what it thinks, but how.
(born 13 April 1949, died 15 December 2011) was an English-American author and journalist whose books, essays and journalistic career spanned more than four decades. He was a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic
, Vanity Fair
, World Affairs
, The Nation
and Free Inquiry
, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. He was a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. In 2005, he was voted the world's fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect
He was best known in recent times for his strong and vocal opposition to religion. Demonstrated, among other places, in his 2007 book god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everythingnote
, and he is considered to be a founder of the "New Atheism"
He died in a Houston
hospital on December 15, 2011 from complications relating to oesophageal cancer.
This author provides examples of:
- Aloof Big Brother: To Peter Hitchens.
- Amicable Exes: Hitchens had an amicable relationship with his ex-wife.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Was always very outspoken about the inbuilt morality of human beings, and did not fear death at all, even when confident that he would experience Cessation of Existence.
- Awesome Ego: An Invoked Trope; Hitchens at times admitted to consciously aiming for this trope. When debating Bill Donohue on Mother Teresa:
Bill Donohue: Now, all the whole world is wrong, and you with your 98-page book, five and a half by eight and a half inches, you have no citations, no evidencenote , who is the world going to believe, me or you.
Hitchens: I turn out to be right though, don't I? (*smiles)
Hitchens: Religion has not been "perverted", it is innately inclined to violence, to-
Hannity: Well, I think that's a certain intellectual snobbiness on your part, but-
Hitchens: I think you may be right, yeah, that's probably it.
- Badass Boast: "I am not fighting cancer. Cancer is fighting ME!"
- Berserk Button: Jokes that make light of circumcision.
- He also hated the government of North Korea.
- Waiters pouring his wine for him annoyed him intensely.
- People who called themselves (or him) "a dissident" without actually sacrificing or risking anything. As far as Hitchens was concerned, "dissident" was a noble title that had to be earned - people in Chinese prison camps, or Pakistani feminists who'd suffered acid attacks, or gay activists in Russia, were dissidents, not people who simply disagreed with what their government was doing but took no greivous risks in order to change it.
- People calling him "Chris".
- Bi the Way: Identified as bisexual and had his share of homosexual encounters during his lifetime.
- Corrupt Church: Hitch saw all sects this way, to varying degrees.
- Creepy Monotone: Sometimes slipped into this.
- Deadpan Snarker: Oh boy …
- "Will an Iraq war make our Al Qaeda problem worse? Not likely."
- (On Jerry Falwell): "If you gave Falwell an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox. "
- (On Michael Moore): "But speaking here in my capacity as a polished, sophisticated European as well, it seems to me the laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities."
- "One has to marvel at God's thinking here: Let's not appear to the Chinese, where people can read and write, and study evidence, and have a civilization, or to the Greeks, or the Egyptians, or the Babylonians, or the Persians, no, let's find one of the most backward, primitive tribes, in one of the less literate parts of the Middle East, and tell them to journey across miles of inhospitable desert, to take as their homeland one of the only bits of the Middle East where there is no oil. Good job!"
- This exchange:
Christian Broadcaster: If God exists, would he not have been good to you?
: No. It would mean that I had an eternal supervising parent, who would never die and let me get on with my life, never let me be my own person, who monitors and judges all my innermost thoughts, to whom I owed all of my success. It would be like living in North Korea
Christian Broadcaster: Well, I'm not sure God is Kim Jong-il.
Christopher Hitchens: Well, ask Kim Jong-il, he has a different opinion.
- Determinator: Hitchens didn't let little things like being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer (the disease which ultimately took his life) stop him from giving public speeches and participating in debates. While somewhat quieter in his later days, he had just as much fire in him.
- Devil's Advocate: Literally. When the matter of raising Mother Teresa to sainthood was raised, Hitchens was brought into argue against it (he described the experience as "working for the Devil pro bono").
- Drunken Master: He was well known for his love of the bottle, particularly Johnnie Walker Black Label, and claimed drinking made him a better writer. He frequently appeared in interviews with a glass of whiskey in hand.
- And his editor has claimed that most of his Vanity Fair pieces were written shortly after very boozy business lunches.
- Enemy Mine: One thing that makes him so controversial in the atheist community is that he had this attitude towards the Bush Administration.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: How Hitch saw many revered figures, most notably Mother Teresa, widely viewed to be a Friend to All Living Things.
"[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."
- Fan Nickname: When Hitchens made a particularly good point or refutation, it was often referred to as a "Hitchslap". Hitchens himself is sometimes referred to as 'Hitch', including in the title of his memoir, Hitch-22.
- Four Horsemen: … Of New Atheism, alongside Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett.
- Four Philosophy Ensemble: Along with the other so-called "New Atheists" described above: Hitchens was The Cynic, Sam Harris is The Optimist, Richard Dawkins is The Realist, and Daniel Dennett is The Apathetic. And, while we're at it …
- Four Temperament Ensemble: Hitchens was phlegmatic, Sam Harris is melancholic, Richard Dawkins is sanguine/phlegmatc, and Daniel Dennett is choleric.
- Friendly Enemy: Even by his most ardent intellectual foes, he was widely admired and respected.
- Gallows Humour:
- In an interview when he was asked what he thought of people who said his politics moved to the right as his waist line expanded. He stated that he'd just lost thirty pounds, and not in a pleasant way (due to his cancer treatment).
- He also, unlike many, had no fear of criticizing the recently departed. Most people give a few weeks or days of respectful lip-service. Not Hitch. When Princess Diana and Mother Theresa died in the same week, he ran rampant.
- Same goes for the above Deadpan Snark quote about Jerry Falwell, delivered after Sean Hannity spent an entire segment of his TV show trying to get Hitch to say something positive about him.
- God Is Evil: Though he didn't believe in it, obviously, he felt that if the Christian god existed it would be like this, explicitly comparing it to the Kim family of North Korea ruling the universe for all eternity.
- The Grinch: See this essay, or this one. He wasn't too wild about Hanukkah, either.
- He-Man Woman Hater: was widely criticized for his controversial article "Why Women Aren't Funny."
- Hollywood Nerd: Type 2.
- Insult Backfire: During one of Hitchens' public appearances, an audience member at the microphone attempted to embarrass him by mocking his divorce. Rather than attack the man, Hitchens simply expressed his continuing respect for his ex-wife and his love for their shared children. The show of class and emotional maturity completely undermined whatever point the man was trying to make.
- Insult to Rocks: From his scathing review of Michael Moore's Bush-bashing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11:
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.
- Jerkass: He comes off as this, according to his religious debate opponents. He really is a…
- Jerk With a Heart of Gold: Hitchens may have been uncompromising in his criticisms, but a very large portion of his criticisms regarded morality. Even when other criticisms could be made against a person, that person's immorality was his primary concern, and it was extremely difficult to get him to focus on anything else.
- Jewish and Nerdy: Ethnically, at least.
- The Mean Brit: He's pretty much the universal embodiment of this.
- Odd Friendship: He was friends with Andrew Sullivan, a conservative and a devout (if dissenting) Catholic. Their shared background (both British expatriates in America) helped.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: He claimed that religion in general is ultimately a dangerous and destructive organization, and that a religion-free world would be much better.
"All religious belief is sinister and infantile."
- Politically Incorrect Hero: His published articles include "Why Women Aren't Funny" and "North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarves." In addition, he has also been criticized as being quite bigoted against Muslims.
- He first rose to public prominence with his book The Missionary Position, a vitriolic critique on the work of Mother Theresa.
- The Power of Hate: This is what kept him going, apparently 1.
- Religion of Evil: He believed they were all this, to varying degrees, as in the subtitle of his book god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. However, he opposed the Abrahamaic, monotheist religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) the most. Islam was possibly the worst of these in his view.
Now I prefer to argue that it would be horrible if it were true. I'm not an atheist in other words, I'm an anti-theist. I don't, in myself, have any desire to live under a permanent, unalterable dictatorship… When I was in Christian prep school I used to wonder what Heaven would be like if it actually did consist of everlasting praise. Sounded like Hell to me, but I couldn't picture it; nobody can of course, but I've seen the nearest approximation to it, which is North Korea, where it is the only duty and job and right of a citizen to eternally praise the Divine Leader and his Divine Father… And it's a life of constant grovelling misery and fear and praise and thanks for the tiny handouts that you get, and it's impossible to describe, the nothingness of the life of a North Korean, but at least you can fucking die
and leave North Korea.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With his younger brother, Peter. Christopher was a very outspoken atheist/anti-theist and held predominantly (but by no means exclusively) left-wing political views. Peter is an Anglican convert from atheism and holds similarly predominantly right-wing political views. Christopher was known for drinking and smoking a lot, whereas Peter can't drink much and doesn't smoke. Christopher supported the Iraq War, bucking the left-wing consensus, whereas Peter opposed it, bucking the right-wing one. They had a debate toward the end of his life.
- The Snark Knight
- Sophisticated as Hell: As a master of polemic, it's hardly surprising.
- Troll: He admitted to doing this in some of his media appearances, especially those with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, because Donohue would always feed him. For instance, on one appearance, Donohue actually offers to fight Hitchens.
: An Englishman has to be quiet when an Irishman speaks. Hitchens
: It's been tried. Chris Matthews
): Uh, I think Bill needs to take 30 seconds. Take 30 seconds, Bill. Hitchens
: He can hang himself whenever he likes; I've given him plenty of rope. Donohue
- Title Joke: An unintentional one. He disliked being called a "contrarian", because it implies that one's position is simply build around opposing things and not serious intellectual questing. This did not stop one of his publishers calling a compilation of his essays "Letters to a Young Contrarian". Hitchens later noted that he proved the title when he ridiculed the use of the word "contrarian" in the book's introduction.
- Worthy Opponent: Whether you agreed with him or not, Hitchens was undeniably intelligent, well spoken and persuasive.
Shmuley Boteach: I have debated many atheists, from Richard Dawkins to Daniel Dennett to Sam Harris to Christopher Hitchens. Of them all, Hitchens has been by far the most formidable opponent, the one I have most loved and the one that has most gotten under my skin.