Me and Christopher Hitchens

by Kieran Healy on February 10, 2005

Michael Totten recounts his night out with Christopher Hitchens and a couple of Iraqis that they talked to. Some of the latter weren’t too happy. Totten reflects:

Maybe there was no way to avoid the tension wrought by invasion and occupation, and the air just had to be cleared. Perhaps our Iraqi guests … really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.

He goes on to say that “Friendly Arabs are the easiest people to bond with I’ve ever met.” It’s the unfriendly ones that cause everyone such problems. And, he continues,

I respected them more, too, because they stood up to me and Christopher Hitchens. They are not servile people. They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets.

They’ve got spirit, the little buggers. Me ‘n’ Hitch are quite the team, but when you’re trying your best to tell them the way things are, they will be interrupting and getting annoyed and saying unreasonable things like “Who are you to tell us what to do!?” What’s that phrase again? “The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard.” But dissent is the lifeblood of democracy. Of course, we can’t permit them to pick the wrong government for themselves. “If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power” (Hitchens). The invasion force would consist of “the US and Britain … along with—hopefully—everyone here at this table” (Totten). Or, as Tom Lehrer put it more succinctly some years ago, “They’ve got to be protected / All their rights respected / Till somebody we like can be elected.”

Read the whole thing if you like. It’s full of small moments of whatever the opposite of an epiphany is. Like Hitchens’ schoolboy-debater habit of calling people “Sir” as he talks down at them (as in “So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought”). Or Totten’s heartfelt comment that “Something I said must have got through to him, and thank God for that. He and I—truly— were on the same side. I knew it, and I’m pretty certain he knew it too.” Or Hitchens saying that he has to leave because “I have to get up in the morning and continue the fight on CNN.” Couldn’t have put it better myself, mate.

(Via Jim Henley.)

{ 66 comments }

1

P O'Neill 02.10.05 at 4:35 pm

Where to begin … “Perhaps our Iraqi guests … really didn’t (and don’t) completely understand how we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past.”

— just as Hitch has morphed into exactly the G&T sipping expat gent that he once would have despised. And why did Colm Toibin give him such an easy time in the NYT Book Review?

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/06/books/review/06TOIBINL.html

2

Randy Paul 02.10.05 at 4:48 pm

Wonder what the Dutch guy said to calm the Iraqis down . . .

3

Kirk 02.10.05 at 4:48 pm

I found the whole thing full of negative epiphanies too. Glad I wasn’t the only one.

Michael Totten comes off as self-effacing and full of hubris at the same time. He’s a “friendly American”, I guess.

4

pm 02.10.05 at 5:23 pm

de-piphany. n

1. The ironically revelatory disappearance of a divine being.

2. A sudden manifestation of the wrong idea about the essence or meaning of something.

3. Incomprehension or misperception of reality by means of what seems to be a sudden intuitive realization.

5

dsquared 02.10.05 at 5:25 pm

I have to say that I treasure the line:

“‘Who the hell are you?, Atiyyah said to Hitchens, as if I weren’t the last one to speak.”

It is up there with the finest of Charles Pooter.

6

John Isbell 02.10.05 at 5:34 pm

“me and Christopher Hitchens.”
Saddest line ever written.

7

jr 02.10.05 at 5:34 pm

“Til someONE we like can be elected.”
Lehrer’s verses always scanned.

8

jr 02.10.05 at 5:35 pm

“Til someONE we like can be elected.”
Lehrer’s verses always scanned.

9

Ted Barlow 02.10.05 at 5:37 pm

“If you wanted more Iraqi support,” Atiyyah bellowed at Hitchens,” you should have given us more money and food once you got there!”

“So you’re saying, sir, that you can be bought,” Hitchens shot back.

If I didn’t deeply dislike Hitchens already, that would do it. He’s talking to one of the leaders of one of the liberal Iraqi institutions upon which the future of Iraq depends. There’s no way that the guy has the resources he needs. And Hitchens has the gall to talk about humanitarian aid and support for his projects as if it was some sort of bribe that Atiyyah should have the self-respect to refuse.

You want more money for the military? Are you saying, sir, that the United States Armed Forces can be bought? I shall have to say good day to you, sir!

10

Jon Gallagher 02.10.05 at 5:48 pm

When I pointed out that all Michael did was get drunk with a drunk, and then found out he couldn’t think as fast as his pre-pickled freind, Michael responded:

    This is your first and only troll warning. We aren’t in high school here.

Which is funny because I haven’t seen anything closer to high school (really? You got to hang out with him? That is *sooooo* *coooooolll*) since I left the hallowed halls of Will C. Crawford High School.

11

Glenn 02.10.05 at 5:51 pm

you guys WISH you were meeting important people.

12

Jon Gallagher 02.10.05 at 5:51 pm

When I pointed out that all Michael did was get drunk with a drunk, and then found out he couldn’t think as fast as his pre-pickled freind, Michael responded:

    This is your first and only troll warning. We aren’t in high school here.

Which is funny because I haven’t seen anything closer to high school (really? You got to hang out with him? That is *sooooo* *coooooolll*) since I left the hallowed halls of Will C. Crawford High School.

13

david 02.10.05 at 5:54 pm

This one is as good as the one on Jane Galt and survey methodology! Someday I’ll learn to keep a file.

14

x 02.10.05 at 6:23 pm

It’s full of small moments of whatever the opposite of an epiphany is.

That’s a very nice phrase. I’m going to steal it and reuse it. I’ll credit the source, I promise.

bq. “I have to get up in the morning and continue the fight on CNN.”

Now that’s a phrase that I very much fear will end up in the script of the next Bruckheimer blockbuster on Operation Iraqi Liberation. Possibly spoken by a square-jawed military officer turning down the sexual favours of an embedded reporter after a hard, hard day of dealing with the unfriendly natives. A filmic moment cristallizing the nature of sacrifice and honour. “Sorry honey I appreciate your offer to help the cause of freedom, but I have to get up in the morning…”

bq. And it was a fight between Americans and Iraqis who were all supposed to be on the same side. … Believe me, you don’t know what a tense political fight feels like until the person yelling at you is from a country you recently bombed and currently occupy.

Wow, I really can’t imagine that. But not to worry. That too will be resolved beautifully in the above mentioned film, with a delegation of Iraqis, Americans, and Christopher Hitchens all going to the opening of the first outlet of a Las Vegas casino chain in newly rebuilt Fallujah, to celebrate the victory of Democracy, Freedom, Sex, Whiskey. A cheerful filmic moment cristallizing the power of American values. Closing track by Grand Funk Railroad, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.

Sorry, I’m just being an ass. Forgive me, I just can’t keep serious after reading throught the whole evening account. Very, err, entertaining.

15

Randy Paul 02.10.05 at 6:56 pm

Glenn,

I used to work for a lecture agency. I’ve met Cheryl Tiegs, Anne Baxter, Vincent Price, Jeff Greenfield, Andrew Greeley, Jacobo Timmermann, Truman Capote, R. Buckminster Fuller, George McGovern, Ralph Nader (back when he was just a consumer advocate), William S. Burroughs, Richard Reeves, Vlkadimir Bukovsky, Betty Williams, Christine Lahti, Alec Baldwin, Peter Weller, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio, Elie Wiesel, Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve and William Shawcross, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Stone Phillips and so many others I can’t even remember them all.

I got to sit in the backseat of my boss’ car kibbitzing with Simon Wiesenthal in 1982 as we drove from midtown Manhattan to C W Post College. I sat next to Michael McDonald flying from LaGuardia to Nashville.

It’s nothing special.

16

MQ 02.10.05 at 6:58 pm

“you guys WISH you were meeting important people.”

Christopher Hitchens is an important person? Lol.

17

DS 02.10.05 at 6:59 pm

But Hitchens had a defender, too. He had me.

Lucky Hitchens.

18

rm 02.10.05 at 7:29 pm

Are you sure this isn’t Marx Brothers dialogue?

I asked him [Hitchens] if he reads blogs.

“No,” he said. “Not really. I could spend all day reading blogs and not get anything done.”

“You can’t afford not to read blogs,” I said. “Because of who you are and what you do for a living, you’ll be hopelessly behind if you don’t.”

19

roger 02.10.05 at 7:57 pm

This is one of the funnier things I’ve seen in CT. There are moments when quotation renders commentary superfluous. This is one of them.

20

kharris 02.10.05 at 8:05 pm

The tone from Totten, and the tone that he conveys from Hitchens, is so self-satisfied, so all-knowing, so certain. These guys are the colonialists and imperialists of right now.

“They will never, ever, be anyone’s puppets.” (Subtext…my assessment of human character is flawless.)

“If the Iraqis were to elect either a Sunni or Shia Taliban, we would not let them take power.” (Subtext…my word is US policy, today and for all times.)

Do people really talk, and write, like that? I guess they do.

21

Eddie Thomas 02.10.05 at 8:31 pm

This post and the comments so far remind me of Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates: as long as the people vote to have slavery, it’s legitimate!

22

Eamonn Fitzgerald 02.10.05 at 9:21 pm

Kieran

Post often, like Glen, and you’ll be famous; write well like Hitch and you’ll be admired. That’s my advice for you.

23

Eamonn Fitzgerald 02.10.05 at 9:22 pm

Kieran

Post often, like Glen, and you’ll be famous; write well like Hitch and you’ll be admired. That’s my advice for you.

24

Donald Johnson 02.10.05 at 9:30 pm

No one said it was legitimate, Eddie, but you can’t be bothered to deal with anyone’s real position. The position here is that outsiders who invade a country on false pretenses, cause tens of thousands of deaths (or more)and then claim to be bringing democracy look a little funny when they then say how the voters should vote. I think we American voters have a tendency to choose war criminals for President, but I’d support an American insurgency if a coalition of social democrats from Scandinavian countries invaded us and stuck around until we learned to elect decent people.

I’m curious to know which side Hitch would pick in that case. Well, actually, I’m not.

25

jdw 02.10.05 at 9:36 pm

_Post often, like Glen, and you’ll be famous; write well like Hitch and you’ll be admired. That’s my advice for you._

Then you can go on CNN, and be important.

26

dipnut 02.10.05 at 9:40 pm

Michael Totten has really been on a roll lately. Trips to Tunisia and Libya (with a writing gig for the latter), guest-spot on Instapundit, editorship of the Friends Of Democracy website, and now this junket to DC to be on TV and incidentally meet his idol, Hitchens; if all that caused his head to swell a bit, I wouldn’t blame him in the least.

That said, my impression is that Totten’s head is okay. I’m not sure where he gets this idea that “we” would not allow a new Taliban-style government to arise in Iraq; but he doesn’t have to be quite unhinged to believe such a thing, or to believe it’s a good policy.

As for his treatment of the Iraqis, I would say he was trying to mollify them and find common ground, not condescend or “lay down the law”. And Jim Henley doesn’t know Totten, if he thinks Totten is looking for an excuse to avoid considering Iraqis’ points of view (“I may never understand”). Yes, Totten’s a little full of himself, but what he’s mostly full of is earnest concern for all humanity (informed by assiduous reading, and an impressive resume of travel in foreign countries). Cloying as that may be, it comes off somewhat better than these jaded and cynical responses.

27

Walt Pohl 02.10.05 at 9:55 pm

Dipnut makes an excellent point. There’s good money in supporting the Bush administration’s line in foreign policy. It’s an excellent career choice.

28

abb1 02.10.05 at 9:59 pm

I think Totten clearly is an idiot (that was my impression from reading his posts on Libya a while ago) and Hitchens… well, Hitchens has many Kurdish friends, very good Kurdish friends – that appears to be his main excuse.

29

Randy Paul 02.10.05 at 10:09 pm

Totten leaps to conclusions quite a bit. A fine case in point was when the Brazilian General in charge of the peacekeepers in Haiti said in October that a comment that John Kerry made in March of last year was giving “false hope” to the pro-Aristide groups in Haiti and causing violence there.

I e-mailed him about this (we’d exchanged e-mails many times before so it’s not like the first he’d ever heard from me) I posted comments in his post and finally I showed that the general’s statement contradicted a statement that he had made to Brazilian radio a few days before. I also provided context for Kerry’s statement and showed that Kerry was, in fact, encouraging democracy while the Bush administration’s actions in Haiti really reflected and reaffirmed the brutal status quo in that country’s history. the condition of Haiti since then only confirms what a mess Bush made by pulling the rug out from Colin Powell.

When the general later recanted, Totten made no mention of this or my earlier comments despite the e-mail, my post, links from other bloggers to my post and two trackbacks I sent to his original post.

He’s a smart guy, I genuinely think he means well, but he has a tendency to speak in absolute, declamatory statements (e.g. “The UN has absolutely no moral authority”). Sometimes he needs to dig a little deeper before putting finger to keyboard.

30

V. 02.10.05 at 10:27 pm

Then you can go on CNN, and be important.

Surely you mean, “Then you can go on CNN, and FIGHT!”

31

Michael 02.10.05 at 10:43 pm

“Andrew Apostolou wasn’t part of our news program, but he’s been a long-distance friend of mine for a while now. I had never actually met him in person, and I had to invite him. I figured he’d fit right in, and he did. … He gave me a little lapel pin in the shape of the Kurdistan flag. I stuck it on my collar. When Hitch showed up he was wearing one, too. And he noticed mine.”

And he noticed mine. And my heart swelled, and the sun broke out of the clouds, and somewhere a choir of birds started singing …

Totten’s the very definition of lickspittle, isn’t he?

32

dipnut 02.10.05 at 11:14 pm

There’s good money in supporting the Bush administration’s line in foreign policy.

I’m sure Michael Totten would be glad to forward 100% of the proceeds to you; except it would cost him a stamp. Me, I’m in it for the pussy.

And my heart swelled, and the sun broke out of the clouds, and somewhere a choir of birds started singing …

Totten’s the very definition of lickspittle, isn’t he?

Oh fer cryin’ out loud. Totten admires Hitchens. Of course he was thrilled.

The worst of Totten’s preening isn’t half so distasteful as these sour grapes.

33

x 02.11.05 at 12:22 am

Tsk, someone hasn’t checked the meaning of their metaphors.

Say someone had tickets for the last Beatles show ever, but at the last minute couldn’t go, and later went “oh they were overhyped anyway”. That is ‘sour grapes’.

No one who despises someone’s prose so much could possibly ever worship him like a rockstar and want to spend an entire evening with him, so getting drunk with someone you despise is not a fantastic chance you wanted so badly but involuntarily missed, it’s just something you couldn’t possibly have ever desired in the first place. Ergo, there are no ‘sour grapes’ in there.

In fact, the phrase ‘sour grapes’ cannot possibly apply to anything being discussed here. At all. Not one sausage. Check dictionary if still in doubt.

– Brought to you by the annoyingly helpful Department for Redundant Explanations of the Painfully Obvious.

34

dipnut 02.11.05 at 1:12 am

Well, I’ve successfully hijacked this thread; now we can argue over the applicability of “sour grapes”. The fox of fable, of course, is nowhere to be seen; but the definition is not so narrow as that. Spitefully disparaging what brings others satisfaction, whether or not one wants it for himself, is referred to as “sour grapes” often enough.

Besides, are you so confident that nobody in this discussion would enjoy a similarly fortuitous meeting with an object of his or her admiration? Nobody would like to have the ear of these Iraqis for a moment? I think you protest too much.

35

Josh 02.11.05 at 2:55 am

Now, now. Let’s not beat up on Michael Totten. We have so much to learn from him, and this is being neglected by focussing exclusively on his veneration for Hitchens.
For instance, there is his empathy and magnanimity towards those with whom he disagrees:
‘Dr. Atiyyah was the notoriously doom-and-gloom grouch who pissed all over the election on camera … I had little interest in him.’
There’s his courage in the fight for democracy: ‘We didn’t invade Iraq so we could midwife the birth of yet another despicable tyranny’.
(Gee, I didn’t know that Totten had been part of the invasion).
There’s his perceptive understanding of culture and character:
‘Donovan is an eminently reasonable person (he grew up in Holland)’
There’s his religious pluralism:
‘Thank God and Allah for that.’
Seriously though, I think that it’s great that Totten can express his sincere regard for Christopher Hitchens so honestly and openly in these cynical, guarded days. I’m not sure about his taste, but that’s another matter.
And besides — and maybe it’s just the hopeless romantic in me taking over here — how can you not be removed by things like this?:
“Angel,” he said. “Can I call you Angel?”
“Of course,” I said …
“I want to exploit your knowledge of blogs,” he said.
“Email me,” I said. “You know where to find me.”
I mean, that scene has gotta rank up there with Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

36

Kimmitt 02.11.05 at 5:02 am

Totten’s a good time, just don’t get sucked into thinking that there’s a lot of there there.

37

lemuel pitkin 02.11.05 at 5:59 am

Besides, are you so confident that nobody in this discussion would enjoy a similarly fortuitous meeting with an object of his or her admiration?

I for one would greatly enjoy a fortuitous meeting with Hitchens, so I could slug him. That would, indeed, be satisfying.

In fact, I did experience a fortuitious meeting with Hitchens about 10 years ago, when I was living in Chicago: he was in town for a book tour or something and someone arranged a dinner for him with local lefties and I got invited as an s.o. of one of the real guests. We were seated near each other and had a brisk exchange about the Baffler — I was pro, he was con, largely because they’d printed a nasty article about Katie Roiphe, whereas he was sympathetic to the “was it date rape, or just good wine” perspective. I didn’t, I’m ashamed to say, spit in his face or even forcibly date-rape him, but I didn’t write an admiring blog post about our run-in either. And not only because blogs didn’t exist yet, either.

38

martin demello 02.11.05 at 9:42 am

I don’t normally read political blogs (I surfed on over here from http://planet.lisp.org/) but I’m glad I read this.

39

dipnut 02.11.05 at 10:12 am

Bogie and Bacall

My goodness. I step out for a moment, and return to find the thread descended to this…this…irony. You’re making baby Jesus cry.

No, but the cynicism I complain about is this making Totten out to be what he is not. For instance, when he says “we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past”, he may be missing the point, and he may be an ass. But he’s sincere, and he knows specifically what he means by it. It won’t do, to pretend he’s being sinister or deliberately ignorant.

My experience is, he’s susceptible to intelligent persuasion.

40

abb1 02.11.05 at 10:35 am

Who said anything about anyone being sinister here? I thought this whole thing was about him behaving like an adolescent, a school-boy. You know, as in: “Me and Christopher Hitchens”.

41

x 02.11.05 at 12:00 pm

“Spitefully disparaging what brings others satisfaction, whether or not one wants it for himself, is referred to as “sour grapes” often enough.”

By people who don’t have a clue what the phrase “sour grapes” really means. If you disparage something that brings other satisfaction, you simply have different tastes, that are your own, not theirs. Oddly enough.

You brought that up, and it’s not that tangential. It’s not the fox that isn’t in sight here, it’s the grapes. Believe it or not, there are people who do not like Mr Hitchens, hence would be utterly incapable of ever pining after him as if he was a tasty morsel. You know, you can actually disparage something because you simply despise it. I would think Hitchens’ fans should know about that. He happily pours his spiteful disparagement on quite a lot of things. According to you, we’d have to call that a case of “sour grapes” too?

42

Donald Johnson 02.11.05 at 12:51 pm

One thing Hitch used to despise was an Administration that would hire Elliot Abrams as its spokesman on human rights. And yet there’s Mr. Abrams in the Bush Administration and Hitch supports Bush. The old Hitchens would despise this one, but perhaps it would only be his envy talking.

43

Rob 02.11.05 at 1:37 pm

Kipling would be so proud of Totten and Hitch picking up this generation’s burden!

44

dipnut 02.11.05 at 5:04 pm

Who said anything about…sinister?

Jum Henley strongly hinted that Totten was being deliberately obtuse in maintaining his support for an immoral war and occupation. Walt Pohl said Totten sold his voice to the highest bidder.

That would be sinister.

45

dipnut 02.11.05 at 5:05 pm

Who said anything about…sinister?

Jum Henley strongly hinted that Totten was being deliberately obtuse in maintaining his support for an immoral war and occupation. Walt Pohl said Totten sold his voice to the highest bidder.

That would be sinister.

46

dipnut 02.11.05 at 5:24 pm

x, normally I’m the language snob in discussions like this.

The problem is, you practically never encounter “sour grapes” in its classic form. Thus, if you insist on strict interpretation, you lose the use of this highly-evocative phrase. Like many other writers, who know perfectly well the story and meaning of “sour grapes”, I use it sometimes to refer to personal hostility tainted by envy. Envy is, after all, a species of thwarted desire, and thwarted desire is at the heart of the fable.

I reiterate that you need not like Hitchens, or want to meet him, to wish that you might have a similar experience. Say, with Al Franken or Ben Affleck.

Totten has recently enjoyed a string of little successes and fascinating experiences which have made him a trifle giddy. I personally am envious of his trip to Libya (though it never would have occurred to me to go there), so perhaps I’m projecting a little.

But I doubt it. I get the definite sense that the glow of Totten’s recent success, not his views as such, engenders part of the spleen directed against him in these quarters.

47

dipnut 02.11.05 at 5:26 pm

x, normally I’m the language snob in discussions like this.

The problem is, you practically never encounter “sour grapes” in its classic form. Thus, if you insist on strict interpretation, you lose the use of this highly-evocative phrase. Like many other writers, who know perfectly well the story and meaning of “sour grapes”, I use it sometimes to refer to personal hostility tainted by envy. Envy is, after all, a species of thwarted desire, and thwarted desire is at the heart of the fable.

I reiterate that you need not like Hitchens, or want to meet him, to wish that you might have a similar experience. Say, with Al Franken or Ben Affleck.

Totten has recently enjoyed a string of little successes and fascinating experiences which have made him a trifle giddy. I personally am envious of his trip to Libya (though it never would have occurred to me to go there), so perhaps I’m projecting a little.

But I doubt it. I get the definite sense that the glow of Totten’s recent success, not his views as such, engenders part of the spleen directed against him in these quarters.

48

MQ 02.11.05 at 6:12 pm

Geez, dipnut, successful academics (which is what Kieran is) get as much free travel as they want. That’s not it.

49

x 02.11.05 at 7:04 pm

dipnut, I give up, I just can’t follow where is the thwarted envy and for whom, in taking the piss out of Totten and Hitches, not that they don’t do it themselves quite well already. The glow of Totten’s success? In… what exactly? Define success, define envy… actually I don’t even know what’s there to envy about taking a trip to Lybia, it’s not like you can’t do it if you’re not him. You don’t even need a weblog. You just need to go to a travel agency. Anyway, travelling envy is a good kind of envy. There should be more of that kind. We could all have marvellous discussions on whose trips we envy more. It just doesn’t have anything to do with anything in this thread.

Now, if I may misappropriate a metaphor myself, and drop some pearls into the trough, I feel, well, more sad than sour because I just heard from the news that one gigantic object of my unconditional adoration has departed, so I will never even be able to entertain the hope of ever getting to hear him speak in person, which, though not in the least essential to sustain my admiration, would have been a nice bonus. But such is life. ~sniff~

“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” – Arthur Miller

50

Nikki 02.11.05 at 7:19 pm

Gee, dipnut, would it have hurt so very much to simply say “Ok, x, you were right and I was wrong?”

By the way, loved the Bogi and Bacall reference!

51

x 02.11.05 at 7:41 pm

nikki, I guess that’s precisely the first rule of the club that all fans of the Bushite foreign policy belong to: never admit you were wrong. Second rule: never even realise it. Third rule: make up absurd explanations to disguise that fact. We’re all so used to that by now.

(and I just realised how the term “bushite” can be appreciated on multiple levels of meaning)

52

Randy Paul 02.11.05 at 7:51 pm

X:

I’m fond of Bushiite.

53

r 02.11.05 at 7:53 pm

item!

54

r 02.11.05 at 7:55 pm

item!

55

wufnik 02.11.05 at 8:38 pm

“Totten’s a good time, just don’t get sucked into thinking that there’s a lot of there there.”

That’s Totten’s problem–he’s just not very smart. For someone who has read a lot and travelled a lot, and probably means well (or at least thinks he does) he has whatever the opposite of insight is (to borrow a phrase). Hitchens at least used to be smart. I don’t know which one is sadder. Probably Hitchens–at least Totten will bumble through life, oblivious.

56

rm 02.11.05 at 10:13 pm

Dipnut:
No, but the cynicism I complain about is this making Totten out to be what he is not. For instance, when he says “we differ from the colonialists and imperialists of the past”, he may be missing the point, and he may be an ass. But he’s sincere, and he knows specifically what he means by it. It won’t do, to pretend he’s being sinister or deliberately ignorant.

Dipnut, the point is that Totten’s sincerity is clueless and arrogant in the exact manner of Mr. Pyle in _The Quiet American_. He feels astonished and hurt by his Iraqi dinner companions for sentiments that seem entirely logical and understandable to any normal thinking person. If indeed there’s a chance now for self-determination and democracy, then they want exactly that, not condescending lectures and threats. Totten is amazingly obtuse in not seeing that, instead wondering where they get off being so ungrateful.

Moreover, Totten is self-deluded in thinking he has any role in the conversation; he’s not a player, just some guy who happens to be at the table, which is fine if he realizes it and if not not.

The ridicule here is to the self-refuting nature of Totten’s writing. The heart of his problem is that, as you say, he’s not sinister or deliberate in his ignorance. He’s innocent. He has the deadly innocence of Mr. Pyle or Thomas Sutpen.

57

dipnut 02.11.05 at 11:25 pm

Gee, dipnut, would it have hurt so very much to simply say “Ok, x, you were right and I was wrong?”

I tried, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I persist in believing that my usage is defensible.

Anyway, I’m done. See you all on some other thread.

58

dipnut 02.11.05 at 11:27 pm

Gee, dipnut, would it have hurt so very much to simply say “Ok, x, you were right and I was wrong?”

I tried, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I persist in believing that my usage is defensible.

Anyway, I’m done. See you all on some other thread.

59

Pollie Anon 02.12.05 at 12:40 am

Totten’s post was indeed an embarrassment, but I totally agree with dipnut.

Just letting the dipper know he’s not alone.

60

Pollie Anon 02.12.05 at 12:59 am

Oh, and while we’re talking about embarrassing exercises in sycophancy, what do you all think about charles Pierce,s regular appearances on Eric Alterman’s Blog.

“Hey Doc.”

Plz, plz, tell me that you CTers actively discourage people from calling you “Dr.”

61

Luc 02.12.05 at 9:51 am

“Wine. Is. Red!” Hitchens said, and I couldn’t agree more. I had a 24-hour hangover from cheap white wine in a box when I was 14 years old. I haven’t been able to touch the stuff since. Even the thought of the taste of white wine makes my stomach do somersaults.

I found that a fitting allegory for the opinions of Totten and “dry drunk Bush’s wet drunk apologist” Christopher Hitchens.

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x 02.12.05 at 1:06 pm

“I tried, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I persist in believing that my usage is defensible.”

Yeah, well dipnut, you’re not alone, indeed.

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consigliere 02.12.05 at 5:23 pm

“…you practically never encounter ‘sour grapes’ in its classic form.”

Well, John Prine’s “Sour Grapes” off his Diamonds in the Rough album is perhaps a long way to go to find an exception to “practically never”, but the Chicago folksinger and former postal worker certainly understood the classic form.

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consigliere 02.12.05 at 5:25 pm

“…you practically never encounter ‘sour grapes’ in its classic form.”

Well, John Prine’s “Sour Grapes” off his Diamonds in the Rough album is perhaps a long way to go to find an exception to “practically never”, but the Chicago folksinger and former postal worker certainly understood the classic form.

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nick 02.13.05 at 7:54 pm

I don’t know which one is sadder. Probably Hitchens—at least Totten will bumble through life, oblivious.

Hitch, undoubtedly. For a supposed admirer of Orwell, he appears to regard the narrative of Homage to Catalonia as something to be repeated as farce.

Anyway, I’m done.

No, dipshit, you were done before you started trolling.

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Cleve Blakemore 02.15.05 at 2:43 am

Christopher Hitchens writes like a man who has taken a blow to the head in some kind of industrial accident. A more bizarre tapestry of awkward grammar and strangely inappropriate metaphors could scarcely be found in the mass media. This is the kind of kid who used to get forwarded on for special remedial help in English class … and yet he is paid to write for a major newspaper … and paid well. Does anyone really believe that this man is hired based on his talent or ability? I think not. This guy is kept on payroll because however inarticulately he articulates the political viewpoints that the owners of his paper want disseminated.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that anybody could write better than Hitchens. I mean anybody. The guy is worse than bad, he’s incomprehensible bordering on autistic. I’ve never been able to glean a solid conclusion or even a point to a single column ever authored by this village idiot outside of “Empire good, peasants bad.” Right, Chris – the check is in the mail, good buddy.

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