Saturday, 27 November 2010

Second Sight

The old second sight must be coming back to me, because as soon as I read this article, I guessed that Hitch won the audience because (well, let's be frank) only fanatical atheists would be sad enough to watch a 'debate' between two dopey, half-crazed, war-mongering pseudo-intellectuals.

And blow me down, was I not right:

'Throughout the 90-minute debate Hitchens seemed to have the crowd's sympathy. That might have been to do with his ill appearance due to cancer, but was far more likely to be down to the sharpness of his verbal barbs and the fact that 57% of the audience already agreed with his sceptical position according to a pre-debate poll, while just 22% agreed with Blair's side. The rest were undecided.'

Don't get me wrong. I don't doubt for one second that Hitchens wiped the floor with Blair. But then, who couldn't (aside from Tory party leaders that is)? Surely the most interesting fact is that both men have such astounding arrogance and that belief plays such a large role in both lives: they are twins arguing over shadows.

And this, incidentally, is one of very many reasons I would have no interest in seeing Tony Blair debating. For me to appreciate belief you have to appreciate reason, research and logic.

Then there's also the fact that he sees himself as a paragon of Christian virtue after the 'dodgy' dossier. The thing is, we Christians can afford to be choosy. Given how long Hitchens has been lauded by the humanist fanatics, I wonder if they could say the same?


  1. Great post. Another thing Blair and Hitchens have in common is that they have both benefitted from war in the Middle East. So have the movements they are associated with. Where would neocon “intellectuals” and their friends in the defense industry be without the War on Terror? And certainly the New Atheists should thank Islamist terrorists for giving them the opportunity to coin catchy phrases like “science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.”

  2. I have just finished reading 'Black Mass' by John Gray. A slight departure from my normal reading material but good stuff.

    Mr. Gray would scoff at the idea of Blair and Hitchens debating as adversaries.

    To his way of thinking they both represent a dangerous type of messianic, utopian thinking which found its expression in Iraq.

    Blair believes that military force can create a tolerant, liberal society where different religions coincide peacefully.

    Hitchens believes the same, only that in his utopia everyone will be intelligent enough to give up religion altogether.

    PS: I have recently taken to reading the writings of Peter Hitchens. While I do not always think he is right (or even sane at times) I do find him refreshing and a good deal more worth listening to than his brother. Should I be worried?

  3. I imagine that 'debate' as a rather ghastly spectacle: two overweeningly arrogant baby boomers splitting hairs. As said by others, they were united on Iraq and Liberal Interventionism in general; their justifications may have differed slightly, but the conclusions are the same.

  4. @John
    I think that in an ironic way both Hitchens and Blair were destroyed by the Iraq war. Not only did they support it, but they refuse to accept they were wrong.

    However, it also got them taken seriously by absolute nutters, who are allowed to dictate the news and analysis which is rapidly turning into some kind of PK Dick alternative world.

    Black Mass is an excellent book. Have you seen The Trap by Adam Curtis which explores some similar themes?

    I read quite a lot of paleo-con writers and have written part of a post on the topic, though I don't think I'll have it ready this weekend. I could have kissed Peter Hitchens' feet when he wrote one of the very few articles in the mainstream media criticising Saakashvilli and saying that Cameron's response to the Georgian conflict rendered him unfit for office. This when 'left wing' Timothy Garton Ash was straining at the leash to send other people to die defending Saakashvilli's right to use aircraft and tanks against civilians.

    I suppose the thing is that the paleocons have deeper ideals than the free market and an ill understood idea of liberalism. Pat Buchanan is an excellent writer with a strong understanding of culture and geography. Even though on domestic issues I wouldn't usually agree.

    However, they are even more certain that they don't share any left wing ideals. Peter Hitchens seems to really believe that lefties have taken over the country. He seems to suffer from a kind of intellectual narcolepsy where one day he'll demolish neo-con arguments with his experience as a foreign correspondent, the next minute he'll rant about Obama's speeches being like Hitler rallies.

    See also Christine Odone's article about 'leftists' defending Roman Polanski.Bernard Henri Levy is no leftist, but they cannot accept that neo-liberalism is their greatest enemy.

    In conclusion, I think that paleo-cons often seem like characters in a novel who are interesting to read both for their insights and to exemplify certain aspects of the current political culture: yet seeming to be caught in a blinkered mindset where stalinists are on the verge of destroying those things they cherish about western civilisation when in fact it is the free market.

    Then look by contrast at the small-l liberal coalition which existed long before 2010. It's their very negation of ideas, interest in foreign cultures, alternative concepts of freedom, national sovereignty and human values which means that they will have such little conflict.