Pharyngula

TV Alert!

Christopher Hitchens will be on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart tonight! I’ll tune in, but if he tries to defend the Iraq war, it’s going off.

Comments

  1. #1 Robert
    April 30, 2007

    Christopher Hitchens is an interesting guy. His views on religion are powerful and clear, and yet his stance on the Iraq war is repugnant. I’m never sure where to stand with him, though I suppose that can be a good thing, as I’m more likely to critically examine anything he expresses since I know that we don’t agree on many things.

  2. #2 BlueIndependent
    April 30, 2007

    Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a discussion on atheism or religion in politics. Stewart might touch on that a bit, but I can’t see this ending any other way than Hitchens waxing about the Iraq War and either being as offensive to the audience as possible, or making his supposed points over and over and over, albeit more succinctly than Bush ever hope to.

    Hitchens was less than approachable on the subject even on Bill Maher’s show months ago (a show that receives absolutely no censorship whatsoever), flipping the audience off and taunting them regularly because they were calling him on his points. But perhaps he relishes in being an odd commodity in these times, liberal warhawk and all…

    I’m with the guy on the case for holding religion responsible for its actions, but when it comes to Iraq, his intentions are certainly noble (wanting Irais to be free…but doesn’t any sane person want everyone to be free?), but his unbelievably blind support of the methods, in terribly stark contrast to his otherwise profuse intelligence, is strange to say the least.

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    April 30, 2007

    Actually, since Hitch has just released God is not Great (well, the official release date is tomorrow, but I’ve already managed to obtain a copy, it’s quite good so far), I’m guessing that will be the topic of the show. Or at least I’m hopeful.

  4. #4 Greg Peterson
    April 30, 2007

    “God is Not Great” is. Great, that is. I was lucky enough to run into an apparently atheist employee at Barnes and Noble yesterday (she praised my “Bad Religon” T-shirt with the “cross-buster” logo, so I felt I’d met fellow infidel) and helped me get the book earlier than its official release date, tomorrow. I spent much of the rest of the day yesterday reading it, and it’s a wonderful complement to Dawkins, Harris, Stengel, Kitcher, Grayling and other notable atheists. Now, the Hitchmiester himself is sort of batshit crazy old uncle with a drinking problem and some strange politics, but when it comes to criticizing religion, it’s a terrific book.

  5. #5 xebecs
    April 30, 2007

    I once heard Hitchens on Book TV talking about the Iraq war. He off-handedly made the remark that “If oil isn’t worth fighting over, I don’t know what is”.

    It’s such a strange thing to say, I don’t even know how to approach it. Apparently he values oil more than he does his family or his mates, or liberty, or motherhood and whatever is the British equivalent of apple pie — Yorkshire Pudding, maybe?

    He’s half mad, I think. Doesn’t seem to care what he says so long as he can insult someone in the process.

  6. #6 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    Hehe, If people think Dawkins is a bit confrontational… wait until they get a load of Hitch.

  7. #7 BlueIndependent
    April 30, 2007

    xebecs,

    Hitchens is likely referring to the abolute proliferation of products created by oil that allow markets to exist around the world, in addition to the power it provides for billions, and for us to drive our car. He is not wrong in bullet-pointing the necessity and importance of oil. Where he IS wrong is promoting military force as all-cleansing and all-empowering to solve the world’s problems.

    Fact is, we don’t have the people power in our military alone to resolve everything we see wrong in the world by military force. We don’t even have – if you disregard nukes – the capability of bombing everyone endlessly into submission. And this is of course before you get into any ethics surrounding the issue. On paper military force should only be used when justified.

    Now Hitchens loves to use the historical events that lead to the Treaty of Tripoli as proof that Muslims were in fact the first ones to ever have attacked America. This may be true, however it’s obvious not just from our point of view, but that of Britain’s and Russia’s, that invasion of Middle Eastern nations never worked out long term, and is highly unlikely to work for us as well, especially since they planned the invasion about as well as a bunch of first graders would’ve. Dealing with Middle Eastern nations is a hell of a lot more complex than taking either a totally pacifist or a totally agressive stance. It’s a foreign policy issue that has got to be the greatest of our time, whether you’re talking about terrorists or not. Hitchens’ view of the situation is too simplistic and unrealistic based on past history.

    But as you can see even a simple thread telling us about Hitchens’ appearance on TV tonight has already stokeds the Iraq fires. That issue follows that man perhaps as much as it does even Bush. I think it will follow him for the rest of his life.

  8. #8 Christian Burnham
    April 30, 2007

    He’s such a contrarian that he’s gone right around the clock from extreme left to extreme right, never once touching the middle.

    I wish he’d ease up on the sauce. I also wish he wasn’t the mouth-piece for neoconservatives who like to tart up their arguments in a British accent.

  9. #9 hiero5ant
    April 30, 2007

    “…but if he tries to defend the Iraq war, it’s going off.”

    I often find that refusing to listen is a highly effective way way to keep my own views unscathed as well. I recommend it to all as the best strategy for anyone to adopt when entering the public arena.

  10. #10 Kseniya
    April 30, 2007

    Christian – yes, and yes.

    I find it odd to see Hitchens repeatedly characterized as a liberal. He parted ways with the Left some time ago, and by and large he holds it in some distain. “Contrarian” seems to suit him him best. And yet while sometimes I think “Angry Drunk” suits him best, I can never bring myself to define one of the great free-thinking intellectual curmudgeons of our time in those terms.

  11. #11 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    hiero,

    We’ve heard it all before… just don’t need to hear it again.

  12. #12 MikeM
    April 30, 2007

    In case anyone missed it, Slate has been publishing excerpts of God is not Great. Looks good so far…

  13. #13 Jason
    April 30, 2007

    You are going to turn it off? Wow. I know that when I hear something that really pisses me off, it is because I am not secure on were I stand on a issue but have a opposing opinion. I am not saying this applies to you. How do you feel about parents that will not allow their children to hear about the theory of evolution? My father turns off the television when he hears Al Gore talk about global warming. You two should hang out.

  14. #14 Jud
    April 30, 2007

    Hitchens is frequently published in The Atlantic magazine (book reviews, mostly), and his style, which overuses gratuitous insults, doesn’t wear well at all on me. I have lately resorted to reading a sample paragraph or two, and if it’s the same old Hitchens, then it’s on to the next author.

  15. #15 Molly, NYC
    April 30, 2007

    Hehe, If people think Dawkins is a bit confrontational… wait until they get a load of Hitch.

    Steve_C – Dawkins doesn’t prepare for interviews by seeing how drunk he can get and still walk onstage.

  16. #16 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    Maybe that’s how he gets his “irish” up. 😉

  17. #17 pablo
    April 30, 2007

    Anyone want to bet as to how drunk he’ll be during the interview? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being Tipsy and 10 being Impending Liver Failure, I’m going with 7, Totally Shitfaced.

  18. #18 GeorgeBurnsGod
    April 30, 2007

    Anyone catch Hitchens on CSPAN yesterday for the LA Times Festival of Books Religion and Culture Panel? He was razor sharp. Would not be fun to debate this guy. His take on Iraq just completely baffles me though.

    http://www.booktv.org/feature/index.asp?segID=8171&schedID=485

  19. #19 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    Hey may be pretty well chaperoned for this thing.

    I’d say, at most a 2.

  20. #20 Krystalline Apostate
    April 30, 2007

    I recall Hitchens some time ago (Daly Show, I think), where he said that w/drawal from Iraq was ‘capitulation’.
    Added another furrow to my forehead, it did.

  21. #21 Kristine
    April 30, 2007

    If he says anything about women not being funny, the next time he’s being interviewed live on a phone-in show I’m going to crank-call him and pretend to be Margaret Cho’s mother.

  22. #22 Lee Harrison
    April 30, 2007

    You are going to turn it off? Wow. I know that when I hear something that really pisses me off, it is because I am not secure on were I stand on a issue but have a opposing opinion.

    I think you get pissed off for the wrong reason, then. I can’t speak for PZ but speaking for myself I get pissed off when I listen to crap that I know damn well is wrong – it’s just plain irritating to see falsehoods being propagated again and again. See, nothing to do with insecurity at all. If my position is insecure, I pay attention.

    I am not saying this applies to you.

    The last line of your post makes this statement a lie.

    How do you feel about parents that will not allow their children to hear about the theory of evolution? My father turns off the television when he hears Al Gore talk about global warming. You two should hang out.

    Cheap.

  23. #23 BlueIndependent
    April 30, 2007

    While I generally agree that turning your opponents “off” over a particular issue is disingenuous and anti-intellectual, this *IS* the Iraq War we’re talking about. If you’re a citizen of this country and you don’t know or haven’t heard the neocon arguments for how great and just a war it is by the time 4 years have passed – with the conservative-owned media, 24-hour news network vaccuity, and incessant press time given to otherwise rank lightweights like Kristol and Feith and the rest of ’em, in the wake of just about every fact in the world coming to light and disproving their case – you either A) have not found it worth your time to participate in society on any meaningful level, let alone give a crap about the validity of specific arguments from any side, B) don’t watch ANY TV, read ANY newspapers, or listen to ANY radio, and haven’t bought any CDs or used the internet since 2001, or C) exist off the side of a deep sea volcanic vent, beyond the reach of anything remotely human (for now).

    It’s been more than four years since this war began. The neocons have had 4 years to make – and indeed the very capacity to prove – their side of the argument – and they’ve failed miserably. Asking me or anyone else to tolerate listening to their crap further, as if their arguments will somehow make more sense now than ever before, is asking perhaps too much. It’s also imploring people to listen to broken records, which isn’t very easy on either ear or mind.

    Forgive me if I allow PZ some leeway on this one.

    I’ve heard Hitchens argue his support for the Iraq War in several forums, be it on network TV, on uncensored HBO shows, in print or on CSPAN, and his arguments (while much more diverse, intelligent-sounding and marginally more convincing than watching Kristol smirk his way through questions he cannot answer logically or morally) are still not held up by facts or the circumstances we witness daily in Iraq. He tries to make points with some historical facts, while tossing others that would complete the picture out the window.

  24. #24 Justin Moretti
    April 30, 2007

    A retreat from Iraq IS capitulation. It is bowing down to a mob of grown-up schoolyard bullies, who are doing terrible things and then making believe that somebody else should bear the responsibility and do as they demand to make it stop.

    Because it’s not as if it’s US soldiers who are routinely walking into mosques and crowded markets with bombs strapped to them. It’s not as if it’s US soldiers who are routinely killing policemen and cutting the heads off left-wing pacifists who are there to help repair the damage the US did. It’s not as if it’s the US military that is executing Iraqi microbiologists who returned from Australia to visit their newborn sons.

    If people did in the US or Britain or Australia or Europe what the ‘insurgents’ are doing in Iraq, they would be vilified and damned to the deepest pits of Hell, with every shred of moral responsibility for the deaths loaded onto their shoulders, and nobody would give a damn for what they said.

    I had twelve years of relentless bullying at school, by kids who loaded the responsibility onto my shoulders and wanted me to go away and change schools or just plain old stop existing. The ‘insurgents’ (they are terrorists and murderers) are no different. If I have a hardline “stick it out” attitude, this is why.

    I do not deny that the methods could be improved – but the fact of the Allied deployment there is not, in my mind, a flawed doctrine.

    If there is any reason to withdraw from Iraq now, it is to leave Sunni and Shia to have one almighty swing at each other and sort out once and for all which is going to be the dominant ideology. If we feel we have no moral responsibility to interfere in such, then maybe a withdrawal is justified. If, on the other hand, we feel it is our duty to keep the two sides apart and force their war to be one of words and ideas, we need to realign our aims, goals and objectives, and start doing things differently.

    If there had been somebody to keep the Protestants and Catholics apart when they were having their seemingly interminable wars, should they have done it?

  25. #25 Molly, NYC
    April 30, 2007

    hiero5ant – There’s not much point in listening to someone if you already know what they’re going to say.

    CSPAN had a series of speakers today on the subject of civility in politics. It was interesting, but I switched it off when Lieberman turned up. How utterly predictable was his using the occasion to whine about “vituprative bloggers”?

  26. #26 David Wilford
    April 30, 2007

    Hitchens, in practice, believes in President Bush. Bush, in practice, believes in God. Therefore Hitchens, in practice, believes in God and I don’t give a damn what Hitchens says in theory about the subject.

  27. #27 hiero5ant
    April 30, 2007

    Well, I suppose that if you can in full honesty fairly and charitably state the views of those with whom you disagree, yet still find them wanting,then there is indeed little point in reviewing their statements if you have reason to believe there will be nothing new said.

    The people who have claimed no interest in listening to the man at all should then have no difficulty whatsoever in sincerely affirming that such is the case. And yet, all one hears is that the position is either “baffling”, or the result of drunkenness, or some cynical mercenary ploy. But perhaps I could be proved wrong by demonstration.

  28. #28 Bob
    April 30, 2007

    I had twelve years of relentless bullying at school, by kids who loaded the responsibility onto my shoulders and wanted me to go away and change schools or just plain old stop existing. The ‘insurgents’ (they are terrorists and murderers) are no different.

    No different? Huh? You really think that your negative experiences at school have anything whatsoever to do with the current situation in Iraq — much less, of all things, an analogue?

    *sigh*

    You’re kidding, right?

  29. #29 Christian Burnham
    April 30, 2007

    If there had been somebody to keep the Protestants and Catholics apart when they were having their seemingly interminable wars, should they have done it?

    I’m Irish, though not an expert on sectarian violence in NI. However, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Dawkins had it right- one of the big problems was that separatism and sectarianism along predominantly religious divides was fostered and encouraged by both loyalists and republicans. Tear down those walls and put Catholic and Protestant children in the same schools. Let them see that religion doesn’t define who you are and who’s your enemy.

  30. #30 Molly, NYC
    April 30, 2007

    He’s on Stewart as I type this. Half in the bag, but holding his own.

  31. #31 Christian Burnham
    April 30, 2007

    Pretty entertaining.

    Of course, he’s completely demented. He’s a bit like a drunk uncle who says outrageous things, but you could tell he would be pretty smart if he put down the Johnny Walker for a few hours.

    I thought he made a few good points- but he enjoys alienating the audience too much to convince anyone.

  32. #32 Stogoe
    April 30, 2007

    I thought he did well. He’s spot on when he says religion all boils down to ‘fear of the dark, fear of death, and hatred of sex’.

    Probably a 2 or 3 on the Tipsy McStagger scale, but only because he was a bit mumbly.

    He’s also right that JW Black is much, much better than JW Red. I can’t say about Blue, though.

  33. #33 BlueIndependent
    May 1, 2007

    Moretti,

    I went through much the same thing in my formative years as you. Your analogy is laughably bad. Osama Bin Laden is nothing but a high school bully? I think the families that lost loved ones in the Towers, in DC, and in Pennsylvania might have a bit of a different description for him. One could only hope Osama and his ilk were of such a diminutive stripe.

    No, they are not schoolyard bullies in the slightest. They are murdering power mongers in the same stripe as only the most disreputable of human society’s worst. Like so many dictators and despots before them, they call for violence to achieve ends they pay only lip service to. They do not honestly believe that the Islamic Caliphate will ever see life on this earth. But, they use religion to convince their minions that they are just along with the means to the supposedly moral ends. They abuse political situations to inflame them, and achieve goals they do not truly promise to the ones that kills themselves for the cause. They pick on the poor and disaffected, much like gangs in America, however they are more organized and dangerous.

    Another reason they are not simply bullies is because I have come to know several of my own bullies after they’ve become adults. It’s surprising how much people can actually grow up, given the rigors of adulthood. Osama, Khalid Sheik, Atta and others are the same sorts of people as McVeigh, Kaczynski, and Rudolph. They are poisoned with a supreme, immovable and immutable idea of morality given to them by a religious doctrine, and were/are moved to action by it. If bullies in grade school were anything close to this evil, you’d probably have been dead years ago. I know in my hometown they’d probably be in juvi by the time they reached 7th grade.

    There have been many cheap psychoanalyses of terrorist masterminds since 9/11, and few actually hold up. One thing is for certain: they are murderers seeking to disrupt the world at large in order to achieve specific selfish goals. They are another form of despotism, but nonetheless despots. It would be wise to ensure they receive no higher label than this.

  34. #34 Troublesome Frog
    May 1, 2007

    I think that enough of our foreign policy has been guided by the same set of irrational, misguided, adolescent codes of conduct that one finds in a schoolyard to have figured out that seeing international politics that way is not a winning strategy. Perhaps it’s time for our leaders to stop looking at these conflicts as one dimensional battles between good and evil and start thinking like adults who understand cause and effect. The last thing we need is more playground politics.

  35. #35 xebecs
    May 1, 2007

    BlueIndependent said:

    Hitchens is likely referring to the abolute proliferation of products created by oil that allow markets to exist around the world, in addition to the power it provides for billions, and for us to drive our car. He is not wrong in bullet-pointing the necessity and importance of oil.

    Gee, do you think? Of course he’s talking about the manifold uses of oil around the world — that goes without saying.

    I still maintain that it’s absurd to claim it’s the most important thing to go to war over. If the oil is gone, we’ll find other solutions. We have the option to wean ourselves from oil, and should have started to do so 30 years ago.

    If my family and friends are gone, my life is over. Oil, I can (learn to) live without.

  36. #36 Dunkleosteus
    May 1, 2007

    Best way to support terrorists and Islamic extremism is to go an Islamic country and to kill innocent people. Don’t bother to talk about “collateral damage”, they won’t buy it. Osama must have rolled on the floor laughing when he heard that you have attacked Iraq. Having American soldiers in Iraq is exactly what they want. First, they learn to fight and to develop new tactics to be used elsewhere; second, when more and more Iraqis are killed, more and more people join them; third, and perhaps most importantly, they got a chance to blow up heretic Shi’as who are an anathema to Wahhabist Al-Qai’da (sorry America, you’re not the center of the world). Getting rid of a secular enemy was a great bonus to them.

    When you leave Iraq, the Sunni insurgency will no longer have a reason to support foreign fighters whom they can barely tolerate; the current Iran-backed groups who hold the power (yeah, the prime minister of Iraq and his ilk who are supported by the US are pro-Iranian) and who control the Shi’a death squads will lose their power. Iranians are not terribly popular even among the Iraqi Shi’as despite the Western propaganda. When you leave, it is likely that violence will increase, but soon people will become tired of fighting. However, if you don’t leave, the violence won’t stop. You will be attacked more and more frequently (also by Shi’as). US troops will increase their counterinsurgency operations resulting in more and more civilian deaths. In the end you’ll have to leave anyway. The sooner you leave, the less there will be death. Vast majority among all groups in Iraq want you to leave. If you support democracy elsewhere, you should listen Iraqis. Do not forget that you have absolutely no right to be there in the first place.

  37. #37 Badger3k
    May 1, 2007

    I just saw the rebroadcast, but I’d say he was more than a two or three on any scale. He seemed really plastered, unless his seeming inability to put two words together without thinking of them for a while, or the way he seemed to talk as if his mouth were full of mush is his non-drunk way of talking. Why does anybody take this alcohol-bag seriously? There’s nothing wrong with drinking per se, but when it looks like you get drunk every time you are in public, well, your intelligence (and credibility in my book) are in serious question. Bad interview, IMO. If his book follows the “logic” of his Iraq position, I wonder how much harm he can do to the cause of rationality. I always equated rationality with looking at evidence, not sticking your head up your nether regions.

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