Lindsay Beyerstein has collected what she calls Four Antidotes to Hitchens Hagiography. I understand the anger at how so many members of the media have bent over backwards to sing his praises. I acknowledge his jingoistic bent, his cruel streak, his drunkenness, and his misogyny. Those character flaws do not make his brilliant prose any less correct when it is correct. For that matter, the brilliance of his prose doesn’t make his invalid arguments any more valid. We should look at each claim according to its own merits.
I read Hitchens’ God is Not Great and thought it was a fantastic book. In addition to his formidable pen, he is a wonderful speaker and debater. I cannot defend all of his many faults, but I do have a statement on that. I thought of this post I wrote last fall after P.Z. Myers had the gall to quote H.P. Lovecraft:
I saw this quote up at Pharyngula yesterday.
As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.
It is a brilliant quote, I thought. According to one commenter, it was cited as August 1936, Letter to C.L. Moore, August 1936 quoted in “H.P. Lovecraft, a Life” by S.T. Joshi, p. 574.
I was rather amazed at the vitriol spewed forth. Most of the comments seemed to be absorbed in the fact that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist bigot. Should we, then, eradicate the works of Nobel Laureate and DNA co-discoverer James Watson? He’s a racist, sexist asshole. Certainly, then, his ideas on genetics are rendered invalid. Mel Gibson is an antisemitic drunk, therefore anyone who watches the movie Gallipoli is an antisemitic drunk. The Pythagoreans were a mystical cult, so no rationalist should accept that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.
I suppose my point is that if one agrees with Mr. Lovecraft’s assessment of the Republican Party’s basic tenets, then he should feel free to avail himself of the eloquent quote. There are a number of reasonable quotes on statecraft to be found in the writings of some of the most despicable characters in history. To the dirty hippies that are bitching about Myers’ use of the quote, do you really think every person you dislike is always wrong?
All that was said there goes as well for the writings of the late, great Christopher Hitchens.