Monday, February 2, 2009

Is it possible for me to hate Christopher Hitchens any more?

I don't think so. I don't know if it's general tone, or just how consistently I find his arguments to be smug, privileged, nonsense, but there's nothing more irritating to me than his Monday columns at Slate.

Today's is no exception. A defense of John Updike, which, okay, I'm totally in favor of attempts to defend people who had bad reputations you think they were unjustified in gaining. But what is Hitchen's excuse for Updike's perceived misogyny and racism?
And yet perhaps not so incongruous for a man of wry and reserved delicacy and elegance who would prefer very slightly to be wrong on account of the right reservations than right because of the wrong ones.
What.The.Hell does that even mean? Hitchens spends the column giving examples of Updike's sexism and racism, then suggesting maybe he wasn't as bad as he seemed and maybe he got better over time because you know he had African American grand kids? (eye roll. how can someone with black relatives be RACIST?!).
Of course he wasn't really a WASP to begin with—there can't be a more essentially Dutch name than Updike—but he added with typical diffidence that two of his children had married Africans and that he now had some genuinely "African-American" grandchildren. He appeared highly diverted and pleased by this thought, and I notice that the first edition of his memoir Self-Consciousness, containing that original anti-'60s essay, is dedicated "To my grandsons John Abloff Cobblah and Michael Kwame Ntiri Cobblah." These names, which I would guess to be Ashanti/Ghanaian, make one wonder if President Barack Obama missed an opportunity, and we all missed an experience, in not inviting the whole Updike clan to be present while one of the country's finest writers could still give us an "invocation."
God, it's so shallow. Thinking of those African-sounding names makes him think Updike should've been at Obama's inauguration? How sentimental, Chris.

Hitchens is a rich, straight white guy whose ethos consists of something like "Give me political incorrectness or give me death." I take it doing the "right thing" for the "wrong reservation" is giving into political correctness. Hitchens never defines what the hell these "right reservations" were.

I just hate it. Why can't he just come out and say whatever it is he wants to say? Clearly he wants to say, "Updike was a racist, but that was before he loved any people of color. I'm glad he didn't give in and simply start respecting people of color just because it was the politically correct thing to do."

The only thing Hitchens is really able to hold against Updike is--get this--that Updike didn't think the U.S. was justified in attacking foreign countries for the attacks of 9/11. Yes, our beloved war monger laments, how could this maverick "be so wavering and so neutral when a true crisis came along."

Why do I keep reading these columns? I'm a masochist...


T said...

Hitchens is a cruise-missile-cheering, self-aggrandizing, indulgent hack. His politics have become increasingly bad since the 80s and what was, perhaps, interesting about him at one time has given way to his inner asshole.

It was funny, though, to see him make Sean Hannity look like a complete fool while trashing Jerry Falwell here:

Other than the shallow, trashy amusement he produced in that youtube he's worthless.

McKay said...

I completely agree.