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This is why I think it’s a big mistake to get behind Hitchens – he’s as much of a liability as Maher. Hitchens, like Maher, is great to listen to when you agree with him. But he subscribes to nutty ideas that get people killed. Honestly, it’s hard to choose between neocons and anti-vaxers. The neocons have caused more death, suffering and destruction so far. But short of the neocons triggering a nuclear war somehow, the anti-vaxers will probably harm more people in the long term.
Mostly I find Chris Matthews’ style annoying. But here, with Hitchens, it worked pretty well.
Even if Hitch is wrong I prefer listening to him than I do an Matthew’s. I can’t stand any interviewer who has to talk over someone when they don’t agree in a discussion. Hitch carries some neocon water but he can articulate his position. I would be nice if Matthew’s could do the same.
This is why I think it’s a big mistake to get behind Hitchens – he’s as much of a liability as Maher.
I’m going to have to disagree. Forming alliances with people that you disagree with on one issue over the issues where you do agree is part of life. I personally was not in favor of Maher receiving the Richard Dawkins Award from the AAI, but not because of his views on medicine per se–although I do find those views reprehensible. The problem I had with him getting the award was that, in my mind, atheism and skepticism are inseparable–two sides of the same proverbial coin, if I may say. While not all atheists and skeptics see these two attitudes so tightly linked, I most certainly do. For me, atheism without skepticism is little more than a fad or (worse yet) another dogma; skepticism without atheism is sloppy skepticism, skepticism that stops short in order to acquiesce to wishful thinking and confirmation bias. To honor Bill Maher with that award is to denigrate atheism as I see it and have understood it my entire adult life.
I would not have felt the same way if he were being given just about any other award. Let’s say, for example, that Religulous had won the Oscar for Best Documentary (pretend for a minute that it was that good). Would that award have been tainted by Maher’s ridiculous and dangerous views about vaccines and medicine? I would say no.
Likewise, I don’t see how Hitchen’s political views in any way detract from his standing as a prominent atheist. Atheists have all sorts of different political views, and it would be asinine for an atheist organization to distance itself from a prominent spokesperson over such disagreements. I personally find Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s politics more troubling that Hitchens’, but I would likewise have no objection to her winning the RD award; her radical right wing views do nothing to mar her atheist credentials.
I also think that it’s a little unfair to paint Hitchens with the neocon label. While his current views on US foreign policy, and Iraq in particular, do fit the mold, I can’t bring myself to consider him part of the same gang that includes William Kristol and Dick Cheney. Those guys tend to revere Henry Kissinger, hold nothing but contempt for Leon Trotsky, and preferred John McCain’s proposed Pakistan policy to Barack Obama’s in the last election. Hitchens is more like somebody who agrees with the neocon positions on certain specific issues, than a member of that clique.
I have to defend Hitchens a little bit. Full disclosure, I don’t agree with him at all on his neo-con positions, but unlike most neo-con’s, I don’t think he is attached to those positions because he is blindly following an ideology. I think the main thing that drives his position is his deep understanding and sympathy for the people that are directly effected by a lack of action. In Iraq, for example, he has very strong ties to the Kurd people, and truly sympathizes with their position. That is what drives his support of the Iraq war.
Dare I say, even though I don’t agree with him (I think his sympathy blinds him, to an extent) I appreciate hearing his views simply because it is refreshing to hear a voice from the other side that isn’t blindly toeing the line of his like-minded demagogues. His rationality might be flawed, but there is actual substance to it.
I also think that it’s a little unfair to paint Hitchens with the neocon label. While his current views on US foreign policy, and Iraq in particular, do fit the mold, I can’t bring myself to consider him part of the same gang that includes William Kristol and Dick Cheney.
I don’t agree with him at all on his neo-con positions, but unlike most neo-con’s, I don’t think he is attached to those positions because he is blindly following an ideology.
I’ve got to disagree with both of you. Look at what Hitchens has said throughout the war. He was a cheerleader for war in the run-up, and his arguments appear to be pretty much the same as other neocon intellectual.
The core of the neocons (to generalise broadly) are secular Jews who began as leftists but, as they grew older, swung to a particular form of rightwing ideology. Hitchens isn’t Jewish, but other than that he fits the mould pretty well. As for “blindly toeing the line of his like-minded demagogues” – again, you need to listen to the argument the neocons made in the run-up to the war. They sounded perfectly sensible, on the surface of it. They sounded very liberal, very internationalist. They made a lot of sense. As long as you didn’t pay too much attention to them, as long as you didn’t bother to do your homework. IDists and anti-vaxers also sound logical, scientific and sincere if you listen to them without knowing their background, if you listen without knowing the facts. In the same way, Hitchens sounds like he’s making sensible, reasoned arguments. But everything he’s saying derives from an extremist ideology that he clings to despite all the evidence that it’s wrong.
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