July 26, 2007

Tom Piatak v. Christopher Hitchens

"Hitchens' Hubris:" In a review in Taki's magazine, Tom Piatak goes after Christopher Hitchens' bestseller God Is Not Great hammer and tongs in one of the few impolite reviews Hitchens has received.

The widespread notion in America that Christopher Hitchens is a Major Thinker is a puzzling one. I have to imagine that much of the reception he gets on this side of the pond is due to the naiveté of us Colonials about British journalists. Hitchens has the Fleet Street knack for being able to churn out publishable prose fast and fluently despite spending a lot of time in fashionable watering holes getting well-watered, in which condition he conducts publicized feuds with other well-watered British personalities. Few American hacks can long function like that. But an ability to type while nursing a hangover does not make Hitchens the second coming of John Stuart Mill.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Alex said...

Yeah, but remember that poll of readers of Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect magazine:


Presumably there were a lot of actual Brits voting and they still put Hitchens at five. But maybe the votes for him were overwhelmingly colonial...

Luke said...

Keep in mind that he was once a lefty. That adds oodles to his standing on the "right." It was a good career move.

Fred said...

Whether or not you agree with any particular position of Christopher Hitchens -- and he is eclectic enough in his politics that there is probably no one he doesn't offend -- you have to acknowledge that his stature here is the result of more than being able to type while hungover. Hitchens's talent for rhetoric and debate is simply superior to almost any other prominent public intellectual who has challenged him.

Tom Piatak is lucky he wrote his review in an obscure webzine, where the chances of Hitchens reading it and responding are remote.

tommy said...

I'm an agnostic and I haven't read Hitchens' book. From what I understand, though, he employs the following bit of deduction within it:

a) Religion is bad because its adherents have killed a lot of people. (Think of the Crusades, the Inquisition, jihad, etc.)

b) If atheists, like Stalin, have also killed a lot of people then they must be religious as well!

This from a Trotskyite/neocon of all people.


Hitchens's talent for rhetoric and debate is simply superior to almost any other prominent public intellectual who has challenged him.

Hitchens' logical abilities have never kept pace with his rhetorical gifts, I'm sorry to say. If Piatak is correct about there being a significant number of errors in Hitchens' book, I think Hitchens would have a very difficult time defending himself in a written exchange regardless of Hitchens' rhetorical flourishes.

Liam said...

To understand Hitchens' backing of the Iraq war, one needs to know that some years ago he found that he had some Jewish ancestry - making him Jew-ish - and so support for Israel, and its neo-conservative cadre in America, became an ethnic calling.

Anonymous said...

Liam -- that is factually untrue. Hitchens hates Israel and would be happy to see it gone. He is explicitly pro-Islam over Israel and has written extensively of his disdain for Israel and Jews in general. A search for "Jews" and "Jewish influence" everywhere is IMHO the sign of a weak mind.

Is Hitchens a great writer no? But the bar is pretty low in most journalism. Ridden as it is by nepotism and hackery. Merely half-way competent beats nepotistic ineptitude any day of the week.

Tom Piatak said...


Feel free to pass along my review to Mr. Hitchens. I'd be happy to debate him over his book, either in print or in person.

The question I have is why did it take someone writing in an "obscure webzine" to point out the errors in Hitchens' book? What were Hitchens' editors and his other reviewers being paid to do?

Ron Guhname said...

The linked article on Dawkins by a Notre Dame philosophy professor is good as well:


tggp said...

Hitchens deserves plenty of flack, but I have to give him credit for this defense of free speech in the face of "hate speech laws". Good show, you unrepentant Trotskyite bastard.

Fred said...


I'd be interested in seeing a response by Hitchens to Piatak, but like I said, I'm doubtful Hitchens will even hear about Piatak's review. Without being an expert on the facts in question myself, if I were offered an opportunity to bet on who would win a debate between Piatak and Hitchens -- whether in print or in person -- my money would be on Hitchens.

Fred said...

Tom Piatak,

It doesn't appear that Taki's Top Drawer has a forwarding feature, but here's Hitchens's e-mail address if you'd like to e-mail him the link, or a copy of your review:


Let us know if he takes you up on your challenge.

Anonymous said...

Whatever one's feeling about Hitchens, he's right about one thing: there is no magical sky wizard. If one accepts Piatak's argument that the number of errors in Hitchens' book invalidates his writing then the Bible -- with its ridiculous contradictions, scientific illiteracy, and backwards worldview -- is invalidated exponentially.

Anonymous said...

Scott Ritter debated Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens was defeated.Go read the transcript floating around the internet.

Hitchens debated his brother Peter several years back. Peter wiped the floor up with Christopher. Peter made Christopher look like a babbling idiot. He also made a fool out of Billy Bragg during the question and answer part. Shortly after this debate, Christopher Hitchens went on to declare on the Serbian Orthodox Christians.

There are thousands of ordinary Americans who could flatten Christopher Hitchens in a debate about the Iraq war. Unfortunately, none of them will get a chance to debate the intellectually flatulent Hitchens.

If war crime laws also apply to journalists, Christopher Hitchens could be in very big trouble.

Maybe someone can arrange a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Philosopher Alvin Palntinga.

Deogolwulf said...

"The widespread notion in America that Christopher Hitchens is a Major Thinker is a puzzling one."

Indeed, it's been puzzling me for ages.

Lester Westman said...

Here's what happened when Michael Hoffman challenged Hitchens to debate:

The Hitch vs. The Hoff

Anonymous said...

Part of being an American is to suffer the loudmouth celebrity immigrant. Hitchens is just the latest insufferable example.

Really, up until 9/11, I think we all shrugged off this behavior. But post 9/11 it's a bit much to have this parade of persons with heavy foreign accents lecturing us on the true nature of what it means to be an American (spread PC "democracy" to the world) and what it means to exercise free speech etc. New immigrants to America should be polite and shut the hell up when it comes to public war-related political discussions. That is basic good manners.

And when the political views coming out of those heavily accented mouths are of the uber-hawk neocon ilk...my first thought is to introduce my knuckles to their jawbone. The use of the pronoun "we" by a heavily accented speaker promoting the worldwide spread of "shared values" i.e. radical Left wing multiculturalism via the US Armed Forces is the last straw.

Excellent link to the video. Nice to be lectured on free speech from an avowed Trotskyite. It turns out that one of the greatest open admirers of Leon Trotsky working in the media today is also an expert on the US Constitution. Jack-of-all-trades.

I would be interested in the transcript of the citizenship interview of Hitchens. They still do those don't they? Is it simply not a problem today for an unrepentant Marxist to get US citizenship? It was a major problem yesterday.

One cannot be a Trotskyite and love America.

Captain Pugwash said...

My greatest indictment of Hitchens is that, for a self-styled iconoclast, he's never, to my knowledge, written about the vital topic of racial differences in intelligence, crime, etc., and their relevance to the issue of immigration. This hasn't stopped him, however, from the denouncing the evils of racism and bigotry in implacable terms.

I suggest anyone wishing to best Hitchens in debate, challenge him on this subject. It'd be a no-show.

Anonymous said...

The USA is the most church-going Western nation by a significant margin, I believe. Yet, Hitchens, the miserable atheist, chooses to become a US citizen and his first book-length effort as a US citizen is an anti-God screed.

How about this: Hitchens is a leftist but, in an apparent contradiction, he would not find the USA attractive if it were comprised of only the blue states. Because, if it were only blue states, the USA would be politically the same as Europe. And Hitchens has no great love for Europe. And he can find no security throwing his speech bombs against Islam in a place like, say, Holland.

So the question is does Hitchens find red state America attractive only as a target for his anti-religious venom, or does he secretly take comfort in the fact that, ironically, it's those evil red state church-going conservatives who are doing the most in the world today to secure this Trotsky-lover's liberty? Or is it both.

Perhaps this man is just mixed up and liquored up and not worth the examination. I think he's pretty good entertainment. But if you really want to cross his wires in a debate, why not ask: if all of the young men in places like Tennessee and Texas were atheists, would they be volunteering and fighting the good fight for the USMC in places that Hitch prefers such as Iraq?

It's my impression that blue state America and post-Christian Europe are not producing many heart-breakers and life-takers on the battlefield.

chrysoperil said...

Hitchens writes to impress and to fill paper. Or to put it another way: In terms of his by no means negligible journalistic output, Hitchens takes as his primary desiderata the maximalization of polysyllabic verbiage, whereby both to convey the profundity and scope of his learning and intelligence and to bump up the word-count. That helps make his writing ugly, like so many left-wingers'.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens is a critic more than an intelectual. He has a very sharp wit as well as tounge and he can wrap it up in the upper crust British erudite way that makes him interesting to listen to as well as sounding smarter than he really is.

Rarely does he or can he offer solutions let alone positive solutions. Rather he likes to sit back and pick apart others.

Hitchens is a critic.

mutt said...

I think Orwell is more what he’s going for, not J. S. Mill.

He’s not the only British journalist writing in America, you need something more than that to account for his success.