Thursday, October 12, 2006

Guess Who Came To Dinner?

Readers who have been following Aaro Watch over the past year and a bit will have noticed that Nick Cohen goes to dinner parties (usually in Islington - though 'Islington' may be a borough of the mind and wherever the enemies of the moment happen to be). He hasn't - yet - gone as far as this:

Fine, now that I know that, to you, medical ethics are nothing, you've told me all I need to know. I'm not trying to persuade you. Do you think I care whether you agree with me? No. I'm telling you why I disagree with you. That I do care about. I have no further interest in any of your opinions. There's nothing you wouldn't make an excuse for. You know what? I wouldn't want you on my side. I was telling you why I knew that Howard Dean was a psycho and a fraud , and you say 'That's O.K.' Fuck off. No, I mean it: fuck off. I'm telling you what I think are standards and you say, 'What standards? It's fine, he's against the Iraq War.' Fuck. Off. You're MoveOn.org. Any liar will do. He's anti-Bush. Fuck off...Save it sweetie, for someone who cares. It will not be me. You love it, you suck on it. I now know what your standards are, and now you know what mine are, and that's all the difference -- I hope -- in the world.

That, of course, was Christopher Hitchens courtesy of Ezra Klein. Ezra continues:

It explains, too, why Hitchens and so many like him are quick to inflate the dangers posed by Islamic extremists, to make threats out of enemies and existential dangers out of garden variety terrorists. If they don't, if they allow al Qaeda to remain a degraded organization with limited operational capacity that should be mopped up through diligent law enforcement strategies, then where does that leave them in the eyes of history? Orwell battled against Communism, Hitchens is going to take a brave posture against 27 bearded nuts who want white men to leave their lands?

Does this explain Nick's conversion? I'm firmly in the camp which says that there are Islamic extremists, and they're very nasty, but there also aren't very many of them. They're a threat, sure, but not an 'existential' one, nor is there a 'clash of civilisations'.

In a 2003 interview, Hitchens said the events of September 11th filled him with exhiliration. His friend Ian Buruma, the writer, told me, I don't quite see Christopher as a 'man of action,' but he's always looking for our defining moments--as it were, our Spanish Civil War, where you put yourself on the right side and stand up to the enemy. Hitchens foresaw a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Here was a question on which history would judge him; and just as Orwell had (in his view) got it right on the great questions of the 20th century -- Communism, Fascism, and imperialism -- so Hitchens wanted a future student to see that he had been similarly clear-eyed (He once wrote, I have tried for much of my life to write as if I was composing my sentences posthumously.)

Nick also has similarities to Orwell. I don't think he writes as well, but he is motivated by a broadly compassionate socialism (more noticeably directed at the proletariat in abstract) as well as an at times perversely mercurial individualism, and a pronounced contempt for anyone on his side for too long.
But at least he composes his sentences while still alive.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Simon said...

I actually prefer Nick's writing style to Hitchens's, though I don't think either of them are very good these days. (Nick was a good polemicist in the Indecent era, but I don't think he was ever much of a stylist).

10/12/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Again on Hitchens, you trying to steal my gig? bread from my babies mouths?

Anyway, Best comment I've seen on this is

"Hitchens foresaw "a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate."

Would that would be all the distilleries in the world beating the crap out of Mother Teresa?"

10/13/2006 02:16:00 AM  

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