Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I don't usually take the trouble to deconstruct the sputtering synapses of the wankocracy here -- that's how marquee bloggers draw much of their traffic but I try to stay above it all and set an example of constructive and forward looking discourse. However, I have always made an exception for the slime mold Christopher Hitchens.

The editors of Free Inquiry were evidently on vacation when a temporary office worker accidentally mixed up some whiskey stained waste paper with the package going to the printer. The resulting bizarre insertion (not available on line), like the upside down airplane on the penny postage stamp, will no doubt make this issue a prized collectors' item.

Hitchens awakens from his drunken stupor long enough to notice that an obscure publisher has come out with a compilation of writings by Osama bin Laden, with an introduction by somebody named Bruce Lawrence, a professor of religion. Lawrence, it seems, describes bin Laden as a radical, and, according to Hitchens's selective quotations and paraphrases, apparently describes him as having literary and leadership gifts. It is not clear from Hitchens's synopsis whether Lawrence personally admires bin Laden, or merely wishes to explain why some people do, although Hitchens clearly wants us to believe the former. Whatever the case, based on the existence of this artifact, our profound social critic draws the following conclusion:

"I would not bother to expose these illusions . . . if they were not fairly commonly accepted among liberals. In some ignorant and subliminal way, leftists identify bin Laden with the third-world and anticolonialist policies of, say, Franz Fanon."

Now, I don't know what ideological label people might wish to place on me, and I don't claim any for myself. But I know dozens of people who probably would describe themselves as liberals or leftists if asked, and I read what scores of them write every week. I have never encountered a single one who thinks that Osama bin Laden is anything but an odious criminal.

Hitchens goes on to denounce bin Laden on various grounds, apparently believing that he is somehow distancing himself from those ignorant leftists and liberals in doing so. He asks how anyone can describe bin Laden's expressed goal of creating a neww caliphate as "radical" (although that certainly would seem to accord with the dictionary definition of the term) "and how can anyone describe its victims -- the workers in the World Trade Center, the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the Palestinian wedding party in Jordan [etc.] as 'powerful wrongdoers'? Yet garbage like this is spouted from all over the so-called antiwar movement, which provides excuse-making at its highest level of leadership, from Ramsey Clark to George Galloway to Michael Moore (who described the Zarqawi 'insurgents' in Iraq as the moral equivalent of the minutement of 1776)."

This is all, of course, completely delusional. We can't tell exactly what Hitchens means by the "so-called antiwar movement," but he usually directs his venom at people who condemn the U.S. occupation and invasion of Iraq. That "so-called" movement, according to public opinion polls, now consists of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom and the United States. With the exception of a single obscure professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I have never heard of any person publicly describing victims of al Qaeda as "powerful wrongdoers." I was not aware that any of the three people named are at the "highest level of leadership" of anything, let alone the masses of the people.

Ramsey Clark is a lawyer who has taken to defending highly unpopular people, notably Saddam Hussein. I don't know what he thinks of Osama bin Laden, but he is not the leader of any organization or any group of people. He's just a slightly nutty old guy that most people have never heard of.

George Galloway is a member of Parliament who represents a district in London with a historically unconventional electorate. He is known for having opposed the sanctions on the Saddam Hussein regime, and later the Anglo-American invasion, and has been accused of gaining financially from the Saddam regime, althhough he denies it. He has also bitterly criticized Saddam for suppression of democratic rights, and opposed Anglo-American support for Saddam in the Iraq-Iran war. As far as I have been able to determine, he has never uttered the slightest praise for Osama bin Laden, and as a secular socialist presumably has only opprobrium for him. He leads a tiny leftist party in the UK.

Michael Moore is a filmmaker whose work some people enjoy. He does not lead any organization or movement. His comparison with the minutement was not, as Hitchens fraudulently states, applied to Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his organization, but to the secular Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation. Whether or not one finds it apt, it has nothing whatever to do with Osama bin Laden.

Hitchens is, of course, simply aping the Rovian trick of pretending that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are, in fact, one and the same person (ever see them together?) and that opposition to the war in Iraq equates with love for bin Laden. Such slanderous fabulism has no place in the pages of Free Inquiry, nor should anyone pay the slightest attention to Christopher Hitchens. What a waste it is to lose your mind.

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