A new and previously unreleased interview with Christopher Hitchens

Reader Michael sent me this previously unseen interview of Christopher Hitchens by Italian journalist and author  Christian Rocca, filmed at Hitchens’s apartment in the Wyoming. (As of 7 a.m. Mississippi time, there are only 280 views.) The date was Decrember 1, 2005—five years before Hitchens died. Sadly, the questions are in Italian, but Hitch’s answers are in English with Italian subtitles, and since Hitch dominates (as usual), you can guess the questions.

I have Darwin Day activities today, and so won’t be able to watch it all yet, but I present it as a gift to readers. It’s 49 minutes long, so you might want to save it as a weekend treat.

It’s good to see the guy again, even if he smokes like a chimney through the interview.

 

 

48 Comments

  1. Posted February 13, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic! Thank you.

  2. Luis Servín
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Very good interview. I always wonder what Hitchens’ opinions would be on the current situation in Iraq and Syria. Would he have doubled down on the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or would he have realized that it was perhaps the wrong approach?

    • EvolvedDutchie
      Posted February 13, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      He was consistent throughout his career: he hated totalitarianism wherever it manifested itself. I think Hitchens would be praising the efforts of the Kurds in the fight against ISIS. Hitchens was a supporter of an independent Kurdistan and he thought the regional autonomy of the Kurds was one of the succesess of the Second Gulf War.

      • Posted February 13, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        But damn, it’s hard to root for any side in that region.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          This really needs to be done as an animation, but :
          Camera view passes a pogo stick to persn in frame.
          Camera view throws ball into the area to be traversed – a mine goes off.
          PLease feel free to pogo-stick through this minefield.
          I’ll brng a sponge and a string (to retrieve material for burial).

        • EvolvedDutchie
          Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but Kurds are primarily nationalistic and not religious. That’s an advantage. I come from a continent that has suffered a great deal from nationalism, but I do think it’s necessary for democracy. This is in fact exactly why the EU is failing: there is no European nation, no European demos (people). That’s why there is talk of direct elections of the European Commission, the adoption of a European flag and a European anthem. Which is kind of ironic, because the EU was supposed to be the antidote to nationalistic tendencies. Now it has been discovered that the project cannot work without EU supra-nationalism.

          The second advantage is the position of women in Kurdistan. It’s way better than in other islamic regions. Women are allowed to serve in the military for example. This gives women an enormous amount of prestige and respect that should not be underestimated. History shows that those who serve in the military gain power in society and politics.

          The problem however, is that the Kurdish peshmerga is allied to political parties (because of historical reasons) and not to the regional government. There has been efforts to change this, but those efforts should speed up.

        • Kevin
          Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          The secular science side. That’s the only side to root for. Science is corrosive to ignorance, repression, prejudice, and violence born of faith seeded hatreds.

    • Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2952226/The-granny-stood-ISIS-Elderly-woman-filmed-confronting-militants-branding-devils-quoting-verses-Koran-forbid-slaughter.html

      It’s from the Daily Mail, which doesn’t get much respect. but it deserves some attention.

      • Mike Paps
        Posted February 15, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        Petrushka I’m suspicious whether that video is actually portraying what it claims,unless it was a captured video. It certainly doesn’t seem like something ISIS who are supposed to be filming it, would release.

    • Posted February 14, 2015 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Christopher Hitchens was born on the same day as Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

      When Hitchens was sworn into becoming a citizen of the US, he insisted that it also be on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

      For anyone who doubts that the US should not have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, now ask yourself what would have been the future consequences.

      Those who make such a claim that an invasion was not necessary cannot only look at today’s Islamic march against Western civilization…but become aware of the fact that the march against the Western world started in 1955 and the creation of the Pan Arab League. But, then most Americans, and especially the vocal left don’t know much about Islamic history, nor do they in their pacifist myopia want to.

      Saddam Hussein had not only fielded the largest land army in the Middle East but was actively seeking nuclear weapons…to wit…many countries around Iraq had already acquired nuclear weapons: Pakistan, Kashmir, Lybia, India, and now Iran, etc. Hussein would have used nuclear weapons in time if he had been able to acquire them which the US and the coalition aborted by the first and second invasion of Iraq.

      There was a second war by proxy also going on which Hitchens did not mention, which was Saddam Hussein sought to control the very oil fields where at the time we were being supplied. And to that end, Saddam stated clearly he was a) going to force the US to buy oil using Euros, which would have bankrupted the US, and b) force the US to buy oil at $100 a gallon (yes gallon), while giving the Europeans and the French much better deals in oil contracts. Europe was egging Saddam Hussein on as Europe is NOT the friend of the US.

      If Saddam had forced the US into bankruptcy, the Europeans would have gained trade and global commercial dominance. Life as we know it and enjoy it would have ended.

      All wars are about money, even religious wars.

  3. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Watching. Waiting, already, for first fag-break, as speak more Latin than Italian.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Well, I live to be educated. I wasn’t aware of Jefferson’s intervention in the Barbary slave trade in (didn’t get the date ; ca. 1820?). About 25 minutes in.

    • Posted February 14, 2015 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 14, 2015 at 5:27 am | Permalink

        🙂

        Aidan–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marines’_Hymn
        …in case you don’t get the reference.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 14, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          “Marine’s Hymn? Is that the one about

          “We’ve acquired a reputation / For abusing little girls.”

        • Filippo
          Posted February 14, 2015 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

          “If the Army and the Navy
          Ever gaze on Heaven’s scenes,
          They will find the streets are guarded
          By United States Marines.”

          “NAVY”: “Never Again Volunteer Yourself.”

      • stephen
        Posted February 14, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        Hit me with your rhythm stick… 😉

  5. Kevin
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting. Hopefully many will watch and become inspired.

  6. merilee
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    stupendo!

  7. Jeff Rankin
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Aweso…sorry. Thank you for posting. And while I know it’s not cool, I have to say Hitchens makes smoking look cool.

    • Posted February 13, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      I think we are permitted an “awesome” when the late subject was f**king awesome, dude!

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Hitch fails (not an engineering background) to understand the unimportance of the “keystone of the arch” T=30m
    Of course all stones in an arch are equally impoortant. But he’s not an engineer, so I’ll let him off wih a false simile.

    • Posted February 13, 2015 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Um, I’m pretty sure the ones at the bottom are the most important ones. Hello? They hold up all the other stones?

      No? Your eye-rolling suggests that’s a “no” …

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 14, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        If you construct an arch which is free-standing – or for that matter, a 3-d arch otherwise known as a dome – and then remove any stone, then the arch as a whole will collapse. If the arch is embedded in a wall then you might get a few of the lowest stones survive the collapse, supported by the weight of the wall above the cantilevered stones. but not an awful lot.
        How else to look at it? How about looking at an arch with no ends? otherwise known as a bicycle wheel. what keeps a bike wheel from bucking at the point of contact with the ground isn’t the compressional strength of the spokes – because they don’t have any significant compressional strength (you can lace a wheel with string, if you feel like it). In fact it’s the compressional strength of the rim which provides low-angle reaction forces to oppose the normal contact force from the ground. That force tangential to the wheel is comparable to the redirection of the thrust forces in the arch/ dome into the surrounding walls, which becomes important when you’re supporting the arch of a roof – and has brought down more than a few Gothic cathedral roofs where more faith has been placed in god than in engineering skill (got to get a passing boot into “faith”, when the opportunity arises).
        It’s hard to explain this without diagrams. Hmmm, this is fun : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/arch-physics.html
        It shows the thrust lines in the arch. you can envisage the same thrust lines in a wheel rim being resolved into the the tension forces on the spokes in the upper half. of the wheel.
        I’m not doing a veryt good job of explaining this, am I? I’ll have to think how to explain it.

        • merilee
          Posted February 14, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

          très interessant, Aidan. Thanks.

        • Posted February 15, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          I was kidding, but all the same you did a fine job of explaining!

  9. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    That was a very interesting interview. Hearing his nightmare alternative of Iraq-implosion (questionable) follllowed by a Saudi-Iranian-Turkish tri-partite war zone (is this different from 2016??) woooooulld explain his support for the Iraq War. Hmmm, Got to think aboult that.
    Other things … that the “real battle” is between secularism and religious fanaticism … seems uncontroveersial.
    At 37 mins, a concern about “anonysisme”, (where western intellectuals can’t be bothered with the fight …
    Considering Falwell (who he) and Robertson (pass that man a spittle-cloth!) and unimportant … I see where he is coming from.
    And II can
    t decpher the rest of my notes. The concept that the “God hypothesis” is optional must be a deep, deep heresy.

    • Luis Servín
      Posted February 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Well, he didn’t consider Syria.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 14, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        In 2005 was anyone seriously expecting that the Assad family might fall from power?

  10. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I wonder if Hitch wasn’t more American than some of us Americans. Seems odd sometimes knowing he was British born and educated.

    Interesting his belief that Iraq was eventually going to disintegrate with war between other neighbors for control. I think he was continuing to somehow justify his stand on the Iraq war. All of us are entitled to one good mistake and his was on Iraq.

    He was a big follower of Jefferson as many readers of American History tend to be but sometimes to the side of overlooking many of his bad points. Noticed he used the slavery reasoning as being the main action in Jefferson sending the troops to Africa but the high jacking of American Flag ships and interruption
    of the trade was more on his mind. Slavery by itself would not likely be Jefferson’s reason for going half way round the world — he had many of his own slaves.

    • Posted February 13, 2015 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia is available on the web. It is interesting to read, and the section on laws (Query XIV http://books.google.com/books?id=DTWttRSMtbYC&pg=PA140#v=onepage&q&f=false )is/was a real eye-opener for me on his race views. Most atheists are familiar with its Religion section (Query XVIII) that has the quote on “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”.

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted February 13, 2015 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Jefferson was a fascinating and mysterious fellow. Every historian I have read on him gets a little different take, sometimes a lot different. I believe he was very enlightened on religion but on slavery he was a product of his time and position. He was a complete disaster on finance and economics and died broke. One of the reasons he was the enemy of Hamilton was that he had no idea what Hamilton was doing as Secretary of Treasure and he never understood it. His politics became the most popular of the day but strangely is closer to the republican party of today, minus their religion.

  11. Filippo
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    sub

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 13, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      sub

  12. rickflick
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I was impressed with Hitchen’s anticipation of events in this passage. I thought it might be useful to transcribe it (not quite accurate perhaps, but close):

    I don’t care who occupies the Whitehouse in 2008 as long as they have made a promise to draw the line…that Bin Laden and his surrogates will never take power in Iraq or retake it in Afghanistan . Presumably that will not have been decided by 2008. I expect this war to be going on for the rest of my life and probably well into the life of my son. That will be the only thing I care about. It is possible that there will be a democrat who would say that and its even possible that it would be my least favorite democrat Mrs. Clinton, and that she could be held to it. In that case I’d happily give her my vote.

    But I worry very much that its not a matter of the candidate but the fortitude of the electorate which is … very consistently undermined by constant drizzle of propagandistic reporting fanaticism of various kinds and demoralization. For me the battle is one for the public opinion and not for the executive mansion. I hope that it will be decided by the nature of the enemy. There are some people who would ask…wouldn’t it be better if we made peace with them? But if you can’t and if they wouldn’t have it, well then…coexistence with religious fanaticism is not desirable, and it is certainly impossible. You would thin it would be a pleasure to be fighting against it.

  13. Posted February 14, 2015 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Definitely bookmarking this one for viewing when I have time. Though I share Hitch’s love for drinks, thankfully I’ve never touched a cigarette. The two make for a nasty combination.

  14. The Syed Atheist
    Posted February 14, 2015 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Syed Atheist.

  15. Posted February 14, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this! It’s great to be able to hear Hitch for the «first time» in a new interview. By the way, I could not care less if he smoked two packs of cigarettes during the whole thing. His life habits were his and a common trait in many fiery and passionate intellectuals of the 20th century.

  16. Posted February 14, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this! It is great to be able to hear Hitch for the «first time» in a new interview. By the way, I could not care less if he smoked two packs of cigarettes during this stimulating exchange, his life habits were his and smoking was a common trait to be found in many great intellectuals of the 20th century.

  17. merilee
    Posted February 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    a younger Hitch:

    • Filippo
      Posted February 15, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Yea, verily, the one where he replied, “My withers, Mr. Buckley, are unwrung.”

  18. Curtis
    Posted February 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jerry, you may already be aware of this, but on youtube most videos have a little gear icon in the lower right of the frame and clicking on that will give you an option to watch them in fast forward (1.25x, 1.5x, or 2x). While an interview with Hitch is probably worth investing your 1.0 time, for loads of other videos you want to wade through but you don’t have time time to spare, 1.25x is almost always very easy to understand and follow, and in many cases so is 1.5x. Great time saver, not sure how common knowledge it is — I know I spent probably years never really examining that built in functionality before I discovered it. Great link. Thanks.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 14, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Wow, thanks Curtis! My main complaint about videos is how time-consuming they are!

    • rickflick
      Posted February 14, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      ++

  19. Posted February 14, 2015 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant as usual. Every university should have a chair in philosophy, or a chair in journalism dedicated to Christopher Hitchens.
    Hitchens is one of the most, or the most brilliant observers of the 20th and the 21st century and was also prophetic.

  20. Posted February 14, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Not a single one of Noam Chomsky’s theories have ever been proven by research. Chomsky has managed to impress a number of people with dazzling bull shit. But not once, has a single Chomsky theory ever withstood the test of science and research.

  21. Posted February 17, 2015 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the find! Indeed, it’s a precious gem. There’s an ironic moment when Hitchens laments the apparent death wish of those who refuse to acknowledge that religious fundamentalism is a big problem, and then, lighting the next cigarette.


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