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by Miles Mathis

First published October 2009: more than two years before his death

For some reason, Christopher Hitchens is still being published by Vanity Fair. This is mystifying to many of us, since Hitchens crashed and burned almost a decade ago. After being known as a Trotskyite as far back as I can remember, and being against the Vietnam War, being against Henry Kissinger, being against the first Gulf War, and so on, Hitchens suddenly switched sides after 911 and decided he was a hawk, a gunboat diplomat, a disciple of Paul Wolfowitz, and other things too gruesome to relate. This was enough for most of us who had felt some partial alliance to him in the old days, even those of us who were never Trotskyites or communists of any shade of red. We imagined he must have been visited by the spooks late at night, waterboarded for real, and turned forcibly to the dark side. We gave him this benefit of the doubt, since we could not imagine that he actually believed what he now began to say. Although he only took a third at Oxford, we knew he was a pretty good writer and a fair thinker, a man who had at least done his reading and could retain some real information, if not always collate it properly. For this reason, he could not possibly believe that “Islamofascism” was now the great threat to the world. He had been seeing through transparent propaganda like that for two score years. He was also fully capable of seeing through the lies surrounding 911. If a man like Hitchens, known for his bravery even above his writing skills, could fail so conspicuously to join 911 Truth, and in fact join the propagandists, something must be very wrong. Hitchens' brain had been infiltrated, if not from without then from within. If the spooks had not gotten to him, the whiskey finally had.

We could see this most clearly in his debate with George Galloway in 2005, when he had opened his comments by asking for a moment of silence for the “160 people sadistically murdered in Baghdad this they waited to register for the upcoming elections.” That was a debating trick worthy of Bill O'Reilly, and his listeners were stunned to find that Hitchens would rate them naïve enough to fall for it. This was a university audience, after all, not an audience of eight year olds or addled great aunts. Hitchens had trouble delivering the lines with a straight face, knowing, as he must, what rotting emotionalism it was. Only the clandestine gun pointed at him from the balcony or rafters could explain it. We could not attribute this wording to our self-styled “Mr. Reason.” The lines must have been written by the CIA or DoD.

It couldn't have gotten any worse than that, and it hasn't, but it has certainly continued to devolve and dissipate and deflate. Hitchens is now mentally and physically unwinding in print and pic at Vanity Fair, and the editors seem content to catalog it all for us as it happens. In 2007 Hitchens published an article with the winning title, “Why Women Aren't Funny.” The title was way too strong for his thesis, but that is the way of modern sexual polemic. We remember Maureen Dowd making the same mistake in titling her book Are Men Necessary? so maybe we can write it off as titles written by the suits, or as offsetting penalties. But when we get into the article itself, we do not enter a realm of reason. One of the most substantial claims of Hitchens is that the funniest comediennes are “hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.” This is intended as partial dismissal of them from the female category, I guess. But I am not aware that male comedians must be slender or straight or goy to qualify as male, so Hitchens' argument is strictly illogical. At a stretch, we might see how the “dykey” ones could be considered a bit more male, but how are hefty or Jewish women more male? Are Jewish men more male? Are they more female? What is Hitchens' reasoning here? Either argument would be novel, but I don't think he is intending either one.

Hitchens has claimed Jewish blood, and we must give him some credit for that, but he appears to think it gives him the right to be a racist. This seemingly harmless comment of his is actually far more racist than any of the comments of Galloway, Chomsky, or Finkelstein (since these three aren't racist at all). Chomsky, for instance, has oft been called an anti-Semite for disagreeing with the policies of Israel, but policy disagreements can't be racial, by definition. Chomsky also disagreed with Kennedy's policy: does that make him anti-Catholic? He disagreed with Johnson's policy: does that make him anti-Church-of-Christ? Conversely, Hitchens is not arguing policy here, he is claiming, in a quick and sloppy way, that Jewish women aren't fully female. That is such a strange mixture of racism and misogyny we can't really unwind it.

Hitchens then claims that men are overawed by a woman's ability to give birth, and that this gives the woman an unchallengeable authority. But that is nonsense. If it were true, Hitchens would not dare to challenge them with this slanderous article. This fake sentiment is just the required bow and scrape before the knife is inserted in an upward motion. Hitchens is truly awed by nothing in life, which he just described in previous paragraphs as a joke, a bitch, and a stinking cesspool. I have a higher opinion of life than that, but even so, I do not believe that anyone's authority is unchallengeable, man or woman. I am awed, though not overawed, by lots of things, but it does not follow that every awe-inspiring thing is my master. And even if it did, it would not follow that every god above me or master over me was humorless. Because Hitchens doesn't need women to be funny does not mean, therefore, that they are not.

The illogic continues, as Hitchens then asserts that,

The plain fact is that the physical structure of the human being is a joke in itself: a flat, crude, unanswerable disproof of any nonsense about "intelligent design."

I am not a proponent of Intelligent Design, but an opponent of that sentence. Hitchens had just said on the previous page that women are able to wow us with their beauty alone, with no need of humor, so his argument has no small-case intelligent design. If the female human being were structurally laughable, would we not laugh at her rather than worship her or nibble her or enter her? Perhaps Hitchens means only the male body, but that is also demonstrably not true. See this month's Vanity Fair online for a picture of a semi-nude Roberto Bolle. Perhaps Hitchens means only straight men, but see Hugh Jackman. Perhaps Hitchens means only himself, in which case his argument begins to come alive.

Then, after a few airy paragraphs of evolutionary psychology (with all the scientific rigor of David Buss), Hitchens provides us with this gem:

Humor, if we are to be serious about it, arises from the ineluctable fact that we are all born into a losing struggle. Those who risk agony and death to bring children into this fiasco simply can't afford to be too frivolous.

Oh yes, logical and charming and drôle, all at the same time, as usual. But are men any less “born into a losing struggle” than women, assuming for a moment that life is a losing struggle? No, whatever life is, men and women are equally a part of it. Men have gone to war more than women, where they risk agony and death. They must then be humorless, according to the logic of Hitchens. In Hitchens' cynical universe, to be born is to risk agony and death, and all are born, so we have no clear division into funny and unfunny. Besides, women are known for their frivolity. Hitchens has commented on it in other places, I'm quite sure, although I intend it as a compliment and I doubt that Hitchens did. Whether they can “afford” it or not, we all know that women, like men, are often frivolous. They are frivolous both before and after they give birth, so any consideration of the facts explodes Hitchens' statement into tiny pieces. His cynicism isn't even tempered with a grain of truth. It is a sad, gratuitous cynicism without any payoff of enlightenment.

This is also the time to point out how his sentences and words have lost all lightness of touch. As his ideas have disintegrated, so has his structure. I quote only a handful of sentences in this paper, and I did not choose them for structure, but notice that he uses the same transparent strategy over and over. His passing opinion upon the human body—which I have already shown is false, even by his own admission in the same paper—he presents to us as "a plain fact." He is quick to tell us it is a plain fact before he has demonstrated to us that it is, which is unscientific on the face of it. A few sentences later, he repeats the trick, with "life as a losing struggle" prejudged as an "ineluctable fact." Hamhandedness was never hammier.

Soon after, he says, “One small coffin and a woman's universe is left in ashes and ruin.” Not content with libeling all women, Hitchens must also libel all men. Are men careless when they lose a baby or a child? Do they continue the jokes and go on as before? A little basic research would free Hitchens of this misconception.

In the very next sentence Hitchens is mindful to include “queers” in his libel. He tells us that Oscar Wilde joked about the death of a fictional infant, and implies that Wilde could do this where no one else could because he was gay. Although Wilde had two children of his own, Hitchens implies he cared less about them than a straight father would have.

Still not content to end the stream of libel, Hitchens swings for Morpheus, claiming that women are more dreamy. Hitchens has no use for dreams himself, and he is the ultimate male, so dreams are “fit mainly for mockery and limericks.” Imagine what every great male artist in history would have to say in response to this. Even Plato, the original architect of Hitchens' fascist fantasies, believed in the power and usefulness of dreams. Beyond that, what is the connection between dreams and humor? Are they mutually exclusive?

Hitchens' entire article was not fit to print, but since he is now executive editor (and likely CIA darling) they printed it anyway.

Almost a year and half later Alessandra Stanley replied to Hitchens, but the reply was very late and very weak, which gave Hitchens the usual impression: he was right and everyone else was secretly wanting to bed him. Within a month of Stanley's rebuttal, Hitchens had printed his own, and hit rock bottom. In it he doesn't feel compelled to defend any of his mistakes in argument in his first paper, since Stanley didn't call him on them; no, he is free to wax self-rhapsodic and imagine that her weak reply is a secret come-on. His wife of 18 years, Carol Blue, must struggle mightily to see the humor in it, but the entire paper is devoted to that idea.

I dash the beads of perspiration from my brow. I accept. I surrender. Oh Alessandra, oh angel, if you wanted a giggle or even a cackle, you only had to call me.

Pathetic, since Stanley would probably rather call the hot-dog man on 57th street. Even if Hitchens looked like Hugh Jackman, prose like that would dry her up on the instant.

Egad and Begorrah, how do we explain it all? Why did we have to read any of this? Do the top magazines in the country really have nothing to publish? Vanity Fair is now publishing pictures of Hitchens in the shower with a cigarette, his vast belly glistening like Jabba the Hut. Apparently Graydon Carter [editor-in-chief of VF] has gone into semi-retirement, spending his days at the beauty parlor on Madison getting his hair coiffed, and Hitchens will soon be free to publish pictures of himself in flagrante delicto, “venting his sexual frustration on furry domestic animals”, as he says in his first article.

I guess we should have seen it coming as soon as Carter agreed to be executive editor for the film 911. The spooks found his address at the same time they did Hitchens', and the slick magazines, like the newspapers, are now published only with the expressed written consent of major-league money. To be blunt, the secret government owns the media from top to bottom, and even pictures of Hitchens in the buff must be vetted by the men in suits in long cars, their hands rubbing their pants as they slide gently along Constitution Avenue.

Yes, it is likely that Hitchens read 911 as the signal it was no longer safe to be an intellectual. As a longtime fan of Lenin, Hitchens knew the history, knew the progression of omens. A purge was on the near horizon and he needed to lick some jackboots pronto. No matter that this had never done the intellectuals any good: they were always purged for their intelligence, not for their opinions. There was no way to pick a side, short of lobotomizing oneself. A coming purge, or the fear of it, was of no real use to Hitchens personally except as an immediate measure of his bravery. It was the one thing he thought he had, even beyond the ability to finish a sentence, and when he lost it nothing was left but a shell, a rattling husk. His dignity gone, he was ready to play his new part: the Fool of Vanity Fair. Galloway had called him a popinjay and a slug, but those were only slurs upon the animal kingdom. Hitchens was no longer even that. What was left of him is what is left when a cicada sheds and flies away into the trees: a nasty brown crust so fragile it can be crushed underfoot in a passing stroll.

*Addendum, November 18, 2014. Amazingly, it took me this long to fully understand Hitchens. To follow me here, you should have already read my paper on Ramparts magazinewritten in the past year—as well as my other papers of the past 18 months. If you digest the content of those papers and then return to Hitchens, the thing that finally dawned on me will dawn on you: Hitchens was MI6 all along. He simply switched assignments in the late 1990's. Almost all the agents of the 1960's and 1970's eventually were allowed to switch assignments, since most of them were so bad at the leftist pose. Only Chomsky was convincing enough to keep it up all along. Remind yourself of writers like Peter Collier and David Horowitz, who wrote for the leftist Ramparts in the 1960's but became neocons in the late 1970's. Well, Hitchens did the same thing, with a longer delay. Also remind yourself what we have learned about Communism in the US: it was always just a pose for these fake leftists who were being paid by Intelligence to misdirect. This was just the controlled opposition, and Hitchens was part of it for a long time. Communism was used from the beginning to divert attention and resources away from Republicanism, all the way back to 1848. It was created to resemble Republicanism, but flatter the lower classes even more. In this way it successfully undercut the Republican revolutions of the mid-1800's worldwide, and it is continuing to do so to this day. Leftists are cleverly diverted away from the workable Republicanism into the unworkable Communism, freeing the ruling fascists from worry.

This was Hitchens' early assignment, and—as it turns out—he was more convincing in the first pose than the second. Being a pretty smart guy, he was adept at adopting the semi-intellectual, semi-moral pose of the modern leftist. He was much less convincing as a disciple of Wolfowitz, and it is hard to believe anyone bought it. Watching him closely, you could see it in his eyes and around his mouth—he was always suppressing a grin. Even he couldn't believe they had changed his assignment 180 degrees, and that most people were buying it. His whole life became a joke after that, even to him; but almost no one got it. By the 2000's, his personal farce had become surrounded by the general and pandemic inanity, and it was hard to separate his joke from the larger joke. Nothing has made any sense for at least 20 years, and so no one expected him to make sense, either. The joke had by then become so convoluted and extensive, no one could get a grip on it: you couldn't find a place to pull to get the laugh. Reading anything after about 1995 was headache-inducing, and most people gave it up altogether. Not only could you not get any real information, you couldn't even get an amusing spin on it. I was just as confused as the rest of you, until I finally discovered the key to it all. After that, I was able to travel the maze, getting not only the hidden information, but also the jokes. My sense of humor—stunted for a few years—has returned, the clarity allowing me to see not only the horror and tragedy, but also the crushing absurdity of it all.