Friday, April 16, 2004

Why Hitchens Doesn't Matter 

Studs Terkel out-condescends Chris Hitchens. You must read it.

Basically, Hitchens is catty about Gore Vidal (who, as James Wolcott posits in this review, has become the unlikely erudite spokesman for the postmodern progressive movement), and Studs calls him on his pettiness in classic turnabout=fair-play form:

He was in Chicago in re his excellent Kissinger book. During those blurry moments at my house, and very delightful they were, he confided that in some quarters he was regarded as the successor to Gore Vidal as America's preeminent man of letters. I've a hunch that Vidal may have a comment on that, especially now.
My point is a simple one: vanity. It's probably the least of our seven deadly sins; all of us have a touch of it, more or less. In some cases, more than less. Saddam Hussein is not the subject of this note; nor the nature of our approach toward the mass murderer. Chris has his opinion; The Nation's editors have theirs. It is the manner in which he has behaved toward those who differ with him: his ad hominem assaults on their intelligence and integrity. It is his vulgarity of language, so unlike the guy I knew, that knocked me for a loop.
I have always admired Hitchens's insights, elegance of style and sharpness of wit. I still do. But the turn he has taken - the sharp one - is more in the direction of Becky than of Orwell. I'm afraid that his psyche is now more possessed of vanity than of fairness.

The money-shot of the letter is its post-script, which is withering in its dismissal of pseudo-intellectual posturing by America's favorite drunken blowhard.

In Hitchens' defense, I'm always in favor of catty, bitchy public debate. And his Kissinger book is required reading. But I know Gore Vidal. Gore Vidal is a friend of Studs Terkel. And you, sir, are no Gore Vidal.

Here is Chris' response. He attempts the same tone of nonchalant dismissal, but falls short. Oh, how the almost-mighty have fallen.

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