Meeting the other Hitch

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Back in June I had the chance to meet Peter Hitchens, Christopher’s brother, in London (I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him “the other Hitch”). It is said that the brothers didn’t get along well, and they did differ on many issues, but he graciously agreed to meet me to talk about his brother. While the two couldn’t be more different in many ways, he reminded me of Christopher in that he is sharp, outspoken and witty.

One point of interest from our converstation had to do with Christopher’s support for the Iraq War. I asked him why he thought his brother supported the effort. He thinks it goes back to Christopher’s Marxist roots, which embraced a certain idealism (at least in theory). Something along the lines of “if we topple the government, the whole middle east may change for the better”. Of course Christopher abandoned Marxism/socialism early in his career when he realized  the actual practice had very little to do with the theory.  Peter, who was also at some point a Marxist, gave it up as well, because, as he told me, “I grew up”.

My own thoughts, after learning about Christopher is that his support had to do with two factors – his life mission of fighting totalitarianism, and his affinity with the Kurds, who were being abused by Saddam Hussein.

It was a great pleasure to meet Peter, especially as I heard he could be a bit harsh and/or imtimidating (He was neither. He was nothing but pleasant and accomdating).  Upon parting I said “Peter, you’re not as grouchy as they make you out to be”, to which he replied “Oh yes I am.”

If you are interested in Peter, see his blog at The Daily Mail, and also watch this 2008 debate with Christopher. The topics were God and war (not small subjects).  Also posted is the pre-debate discussion, which is in some ways (the relationship between the brothers) more interesting.

Charlie Hebdo: What would Hitchens do?

When French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo was attacked on January 7, 2015, and 12 employees were gunned down because someone didn’t like the cartoons it published, I felt acutely, Christopher’s absence on the media circuit. While some were saying it was unwise for Charlie Hebdo to have published the cartoons in the first place (meaning they may have had it coming to them), I was glad to see that this time, many journalists and elected officials did speak up for freedom of speech (maybe this was a turning point?). As a staunch defender of the right to free speech (he described himself as a first amendment absolutist), Christopher certainly would not have been silent.  Recall that he strongly defended Salman Rushdie, when a death contract was placed on him for writing a novel, and spoke out with conviction when Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was stabbed to death after publishing cartoons some found to be offensive. If you are interested to know what Christopher might have said, here are three particularly relevant videos that may give us an indication (two brief talks, and one longer, good debate):

What do you think of freedom of speech for the theme of the first HitchFest?