Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Christopher Hitchens, RIP

 

Christopher Hitchens — dazzling writer, ferocious debater, loyal friend, scourge of weasel-worders, wit, yarn-spinner, and closet sentimentalist — has died of esophageal cancer.

I met him only once.  Peter knew him much better.  But I still recall the special kind of goosebumps I got when he mentioned me once, favorably, in the pages of the Atlantic.  He was that kind of writer.  It seemed, sometimes, like he was using a different alphabet from the rest of us.

Hitchens was a dedicated and unrepentant unbeliever.  A give-no-quarter atheist.  But he also had a wonderful sense of humor.  

I hope that he’s laughing now, in sheepish delight.

Here are a couple of his appearances on early episodes of Peter’s Uncommon Knowledge, along with another lost dazzler, William F. Buckley, Jr., who I hope is needling Hitchens nonstop at this very moment.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mr. Hitchens was one of my favorite writers on the Left. His arguments were always a good read and well worth the time. If you had thought through his arguments, getting the best of little Sammy Socialist in a debate was small potatoes.

    James Lileks: Cicero got a pass under the noble pagan clause, didn’t he? Perhaps that was so he could present the brief for Hitch when the time came.

    I have friends that might have to fall back on the noble pagan clause. Although I’m no evangelist (God can’t possibly be that hard up for help), the game isn’t over until it’s over. Maybe I’ll be able to pull a Tebow.

    Maybe someone did with Christopher as well.

    • #1
    • December 16, 2011, at 5:31 AM PST
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  2. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve sort of secretly admired Hitchens’ anti-theism. He was so angry about suffering and injustice in the world. And boy, could he articulate it?!

    The mental image I’ve pictured of this struggle between Hitchens’ outrage at God was of God placing a firm, but loving, outstretched hand on Hitchens’ forehead while Hitchens flailed away, trying to strike just one good blow. I’m convinced Hitchens’ mind was one of God’s greatest creations in recent years and that God must hold him precious.

    I don’t know if Hitchens is wrong about God, I believe he is. But, I know Hitchens was wrong about religion. His was a typical lefty malady, to stand among the glory of western civilization built on the bedrock of reason and Judeo-Christian principles, to know people made happy and purposeful by their faith, to enjoy the advantages of society which have developed because of religion, and to shake one’s fist at it all. The ingratitude I have a harder time admiring. But who among us hasn’t sinned? God forgive him and give him peace.

    • #2
    • December 16, 2011, at 6:40 AM PST
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  3. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    James Gawron: I don’t think the left is going to replace him very easily. He was a formidable debater. When I watched him in action I rarely felt that our side won. Buckley was just so strong that he bested him on points but just barely. However, the only time I thought Hitchens clearly lost was when he debated Dr. Berlinski. Dr. Berlinski started very slowly letting Hitchens throw his usual knockout punch left wing ‘truths’. Each time Dr. Berlinski would almost casually pick Hitchen’s argument apart. At the end I think even Hitchens knew that he had lost. Perhaps I was reading this in but Hitchens appeared to be almost relieved that he had lost. ….

    Couldn’t disagree with you more. I came away with the exact opposite impression and often Dr. Berlinski (sorry Claire) looked like a deer in the headlights, particularly his fumbling response on whether he would see anything wrong with Europe being a completely Muslim continent. Hitch even tried to help him rethink and re-address the proposition. I suppose it depends on the intellectual baggage you bring before watching that debate that either confirms or challenges your point of view.

    • #3
    • December 16, 2011, at 8:36 AM PST
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  4. Grendel Member
    GrendelJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    James Gawron: I don’t think the left is going to replace him very easily. He was a formidable debater. When I watched him in action I rarely felt that our side won. Buckley was just so strong that he bested him on points but just barely. However, the only time I thought Hitchens clearly lost was when he debated Dr. Berlinski. Dr. Berlinski started very slowly letting Hitchens throw his usual knockout punch left wing ‘truths’.

    De mortuis nil nisi bonum, but Edward Feser pantses him and gives him an Aristotelian-Thomistic wedgie in The Last Superstition.

    In the discussion with WFB on UK (“The ’60s: Cataclysm or Disaster?), Buckley tries to get by on style, and Hitchens eats him for lunch. Hitchens, true to form, doesn’t argue; he just seeks moral superiority by pulling out every putative misdeed, flagrant accusation, and discreditable interpretation from the Left’s cliche larder about the Right, Republicans, America, the West, and Christianity. (No nil nisi bonum reticence for him!) WFB hadn’t done his homework, and his allusive and insinuating demurrals are overwhelmed.

    • #4
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:16 AM PST
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  5. Frozen Chosen Inactive

    Well, I suppose Mr Hitchens is rethinking his atheism about now.

    • #5
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:33 AM PST
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  6. TeeJaw Inactive

    I will miss him. His acerbic wit was unmatched.

    • #6
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:36 AM PST
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  7. Mollie Hemingway Contributor

    Just incredibly sad about this news.

    • #7
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:37 AM PST
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  8. SooperMexican Inactive

    “In sheepish delight” I hope he is too.

    • #8
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:38 AM PST
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  9. Ben Domenech Contributor

    Hitchens wrote brilliantly – I suspect one of the last great magazine writers. Wrong about many things. Right about some things. But I hope, for his sake, WFB is indeed needling him now.

    • #9
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:39 AM PST
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  10. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think the left is going to replace him very easily. He was a formidable debater. When I watched him in action I rarely felt that our side won. Buckley was just so strong that he bested him on points but just barely. However, the only time I thought Hitchens clearly lost was when he debated Dr. Berlinski. Dr. Berlinski started very slowly letting Hitchens throw his usual knockout punch left wing ‘truths’. Each time Dr. Berlinski would almost casually pick Hitchen’s argument apart. At the end I think even Hitchens knew that he had lost. Perhaps I was reading this in but Hitchens appeared to be almost relieved that he had lost. As if some great burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Like all along he really wanted to lose but his pride wouldn’t allow him to give in to lesser arguments. Maybe I just wanted to see this. Then maybe not.

    • #10
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:51 AM PST
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  11. Tony Martyr Member
    Tony MartyrJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    After this, I never thought I’d be saying I’ll miss him, but 9/11 changed that a fair bit. Didn’t change his atheism, nor (I suspect) his view of Mother Theresa, but he was so clear-headed and right about so much… God is infinitely merciful and infinitely just, and we can’t even comprehend what this really means. But I know I’m counting on the “merciful” part, and I hope there’s something in there for him, too.

    • #11
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:54 AM PST
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  12. George Savage Contributor

    Oh no. Of course, I knew the grim prognosis but I always hoped Hitch would beat the cancer.

    I remember meeting him and WFB many years ago at the Uncommon Knowledge shoot linked above, and then just a few years back on the Stanford Quad at a Hoover Institution event. Brilliant, simply brilliant as a writer and raconteur. Fascinating to read even when wrong.

    I know he is not sorry to be mistaken about Heaven.

    • #12
    • December 16, 2011, at 10:55 AM PST
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  13. Profile Photo Member

    A terrible loss.

    I still remember where I was when I heard Michael Kelly had died covering the Iraq war, and this news will stay with me just like that did.

    • #13
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:07 AM PST
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  14. James Lileks Contributor

    Cicero got a pass under the noble pagan clause, didn’t he? Perhaps that was so he could present the brief for Hitch when the time came.

    He used to appear on the Hewitt show, and once Hugh asked him about his rep as an epic tippler. “Well, I’ll take a drink if I have to,” he replied. I loved his appearances on the show – you got the sense of a beehive mind in an elegant-but-gone-to-seed flat, books stacked everywhere, overflowing ashtrays, one lone fellow walking down the Lane of Idiocy striking things out of his path with a thick cane. Even when I knew he was wrong, or suspected as much, it was a pleasure to hear him state his case without the usual goo that attends most protestations of Western leftism.

    If only he’d gone full Orwell and written fiction. I would have loved to read his “2084.”

    • #14
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:14 AM PST
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  15. Profile Photo Member

    Christopher Hitchens was one who seemed to always be seeking for the truth. Today he found out the truth of life ends in death. As a person of faith I never considered him an enemy but a worthy adversary who helped to keep us honest. He liked the word “comrade” as many of us like the word “brother”. We are poorer today losing this comrade/brother.

    Let us all show grace toward the ironically named Christopher Hitchens and not follow his example of speaking ill of the dead. May his family and especially his brother Peter find comfort at this time.

    PS I also hope that finally Christopher Hitchens will have found the truth and humbly bask in the wisdom, wit, and warmth of the One who he thought wasn’t so great. Let us trust that God will judge him and us graciously.

    • #15
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:23 AM PST
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  16. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long
    10 cent cup of coffee: Christopher Hitchens was one who seemed to always be seeking for the truth. Today he found out the truth of life ends in death. As a person of faith I never considered him an enemy but a worthy adversary who helped to keep us honest. He liked the word “comrade” as many of us like the word “brother”. We are poorer today losing this comrade/brother.

    Let us all show grace toward the ironically named Christopher Hitchens and not follow his example of speaking ill of the dead. May his family and especially his brother Peter find comfort at this time.

    PS I also hope that finally Christopher Hitchens will have found the truth and humbly bask in the wisdom, wit, and warmth of the One who he thought wasn’t so great. Let us trust that God will judge him and us graciously. · Dec 15 at 10:23pm

    Lovely thoughts, 10 cent. And welcome to Ricochet….

    • #16
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:31 AM PST
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  17. Caryn Thatcher
    CarynJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sad news. So many of you have written beautifully and eloquently, so I will only add: amen. And may he rest peacefully.

    • #17
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:35 AM PST
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  18. Profile Photo Member

    11046_1117204221498_1568781046_30266132_4826504_n.jpg

    A pleasure while it lasted. Ad perpetuam memoriam of Hitchens.

    • #18
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:39 AM PST
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  19. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long
    Michael Labeit

    A pleasure while it lasted. Ad perpetuam memoriam of Hitchens. · Dec 15 at 10:39pm

    Treasure that!

    (I know you will….)

    • #19
    • December 16, 2011, at 11:56 AM PST
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  20. Profile Photo Member
    Rob Long

    10 cent cup of coffee: Christopher Hitchens was one who seemed to always be seeking for the truth. Today he found out the truth of life ends in death. As a person of faith I never considered him an enemy but a worthy adversary who helped to keep us honest. He liked the word “comrade” as many of us like the word “brother”. We are poorer today losing this comrade/brother.

    Let us all show grace toward the ironically named Christopher Hitchens and not follow his example of speaking ill of the dead. May his family and especially his brother Peter find comfort at this time.

    PS I also hope that finally Christopher Hitchens will have found the truth and humbly bask in the wisdom, wit, and warmth of the One who he thought wasn’t so great. Let us trust that God will judge him and us graciously. · Dec 15 at 10:23pm

    Lovely thoughts, 10 cent. And welcome to Ricochet…. · Dec 15 at 10:31pm

    Thanks for helping me to understand the goosebumps of recognition.

    The following is the difference between Hitchens and Dawkins.

    • #20
    • December 16, 2011, at 12:05 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Western Chauvinist: I’ve sort of secretly admired Hitchens’ anti-theism. He was so angry about suffering and injustice in the world. And boy, could he articulate it?!

    The mental image I’ve pictured of this struggle between Hitchens’ outrage at God was of God placing a firm, but loving, outstretched hand on Hitchens’ forehead while Hitchens flailed away, trying to strike just one good blow. I’m convinced Hitchens’ mind was one of God’s greatest creations in recent years and that God must hold him precious.

    I don’t know if Hitchens is wrong about God, I believe he is. But, I know Hitchens was wrong about religion. His was a typical lefty malady, to stand among the glory of western civilization built on the bedrock of reason and Judeo-Christian principles, to know people made happy and purposeful by their faith, to enjoy the advantages of society which have developed because of religion, and to shake one’s fist at it all. The ingratitude I have a harder time admiring. But who among us hasn’t sinned? God forgive him and give him peace. ·

    I can’t begin to improve on this, so, Amen.

    • #21
    • December 17, 2011, at 10:15 AM PST
    • Like
  22. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Brian Watt
    James Gawron: At the end I think even Hitchens knew that he had lost. Perhaps I was reading this in but Hitchens appeared to be almost relieved that he had lost. ….

    I suppose it depends on the intellectual baggage you bring before watching that debate that either confirms or challenges your point of view. · Dec 16 at 7:36am

    I was off for the weekend and couldn’t get back to this until now.

    Brian, if respect for the most powerful ideas of Western Civilization is ‘baggage’ then I carry a great deal of baggage. In this habit I enjoy the company of William F. Buckley Jr., Dr. David Berlinski, Dr. Paul Rahe, James Lileks, Peter Robinson..and more and more. Quite a fast crowd to be associated with.

    Unfortunately, it was Hitchens that was more style then substance. I called him a formidable debater as was the Little Giant, Steven A. Douglas. Both formidable debaters were defending the wrong side. Personally, I prefer a less formidable debater who recognizes the right side from the wrong side. But that’s just me.

    • #22
    • December 18, 2011, at 6:05 AM PST
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  23. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    James Gawron

    Brian Watt

    James Gawron: At the end I think even Hitchens knew that he had lost. Perhaps I was reading this in but Hitchens appeared to be almost relieved that he had lost. ….
    I suppose it depends on the intellectual baggage you bring before watching that debate that either confirms or challenges your point of view. · Dec 16 at 7:36am
    I was off for the weekend and couldn’t get back to this until now.

    Brian, if respect for the most powerful ideas of Western Civilization is ‘baggage’ then I carry a great deal of baggage. In this habit I enjoy the company of William F. Buckley Jr., Dr. David Berlinski, Dr. Paul Rahe, James Lileks, Peter Robinson..and more and more. Quite a fast crowd to be associated with.

    Well, we’re both lugging around some of the same baggage, sir. I think you dismiss Hitchens too quickly as a mere formidable debater especially if you believe he was defending the wrong side all the time or was incapable of recognizes the right side of an issue. Are you yourself always on the right side? Ah, to be in such company if that were so.

    • #23
    • December 18, 2011, at 11:12 AM PST
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