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Now that Christopher Hitchens has passed is all forgiven?

December 17, 2011

Now that Christopher Hitchens has passed is all forgiven?

There is website called Christopher Hitchens Watch which basically pours scorn all over Hitches for everything that he has done, said and failed to do. It is not that Hitchens should be held up to scrutiny but the way in which the ‘Watch’ site conducts itself is to go for the cheap shot, the nasty remark or the hollow polemic. In short, it mimics the worst elements of their subject in order to criticize him. For me, such shallow efforts to tear someone down and denigrate them are pointless and counterproductive. All they managed to do was offer Hitchens the ‘cloak of the martyr’ where he can claim moral ascendancy as the victim of so many falsehoods. Now that Christopher Hitchens has passed away I am yet to see any comment from the ‘Watch’ site. Only time will tell how they will handle the death and the eventually fading of its importance.

There is a tendency across the public sphere to not speak ill of the dead. Particularly when it is so close to someone passing away and the family are still grieving. Few families would like to read about a hidden scandal before the body is even cold. Fewer would welcome a blistering attack upon the reputation of their loved one or respect friend who is now unable to defend themselves. This kind of attack is rightly seen as being underhanded and cowardly. It is the kind of attack we have seen from people like Germaine Greer after the death of Steve Irwin and by Derrin Hinch after the death of almost anyone. It is also the kind of attack that Christopher Hitchens made after Mother Teresa died.

No doubt, that amongst certain sectors of the socialist mindset this made Hitchens a hero. His lifelong obsession with anti catholic rants would have had many of them punching the sky with triumph. His unsourced, unreferenced book attacking mother Teresa was just icing on the cake to feed their deeply held prejudices against her. Yet for an encore he would return and put out another polemic called “God is Not Great – How religion poisons everything”. In this way he managed to maintain his credentials with the most vitriolic and radical of the secularists. Later adopted as one of the so called “Four Horsemen” of the “New Atheist Movement” he found himself on the lecture and debating circuit doing what he does best: polemics.

Despite being extremely well read and boasting a professorship, Hitchens is rarely remembered for any major intellectual achievement. I would be very surprised if anyone could point to any scholastic contribution he has made. Instead his life appears to have been taken up with tearing down his enemies with longwinded emotionally charged insults. It seems a waste that such wit lacked the wits to understand that had contributed nothing of any lasting value to the world.

No doubt there will be a line up people who want to remember Hitchens as some kind of hero for attacking their ideological enemies with such relentless vitriol. There will also be those that applaud when he attacked good and decent people like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. There will be those that thought his idea of arresting the Pope as he visited England was brilliant. Such attitudes speak volumes about the type of groupies that Hitchens attracted more than those he attacked. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, those that do have a grip on reality, it was viewed little more that attention seeking and self promotion by playing the controversy card.

In assessing what Hitchens means to history I am left with deep suspicion that he means very little. The lack of scrutiny that his books had whilst he was alive and surrounded by groupies will be replaced with a clinical and forensic analysis of his writings. I doubt that many of them will stand up to the light of day. In time even Hitchens’ name will fade from memory. And in long distant future when people mention Mother Teresa there only mention of Hitchens hatchet job will be “Christopher who?”

It may be easy to forgive Christopher Hitchens for his failings as a human being but it is far easier to forget that he ever existed.

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