The iconoclastic, contrarian journalist Christopher Hitchens died last night at that age of 62. He famously broke with The Nation in 2002 calling it (accurately) “the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden”; it is perhaps less well-known that at least a year earlier he had stopped self-identifying as a socialist. His break from the left didn’t mean an embrace of the right, but it did win him fans across the political spectrum.
Since he loathed and regularly violated the taboo against speaking ill of the dead (scornful obituaries were something of a specialty of his), let’s not hesitate to add that his atheism sometimes led him down some really obnoxious rhetorical roads and that, though his anti-Zionism softened considerably over the years, he retained some fairly dumb ideas about Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Still, he was never boring, and was without question among the most talented writers of his generation. Our discourse will be poorer without him.
I met Christopher a handful of times, including one very enjoyable lunch with him and a few other luminaries (which, to my amazement, he remembered four or five years later); it was an honor to know him even slightly. Some tributes from people who were actually his friends: Peter Robinson, David Frum, and Christopher Buckley (if you’re going to read just one of those, go with Buckley).
A historical curiosity just for devoted TAS fans: In 1988, the orthodox-leftist incarnation of Hitchens appeared on C-SPAN with our own Wlady Pleszczynski to discuss the primary elections and other news of the day, and someone has put the entire episode online, split into eight YouTube videos. UPDATE: It turns out the same program is available in a much easier-to-watch format on C-SPAN’s video library site.