Hitch

Christopher Hitchens's latest in Slate is a mess even by his standards. This time the ostensible subject is Obama, and it begins with this headline:
Identity Crisis: There's Something Pathetic and Embarrassing About Our Obsession with Barack Obama's Race.
It's not clear at first who "we" are -- that is, what group of people the "our" refers to -- but that changes quickly enough. Hitchens means, apparently, guilt-ridden white liberals.

[H]is supporters—most especially the white ones—sob happily that at last we can have an African-American chief executive.
And from there, Hitchens embarks on yet another gallop through talking points that the likes of Sean Hannity first thought of months or years ago, presented, as usual, as if they're Hitchens's brand new and original insights.

There's the "I'm just color-blind" pose:
Isn't there something pathetic and embarrassing about this emphasis on shade? And why is a man with a white mother considered to be "black," anyway?....Would we accept, if Obama's mother had also been Jewish, that he would therefore be the first Jewish president?
Yes, Hitchens is above all that icky race stuff. You'd have to be a racist white librul even to think in those terms.

It would, of course, not be a Hitchens article if he didn't bring in some irrelevant religion-bashing, but this time there's a twist: the specific complaint that he has is the now-familiar right-wing talking point that Obama's church is a black separatist cult:
Sen. Obama is a congregant of a church in Chicago called Trinity United Church of Christ. I recommend that you take a brisk tour of its Web site. Run by the sort of character that the press often guardedly describes as "flamboyant"—a man calling himself the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.—this bizarre outfit describes itself as "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian" and speaks of "a chosen people" whose nature we are allowed to assume is "Afrocentric." Trinity United sells creationist books and its home page includes a graphic link to a thing called Goodsearch—the name is surmounted with a halo in its logo—which announces cheerily that "Every time you search or shop online! Our Church earns money." ....nobody who wants to be taken seriously can possibly be associated with such a substandard and shade-oriented place.
Hitchens's criticism of any specific denomination is, of course, meaningless, since there is no possible denomination that could ever meet with even his qualified approval. Yet he chooses here, specifically, to highlight the scary black separatist talking point that's been all over the right-o-sphere.

But wait, there's more.
The sickly canonization of Martin Luther King Jr..
Oh, no, he didn't.
The sickly canonization of Martin Luther King Jr. has led to a crude rewriting of history that obliterates the great black and white secularists—Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther—who actually organized the March on Washington.
Oh, yes, he did.

Okay, first of all, Rustin was a Quaker, and a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But leave that aside, and look at Hitchens's main points here: Libruls are the real racists. Obama belongs to a black separatist church. Martin Luther King doesn't deserve his acclaim. Interesting, isn't it, that the great Trotskyite contrarian has managed, with grim predictability, to mimic nothing but the moldiest of talking points from the extreme right?

And, of course, it also wouldn't be a Hitchens column without a bit of sexism, aimed (naturally) at Hillary Clinton:
Off to the side, snarling with barely concealed rage, are the Clinton machine-minders, who, having failed to ignite the same kind of identity excitement with an aging and resentful female
Because it's bad for a woman to get older. And we know she's resentful because -- well, we just do, okay? And just for fun, let's avoid the word "woman" and instead use the word "female" as a noun, the way you do for farm animals. Again, all perfectly cribbed from the right wing, and presented as if it's Hitchens's own original witticism.

This is the thing that annoys me the most about Hitchens: he's at this point almost nothing but a parrot of the right's talking points. Even his atheist polemics are, as often as not, in the service of some kind of lunatic imperialistic agenda. He gives talks and attends events sponsored by the likes of David Horowitz, and defends his old pal Ahmed Chalabi. He has no sense of social class, and almost no economics. Yet he still fancies himself a leftist, and even a Marxist. He clearly considers himself an important thinker. He's not. He's the crudest sort of right-wing hack, and he doesn't even realize it.

Cross-posted at The Vanity Press.


Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus