The Conventional Contrarian


Christopher Hitchens is dead. Amazingly, even in his final days and in horrible pain, he remained productive to the end.

Though he was the author of "Letters to a Young Contrarian," Hitchens in many ways exemplified the zeitgeist. Originally a socialist and a Trotskyite, he became a champion of mass democracy, aiming his broadsides at whatever remnants of the "permanent things" that somehow staggered into the 21st century. Hitchens understood like few others that contemporary liberalism ripped apart identity, culture, and religiosity with more fanaticism and intolerance than even the most dedicated Soviet commissar. More than that, he approved.

Perhaps the one honest neoconservative, he championed the Iraq War because he recognized it for what it was -- a fight so that one day, Baghdad too would have Rihanna, McDonald’s, and gay pride parades. While Pat Buchanan, the late Joe Sobran, and the late Sam Francis were

castigated as unpatriotic conservatives, Hitchens was warmly welcomed into the American Right. Even after declaring "god is not great," or worse, calling Ronald Reagan “stupid,” Hitchens continued to be sought out for interviews by movement conservatives.

Hitchens did have integrity, whatever else one may say about him. He was willing to follow wherever his ideas led, even if it cost him jobs, friends, or political allies. The sheer amount of work he produced is breathtaking, especially considering his many social appearances, speeches, interviews, and binges. His powers of concentration and will to work were fearsome.

Nonetheless, in the end, Hitchens was popular because in many ways he was what the culture needed. He was a “contrarian” who told the cultural elite what they wanted to hear, and dissented within permissible limits. He jumped from the trendy left to the neoconservative right and back, but never into forbidden territory. He mocked the divine, but held equality as unchallengeable and sacred. He hammered leftists for not living up to their own standards, as he understood their ideology better than they did. He blasphemed a dead God but clung desperately to the orthodoxies of the modern world. While his unheralded and more subversive brother writes about "The Abolition of Britain," Hitchens was warning us about Mormons. He was passionate and prolific, but in the end, predictable.

He will be honored by this world, as he should be. This is his world. Every day it moves ever closer to his vision. Would that the Alternative Right could produce a writer of his output, his erudition, and his effectiveness to make a new one.

Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62. Rest in peace.