Not really, at least that's never quite how I saw it. What I get from Hitchens is a kind of "enemy of my enemy" embrace of the right, more than any serious belief in, say, prayer in schools, a ban on gay marriage, or even the complete dismembering of the welfare state. (Not trying to box Hitchens in here, he's always been an iconoclast. I think he's against abortion, for instance.) It's funny because when he left the Nation and lambasted "those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden," I actually related. But given our subsequent overreach, that remark is haunting now, and doesn't ring with the same old truth. Still there's a kind of arrogance that comes out of ideology---as a young(er) lefty, I thought I was on the side of science, truth, and honest inquiry. I actually believed that our side was not simply just, but more intelligent and more honest. Forgive me, I was in my 20s, and filled with the dumb zeal of a lover. It all came to a head with Bowling For Columbine, a "documentary," which didn't so much shift me rightward, as it made me wary of how easily the righteousness morphs into condescension.
I think when you realize your own are capable of being just as cowardly, just as dishonest as those you believe will bring about the Apocalypse, there's a tendency to turn your fire on them. You see in them, not just error, but hypocrisy. Not saying it's fair. But when the Iraq War started, I was working at the Village Voice. I wasn't a supporter, but I think a disproportionate amount of my scorn was directed at the people, nominally on my side, who I felt were pushing the discredited tactics of '68. But anger is blinding too, and thank God I had to fight with editors to get anything in the paper. One of the reasons I've gone easy on folks who were pro-war, is I know if had had my way, I would said my share of dumb shit.
I thought about this reading Hitchens' column today on McCain's houses and the distastefulness of populism. I agree with his basic point, and yet I was amazed to see him proffer this suspect chronology which features Obama supporters attacking McCain's houses and Republicans hurling the elitism charge in defense. It's true that hearing Chuck Schumer go on about McCain's $500 shoes is grating demagoguery. But if demagoguery inflames Hitchens--left-wing demagougery particularly gets him riled. I missed the Hitchens column protesting the GOP's unfortunate recasting of arugula, Honest Tea, and Hyde Park.
Look, like most journalists of my ilk, I have great, great respect for Hitchens. He was tackling Kissinger, when my only concerns were small feet, fat asses and tight jeans. And yet when I read him now, it feels like the chronicles of a jilted lover. He seems not so much a dude who believes in conservatism, as one who's deeply angry at the left. And yet anger can be as blinding as ideology. Indeed, even "the liberal who lives to expose other liberals" is a kind of ideology, no?
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