Friday, December 10, 2010

Christopher Hitchens, Anti-Intellectual Propaganda

I should take this with a hefty grain of salt. Hitchens is here writing for Vanity Fair, and so his opinions are going to match his market.

In other words, he's a whore.

Now, here is the difference. Glenn Beck has not even been encouraging his audiences to reread Robert Welch. No, he has been inciting them to read the work of W. Cleon Skousen, a man more insane and nasty than Welch and a figure so extreme that ultimately even the Birch-supporting leadership of the Mormon Church had to distance itself from him. It’s from Skousen’s demented screed The Five Thousand Year Leap (to a new edition of which Beck wrote a foreword, and which he shoved to the position of No. 1 on Amazon) that he takes all his fantasies about a divinely written Constitution, a conspiratorial secret government, and a future apocalypse. To give you a further idea of the man: Skousen’s posthumously published book on the “end times” and the coming day of rapture was charmingly called The Cleansing of America. A book of his with a less repulsive title, The Making of America, turned out to justify slavery and to refer to slave children as “pickaninnies.” And, writing at a time when the Mormon Church was under attack for denying full membership to black people, Skousen defended it from what he described as this “Communist” assault.

So, Beck’s “9/12 Project” is canalizing old racist and clerical toxic-waste material that a healthy society had mostly flushed out of its system more than a generation ago, and injecting it right back in again.


This is a severe assault on the values of Western liberal arts. Educated people have friends on their library shelves, and recommend volumes to each other, without totally endorsing "the man" who wrote it. I find a lot of apt criticism of socialism and "social justice" in Atlas Shrugged, without adopting objectivism or declaring government has no business enforcing the law of contract. I can appreciate Plato without attempting to live in a platonic communism. One of the benefits of a liberal education is exposure to, and understanding of, a variety of political and social theories, which we should evaluate and cogently approve or disapprove. There was a lot of truth to Reagan's quip that a Communist was somebody who had read Marx and Lenin, and an anticommunist was somebody who understood Marx and Lenin.

What about The Five Thousand Year Leap makes it a demented screed? Hitchens says it contains "fantasies about a divinely written Constitution, a conspiratorial secret government, and a future apocalypse." And that's about it for the book Glenn Beck recommends, the one that hit #1 on Amazon.com. He has more to say about OTHER books by Skousen, which I do not think Beck recommends, and are not #1 on Amazon.com. He does this to "give you a further idea of the man". If what Skousen wrote in The Five Thousand Year Leap was such racist and clerical toxic-waste material, wouldn't a few quotes be a better demonstration than a brief C.V. of the author?

Hitchens' rant is not about developing a serious rebuttal of W. Cleon Skousen, but rather is about shoving the non-sequitor that if Beck liked ANYTHING Skousen wrote, he likes ALL of it, and so do people who turn up at Beck events.

Hitchens knows better.
It means something that he stoops to it.

But it is negated, not amplified, if it comes festooned with racism and superstition. In the recent past, government-sponsored policies of social engineering have led to surprising success in reducing the welfare rolls and the crime figures. This came partly from the adoption by many Democrats of policies that had once been called Republican. But not a word about that from Beck and his followers, because it isn’t exciting and doesn’t present any opportunity for rabble-rousing. Far sexier to say that health care—actually another product of bipartisanship—is a step toward Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ten percent unemployment, on the other hand, is rather a disgrace to a midterm Democratic administration. But does anybody believe that unemployment would have gone down if the hated bailout had not occurred and GM had been permitted to go bankrupt? Why not avoid the question altogether and mutter about a secret plan to proclaim a socialist (or Nazi, or Jew-controlled: take your pick) dictatorship?


The "racism and superstition" bit comes a bit later, I suppose, unless the following errors are evidence of racism and superstition: three-strikes and termination dates of welfare are "government-sponsored policies of social engineering"; their adoption by a Democrat President isolated by Republican majorities, and maintenance by Republican majorities, and criticism and attack by the first Democrat trifecta since they were enacted, represents "bipartisanship"; Glenn Beck is pushing for a partisan victory; individual mandates, and a federal diktat to 50 states to operate internal health-care insurance systems to federal liking, do not represent a march towards totalitarianism; unemployment is the sole best measure of political economy; the Tea Party is ignoring these issues; Glenn Beck touts a secret conspiracy without airing any evidence or documentation.

None of those presumptions are true. The Democrats were eager to destroy "welfare to work" at this, their first real chance to do so. They proudly oppose mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws, and pretend their success is a mystery. Hitchens himself complained the Tea Party "forfeit[ed] a both-houses Republican victory". Obamacare is uniquely unconstitutional and imposes limits on a free market unknown through 2 invasions, a civil war, two world wars and a depression. Ben Bernanke, presumably after Hitchens wrote this column, said on 60 Minutes that he expects five more years of record unemployment if he's left to solve it, and yes, I think we could have done better with a sharper, shorter depression than by printing money to guarantee Wall Street whenever it fails henceforth. These are not matters of no concern to the angry right. Beck is not concerned with a "secret conspiracy" but an open intellectual theory of political economy and economics, as widespread and respectable as Eurocommunism in the 1970s, argued and advocated in writing, by foundations and think tanks who share executive personnel.

Hitchens knows better.
It means something that he stoops to it.

Again, there is a real debate about the pace and rhythm of global warming, and about the degree to which it has been caused (or can be slowed) by human activity. But at the first Tea Party rally I attended, at the Washington Monument earlier this year, the crowd—bristling with placards about the Second Amendment’s being the correction—was treated to an arm-waving speech by a caricature English peer named Lord Monckton, who led them in the edifying call-and-response: “All together. Global warming is?” “Bullshit.” “Obama cannot hear you. Global warming is?” “bullshit.” “That’s bettah.” I don’t remember ever seeing grown-ups behave less seriously, at least in an election season.


It is nice that Mr. Hitchens will allow for debate on these matters. Apparently he would like a debate on a topic, without ever encountering a gathering held by one side of that debate, proclaiming its point of view, with enthusiasm, to bolster and encourage its rank and file. Apparently the Tea Party should have had Paul McCartney there to urge them to be uncertain and confused, rather than such an unserious demonstration of certainty.
A "real debate" requires real people who are really sure that the other side is really bullshit.
Hitchens knows better.
It means something that he is stooping to it.

Most epochs are defined by one or another anxiety. More important, though, is the form which that anxiety takes. Millions of Americans are currently worried about two things that are, in their minds, emotionally related. The first of these is the prospect that white people will no longer be the majority in this country, and the second is that the United States will be just one among many world powers.


And that is why the Tea Party got so excited about Colonel Allen West.

This is by no means purely a “racial” matter.


Oh! I was gonna say--well, I did just say---

(In my experience, black Americans are quite concerned that “Hispanic” immigration will relegate them, too.)


And that is why Colonel Allen West likes Marc Rubio for his governor.
Oh, wait--

Having an honest and open discussion about all this is not just a high priority. It’s more like a matter of social and political survival.


Really? How does saying "there goes the neighborhood" help at all? Ever?

But the Beck-Skousen faction want to make such a debate impossible. They need and want to sublimate the anxiety into hysteria and paranoia.


What possible debate could be held about demographic anxiety? "Resolved, that Hispanics ought not breed." Is that what Hitchens is looking for? What is this man talking about?

The president is a Kenyan.


Proclaimed by his relatives in Kenya.

The president is a secret Muslim.


The President of Egypt says President Obama told him so in a private meeting. More widely observed, this President is extremely deferential to Muslim leaders, Muslim custom, and celebrates Muslim culture and the Arabic forms of prayer.

I don't know that those things are true about President Obama, or even if he did tell the President of Egypt he was a co-religionist, that it is true. I just know there's more, uh, phenomena, if you don't like the term evidence, suggestive of those theories, than the idea that 500,000 people got on the National Mall because 'Amerikkka is going to the negros'.

The president (why not?—after all, every little bit helps) is the unacknowledged love child of Malcolm X.


Who says that?

And this is their response to the election of an extremely moderate half-African American candidate, who speaks better English than most and who has a model family. Revolted by this develpment, huge numbers of white people choose to demonstrate their independence and superiority by putting themselves eagerly at the disposal of a tear-stained semi-literate shock jock, and by repeating his list of lies and defamations. But, of course, there’s nothing racial in their attitude.


The absence of evidence of this racism is just proof of sinister intent!
If Amerikkka hated a black President for his color, one might have thought it would have been apparent from the inauguration. Actually, at his inauguration, the million people on the Mall were celebrating him. Only gradually did we become fully aware that this eloquent, model father was an hard-left revolutionary, eager to apologize to the world for the decisions of our democracy; eager to repudiate our heritage of freedom; eager for arbitrary executive control over private industry; eager to declare his political opponents, enemies; eager to berate his countrymen for their diet, religions, viewing habits, education, employment, ambitions and hopes--and these Tea Partiers can stand up and go on and on and on and on and on about it, all day, and not once stoop to complaining about race. Many of our complaints were aired during the last Democratic Administration. Of course, there's nothing racial about our attitude.

It has nothing to do with racism.
Hitchens knows better.
It's significant that he stoops to it.

By the way, I'm sure Obama speaks English too well to ever describe anybody as "extremely moderate."

As I started by saying, the people who really curl my lip are the ones who willingly accept such supporters for the sake of a Republican victory, and then try to write them off as not all that important, or not all that extreme, or not all that insane in wanting to repeal several amendments to a Constitution that they also think is unalterable because it’s divine!


Well, no. We know it can be amended, in a certain manner, which has not been followed. And for that reason, contrary laws and policy are void. That is not a notion originated by the Tea Party in 2010; it was handed down in 1803. I'm sure Hitchens knows better. It means something that he pretends to forget it.

"Divine", "clerical", "superstition". I think that's the root of this screed by Hitchens. It is another rant at God. And since God is false, the political movement by Glenn Beck --who I find annoying as an absolute pacifist-- must also be false, because it calls on good citizenship as required of true religious faith. Such people, to Hitchens, are deranged. And it's no good going to Vanity Fair and saying "I don't like Jesusfreaks" cause that is not effective. What works is, smearing them as insane, illiterate, fringe racists incapable of "real debate". This is the necessary work that Hitchens has devoted himself to, and it is sad. He was better when he wrote from his brain and not with his bile.

4 comments:

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul said...

Thanks Christopher, you said it just right. W. Cleon Skousen is my father and we're all so weary of the lame attacks on his character. Each and ever smear has been refuted, now it's largely a bunch of name calling going on. I'm compiling answers to the direct assaults, most of which can be traced to Salt Lake City's crooked mayor who fired dad as the city's Chief of Police in 1960 because Skousen's officers nearly caught the mayor at some illegal parties. The city was in an uproar. To defend his actions, the mayor called dad all kinds of names and those are the character assassinations that are being circulated again after half a century. There's a guy who obtained dad's FBI files and thinks he's made a powerful case against him. Again, more name calling. The correspondence dad has from J. Edgar Hoover, etc., et al, refutes the distortions. As for the content of his books now being criticized, those are all easily explained by reading the books and the source materials (now there's an idea!). I'm doing assembling all these answers right now. Such a waste of productive time to engage in the realm of negative and hateful people, but the facts must get out there. Thanks, --Paul

Anonymous said...

Sir,

I've neither the time nor the inclination to correct the myriad logical imbroglios and absurd, irrational inconsistencies in your tedious address here - i don't even know how I happened upon it (only that I'll never return), but let it be widely understood that compared to Hitchens, to say that you are a mental midget lends new and unheard of dimensions to the concept of 'understatement'. I heartily suggest that you try (really hard, as it will be for you) to read and comprehend but a mere fraction of the material that Mr Hitchens has made part of his mental landscape - and then perhaps try again, if he is still with us, to match wits with him.

You are utterly in the wrong league, son.

Christopher Balsz Jr. said...

Well clearly not in your league, Mr. Anonymous. I'm stung to the core by your criticism, since I've long been an admirer of your many works.

But you know, I could read every book they got on the shelves at Oxford, and it wouldn't make those false statements by Mr. H about CURRENT AFFAIRS, any less false. He's a liar, and I'm sorry you won't stick around to talk about that. Bye.