Hitch dissing: the worst of the worst, and two rebuttals

Several readers sent me Ross Douthat’s self-satisfied “eulogy” of Hitchens in Sunday’s New York Times, “The believer’s atheist.”  It contained ridiculous statements like these:

At the very least, Hitchens’s antireligious writings carried a whiff of something absent in many of atheism’s less talented apostles — a hint that he was not so much a disbeliever as a rebel, and that his atheism was mostly a political romantic’s attempt to pick a fight with the biggest Tyrant he could find. . .

. . . But my strongest memory comes from a Washington dinner party two years ago, when he cornered me in the pantry and insisted on having a long argument about the Gospel narratives. The point he was particularly eager to make was this: “Suppose Jesus of Nazareth did rise from the dead — what would that prove, anyway?”

It’s a line whose sheer cussedness cuts to the heart of Hitchens’s charm. But it also hints at the way that atheism — especially a public and famous atheism — can become as self-defended as any religious dogma, impervious to any new fact or unexpected revelation.

. . . In his very brave and very public dying, though, one could see again why so many religious people felt a kinship with him. When stripped of Marxist fairy tales and techno-utopian happy talk, rigorous atheism casts a wasting shadow over every human hope and endeavor, and leads ineluctably to the terrible conclusion of Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” — that “death is no different whined at than withstood.”

It’s smug, dismissive of Hitchens’s absolutely serious attacks on religion, and gets in a few licks at atheism as well.  What on earth are the “new facts or unexpected revelations” that have made us waver?  And really—are we atheists bereft of hope and endeavor?  If that were true, there would be a lot less science!

But enough, for author Charles Pierce absolutely demolishes Douthat’s “eulogy” in a new piece at Esquire, “Ross Douthat, gravedigger” (thanks to EvolutionBlog for calling this to my attention).

In response to the Jesus reference, Pierce says this:

(No, actually, Ross, it hints at the fact that you were asked a question you couldn’t answer. And, forgive me as a struggling Papist, but is there a “new fact or unexpected revelation” concerning Jesus Of Nazareth that I’ve missed? Other than Tim Tebow, I’m not aware of one. Did you get knocked out of a cab on the way to Damascus? Was there a new scroll dug up at Qum’ran? Did I miss an encyclical? And “sheer cussedness” Really? I’ve heard Hitchens described in a hundred ways since he died, but this is the first time he has been implicitly compared to Granny Clampett. Whooo, doggies!)

There’s a lot more as Pierce takes Douthat apart line by line.  Goodtimez.

But for sheer bile and stupidity, as well as incoherence, nothing beats Maniza Naqvi‘s piece in 3 Quarks Daily, “Hitched in history to crimes against humanity.” Not only is it loaded with superfluous invective, making one wonder why Ms. Naqvi is so angry, but, more important, the piece is virtually without content.  Even at his most strident, at least Hitch had something to say.  Here’s a sample of Naqvi’s prose:

That toad’s [Hitchens’s] words hitch him to being part of the language, literature and actions that define the racist, supremacist and fascist ethos of mass murderers who are obsessed with God all the while denying their real obsession as if to say: I don’t deny —my orientation—because I have a greater obsession than that which I need to hide: I actually do believe in a God—in a God for the right people–a white God.

The toad, an inebriated toxic decay wrapped inside the blubber of mid life crisis, appeared to himself, a legend, from a bar stool smoky view of the mirror. So he hitched his sense of self to some confusion with Dorian Gray . .

. . . He must have honed his craft in the shower room of his public school—offering himself up—whilst escaping by being entertaining and witty from those bullies whom he must’ve perceived, in his classist mind, to be his superiors—so that he, would himself survive and gang up with them on inflicting maximum harm on those whom he considered unworthy of kindness—guileless victims, those who were not able to fight back.

Before this essay I had a modicum of respect for 3 Quarks Daily—and, to be fair—they’ve since published a critique of this piece by Tauriq Moosa, “How not to write: Maniza Naqvi’s piece on Hichens“—but one wonders what the webmasters were thinking when they put up such a juvenile and empty rant.

43 Comments

  1. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I actually do believe in a God—in a God for the right people–a white God.

    This is frankly the most bizarre criticism of Hitchens I have heard, by a wide margin.

    Douthat’s smug and ghoulish twisting of the facts was ridiculous but expected. It’s wrong, ever so wrong, but I understand where the wrongness originated, the impulses that drive this wrongness.

    But to assert that Hitchens believe in only a god for white people is just weird. Maybe I need to read the whole piece (don’t really want to, though…) But I just don’t understand where that even came from…?!

    • Bryan
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      That wasn’t Douthat, it was Naqvi.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Naqvi is one of those whose impression of the latest war in the ME by the US was that it was nothing short of a continuation of the crusades.

      all this venom against Hitch flows from the idea that his was a rational mind on the side of perpetuating the repression of indigenous middle eastern people.

      right or wrong (IMO wrong – Hitch WAS vocally against Islam, but for the sham it is, not because he is racist), the article is little more than an inane rant against “Western Imperialism” at its heart.

  2. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    but one wonders what the webmasters were thinking when they put up such a juvenile and empty rant

    Maybe, that they’d get more traffic?

    Oh, look. It worked.

    /@

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      +1

      • Dermot C
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        Doh,

        It worked on me as well.

    • Posted December 22, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

      Also known as the Andrew Brown technique.

  3. Paula Kirby
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    On the day that Hitch’s death was announced, a Free Church of Scotland minister sent an email to the RDFRS UK email address, saying,

    So now Chritopher (sic) Hitchins (sic) knows that God exists. Sadly it is too late – he should have listened to his wiser brother. Its (sic) not too late for you. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. [Name removed because I have more decency than he does.]

    I replied:

    Dear [Name removed]
    There is no more evidence for the truth of Christianity today than there was yesterday.
    Your email has, however, provided more evidence for the vileness of it.
    Best wishes

    There was a pause, then:

    Dear Miss Kirby, Proof of God’s existence is the same today as it has always been – we don’t need any more than He has provided. Only fools deny His existence. Your master, Prof Dawkins is not an aetheist (sic) – reason tells him there is a God, but he has chosen to ignore reason – he is, as was stated at a recent conference I attended, a ‘God hater’. Sounds like you are too! ‘The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honoured among men’ (Ps.12:8). Regards, [Name removed]

    And I was struck again at how hateful Christianity is, at its core. I suppose you can see why this brand of Christianity appeals to a certain kind of person. It allows them to hate, while claiming to love, to be vile, while claiming to be moral, and to be a miserable, cowardly, nasty little worm while claiming to be God’s special child. Give me a generous, honest, courageous, hungry, questing spirit like Hitch’s any day.

    • bric
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Applying the term ‘wise’ to Peter Hitchens kinda ditches any credibility he might have hoped for.

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Were I in such a conversation, I would ask [Name removed] why he’s so sure I really believe the Zombie of Zion had a penchant for having his intestines fondled through his gaping chest wound. Is it, perchance, because he’s yet to figure out why Santa’s handwriting is so similar to Mommy’s?

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s interesting that [NR] assumes you (by extension, all atheists) fit a Church-like authoritarian hierarchy: “Your master, Prof Dawkins”

      /@

      • Posted December 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Good point. Points like this help me learn how to deal with such vitriolic bullies.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

        it’s just projection.

        the only way the religious mindset continues to exist, is by maintaining the cognitive dissonance with so much projection and denial, that a house of cards looks sturdy in comparison.

        you will NEVER, EVER, find a person who says they have “real faith” in a deity that does not exhibit clear signs of projection and denial when you attempt to poke holes in their belief systems.

        it’s so universal, in fact, that it makes me shake with anger every time I see that still, after so many decades of clear evidence, the American Psychological Association and the AMA both refuse to acknowledge that those who claim religious faith also exhibit classic psychological defense mechanisms. I mean, to such a point that any student sitting in a freshman pysch class can pick it out!

    • Daryl
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      It helps to pretend the writer is drunk and replace the (sic) with (hic)

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Well, he was right about one thing: Richard Dawkins isn’t an ‘aetheist’.

      • Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        Is an aetheist someone who still believes in the luminiferous aether?

        /@

        • Chris Granger
          Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          That’s what I was thinking.

  4. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Tauriq Moosa quotes a great comment on Naqvi’s piece:

    (In a joyful moment, her piece did produce the best comment I’ve ever read on the Internet by A.C. Douglas: “Since when has 3QD accepted articles written in crayon?“)

    /@

    • TJR
      Posted December 22, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Perfect.

  5. J Pickrell
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Hitchens was, of course, legendary for his brutal, unsentimental obituaries. So you can’t blame people for trying–in some ways the only proper tribute to the guy would be a posthumous takedown!

    It may be telling that no one can manage anything convincing though.

  6. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “…impervious to any new fact…”

    lol

    Let’s have ‘em, then! Bring on the all those new god-proving facts!

    • Margaret
      Posted December 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Bring on the all those new god-proving facts!

      Or even any old god-proving facts.

  7. Marta
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Pierce’s take down of Douthat’s post is truly good reading.

    [My eyes see “Douthat” which my brain never fails to render as “Douchehat”. I have no control over this. How immature.]

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Or “Doubt-that”. Not as insulting, of course, but nicely ironic for a believer!

      /@

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly how my brain wants to read the name as well!

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Mine breaks it into two words: do that.

  8. grrbear
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, Hitchens’ attackers don’t proceed rationally, as is evidenced by their inability to produce reasoned arguments. So to counter them with rational discussion is futile, of course.

    It also seems clear that they’ve never read him. I reasonable critic would have justification to call out a number of Hitchens’ questionable political writings, such as his endorsement of the Iraq invasion. But I haven’t seen any critic, including Douthat, size him up in an honest way.

  9. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    If religion is an addiction, smug is their drug. L

  10. Posted December 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear Jerry,

    I am very happy to hear that you have had at least a “modicum of respect” for 3QD in the past because I have immense respect for you and I have bought many copies of your book and passed them around to friends and other people I thought would benefit from reading your excellent presentation of the overwhelming evidence for evolution.

    You ask about “…what the webmasters were thinking when they put up such a juvenile and empty rant,” so let me tell you: no, contrary to what at least one of your commenters has surmised, we do not post articles simply to be provocative and get linked. When one runs as large a site as 3QD (we have well over 50 writers currently contributing Monday columns) one must come to grips with the fact that some of the writers will vehemently disagree with one on certain topics. Minutes after I learned about Hitchens’s death, I posted this short (and obviously emotional) obit: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/12/an-extremely-sad-day-christopher-hitchens-has-died.html in his honor. Later, on the following Monday, my fellow editor at 3QD Morgan Meis posted this rather touching (but also critical) encomium: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/12/remembering-the-foolish-and-brilliant-christopher-hitchens.html This was followed by Maniza’s piece with which I did not agree, but I am loathe to censor my own writers when I happen to disagree with them, especially when they have written well on other subjects, in my opinion. I then also provided space to Tauriq Moosa to counter Maniza’s article.

    Unlike your blog, where you can control and be held responsible for all the content, 3QD is a group effort and we try to provide a number of different views on various subjects. Of course you will disagree with some of these, as do I, but do you really feel that we deserve to lose your respect because of this? If so, I will be troubled by this, and will be forced to rethink what we are doing and how we are doing it.

    Very respectfully yours,

    Abbas

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Oh, I see: you are “loathe to censor my own writers when [you] happen to disagree with them, even when they have written well on other subjects.” Well, tell me this: do you not have ANY journalistic standards for your website? Can a piece be SO BAD that it doesn’t deserve publication, or would degrade your site’s reputation? For that is what that piece indeed did. Other venues simply reject pieces if they’re not up to snuff. And if any piece wasn’t up to snuff, this was it. It was vile, rambling, incoherent, and, like the famous pudding, lacked a theme.

      If we are going to engage in a dialogue here, tell me if you think Maniza’s piece was good, or was worthy enough to be published. I simply can’t imagine a piece of writing, even on a website, that could be worse. Ten to one you won’t tell me whether you thought the piece was good or bad.

      And if you say that you think it was fine, journalistically and stylistically (you don’t have to say you agree with the content, because there WAS no content), then yes, you have lost a lot of respect from me.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

        totally agree with Jerry here.

        this was not about disagreeing or agreeing with the content of the piece.

        the piece HAD NO CONTENT.

        it was nothing but a rant.

        the critique of your site not vetting this properly is a fair one, and if indeed you:

        “…will be troubled by this, and will be forced to rethink what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

        that is a good thing.

        all writers representing an organization must always have their articles at least passed by an editor first. Sometimes that editor will indeed decide that controversial articles should be published anyway, even if they are mostly rants, because they contain good points for debate that foster the community the organization caters too.

        do you think an insane politically-based feux-racist rant fits the goals of your community of readers, or the goal of your organization?

        if not…

        • Ichthyic
          Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          from the 3qd about page:

          We want to provide you with a one-stop intellectual surfing experience by culling good stuff from all over and putting it in one place. In other words, we are what has come to be known as a “filter blog”.

          somehow, I don’t think Naqvi’s piece fits this…

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Fair criticism is one thing, Abbas; witless incoherent invective, quite another!

      /@

  11. Robert Bray
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I have been in Haiti for the past 10 days, only learning of Christopher Hitchens’s death this morning. For me, Hitchens was the Tom Paine of our epoch, and just as sorely needed.

  12. Mary
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m caulking it up to jealousy. Where were they when Hitch was alive? Not a word or sound; typical cowards.

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      This!

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      Given she was born in Pakistan, it may have been a knee jerk ejection from her Muslim roots. It certainly didn’t go through the frontal lobes.

    • Posted December 22, 2011 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      OT. “I’m caulking it up to jealousy.” – Oh. That’s an eggcorn I haven’t seen before…

      /@

  13. Filippo
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, we can see what piece will lead off
    “Idiot America, Volume 2.”

  14. Dermot C
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, there’s nothing wrong with a good piece of entertaining invective but Ms. Naqvi hasn’t written one. This looks like her first notes, halfway between the mind-map and the first draft; she needs an editor.

    There’s the kernel of an idea in the embarrassing third at Oxford and the lifetime’s Sisyphean labour in making up for that blot. Social climbing, exaggerated respect for academic brilliance, the adoption of the mores of those standing on a higher rung in the English class system (vide the homophobic references). None of which is true, but at least tenable.

    If you want great invective, go to Dean Swift, who called humankind, “the most pernicious race of odious little vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the face of the earth.” – Gulliver’s Travels.

    I don’t agree; but once learned, never forgotten.

    Or Shelley, in:

    England 1819

    An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,
    Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
    Through public scorn, mud from a muddy spring,
    Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
    But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
    Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,
    A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,
    An army which liberticide and prey
    Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,
    Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
    Religion Christless, Godless, a book sealed,
    A Senate–Time’s worst statute unrepealed,
    Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
    Burst to illumine our tempestuous day.

  15. Dave
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I read this in the NYT and had a hard time to keep from barfing.

  16. mordacious1
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    I think it is very very smart for these people to attack Hitchens after he is dead. You’d have to be stupid or masochistic to attack him while he’s able to respond. It’s really painful being Hitchslapped.

  17. Posted December 22, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    This site goes as far as it is possible to go, I think, claiming that Hitchens himself is evidence of God! >:-o

    http://www.crossexamined.org/blog/?p=258


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30,252 other followers

%d bloggers like this: